With swearing-in of Dor Mani Paudel as the chief minister of Province 3, the country has formally and finally embarked on much awaited federal journey, that has not only brought a lot of promises in devolution of powers from Kathmandu to the periphery but is also fraught with several challenges. Two months after the results of the provincial assembly elections, the governor of Province 3 Anuradha Koirala administered oath of office to Paudel, who became the first person to assume the position that had never been in practice before. Paudel has also formed the cabinet by appointing CPN-UML’s Keshav Sthapit as Physical Infrastructure Minister and Salikram Jammakattel of CPN (Maoist Center) as Internal Affairs Minister on Monday. Remaining six provinces are set to form the governments by this weekend.
This marks a milestone in Nepal’s transition to federal democratic republic from the unitary system the country had practiced for years. And as such, there might be confusions regarding jurisdiction of provinces and shared powers of federal, provincial and local governments granted to them by the constitution. The possible dispute over utilization of natural resources can be resolved only if all three levels of governments work in good faith and put people’s interests first. We have a number of examples of inter-provincial disputes in other federal countries, which have not only impeded smooth functioning of these states but also hampered their developments. It is extremely important for the state governments to work with great care from the day one.
One of the biggest concerns has been managing the budget to keep three-tier governments up and running. Experts have warned that if the new dispensation goes about in the distribution spree without caring for its impact on economy, we might soon become bankrupt. Even before the three governments take shape, there have been reports of the new leaders involved in massive embezzlement of budgetary resources in buying expensive cars and raising perks for the office bearers at the local levels. This has not only dampened people’s expectations from the local units but also raised question mark about whether these bodies will be able to deliver as per the constitutional requirements. Provincial governments will face similar criticism if they are not accountable and indulge in misuse of resources. We will need billions to run the provincial governments, which will be really challenging for our cash-starved economy. Thus the provincial governments will have to ensure at least two things. First, they need to be economical in spending for perks and allowances and they need to keep the cabinet size as small as possible. Second, provincial governments need to compete with each other to ensure greater and effective development of respective provinces and provide services with ease. Their success will be tested on this basis. Failing on this test will be costly both for the people and the new system for which we fought so long and hard.