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Editorial: New book, old stories

Editorial: New book, old stories

Spread over 66 pages and 145 points, the policies and programs President Bidya Devi Bhandari presented before the federal parliament on May 24 was rather unwieldy. Rather than being a concise list of its priorities, governments over the years have tried to cram in as many points as they possibly could in this pre-budget document. What this does is undercut the credibility of the policies and programs, or what should be the state’s most important priority. It also makes people question the government’s competence.

Many of the promises are unrealistic too. As we have been reporting over the past few months, progress on the Kathmandu-Tarai fast-track project has been glacial. In over five years that the project has been handed over to Nepal Army, only 16.1 percent of work has been completed. Yet the new policies and programs commit to completing the whole thing by its new 2024 deadline. If achieved, this would be a mini-miracle. The new government document also says construction of the Nijgadh International Airport the fast-track will connect to will also get momentum—even as the debate over its desirability rages on.

There are some good points about the document as well. For instance, it vows to take steps to prevent land fragmentation. This is vital at a time even agricultural and forest lands are being ‘plotted’ for residential purposes, often by wrecking the surrounding environment. Full digitization of land administration, the provision of identity cards for poor families, the new emphasis on organic farming, fast tracking of truth and reconciliation, more support for local industries and goods—these are all appreciable initiatives.

But then this coalition government could be gone in as early as next six months following federal elections. Successive governments have traditionally been very reluctant to embrace the policies and programs of their predecessors, especially if they happen to be of a different political persuasion. The other area of doubt is lack of focus on helping the country tide over the current economic crisis. Coming at such a vital time, this document could have represented a welcome break with the past. Alas, it’s more of the same.