Starting from zero

We have created a vision for prosperity in Province 4, considering not just our potential but also limitations. But federalism is still a work in progress, several laws are yet to be drafted. We are still trying to determine the exact roles and responsibilities of Federal, Provincial and Local governments. There is still a lot of confusion and uncertainty about the mandates of each, the terms of reference for all three tiers of government and how deep devolution will actually go.

But while we wait for these laws to be formulated, we cannot just sit and twiddle our thumbs. Here in Province 4, we have already unveiled the provincial government’s first budget, programs, and policies. Then we need to pass at least 22 laws at the provincial level to govern our administrative procedures.

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We are starting from zero to draw a five-year roadmap for prosperity. We cannot afford to lose any more time. We are now identifying our resources and priorities, and realistically our focus will be on tourism, hydropower, agriculture, industry, and human resources.

The tourism potential of Province 4 is not limited to its capital in Pokhara. We are designing a policy to make tourists go beyond the town, and into the far-flung villages below the Annapurnas. We will designate at least 300 villages for home-stay tourism in the next five years, which will inject tourism income directly into the village economy.

For us, each program or policy has to meet three objectives: it has to increase productivity, generate employment opportunities and reduce poverty. And all these outcomes of a successful program must benefit the larger section of the society, especially the under-served groups.

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We have a plan to establish a world-class technical university in Pokhara, and its graduates will not just help the province but the entire country. Apart from an international-level sports stadium in Pokhara, we will also build infrastructure in every village council to promote multi-culturalism and sports.

Today, more than nine months after local elections, progress on getting these plans off the ground has been slow. We lack both the resources and the legal clarity of where to raise the revenue from. We do not even have legal and administrative structures to collect taxes.

Even so, we will firm up our plans so that we can hit the ground running when there is more clarity about the mandate and revenue source of local governments. Prosperity through federalism is not just possible, it is necessary.

Prithvi Subba Gurung is Chief Minister of Province 4

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