Friday, 31 March, 2023

Three-tier elections govt’s top priority: PM Deuba


The government led by Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba is completing its first 100 days on Wednesday. Formed after prolonged political crisis, the government has the priority to contain the COVID-19 pandemic, provide relief to the victims of floods and landslides and hold elections of federal, provincial and local governments in time. In this backdrop, Bishnu Subedi, Executive Chairman of Gorkhapatra Corporation, Bhimsen Thapaliya, Acting Editor-in-Chief and Modnath Dhakal, Reporter of The Rising Nepal talked to PM Deuba at PM's official residence in Baluwatar on Tuesday.

Your government has completed the first 100 days in power. You were appointed Prime Minister in a special situation. How do you evaluate the performance of the government?
The government has successfully completed its honeymoon period but I don't claim it brought many results. Present government is formed by the alliance of five political parties – Nepali Congress, NCP (Maoist Centre), NCP (Unified Socialist), Janata Samajwadi Party Nepal and Rastriya Janamorcha Nepal. It took some time to get the Cabinet in full shape. I sense there are problems in some parties, which I have taken for granted. I believe we will move forward together. I do not claim that much work has been done but we have brought a lot of things on the track. For example, when this government was formed, the country was reeling under the threat of the COVID-19 pandemic. It is under control now. The United Kingdom has removed Nepal from the red zone. All countries have helped Nepal or promised assistance. The World Health Organization (WHO) has congratulated Nepal on its success in controlling the coronavirus. The most important thing is that this terrible epidemic has been brought under control, with the great support of everyone, including the doctors of Nepal. Now people have returned to their profession and business. We must take this as an achievement. The border to the south of Nepal is open while the air service always remained open. We have now made arrangements to test COVID-19 at the border.

Formed after six-month long political uncertainty, people have high hopes from this government. Has the government been able to meet those aspirations?
Nepal is a small country and has limited resources while the people have lots of aspirations. But this government will try to utilise the available resources to fulfil the development needs. We are planning to conduct periodic elections in time. We want to set the rule of law in line with the constitution. The majority for the government is garnered under my leadership by forging an alliance with other major political parties. It was formed on the basis of constitutional provisions after repeated efforts of then PM KP Sharma Oli to dissolve the Parliament. The government is formed as per the people’s will – it is formed with both the mandamus of the Supreme Court and public will.

When you took the leadership, the country was under the grip of the coronavirus, public life was chaotic and economic activities had been ground to a halt, but today the country is back to normalcy. How did it happen?

The normalcy became possible due to the cooperation of all stakeholders and public awareness. Public confidence in terms of awareness, safety and health is enhanced. However, in some areas people are not undergoing test for the COVID-19 fearing that they should stay in isolation. So more awareness should be created. We have talked to China, India and the USA’s Johnson and Johnson to procure additional vaccines against the COVID-19 pandemic. Many friendly countries have supported us during the difficult times. I am hopeful that by May 2022, all Nepalis would be fully vaccinated. Meanwhile, we have decided to provide food and cash relief to the patients of various chronic diseases and victims of floods and landslides.

In the meantime, there was some confusion and imbalance in Nepal's foreign relations. What initiatives are being taken to make relations with neighbours and allies more balanced and harmonious?
All foreign relations will be maintained by keeping national interest of the country at the centre. We have an open border with India and there is people-to-people exchange at the greater level so maintaining good relations with the southern neighbour is in our interest. Nepalis go to India for work and pilgrimage. We have more intensive public, cultural and commercial relations with it. Likewise, we enjoy good relations with China as well. Having good relations with these two neighbours is our need while it is also equally important to have cordial relations with other friendly nations. Nepal is graduating to the 'developing country' status from the Least Developed Country (LDC). We have maintained good international relations with friendly countries and international organisations.

After the formation of the government under your leadership, foreign and domestic investors and entrepreneurs also seem enthusiastic. What are the government's policies and priorities to encourage them?
The Nepali Congress believes in liberal economy. Other parties have also followed suit. The competition promoted by the liberal economy helps to make the market dynamic and benefits the consumers. Government should not involve in trade and business. It should promote and facilitate the private sector businesses and concentrate on essential sectors like education, health and food.

The erstwhile caretaker government made political appointments in absence of the parliament. Is any initiative being taken to correct or legalize them?
All constitutional appointments need not be cancelled. Political appointments are common and necessary in some areas. The government will make changes where necessary and where there had been illegal appointments. The government is analysing the situation and necessary interventions will be made.
There were attempts to politicize the MCC's development grant assistance to be provided by the US government. There is still some confusion and controversy regarding the implementation of the

MCC agreement. When will it end?
The Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) Nepal compact is just a development grant. Why should a country like Nepal reject such a generous support? I don't see United States' conspiracy behind the extension of this cash assistance to Nepal. It is in our interest. There are some elements in Nepal who are politicizing the MCC. The USA has already said that it is ready to amend the provisions that are not in favour of Nepal and the MCC wouldn't be above the national law. It will be governed by the internal laws as the loans and grants of the World Bank, International Monetary Fund and Asian Development Bank are regulated.

Is there any problem in the pace of the government due to the compulsion to take every step heeding the demands, expectations, grievances and dissatisfactions of all the partners in the alliance?
The government will now work in a full-fledged manner. Since the government is represented by the political parties having different ideologies and priorities, there will certainly be some problems but politics is about finding solutions amid challenges. We will maintain the alliance and move forward with the necessary agenda. Elections of all three levels are the responsibility and priority of the government.

There is continuous obstruction in the parliament by the opposition. What is the initiative of the government to run the House by taking the main opposition party into confidence?
I will hold dialogue with the main opposition to run the House smoothly. I will go to meet KP Sharma Oli myself to ease the tensions seen at the House. The NC believes in holding protest programmes but not in obstructing the parliament. The House must move ahead with its business and responsibilities. Political parties believing in multiparty democracy should not obstruct the House. The opposition has the opportunity to raise the issues and hold discussions about them in the House. The obstruction is doing good to none.

Do you have anything to say to the countrymen?
COVID-19, floods and landslides have troubled people’s life across the country. I will make an inspection of the flood-hit areas soon. National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Authority will be enabled with requisite resources and expertise to mitigate disaster risks and carry out post-disaster rescue and relief activities.