Nepali Times Asian Paints
From The Nepali Press
Government flip-flops

We agree that the government is barely functioning. Sometimes it makes you wonder whether the problem is the government or the country. The administration is oversized and almost incapable of running the country. If we analyse the following points, we will understand why that happens:

1) Take the issue of land reform. The proposal has passed through four phases since the day the prime minister made his first announcement and come back to where the process began-square one. As soon as the prime minister made his announcement (that land reform would be undertaken) the government banned all sale and transfer of ownership, which created confusion. Then a bill was presented in parliament, but before it was passed, the government began saying all actions would be taken according to its provisions. Then the Supreme Court ruled against the government decision. The people were confused once again on whether they should go by what the government said or by what the Supreme Court ordered. This is one example about how confusing a half-baked government decision can be. And if this is how things happen, then the largest problem the citizens face is the government. This shows how ill-conceived the decision was, one which prevented people from using their own property.

2) Another prime example of the functioning of the government can be seen from the way top officials function. It is difficult to believe how soon they can begin to violate thier own decisions. The secretaries of government meet every two weeks, led by the Chief Secretary. This is a routine meeting. At almost every meeting they decide on one thing (including everything else they decide on)-that they will reduce the misuse of official vehicles. The minutes of the meeting are there for all to see at the cabinet secretariat. Upon stepping out of the meeting the secretaries, including the chief secretary, begin going against their decision by misusing official vehicles. The secretaries who imported duty-free vehicles are not supposed to use office transport. But the secretaries and the chief secretary keep their duty-free vehicles at home and use official cars to come to the meeting and decide on reducing their misuse. This is one misuse of official previlage which the prime minister can see for himself if he looks out of his chamber windows...

3) It is not a very easy job to create, close and divide ministries. But in the last five years the government has done this twice. There used to be 21 ministries. In 1995, six more were added, including the ministry of Population and Environment, Women and Social Welfare, and Youth, Sports and Culture, among others. In 2000, the government decided to bring the number of ministries back to 21 by merging them. Some ministries were split and then merged with different ministries. Take the Ministry of Works and Transport. This ministry was divided in two-the infrastructure section was attached to the Ministry of Planning and the transport part went to the labour ministry. Naturally, The taxpayers paid for all of this shuffling.

4) The Special Police Department is another example. During Girjia Prasad Koirala's third stint as prime minister, a decision was made to keep the department directly under the cabinet. The process was completed, and the force started functioning under direct orders of the cabinet. But the arrangement did not last and the cabinet decided to put the department under the Home Ministry again. Koirala was prime minister when this was done. Then Krishna Prasad Bhattarai became prime minister. Under him the special police department was made to function under orders of the prime minister's office. After a few months the department was again transferred to the home ministry. Within a span of two years, the special police department was required to function under separate bosses four times. Don't ask what this does for the morale of the department.

5) In 1997, a cabinet meeting held under the chairmanship of the prime minister decided to form an investment promotion council. It was to function under the prime minister's office. It had its members and member secretary named, but the council got lost in Singha Darbar within five months. The council has not been formally shut down, nor has it ever met. If an entire council can vanish like this, what can be said of other decisions taken by the government?

6) In 1998, the prime minister gave birth to a new institution: it was called the commerce advisory group. The prime minister was the head of this group and it was supposed to be situated within the National Planning Commission premises. Its members and member-secretary were also appointed. It worked for about two months, but did not meet thereafter-it was perhaps not thought necessary. The prime minister remained in office for nine months after the formation of the group but no one cared about it. It soon got lost in the maze that is Singha Darbar.

(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)