The Maoist-led government never tires of talking about the ideals of democracy and development. Its three recent actions are anything but about those ideals:
Two weeks ago, the government announced that it would provide tax relief for five years to 25 distressed companies. A distressed company, by definition, is one that is going out of business for a variety of reasons ranging from bad management to bad products. In general, such a company should be allowed to exit from the market so that newer companies, set up with private money, can come in and compete in the market place. There's no sense spending money that should go for education and rural health services to prop up failed companies.
But no. Using its omniscient wisdom, the government assigned a committee to come up with a list of distressed companies. When bureaucrats and party hacks get together to create a list of distressed companies for state subsidy amounting to figures they recommend, it's anybody's guess what sort of companies with what sort of influence make the list. Politely, this is called helping out government-designated 'nationalist capitalists'. Impolitely, it's called looting the treasury to help one's own political friends and supporters who happen to mismanage companies on the side.
Expansion without compensation: Many people, especially those who have come to live in Kathmandu from other parts of Nepal, have hailed the government's move to widen the streets of the city. True, there is no debating that Kathmandu's traffic congestion requires a state intervention.
But whether that intervention should come in the form of sending bulldozers to demolish private homes and properties in the name of widening the roads is debatable. In most cases, the government compounded the problem by taking a needlessly hard-headed line. It gave little or no prior information to the property owners. It did not talk about providing a paisa of compensation to them, it painted all owners with the same brush, insinuating that all were members of the bourgeoisie class who had long encroached upon public land when the verifiable truth differs from owner to owner.
Democratic niceties be damned, the government seemed to say. What matters is impressing foreign friends when they drive around in Kathmandu next year for a SAARC convention. Broadly though, the government's sledgehammer approach to demolition signals its interest in siding with what is likely to be momentarily popular than with the matter of following due process that that lays down a predictable system for doing public construction.
Havel versus Kim:
On the death of communist dictator Kim Jong Il, our government found time to send North Korea a letter of condolence. But on the death of Vaclav Havel, a democrat who defied communist tyranny and led the Velvet Revolution in the former Czechoslovakia, the government stayed silent. What is one to make of this selective gesture?
That North Korea is closer to where it wants to take Nepal next? Or, that those who fight against tyranny and totalitarianism and champion the rights and the dignity of an individual are to be shunned and are not Nepal's friends?
Our prime minister, a PhD no less, is a man fond of symbols and signals. From riding a Nepal-assembled Mustang jeep to going on live radio to answer callers' questions, he signals that he is a man of the people -- a dear leader, if there is one. But if his recent signals of handing out state funds to his capitalist friends, demolishing private property without following due process, and choosing Nepal's international friends on the basis of his party's political ideology are any guide, our journey on the road to democracy and development is going to be one long and hard trek.
The power to change
Final showdown, ANURAG ACHARYA
It does not matter whether the cat is black or white as long as it is accountable and ensures stability