Empowering provinces will mean empowering the people in decision-making processes, which is in the best interest of the nation
Federal set up is quite new for Nepal. The federal government which exercises immense power and traditionally holds expertise to its best must work sincerely to make it fully functional. By the look of things, however, the centre appears conservative and therefore reluctant in delegating powers to the newly-elected provinces, ironically, the majority led by the ruling parties. The provinces have been rendered ineffective to deliver services and carry out development works due to lack of institutional capacity, human and financial resources and planning of development works. The federal government’s sheer apathy towards facilitating them with required support can be attributed to their ineffectiveness. The elections held last year created political institutions at provincial and local levels. But they are in dire need of human resources to run in order to be able to deliver goods and services to the people. Now, they need to be added with flesh in the bare bones of the political structure. A glaring example is that the provinces have been slower than the Centre in spending the allocated budget in the first quarters of the fiscal. Spending capacity of provinces ranges from 0.62 per cent to 4.27 per cent of the total budget compared to 15 per cent spending of the federal government. It speaks volume about the institutional lacking at the provincial governments. They have unveiled ambitious budgets amounting to billions of rupees but are short of institutional capacity to utilise, or to plainly put it, spend the money, especially in development projects to be carried out by provinces.
Keeping this in mind, the chief ministers of all provinces held a meeting in Pokhara in the second week of September to evolve consensus on common issues facing them. But Prime Minister KP Oli, who chairs the constitutional mechanism — Inter-Province Council — took umbrage at the proposed meeting and canceled it at the eleventh hour. The Inter-Province Council meeting, intended to facilitate resolution of any differences between the Centre and provinces and among provinces, has been rescheduled for second week of November after the Province 2 passed a Provincial Police Bill before the passage of an umbrella bill on Nepal Police Act on federal line.
The Inter-Province Council meeting must urgently define jurisdictions of three tiers of government on concurrent powers. This has become the bone of contention between the Centre and provinces. In order to put an end to the rifts between the Centre and provinces the government must immediately form the constitutional National Natural Resources and Fiscal Commission. The Civil Service Adjustment Act and its regulations must be amended offering more incentives to civil servants who will be ready to be deployed to the provinces and local levels. One of the urgent tasks of the federal government is to providing the provinces with expertise in planning of development projects. They cannot avail the equalisation grant from the federal budget unless they increase spending capacity in capital expenditure. The Centre and provinces must work in tandem to make the federal set up a success to lead the country towards prosperity through self-rule and mutual cooperation with one another. Empowering provinces will mean empowering the people in decision-making processes, which is in the best interest of the nation.
Tree of life
Banke district has been witnessing massive forest encroachment in recent years. According to the Division Forest Office, Banke, forest land is being encroached upon in the name of flood-displaced, landless squatters and persons displaced due to natural disasters in various places of the district.
Living trees are an important part of the earth’s climate system. Forests are home to different wild animals and various species. Forests also play an important role in preventing flood. They are essential elements of biodiversity that is necessary for diversity of life forms, human livelihood, environmental adaptive responses and economic development. Losing forests means posing threat to different life forms, which ultimately will severely impact human beings. The rapid encroachment of forest area in Banke is a major cause for concern, and authorities must come up with ways to protect the forests. Forests are key to supporting life on earth. Hence urgent actions are required to conserve forests which are the earth’s greatest natural resources. No forest means no life. We can’t live without forests.
A version of this article appears in print on October 30, 2018 of The Himalayan Times.