Sunday, 24 October, 2021

Fix Term Age Limits For Politicians

Namrata Sharma

Nepali people are now questioning why the same faces are always taking up the most important and powerful positions in the government and political parties? Several voices have also been raised to bring in new legislation as to the appropriate age and term limits of leaders and politicians. The COVID-19 pandemic has pushed the country into a state where education, health, livelihood and all aspects needed for a basic decent living have become more challenging. At this crisis situation, it is clear that the political leaders have not been able to demonstrate their skills and knowledge to put in place a strategy to tide the country over this calamity which is looming up as an aftermath of the COVID 19 pandemic. The general public is attributing this situation to the fact that inefficient leaders are given positions which they have already demonstrated they may not be fit to be in.

During the last presidential election in the USA, there was a debate raised that the USA should have age limits of politicians running for the seat of President. The argument that Joe Biden, 78, and Donald Trump, 74, could not be as agile, alert and efficient as people below 70s was raised before the elections. “As Americans choose between two of the oldest men ever running for president, it’s worth asking whether Uncle Sam should also set retirement limits for its bosses” wrote Rob Cox in Reuters Breakingviews. Although USA does have a limit of not more than two terms for presidents, the age limit is not there and the question is now being raised.

In countries like Nepal and other neighbouring South Asian countries and most of the African countries there are neither age limits nor term limits for politicians. This leads to inefficiency continuing for long periods of time messing up the country’s progress both in terms of human development and GDP growth. The private sector profit-making companies may not be governments but they are often highly complex organisations with the need to satisfy their stakeholders. Their leaders are often used as model for political leaders and in many cases do contest elections. The private companies of most Western countries could provide a clear example to governments in the matter of retirement ages for their chieftains. Most of the top enterprises in the world, including Microsoft and Apple, have by-laws that stipulate a mandatory retirement age, generally around 65. Similarly, companies have established maximum ages for directors, around 72.

There are exceptions and it has been proven that elderly people can be very effective chief executives or politicians. The American business tycoon Warren Buffett, at 90, is still leading Berkshire Hathaway and is one of the world’s five richest men. But these are exceptions and such individuals have qualities and human resources who help them in the correct way. Also it could be in the genes of these selected people to be efficient, but the wear and tear of years on the mind and body have an effect on everyone and should not be risked in critical positions of power that affect all people of a country.

The seniors must be respected for their contributions and they should be given advisory roles, but it is important that Nepal’s government employs the fittest and finest among our citizens to run the country and tide it over the pandemic now and poverty always. According to Reuters Breakingviews, one academic study has concluded that there is a negative correlation between corporate performance and advanced age. Brandon Cline and Adam Yore, finance professors at Mississippi State University and the University of Missouri, respectively, investigated the merits of mandatory retirement policies for CEOs using a sample of 12,610 observations from 2143 firms. The research mentions that as leaders “have more tenure, they tend to amass more power.”

In Nepal, the governance and management in both the private and the non-governmental sectors are more or less the same as that of the Nepali government’s. Once a leader and founder of a political party or an organisation, that person remains the same, forever, no matter how long or at what age. As a result, mismanagement, lack of foresight and amassing of power and resources are abundant. There are several cases investigated by the Bureau of Investigation but it goes unchecked.

Fair chance
Currently, most of the leading political parties in Nepal are headed towards their general conventions. Therefore, it is now important for them to pass a resolution that no political leader will be in the governing and executive management seat for more than two terms and above the age of 70. This will give a fair chance to deserving individuals to get their turn and make a difference. It will also stop inefficiencies to be carried on for decades. There are young and qualified leaders in all the political parties but the tendency and culture of the top seats being held by the senior-most and in many cases very inefficient leaders has stopped a clear, transparent and just system of putting the best candidates in power.

Most constitutions worldwide has a minimum age limit for candidates filing for elections and positions of prime ministers, presidents and chief judges, but there are no maximum age limits. The USA has a limit of two terms for the President, but it has no maximum age limit so the debate is ongoing there. Nepal too has a minimum age limit for filing for these positions, but has no term or maximum age limits. We should now go for setting that as a legal provision in the country. There should be maximum two terms for prime ministers and presidents, and a reasonable age limit of 70 years.

(Namrata Sharma is a senior journalist and human rights activist. namrata1964@yahoo.comTwitter handle: NamrataSharmaP)