Much talk, little work
With the entry of the Sanghiya Samajbadi Forum Nepal, the government led by KP Sharma Oli now has over two-thirds strength in the federal parliament. It also effectively controls all seven provinces. But even before the Forum’s inclusion, the federal government had a comfortable majority. It could have used this strength to enact vital pro-people reforms, which it has unfortunately failed to do.
It is true that the attention of the ruling CPN-UML and CPN (Maoist Center) during this period was focused on formalizing their unity, which was important. Without it, clouds of uncertainty would have continued to swirl over the communist coalition, and its twin agenda of ‘stability’ and ‘prosperity’ could have been in jeopardy.
But even after taking that into account, progress has been slow. The government, for instance, repeatedly promised to bust cartels in all sectors, but some of its actions seemed to support them instead. Likewise, the concentration of powers at the PMO, reportedly to expedite service delivery and make the government more accountable, has also come to a naught. This has made some suspect that the government has an authoritarian bent.
Still, these are early days and we would like to give the ruling parties the benefit of the doubt. But it would be good if the prime minister and his cabinet members actually focused on deliverables rather than making big (and ultimately empty) promises. The recently unveiled budget aims to double the per capita income and attain double-digit economic growth, both within five years, but if offers little in terms of how these lofty targets will be met.
Nepalis don’t expect transformative changes overnight. But it’s time for PM Oli to prove that not only can he dream big, but he also has the gumption and the commitment to make his dreams come true. As the most powerful prime minister in the history of democratic Nepal, he can go one of two ways.
He can use his newfound powers to build a stable, united and prosperous Nepal. Or he can abuse the same powers to undercut democratic values and cement his stranglehold on power. We will be closely watching each and every action of this government. The benefit of the doubt many Nepalis have given it should not be considered a carte blanche.
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