Time to deliver

With the Maoist-led government taking a full shape yesterday, it is expected to go into full swing in making the general people feel a difference in day-to-day governance, as well as in completing the remaining tasks of the peace process, including the setting in motion of the process of writing a constitution. It took ten days after the swearing in of eight ministers, and two weeks after Prime Minister Puspa Kamal Dahal Prachanda took the oath of office and secrecy, for the government formation process to be complete. The quibbling over power sharing among the three major constituents of the government took a bit too long to give the public an entirely favourable impression about the parties, and this situation was aggravated by the row kicked up by the CPN-UML over the order of precedence in the Cabinet. The CPN-UML has had its way, and the constituent parties’ insistence on their ‘respectable’ representation has also led to the making of three deputy prime ministers, something unnecessary but which nonetheless had to be done in the hope of making the government ‘stable’.

However, the public will not be bothered much about the number of deputy prime ministers, because they will not make much difference. What the government will be chiefly judged for is its performance. After the completeness of the Cabinet formation process, the government will be subject to scrutiny by the people and big powers and aid donors. It is hoped this coalition will win international goodwill for the tasks it has set out to complete. However, its ultimate test will be the extent to which it can win the hearts and minds of the Nepali people. The stability of a government alone is not the most important factor. Whether the government has been true to the people is. This six-party coalition, as it accounts for a two-thirds majority in the Constituent Assembly, should be in a position to make a difference, if it sincerely and seriously tries to do so.

Even the immediate tasks crying out for attention are numerous. The setting of priorities and time-bound schedules are important. The fury of the Koshi floods is being dealt with on war footing. However, it is important to take into account the complaints about the shortcomings, for instance in relief distribution, to improve things further. Second, the government will have to normalise the supply of petroleum products, which have been scarce for the past three years mainly because of inadequate imports by the NOC and the government to contain the losses. This sorry and ignoble state of affairs must end within days, or at least before the onset of the Dashain festivities. The government and the coalition partners need to restore public faith in the government, which has a long history of unkept promises. That is why the coalition’s Common Minimum Programme has generated little public interest. This apathy can be changed, if the general people start feeling, in many smaller ways, that things are becoming easier for them, and harder for those in authority who indulge in deliberate delays in service delivery, in corruption, and in other irresponsible behaviour.