Even the senior leaders of the ruling party accept that the people aren’t happy with the performance of the incumbent government.
--BY VISHWASH THAPA
Two years of KP Sharma Oli government has been a mixed bag. Some progress can be visible but not to the expectations of the public who gave Nepal Communist Party a thumping majority expecting changes in the country.
The government began its journey with some good signs. It started taking action against transport syndicates, took steps against decreasing the monopoly of the middlemen in the market, tried to tighten the malpractice in the business sector and it seemed to be taking some steps towards attaining its ambitious goals like the railway and operating its own ship.
While assuming office in February 2018, and in other addresses then after, Oli had said his first year would be the year of building the foundation for a ‘Prosperous Nepal and Happy Nepali.’ He had claimed the results would be visible from the next year. If his saying is anything to go by, the positive outcomes of the government should have been noticeable from this year.
But, when Oli addressed the House of Representatives on February 15 counting the achievements of his work, there wasn’t much the public could actually relate with. While it is true that 55 new Acts have come into force and 201 others have been amended to align them with the new constitution, it is also a fact that a number of other laws needed for the full-fledged implementation of federalism are yet to be presented before the parliament, though it has already been more than four years since the statute was promulgated.
In the lack of federal laws like Education and Health, the provincial and local governments have not been able to execute the authority bestowed upon them by the statute. Having the needed laws as envisioned by the constitution is the first step towards creating the foundation for federalism.
While presenting the government’s report card before the parliament, Oli said Nepal is among the top 10 countries in the world with a high GDP growth rate. Nepal has maintained the over 6.5 percent growth rate continuously for the last three years and none of the seven provinces has less than six percent of growth. He claimed that the investment commitment from the domestic and international investorsstands at Rs 2oo billion in the current fiscal year while the Investment Board had approved foreign direct investment worth Rs 323 billion in the last fiscal year.
He also presented an optimistic picture of the trade balance. Exports have increased by 26.1 percent in the current fiscal year while imports have slid by four percent. His report card shows the trade deficit has decreased by 6.1 percent in the current fiscal year while the trade dependency with India too is decreasing with the diversification in trades.
“Not just in the economic sector, we have made good progress even in the social sector,” Oli said. Nepal has made tremendous progress in social indicators like human development index, doing business, fighting hunger and improving peace and the rule of law which is testimony that the country is on the right track. The report of Transparency International, which shows Nepal faring better in corruption, was a tool for him to defend his government.
Analysts say the Oli government, which is among the most powerful governments the country has ever had, doesn’t have the liberty to show satisfaction with the little progress. “It would be wrong to say nothing has been done, but this is not enough to cherish,” said Chandra DevBhatta, a political analyst. “We cannot accept the country is on the path of progress unless the general people actually feel it.”
Experts say the people’s expectations started to erode after the government weakened its actions against the syndicates and failed to carry even minor maintenance of the roads while it kept on selling the big dreams of railways and ships. The government couldn’t provide any relief to the Nepali people who are facing various problems in their daily lives. The federal government is partly responsible for the poor show of the provincial and local governments because it couldn’t play the coordinating and facilitating role to support them. Oli, who is also a chairman of the ruling party, is also criticised for the poor performance of the other two forms of government because the Nepal Communist Party governs a majority of them.
Even the senior leaders of the ruling party accept that the people aren’t happy with the performance of the incumbent government. Speaking at a programme by the Federation of Nepali Entrepreneurs and Industrialists, a sister wing of the ruling party, on February 7 Pushpa Kamal Dahal, co-chair of the party, said people are not happy because they haven’t felt any changes in their lives. “The dissatisfaction among the people shows all is not well,” he said.
Political experts say the incumbent government added fuel to the fire by introducing controversial laws like Guthi Bill, Information Technology Bill and Media Council Bill among others. The government’s attempt to nationalise the properties under the guthi through an amendment to the existing law was opposed strongly by the Newar community forcing the former to withdraw the bill. Civil society and the media community strongly believe that the incumbent government wants to curtail civil liberties. They claim the introduction of bills attacking the right to freedom and expression is shrinking the democratic space in the country.
So aren’t there any positive achievements diplomatically? “There are some basically in the diplomatic sector,” said Bhatta.
The most significant achievement was Chinese President Xi Jinping’s visit to Nepal in October last year. The visit of the executive head from the second most powerful nation in the span of 22 years was a message that China does take Nepal seriously. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi had visited Nepal in August 2018, a few months after Oli was elected as prime minister, for the second time.
The Oli administration also held a successful investment summit in March last year and had amended the existing laws beforehand to attract investment. The conclusion of a pre-feasibility study of the Kathmandu-Kerung Railway line and the Chinese government’s commitment to connecting the two countries through tunnels too is a laudable achievement of the incumbent government. The completion of the Raxual-Amlekhgunj petroleum pipeline and ongoing mega study in Dailkeh for the petroleum mines too is credited to the Oli government.
Forging a deal with CK Raut to bring him into mainstream politics by abandoning the secessionist movement is another commendable job under Oli.
Oli might have claimed there has been huge progress, but his address in the Lower House clearly showed he knows he has failed to live up to expectations. Against the claim from last year, the government’s results would be visible from this year, he said, and that his government is keeping the long term vision, therefore, the outcome is not being seen immediately.
Now, the Oli government has three full years to prove itself and it is not a long time. It will be solely blamed for the failures and people are closely watching every step it takes. It is in the hands of Oli and his party where they want to be after three years: in the government or in the opposition bench. Sooner they realise the people’s angst and work to pacify it, the better for the party and the government.