In 1991, when the Baltic States, Estonia, Latvia & Lithuania were broke away from the then Soviet Union, I was surprised to see and hear on TV that two of the States of USA had recognized their independence. Knowing that the USA comprised of 50 states at that time I was surprised by this announcement and wondered how all this was coming about. The reality is that the Constitution of the USA has during the course of over two centuries delineated the rights of the individual rights and laws of the individual States of the USA.
What has happened in Nepal during the past year? We have had three levels of election – local, provincial and federal. The winners at the local and provincial levels have come actively forward wanting to do something for the populace that elected them. In their enthusiasm they thought of methods for ways to raise money to perhaps pay for their keep and comforts e.g. mobiles and cars. There were some however, in this plethora of new masters who sincerely wanted to do good and serve the people that elected them by improving their living conditions.
One read from time to time of elected local representatives of nagarpalikas who have donated land or money for building premises so that the elected representatives could do their duties to bring about changes and welfare for the people of that particular place. One read too excavators or earth-moving machines that have been procured and utilised to build roads so that communication between surrounding region improves. The money earned by these machines, it is said, has been utilised to pay for services being rendered in that particular area.
The funds being allotted by the centre has been stated by the provinces as not being enough for functioning. Be that as it may, but the fact remains that the funds allotted to the provincial governments for the first quarter of the financial year has not been utilised. Karnali Province could just spend 0.62% of what was allotted to it. The maximum utilisation was by Province 3 which spent 4.7% of the money budgeted for it. Hopefully they will not copy what has been a national trend in our country i.e. to spend 70% of the budget during the last two months of the financial year!
The most likely reason for this state of affairs is that administrative capability at the local and provincial levels is lacking because of shortage of administrative staff. This needs to be rectified immediately and is perhaps the fault of the Federal authorities for not passing the legal provisions to enable the provincial authorities to recruit and post. If personnel from the Federal region are to be posted to provincial posts it is but natural that incentives must be given. One hopes that in course of time the people from that particular region will come to man these positions and manage their affairs.
Many are sincere with will to work but the facilities for the same are not in place. What to do?
All in all it seems that the local and provincial authorities want to run before they can walk. In all probability some may have ‘kagaji ghoda’ plans to hoodwink the public. Grandiose plans have been announced without proper ground work and planning. One must remember to cut ones cloth as per one’s pocket or in the Nepali context, ‘Hard here nilnu’!
But we are not learning from experience. What is now clear is that the excessive contract awards to Pappu Construction were because of political patronage brought about by the owner’s political position.
Sadly the patronage game is in full swing as one reads that contracts are being awarded or given generously to a construction company which belongs to a sitting minister of Karnali Pradesh.
Our experience as a Federal Republic is very new and the rules and regulations pertaining to the functioning of the seven Pradesh have not been clarified. Federal laws and Pradesh laws have yet to be clarified. One hears that there is also a grave shortage of administrative personnel to ensure proper functioning. Immediately after the set up of the Pradesh governments, a number of taxes of various kinds had been levied to raise money. It is also rumoured that a large number of cars and mobiles were ordered. The provinces had been complaining budget had not been given to ensure functioning.
What needs clarification is regarding the rights and responsibilities of the local and provincial levels? What seems to be the bone of contention are clear cut rights, rules and regulation of the Federal and Provincial governments. A large number of new laws or by-laws pertaining to governance have still to be enacted by the federal government. This is what is making it difficult to function. Health and education are already provincial matters. One point that all provincial governments seem to be agreed on is that agriculture and tourism have to be stressed on for the simple reason that whilst the first will reduce to some extent the imports into the country, the latter will be the foreign exchange earner of the future and that the country will not be wasting the foreign exchange remittances, earned with much stress by Nepalis working the Gulf countries or Malaysia. As a final point, is the recent unauthorised flight of the Chief Minister of Province 2 to New York and the subsequent fiasco there, an indication that our neo-administrators of the land may even try to fly before they can even run or walk?