A powerful case

The five political parties have urged the donors to postpone the two-day meeting of the Nepal Development Forum (NDF) scheduled for the first week of May. The donors, on their part, have put the ball in the court of the five-party alliance by asking them to put up their “joint” candidate for prime minister before they consider postponing the meeting. The parties had argued that at a time when the political parties were agitating against “regression” it would not be appropriate for the donors to take part in the NDF meeting organised by a government not armed with the people’s mandate. The donors, particularly European Union and Scandinavian countries, have, from the start, preferred an all-party government to hold the elections and take the initiative to end the political and constitutional problems facing Nepal. They were not happy with the dissolution of the local bodies by the Deuba government and they are not particularly pleased with the government’s rejection of the UN’s offer of mediation. They feel the establishment has to take more steps to end the impasse and conflict.

Furthermore, they see peace as being vital to development. And for peace, they favour a political settlement. European Union and Scandinavian countries are also becoming increasingly concerned about the deteriorating human rights situation in Nepal, the present quality of aid utilisation, and the failure to resume the democratic process. Given that they participate in the NDF meeting, they are likely to issue a stern warning to the government, pointing out what it should do if it expects continuance in development aid. The poor aid- aborptive capacity of the government is reflected in the fact that, in the current fiscal year, out of Rs.41billion rupees set aside for development expenditure, it has been able to spend only Rs.8 billion in the first eight months, and given this rate, it will be able to spend even less than one-third of the development budget by the end of the year.

So, asking for more development budget needs to have a better justification. Some of the donors have not made new aid commitments. Perhaps, the political parties’ request for the postponement of the NDF meeting, given the present extraordinary circumstances, may have its merits, but the donors’ rider that the parties name their joint prime ministerial candidate makes a powerful case. Indeed, the Nepali public opinion seems to favour the announcement of such a candidate. This would rule out any possibility of bitterness among the parties when the time comes for the formation of an all-party government, and it would give the present movement more credibility. If they cannot put up such a candidate, they will lose much of the donors’ trust in their ability to deliver for the nation’s good.