Common ground

E conomists have expressed concern about the Nepali economy and one big source of it is the lack of clarity in the economic policy of the major political parties. They fear an economic drift. Political and business leaders occasionally call for a national consensus on economic development. At an interaction on ‘Industrialisation’ held in the capital on Tuesday, representatives of several political parties stressed the need for: a common vision for development, a common code of conduct for the sister organisations of the parties concerning industry, including bandhs and strikes, keeping the industry away from politics, a common minimum economic agenda of the parties, etc.

The existence of various political parties implies various policies on the economy and other sectors. But this should not form a barrier to the evolution of a broad common area of agreement on vital sectors, such as the economy, the use of principal natural resources (in Nepal’s context, water resources), foreign policy, and national security, how to maximise benefits from the country’s location between the fast developing giant neighbours and from other international economic ties. But, before the parties can develop such a consensual policy covering these areas, each needs to have a clear vision and a clear set of goals and objectives as to how it would steer the country with respect to those areas by itself if it came to power. Here, the parties have still to make their minds clear and let the people understand what they really want.

One wonders how the Nepali Congress’s socialistic pattern of society meshes well with the policy of liberalisation and privatisation that are sweeping much of the world within the framework of globalisation. And how may one explain the gap between the

party’s policy and practice? The CPN-UML seems to be confused about its economic policy, as it struggles to balance between its communist brand and the present-day economic realities. The Maoists, who have yet to achieve full integration into the capitalistic pattern of economic management, have provided only a sketchy picture of the economic direction they will take, not a definite total picture of what they call a ‘mixed economy’. The confusion persists also as to whose policy the upcoming national budget will reflect. The Congress’s because the finance minister belongs to that party? Or, will it form a consensual document of the eight parties represented in the government? What about the three-year development plan being prepared by the National Planning Commission (NPC) for the interim period, whose length is still uncertain? Besides, as the NPC represents a hangover of the days of a regulated economy, is it not time its very role, and its very raison d’etre, were reconsidered in the new globalised context?

Nobody discounts the overriding importance of the political process of peace and polls. But it does not have to exclude important work on other areas vital to the nation. And what better time than this interim period the political parties will have for building such a consensus.