Forget the politics. Nepal is in crisis because of the stagnating economy, falling farm productivity, a rising population and negative job creation.
All these point ominously to a looming disaster. Combined they will have political repercussions for whoever rules Nepal in the coming years.
At a time like this, what is needed is a paradigm shift in the way politics is practiced. We need a dramatic departure from the past so that political parties, realising that they're all in the same boat, stop rocking it.
There is no point fooling the people with yet more meaningless promises of abolishing crime, eradicating poverty or uprooting corruption. You can't fool them all the time. And it's too late for speeches. What we need is a simple checklist of five national priorities that everyone can sign, even the Maoists:
* A Marshall Plan of infrastructure investment to immediately create jobs
* A determined effort to cut cartel-induced inflation
* Asserting state presence to restore law and order
* Agree on demobilisation to conclude peace process
* Write constitution on time
The kindest way to describe Finance Minister Surendra Pandey's budget is to say that it is ambitious and populist. But not quite ambitious enough where it should be. In fact, overall, it's just stale. The only success of the budget is that it was passed at all by a 22-party coalition whose members have nothing in common except the fear of a Maoist takeover.
Critics deride this government of being made up of losers, that it has a short-lifespan and exists at the whim and fancy of the Maoists. All true.
But what we shouldn't forget is that it came out of a legitimate parliamentary procedure following the leader of a coalition government losing the trust of its partners. And it represents a partnership of parties that all opposed a Maoist attempt to foist totalitarian rule on the country that nearly succeeded on the night of 4 May.
In the past week or so, Madhav Kumar Nepal is showing belated signs of taking the bull by the horns. If only the other parties reminded themselves about how they came to be on the same boat, and the Maoists stopped behaving like petulant brats, everyone could start working on the priorities listed above.
Unfortunately, the rot has spread to the VDCs and DDCs where the local leaders are all in cahoots to plunder development contracts. This is a result of the absence of representative government and erosion of what little accountability there was.
More immediately, the Nepali people need to be protected from an unnatural inflation that defies rational economic explanation. It is a result of businesses hoarding, cartelling and price-fixing because of the breakdown of the state. Consumer groups and community organisations need to be involved in monitoring the market.
All these have a direct bearing on the peace process and drafting of the constitution. They will be mirages if the Nepal government fails to convince the people that it's a government that works.
Keep door open - FROM ISSUE #460 (17 JULY 2009 - 23 JULY 2009)