The govt has deliberately undermined the role of the parliament by putting it under the shadow of the executive
Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba is also following the footsteps of his predecessor, KP Sharma Oli, who tried to rule through one ordinance after another since last year when he lost his grip within his party and in the government due to in-fighting among the powerful party leaders. Deuba, who was appointed Prime Minister on July 12 following the reinstatement of the dissolved House of Representatives (HoR) for the second time and a mandamus order of the Supreme Court, recommended the prorogation of the federal parliament on Monday without so much as tabling a bill, including the most controversial U.S.-funded MCC (Millennium Challenge Corporation), for discussion in the HoR. He and his coalition partners were in a hurry to prorogue the eighth session of the parliament so that they could introduce an ordinance on the Political Party Act, which would facilitate the split of the Madhav Kumar Nepal faction from the main opposition CPN-UML and Mahantha Thakur faction from the Janata Samajbadi Party-Nepal. Ruling Nepali Congress insiders say the parliament was prorogued so early to ensure that the UML's Nepal faction could split the party with 20 per cent members either in the party's central committee or in parliamentary party (PP) or both. Oli had also introduced the same ordinance so that the Thakur faction could split from the JSP-N with less than 40 per cent of its CC or PP members.
There were 56 bills – seven of which had already been passed by the Upper House – under consideration in the HoR.
But none of them was tabled in the HoR for the last one month since Deuba came to power.
Some of the urgent bills, including the citizenship bill and federal civil service bill, should have been passed through the parliament. The government did table 15 ordinances introduced by the erstwhile government.
But they were not tabled for their replacement. While presenting a 'white paper' on the country's economy on August 10, Finance Minister Janardan Sharma had said he would come up with another budget to plug the loopholes seen in the fiscal budget presented by his predecessor, Bishnu Poudel. The most worrying part is that the government has deliberately undermined the role of the sovereign parliament by putting it under the shadow of the executive. No bills are discussed thoroughly in both the chambers of the federal parliament. The major political parties have used the federal parliament as a tool to only form the government, not to strengthen it as an independent organ of the state. Should this trend continue, the role of the lawmakers will be reduced to just 'yes-men' of the parties they belong to. Deuba, who came to power promising good governance through the rule of law, stopped short of expanding his cabinet for over a month due to uncertainty about the support he would muster from his coalition partners. No bills have been passed for the last one year though lawmakers have drawn salaries to the tune of Rs 320 million from the state coffers. This will not augur well for the democratic system if the government wants to rule through ordinances and does not engage the parliament in the law-making process.
It's common knowledge that saving and credit cooperatives charge higher interest rates on the loans than the banks and finance companies. But the poor have no alternative because they have no access to easy loans from the banks. Hence, they are forced to take loans at 18 per cent or more from the cooperatives.
Cooperatives charge high interest rates because they also provide much higher interest rates than the banks on the deposits. Hence, unless funds at low interest rates can be channeled to the cooperatives, the poor will continue to suffer.
Going by the number of cooperatives that are found everywhere – at times a building will be housing multiple cooperatives – one would think the cooperatives drive is a success story. But, the cooperatives, especially in the urban centres, are investing in unproductive sectors such as land, housing and automobiles.
They are flush with deposits worth billions of rupees, which if channeled in the productive sector, would help develop agriculture and small and medium industries, generating employment for the people. This, however, will happen only if the government can introduce a policy that will make productive use of people's deposits in the cooperatives.
A version of this article appears in the print on August 18 2021, of The Himalayan Times.