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House dissolution erases Oli’s prosperity mantra, keeping key bills in limbo

Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli addresses the House of Representatives meeting, sitting on the rostrum, on Wednesday, May 19, 2020.

Last week, the European Commission updated its air safety list. Like other years, the list did not change the status of Nepal or any of its airlines. It has been the case since 2013. While the EU did commend the Nepal government on the work it has put in to improve safety standards, its governing body, the European Commission, however, has refrained from letting Nepali airlines fly in the European skies. It says the Nepali aviation sector does not meet its standards.

According to Rajan Pokharel, the Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal (CAAN) Director-General, Nepal and its carriers could have been removed from the list had the Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal Bill and the Air Service Authority of Nepal Bill been passed. The EU had said that two bills could have been a positive step towards aviation safety.

Ever since Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli decided to dissolve the House of Representatives, tons of bills like the two aviation bills are now in limbo. With that, there is no possibility of the bills undergoing clause-wise discussion in parliamentary committees, a preliminary step to get them issued as acts.

Dormancy of national importance

According to the spokesperson at the Parliament Secretariat, Roj Nath Pandey, all registered bills in the House of Representatives after the dissolution of the House have become dormant. He says that bills registered in the National Assembly, however, are still active. But if the Supreme Court reinstates the House, all the bills will be active, Pandey says.

File image: The Parliament building of Nepal

With the parliament dissolved, even the bills that are of national importance cannot be brought forward as an ordinance. With many projects dependent on various bills that were being registered in the lower house, it is likely that the financial development of the country will take a few steps backwards.

Bills related to consumer rights are also stuck in parliament. Some of these bills are likely to improve economic and administrative arrangement than what is now. Many say this has also affected day-to-day activities of the government as bills related to the financial and economical developments are also in limbo.

Experts believe that PM Oli has shot himself on the foot as his decision to dissolve the parliament will have a lasting impact on the financial development of the country, which has suffered a lot due to Covid-19.

Former finance secretary Shanta Raj Subedi says this will also affect the government’s projected five-year plans. “This is like taking one step forward and three steps back. This is disastrous,” he says.

He further states that various bills that were in the parliament were paving the way for Nepal to become a developing nation by 2030 with double-digit economic growth. “All of that is going to take a hit. The PM’s slogan of ‘Prosperous Nepal, Happy Nepalis’ will just remain a slogan,” he says.

Subedi adds that if the elections are not held on time, it will affect the economic growth of the country. 

Other crucial bills

He gives the example of the Public Procurement Act 2007. A proposal to amend the bill had been registered on May 1. But, it did not even make to any of the parliamentary committee hearings.

The government wants to amend the bill as it felt that a lot of development work had been put on hold because of it. It wants to change the archaic rule that gives projects to the lowest bidder. The new amendments had the provision to only give 5 per cent of the bid amount upfront from 10 per cent. The new amendment had a provision that the amount would only be handed after the contractor provided a working plan which initially had to be signed on by the concerned authority. In order to push contractors to complete the work on time, the bill also had an amendment which would put contractors who did not complete the work on time in the government’s blacklist for five years. 

The Railway Act is also in limbo. While discussions were being held at a parliamentary committee of the National Assembly, no decision has been made so far, which has caused confusion as a train has already been bought to operate on the Janakpur – Jayanagar route.

The Information Technology Bill is also facing a similar fate. The Bill was registered at the Parliament Secretariat on February 14, 2019. The bill aims to replace the Electronic Transactions Act and address issues around IT management. There had been concerns that the proposed bill curtailed freedom of speech. There was a talk that it would be changed, however, lawmakers have not and now will not be able to discuss the bill. This has also halted the government plan to promote digital payment in the country.

File: A meeting of House of Representatives

Likewise, the proposal to amend the Competition Promotion and Market Protection Act has also taken a hit. The amendment aimed to tackle down monopoly in the transport business and ensure that consumers would not be cheated. However, the amendment is yet to be formalised and the bill is yet to become an act.

Bills related to quality control of food items and standard measurement have also been stuck in parliament. Consequently, the consumers and the general citizens of Nepal are likely to face a lot of problems in the future. 

The drinking water and sanitation bill is also facing similar issues. The bill aims to make it mandator to seek permission if anyone wants to start a water or sanitation business. The bill is yet to become an act.

The amendment to the Seed Act, which was under consideration, has not made it past that phase. The amendment aims to test the DNA of the seeds that are being imported every year. Farmers are expected to suffer as the bill has not become an act yet.

The new Electricity Bill had been forwarded to the Federal Parliament for ratification after being finalised by the Office of the Prime Minister and Council of Ministers in April. However, no discussion was held regarding the bill. The bill aimed to deal with issues like electricity production, transmission and distribution. It aimed to create separate bodies for all. 

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