Nothing Is Well

Small wonder a mismanaged country Nepal has created a new record on the corruption front. Nepal has become the third most corrupt country in South Asia and fifteenth globally, according to Transparency International. As per the Corruption Perception

Feb. 6, 2016, 5:45 p.m. Published in Magazine Issue: Vol 09,No14,February 06,2016 (Magh 22,2072)

The Legislature-Parliament made the first amendment to the Constitution, four months after its promulgation, ensuring proportional inclusion for backward communities in state bodies and increasing the number of constituencies in the Terai region. It took little less than four months to pass the bill registered by the erstwhile government led by Nepali Congress. Expectedly, however, the amendment could not sufficiently contribute towards easing the very difficult situation in the country as people are still deprived of basic necessities of life and agitating leaders of Madesh-centric parties are far from being satisfied. The amendment failed to address their concerns, allege Madhesi leaders. Their Front is said to be contemplating joining hands with another agitating front in Terai to reinvigorate its more than five-month old protest, which is losing stamina. While senior leaders of number one and number two parties led by Upendra Yadav and Mahanta Thakur, respectively, are said to be inclined towards lifting the blockade at entry points with India, agressive Rajendra Mahota,another agitating leader, is  in constant touch with J P Gupta,another leader heading a separate front and known for sensible talking, to form mega alliance to step-up protests. With India, China and the UN welcoming the amendment to the Constitution and the agitation losing steam, sensible leaders are definitely finding it hard to turn a deaf ear to the reality and concerns coming from different quarters. The talk of ‘mega alliance’, however, has confused people, who do not know which direction is the agitation heading towards? Will it be little softer or more violent under the proposed banner (mega alliance)? It is unpredictable at this point of time because even a sober leader Thakur sounds uncertain about lifting blockade of the border entry points. There is a strong possibility that Madhes-based parties protesting under different heads will come under a single banner to reenergize the agitation. The two rival fronts leading separate protests in Madhes,are reported to be coming closer towards forming the alliance, taking on board other smaller parties wanting recognisation for their contribution in making the region instable in the last couple of months. Whatever be the shape and form of  agitation and whatever name the proposed alliance is given, grand or mega, the concerned, including those at the helm of affairs, should not forget that these acts of agitation and failure to act on time have inflicted somewhat unsealing injury on the economy and caused unfathomable sufferings to this nation’s about thirty million people majority of who have to struggle to maintain a living which, level-wise, does not look much different from that of domesticated four-footed living beings depending entirely on the mercy of others for the satisfaction of their basic needs. Probably being in know of this kind of situation, which did not improve even after the constitutional amendment, Prime Minister Oli is said to be unhappy with the response of the Indian Government as there has been no flow of goods from the Raxual/Birgunj entry points which accounts for over 70 percent of imports coming from India. Oli probably was made to hope that the blockade and other impediments at the border points would be done away with soon after the amendment of the constitution.Oli,however, should not forget that India has the tough job of performing a balancing act between divergent demands of the two rival camps- major parties\government and the agitating Madhes-centric parties.Moreover,our agitating leaders can always turn for support to leaders in Bihar who have lately advised our visiting leaders to form a broader alliance, some of the Indian leaders making it very clear that the problems in Madhes will continue to attract their attention as long as the issues of inequality and discrimination are not resolved.  This is enough of a cause for people of Nepal to panic because they know without meaningful cooperation from India; things will not stabilize in Nepal.It is a pity that we have not been benefitted by the depressed prices of oil on the global market and little reduction in domestic prices is meaningless because people have to take resort to flourishing informal markets paying about 2.5 times the publicized prices of Nepal Oil Corporation. Despite responsible agencies’ failure to supply petroleum, traffic congestion is back to pre blockade level, increasing expenses of vehicle owners, levels of pollution and contributing very little to the economy. 

Notwithstanding lackluster performance of the economy in the past years, revenue collection under different governments had been encouraging, often exceeding the target. The half yearly performance this year, however, shows a disappointing result as only Rs.164.33 billion has been collected as against a target of Rs.216.60 billion, which is basically due to disruption of supply lines from India. Let us hope the import-generated revenue gallops after easing of border- centric protests. The protest in Terai and disruption of supply has caused inflation to rise to a forty- month high level at 11.6 percent. The disaggregated picture shows that the prices of food and beverages rose by 14.8 percent, while services and non-food items increased by 9.1 percent. Consumers are hard hit that prices of items like pulses, ghee and cooking oil have gone up by more than 40 percent. The high level of inflation has rendered interest rates both on deposits and lending negative here, hurting the interest of both depositors and banks. Interesting also is the fact that Japan‘s central bank has started charging interest to banks parking funds with it, basically to encourage investment in a depressed economy. Nepal Rastra Bank, it seems, will have to make extra efforts to mop up liquidity from the market because not only are the financial institutions awash with funds but the rising level of inflation also needs some treatment. It is,however,very difficult to say precisely how effective will be the monetary tools of our central bank in controlling rising level of inflation, which is the result of supply disruptions that the nation is facing currently. Since items mentioned above have not only become expensive but are in short supply also, more than intervention from our monetary authority, an effective monitoring and timely action from the government could be effective in regulating the derailed market. Another disheartening piece of information is that tourists arrival in Nepal have fallen to a six-year low of 539 thousand in 2015.The earthquake of April 25 and subsequent unrest kept visitors away from this scenic country, causing a sharp decline by 31.78 percent in 2015.Another disappointing piece of information is that Nepal has got trade deficit with 150 countries out of 180 countries it is trading with. Thanks to countries like UK, Norway, Greece Lebanon, Mali, etc that are kind enough to buy more than what they sell to Nepal. The ever decelerating export\import ratio has improved, reaching around 13, in the present chaotic situation. Thanks to the severe disruption of supply lines causing sharp reduction in imports of products like petroleum from India. With economic activities sharply slacking, it can simply be hoped and prayed that it does not contract in 2016: A 2 percent growth this year, as hoped by finance ministry, would be something to celebrate and rejoice over. 

Small wonder a mismanaged country Nepal has created a new record on the corruption front. Nepal has become the third most corrupt country in South Asia and fifteenth globally, according to Transparency International. As per the Corruption Perception Index 2015, Nepal is placed in 130th position, slipping by four positions from last year. With this kind of slippage, Nepal could soon be one of the ten most corrupt countries in the world such as Somalia, North Korea,Sudan,South Sudan, Eritrea, Libya, etc.It is difficult to say how long people of Nepal have to wait to see any positive change in this kind of global perception of Nepal. Will some positive changes take place after the general convention of Nepali Congress? There is no harm in hoping.

Village\town level conventions of The Nepali Congress have commenced, which saw serious competition between the camps led by incumbent President Koirala and senior leader Deuba with 60 and 40 percent hold in the party,respectively.Should Koirala fail to keep together disgruntled leaders like R.C.Poudyal,the party’s general convention scheduled for March may tilt the balance. Whatever may be the outcome, genuine well wishers of Nepali Congress would like to see a truly united party, ending the divisive and corruption-enhancing 60:40 quota system. Hope the two leaders do not find this feeling of common workers of the party obnoxious. Major leaders of this country, more specifically Mr.Oli, who is facing strong criticism also from his own party colleagues, will have to move constructively to improve the situation at the shortest possible time because nothing is well at the moment. 

 

 

 

 

Dr. Tilak Rawal

Dr. Tilak Rawal

Dr. Rawal is former governor of NRB.

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