EDITORIAL: Focus on business

Parliament now must focus its attention on making new laws without encroaching upon jurisdictions of the provincial assemblies and local level units

President Bidhya Devi Bhandari on Monday summoned the first meeting of the House of Representatives (HoR) and National Assembly (NA) on March 5, three months after the last phase of parliamentary and provincial elections was held on December 7. The 275-member HoR and the 59-member NA will meet separately. As per the schedule, the swearing-in ceremony will be held before the first meeting, either on March 4 or in the morning of March 5. The first meeting will be chaired by seniormost lawmakers of both the Houses. The first task of both the Houses is to pass interim procedures about the election of Speaker/Deputy Speaker and Chairman/Vice Chairman of both the Houses. The Election Commission has also proposed electing president on March 9, though the council of ministers has yet to take a decision to this effect. As per the constitutional provision, the above-mentioned posts should be elected from opposite sexes and also from different political parties. Newly-elected Prime Minister KP Oli is also required to take vote of confidence of the HoR within 30 days from the date of his appointment.

The first meeting of the federal Parliament will be largely ceremonial. Leaders of all political parties will address their respective Chambers. The first task of the Oli-led government is to table two ordinances—the ordinance related to NA election and the ordinance to National Medical Education—and President’s order to mobilise the Nepali Army during the elections in the Lower House. The order to mobilise the army should be approved by the Parliamentary Special Committee. The government needs to bring replacement bills within 60 days of their tabulation if it wants to give continuation to them. But any action taken under any ordinance will remain valid even if the government does not want to replace it.

With the successful elections of the three tiers of government, the new constitution has fully come into force. Now, the federal Parliament must focus its attention on making new laws on a number of areas without encroaching upon the jurisdictions of the provincial assemblies and local level units. It must pass a law to effectively govern the National Natural Resources and Fiscal Commission in which all provincial assemblies will also have their representation. This is a crucial constitutional body that takes judicious decisions on sharing natural resources and federal budget among all provinces and local level units. On top of that, the federal lawmakers should avoid allocating budget for themselves in the names similar to Constituency Development Programme and Constituency Infrastructure Special Programme. Around Rs 10 billion was allocated under these schemes, but yielded no results at the grassroots level. The provincial assembly members will also seek similar schemes if the federal lawmakers want to give continuity to the pork barrel spending. All development works must be carried out by the elected governments, not by the lawmakers. They should actively take part in law-making processes from the beginning to the end. There were instances in the past that several bills passed through Parliament without having any knowledge of the lawmakers.

Tapping tourists

Tourism is Nepal’s one of the biggest sources of foreign income. Lumbini, the birthplace of Buddha, is one of the major tourist destinations. But of late the trend of tourists arriving in Lumbini but not spending time there has caused some concern among locals and businesspersons. According to Haridhwaj Rai, chief information officer at the Lumbini Development Fund, the number of tourists arriving in the world heritage site though has not declined, their stay period has. “Most of the tourists do no visit all the sites in the area and are found to be in a hurry to return,” he said. People from neighbouring India and China as well as Vietnam, Myanmar, Cambodia and Sri Lanka visit the holy Buddhist site.

But according to officials, tourists usually visit the Mayadevi temple and simply return. When it comes to tourism and its benefits in terms of economic value, tourists have to spend some time and money. But in Lumbini, the number of visitors has increased but the number of those staying there has decreased. There is a need to encourage tourists to explore other sites in the area. The authorities also should work to offer more stuff for tourists to see.