MIN RATNA BAJRACHARYA
This week, student wings of the main parties were at the forefront of street anarchy over bus fare discounts. Are the hooligans who harassed commuters and vandalised vehicles under the control of their parent parties or not? Is this what we are going to see for the next two years? At last count, there were eight other agitations going on simultaneously this week, including by transport owners, gas station owners, tanker drivers, civil service unions and finally the four microscopic parties that enforced a strike by vandalising vehicles on Thursday morning. Politicians were too busy with their parlour games to care.
Touch wood, there will finally be an agreement on a president so we can move ahead and form a government to focus on the main agenda: the economy. The first order of business is to tackle the statelessness, and consequent lawlessness, spreading across the land. High school students, agitated at the delay in getting textbooks, bring the nation's highway artery to a standstill for days. A minor traffic accident paralyses the entire tarai. A greedy, high-handed transport cartel in Pokhara stones and damages tourists buses (with tourists in them) and the police blames the bus owners. There is a mutiny in an Armed Police base.
The new government must stop this nonsense. It must immediately move to exert its presence and restore the rule of law. There must be an urgent and strict moratorium on highway chukka-jams, hartals, bandhs and gheraos. (Incidentally, these are all words that we have borrowed from south of the border, along with the political culture that they represent.)
At a Himalmedia Roundtable on Sunday captains of industry laid out priorities that should guide the economic policy of the next government . There is apprehension that Nepal's regime change also represents an ideological shift, and there will be a temptation to flirt with utopian undertakings and showcase populism.
Actually, the country's economy is in such a precarious state because of past abuse. It will need a dose of realism in the short-term, hard-nosed determination in the medium-term and visionary pragmatism in the long-term.
The private sector is clear about what is needed to immediately start creating jobs: unleashing investment in areas of core national competencies like agriculture, hydropower, manpower and tourism. The budget drafters better get cracking. No matter who comes to power, out of enlightened self-interest if nothing else, please keep your dirty politics out of the economy.