Finance Secretary Rameshwor Khanal's resignation came at a time when he was investigating the fake VAT bill scam. Since Khanal was already under pressure from a certain group of businessmen, he decided to quit once he learned that the political leadership was not willing to support him.
Known for his honesty and integrity, Khanal had already said he would rather resign than compromise. The resignation of one of most capable and untainted secretaries in the country is a stain on the record of Jhala Nath Khanal's government. The ouster of the secretary, who was admired for his financial reforms, has made it more difficult to achieve the good governance needed to save the country's failing economy. This is an issue of national dignity.
The VAT scam was not the only reason for Khanal's resignation. The new government could not digest the practical suggestion of a supplementary budget either. As the political parties routinely milk the ministries to fund their parties, the coalition did not want Khanal to be heading the finance ministry.
To approve Khanal's resignation would be to ridicule the administrative professionalism, capability and impartiality of the Finance Ministry, not to mention demoralise ministry staff. The bureaucracy will be further politicised and corrupted, and it will set a wrong precedent.
A true employee can resist pressure from any sector but the political leadership. In this respect, either he has to obey his orders, or quit. Khanal's resignation has elevated his own stature, but has truncated that of the government. The coalition government is guilty of insulting honest and dedicated employees like Khanal, and the prime minister should take firm action to fix the image of his government and steer the economy back on track.
Asking for the resignation of Finance Minister Bharat Mohan Adhikari is the first thing PM Khanal should do. Adhikari is guilty of failing to protect his secretary, allowing unnecessary pressure to be heaped on him, and imposing his political interests on him. It was the result of Adhikari's inept leadership that Khanal was forced out. Adhikari should thus take moral responsibility and resign from his post. If he does not, the PM should dismiss Adhikari, paving the way for Khanal to return to his ministry.
Khanal's return is necessary to keep financial administration efficient, competent and fair in the country, as well as to elevate the spirit of other government employees. By undermining a civil servant, the political leadership has precipitated its own moral downfall. PM Khanal has not done anything in the two months since he entered Singha Darbar. If he accepts Rameshwor Khanal's resignation, the first thing he will have done is to promote political anarchy in the administration. The finance secretary may be an individual, but the issue is a larger one.