The Election Commission is holding elections for the House of Representatives and seven province assemblies on November 20. This means the country will get a new government at the centre as well new government in the provinces by November end. What can we expect in terms of economic policy from the new government?
The question may look easy but the answer is difficult. Mainly because the elections are being contested not on the basis of political or economic ideologies. A cursory look into the sides fighting the election shows it clearly. Political parties and their leaders are busy criticising their opponents instead of briefing people what they intend to do if they are elected. They have included ambitious programmes in their respective manifestos without any resource planning.
Of the two coalition forces that are in the fray, one is led by CPN-UML with a Madhesh-centric party and a pro-monarchy party as its associates. The other is a coalition led by Nepali Congress with two leftist parties as its main associates. Neither of the coalitions has a clear common manifesto. Each of the partners of both coalitions has brought out their own manifesto, with policies far divergent from their own partners. This is going to lead to an awkward situation in terms of government policies irrespective of whichever coalition wins the elections.
This is not to say that the political parties will act exactly as they have declared in the manifestos. They have never done so in the past and are not likely to do so in the future as well. That leaves everyone askance.
As the election date draws closer, the coalition partners seem to be walking in unison. But that is not only among the partners within the coalitions. In fact, all the political parties have been talking about the same things, i.e. fast economic growth and distributive justice. They have also talked about increasing investment and creating jobs. But none has put forth a concrete idea as to how that is to be achieved, how the resources for the projects are to be arranged etc. Their job creation slogan is mainly focused on foreign employment. Some candidates have already spilled the beans.
Such being the backdrop, the most likely scenario post-elections is that of hotchpotch policies and a lot of horse-trading. The pre-election coalitions may be broken and a different ruling coalition is likely to emerge after the election results are announced.
Intense fighting is going on between forces advocating free-market economic policies and socialist, state-controlled economic policies. The latter is likely to be the dominating force no matter who wins the elections. Most likely, the economic policy will be put on the backburner.
The expectation of the general public and the business community from a general election is that all the political disputes will be resolved, and that there will be political and policy stability for the next five years. As that expectation is not likely to be fulfilled now, the duty of the general people, the civil society organisations and the business community has to be to lobby for these objectives with well-considered briefing papers based on nationwide consultations.
Good thing about Nepal’s politics is that the parliamentary committees are not totally adamant to suggestions. Though sometimes they may show unexpectedly irrational behaviours, there are plenty of instances when they have come up with conclusions which are rational. The communities better start preparations right now without waiting for the polling results.