Economic concerns: Addressing immediate challenges

The Nepalis are fully conscious that the present government has immense responsibilities for fulfilling stupendous tasks. Fulfilment of those responsibilities and effective undertaking of tasks that lie ahead require strong determination, willingness and capability to move quickly in action, if the people’s expectations and mandates are not to wane. The government’s effectiveness through concrete actions is of vital necessity at this juncture in Nepali history if the regressive elements of the past government are to be eliminated from the possibilities of re-emergence.

At the same time, the government must act quickly and forthrightly to win and sustain the confidence and trust of the people and close all avenues for the emergence of more radical and anarchist elements as well. Though the constituents of the seven-party alliance (SPA) hold different ideologies, the need of the hour is to collectively work for nation building through adherence to democratic ideals and through true functioning of the multi-party democracy. This is not the time for projecting separate party interests, personal differences or ambitions, but a time to reckon for national reconstruction and to dedicate and function collectively for the larger cause of democracy, peace and stability within broader framework of a democratic set-up.

While the government’s performance during the last two weeks was somewhat disappointing, it looked that the government was captive of indecision and was even being disintegrated for obvious party interests and claims for public positions, it is now encouraging to note that things are finally moving ahead. Issues related to the position of the speaker have been resolved. The government has finalised and presented to the House the declaration asserting the sovereignty of the people and the supremacy of the parliament. The White Paper on the status of the Nepali economy has also been prepared. Activities have been initiated against some suspects involved in atrociously suppressing the Jan Andolan and misuse of state resources. Concrete actions are also being taken to initiate dialogues among parties concerned for the establishment of durable peace and security.

The government is involved in laying necessary foundations for political reforms through the enactment of legal and constitutional provisions as well as through clippings of old and unwarranted state regulations. The noteworthy accomplishment has been the establishment of the supremacy of the parliament, the move towards the election of the Constituent Assembly and preparations for negotiation for the establishment of peace and security. These are encouraging moves. The government needs to move quickly and aggressively in addressing the critical challenges in economic and social fronts. The recent mismanagement of the economy and incorrect allocations and use of public resources need to be fully reviewed and corrective measures be instituted urgently. At a time when our neighbours are progressing with eight to ten per cent growth rates annually, we should not be stuck with gloomy performance of around two per cent growth rate. Our immediate attention should, therefore, be on how to institute urgent measures for encouraging public investments and regenerate economic reforms for boosting private sector growth and its wider involvement in development activities. Nepal’s development partners and major donors are already proposing increased support as a result of reinstitution of democratic government. It is now the responsibility of the government to come up with a concrete package of priority proposals for immediate needs as well as for long-term growth and development.

Initiation of critical measures for increasing the economic growth rate should be the top priority of the government. This depends on how soon the issues related to conflict, peace and security are resolved. It is expected that concrete measures would be simultaneously initiated for these urgent challenges. While increasing growth rate should be the top priority, the government also needs to address urgently the issues related to poverty alleviation. The Ninth and Tenth Plan identified poverty as a critical challenge and devised some strategies to deal with the problem. The Poverty Reduction Strategy incorporated under the Tenth Plan was a significant step towards a comprehensive approach in this respect. However, poverty is now considered to be a problem of multi-dimensional nature causing deprivation of essential assets such as human, physical, natural, financial and social capitals. It needs to be analysed more critically and intensively and effective measures should be devised more concretely. This is opportune time, as the government will soon be involved in devising strategies for the Eleventh Plan. At the same time, the government needs to seriously review the ongoing poverty-focused programmes, as these have been mostly unsuccessful in reaching out to the expected beneficiaries.

Dhungana is a retired UN official