While addressing the House of Representatives on February 14, Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli presented a rosy picture of his government’s performance. There was no specific reason or occasion for the Prime Minister to address the parliament, yet he did so in order to boast a list of government ‘achievements’. While it is obvious that politicians want to take credit for their accomplishments, Oli’s presentation was in fact a sunny disposition of his last two years in office.
The government’s performance in the past 24 months hasn’t been much more than a mixed bag. Despite the relative stability in the political front, the Oli administration’s economic performance has been a poor show.
Oli’s rise to the executive post came at a time when the country’s economic growth was the strongest in over 25 years. Riding on the back of the economic growth, basically propelled by the massive post-earthquake reconstruction spending, Oli made promises about the country’s economic development without analysing the government’s capacity in terms of delivery. Two years after he was sworn in to the top executive post, the country’s economic growth engine is seemingly losing steam as the post-quake reconstruction drive is nearly over.
The government’s ambitious economic growth target of 8.5 percent is unlikely to be met as an International Monetary Fund (IMF) mission which visited Nepal last month suggested the growth to be at just around 6 percent. Manufacturing activities that gathered some momentum in the last few years after a prolonged sluggishness have slowed and the growth of the service sector is also slowing down; only the agricultural output looks positive due to timely monsoon rain. The fact is that the steep decline in import of capital goods such as industrial raw materials and machinery has translated into a decline in internal demand, thus affecting industrial productivity.
The recent graft allegations involving top ministers and ruling party leaders have laid bare the claims of PM Oli that he has maintained high levels of good governance. The ouster of communications minister Gokul Baskota is just one example in this regard. Good governance will only be achieved when the political leadership stays true to its words rather than making empty promises for public consumption.
When citizens voted in the first parliamentary elections held after the promulgation of the new constitution in 2015 to form a government with a two-thirds majority, there were high hopes that the country would take a new course of political stability and economic development. It wouldn’t be otherwise to say that the first two years of Oli as the Prime Minister has been one of lost opportunities. Now with three years remaining, it is time for him to act in meaningful ways.