October 26, 2014


[Financing federal system of government for Nepal is a question not that much discussed: 'where will money come from -  for those proposed federal states ?' One would also retort - 'where from has the money come to the current Nepal Government?' The proposed states will have their own taxation and the federal government will also have federal budget for federal expenses in all the states - this is how the US government functions down here. There won't be that many people in the government general services. Cities and towns pay for the police by themselves. But the problem is that Nepal's districts, municipalities or towns are not that capable of doing so by themselves. An instance came today from Uttar Pradesh, India. The Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav sacked 82 political functionaries enjoying the status as state-ministers with all privileges for the humiliating defeat in the general election this year. A state of nearly 200 million people, Utter Pradesh offers an example that it has a 'huge government' and 'small private sector' that contribute to the over all development of the state. Entering a federal system, there is a chance that Nepal will also develop the Uttar Pradesh syndrome and who knows where from would the money come ? Posted below is an article on whether an impoverished country as Nepal can afford for a federal system of government. - The Blogger]

By Bihari Krishna Shrestha

It is a very good development that, at least, one foreign diplomat, HE the Finnish Ambassador Asko Luukkainen  is asking questions about Nepal's federalization and he is doing so transparently for the people to know about it too. Clearly, his concern about cost of federalization is based on the fact that a country as impoverished as Nepal simply cannot afford to break up into several autonomous provinces. However, the politicians who are indulging in argumentation about the number of provinces have not been taking the cost issue into account and to that extent, these "federalist" politicians are behaving irresponsibly. I hope that more diplomats and foreign well-wishers too would join the debate and make their views known. A few years ago, the Danish ambassador had categorically said that there is no need for Nepal to go federal. But he has not been heard again. The Chinese is known to have expressed their concern about Nepal's federalization during the CA 1 itself, and the insider view has been that it was because of the Chinese concern that CA 1 came to its death without promulgating a constitution. In addition to these international and cost concerns, there are several more reasons why Nepal must not go federal:

a) Federalization was never the demand of the people. It was first used by the Maoists as their ploy to get recruits from amidst the economically and educationally challenged ethnic Magar youths living in the mountain fastness of the Rapti zone. In 2006 they had imposed the agenda on other parties too who, due to single-minded indulgence in all-out corruption, had lost all support among the people. In established democracies, such as in Europe, even small issues are put through referendum. But in Nepal, the hegemonic parties have denied this right to the people.

b) Even more compelling reason against federalization is the uniqueness of the country's geography which is highly diverse, endowing different regions with different but mutually complementary potentials for national development. For instance, the southern plains belt, the Terai, is the one that has the greatest potential not only for agricultural development  but also for country's industrialization due to its proximity to the vast Indian market. However, the energy that is needed to power this regions' development can be generated only in the hills and mountains. For instance,  the West Seti project to be built amidst the four mountain districts of Doti, Dandeldhura, Baitadi and Bajhang, currently being requested with the Chinese government, would not only generate much needed 750 MW of electricity but also regulated water that would irrigate all the rice fields between Banke to Kanchanpur  districts in the Terai. There is probably even a bigger project at Karnali Bend with a potential to generate 4,180 MW power and regulated water sufficient to irrigate hundreds of thousands of hectares in India too.  Similarly, the Terai's agriculture and industrial development can be sustained only if the upstream ecology is managed properly mainly through the proper care of its environment and flood control. Thus, Nepal's natural resource potential could be properly harnessed for the benefit of the people only if its integrity is respected, preserved and used accordingly. This is the biggest single issue that would prevent the federalization of the country. But the politicians, while pretending to represent the people for their cause, are not even talking about this issue.

C) Thirdly, the federalization issue is also tainted with ethnocentric demands based on indigenity in the form of provinces carved out along ethnic lines that continues to constitute a subject of fierce debate based on "indigenous" vs "non-indigenous" people. While India, a country 40 times the size of Nepal demographically, has called all its people "indigenous", in Nepal, the debate continues, although at a vastly subdued tone lately.  While it is sure to lead to ethic conflict in the country all over again, what is also overlooked is its dynamics over time. This can be found out by superimposing the ethnic map of Nepal 25 years ago over the present one. There has been a lot of movement of the people who, by their very nature, tend to move to greener pastures. But the ethnic diehards, instigated and fuelled by international INGOs, more so during CA 1, have continued to voice their myopic position even now.

Given such a situation, the present so-called constitution making exercise remains potentially self-defeating. Firstly, they have not taken into account the professional nuances of constitution making to start with nor have they sought any professional help from outside. The CA 2 itself is a jumbo body of 601 members most of whom simply are not endowed with the necessary wherewithal to contribute to constitution making any significantly. Thus, all said and done, Nepal is in a state of mess. There is a great need for Nepal's friends around the world to step in and help end this mess once and for all.

While all countries are endowed with sovereign conscience which comes to prevail in times of crisis, in the case of Nepal it has so far continued to elude the country. It remains suppressed under the deadweight of unaccountable politics. So, the role of the foreign friends of Nepal is to help the country's sovereign conscience to assert itself and find a way out for the nation.