Parliament Should Focus On Development

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Parliamentary sessions are meant for making and amending laws through legislative procedures, debates, and passing bills. Parliamentarians should discuss major issues facing the country, reflect the diverse voices of the people they represent, keep tabs on the activities of government and approve budgets. The constituencies who voted them into power expect them to govern through this democratic process. However, the meetings in the House of Representatives of Nepal has become a stage for political drama, where parties wrestle to oust coalition partners and reclaim seats. It has also become a venue for finger-pointing, accusations of corruption, and forming coalitions to protect each other.

The media and the Commission for the Investigation of Abuse of Authority (CIAA) have exposed several cases of corruption, ranging from gold smuggling, human trafficking, and money laundering to land grabbing and more. Parliamentary debates should focus on taking action against the perpetrators and ensuring justice for the wronged. Prime Minister Prachanda secured his vote of confidence in parliament on May 20, 2024, for the fourth time since coming to power in December 2022 with the support of the CPN-UML and other parties. This time, he received 157 votes in the 275-member House of Representatives (HoR), after the split of the Janata Samajwadi Party, Nepal on May 5, 2024 and its withdrawal from the government. One member abstained, and none voted against the motion. The Prime Minister requires at least 138 votes to prove a majority. 

Development agenda

PM Prachanda had sought his first vote of confidence on January 10, 2023, receiving 268 votes. Three months later, he had to seek another vote of confidence after breaking ties with the UML and forming an alliance with the Nepali Congress, securing 172 votes. Then, on March 4, 2024, after breaking with the Nepali Congress and re-joining the UML, he received 157 votes again. From a maximum of 268 votes, PM Prachanda has slid to 157 votes of confidence. This constant instability hampers the nation's development agenda. Lawmakers now need to focus on development projects that benefit the people.

One positive aspect of the last elections is the entry of many young, educated, and inspiring individuals into parliament with a zeal to end corruption and develop the nation. Unfortunately, instead of moving towards good governance, parliament has become a battleground between the governing coalition and the main opposition, the Nepali Congress. The animosity between Deputy Prime Minister and Home Minister Ravi Lamichhane and NC General Secretary Gagan Thapa has even descended into personal level. After securing the fourth vote of confidence, both the governing coalition and the opposition should now focus on passing pending laws and advancing national development, rather than engaging in personal attacks.

There are now people in the government who can develop strategies for social enterprises that generate work within the country for the youth and all workforces. A community-based education system should be implemented to help school and college students, along with unemployed adults in the community, understand how to identify and utilise local resources and access government entitlements for local development. While the recent Nepal Investment Forum focused on setting up new macro hydropower projects in collaboration with India and China, there should be more focus on development of micro and small hydropower projects managed by communities to meet local power needs and contribute to the national grid.

Community-based Savings and Credit Cooperatives (SACCOS), in collaboration with government-led commercial banks like Rastriya Banijya Bank, Agriculture Development Bank, and Nepal Bank Limited who have reached out to the most rural parts of Nepal, have shown that banking with the poor and small farmers can be excellent sources of external finance for communities. Nepal has excellent examples of multipurpose and single-purpose cooperatives benefiting communities. However, it is shameful that many savings and credit cooperatives with licenses from the Nepal Rastra Bank are now being exposed for functioning contrary to cooperative principles, with some parliamentarians implicated in misappropriating funds from these SACCOS.

Community-based projects

In the early and mid-nineties, after the restoration of democracy, this writer had an opportunity to lead a project with Canadian support to establish a community-based economic development project in rural districts like Jumla. With strategic and well-planned simple processes, farmers, including women and men, formed groups that led to cooperatives with distinct functions such as seed growing, vegetable growing, setting up small water systems, marketing, and establishing SACCOS. Each had separate roles and succeeded in changing the social and economic status of the areas. Domestic violence was addressed through such group mobilisations, and people started eating more nutritious food grown locally. This is just one example of a good development approach.

While it is important to understand why livelihood projects have not been fully sustainable, it is also crucial to recognise our successes. We already have best practices in place; now we need committed parliamentarians to identify and implement them in their constituencies. There is no need for mega projects in Nepal, as we cannot compete with business houses to the north or south. However, we can create local social enterprises that make profits and reinvest in society. With digital technology, they can link to the global market and export Nepali products. Digital technology can also be used to track and report misappropriations at all levels. After securing the vote of confidence, the government must now focus on implementing the strategic development agenda and work towards ending impunity.

(Sharma is a senior journalist and women's rights advocate. namrata1964@yahoo.com. Twitter handle: @NamrataSharmaP)

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