Monday, 6 December, 2021

Good Governance: Myth Or Reality?

Bhupa P. Dhamala


Needless to say, good governance is a system in which decisions are made and implemented in undertaking the public affairs and managing the natural as well as human resources for the public good in a free, fair, and impartial manner keeping the state mechanism neutral in all spheres. This is an essential condition for national and international development.
Many governments, even the chief executives, tend to assume that they themselves are the state. But there are some obvious distinctions between the two. Government is periodical, state is eternal. Government is formed by one or more than one parties, state has nothing to do with who forms the government. Even as the government of a particular political group fails, the state remains intact with its permanent judiciary, national army, police force, bureaucracy, and other independent state apparatus. In the present context, roles of state and the government are not clearly distinguished and implemented in like manner.
Nepal is no exception. Even after the advent of new Nepal unified under the leadership of Prithivi Narayan Shah, we have not experienced good governance in any era. We may argue that Rana regime and Panchayat regime were autocratic so there could not be good governance. But even the democratic system did not show any sign of good governance. Nor has the republican system started to practice it sincerely. The notion of good governance has thus become a mere myth, not a down-to-earth reality.
With the promulgation of new constitution in 2015, Nepali people expected good governance in all spheres of public affairs. The general election held in 2017 offered full mandate to Nepal Communist Party (NCP) to form the majority government which would bring about changes in the governance system. People had great hopes and aspirations for change. For some time it went well. But dissatisfactions arose within the ruling party and dissident groups began to rebel overtly. The senior leaders of the ruling party claimed that the Prime Minister acted unilaterally without consulting the party committee whereas the Prime Minister argued that some party leaders obstructed him to do right things. The imbroglio surfaced with conflicting claims. Eventually factions within the ruling party emerged and began to turn hostile to each other culminating in the Prime Minister’s decision to dissolve the parliament which was later reinstated by the verdict of Supreme Court.

What went wrong?
There might be several reasons for good governance not to happen. But one reason is quite obvious. The government could not practice the norms of good governance, neither within the party in-house nor between the government and state. There are allegations that the cabinet began to act in the interests of ministers involved in decision making. There are also accusations that nepotism played vital role in the appointment of the head of various government institutions who are supposed to be responsible for independently running the institutions.
The government executives defended their decisions saying that they did it in order to make their tasks convenient with the people they chose to appoint. Yes, it would indeed be a right thing to do it if the appointed persons were fit for the job. But it soon proved that fit persons were not chosen for the job, rather jobs were created to fit their appointment because they could not demonstrate their knowledge and skills in the assigned tasks. Due to this malpractice the other more competent persons were left behind, who could have perhaps performed the tasks more efficiently for the sake of nation and the people.
The dissident leaders of the ruling party are claiming that the government executives totally ignored the reform agenda set by the party as well as the election manifesto. Instead the government worked to serve the interests of comprador class, multinational companies, and other non-nationalist capitalist groups. There are further arguments from the oppositions that the government could not fix common priority agenda of the country and was fully engaged in fulfilling the demands of the party cadres who would support them in unfair way and also the non-deserving relatives of the ministers themselves were given opportunity to exploit the resources. Although this scribe cannot tell for certain if this is true or untrue, a large number of people are disgruntling over the rampant corruption in the government institutions.
The next blame is about political intervention in the independent constitutional bodies to compel them to work in favour of the ruling party. There are claims that the appointments of some constitutional bodies were interest driven because they were done on the basis of ordinances which can be called legal gerrymandering. It is unpleasant that the serious questions were raised about the sincerity of honoured positions. Obviously the government and the ruling party are responsible for such unfortunate circumstances. Looking at the way things are being done, good governance in Nepal is merely a utopia that does not exist, a myth that remains as unreal story, a rhetoric in the mouth of political leaders, but not something that is sincerely practiced in reality.

We should not be utterly disappointed, however. It is important that we should clearly distinguish between the role of state and that of the government. We should also immediately stop the partisan politics in the independent institutions. The party cadres should not be divided into factions that may have been created by interest groups. It is equally significant that Nepali citizenry should critically think and make independent judgments on the decisions made and the things done without any bias to bring about the environment of good governance. Unless state mechanism can work entirely independently in the interest of the nation and the people, good governance will not prevail.

(The author is chairman of Molung Foundation)