With the cabinet’s reshuffle in a hiatus of almost two years, it is the right time for the government to swing into full action to speed up the economy

Eighteen months after the unification between the then CPN-UML and CPN-Maoist-Centre to form the Nepal Communist Party, co-chairs – Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli and Pushpa Kamal Dahal – on Wednesday finally agreed to share powers between them. As per a statement issued by the NCP’s central secretariat, Oli will be leading the government till the end of the current House of Representatives and co-chair Dahal will exercise the executive powers to lead the NCP. With the new deal coming into force, the old one reached on May 17, 2018, which stated that both the co-chairs would run the government in turns, will no longer remain effective. Co-chair Dahal, who is still second in command, will be able to chair the party’s central committee, politburo and central secretariat even in Oli’s absence, which he previously did when Oli had gone to Singapore for his health check-up in August. Dahal can also issue necessary circulars to the party’s rank-and-file. However, a rider to it is that Dahal needs to take every decision on a consensual basis. This deal has put the looming uncertainty about the future of the government to an end, and it has also given a message of stability in the government.

However, the political maneuvering at Sital Niwas and Baluwatar in the past two days laid bare President Bidya Devi Bhandari’s unusual presidential move. If the media reports are to be believed, she was a ‘witness’ to the agreement reached between the co-chairs of the ruling NCP. How can a ceremonial head of state stand as a witness to an internal affair of a political party? Her conduct is unbecoming of a president. After being elected the president, she had immediately quit the party to which she was involved for so many years. The president should uphold the dignity and impartial image of the presidential office, which is to avoid engaging in any activity of a political party.

The co-chairs had also agreed to reshuffle the council of ministers formed some 21 months ago. Six of the cabinet ministers whose overall performance was said to be below expectation were axed and replaced by others who had already served as cabinet ministers. Only two faces are new in the cabinet. PM Oli had made public months ago that he was going to reshuffle the cabinet based on the ministers’ performances. Labour Minister Gokarna Bista, whose performance was said to rank second among all ministers, was also sacked while Drinking Water Minister Bina Magar, Dahal’s daughter-in-law, whose performance as minister ranked at the bottom, has been retained, raising quite a few eyebrows among the public. In a parliamentary democracy, a cabinet reshuffle is a routine process, and it should not be taken otherwise. As the government has spent almost two years in office, it is the right time to swing into full action to speed up the economy. All the ministers should act in full gear to meet the people’s expectations. Nepal cannot achieve the goal of becoming a developing country by the next decade without increasing public capital spending, which can generate employment opportunities at all levels, and motivating the private sector to make more investment in the productive sectors.

Ride-sharing services

The government’s decision to ban ride-sharing services is likely to earn the ire of many, not necessarily limited to the service providers. As per the Motor Vehicles and Transport Management Act, vehicles registered for private purpose cannot be used as a means of public transport. Agreed. But what was the Department of Transport Management doing all these months when the ride-sharing services, namely Tootle and Pathao, were openly providing their services at the press of a number on the mobile? If the government feels that the service providers were cheating the government of revenue, then go for it. There is no point in closing a business altogether.

The country needs ride-sharing services given the sorry state of public transportation in the country. If taxi drivers demand extra fare, at times double, the public buses and micro-vans cram as many people as they can to make huge profits at the expense of the commuters’ plight. If there are no laws to govern ride-sharing, then the parliament should pass a bill at the earliest. Ride-sharing is a concept which has found favour even in the developed world, so there is no going back on it.