Travesty of Political and Economic Aspirations in the Nepali Republic
ASIA--PACIFIC, 1 Mar 2021
23 Feb 2021 – Development observers and analysts, who followed decades of events, are neither optimistic nor encouraged by what occurred in Nepal except for disappointments and setbacks that followed political transformation and other undertakings. Perpetual political rhetoric only added to negative perception on political governance as factional interest groups continue to engage in street demonstrations. Surprisingly, leaders were labeling accusations and throwing innuendos on each other’s performance.
Street demonstrations of loyal followings by political groups, including by ruling government party, will complicate management of global pandemic and dysfunctional governance. Long-term implications on well-beings of people remain uncertain but economic prosperity aspirations bound to have diminished because political maneuverings could skew state priorities. And, leaders may allude, in desperation, external power play in domestic affairs – leaving people lurching into further confusion. There is, however, hardly an appetite for support to dysfunctional polity of Nepal by international community and the West.
It is unfortunate ruling government party chose to engage in internecine intra-party feuds, resembling a typical tribal conflict in parts of Africa. Hard to envisage political street soap-opera performance would not trample on economic endeavors, national security and sovereignty, and these issues have not been undermined. What is happening in the streets of Nepal is a sign of ae prelude to silent uprising for it has impacted national conscience for contemplation?
Nepal, poorest country of Asia, is in a state of permutations of political variant which could turn the nation into another period of socio-political infliction. Meanwhile, economy could have fallen to abyss, except for the purpose of lip-servicing. No wonder why the executive branch of government is perceived as the most corrupt followed by bureaucracy and lawmaking branches in this republic. Present environment is such Nepal may be the only country in modern history where governing political party is running a mock on streets by themselves for themselves and destroying peaceful fabrics of the nation by those who are disillusioned by lust for power while TV channels are running the political soap opera, and the world watches it in dismay.
Political forces appear far apart in governance philosophies and economic outlook. Most of them are intrenched into defunct political ideology and old belief, and incapable of lifting peoples’ aspirations in 21st Century. None has displayed pragmatic strategy for economic recovery and sustainable future prosperity.
Neighboring Bangladesh, too, used to get embroiled in political volatility for years but in recent years it has registered unbelievable level of sustained GDP growth, ranking it as the fastest growing countries of Asia. Despite political misadventures, largely fueled by dynastic families, GDP growth is stunningly high. Both parties, Awami League and BNP, have little differences in political governing philosophy. Incidentally, a unique characteristic of democratic awakening, born out of relentless manifestations of the past, culminated into an irresistible urge to disliking of incumbency, no matter who is at the helm of government. It is unclear what would develop into Nepal’s political awakening psychic that is lagging behind in political maturity and economic pragmatism.
Our other two neighbors have advanced well economically benefitting from trade and tariffs liberalization and massive foreign investment. They attracted diaspora talents and foreign direct investments through pragmatic policy, cooperation, and economic alliance. Both China and India are now the dominant economic powerhouses influencing global political and economic theater, and not shying away from military prowess show-offs. They will continue to dominate global agenda in this century.
In parallel, we also notice spectacular growth of free-thinking think tanks in China and India who are disseminating fresh thinking and provide critical perspectives by building knowledge platforms for new ideas and innovations and influencing public policies. What really has happened in Nepal is anybody’s guess? The truth is: we are not a learning culture and pragmatism is anathema for political convenience for we pretend as if we are in deep sleep, if not in vegetative state.
Economic nationalism is rising globally, and economic liberalization paths have narrowed and gradually shrinking while our economic planners and leaders continue to spell misplaced economic development narratives wrapped in ultra-nationalist zeal. This will not inspire mobilization of foreign direct investments. Destiny of majority population, trapped in inter-generational poverty cycle, is a farfetched dream of economic transformation. On the contrary, politics in Nepal thrive by selling namesake republicanism as if it is the panacea of all political ill and, social and political inequalities. This nationalist narrative, thus, compromises fundamental economic rights of people under the constitution and ignores civil and social discourses.
Paper democracy exists, but not in the true sense of practice, for political machinations through political club-members, loyal bureaucrats and through influential henchmen. This is pushing nation into a state of collapse. If not, what else could it be? Country is run like a cartel of political oligarchs. Aren’t we digging pathways to culture of authoritarianism?
Signs of a state of collapse are emerging. Social, economic, and political indicators point to this direction include displacement of migrant workers, rising domestic unemployment, eroding value of wages, falling public health standards, food insecurity, rising environmental pollution, rising gender discrimination, people wanting to leave place of origin, demographic disparity, grievance seeking group activities, widespread corruption, high level of social and economic inequalities, uneven geographic and uncertain economic development, deterioration of public services, disregard for human rights, lack of implementation of laws and order, political impunity, fictionalization of elites, and environment for external involvement.
National institutions are weak. Meritocracy and independent thinking have no place. Education system is incapable of imparting with critical analysis skill and developing creative thinking because of pre-dominant culture of rote education. Political mainstream, thus, thrives in rejuvenation of ultra-nationalism with a mixture of democracy and republicanism for sustaining political power structure. There is total disregard for public services delivery and people’s quality of life at large; the very essence of functioning of good governance. Political landscape is conducive for false narratives in compartmentalized boxed-in psychic, leaving no room for out-of-box critical perspectives. National trait is showing distress signals that country is ailing, and immediate cure is unlikely, and may not sine die.
Culturally alien political transformation metamorphosed into unsustainable for delivering economic miracle, as predicted by the governments, on account of misgovernance and failures to unite people under one national theme for cohesive co-habitation and attain people’s prosperity through economic Marshall Plan. Instead, ‘divide and rule’ continues. This rotational game of musical chair of Prime Minister has become the mainstay of democracy in this republic. Good governance notion is replaced by high-stake game of power-grab machinations, otherwise do nothing.
True notion of ‘democracy’ is transformed into ‘Party-of-Crazy” for exclusive club of political party members. Likewise, ‘Peoples Republic,’ has become “Rip-the-Public”. Doesn’t this exemplify political mindset, practices, and traits in national psychic? Political system, bureaucracy and public psychic are entrapped by cancer culture of ‘vicious-circle of political corruption’.
Reforms require critical thinking and re-analysis, followed by system overhaul. Indicators point to re-visiting system of legislation, judiciary, executive and bureaucracy and redefinition of practices for realistic calibration. Change is never easy in an environment of institutional corruption for resistance is built-into working culture due to fear of loss and insecurity. Situation is untenable in current state of governance. Surprisingly, no one is held responsible for absence of accountability and failing to deliver services points to a state of collapse of system and institutions.
Governance is about public service delivery, not self-interests of politicians and bureaucracy. Good governance in a functioning democracy ensures accountability, transparency, equity and inclusiveness, rule of laws and order, people’s participation (not limited to casting vote), effectiveness and efficiency, consensus-oriented system, and responsive institutions serving the interests of people. Falling short of progress, political economy may have hit a concrete wall of no return.
Contrary to this, emphasis is in building platforms for life-cycle political career-paths in a cobweb of network of political manipulations, devoid of sense of public service, moral values, and ethics of political office. This is no patriotism. This is no democracy by the people for the people. How could corrupt system of political governance, devoid of meritocracy and efficiency, deliver public service in honesty and free us from anarchy of political cartel is unimaginable? Have not we seen repeat behavioral patterns of political oligarchs to suggest if it is not heading to frozen prosperity in this republic?
Kedar Neupane is a founding, executive board member of the Nepal Policy Institute, a retired senior UN official, and president of ‘We for Nepal’ association based in Geneva, Switzerland where he lives. He has worked in several countries in Africa, the Middle East, Asia and Europe in his 38 years of service with the UN system and was Senior Change Management Advisor to UN High Commissioner for Refugees. Views expressed are his personal analysis and do not represent of institutions. Email: Neupanek1950@gmail.com
Tags: Communism, Conflict, Demonstrations, Economic Crisis, Nepal, Protest movements, South Asia
This article originally appeared on Transcend Media Service (TMS) on 1 Mar 2021.
Anticopyright: Editorials and articles originated on TMS may be freely reprinted, disseminated, translated and used as background material, provided an acknowledgement and link to the source, TMS: Travesty of Political and Economic Aspirations in the Nepali Republic, is included. Thank you.
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