Like the Bihari ex-chief minister-husband to the present one-the new Deuba cabinet not only kept everything within the family but also got enough ministers in the cabinet to cover all bases. We may have yet to learn how to run a coalition as a perceived interim government but we succeeded in installing 31 ministers without the participation of the four major political parties, who are still protesting regression.
But there is hope. For the first time, the deputy prime minister is a finance minister too. This makes the Beed happy because we seem to be towing the Manmohan line in India by finally giving the economy the importance it deserves. But will Bharat Mohan deliver?
What we'd like to see are Companies Act, laws associated with trusts and legislation related to Nepal's passage into the World Trade Organisation (WTO) come through. This should provide an ironic twist, since it will be approved by a communist minister. Perhaps we can depend on him to raise issues on the future of reforms and balance out a socialist agenda with a free market perspective.
Our preparedness with regard to the WTO should be a top priority. The coalition government must come up with programs it can agree on, central issues that have a bearing on the direction of the economy. It must use the budget as a clear message that it means business.
One of the surprises in the new cabinet is that there isn't a full minister of water resources-especially at a time when India wants to open bilateral dialogue on water and power. We need a full-fledged minister as water and power are critical to the Indo-Nepal relationship, especially with a new government in South Bloc. Or is the state minister going to do his mentor's bidding?
The absence of a parliament weakens internal controls in government budgets, both revenue and expenditure. All the more reason for this cabinet to maintain fiscal discipline and promote transparency. Multi- and bi-lateral donors need to see some delivery to increase their failing confidence in Kathmandu's ability to govern. If this government wants to earn credibility, financial discipline should be the starting point.
It is not pointless to continue drilling successive governments on the importance of 'starting right and starting clean'. Something may actually come of it.
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