First, the questions: will Nepal have a new national constitution at the end of the next 85 days? Will Nepalis have access to new machine-readable passports (MRP) by this April Fool's Day so that the new passport holders can study, travel and work abroad? Will the central bank have a governor by the end of this Nepali calendar year? Will the killers of media businessmen Jamim Shah of Kathmandu and Arun Singhaniya of Janakpur be caught and brought to justice?
Depending on whom you ask, the answers lie on the negative side, ranging from "can't say" to "no".
Second, the context: Nepal has had two years, 601 Constituent Assembly members, and ample domestic and foreign assistance to draft a constitution. Likewise, it has had almost ten years to roll out the new MRP passports. The post of a central banker is too important to be left vacant for long in these economically uncertain times. And journalists and media businessmen have been beaten, kidnapped, shot at and killed before in the last three years, with - let us remember - nary a suspect tried or jailed.
Against that backdrop, this meta-question: What is it about Nepal and Nepalis that makes us look like we really cannot get our act together for anything? One answer could be: a lack of a sense of priority or a sense of what really matters.
Two years ago, when the Constituent Assembly was put together, it had only one priority: to draft the constitution and present it to the republic. The rest, through important, could come later.
But in the intervening months, that priority was pushed aside by the leaders of political parties, who changed the interim rules several times to suit their own convenience rather than serve the demands of the priority. The result is clear to see. Could there be a more egregious example of political incompetence?
Similarly, over the years, with bureaucracies politicised to a point where few bureaucrats want to stick to priorities that could be dismissed by their routinely changing politically appointed ministers, the MRP issue sat on a shelf, only to be dusted off a few months before the end of the 10-year deadline. As for the delay in appointing the central banker, that is one more example of how institutions have been weakened. Instead of having a qualified person leading the institution at the earliest, the political parties are jockeying to secure the post for one of their apparatchiks.
And the agitating journalists, who have run through the whole spectrum of letter-writing campaigns, editorialising, dharna, gherao and julus before, should be asking themselves: what makes them hope for a better result this time? Rather than continue to serve the public a d?j? vu of their earlier tactics, the media fraternity should now re-examine its playbook and asking itself what its priority is. It's time to perservere, relentlessly, through the police and legal channels. Nothing else will send a stronger signal of the media's determination.
Individuals become productive by deciding what their priorities are, and then sticking to those priorities by learning to cut out distractions. Institutions such as the Constituent Assembly, Foreign Ministry, Central Bank and the media fraternity will serve their public mandate well by first figuring out what they alone can do, and then doing that task well. Else, there will be much noise and no signal.