Since 28th May 2020 when the budget of the fiscal year 2020/21 was unveiled, two hearsays flooded the social media, one seemed allied for the “democratic budget”, the other for “budget for status quo”. Student unions’ leaders, hundreds of communist cadres, including the spokesperson for the Nepal Communist Party Narayan Kaji Shrestha in National Assembly strongly asked to revoke point no. 166 of the budget speech, which asked the private schools to bear responsibility for improving community school, saying the point was not in compliance with the norms of the constitution that vividly mentions “committed to socialism” and is against the provision of Article 51 (h)(2) which shall urge the state to strengthen state funded education institutions and regulate private-invested ones.
Some politicians strongly believe it to be people’s budget, however, two ministers: the minister for education and the minister for agriculture development seemed already doomed of their expectations, says several media. Not only these, but the inclusion of most argued Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) Compact, an agreement of $500 million grant from the USA to a developing country, Nepal has also created a buzz of controversy among leaders even within the ruling party, NCP.
While the analysts spent time on predicting the scenario of the global political economy to be guided with “socialistic reformation” after the Covid-19 pandemic, our leaders seem following the same traditional suit of grasping donors, taking loans and grants as much as possible for the same course that existed throughout the budget history. Some believe even the ambitious, economic growth of 7 percent is not attainable, however, it is not impossible when the lockdown is eased for markets sooner rather later.
But this is not something an orthodox budgetary policy we expected from our comrades, we’re being diverted from the aimed “socialism”,an economic system, driven by needs where means of production lies more in the public and state ownership than private, as a joint multiparty consensus endorsed in the constitution-2015. Instead, we seem to be plunged into the pond of “dependency” because we’ve never awakened up from crises, time and again. Our comrades fall short from critical juncture. In saying so, what if our principles are wrong? What if socialism a myth? What if socialism being irrelevant in our soil?
This will only create one other crisis and a dearth of credibility on our epoch-long struggle and the achievements, the constitution-2015. But this has raised a big question mark amongst us, are we heading towards socialism? Are we creating a foundation for this building? Of course not, our policies seem in favor of what we don’t want to do, where we don’t want to move, the chaos that only turmoil our democracy, and pull us back to the old days.
According to Why nations fail, by Daron Acemoglu and James Robinsonour comrades seem falling short from the critical juncture this time and the extractive political and economic institutions for years. They’ve been given a mandate of full 5 years’ government terms with the third-largest party in Asia and the most powerful communist party ever in Nepali political history formed after merging erstwhile CPN-UML and the CPN (Maoist Centre) in 2018, nonetheless, the party leadership seems never awakened learning from crises: the massive earthquake 2015 and the Covid-19 pandemic 2020.
Another thing, the book says relevant is, political institutions being captured by a small group of elites who share powers and extract wealth enjoying within their circle that forbids new entrants, and lacks inclusiveness. The same skepticism triggered after the controversial speech of ministers where one denies being informed of the point no.166 in the budget speech and the other accepts the increased taxation on Electronic vehicles to the figure of 120-130%.This has raised concerns that the existing petroleum-vehicle markets do not want to accept newcomers and innovation.This itself faces an electric shock to the PM KP Oli’s statement in 2018 promised to make 20% electric vehicles by 2020 and completely replacing fossil fueled vehicles by 2050.There’s therefore, much to learn from the comrades from the other half of the world, for both taking critical juncture as an advantage and economic institutions being inclusive.
Back in 1948, when Israel was freed from the British Mandate and enjoyed being an autonomous state with a little population and same economic status as ours, the then earlier ruling party, Labor Party had come up with a socialist reformation, serious promises, commitments, and continuity on “kibbutzim” communities meaning “collective group” in Hebrew. Hundreds of kibbutzim are still a remarkable modality for us to look over for an egalitarian society, prioritized strength of modern agriculture and innovation, enjoying equal opportunities in education, health, employment, and social security.
In contrast, the USSR fell in 1991 because of the economy being more extractive in nature. Over the following years after the October revolution (1917), the USSR lacked freedom and inclusiveness, which cursed to be a dearth of the economy and continuity. Though no state in the present world is pure socialist, some comrades in Cuba, China, Vietnam, Russia, etc. have much to recall ours for timely reformation. The much of storytelling from capitalistic empires being falling during a crisis, these more-a-socialist states are widely acclaimed for the success in containing coronavirus and their bolstered social security schemes. These messages, clearly heed us to prioritize our efforts on sectors that are closely linked to the daily lives of people, like the education, the medical services, social security and make a serious note on reformation for the effective regulations of political and economic institutions for utilizing the strength of own resources, creating inclusiveness to all. For, our actions to the shared ideology, “socialism” be true on the real ground of the communes in need.
The writer is the president of Technical Students’ Association of Nepal (TSAN), Agriculture and Forestry University.
Published on 15 June 2020