Nepali Times
Economic Sense
Wake up, lawmakers!


Another session of Parliament begins, and the same story repeats itself-walk-outs, fruitless debates and never-ending power struggles. In the clamour for more power and access to power, basic issues and questions concerning the country get lost under a morass of unimportant squabbles. This session will end, insignificant legislation will be adopted, and we'll just wait for the next session of the lawmakers.

This is hardly new. After a decade of functioning, the government and the rest of parliament still can't learn their lessons and move on. Issues of economic importance never make it out of the files of lawmakers. We talk about hydropower, but successive sessions still haven't got around to formulating an official policy on it, even after two years of debate. There are many legislations that require urgent amendment, but nothing seems to happen. The laws remain the same, and it hardly seems to matter to our scores of "lawmakers".

Economic liberalisation initiated a decade ago seems to have some sort of loose direction. But people at the grassroots level demand more socialist policies and successive governments have not been able to push an open market economy in any significant way. Protectionism remains the rule of the day as those in government and politics can work things to their own benefit if it remains in place. The result-there is no sense of urgency in preparing Nepal for the inevitable WTO regime and there are no systems in place to counter onslaughts from both sides of the border. We seem to be content to remain like many African nations-a strong sovereign identity with no place in the global market.

Issues at the many seminars, meetings and workshops are the same-better laws that govern business, more tax-payer friendly laws, improved bureaucratic processes. But for any improvement on any of these fronts we need an active State, not one constantly teetering on the verge of failure. The people in power understand what remedies we need, but we are nowhere near seeing an amendment to the Companies Act or the Labour Act or the Income Tax Act. The system spawns outdated legislation implemented by a graft-prone government and executive. It has led to a nation with an economic system and policies that do the exact opposite of what they should, retard growth and diminish prosperity. It is time lawmakers realised that they have to take the leading role to provide the right institutional and legislative framework for Nepal. Their power struggles and their prioritising of individual objectives over national ones have caused much damage.

There are several Acts that need change already lined up in Parliament for our lawmakers to deliberate upon, and more on their way. Walk-outs, pandemonium and mud slinging are not the only activities of parliamentarians. They are also responsible for the 22 million people they represent in various capacities. It is easy to criticise and point out past mistakes, but it is tough to lay the foundation of a better future. We have yet to be grouped with Ethiopia, Somalia, Sudan and other nations that have failed as nation-states. Our lawmakers cannot lead us down that road.

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(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)