Power Of Province Governments
The Prime Minister’s Office postponed its scheduled Inter-state Council meeting to be participated by chief ministers of all seven provinces along with the Prime Minister. The move to postpone the meeting came in retaliation to the conclave of the seven chief ministers held in Pokhara last week.
The two-day meeting of the chief ministers had lamented the lack of laws, policies, financial and human resources required for them to provide effectiveness to federalism. They rued the existing dearth of economic resources, physical infrastructure, human resources, laws and policies which have failed the provincial governments in delivering necessary services as desired by the people of their provinces. The seven chief ministers’ meeting further contended that the constitutionally guaranteed federalism will not be effective in the country without the effective functioning of the provincial governments.
Upon the conclusion of their conclave, the chief ministers had brought forth a 9-point recommendation paper to be presented to the Prime Minister during the Inter-State Council meeting, which must have raised the hackles of the PMO, compelling it to postpone the pre-scheduled meeting, much to the chagrin of the chief ministers.
The recent unprecedented event suggested that the central government and provincial government are still at odds, when it comes to decentralisation of authority to the province governments for empowering the latter to exercise various laws and policies for the facilitation of the day-to-day affairs as well as undertake development works and provide easy services to the people at the provinces. As a matter of fact, provincial governments have not yet been able to meet the expectation and desire of the people even after the formation of these governments some six months ago. The province governments raise their accusing fingers towards the centre for all their criticisms they have been receiving.
The differences between the federal government and provincial government have surprised one and all, given the fact that the six provincial governments have belonged to the ruling party of the Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli while one belongs to the party which is a coalition partner with the central government. In spite of being an integral part of the ruling governments, the provincial government heads congregated in Pokhara to step up their pressures on the central government and on the Prime Minister to provide them with more power, policies and resources.
The nine point recommendations that sought power from the central government to “function as effectively as elected province governments’ appear to have some genuine points, though. Through their recommendations, the chief ministers wanted to make the idea and principle of federalism effective by empowering their respective province governments with legislative, administrative and economic rights.
Some of the key points of the nine-point recommendations, that highlighted decentralisation of legislative, financial and administrative powers to the provincial governments, included the formation of a high-level body chaired by the PM for the implementation of federalism, formation of a permanent inter-state coordination council which may work as bridge between the central and the provincial governments, senior government secretaries should be made chief secretaries of province governments, integration of bureaucrats, fixing criteria through provincial laws to form civil service commission to hire employees, formation of necessary laws by the federal government to set up provincial police force.
Also included in the recommendations are the points such as making the district administrative offices accountable to the provincial governments, urgently deploying of the office units and employees as per the recommendations of each province, distribution of natural and economic resources to the provinces, implementation of a system for sharing the revenues based on equitable principle, sorting of projects to be constructed in each province as per the requirement and viability.
The Pokhara meeting and 9-point demand, also called a common concept paper, suggested that the provincial governments are in an urgent need of legislative, administrative and financial power to exercise their rights to undertake projects and to deliver services to the people without any hindrance.
Due to dearth of resources and due to their inability to exercise economic, administrative and legislative powers, all province governments have drawn flak from the people, while many think them as white elephants that have caused enormous burden on the tax payers. The dearth of resources and revenues at the central level has also made the matter worse for the provincial governments while the centre’s reluctance to devolve power has caused troubles to the provincial authorities in delivering on their promises made to the people.
It appears that the federal governments are unable to decentralise the legislative, economic and administrative powers swiftly because of various constraints posed by constitution and by its lack of sufficient economic resources. In the meantime, the federal government appears unwilling to give powers to the provincial governments on the issues related to the issuance of citizenship and passports, setting up of police and security forces as well handling border issues with neighbouring countries.
The federal government is also unwilling to provide the provincial governments with authority to impose various forms of taxes just because it would not only create problems to the people and businesses but would also invite a wider criticism for the government at the centre. In the recent times, the government has come under attack for the increasing level of taxes imposed at central, provincial and local level for the same products, services and private assets of the citizens.
A large section of masses and business houses of the country have started raising suspicion over the effectiveness of federalism and three-tier governments because of the rising level of taxes imposed by the ‘cash-strapped’ provincial and local governments. This situation has caused lots of problems to the central government in recent times, leading to the unpopularity of the government.
In the meantime, the two-day conclave and the 9-point recommendations must have irked the PMO and Prime Minister just because the latter might have perceived the conclave and recommendations of the chief ministers as pressurising tactics. The chief ministers who have belonged to the party of the Prime Minister could have met with him without organising the Pokhara conclave and could have discussed their problems in the Inter-State Council meeting.
It seems that the central government won’t be very forthcoming in respecting the recommendations of the chief minister, at least for the time being. We know that unless the federal government considers the recommendations in positive light and decentralises the legislative, administrative and economic powers, the provincial governments would remain a toothless-tiger, ineffective in delivering services and undertake development works, thus failing to live up to people’s expectations and rendering idea and principle of federalism ineffective.