There are currently dozens of Bills related to the economic sector stuck at the Federal Parliament. Some of them are legislations that the government committed to get parliamentary endorsements by three months during the Nepal Investment Summit 2019 organised in March. It is an irony that the government and lawmakers, who never get tired talking vaguely about ‘prosperity’, haven’t prioritised this important task.
Because of this seeming indifference, some important Bills have taken decades to get parliamentary endorsement. For instance, the Safeguard, Anti-dumping and Countervailing Bill was approved by the House of Representatives this August. That is after some 18 years of remaining in the parliament. The Insurance Bill, 2018, which was submitted to the Economic Committee of the Federal Parliament for discussion last year, has not seen any progress. Similarly, the Bill to Fast-track Construction and Development of National Priority Projects, Bill to Amend and Integrate Existing Laws Related to Industrial Enterprises, Foreign Exchange Bill, Industrial Property Bill, Bill to Amend Mines and Minerals Act, Bill to Amend Public Procurement Act, Bill to Amend Companies Act and Bill to Amend Industrial Enterprises Act haven’t seen the light of day. There should be no obstacles in the way for the two-thirds majority government to endorse and amend the laws. When the Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli-led government was formed in February 2018, private sector investors had hoped for the formulation of new laws and improvement of existing legislations that have hindered the creation of an environment conducive to investment. Their hopes have since waned because of the sluggish work of the ministers and parliament.
In Nepal, parliamentary sessions are called twice a year- the Budget Session and Winter Session. Bills are presented and endorsed in the bicameral parliament. One must ask what is stopping the current parliament, which has already held two Budget sessions and one Winter session, from endorsing the essential economic Bills. In the past, Bills presented at parliament used to get delayed due to the lack of a clear majority at parliament. It is a matter of shame that the Bills are still hanging in uncertainty even after the formation of a parliament with a two-thirds majority.
To formulate a law, the authority concerned needs to receive principle agreement from the Ministry of Law, Justice and Parliamentary Affairs (MoLJPA), after which the draft of the law is prepared. The draft is then forwarded to MoLJPA, and after receiving approval from MoLJPA and the council of ministers, it is tabled at parliament as a Bill. The Bill undergoes clause-wise discussions in different parliamentary committees and is enacted as law after it is endorsed by parliament and receives the presidential assent. The Bills get stuck at parliament when the ministries and parliamentary panels concerned are unable to work efficiently during the process. Meanwhile, the government also has to activate the parliamentary committees in this regard. Past experience has shown that laws have been formulated using the so-called ‘fast track process’ whenever the government urgently requires the legislations. Nevertheless, the laws that are considered essential for the country’s economy have been left aground for years.
For years the country’s business community has been calling for improvements to be made to some redundant laws and for new legislations in order to create an investment-friendly environment. But the calls have largely been ignored. It is the duty of the government to avoid any delay in expediting the process to table the economic bills at parliament. Otherwise, its pledge to create a favourable environment for foreign and domestic investors will become meaningless like its commitment to achieving economic prosperity.