Nepali Times

Tilak Rawal, the dismissed governor of Nepal Rastra Bank, has decided to go to the courts to challenge his ouster last week In principle, his anger is understandable. Changing tenured chief executives of autonomous government bodies midway through an administration does look inappropriate. But then his appointment had kicked up even more controversy, leading to the resignation of Finance Minister Mahesh Acharya from the cabinet of the Krishna Prasad Bhattarai government five months ago. What was surprising was not that Rawal got the sack, but that it took so long. Look at the sequence of events: a prime minister brings his prot?g? in as governor, finance minister doesn't like this and resigns, prime minister is ousted and new prime minister comes in, finance minister who doesn't like governor is re-instated. The logical conclusion of this can only be: governor leaves. And so it happened last week.

By his own account, Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala first asked Rawal to resign, citing the old tussle between him and Mahesh Acharya. Rawal reportedly asked for more time "to prove his usefulness". Obviously, Rawal, who is reputed to be a king-maker in his own right, couldn't.

The showdown between Minister Acharya and Governor Rawal is symptomatic of the tussle between top bureaucrats and their political bosses in this country. These rifts seldom take place on policy issues of national importance. Mostly, they are about who gets to distribute the patronage at the cost of exchequer. As such, they are almost always destructive. Nepali super-bureaucrats live under the illusion that they are independent power centres. They habitually meddle in politics by mobilising MPs, and the criteria is regionalism, community or caste.

Financial "inducements" help move things along so politicians will campaign for them. And the favour has to be returned. While we agree that it's not desirable to have chief executives of public sector enterprises function at the mercy of concerned ministries, it's also our opinion that what is desirable is not always achievable. Ministers cannot and shouldn't be puppets in the hands of tenured officers. The buck has to stop somewhere. Super-bureaucrats, and their political patrons, need to realise that team-work requires division of tasks and coordination of performances. Not interference. The team manager (in this case the prime minister) is the person who has to ultimately decide. Otherwise the team becomes ungovernable like a Ravana with multiple heads but only two hands.

We have nothing personal against Tilak Rawal. Judging from the way he has reacted, it looks like politics is a more appropriate calling for him. May he excel in that field. Meanwhile, our best wishes to Dipendra Purush Dhakal, the new governor. May he govern well, and enjoy better rapport with the finance minister. And let's not dally any more with the muchdelayed banking reforms, and kick-start this economy.

Binod Chaudhary wants to help improve Aryaghat, the holiest cremation site for Nepali Hindus. He has already written a letter to the Prime Minister stating his pious intentions. However, he chose to publish his letter rather than send it by e-mail, fax or hard copy. Thank you, Binod. For us in the profession, your faith in the fourth estate is commendable. Apart from being a budding philanthropist, Mr Chaudhary also happens to be a sensible businessman. Naturally, he wants the renovated Ghat be renamed after his late mother once his contribution is accepted.

Altruism in business is never anonymous, is it? But there is a slight problem: Aryaghat is a part of the Pashupatinath Temple Complex, and it is in the list of World Heritage Sites. Despite its deplorable state, changing its name may not be permissible. This may be a blessing in disguise. If allowed to go unchecked, the renaming business could get quite out of hand. We already see traffic islands named after various engine oil and mineral water companies. Next to go could be our venerable monuments. Fancy calling that great erection, the Dharhara, the Dhal Tower. Or Kot renamed the Shikhar Court. Or the Chobhar Ganesh temple named after a cement company. After all, if you can call Aryaghat something else, someone someday may decide to pour enough money for the renovation of Pashupatinath and change its name too.

(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)