It was possibly the most momentous year in the democratic history of Nepal. The year 2017 will be long remembered for the three sets of the constitutionally-mandated elections that marked the formal start of the implementation of the new charter.
With the local, provincial and federal elections now complete, the protracted political transition that started with the signing of the Comprehensive Peace Accord (CPA) in 2006 is also over. This is why the country has so much to look forward as it enters 2018. It was not a coincidence that going into the three elections, all the major political forces made economic progress their number one election agenda.
That is what people want, and that is what their elected representatives must deliver in 2018—and beyond. Henceforth political parties will be judged less on the strength of their political agendas and more on whether they have credible plans to economically empower nearly 30 million Nepalis. Good plans will not be enough though.
Only with concrete results will their electorates be convinced. Will every Nepali have access to quality education and healthcare? Will the new government be able to create new jobs? How will Nepal attract both tourists and investments? These will be the kind of yardsticks with which people will increasingly judge their elected representatives.
With the left alliance getting an absolute majority—and especially in the event of the expected merger of CPN-UML and CPN (Maoist Center)—Nepal is finally poised to have a stable government, perhaps even one that lasts for full five years. With investors secure about the stability of polity and policy, Nepal can expect quality investment to flow in. Five years of an uninterrupted one-party rule will also help expedite existing big-ticket infrastructure projects like additional international airports, Kathmandu-Tarai fast-track and the long-delayed east-west postal road.
There is also now a realistic chance of bringing into Nepal the Chinese railway that is being extended up to the Nepal-Tibet border by 2020. If this railway can really connect China with Kathmandu, Pokhara, and Lumbini, as is being envisioned, it will be a major step in the realization of Nepal’s old dream of acting as a ‘vibrant economic bridge’ between India and China. This is why 2018 should also be a year that Nepal strives to bring Indian rail lines into Nepal and possibly link them with the Chinese lines here. This is not improbable with New Delhi in a mood for course-correction.
So people have high hopes for 2018. But these hopes will come true only if the dispute over government formation is quickly settled; the Deuba government steps down and is replaced by a government that has the new mandate without any further ado. Sher Bahadur Deuba has won himself many admirers by successfully holding the three elections.
He must not squander this goodwill and forever taint his political legacy, by now trying to desperately cling on. If the government formation process is completed smoothly and all seven provinces are up and running, quickly, only then will Nepal’s big dreams come true. If 2017 was momentous for the elections, we believe 2018 can be as momentous as the year that put Nepal firmly on the path of lasting peace and prosperity. On this optimistic note, we would like to wish all our valued readers a very happy and prosperous 2018.