First things first

CPN-Maoist chairman Prachanda was sworn in as the Prime Minister of Nepal yesterday at a function conspicuous by the absence of outgoing prime minister Girija Prasad Koirala, as well as by Prachanda’s changing of the word ‘God’ to ‘the people’ during the course of oath-taking when President Dr Ram Baran Yadav read out the approved wording ‘in the name of God’. Whatever the actual reason, to many people, Koirala’s absence probably means something about the level of unhappiness that he still has with Prachanda and his party about the issues of who should become President and then how the new government should be formed. The second reminds one of the oath-taking scene of the several communist ministers, including current CPN-UML general secretary Jhala Nath Khanal, in the interim government headed by Krishna Prasad Bhattarai after the 1990 Jana Andolan, when they, too, had done what Prachanda did yesterday.

However, much more important is how the government sets about tackling the pressing problems of the people and the country, and at what speed. This government has a life of two years, a period that should be roughly considered the short term. Nevertheless, it is a powerful government capable of taking far-reaching decisions, as it has the fresh electoral mandate. Apart from speeding up the process of writing a new constitution by the Constituent Assembly, it has to see that the unfinished tasks of the peace process, including, of course, the due adjustment of the soldiers of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA), are completed. The new government will have a Common Minimum Programme (CMP) as a guide to governance and to the important common tasks to perform. Numerous are the important tasks, and many of them are challenging, too.

The new coalition needs to prioritise its jobs. Many of these have to be started simultaneously, but some take a longer time to be completed. Certain things have been affecting people adversely for quite long, and they are crying out for attention. One is the acute oil shortage that has persisted for the past three years. The only cause of the current crisis is the failure to meet the oil bills in time, because the more oil is imported, the greater the total monthly loss of the NOC, a government undertaking. This must end at once. It is for the government to decide how to take care of the loss. Food shortages of various intensities have been afflicting more than half the districts of the country. Efforts should be mounted on war footing to resolve them. The security situation in the country is far from satisfactory, and the government should make the people feel that things have started getting better. Especially in government offices where the general public has to frequent for one business or another, things should be seen to be improving. And it must be made clear that the government will not tolerate corruption. There are many small things where improvement taken together will make daily lives a lot easier for the general people and give them the impression that this government is not only of the people and by the people, it is truly also for the people.