Prime Minister Dahal addressed the nation on December 26, 2023 basically to highlight the performance of his government in the last one year. Notwithstanding his attempt to throw some so called positive achievements of the coalition government for public consumption in a convincing way, he had no choice to admit that the dispensation could not perform as per his priority. He mentioned cases of fake Bhutanese refugee scam, Lalita Niwas land grab case and gold smuggling case in which his government initiated actions irrespective of who was involved in it.He also pointed out that overall economic indicators were positive, but was not happy with the economic growth. He also made an honest observation that negativity had plagued the country with people losing hope in the country's future. He also stated that he would concentrate on preparing government policies and programmes and the new fiscal budget. He was also noticed mentioning that agriculture decade would be declared from 2025-2035. Revolving around what Prachanda observed on 25 December, an attempt is made here to put before our readers an analysis of existing situation, backed by facts and figures.
There is no denying of the fact that surfacing of the refugee scam, land grab case and one of the gold smuggling cases happened during this government’s tenure, but what rulers of this country(the Deubas,Oli and Prachanda) should not forget is that people of this country are in know of how these cases were\are being handled. In fact, people are fully confident that major decisions in this country are made by a cartel consisting of above mentioned political figures, irrespective of who is in power and who is in opposition. Despite the fact that two former head of government(Madhav Nepal and Baburam Bhattari) are relatively less corrupt and not many would want them behind the bar, clean cheat granted to them, despite their involvement in decision making related to land grab case, has perplexed many. Likewise,even commoners on the street know where and how did the refugee scam stop. People also know how Prachanda was pressured into transferring some senior police officials who were sincerely investigating the scam and were hell bent on seeing that anyone (he or she) found involved is punished. People also know what led to the incapacitation of promising home minister Narayan Kaji Shrestha who now does not look much different from ambitious, action less and transparency-lacking Purna Khadka, another deputy prime minister in the Cabinet.Indeed,if Parchanda wants to take some credit for the initiation of some actions against these scandals, he should also not forget that people are well aware of his half-hearted approach towards punishing the culprits in these scandals, which has tarnished the image of Nepal globally.Parchanda undoubtedly is a politician with immense oratory power, but people have begun not to take his orations, often not backed by actions, seriously. Waning confidence of people in Prachanda and their unhappiness about the way this country has been governed by a handful of rulers is bound to make things difficult for the cartel members who are governing the nation by turn since long.Prime Minister must have understood the happiness of the people on hearing that the Supreme court nullified the Dahal-led government’s decision to give public holiday on the first day of the Nepali month of Fagun(February 13) to mark the day in 1996 when the CPN-Maoist launched guerrilla war against the state. Acting on the writ petitions filed by conflict victims, the apex court verdict stated that there was no national consensus over the word people’s war as that had not been used in the constitution and a bill aimed at concluding the remaining tasks of the peace process was still subjudice in the Parliament and acting against the preamble of the constitution in such a situation could hurt the sentiments of petitioners and adversely affect the work of transitional justice mechanism in the future. It was something for most political parties and people at large to celebrate and rejoice over. It looks like people have reached a point where they look at decisions of Nepal government with doubts and suspicion.
Some key agreements were signed between India and Nepal during India’s Minister of External Affairs S Jaishankar’s two-day visit in the first week of January 2024. The long-term power agreement signed, which allows Nepal to export 10 thousand MW power in ten years to India is a praise worthy step and people of Nepal expect its neighbor to be more generous in not only buying Nepal-generated energy but also help us export power to other countries, too.It would not be too much on our part to expect this kind of cooperation from a country on the verge of being recognized as an economic and political power of a global scale. Controversy arose, however, over an agreement regarding Indian grant assistance for implementation of High Impact Community Development Projects under which the Government of India will fund each project worth Rs.200 million. Our Prime Minister has not succeeded in justifying the sharp increase in grant assistance (from 50 to 200 million) and many of his colleagues in the Cabinet have accused him of not maintaining transparency regarding the hiked Indian assistance. As far as the question of grant or highly concessional loan from bilateral and multilateral agencies is concerned, many of us feel that Nepal should accept it as long as it does not come with lots of strings attached to it. Therefore, without compromising our national interest, there is no harm in accepting assistance, be it an American grant under MCCI, Chinese loan under BRI or Indian grants\assistance of different scales and nature. It is unfortunate that Parchand’s inconsistent observations, pre and post bilateral deal, basically related to Indian grant, played a major role in fueling suspicion and creating lots of controversy.
Our Prime Minister also announced that the agriculture decade would be declared from 2025- 2035 probably to make this agricultural country self-reliant in agricultural products. It is difficult to predict who will be heading the government then, but our urging would be that adequate homework be done, keeping in mind the failure of several schemes\declarations in the past, before launching this kind of scheme or soon-to-be repeated investment forum. Otherwise, people have the liberty of branding these announcements as mere technique of government\s to deflect attention of the mass from major problems plaguing the country. It may be recalled that Nepal government announced some 15 years ago that Nepal would soon be self-reliant on products like paddy and how import of paddy\rice has increased over these years is known to everyone. He also rightly mentioned that negativity had plagued the country with people losing hope in the country’s future. There is no disagreement with him on the negativity issue, but should we not delve a bit into the prevailing situation that is forcing Nepali youths out of the country, even risking death. It is learnt that our youths have joined both forces (Russian and Ukrainian) and are fighting the war as rivals in the war between Russia and Ukraine. Who do we think should be blamed for the killing of protesting youths, desperate to leave Nepal in the hope of a better life abroad?Indeed, poverty and insecurity, an outcome of bad governance, is driving youths away from home not only in Nepal but in numerous other badly governed countries of the world. People know very well that The Deubas, Oli and Prachanda have been running the show in the country since long, with Madhav Nepal, Baburam Bhattari and J N Khanal also surfacing as head of government intermittently. Any good or bad done to this country and its people is, therefore, the outcome of their governance. People have keenly observed their governance style and they know where Nepal and Nepalis stand today. People want major political change in the country to control corruption and correction of the derailed economy.
Despite improvements in balance of payment, current account and increase in foreign exchange reserve, economy is not likely to attain the government-wished 6 percent growth. It is believed that an increase in rice\ paddy production (by 4 percent) and significant increase in inflow of tourists (likely to hit 1 million) could help economy achieve 5 percent growth. Even a moderate target of 6 percent does not look achievable because the current state of manufacturing and construction is far from satisfactory. On the revenue front also progress is not satisfactory as only 35 percent of the target (Rs.1422 billion) has been realized in the first six months of this fiscal year, which is just little more than what was collected earlier. It may be noted that last fiscal year was the worst year, judged from several economic angels) and revenue collection was the lowest (Rs.957 billion) in years. Contraction in foreign trade (3.47 percent in six months) has also contributed to slackness seen on revenue front and it is almost certain that budget deficit as a proportion of GDP will exceed the desired level. Trade deficit has decreased a bit (2.62 percent) but disappointing thing is that export has declined more (7.23 percent) than import (3.09 percent) during the six months of this fiscal year. Like last fiscal year, this year also more than 700 thousand people are likely to leave Nepal for work outside. In the six months, 350 thousand people have already left Nepal, which is a result of instable political situation and deplorable economic conditions in the country. The rulers of this country must have realized by now that that the issue of monarchy cannot be brushed aside with ease and their anti-monarchy utterances cannot stop King Gayendra from mixing around with people who have been extending whole hearted welcome to him wherever he goes. Very strong is also the feeling of people about Hindu religion. Common people and honest politicians from different parties have to join hands to make the much desired change happen so that a ruthless attack on corruption could be launched and executable schemes introduced for the correction of our ailing economy. Peaceful change is what people of this country want and these rulers, about 4 in number, who have ruled\ruined this country are expected to clear the way for change.Indeed, a prerequisite to change is the ouster from active politics of these harmful people, sooner the better.