Nepal Today

Monday, July 8, 2013


Kathmandu, 9 July: A motorcyclist and a pillion rider were killed
overnight when the two wheeler  rammed into a parked tractoron a road in Rautahat.
The accident occurred  at Birta Chowk on the Gaur- Chandranigahapur road section on
Rambabu Shah and Mukesh Shah were killed, according to police.
Kathmandu, 9 July: The Finance Ministry has decided to come up with a budget sans ‘populist’ and new programmes. There will not be major  changes in tax structure either, Prithvi Man SHrestha writes in The Kathmandu Post..
The Finance Ministry reached this conclusion after a meeting on Monday with President Ram Baran Yadav where he advised Finance Minister Shankar Prasad Koirala not to touch issues that could have a long-term impact.
Following the ministry’s move to introduce the new programmes in the budget, a section of political parties had met the President and expressed their concern that such a budget would serve the interest of certain political parties before the election. Besides, it has also left uncertainty over the presentation of a full budget.
However, the confusion over the budget was cleared after two rounds of meeting at the President’s Office on Monday. A knowledgeable source said that there was no talk regarding the type of budget. “The ministry has understood it as the green signal to go for a full budget,” said a ministry source.
Earlier in the day, Finance Secretary Shanta Raj Subedi and Chiranjivi Nepal, advisor to the Finance Ministry, briefed the President’s advisors about the budget. Later in the evening, Finance Minsiter Koirala gave a detailed power point presentation to President Yadav on the budget, which has been prepared giving priority to energy, agriculture, infrastructure and private sector.
According to sources at both the President’s Office and Finance Ministry, the President advised the Finance Minister to introduce ‘controversy free’ budget without any political programmes, reminding him not to forget the responsibility of the election government. “The President reminded minister Koirala and his team that the new budget should not be a liability to the new government that will come after the Constituent Assembly (CA) election,” said Rajendra Dahal, President’s press adviser.
While briefing the President, Koirala said that he was fully aware of the political situation of the country and that the new budget would not make any major policy departure but focus on public’s concerns. “Even the new programmes will be extended version of the old ones,” said the ministry source.
Having received the green signal from the President, the Finance Ministry said the budget would not make major changes in tax structures. Even without changing tax structure, the ministry believes the revenue collection will increase by 15-20 percent in next fiscal year and revenue growth is expected to be kept at 21 percent. The budget will allocate around Rs 18 billion for the election purpose.
The government plans to keep the economic growth rate at 5-6 percent after the Nepal Rastra Bank projected the growth rate at 5.5 percent, according to a ministry source.  It plans to keep inflation at 7.5 percent.
Kathmandu, 9 July: Nepal Airlines Corporation (NAC) is scrambling to send the first instalment of the payment for the two Airbus aircraft it has ordered after the central bank refused to provide it foreign exchange facility. According to Tourism Ministry officials, Nepal Rastra Bank (NRB) has asked NAC to get the Finance Ministry’s
approval first, Sagam Prasain writes in The Kathmandu Post.. 
On June 27, NAC confirmed its order for two Airbus A320-200 jets by signing an aircraft purchase agreement with the European plane maker. Under the deal, the national flag carrier had pledged to send the first instalment (8 percent of the catalogue price) within the next five working days. The first instalment amounts to US$ 14.7 million.
Ministry officials said that the payment deadline expired on July 4. NAC has borrowed Rs 10 billion from the Employees’ Provident Fund (EPF) to expand its fleet. The carrier has not been able to buy a plane since 1978.
“NAC has requested Airbus for an extension of the deadline,” said ministry officials. They added that Airbus would start the manufacturing process only after it receives the advance money. “This could delay the delivery of the jets.” As per the agreement, Airbus will deliver the first aircraft in February 2015 and the second in April.
Meanwhile, an NRB source said that the exchange facility had not been given because NAC had not submitted all the necessary paperwork. “We have asked NAC to fulfil the entire process that includes obtaining the Finance Ministry’s consent and submitting the decision of its board to send the instalment,” said the official. “NAC has to observe the foreign exchange laws.”
However, Tourism Ministry officials said that NAC would not need the Finance Ministry’s go-ahead as the government is acting as guarantor for its fleet expansion project. On May 30, a Cabinet meeting directed the Finance Ministry to sanction a loan for NAC to procure jets.
A senior official of the Finance Ministry said that the foreign exchange is generally available based on the recommendation of the ministry concerned.
Nepal’s venerable airline has been trying to expand its fleet for the last three and a half decades, but something has gone wrong every time as if the plan was jinxed. Past aircraft purchase attempts have ended in fiasco with airline officials getting into trouble with anti-graft bodies, parliamentary committees and various ministries of the government over procedural lapses.


Amidst disagreements regarding key appointments within the UCPN (Maoist), Vice-Chairman Baburam Bhattarai stepped down from his post. Bhattarai’s announcement comes just as political parties are attempting to bring the dissident Mohan Baidya-led CPN-Maoist into the ongoing Constituent Assembly (CA) election process. In this context, the Kathmandu Post’s Kamal Dev Bhattarai and Darshan Karki spoke to Mumaram Khanal, a former Central Committee of the then CPN (Maoist) turned political analyst, about the reasons behind Bhattarai’s move, the CPN-Maoist’s opposition to polls and the impact current developments in the UCPN (Maoist) could have on national politics.
How do you view Baburam Bhattarai stepping down as vice-chairman of the UCPN (Maoist)?
Going by the norms, procedures and timing he chose to step down, I think it is a publicity stunt. Issues of handing over leadership to the next generation have definitely been raised within the UCPN (Maoist) but they were limited to talk and never practiced. So at a time like this, when the intra-party feud regarding appointments had reached its pinnacle and gone beyond manageable limits, Bhattarai’s resignation to “promote the new generation” does not tally.
Are you implying that this move is a manifestation of disagreements between Bhattarai and Prachanda?
Yes. Bhattarai has repeatedly said that he was in the opposition for 25 years. What he means is “I should lead the party now” or “I should be Chairman”. Party cadres also talk of last August when Prachanda told Bhattarai to get ready to lead the party. As long as Mohan Baidya was in the party, there was a balance. With Baidya quitting the party, Bhattarai felt that his position in the party does not befit him. His resignation is an indication that he was no longer satisfied with the vice-chairman position he shared with Narayan Kaji Shrestha.
How will this affect intra-party dynamics?
There cannot be a UCPN (Maoist) without Bhattarai. It will be divided and disintegrate. Two tendencies have persisted in the party. The first was the somewhat autocratic politics or ideology pursued by Mohan Baidya and the other was the democratic tendencies of Baburam Bhattarai. Prachanda’s role had always been to balance the two. So a UCPN (Maoist) without Bhattarai is unimaginable.
How will it affect national politics and elections?
There are no disagreements on political agendas within the UCPN (Maoist). It is only a struggle for party posts and prestige. And it is a personal struggle, where each person seems to be fighting against everyone else. After adopting parliamentary democracy, all party members have realised that posts within the party result in material benefits. Thereby, internal feuds have centered around those posts. It will definitely affect national politics. First, the party has already been divided once. Second, it projects the UCPN (Maoist) as weak when elections are just around the corner. It only fuels worries that the party is not ready for elections.
Moving on, how do you see the activities of the CPN-Maoist and how will they affect elections?
The CPN-Maoist talks of a 'people’s constitution' but it has not articulated the political steps to achieve this. There is confusion in that regard. But it seems to be clear about wanting to disband the current government and establishing people’s rule. Looking at experiences around the world, such an aim has only yielded two outcomes. Either such forces are vanquished by the state or they have joined politics through peaceful talks. The Baidya faction has not clarified its current stance in that regard. But it has made clear that its next steps will not be a revival of the insurgency.  It instead talks of insurrection. But an insurrection is not possible through the initiative of a single political party.
What is the difference between an insurgency and an insurrection and where is the CPN-Maoist headed?
An insurrection means that the CPN-Maoist will definitely not go for another armed struggle. But as the party was only formed recently, it is clearly afraid of what will happen if it goes to elections. So it might not take part in elections as long as it is afraid of the outcome. However, if other political parties give it space in national politics and admit that it has an important role in the balance of power and if the government shows some flexibility, there is a possibility that the CPN-Maoist will still join national politics.
Does this mean that the Baidya party will agree to go for CA elections and accept the agenda of making a constitution through the CA?
The argument that it is not necessary to hold elections is not just an argument offered only by the Baidya party. Civil society and professional organisations have also made this argument. A constitution can be made through other means. We have already had a CA that could not make a constitution. Now, we are adopting the same procedure and expecting a constitution to be made. Only political decisions remained to be agreed upon in the last days of the erstwhile CA. So these political decisions must be agreed upon first. If we go for another CA election without agreeing on these contentious issues, a constitution will not be made. Issues of federalism and power sharing must be sorted first. As far as ownership is concerned, a powerful commission can be made to look into all the decisions made by the thematic committees in the  former CA. Once this is done, we can hold elections to the parliament and local bodies. Another CA will only prolong the transition. It cannot promulgate a constitution. Therefore, the issue raised by the Baidya party is genuine.
Are you suggesting that elections are not necessary?
Democratic processes are derailed in the absence of elections. They need to be brought back on track. Elections are a must for those who want democratic institutions to function. But holding or not holding elections is not the definition of a democracy. Without an answer to what the elections will do, a political environment for holding elections will not be created. In politics, there is possibility for flexibility no matter how rigid the demands might seem.
Will the CPN-Maoist ever let go of their demands?
The CPN-Maoist may not let go of its demands because its opposition to elections has placed it at the centre of national politics. The party wasn’t very popular before and there was no context for it either. But once the talk of elections began, the popular belief is that it will disrupt elections. So why would it let go? It will use this opportunity in the next three-four months to build its political strength and grow in size. However, its bottom line could be flexible.
As even the UCPN (Maoist) is not certain about elections, is there a possibility of change in government under the pretext of bringing Baidya onboard?
It is possible. If elections are not held on November 19, then this government will not remain. If elections are held on that exact date, then Baidya will not take part in elections, even if purely to save face. But if elections are postponed by five days to a week, this government will remain and even Baidya might take part in elections after a few days of face-saving. If pushed back by three-five months, this government won’t exist.
Do the large parties want the CPN-Maoist to take part in elections?
They are all looking at ways to make the CPN-Maoist a pawn for elections. The Nepali Congress wants the CPN-Maoist to take part in the elections by collaborating with smaller communist parties so that votes between it and the UCPN (Maoist) are divided. The CPN-UML wants the Baidya faction to take part in elections but only as part of an electoral alliance with it. The UCPN (Maoist) wants Baidya to either denounce elections completely or contest elections in an alliance with the mother party.  So other parties are trying to fit the CPN-Maoist into their electoral agenda. All of this has resulted in the recent focus on the Baidya party.



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