Public feedback

Going by the experience of the first failed CA, the feedback being collected from the people will just be a formality

The process of delivering new constitution by first week of August has moved one more step forward with the Constituent Assembly completing five-day discussions on the draft constitution despite boycotts by some Madhes-based parties. Then it was published in the Nepal Gazette on Wednesday for the purpose of seeking feedback from the people. The CA committee on Citizen Relations and Public Opinion Collection has prepared a 15-day work plan for collecting feedback in all 240 constituencies, municipality or VDC levels. All the CA members will be mobilized to collect suggestions from the people and their opinions will be processed by the Constitutional Political-Dialogue and Consensus Committee before these opinions are handed over to the Constitution Drafting Committee. The people will be asked only one question: What is your say about the draft constitution prepared by the CA? This question is open-ended and people can give their feedback either through the official email or through toll-free number provided by the CA secretariat.

The prospects of delivering the new constitution by the first week of August became possible because of the 16-point deal reached among the four major forces on June 8. The new constitution will adopt the federal democratic republican system based on parliamentary forms of governance; parallel mixed-election system for the elections of House of Representatives and Pradesh assemblies, a single-transferable voting system for the election of 40 members of the 45-member Upper House and an expanded electoral college (members of federal parliament, Pradesh Sabha members and mayors and chairpersons of all the municipalities and VDCs as voters) for the election of constitutional president and vice-president; compulsory one-third representation of women in the federal parliament and Pradesh Assembly. These are the features of the draft constitution.

Going by the experience of the first failed CA, the feedback being collected from the people will just be a formality. The first CA had also collected feedback from the people but their opinions were not processed with standard methodology and, a draft of the constitution was not prepared based on the public feedback. It is worth recalling that the largest number of people – 57,522 – had given their feedback on the forms of governance. But the concerned CA committee did not make public how much percentage of the respondents favoured which forms of governance. The same thing is likely to repeat even this time. One of the drawbacks of the draft constitution is that it has proposed adopting the parallel mixed-election system – FPTP and PR – for the election of the Lower House and Pradesh Assembly. The parallel mixed-election system will always create a hung federal parliament and Pardesh Assembly. Too many constitutional commissions as proposed by the draft constitution will also not augur well for ensuring good governance and create confusion over their jurisdictions. These are some of the areas where people should give their feedback.

Tax not enough

The World Health Organization (WHO) has urged nations to increase taxes on tobacco to promote health as taxation is found to be a simple, no-cost measure to reduce tobacco consumption. A report made public on Tuesday by WHO has taken note of the progress made by Nepal in the fight against tobacco use by implementing bans on advertisement, promotion and sponsorship of tobacco products. Recently, Nepal implemented a measure that required a large picture of specified dimensions on tobacco packs to highlight how its consumption is injurious to health.

WHO’s call comes just ahead of the presentation of the national budget. Anyway, taxes on tobacco have seen only an upward curve in Nepal. But tobacco use has not gone down, unlike in developed countries; even children are seen to be using tobacco products, and they can buy tobacco products freely, which must be stopped. Despite the taxes, those who can afford will still be using it because of an addiction, and the poorer lot will suffer as many of them cannot give it up and may still use it by reducing other expenses. Other strategies should also be considered.