As the government has already initiated against syndicate in transport sector, it now must work to end cartels in others sectors as well
The government has struck back at public transporters with a stunning decision of not renewing registrations of transport associations and committees at district administration offices. In what could be termed a bold move by the government, the decision could mean end of syndicate system which has plagued the country’s public transport sector for years. The government action comes hot on the heels of an announcement of a series of planned strikes by the transport associations/committees. A Cabinet meeting decided on Tuesday that no new institution related to the public transport sector would be registered from now onwards. The Cabinet has also decided not to renew registration of transport committees and associations. The Department of Transport Management (DoTM) has already launched a crackdown on transport syndicate, issuing vehicle route permits to new transport companies. The DoTM has said it will soon scrap all transport committees and associations.
Different transport associations and committees have for years held the country’s public transport sector hostage. The syndicate system has been so rife that transport associations and committees “control” majority of routes in the country, defying the rules that give transport entrepreneurs freedom to choose their own routes. The political patronage the transport associations and committees had been receiving had resulted in their highhandedness to the extent that they acted as though they were running a parallel government. They would call and enforce strikes and chakka jams at the drop of a hat and force the government to capitulate.
The syndicate system while has been queering the level playing field, it is stifling growth of the public transport sector and undermined the whole idea of the competitive market. As a result, the service seekers have been at the receiving end. It’s not that the country lacks regulations. Despite the Competition Promotion and Market Protection Act, 2007, which terms all anti-competitive behaviours illegal, being in place, the syndicate in the public transport sector had emerged so strongly that even the authorities hitherto had failed to take action against transport committees and associations. Even the Supreme Court about a decade ago had declared the syndicate-run public transport system illegal. Since the government has already got itself into gear to break up the syndicate system in the public transport sector, the momentum must be sustained until this evil is completely driven off. There, however, is a need of putting in place proper mechanism and enforcing regulations so as to ensure that such illegal system does not rear its ugly head again. There are concerns that new syndicates could emerge in different forms. The government has to pay heed to this as well. As the government has already initiated strong against the syndicate in the public transport sector, it now must work to break up the cartels in others public sectors as well. Syndicate systems have been the bane of various public service sectors in Nepal for years. Such illegal practice must come to an end. The government’s action against syndicate in the public transport sector certainly is a good move, which was long overdue.
Easing air traffic
The government is preparing to operate Tribhuvan International Airport (TIA) – the sole international airport – for 21 hours beginning May 21. TIA General Manager Raj Kumar Chhetri has said internal preparations regarding the extended operation hours at the airport have been completed. Currently, the airport is operated for 18-and-a-half hours every day. Chhetri said necessary human resources has been deployed and shifts of staffers shuffled to operate TIA for the extended hours.
TIA handles around 700 flights every day. Most of the time, domestic and international flights have to remain on hold for hours due to heavy air traffic. The problem of traffic congestion will be addressed to some extent after TIA comes into operation for 21 hours. Some international flights will be asked to operate their flights during late hours to ease the air traffic congestion. Standardising TIA and managing the air traffic jam are two major issues that the government needs to tackle to increase inflow of foreign tourists. Tourism industry contributes about three per cent to the national GDP. Extending the operation hours is not enough. The government should also make major reforms in tourism-related sectors.
A version of this article appears in print on April 19, 2018 of The Himalayan Times.