Provinces still struggle to function properly

Kathmandu, Feb. 5: The provincial assemblies in the seven provinces have completed the first six years of their life. With the creation of seven provinces on September 20, 2015, and elections for the provincial assemblies held on November 26 and December 7, 2017, the PAs were created on  February 4, 2018 

The provincial governments were formed about two weeks after the elections, for example, the first provincial government in Karnali was formed on February 15, 2018. The PAs are celebrating February 4 as their foundation day. 

The provinces have been facing criticism for being a burden to the taxpayers’ money and have largely remained ineffective in terms of government and development initiatives. They have also been labeled as a ‘leader management platform’ for the political parties as they have the scope to offer opportunities to more of their cadres. 

However, experts on federalism maintain that the cost is not a burden as the provincial structure can be managed from the resources that have been saved from scrapping the zonal and district structures that existed before the country adopted federalism. 

Meanwhile, the Rastriya Swatantra Party (RSP) which rose to the national political in a very brief period before the second federal elections in November 2022, is cashing on also the anti-province stance and opting for two-tier federalism. Even the larger political parties have expressed doubtful opinions about the future of the provinces. 

Amidst such a volatile scenario, provinces have been just an extended arm of the powerful political parties at the centre. While provinces cannot act independently from the federal government and wagged their tail at the signal of their party at the centre, larger parties have also left no stone unturned to damage the reputation and operation of the provinces. As a result, in bizarre political exposition, Koshi province witnessed six chief ministers in the past six years while Bagmati had four CMs during the same period. These two provinces have continuously been the power playing field for the parties at the centre.

Similarly, the economic performance of the provinces has also been pathetic. They have been continuously relying on the centre and local level for financial resources. Even then, they never could achieve their annual revenue and expenditure target, a trend that the federal government has been struggling to come out from. 

On the contrary, the federal government has made the provinces handicapped by not making umbrella laws such as acts to manage civil servants and security personnel that would govern  the legal frameworks of the sub-national governments. Intergovernmental councils have turned into a sort of ritual and they only had meetings, not the progress. 

Almost six years after the formation of the provincial governments, the federal government has initiated the work to unbundle/detail the list of exclusive and concurrent powers of the federation, province and local level as provisioned by the constitution of the country. 

Speaking at a programme organised on the occasion of the PA’s establishment day in Karnali Province, its Chief Minister, Raj Kumar Sharma, expressed ire at not getting full freedom to exercise the unitary rights of the subnational government. 

Stating that there was propaganda against the provinces by some regressive forces, CM Sharma said, “How can you swim in deep water when you are thrown into it with your hands and legs tied. I don’t if saying this is appropriate, but the situation has been the same for us,” our Surkhet Correspondent quoted the CM. 

But speaking at the same programme, the Leader of the opposition party in the province, CPN-UML, Yam Lal Kandel, said that the performance of the development budget and works in the province has been terrifying. 

Similarly, CM of Madhes Province Saroj Kumar Yadav said that the provinces are lagging in their performance due to the failure of the federal government to build the required legal and policy framework in time. 

“Until and unless the provinces get a chance to fully exercise their rights, the federalism will have no meaning,” our Dhanusha correspondent reported CM Yadav saying at the similar programme in Janakpurdham, “Although we have not run publicity campaigns to inform our good works, there have been many good works in the interest of people.”

Speaking at the programme, the Parliamentary Party Leader of Nepali Congress in Madhes, Krishna Yadav, said that there have been various conspiracies to defame federalism, especially the provinces. 

Likewise, the CM of Lumbini, Dilli Bahadur Chaudhary, also stressed on providing more powers to the provinces. 

According to our Deukhuri Correspondent, addressing a programme in Deukhuri to mark the PA day, CM Chaudhary urged all not to doubt on the effective implementation of federalism and sought the support of all stakeholders in this drive. Lumbini announced a public holiday in the province which only drew further criticism from the business community and general people.

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