The crown jewel of the present Constitution is the creation of local government bringing most services of the government to people’s doorsteps
At last, the local level elections have been successfully completed in the 283 municipalities and rural municipalities in province numbers 3, 4, and 6 under the first phase, electing some 13,000 people’s representatives. The results are already in, except for a few places. The second phase elections are scheduled for June 14 in the remaining four provinces in 461 municipalities and rural municipalities, plus 22 more if the newly-added local levels are to be counted. The local level elections will complete the formation of the executive and legislative branches of local governments across the country. After nineteen years, elections are taking place for the first time, the local bodies having been run so far by the employees and through an all-party mechanism. It is expected that the second phase polls will also pass off peacefully. But the tasks ahead are challenging for the representatives and the government at the centre. This is made more difficult by the fact that there is not much time available to put things in proper places.
The first hurdle is the lack of a law governing the operation of the local governments, with their jurisdictions, duties, responsibilities and powers to be defined in detail. A bill has to be tabled in the parliament and passed in its current session without delay. The Constitution has defined twenty-two broad areas of the scope of activities of local governments. The broad jurisdictions of local and provincial governments overlap in a number of areas, as specified in the related schedule of the Constitution. These should be clarified by the law. Secondly, the present local levels and the earlier local bodies are poles apart in their scope and powers because the local bodies were not local governments, which have been protected from any encroachment on their constitutionally guaranteed jurisdiction from the centre or from provincial government and their tenure of five years is secure.
The elected representatives come from various backgrounds and are not all quite knowledgeable about what they can do, how they can do it, how to manage the financial side of local governments, and how to make development plans and programmes, and so on. Therefore, they need sufficient training in this regard. Along with these, there is the immediate need for providing enough office space for local governments in many places. Besides, the local levels immediately require more manpower of specific skills; moreover, as the local governments have grown in all respects, multi-skilled employees are needed as multi-tasking is necessary for delivering efficient and effective services to the people. The needed support and other physical infrastructure should also be made available soon. The local governments will also have to make their budgets including development plans and programmes for the coming fiscal year, which commences in mid-July. The urgency of these and other tasks to be completed to prepare the ground for local government to start functioning cannot be over-emphasised. The crown jewel of the present Constitution is the creation of local government, which brings into full play of grassroots democracy, bringing most services of the government to the people’s doorsteps.
The Medicine Importers Association (MIA) began its stir asking that the government to provide proof that they are making a hefty 2,200 per cent from selling medicines. If this allegation is true then the MIA should come under the scanner. Meanwhile, it is claimed that Nepal can produce 72 different kinds of medicines that would meet 40 per cent of the demand. Taking this into consideration, the government is mulling banning imports of 34 kinds of medicines. The MIA which imports medicines says it is providing the required medicines to all areas both urban and rural in the country even when there is crisis. This claim needs to be thoroughly probed. In any case, government pharmacies provide medicines at lower costs than private ones.
Some medicines are provided free of cost like those for tuberculosis and HIV/AIDS. Furthermore, medicines should be made available at a reasonable price by private pharmacies which are affordable if they cannot be provided for free. Hence, the concerned should come up with plans to provide the required medicines at nominal price and there should be no shortage of essential drugs. The private sector is expected to play a crucial role in making this possible.
A version of this article appears in print on May 24, 2017 of The Himalayan Times.