Thursday, 7 December, 2023

Making States Effective

Mukti Rijal


Nepal is undergoing the process of implementing federalism. The process related with execution of federalism has begun from building new institutions and structures at the federal State and local level. Though Nepal has some experiences in running national and local administration, exposure to new learning has to be initiated at the State level. At the States we are at the initial stage as at least four States are yet to be named through a consensual process and their administrative capitals have to be agreed and decided. Several institutions envisaged in the constitution are yet to be created, adequate staff and functionaries are yet to be recruited and deployed to make State administration functional.
Nepal's federal structures are principally based on cooperation and collaboration. Furthermore, the architecture of the Nepalese federalism is set and shaped in such a way that each sphere of the government – federal, State and local- is constitutionally competent to use state authority as defined and allocated in the constitution of Nepal. The government is constituted as national, State and local spheres which are distinctive, interdependent and inter related to each other. Moreover, the constitution vests legislative authority in the national, State and local parliament. This makes the country a multilevel federation where each sphere of the government is equally protected and enabled by the constitution to exercise jurisdiction allocated in the respective schedules. The constitution allocates and distributes competencies and mandates in schedules as some competencies are exclusive whereas others are shared and concurrent.
Needless to repeat, the design of the State- the intermediate sphere of the government in the Nepalese federal scheme – is entirely new and novel. The State structures as mentioned above lack any past institutional precedents and functional experiences to draw from. This presents critical challenges in making States both institutionally and organisationally viable and operable as everything has to be constructed from scratch.
As a consequence, the federal government tends to ride roughshod, and legislate significant policy decisions at the centre unilaterally. These actions of the central government are found oftentimes prejudicing and undercutting the jurisdictional competence of the State and local government, among others.
The State structures and institutions do provide rational and sustenance to the federal organisation of the state. In essential term, the State structures make it constitutively different from the unitary organisation of the state. However, an inadequacy in their institutional and organisational capacity and an absence of an efficient administrative apparatus to implement functions has rendered State administration unable to deliver results both in terms of development and governance outcomes.
Moreover, several issues bordering on contention and controversies between federal and State government have surfaced currently. These disputes can be attributed, to an extent, to the capacity deficits of the State assemblies to comprehend, claim and legislate policies and enact laws to address the needs and priorities at the State. The current tendencies do indicate that the federal government is seemingly working to promote a kind of centralised polity. The central government has enacted laws infringing upon the State legislative authority allegedly due to lack of institutional capacities to perform and deliver. Though the new State structures are gradually assuming a concrete form, their successes in promoting values of federalisation, democratisation and delivery of effective governance will remain uncertain if the State parliaments are not capacitated to exercise their legislative sovereignty entrusted by the constitution. The legislators in State parliament are drawn from a diverse socio-economic and cultural backgrounds. And they have varying levels of education, exposures and experiences underlining the need for their capacity building.
State parliaments like the federal one need to carry out representative, deliberative and oversight functions which involve representing the needs and aspirations of their constituents in policy making. At times, they need to intercede with government on behalf of people with a view to holding the government to account for process and results of actions. For this, they need to be capacitated for the purpose of role internalisation to carry out their functions effectively through recourse to an appropriate strategies and methodologies including horizontal sharing of best practices between and among State assemblies. Learning events can be organised for State legislators who can in turn perform the role of peer mentor and resource person for other State legislators.
The State parliaments follow and operate their legislative functions and financial procedures through committees and sub committees that should better focus on building cross –partisan trust and carry out audit and oversight functions effectively. The State committees should be orientated to internalise their roles and provided deeper analytical support to enhance quality of their legislative function. The committees can be encouraged to build and enhance participatory process and mechanism to institute stakeholder's engagement in increasing public input into law making process.
The cross – State legislative networking between or among the State legislative committees should be established and promoted to work towards sharing good practices and experiences. Moreover, developing rapport and linkage with federal parliamentary committees with a view to advance and pursue jurisdictions of the States is also a important to ensure that the national parliament is aware of the State concerns and sensitivities.
Futher more, it is important to build skills in enhancing State capacity in tracking federal legislations, especially with a view to ascertain their consistency and conformity with competencies allocated in the constitution. It is also necessary to forge collaboration with association of local authorities to develop consistency and coherence in the legislations of the respective levels.

(Rijal, PhD, contributes regularly to TRN and writes on contemporary political, economic and governance issues. He can be reached at