Finance Minister Ram Sharan Mahat speaks to Nepali Times this week about the post-election power play and about the state of the economy.
Nepali Times: The Nepali Congress lost the election, yet it is reluctant to give up power.
Ram Sharan Mahat: The PM is ready to handover power democratically and constitutionally. The constitution envisages a consensus government. If that is not possible, it should be a government with two-thirds support of the CA. As soon as such a scenario emerges, the NC will leave the government. The PM has already asked the political parties to start a consultation to form such a government. Furthermore, the Interim Constitution has ordained some responsibilities to this interim government, such as the implementation of the republican agenda. The cabinet making process will therefore have to await the start of the CA session. Instead of making irresponsible charges against the NC, the Maoists, as the largest party, should start negotiations with other political forces to form a government based on a common minimum program. At least to ensure necessary support to their government, as they lack necessary numbers to form the government on their own.
Aren't your conditions to join a Maoist-led government needlessly delaying the formation of a government?
Our seven pre-conditions are to ensure the survival of multiparty democracy in Nepal. The Maoists have unleashed violent activities and taken the law into their own hands, this is a real threat to peace and a democtratic future in Nepal. We want to make sure the politics of violence and terror is given up for good. They still continue with their parallel administrative structures, hold arms, maintain militias and paramilitary forces. There isn't a day that goes by without some YCL atrocity being reported in the press. They are terrorising and looting property. Constitutional politics and violence can't go together.
How come the kangresis are demanding the presidency?
We are not, this is another canard. The constitution says the prime minister will perform the functions of the head of the state until the time the republican agenda is implemented by the CA. We do not have a separate head of the state now because the king is still there. Once the CA removes the king, you will have to have somebody to act as a head of the state. Otherwise there will be a constitutional vacuum. A separate head of the state is necessary also from the point of view of check and balance: to restrain the chief executive from crossing the limit and being an autocrat. This head of the state can be from any party or outside, based on consultation and consensus. But the chief executive can't be both.
The Maoist chairman says your party is counter-revolutionary.
This is ridiculous. Prachanda desperately needed the NC and GP Koirala's leadership to facilitate his party getting to power. Now they are in a hurry to ditch him and "drag him out of Baluwatar". This is blatant opportunism which betrays their real intention and disregard for the rule of law.
Aren't you being a bit mistrustful?
Just remember the Maoists have frequently made reference to Brest-Litovsk treaty and Chungking negotiation as their classic models of peace deals. Mao Zedong made peace with the Kuomintang to fight the Japanese occupation in Chungking. Once they won the war, the Kuomintang was pushed out and the communists took over power. The Maoists joined hands with NC and other democratic forces to remove the king. Now, they probably want to target the NC and other democratic forces to pave the way for total control of state power.
The real threat now is the emergence of one party fascist autocracy.
As finance minister, what is your assessment of the state of the economy?
Investment is still suffering from agony of transition politics. The unrest in the industries, street politics and confusing and contradictory views of our Maoist friends have discouraged new investment despite tremendous potential. The political free-for-all has also hampered our competitiveness. Despite this, the overall macro-economy is in good shape. Deficit is under control. Impressive revenue growth has enabled us to meet large expenses on salary hike, security cost, CA election, oil subsidy and others. Development assistance is on the rise. The balance of payment is very positive. Public capital investment is high. The treasury situation is comfortable.
What do you think of the Maoist economic policy?
Lots of confusion and naivete. They talk of double digit growth, a 20 percent growth rate and economic revolution. But have no clue as to where and the required investment is to come from, given the low internal saving. They are only for selective private investment, especially FDI. They talk of capitalist development but want to do away with private investment in education and health. Some of them talk of nationalisation, not understanding the state and quality of public management everywhere. They don't seem appreciate the urgency of promoting major hydro projects as a means not only to develop national economic confidence and catalyse growth but also to augment national earnings and close trade deficit.