Thursday, 5 August, 2021

Provinces Focus On Fighting Pandemic

Despite the chaotic political environment, Nepal’s federalism is sailing smoothly. In 2015 when the Constituent Assembly promulgated the historic constitution, Nepal formally ushered into a federal democratic republic. Its transformation from a unitary state to a federal one brought structural changes in the governance system. It created three-tier political and administrative units – federal, provincial and local. In 2017, elections to the three levels of government were held successfully to institutionalise the federal set-up. Three years have elapsed since the country experimented with the new system that stresses judicious allocations of national resources and balanced development of all regions.

Federalism is a shared and self-rule aimed at overcoming shortcomings of unitary system. Nepal’s federalism is set to realise these goals. However, the split of Nepal Communist Party (NCP) and bitter factional infighting within the ruling CPN-UML have given rise to unwanted political realignments. The ruling and opposition parties have been sharply divided over the dissolution of the House of Representatives (HoR) for the second time. The political disruption at the centre also shook the provincial governments. On Saturday, the opposition alliance formed a new government in Gandaki Province, replacing the UML-led government. In Karnali and Sudurpaschim, the governments led by CPN-Maoist Centre, have recently secured the vote of confidence after the UML withdrew its support to them. Province 2 government under Upendra Yadav-led faction of Janata Samajbadi Party (JSP) has been reshuffled with the induction of Nepali Congress. The UML-led governments in Lumbini, Bagmati and Province 1 have been able to weather the political storm in the recent past.

Keeping aside political repercussions, the provincial governments are busy discussing their annual policy and programmes. Bagmati Province Assembly has already approved its policy and programmes while others are debating on their policy documents. The other day the governments of Sudurpaschim Province and Karnali Province unveiled their policy and programmes, focusing on ending pandemic and creating employment opportunities. These two provinces are considered the country’s economic backwaters as their development indicators have been pessimistic for decades. Sudurpaschim government has introduced an array of initiatives to combat COVID-19 pandemic by investing in public health facilities. It has stressed vaccinating all people of the province and setting up well-equipped COVID-dedicated units in each hospital. It has announced to provide grants to the Provincial Self-Employment Development Fund to generate jobs for the youths rendered jobless owing to the pandemic.

It has devised a master plan to set up industries and start the big projects like West Seti with the support of the federal government. Its policy to attract domestic and foreign investment is expected to give impetus to the regional economy, trade and commerce. However, for this to happen, it should collaborate with the centre and formulate investment-friendly legal provisions. It has given priority to education, agriculture, financial literacy and awareness campaigns against various evil practices and superstitions. Likewise, the Karnali Province government has attached priority to saving the lives of people from the coronavirus. It has decided to ramp up COVID testing at the border points, upgrade the regional and district hospitals and increase human resources for them in addition to giving continuity to the last year’s programmes. If implemented effectively, provincial programmes will yield desired outcomes to the people. This will reduce the economic burden of the centre, thereby strengthening cooperative federalism in the country.