Nepali Times Asian Paints
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Now, the people



MOHAN MAINALI
GETTING ACROSS: Women in Sunsari cross the Kosi last week to buy cooking oil, salt and kerosene from a market on the other side. Nepalis have been hit hard by soaring food prices, and look to the new rulers in Kathmandu for relief.
The political stalemate that had prevented the formation of a new government eased somewhat with the seven-party agreement on Wednesday.

The 21-point deal is now in the Constituent Assembly as a fifth amendment bill, and members are trying to expedite the process to have a vote by Sunday. After that the Assembly can elect a president, vice-president and chairman by a simple majority.

Although Prime Minister Koirala has said he will hand over to a new president: who that president will be and when s/he will be installed is still up in the air.

The political parties compromised after more than a month of hard-bargaining on issues ranging from the constitutional amendment, demilitarisation of the YCL, PLA integration and other matters. The two intractable points: selection of the president and the opposition membership in the National Security Council were deferred to an assembly vote.

The UML-Maoist alliance, however, may not be as smooth as earlier believed. Although the UML seems to think the appointment of Madhab Nepal is a cut and dry deal, Maoist leaders have kept everyone guessing. This is making some in the UML nervous that they have been taken for a ride.

One Maoist leader said privately that his party would never agree to Nepal as president, and that was just a ploy to get the UML on board. This is creating a serious rift within the UML between those who have serious misgivings about Maoist intentions, and the party leadership of Jhalanath Khanal which sees internal advantages from the alliance.

"Everything is still pretty much up in the air, don't be surprised if it is Sahana Pradhan, or Ram Raja's name coming back as frontrunners," said one UML leader.

Now that the politics is being finally sorted out, Nepal's private sector is hoping that the next government will get right down to business. In a Nepali Times forum this week, leading industrialists, bankers and investors said the new government had an opportunity to make a clean break from the failed policies of the past and bring about a "paradigm shift" on the economy.

They were unanimous in calling for a clear strategy to take advantage of agriculture, hydropower, manpower and tourism in which Nepal has a competitive advantage. They said a common minimum understanding between the parties was necessary so politics doesn't spill out into the streets and drag down business.



LATEST ISSUE
638
(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)


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