Despite immense loss of lives and property caused by the rain-triggered flood and landslips, the rain from the sky is said to be doing good to our agriculture in that paddy production is likely to reach above 50 lakh metric ton this year as compared to about 43 lakh ton last year. This is indeed good news for a country which suffered a deficit of 71 thousand tons of food grains last year .The production was 5.27 million ton and the consumption stood at 5.34 ton, which required import of grains amounting to Rs. 36 billion.
In fact people have begun to ask themselves whether this country which imports almost all the agricultural products like food grain, fruits and fish could still be called an agricultural country. Cross trade of different agricultural products takes place between Nepal and other countries, mainly India, but the figures on exports are peanuts and those on imports astronomical. For example, last year we imported food grains worth Rs. 36 billion and exports amounted toRs.210 million and fish export totaled a meager 500 thousand as against its import worth Rs. 950 million. Trade data present a dismal picture right in the beginning of the fiscal year. Nepal has suffered a trade deficit ofRs.63.21 billion in the very first month, up by 12.33 percent compared to the corresponding period of the last fiscal year. While petroleum products have been the number one import item at Rs. 7.6 billion.coffee, tea and spices top the list on the export front at Rs.822 million.
Trade gap is seen also in case of other items such as vegetables, oilseeds, etc. Despite this disappointing scenario, agriculture’s contribution to GDP(more than 30 percent) and engagement of our population in agriculture(62 percent) do not let us forget that we are still an agricultural country. With generous downpour doing good to our main crop, if the concerned authorities decide to implement even 25 percent of Prachanda’s never ending instructions flowing to them on a daily basis, a growth of above 4 percent is likely to happen this year when Krishna Mahara of the Maoist Center has been charged with the responsibility of implementing the budget which was presented in the Parliament by Bishnu Poudyal of UML.Notwithstanding some news about a supplementary budget, nothing is heard about it authoritatively and people find it difficult to justify the need to seek additional resources at a time when mounds of government funds are lying idle with Nepal Rastra Bank and nothing has been said about the three bills that were failed jointly by NC and the Maoist as a prelude to dislodging Oli-led government. Finance Minister Mahara may not wish to bring a supplementary budget because this is not the time to offend UML as political consensus has to be forged to pass the three bills related to revenue, mobilization of internal loans, and the one related to loan and guarantee. Approval of the Appropriation Bill has allowed the government to spend right from the beginning but to raise tax; resort has been taken to Periodic Tax Recovery Act, 1955, which allows the authority to mobilize revenue for six months. Approval of the failed bills is not a simple affair because it requires suspension of some parliamentary provisions to facilitate tabling of the bills twice in the same session of the parliament, which requires UML’s cooperation. May be NC and Maoist stalwarts had not imagined this situation while embarking upon the unprecedented act of failing the budget-related bills after they approved the Appropriation Bill. Anyway, the need of the hour is to clear the confusion about the budget and make concrete efforts to increase capital expenditure which is very disappointing even four months after the budget was made public.Unveling some new plans, Prime Minister Dahal has made many promises to people in his speech in the Parliament one month after assuming office, which, if meant for implementation, will need more resources than what has been apportioned in the budget under different heads. An increase of Rs. 100,000 in grant assistance to earthquake victims and interest burden resulting from interest-free loan of Rs. 300,000 to them may need serious efforts to mobilize resources, both internal and external, which will make changes in the budget inevitable.
Let us not forget that Dahal’s hour-long speech was reminiscent of budget speeches of finance ministers and has promised many facilities to the relief-seeking people.UML should not mind much if translating his promises into result-producing schemes with a clear cut timeline necessitates introduction of a supplementary budget in the Parliament. Indeed, victims of flood and landslides need urgent attention of the concerned government bodies that often fail to discharge the assigned responsibilities. Dislodging of governments have been followed by creation of new ones in the last 16 months after the deadly earthquake but the miseries of the relief and rehabilitation-seeking victims have not decreased a bit because besides consoling words they have not received material benefit from the authorities. Hope what Prachanda has promised is delivered this time. As far as the performance of the economy is concerned; it is going to do better than last year in terms of growth even if we do not launch special efforts. On the political front, however, people find it difficult to be optimistic as far as resolution of political issues engulfing the nation is concerned.Upendra Yadav is renewing his warning at regular intervals that the constitution cannot be implemented without addressing the concerns of the Madhesshis and Janajatis. Political parties still have a number of constitution-related issues to differ on.
Major parties have differed on the preliminary report submitted by the commission formed to fix the number and boundaries of local bodies under the new federal setup. The Commission has proposed 565 village councils and municipalities on the basis of a population of 15000 in the mountains, 25000 in the hills and 50000 in the Tarai-Madhes for one local unit. Madhes-centric parties have opposed the report for allocating fewer units in the Tarai.Demanding a doubling of the number to1000; NC wants a unit to be formed on the basis of a population of 1000-3000 in the mountains, around 10000 in the hills and around 20000 in the Tarai. While Dahal wants this issue to be discussed first at the local level, UML does not seem to have major disagreement with the Commission’s recommendation as it does not want the local units to exceed 600 in number.Dahal seems determined to hold polls as per the new constitutional provision, but the Commission does not seem to be in a position to submit the final report by mid-October as demanded by him..The Commission authorities submit that the number of reports received from the technical committees formed in each district is insignificant as forging consensus among local leaders on the number of local units has been very difficult, which is delaying submission of the report and holding of polls by mid-April 2017 very difficult.
Only 31 districts are reported to have sent reports as of fifteenth September. Probably being aware of these problems, NC suggested that local polls be conducted for the interim period under the existing local structures.NC, however, utterly failed to find buyers of this idea: not even PM Dahal who wants the polls to be held under the new arrangement as envisioned by the new constitution. NC and Maoist Center are said to be working on constitutional amendment proposals that concentrate on issues related to languages, citizenship, formation of national assembly and provincial delineation. With provincial delineation still remaining a major issue and UML all set to seek clarification on the amendment, constitutional change, a prerequisite to settlement of agitation, looks complicated and time consuming. In addition to UML’s reservations on the amendment, Dahal is going to be busy in bilateral engagements in Delhi (September 15 to 18) and thereafter will proceed to the US to participate in the multilateral annual jamboree at the UN in New York. It will be difficult for Oli to go for outright rejection of amendment proposals because he had gone on records several times in the past to resolve the agitators’ demand through amendment, but his party reserves the right to minutely scrutinize any proposal keeping nationality and national interest in the front. The fact that amendment proposal has not been registered as demanded by agitating parties and agreed by Prachanda is a clear pointer to the reality that forging of consensus on constitutional issues is not going to be easy.UML has submitted a memo to Dahal relating to his forthcoming visit to India, in which the major opposition party has cautioned Prime Minister not to do anything that would lead to escalation of external interference in Nepal’s internal affairs. In the six-point memorandum, UML has asked him to pay attention to Nepali people’s view on bilateral relations and protect Nepal’s interest on every issue. As the major opposition party, UMl is right in drawing the attention of the head of the government about to embark on a state visit to India, the emerging political and economic power, that can help us resolve many economic and political issues confronting Nepal, but small things like sending of a letter by our PM to his counterpart in India touching upon issues such as constitutional amendments should not be blown out of proportion at a time when cooperation of friends from outside is also needed to resolve the problem.
If we had no problems, friends from outside would not poke their nose in our matters.Moreover,in our case external intervention has often been sought to resolve our internal problems since time immemorial. Let us, therefore, resolve our problems soon so that the nation is not pushed towards a situation of constitutional vacuum as apprehended by many observers including top leaders of UML. Pointing a finger of accusation at the makers of the current coalition government, top leaders like Oli, Khanal and Nepal see the possibility of reemergence of a situation similar to the one in 2012 when Constituent Assembly was dissolved. According to them, a conspiracy has been hatched to create a situation of political and constitutional vacuum by not holding the three elections at the central, provincial and local level by January 2018.A broader power deal if struck on time, encompassing major political forces including UML and the agitating parties, stating the names of leaders to become prime ministers on rotation and their tenure, could avert the unpleasant situation of apprehended vacuum. Even if such a deal does not take place soon to substitute the current two-party deal and is inked later somewhere around January 2018, it will certainly stop the situation from turning catastrophic. The leaders must be serious about it lest someone like Regmi is placed on the chair again to fill the vacuum. May Lord Pashupatinath save this nation and Nepali.