Political Wrangling has put Economic Agenda in the Back Burner: Former NPC Chair

Prolonged Transition Waters Down Ambition of National Prosperity   

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Political Wrangling has put Economic Agenda in the Back Burner: Former NPC Chair

September 21: Eight years have passed since the promulgation and enforcement of the Constitution of Nepal, 2015. Socialism-oriented economy is the ultimate goal set by the constitution. But, examining the national affairs from the socio-economic perspectives, these past eight years are off the mark.    

As majority of citizens’ aspirations have not been met, there is growing despair. The number of people leaving for foreign employment and to study abroad is on the rise, while those willing to stay back and do something at home seem disappointed. Experts say that although the system changed, people's condition has not changed for the better. They further argue that political instability and protracted transition took toll on the national ambition of prosperity.    
Former Vice Chairperson of the National Planning Commission, Dr Pushpa Raj Kandel, viewed that the economic agenda was overshadowed because of political instability following the promulgation of the Constitution. Political wrangling put economic agenda in the back burner. Nepal is facing similar plight since 1990, he added.    

"It seems that the spirit of the Constitution depend more on ideals. The objectives and goals of the Constitution and the conduct are quite contradictory," Dr Kandel said, adding, "The Constitution has envisioned a welfare state, socialism-oriented economy which is an ideal state. But the enforcement aspect shows digression from the goal. The transition has been prolonged much."    
He further said that all political parties and leaders call themselves devoted to development and prosperity, but that’s not true.

"Instead of speeding up development works and economic prosperity measures, the government is working in a way to take revenge. Instead of bettering oneself, leaders are focused on belittling and degrading other, which is wrong," Dr Kandel said.    
According to him, one and half decades went in vain due to political instability. It has taken toll on the country's long-standing journey towards prosperity.    
"If the country's economy is weak, it will have adverse effect on social psychology. The society that wants change quickly is now irate. We have a tendency to compare with others. We are focused more on others' duty while ignoring our own," he expressed his concerns.    
Similarly, Professor at Central Department of Economics at Tribhuvan University, Dr Sanjay Acharya, said citizen's aspiration of improvement in their lifestyle did not change despite change in governance and State affairs.

"Millions of Nepalis are in foreign employment for lack of opportunities here. It has given a message that there are no opportunities and potentials inside the country. This is quite alarming," he said.    
Dr Acharya further said that 600,000 Nepalis left the country for job while 200,000 Nepalis for higher study last year alone. He suggests political parties and government to pay heed to fiscal federalism. There are numerous complaints of people on fiscal federalism.    
The sub-national governments have imposed unnecessary taxes, thereby making the new system complicated. Governments also need to improve its spending capacity. Decrease in production and export is equally worrying factor, he added.    
Moreover, he described fiscal transfer and revenue sharing as being ineffective. The concept of project banks and Mid-term expenditure framework (MTEF) have not been enforced at province and local levels.

“The trend of spending huge chunk of budget at the end of fiscal year has not ended. Capital formation is difficult but regular spending is on the rise.”    
However, the government has expressed its commitment to strengthen fiscal federalism through the current fiscal year’s budget. Point no 428 of the budget states that the Local Government Operation Act, 2074 and Inter-government Fiscal Management Act, 2074 would be amended based on implementation experiences so far.    
Nevertheless, if all the political parties make the economic agenda the first priority and move forward, there is still hope of improvement in the economy. Former NPC vice chair Kandel says that since the remittance inflow continues to improve it will provide sufficient revenue and the economy will improve if only a little confidence can be created. If capital expenditure is increased and infrastructure projects currently under construction expedited, it will certainly accelerate the economy. -- RSS 

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