The Government of Nepal, prior to that of KP Oli had made ground breaking decision by accepting the concept of allowing private parties to also supply fuel to the Nepali people. They had given permission to a private concern –Malika Petroleum to do so and the announcement in the local lay press was that the reality would be in about a year’s time. So much for the information from the media for us Nepali people! This was however great news for the simple reason that this was an attempt by the government to make the inefficient and monolithic set up of the Nepal Oil Corporation more sensitive to the needs of the people. This semi-government concern had been the sole supplier of energy products in the country, and though massively in the red for a number of years was not putting its house in order. Its workers were enjoying various types of perks in the form of bonuses and loans. All these facts came to light a couple of years ago when an attempt to disperse money to the workers was stopped by a Court Order as the NOC had a number of pending large loans from the government, Sanchay Kosh and banks to be paid back!
By the Grace of God or by a stroke of good luck, the price of oil in the World Market fell and good times were on hand. Petrol for which NOC had paid Rs. 65 for litre was sold at one time for Rs 135 and later Rs. 99 to the Nepali consumer. As a result of this windfall, NOC was in a position to clear some of its debts though some still remain.
Then, out of the blue was thrust upon us the economic blockade of Nepal by India in 2015. Ostensibly, as per the statement of Minister of Supplies Ganesh Man Pun in local paper on 18th March, the news came that the Government in an effort to tackle this sudden onslaught had given permission to no less than 35 concerns to import oil and gas into the country. A notice had been published in the Nepal Gazette of 19th October 2015 to allow the private sector to import and sell petroleum products. Now a Cabinet decision had decided not to let private parties import oil. This sudden stoppage of a decision which had been made to put an end to the fleecing of the simple Nepali consumer for years by a semi-government concern calls for explanation. There is something underhand in this whole affair and has to be explained. The years of effort to bring about some order in a disordered system of supplies has been set aside because the present government cannot control the energy market mafia. The proposed pipe line for oil that was to be built from India to Nepal to ease the supply and lessen the use and dependency on tankers where chances of malpractices are high, has now been shelved. What is the reason for this? Are we the common folk permitted to ask questions on such points that concern us?
When PM Oli went south he clarified that he did not have a shopping list. Following the trip to the south, the blockade has eased somewhat but not fully. Prior to going north there had been a lot of talk about having as many as 8 to 10 border crossings, specific roadways or even train crossings and increased co-operation in different fields. However, following the SAARC Foreign Ministers meeting at Pokhara it seems that our PM has been given a revised list of requirements for Nepal. There is talk now of rail connections both North and South!
It was the same old story regarding the tour itinerary of Nepali PM. Just as Western youngsters are said to hold a daisy flower and pick out the petals saying, ‘She loves me’, ‘She loves me not’ this sort of question seemed to haunt any new PM of Nepal. The pressure has always been to be going down South first and then only to the North. One former premier who went north first is still sheepishly trying to justify his trip saying it was just to be present for a gala extravaganza event. The seven day visit of our PM KP Oli to China is now history. The signing of the Trade and Transit Treaty is a great achievement as is also the appending of signatures on nine other papers. However an essential one concerning the supply of fuel seems at first sight to have been overlooked! Our Minister of Supplies has been quoted as saying that if the agreement is not signed this time, it will soon be done! It seems very funny that he was been left out of the 98 member Jumbo delegation to China. But why? What unknown force did that? Another point to note is that our PM is travelled in a commercial aircraft which had not made a test flight after its procurement. It would have been more sensible to use our own airline, if there is a flight to China and so to improve the services.
Another former PM, BRB is keen that what he had tried to initiate, should not be thrown by the wayside. Thus, as he signed the BIPPA with India he is keen that a Nepali PM should now sign a BIPPA with China also!
As a tailpiece a suggestion by a media man is worth mentioning. He had said that any agreement signed by PM Oli with his counterpart should be on the Great Wall of China to attract world attention. If the Cabinet of the former PM Makune could hold a Cabinet Meeting at Kala Patter to attract world attention then why couldn’t Oli do the same?