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Sushil-led Government-20

July 2014

Programs And Policies Of Government

Siddhi B Ranjitkar


President Dr Ram Baran Yadav read out the programs and polices of the government for the FY 2014/15 in the parliament on June 29, 2014. The programs and polices have been for controlling every activities of the development. The State controls on development activities would surely slow down the development if not retarded. The Development Assistance Policy of 2014 published by the ministry of finance has been for controlling the foreign assistance, and for limiting the activities of NGOs and INGOs and even of the development partners. The so-called two-thirds majority coalition government of several political parties has dishonored the people’s mandate given for the fast socio-economic development of the country. The government has disregarded the fast economic development of China that has lifted the 500 millions Chinese out of the poverty line. Finance Minister Dr Ram Sharan Mahat has been the mute spectator of the dictation of the CPN-UML in preparing the program and policies document. The programs and polices document of the government have 106 articles.


The article five of the document said that the programs and polices were aimed at lifting the country to the level of a developing country by 2022. It did not specify the developing country. We know that China and India both are the developing countries. China has earned the status of the second largest economy, and soon it might be the first largest economy in the world but it would remain a developing country as the per capita income of the Chinese would not be no where near the developed countries.


Taking Nepal to the status of a developing country is similar to taking Nepal to the ‘Asian Standard’ the then king Birendra announced in the mid 1980s. His government and he did not specify the ‘Asian Standard.’ At that time, none of the serious economists believed in it. Nepal remained a least developed country even after almost 30 years of the announcement of taking Nepal to the ‘Asian Standard.’ The current government wanted to do almost the same. If the government could do such things binding the hands of Nepalis together not enabling them to do anything then the government of Birendra would have done it in the mid 1980s. It was clear that the current government also could not do so.


The government could take Nepal to a country of the world standard if the government were to untie the hands of people to do the development work, and if the government were to do only those things that the private companies or individuals would not do. The strangest thing was that the government of NC and the CPN-UML did not want to see the development China had done during the last 30 years. They did not want to follow the example the Chinese had set but they were for following the footprints left by the Panchayat rulers.


The article six of the document said that the government would have a zero tolerance of corruption. On June 29, 2014, the local newspaper titled ‘Rajdhani Daily’ wrote that the government had return Rs 1.5 billions to the cooking oil companies. This was called the 50% of the VAT (value added tax) return. Consumers had paid it not the companies. The government had made the companies eligible for such tax return if the companies were to use the local materials but the companies had used the imported raw materials, according to the news.


The ministry of finance would never return such large amounts to the private companies if the ministers and officials were not have share in the VAT returns. Lawmakers did not talked about it in the parliament. They knew that their political parties had received the shares in the VAT return. The opposition political parties including the UCPN-Maoist also did not make any noises at the parliament and in public. Obviously, they also must have the share in the VAT return.


Kathmanduites have been facing the mud during the rains and dust on the roads on sunny days, as the construction of the roads has been intensified. Everybody knew that the concerned State agency had been doing so at the end of the fiscal year to finish off the budget not the development work. The pot holes would return back to the roads once the budget was done. After the completion of the road construction work of this season, we needed to wait for the last four months of another fiscal year to see such construction activities. Is it the zero tolerance of corruption?


The recent news in the local newspapers have it that the board meeting of Nepal Electricity Authority (NEA) presided over by the Minister for Energy Radha Gyawali approved the ‘variation order’ of Rs 2.4 billion prepared by the NEA management for the Chameliya Hydropower Project causing the cost overrun and the time overrun. It was the clear case of corruption following the ‘Public Procurement Act”. How the government could say that it had a zero tolerance of corruption when the government did not amend the Act that permitted the ministers and concerned officials to make money, and when the government did not prevent the concerned agencies to wait until the last four months for construction work.


The article 15 of the programs and policies document said that the government would encourage the contract, collective and cooperative farming to increase the production and productivity of agricultural products. The land ceiling had been the main culprit for not developing the agriculture despite the government pouring so much of money in this sector. The land Act had limited the ownership of land keeping away the potential investors in the agriculture. Large commercial farmers did not find sufficient land for justifying investment in agricultural equipment and machines, and tools. Despite this environment of discouraging the potential larger farmers from investing in mechanization of the agriculture, the article 16 of the document said that the government would encourage the mechanization of the agriculture. This article also said that the government would set the minimum price of agricultural products.


In addition, the government has the monopoly on providing farmers with fertilizers and seeds. The government had been spending a large chunk of the annual budget on providing subsidy on fertilizers. Annual subsidy on fertilizers and other agricultural inputs had been more than six billion rupees a year. However, farmers complained that they did not find fertilizers and seeds at the time of sowing and plantation seasons. They needed to cross the border and buy low quality seeds and fertilizers at the Indian border towns. This is a case in point of the government control on development.


The article 17 of the document said that the government would provide grant and concession for exporting high value agricultural products. The export of agricultural products such as ginger had been facing the Indian non-tariff barrier such as delay in doing analysis of ginger in Calcutta for permitting Nepalese ginger entering India. The government of Nepal did not think of easing such barrier but was willing to provide the grant and concession because such grant and concession would benefit the political cadres rather than the farmers and exporters of the agricultural products.


The article 30 of the document said that the government would enforce the recommendations made by the parliamentary investigation committee for smooth supply of petroleum products, the private sector would be involved in supplying petroleum products, and the exploration of petroleum would be started from the new heads. Often, the supply of petroleum products has been irregular. The state-owned monopoly company called Nepal Oil Corporation had many excuses for irregular supply of petroleum products but the main cause had been the monopoly of this company on supplying petroleum products. The government had been saying that the private sector would be engaged in supplying petroleum products since many years ago. This had been one of the rituals of every government. As one of the geoscientists I could say that Nepal had a little chance of having any significant petroleum deposit. Nepal could make a lot of money exporting stones to Bangladesh and India.


The government came up with the slogan of ‘lighting Nepal for prosperity’ in the article 32 of the document. How could the government light up Nepal when the electric lights did not have the supply of power due to the announced and unannounced power outage for more than 10 hours a day? The government did not want to negotiate with the Indian government and the private companies for constructing large hydropower plants. Overseas foreign companies did not have incentive for investing in the large hydropower plants as the government of Nepal did not need so much of power, and the sole market for power was only India. Consequently, the potential energy had been flowing in the rivers.


The government said in the article 36 of the document that every house in Nepal would be made ‘bright house without smoke’ within three years. How to understand this statement I did not know. Whether the government wanted to make every house not to cook or whether the government would make every house to cook on electric appliances or whether the government would ban cooking on fuel wood. The reality was more than 80% of the Nepalis cook their meals on fuel wood, agricultural wastes, and dried animal dung. It would be madness to think of providing the 80% of Nepalis with the electric power for cooking within three years.


The article 39 pf the document said that the government would start off the Kathmandu-Tarai/Madhes fast track highway. Prime Minster Girija Prasad Koirala was to construct this fast track highway in 1990s but his wish was not met because of the greed of the concerned minister for commission. Then, the government of Nepal was about to give on contract this highway to the Indian private company but the company did not do so believing it would not make money out of this highway. The government had given a permit to the Nepal Infrastructure Development Company for constructing another Kathmandu-Tarai/Madhes fast track highway with short tunnels at four places. So, two fast track highways were to be constructed on the same section. However, the government not only did not provide the Nepalese company with resources but also stop the financial companies willing to provide the company with loans. Consequently, the construction of the both the highways has been in limbo.


The government committed in the article 42 of the document to provide all Nepalis with basic drinking water and sanitation services in the coming three years. I could not believe in it. I was not sure that the government had so much of resources to do so even if it had the capacity to do so. The government had not been able to complete the much-hyped Melamchi Drinking Water Project that was supposed to provide Kathmanduites with drinking water a long time ago. The government had changed one contractor after another for the real reasons not told to the public. Currently, an Italian company has been working on constructing a tunnel of about 26km required to bring water the Melamchi River in the Sindhupalchok district. About 6 km tunnel had been done so far. Minster for Urban Development Dr Narayan Khadka said the water form the Melamchi River would reach Kathmandu within two years. The question was whether the Italian construction company would be able to complete the construction of about 20 km tunnel in the coming two years. In such circumstances, whether anybody believed that the government would be able to provide the entire Nepalis with basic water and sanitation.


Another funny slogan mentioned in the article 51 of the document was ‘one house one tree, one village one forest and one town many gardens’. The government would announce a ‘forest decade’ for preserving the biodiversity and for making the slogan a reality. The question was who had such a brain to formulate such a slogan. Acting Prime Minister Bamdev Gautam said that 75% of the document was of his party CPN-UML. So, these CPN-UML guys must be very smart to formulae such slogans.


The article 53 of the document said that the government would enforce the ‘Rastrapati (president) Chure Conservation Program effectively to mange the upstream and down stream of the Chure area watersheds properly preparing an integrated program on watersheds and river system management. The recent news has been that Minister for Forest is stopping any extraction of stones from the Chure areas effective on July 17, 2014. Extracting stones in the Chure areas and exporting them to India had been one of the largest businesses in Nepal. If the minister for forest were serious to stop it, smuggling of stones would be. Then, the minister would certainly benefit from it. If smuggling did not happen and extraction of stones was stopped, then the rivers and stream would take the stones across the border to India.


The article 66 of the document said that the government would gradually implement ‘one school one library, e-library, and one school one laboratory’ program. I did not think that the person writing this document understood what s/he wrote. Many school children had to sit on the open field for learning in absence of school buildings. They did not receive textbooks on time. Many state-paid teachers did not show up at schools because they were engaged in the political party activities. The government would have done a great job if the government could relieve the schoolteachers from the political party activities, and force them to teach the children at schools, and provide the schoolchildren with textbooks on time.


The programs and policies of the coalition government were not realistic. If the government were to strictly enforce the programs and polices, the country would move backward rather than forward. Political leaders in power and their cadres would enjoy everything whereas the majority of Nepalis would remain in poverty. These are the results of the State-controlled economy. This was clearly going against the mandate the Nepalese voters gave to the NC and the CPN-UML. The country would backtrack.


July 3, 2014


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