11-17 July 2014 #715

Living off the land

DEVAKI BISTA

The monsoon hasn’t yet been officially declared as “failed”, but it is mid-July and only 30 per cent of paddy fields in Nepal have been planted. Terraces like these (see pic) on the outskirts of Bhaktapur have rice because of irrigation. Urban sprawl is also encroaching into arable land in the Valley and the Tarai, reducing harvests even further.

It’s not just the monsoon that is delayed. The 2014-15 budget, which was supposed to be presented to parliament on Friday, has been postponed because the power struggle within the UML has prolonged the party’s Convention. A deficient monsoon will impact on agriculture and will bring down Nepal’s GDP growth projections, and spike inflation. Meanwhile, within the CA’s echo chamber, it is the politics of everything: the politics of budget, politics of corruption, the politics of crime, politics of identity.

And it has become politically incorrect to question federalism, especially one that is based on single-ethnic identity.

In their obsession with the distribution of power in the new constitution, members have forgotten to question the political sustainability and economic viability of future provinces. We are putting the cart before the horse by carving up the country into supposedly autonomous states, when there is no economic base for that autonomy.

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