Nepal’s Parliament has just voted to gift each of its members Rs60 million to ‘do development’ in their constituencies. Now that official profligacy has been sanctioned by the federal legislature, all we citizens can do is follow the money and keep track of where it is spent.
On the bright side, this gives us an opportunity to gauge the impact of our tax rupees so we can vote properly in the upcoming election by rewarding those who perform and punishing those who don’t. Rs60 million per year can and will buy a lot of votes, but doing good work should also get good candidates elected. That is what democracy should mean.
As the joke goes: one day a jet plane and a rocket had a conversation. The plane wanted to know why it had to run down a long runway to pick up speed and finally take off, while the rocket was able to shoot straight up into space. The rocket tells the jet: “You will know when they light a fire under you.” We need to make our politicians feel the heat.
A better Nepal is possible if we can hold our politicians and their political parties accountable, and vote them out at election time if they are not. We need to build trust in the system, and continue to believe that prosperity is possible through the people we elect.
Read also: Grassroots democracy is delivering development , Kishor Pradhan
Turnout in Nepal’s elections has always been high, but there is a sense of disillusionment and many are already saying that they will not vote again because it seems to make no difference. The Election Commission has its work cut out. It could start by announcing the date for the next elections for all three levels of government, which are scheduled for some time in 2022: that would focus the minds of our politicos like nothing else.
A firm date for elections would give political parties enough time to democratise themselves. They need to carry out, submit and publish their annual audit reports as all Nepali organisations are required to do. We need to know the sources of the parties’ income and how they spend the money.
Read also: Dozers and Nepal’s development, Anil Chitrakar
They may also need time to pass a new law on how a Nepali political party should be governed and managed. A section of social media is encouraging people to launch political parties rather than invest in a business because they can prosper quicker.
Then there is the issue of the declaration of assets and property by candidates. All holders of public positions are required to declare their wealth. Announcing the election dates now will give the government, voters and the police time to verify this information so hopefuls can file their candidacy.
The office of the auditor general will need every accountant or chartered accountant to help check the financial history of the candidates, their partners and their businesses. Many jobs will be created in the process.
We now have a new Election Commissioner who needs to show that he means business. He cannot be seen as a former bureaucrat just taking notes and orders from politicians. He is in a position to ensure that Nepal has a real chance at electing good people and if he does so, history will remember him.
Mark Twain once said that if elections could change anything, those in power would never allow us to vote. We have to prove Uncle Mark wrong. We have to send out the message that honest, hard working, skilled and results-oriented Nepalis have a fair chance to govern this country. Mediocrity has to be replaced by excellence.
Nepal’s democracy will only thrive if the opposition plays its part. But the opposition is feeble, usually seen to be indifferent and perhaps even colluding with the powers that be. Announcing firm election dates will help light that critical fire under their bottoms and hopefully propel them into action. So many scandals, so many corruption cases, so much mismanagement, so much poverty, so much out-migration of the young, and the opposition seems to not see or care.
We pay the opposition to oppose and we are not getting value for our money. Democracy is not cheap and every rupee that goes to keep it alive is money diverted away from more critical services for the people.
It is the period leading up to elections that seems to bring out the best in people. We need to prove that the next round of votes will make a positive difference in the life of the average Nepali. The rulers and opposition must engage the growing numbers of young voters, or be ready to become irrelevant in our young republic.
Read also: Elected contractors, Nepali Times
Anil Chitrakar is President of Siddharthinc. ½ Full is his fortnightly column in Nepali Times.