Nothing much

As only to be expected the government’s policies and programmes presented by the president on Wednesday has drawn mixed reactions. The 65-minute presentation brought little novelty and freshness to be upbeat about. The government has failed in properly addressing the woes of the people. After the mega earthquake of April 25 and several strong aftershocks in its aftermath, the government’s serious weaknesses were evident. It took these disasters to drive home to the major political parties the need for a consensus, and they have come together to reach an understanding regarding the promulgating of the new constitution whose preliminary draft has finally been prepared and put before the people for their suggestions for improvement.

The document talks of providing soft loans to the quake victims, but it is totally silent on how much grant the government may give to them

The weaknesses and strengths of the policies and programmes of the government can be gleaned. Rightly, priority has been given to the reconstruction of the damaged and destroyed structures, including heritage sites in particular. However, the reconstruction was not a choice, but the compulsion of the government. The policies and programmes represent continuity of the past policies and programmes, and their repetitions made the President’s presentation much longer than it would have been had it concentrated on what new the government was going to do. Among the positive things that the government intends to do are: increasing the senior citizens’ allowance, pension system also to be based on the contributions made by the civil servants, and having a communication satellite on our own initiative, introducing a bill regarding political parties. The policies and programmes reflect those that are to be put into action in the coming fiscal year. But the plan to build airports in all the districts of the country without any idea of the timeframe makes it less useful, for example. The government has said other things too, such as limiting the load-shedding hours to eight hours even during the dry season, but its feasibility has been called into question.

The government has planned to hold elections to the local bodies within one year, and it is welcome. However, things are looking up and it is now likely that the new constitution will be promulgated soon. The policies and programmes have also been criticized by the private sector, as it lacks plans to revive some sectors, such as tourism. The document talks of providing soft loans to the quake victims, but it is totally silent on how much grant the government may give to them. Initially, two lakh rupees had been reported to be given to them as a grant. After going through the policy document, one finds that it has failed to bring innovation and imaginativeness, as it is not much different from the old fare. As a result, there is not much for the people to be enthusiastic about. Just reiterating such things as no-tolerance to corruption will not improve things, unless the government and its leaders improve their ways. Finally, the implementation part has always proved to be particularly weak, and this can mar the delivery of what has been promised this time around too.

Dubious motive

While presenting the policies and programmes of the government in the Legislature-Parliament on Wednesday President Ram Baran Yadav said the government will make amendment to the ‘journalists’ code of ethics’ to ‘make information dissemination credible’. The media fraternity, including the Federation of Nepalese Journalists (FNJ), has raised serious objection to the government plan. The FNJ has said it is not the government which prepares the code of conduct for journalists. It is the journalists themselves who do it to make the journalism profession credible and trustworthy. The existing code of ethics was issued jointly by FNJ and Press Council Nepal.

The government is also mulling over introducing separate law to regulate online media. The FNJ and other media bodies have said that a separate law is not necessary to regulate online media which has wider coverage due to internet connectivity even in rural areas. Some addition, however, can be made in the existing press law to regulate the online media. The government cannot curtail the media freedom in one way or another.