Parliament Key To Federal Republic
The success of people’s movement II eventually led to the abolition of dictatorial monarchy, installing the federal democratic republican system. The new dispensation requires that the country overhauls policy, governing system and key state’s mechanisms so as to conclude transition meaningfully and reinforce democratic order in line with new constitution and electoral mandate.
New structures were essential in view of prolonged political vacuum marked by the dysfunctional elected bodies and administrative chaos. With the election to the three-tier governments- federal, State and local in 2017-, the new republican setup began to take root. The formation of strong government under KP Sharma Oli largely enabled to consolidate republican system and institutionalise all past political gains. Federal ball now keeps rolling as all layers of governments are moving to exercise the constitutional rights and duties.
Equipped with sweeping election mandate, Prime Minister Oli is poised to implement an array of ambitious programmes to achieve his overarching goal of Prosperous Nepal, Happy Nepali. The House of Representative is obviously the key instruments to lay legal ground for translating his vision and mission of new Nepal into reality. The federal parliament has played a vital role to bolster the new polity. It has already endorsed more than hundreds of bills to shape governance system in sync with statute, thereby paving the way for executing development plans and policies geared up for building a welfare state.
According to the secretariat of federal parliament, the House approved 16 bills related to the fundamental rights, 61 bills related to federal and around 40 bills to amend some Nepali laws in accordance with the constitution duration its second and third sessions. Now the fourth assembly of parliament also known as the budget session is underway. In addition to approving the government Programme and Policy, it will also discuss and enact remaining Acts. It is likely to give the nod to important Bills related to Foreign Investment and Technology Transfer Act (FITTA), Public Private Partnership (PPP), and Special Economic Zone (SEZ) considered to be critical to attract the foreign direct investment. These proposed Bills ensure the security of investment and confidence of the potential investors. Nepal is in the dire need of FDI to build infrastructure, open industries and fuel rapid economic growth.
Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli has stated that his first one year in office is the base year to frame enabling laws and pursue policy reforms and structural changes. Addressing the joint session of federal parliament recently, he said: “Massive policy reforms have been carried out in its base year and now the government is pulling out all stops to achieve on rapid growth.”
Echoing the PM’s views, lawmaker Khimlal Devkota said the House remained busy formulating new legislations and endorsing new policies.“With the necessary laws in place, the country is now set to give momentum to the economic developments and achieve prosperity,” he added.
However, constitution experts note that it is not appropriate to term the past one year as the year of policy reform. Some argue that only around 100 bills out of 339 have been passed and the government and opposition ignored the cut-off date for the enactment of important Bills.
“Amending and endorsing the Bills is like fixing artificial teeth, which can maintain beauty but cannot function,” they said.
Constitution expert Chandra Kanta Gyawali said that it was positive that the government had taken initiative to get 16 laws on fundamental rights endorsed in the parliament but it was yet to frame many other laws on implementing federalism and inclusive governance.
“The Bills were approved with minor changes such as date, title or definition. Policy reforms mean clarifying the roles and responsibilities of each tier of government, new laws have failed to elucidate various rights enshrined in the statute,” said Gyawali. He even claimed that the people had still reservation about the new political system.
Even if the policy reforms were carried out in an acceptable manner, question remains in creating mechanisms to implement them. It is true that political stability and policy certainty has been ensured with the installation of strong administration. The demand of the time is the drastic socio-economic transformation which requires proper plan, visionary leadership and effective implementation mechanisms. Indicators of doing business and competitiveness should be positive for economic development.
It is imperative for the government to restructure bureaucracy in each tier of government. Failing to do so entails a huge cost. Policy reforms are needed not only at the federal level but also at the local and State level. There lies a big gap between the federal government on one hand and State and local government on the other when it comes to strengthening administrative federalism. All stakeholders should make relentless efforts and strong commitment for development or else hopes will turn into despair and distrust.
The parliament is the supreme body of elected representatives. It is a place where the voices of people are loudly articulated. It is true the political parties are divided on ideological or partisan lines when there are the roaring debates on the national issues in the House. But it must not be confined to a chamber for staging merely oppositional politics. The House needs to play a constructive role to implement the new constitution. This calls for minimum consensus among the ruling and opposition on the core national interest and agenda. Let’s hope that the parliament will fulfill its responsibility on its part to build an inclusive, prosperous and modern Nepal.
(Kafle is a TRN journalist)