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Policies and Program of Government for FY 2008 (2065)

Issue 37, September 14, 2008

By Siddhi B. Ranjitkar

President of Nepal Dr. Ram Baran Yadav read out the polices and programs of the coalition government of six political parties: three major parties and three minor parties to the members of the Constituent Assembly (CA) on September 10, 2008 at the International Convention Center hall in Kathmandu. The government has prepared the policy and program document primarily following the Interim Constitution of Nepal of 2007 and the Comprehensive Peace Accord the Communist Party of Nepal-Maoist (CPN-Maoist) had reached with the then Government of Nepal. Polices and programs are for one year but the government have covered ten-year vision for the development of the country.

Both the coalition partners such as the Communist Party of Nepal- United Marxist and Leninist (CPN-UML) and the Madheshi People’s Rights Forum (MPRF) are happy with this policy and program document, as most of their points are included in it. One of the CPN-UML leaders said that ninety percent of his party’s points were included in it. However, some leaders of the CPN-UML have not been so happy with the policies and programs. Minor parties in the coalition government also defended this document.

The government needed to present such a policy and program document well before the fiscal year ends on July 15 and then the Finance Minister to present budget for the coming fiscal year. However, this year has been an extraordinary year, as the CA election held on April 10, 2008 did not give a clear majority to any political party for running a majority government. The CPN-Maoist won a largest number of seats on the CA but not enough to run the government independently. So, the political parties took unusually long time to come to a mutual understanding for running a government. Even then, the Nepali Congress (NC) opted to stay in the opposition despite the understanding reached among the political parties on forming a consensus government.

Members of the CA patiently listened to the president reading out the one-hour long policies and programs without cheers and jeers. The president drank water to moisten his mouth four times before completing the reading of the document. Prime Minister Prachanda agreed that the document has been a bit long.

The government gave top priority to complete the peace process, craft a new constitution within the deadline of the remaining time of the two-year period, and transform the country from the current shameful status of poverty to prosperity in the policies and programs for the fiscal year 2008 (2065).

The government would implement past agreements the then government had reached with various political groups including the agreement the government had reached with United Madheshi Democratic Front (UDMF) on February 28, 2008 and the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) the government had signed with the CPN-Maoist. The government would integrate the People's Liberation Army combatants currently staying at various cantonments with the Nepali Army following the CPA, and the Interim Constitution within six months. (The previous government headed by former Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala signed one agreement after another with political parties but was not serious enough to implement those agreements.)

The government called on all political armed or non-armed groups struggling for achieving their various demands in different parts of the country for suspending activities and coming to table talks for solving any differences peacefully.

For reconciliation of the victims of the conflict, the government would set up a Truth and Reconciliation Commission and a Commission on finding the whereabouts of the missing people and would implement their recommendations. The government also would provide the people injured during past conflicts with relief.

The government would initiate the process of making the State mechanism inclusive ensuring the representations of underprivileged groups in state mechanism proportional to their population through enacting necessary laws; to this end, the government would set up a National Inclusion Commission to suggest the government for the proportional representation in the State mechanism.

Concerning the economic transformation, the document declared that the next decade would be the decade of the economic revolution. To this end, the government would reconstitute the National Planning commission to suit the federal structure of the administration; the government would attract the private investment for meeting the high investment required for the fast economic development; and would direct the foreign investment in the areas in which domestic investment alone would not meet the requirements. The government would work in partnership with the private sector.

The government would formulate a new Industrial Policy and a Public Supplies and Distribution Policy, and set up a Social Security system, Labor Commission, and State Restructuring Committee to meet the needs for the fast economic transformation; and would end all sorts of syndicates and cartels in view of the competitive business and the welfare of the consumers.

The government was also for rural industrialization for creating jobs in the rural areas so that rural youths would not need to go abroad for jobs, for commercializing the agriculture and for scientific land reform for increasing agricultural productivity and for developing cooperatives and would set up a high level Cooperatives Board to be chaired by Prime Minister.

The government would provide public barren land to the landless people, and freed Kamaiyas for cooperative farming; and would also provide such groups with other facilities and benefits. (The NC leaders vehemently opposed these things; they wanted the lands of their leaders seized by the Maoists during the conflict back to the owners.)

The government would build fast track roads linking Kathmandu with the terai and other roads linking each district headquarters and develop 10,000 MW of electricity in ten years to meet the needs for achieving the double-digit economic growth. The government would also conduct the survey for ascertaining the possibility of Lhasa-Kathmandu-Pokhara-Lumbini-Chitwan-Kathmandu railway network, and for running an electric train along the East-West highway in the terai. These infrastructures would help in developing the tourism industry, too. (This is the vision of the coalition government, as the government with the remaining life of 20 months would not be able to do anything of this sort.)

The government was for providing the non-resident Nepalis with citizenships; to this end the government would formulate new laws and make necessary amendments to the existing laws; and would anticipate the investments from the non-resident Nepalis to transform the Nepalese economy.

The government would make basic education and health care as the part of the fundamental rights of the people formulating necessary laws; would formulate policies on achieving universal adult literacy within two years and would provide the people with up to secondary-level education free.

The government would work with a special priority to complete the Melamchi Water Supply Project and provide the water to the residents of the Kathmandu Valley, and would initiate works to ensure supply of clean and safe drinking water to all in the next five years.

For social development the government would launch dalit empowerment programs and women’s development programs for doing away with all sort of discrimination and exploitation of underprivileged people and women.

The government would work for strengthening and decentralizing law courts to provide the people with justice at low cost. The government would also provide the Commission on Investigation into Abuse of Authority with resources and other necessary things to perform its work effectively and efficiently.

The government would follow the UN charter on panchaseel (five principles of cooperation) for its foreign policy, and open new embassies as required; would review all treaties Nepal had signed with other countries in the past; would give a top priority to better the relationships with India and China. The government would create an environment conducive to returning Bhutanese refugees with dignity.

Leader of the parliamentary party of the CPN-Maoist Dinanath Sharma presented the proposal for the vote of thank to President Dr. Ram Baran Yadav for his presentation of the policies and programs of the government to the CA; and CA members belonging to the CPN-UML Surendra Pandey and CA members belonging to MPRF Ramjanam Choudhari supported the proposal.

The Chairman of the CA has allocated September 12, 13 and 14 for members to discuss the policies and program the president laid out. The Chairman asked the parties to register their proposals for amendment to the government's 90-point policy and program document by September 11.  The Prime Minister would reply the questions of the CA members.

The coalition government has a plan on passing the policy and program document on September 14, and then dispatch the Prime Minister for his India visit on the same day.

Some comments on policies and programs:

Some time in the immediate past, Prime Minister Prachanda had said that the international community as well as Nepalis have both the doubt and trust in the performances of the Maoists. Hence, Nepalis have doubt about whether the coalition government would live up to the words stated in the policy and program document. Such doubts would be removed from the minds of Nepalis only after the coalition partners in governance would work sincerely and very hard to achieve at least the fifty percent of what the document has said would do during the 20-month period of the remaining life of this coalition government.

Talking to the reporters after President Dr Ram Baran Yadav read out the annual policy and program document at the CA session, Prime Minister Prachanda said that none of the previous governments had presented such social, economic and political changes advocating policies and programs; these policies and programs were historic and they reflected the Nepalese people’s aspirations and the government would implement the policies and programs with determination.

Talking to the reporters immediately after the presentation of the policy and program document by the president, former General Secretary of the CPN-UML Madhav Kumar Nepal coming out of the hall where the president read out the policies and programs, said that overall the document was fine but it could be better if it had included some sorts of programs similar to the ‘Let us build our village ourselves” the CPN-UML had launched during its nine-month-term government in 1994. Former Finance Minister of the CPN-UML nine-month government, Bharat Mohan Adhikari said that this document could have been better including some sorts of relief to the senior citizens in view of the rising high cost of living. (It was there but former Finance Minister did not catch it.)

President of Nepal Workers and Peasants Party Narayan Man Bijukchhe said that policies and programs of the coalition government had nothing new except for the peace process and the integration of People’s Liberation Army combatants with the Nepali Army. He went on saying that the government instead of nationalizing the private companies had gone for privatizing some public enterprises such as Nepal Oil Corporation and others going against communist principles.

Former three-term Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba brushed off the document as a trash full of contradictory messages that he did not agree with. He would talk about these things at the time of discussion at the CA session. His party would present amendments to this document. In fact, his party NC registered 22-point amendments to the policies and programs of the coalition government at the CA office on September 11, 2008.

Former Finance Minister Dr. Ram Sharan Mahat told in an interaction program that the policy and program document was scary. Talking to the Radio Nepal morning program called ‘Antar Sambad’ on September 11, 2008, political analyst Prakash Shrestha replying to the questioner concerning the comment of the former Finance Minister Mahat said that certainly it must be dreadful to him and his party if the current government could do something concrete then his party would have no future.

Talking to the reporters another NC leader Pradip Giri said that the document indicates that the coalition government has surrendered to the capitalists. They have deviated from socialism and have run after the capitalists.

President of Federation of Nepalese Chamber of Commerce and Industries (FNCCI) Kush Kumar Joshi was hopeful of the government implementing the policies and programs and would bring the fast economic development in the country. He also said that the government has incorporated most of the suggestions the private sector has provided.

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