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New coalition, new commitments

New coalition, new commitments

The newly-formed five-party coalition has outlined its policy priorities across various critical areas such as the economy, service delivery, federalism implementation, job creation, transitional justice and foreign policy. The document known as common resolution has aptly highlighted the growing pessimism among the youth who are increasingly becoming more belligerent toward the government and political parties.  However, past experience suggests that governments struggle to translate such lofty ideals and visions into tangible outcomes. Over the past year, little progress has been made in areas such as service delivery and improving the country’s economic landscape. Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal’s decision to change coalition partners under the pretext of overcoming obstacles posed by the Nepali Congress does not align with ground reality. Dahal has paid little attention or no attention to the pressing issues facing the nation. He has dedicated his time to attending public events, like book launches and inauguration of infrastructure projects, rather than focusing on governance.

Soon after assuming office after forming a new coalition, Dahal issued extensive directives. Interestingly, his tenure has been marked by frequent transfers within the bureaucratic ranks. He consistently said that he would reshuffle the cabinet to improve service delivery, but ended up changing the coalition. There has been a glaring lack of seriousness in addressing the grievances of victims of loan sharks and microfinance institutions, as well as in addressing the challenges facing provincial governments.  During this period, dissent against the prevailing political system has gained traction, yet the Prime Minister has taken no substantive measures to defend it. Instead, some of these measures have boosted the activities of political forces who want to overthrow the current political system.

Admittedly, Prime Minister Dahal appears to have acknowledged the existence of serious challenges that demand attention. His inclusion of the CPN-UML, Rastriya Swatantra Party (RSP) and Janata Samajbadi Party in the government reflects a desire for improvement. While Dahal may not be able to bring the desired changes, we should give him the benefit of the doubt and wait for a few months. Dahal may have counted his ability to lead the government, juggling between NC and UML, despite being the third-largest party with just 32 seats in Parliament. But his true success now lies in delivering tangible outcomes. Dahal knows that his ministers cannot deliver. That is why he is now banking on the performance of RSP ministers who are smart enough to brainwash the people even if they cannot offer much substance.

Rising out-migration of youth is becoming a big concern for Nepal. Youths are seeking opportunities abroad, whether through student visas or work permits. While government statistics and economists indicate that Nepal is in a position to benefit from a demographic dividend over the next 15-20 years, the ongoing mass exodus of youth paints a contrasting picture. Nepal is gradually losing this opportunity. The concerning reality of 2,000 youths leaving the country daily should serve as a wake-up call for political parties. However, it appears that this critical issue has yet to resonate with our politicians. Therefore, the first and foremost priority of the government should be to bring a long-term plan aimed at creating employment and other opportunities for the youth population.

Not only the youths, everyone, from ordinary citizens to prominent businessmen and politicians, are grappling with mounting pressures. Common individuals, including farmers and employees, are finding it difficult to make ends meet and support their families. Similarly, businesses, whether small or large, are facing challenges in operating smoothly and meeting their financial obligations including bank loans. While some prominent businessmen may have engaged in tax evasion or other misconduct, the government's response seems disproportionate. There have been complaints of politically-motivated systematic attack on a certain group of businesspersons, which has led to increased capital flight from the country.

Youth politicians from major political parties are particularly feeling the strain due to the increasing unpopularity of their parties and leaders. They recognize that public dissatisfaction, including within their own ranks, has reached a critical juncture. The plight of victims of loan sharks and cooperatives underscores the broader societal discontent. These people embarked on a long march to Kathmandu, demanding justice. But the government is cheating them by pledging to form a commission or something else. Their demands are not getting addressed. The only difference is that some parties are resorting to deceitful tactics, while others are exhibiting a harsher behavior.

The excessive politicization of governmental functions from the central to local levels has facilitated widespread corruption and exploitation of local resources. This exploitation has fostered a perception among the populace that the political system primarily serves the interests of a select few. At the same time, certain regressive elements are trying to capitalize on public sentiment against the current political system. If the existing system fails to demonstrate improvement, it will not only jeopardize its own stability but also undermine the very foundation of democracy itself.

Politicians cannot evade this reality by attributing it to the actions of certain political forces trying to sow pessimism and anarchism in society. This situation did not arise overnight but is rather the result of a cumulative effect stemming from the poor governance of major political parties that have held power since 1990. Instead of shifting blame onto others, political parties must engage in introspection and undertake necessary reforms. PM Dahal, who has successfully navigated between the NC and UML to maintain his hold on power, does not have much time to revel in this situation. Since UML has given him a free-hand in running government as well as key ministries, he will have no other parties to serve as scapegoats, as he previously did with the NC, should he fail.