Friday, February 16, 2007

Friends In Need Friends Indeed

from The Nepal News

Internally, the politicians in power are totally confused about the sense of direction they need to have. However, the most fortunate thing in the present time Nepal is that the western developed countries have shown enormous concern for the Nepalese people providing institutional as well as economic support. At a time when Nepal , which is inevitably headed towards more political crises and mysterious uprisings by various brands and groups, is passing thorough a dangerous phase in its history presenting a gloomy picture, there are some signs of hope as well. For Nepal ’s economic development, the countries of Western Europe and Japan , which have no strategic and economic interest in Nepal – have been sincerely and purposefully providing aid. Despite losing political stability, peace and prospect for fast development, Nepal’s internal institutional capability with reflection of popular opinion and support from developed west generates those hopes

By KESHAB POUDEL

The first European minister to visit Nepal following the successful People’s Movement II was Norwegian Minister for International Development Eric Solheim who came with a package of financial and other supports. He was preceded by Richard Boucher, US Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asia .

The next visitor was from Denmark . State Secretary of Ministry of Foreign Affairs Carsten Staur came with the offer for Rs 2 billion assistance for alternative energy, peace process and constituent assembly. Then, European Union’s five member delegation led by Neena Gill arrived in Nepal .

Similarly, Japanese senior vice minister for foreign affairs Yashuhika Shiozaki came to Nepal with further offer for assistance. British government announced increase of financial assistance to Nepal by 10 percent to reach 4.29 billion through DFID.

Likewise, Finland government agreed to provide assistance worth Rs. 1.49 billion for the operation of drinking water and sanitation project.

According to annual budget for 2006/2007, the government is expecting foreign grants of Rs 23.72 billion and loans of Rs.16.9 billion.

Everything seemed to have been destroyed, but there is worldwide concern about troubles and miseries of Nepal when the concept of global village is being practiced even in Nepal and in the community of the countries of the world.

Although internal political scenario of present time Nepal indicates that a dark cloud is looming large over Nepal , this is not the only occurrence. One can also notice a silver lining around the dark clouds over that distant horizon.

” The most fortunate thing in present time Nepal is that the developed countries have enormous concerns for the people of Nepal and their well-being. Therefore, the help and contribution to Nepal in economic as well as institutional support has increased enormously even as, internally, the politicians in power seem disoriented,” said a political analyst.

According to a senior official at the Ministry of Finance, the amount of foreign aid including budgetary support has gone up considerably compared with the previous years. “Some of the donors are even providing budgetary support for us at this juncture,” said Rameshwor Khanal, acting secretary of Ministry of Finance.

” Many conflict-ridden countries in the world don’t have that kind of continual support during their crisis period and in the process of reconstruction and rehabilitation. Nepal is yet a manageable country even amid its crisis,” said the analyst.

Generous Support

According to the Ministry of Finance report on foreign aid, in the fiscal year 2006/07, these countries have offered valuable contribution in terms of budgetary support and other aid. Japanese under the DRF committed more than Rs1.89 billion and Rs 285.721 million under KR 2. British government through DFID committed Rs 1.16 billion. Germany under GTZ committed Rs 1.74 million and through KFW Rs 155.65 million. Denmark has pledged Rs 548.87 million. Netherlands through SNV has committed Rs 48.12 million; Australia Rs 8.15 million, France Rs 37.22 million, Norway Rs 53 million and USAID Rs 7.88 million as budgetary supports.

Along with the budgetary support, these countries have also committed other kinds of aid including turn-key projects. In total Germany has contributed Rs 2.99 billion and Japan provided Rs1.89 billion through DRF, Rs 415 million through JICA and Rs 204.5 million through Japan and Rs 285.7 under KF2. Similarly, DFID provided Rs 1.25 billion, Denmark Rs 859.5 million, European Union Rs 134.22 million, Netherlands (through SNV) Rs 209.015 million and Nordic Development Fund Rs 65.70 million, Switzerland (through Helvetas) Rs 48.056 million and Rs 156.492 million through Swiss Development Cooperation (SDC).

Although they are highly developed in terms of technology, the countries of western Europe and Japan are supporting Nepal in the areas of rural development and other sustainable development.

“Rural development and grass-root level institution building are two important areas where Nepal needs support. Having their early experiences in these areas, these countries can contribute a lot to build the basic institutions,” said Dr. Shankar Sharma, former vice chairman of National Planning Commission (NPC). “Being a small rural based economy, people can benefit from small projects than the big ones. Donors know that.”

With a population of 26 million, Nepal has many challenges for development. From reducing poverty to providing employment opportunities and offering education, Nepal is facing multi-pronged challenges.

Why these countries from western Europe and far east which have no strategic or economic interest in Nepal are so sincerely and purposefully involved in Nepal’s economic development? It is because they see growing economic disparity and challenges.

“Nepal’s economic disparity, like all other underdeveloped world, is a concern of the democratic societies of the west. The ways the priorities are fixed up, one is amazed how these highly industrialized and high tech counties have been emphasizing upon improved traditional technology as well as intermediate technology for the present solution to Nepal’s problems. Some of our politicians and planners are completely ignorant and had neglected that for long. If our planners and politicians are given to choose, they will definitely ask for latest and highly sophisticated technology for even non-productive sectors,” said the analyst.

Even Sweden’s International Development Agency is providing grant to Nepal. There are various other United Nations agencies and INGO also involved in accelerating the development activities.

One of the hopeful signs is that many western industrialized democratic countries are supporting Nepal to overcome the present challenges. Not only Nepal’s two neighbors and regional military juggernauts India and China, there are many western industrialized developed countries and Japan continue to express their commitments for the development of Nepal through their financial contributions.

Compared with the contribution intermediate powers of western world, the contribution made by Nepal’s two immediate neighbors is small. But that too is growing.

“Britain and Denmark are directly helping for budgetary support. Japanese and German aid are focused on infrastructures and rural development but they don’t allocate money for budgetary support,” said a senior official at the Ministry of Finance. “India and China both Nepal’s neighbors are now showing interest to contribute to budgetary support.”

After the royal takeover in February 2005, Denmark withdrew major projects from Nepal. Denmark pulled out from community forestry program, which was one of the successful programs supporting the livelihood of millions of poor people of rural Nepal because of arrogance of then first vice chairman of council of ministers Dr. Tulsi Giri.

Of course, some countries attached certain conditions including the universal values like social inclusion, good governance and rule of law. These conditions sometime supported to derail democratic process of Nepal. In the name of good governance, the government was compelled to draft a draconian law creating an unaccountable anti-graft commission like Commission for Investigation of Abuse of Authority - which was used to destabilize the democratic process.

Hope and Despair

As Nepal’s traditional legitimate institutions have been badly shaken and newly set up institutions are yet to take roots and/or build capability, the crisis often goes out of hand because of confused and directionless leadership.

The recent terai agitation showed how confusion rules the mind of Nepalese leaders. Amid these confusion in minds, anybody can create problem in the country. From Tharu to other indigenous groups and even student wings of political parties can unleash havoc any time.

“If the government does not accept our demand to set up a separate autonomous Tharuwan region in terai, we will paralyze the life of Nepal blocking all transport,” said president of Tharu Kalyankari Sava. “This is a warning as well as suggestion.”

At a time when Janjatis, Dalits, trade unions, transport entrepreneurs, women, farmers and other ethnic, religious and linguistic groups are in a queue to repeat the success by Madhesi Janadhikar Forum (MJF), Nepal’s coming days are definite to be gloomy.

From street to political forum, contradictions and controversies are rampant everywhere. “Nepal is passing through a very difficult phase of its history as it has lost its political stability, peace and prospects for development. Whatever was built up in the recent half century of history in the form of norms and values of political system have been severely damaged,” said the political analyst.

Anarchy Step by Step

To put Nepal into the present unstable and anarchic shape, the political parties took several steps. First they destroyed a workable constitution through a parliamentary proclamation in April, 2006. The proclamation, among others, snatched all the powers of the monarch.

“The constitution, which was promulgated in 1990 after an extraordinary consensus of the popular political forces, with its unchangeable basic structure has been summarily abrogated by a reinstated parliament, which had neither legal nor moral authority to do so. Judiciary including the Supreme Court has been downgraded by an unaccountable executive power,” said the analyst.

To consolidate the power snatched under parliamentary proclamation, Seven Parties Alliance and Maoists (SPAM) prepared an interim constitution cornering entire prerogatives with them. However, less than twenty-four hours after the promulgation of the present interim constitution, a mysterious uprising erupted in the southern belt of Nepal, which was successful to snatch away political concessions of a far reaching negative consequence.

“There is no visible center of power for ultimate decisions but things are happening everyday in a planned and orchestrated manner. People are brought into the street in a violent mood to face any consequence,” said the analyst.

Without any debate in the parliament, leaders of eight parties under the leadership of octogenarian prime minister Girija Prasad Koirala, who is not in good health, announce decisions whenever they feel necessary. Even prime minister Koirala announced the same decision twice in a week.

“But this is not end of the history of Nepal. Nepal still has capability to withstand challenges and onslaughts of time,” said the analyst. “Be it the street or the seat of power, as long as organized interest has free place in society, there remains a hope of ventilation of popular sentiments and public grievances. Though the leaders may not have the decisive power with them and thus succumb to the machinations of invisible centers, they are bound to reflect the organized opinion of their following masses.”

Silver Lining

Every thing appears to have been influenced by an extremly negative pressure for a drastic change without any definite outlook and sense of direction. What Nepal had achieved in its long history of self governance and particularly under a democratic process initiated after great change of 1951, those elements are yet upholding the basis infrastructure and rules of governance. Though disorganized but their contribution to uphold the governance is yet to die. This is not complete break down of state power.

B.P. Koirala in his recent book King, Nationalism and Politics said, “I have learned the inherent strength of Nepal. Let whatever come, Nepal would survive.”

“B.P. Koirala understood the instinct of survival of this country very well. B.P. reached to that conclusion by his long experience in his leading role in the politics of this country. Whether it is King Prithvi Narayan Shah or a commoner B.P. Koirala, both of them have left an inspiring legacy behind them,” said the analyst. “Nepal has institutional support to get the popular opinion reflected though that may not be carried on. In that inherent contradiction of organized political articulation, Nepal has a hope to tackle challenges of present time.”

As the country’s traditional power structures and political institutions are badly shaken and new institutions are yet to evolve, Nepal alone cannot carry out the development programs to meet the aspirations of people and achieve sustainable economic growth. Here the generous aid provided by western industrialized democracies are very much valuable.

Reorganizing the State

Nepal for quite a long time has been living a particular way of life as institution of monarchy was at the center of power. Though eight political parties scrapped all authority, monarchical opinion is overwhelming in Nepal. Even the revolutionary leaders of eight parties often express fear about the revival of the monarchists in Nepal, which indicate how influential the institution is.

“Every body in Nepal has one sentimental attachment with particular way of life and pattern of relationship among citizens and between citizens and state. Many values, norms and discipline have created useful conventions and laws. All of them have come into the melting pot of unexpected and unplanned state of change,” said the analyst.

Nepal is in crisis of reorganization as a nation-state after a great shake up, which has not yet subsided. Nepal has a challenge of reconstruction of its economy, education and various infrastructures of such services.

“It is not only due to the monarchy Nepal remained as a unit but it is due to inherent emotional factors of unity that it lived with the different phases and characters of monarchy till now,” said the analyst.

From regional to geographical and from ethnic to caste and linguistic to religion, there are several facets for the reorganization of the state. In a society based on subsistence agriculture, new challenges of reorganization could add more problems.

What Future Nepal has?

Nepal has been pressured too much by regional conflicts and rivalries. All the time it has shown its vitality as a nation.

One may dislike a strict communist ideology-based party as unjust, irrelevant and outmoded. If one goes close to them, their ideology is just a tag. In fact, they are not much different than others.

Maoists, in the western countries’ view seem to have metamorphosed from red-tagged terrorists to toothless refugees living in UN Charity. Perhaps western democratic governments have slowly and gradually reached to conclusion that theoretically they are terrorists who have now become toothless refugees. The previous logistic support to them seems to have dried up. They now seem to have been replaced by non-ideological based different regional agitators

Even the United States in its recent statement decided to continue to support Nepal even if Maoists join the government.

It is not only a question of economic aid and support to Nepal at its critical phase, there is a very serious challenge this country has to face in terms of maintaining national unity with peace, harmony and stability.

Nepal has lost its previous power composition and is in search of a new shape, which is not very clear to its leaders, elites and common people.

Many countries have passed though similarly difficult transitions. Soon after the end of II world war, there was a difficult period for the industrialized countries of the west to reorganize social, economic and political interests.

After the disintegration of Soviet Union and during the democratic wave of 1990s, some countries reorganized themselves remaining intact while others got disintegrated in the process. Countries like Poland, Hungry and Bulgaria remained intact; while Czechoslovakia and Yugoslavia were disintegrated into several parts.

“Whatever contents of disintegration were injected in the body politic of Nepal, it has yet endured all the hardships and challenges of disintegration because of a long history of emotional integration between regions and communities of this county. Even in this communist dominated Loktantra, the monarchy still has acceptability as one of the factor of integration though it has been left out of power in state authority,” said the analyst.

Despite the recent regional turmoil, political crisis and uncertainty, there are silver lining in the horizon for prosperity and development for Nepal. Thanks to the support of western developed countries, Nepal is not alone when it is walking through difficult transitional period.

“If obstructions are not created from any direction, Nepal has enormous chances to rebuild its economy and infrastructures, popular and accountable government as well as vibrant economy. Whatever deficiencies are in the leadership, friends of Nepal tackle that wisely and skillfully,” said the analyst. “Problem in Nepal may enlarge into a bigger dimension if it is not addressed promptly and properly.”

(Editor’s Note: Nepalis, wherever they live, as well as friends of Nepal around the globe are requested to contribute their views/opinions/recollections etc. on issues concerning present day Nepal to the Guest Column of Nepalnews. Length of the article should not be more than 1,000 words and may be edited for the purpose of clarity and space. Relevant photos as well as photo of the author may also be sent along with the article. Please send your write-ups to editors@mos.com.np)

2 comments:

Bolorunduro said...

I like your analysis.
Good one!

Ibikunle,
www.ibikunle.blogspot.com

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