Feb 032017
 

PM Dahal and his Cabinet just asked EC to start preparations for local elections in mid-May

The Cabinet decided on February 2nd to instruct the Election Commission to get things ready for local elections by mid-May. So, it finally announced at least an approximate election date. Will the elections happen for sure, though? Well, it’s hard not to be optimistic. However, there are still hurdles ahead, to say the least.

The last word from the United Democratic Madhesi Front (UDMF) is that they can’t go ahead with local polls whatsoever unless the Maoist-NC government’s proposal for amendment of the constitution – which is in favour of Madhesi demands – has been passed. The Madheshi Morcha (SLMM) even pledged just a few days ago that if local elections are announced without meeting their demands with respect to the constitution, they will return to violent protest. Continue reading »

Jan 242017
 

Will they make local elections happen in May? PM Dahal and Chief Election Commissioner, Yadav.

It’s hard to believe but if PM Dahal’s promises and recent actions are anything to go by, local elections might happen as early as in May – 20 years after the last local election was held in Nepal. Dahal just informed Chief Election Commissioner, Yadav, that he plans to announce the election date “in a few days”, and meanwhile the parliamentary State Affairs Committee just passed two election-related bills critical to going ahead with fresh local elections.

Huge obstacles in the way of local elections still exist – at least last time we checked – such as the dispute over delineation of provinces under the new constitution and the restructuring of local units. Will Dahal somehow make local elections happen now, nevertheless? Indeed, promises of local elections have been notoriously broken in the past. But optimism with a dash of caution could seem in order… (another update will follow soon).

Jan 172017
 

Waiting for the NRA’s reconstruction grant: one of 600,000+ households who still got little or nothing to rebuild their homes

The formation of Nepal Reconstruction Authority (NRA) in the fall of 2015 was as political as the creation of many other “high-level” commissions and agencies in Kathmandu. Barely had donors pledged over 4 billion dollars in reconstruction grants and loans before the main parties started to bicker over who was to chair the NRA. The CEO of the new agency would come to manage – together with the Prime Minister – a huge sum of money. Was it to be Nepali Congress’ (NC’s) man, someone closer to the UML, or maybe someone affiliated with the Maoist party, or…? Continue reading »

Oct 202016
 

Still waiting for the LBRC and the first local election since 1997: local politicians, here in Chitwan.

Still waiting for the LBRC and the first local election since 1997: local politicians, here in Chitwan.

Ever tried to contact a ministry by email and never get a reply? Well, many have, and now the chairman of the Local Bodies Restructuring Commission (LBRC) has too. Trying for a second time to write the Ministry of Local Development and Federal Affairs to get data on Ilakas – the areas supposed to form the territorial basis of Nepal’s future local bodies – without getting a reply, the LBRC is about to give up on time frames and deadlines. We can’t set a deadline with such lack of cooperation from the government, says an LBRC official. So, Continue reading »

Oct 072016
 

Balananda Poudel, chief of the Local Bodies Restructuring Commission, was just about to release the commission's report

Balananda Poudel, chief of the Local Bodies Restructuring Commission, was just about to complete its assignment when… (pic: myrepublica.com)

It’s decided with the new constitution that the VDCs – the local bodies at village level – have to be replaced. But exactly when and how is still unknown. The only certain thing is that there “will be a delay”, says Balananda Poudel, chief of the Local Bodies Restructuring Commission.

The new constitution provides for three tiers of government: below the central level is the “provincial level”, the boundaries of which are still undecided, and the “local level”, undecided too. All that’s agreed is that the local units must be fewer and bigger than the current VDCs. Continue reading »

Apr 272016
 

Deputy Prime Minister, Kamal Thapa, gets to promise local elections twice in two months (in February, then April)

Deputy Prime Minister, Kamal Thapa, gets to promise local elections twice in two months (in February, then in April)

It is business as usual but stunning as always. Once again, a government leader has pledged to hold local elections “soon”. This time, it’s Deputy Prime Minister, Kamal Thapa, who just yesterday promised to hold local elections in November – and that promise can sound hollow considering that two months ago the same Thapa pledged to hold local elections in April! Indeed, since 2002 shifting governments have made the same type of promises at least once a year, only to postpone again and again. Will the government hold local elections before the 20th anniversary of the last local election, held back in 1997? Well, in light of the track record so far, it seems unlikely.

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Apr 042016
 

The NRA still moving at snail speed: most of the 600,000 households made homeless by the earthquake are now facing another monsoon in makeshift tin shelters.

The NRA still moving along at snail speed: most of the 600,000 households made homeless by the earthquake are now facing another monsoon in makeshift tin shelters.

The National Reconstruction Authority (NRA) just moved on to “phase II” in rebuilding houses post-quake. The NRA has decided to release the first installment of the house reconstruction grant – that is, 50,000 rs. out of 200,000 rs. per household – but only in eight of the fourteen worst affected districts and merely in one VDC in each! Why not more!? Well, officially yet a survey on the number of earthquake victims has to be completed first. To the over 600,000 victims that are now facing a second monsoon in a tin shelter, hope must be at its lowest…

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Apr 042016
 

Without the cooperation of strong local leaders, getting things done at local kevel often becomes very difficult: village politician

Without the cooperation of strong local leaders, getting things done at local level often becomes very difficult: village politician

It’s an experience as old as Nepali government, dating back to the Rana regime and the royal rulers before them who often had to struggle to establish a reliable and continuous tax collection system at local level. Without the cooperation of strong local leaders who enjoy a good deal of control with the local people, getting things done in small towns and villages often becomes very difficult, for any government. Now, officials in Kathmandu – this time in the guises of the National Reconstruction Authority (NRA) – are staring in the face of this inconvenient truth too.

Says NRA chief, Sushil Gyawali, as he recapitulates the reasons why his newly formed reconstruction authority is making such slow progress in rebuilding houses and local infrastructure: “The biggest challenge is to mobilise people. The lack of elected representatives has made it more difficult for us to work at the grassroot level.” Without strong local leadership, it is more difficult to do planned work such as counting and registering the earthquake victims, issuing victim IDs, distributing grant money, and simply getting reconstruction off it’s so far heavy feet. Elected local leaders who typically command greater respect than outside officials do would make a huge difference to reconstruction, Gyawali explains. He adds: Continue reading »

Jan 142016
 

VDC secretary at work a few years back: these days, attendance of secretaries is lower than ever before

VDC secretary at work a few years back: these days, attendance of secretaries is lower than ever before

Local government in Nepal is now suffering almost as badly as during the height of the Maoist conflict. In post-quake communities, where the need for infrastructure and local services has never been greater, some locals can hardly find a VDC secretary! Indeed, VDC secretaries – officially in charge of Nepal’s Village Development Committees (VDCs) since 2002 – were always hard to recruit, let alone make attend regularly. But now it’s much worse as only few VDC secretaries are present at all! Continue reading »

Jan 132016
 

The NRA just allocated 290 million rs. to create seven local offices under it - is that a "good thing" or...?

The NRA just allocated 290 million rs. to create seven local offices under it – is that a “good thing” or…?

The National Reconstruction Authority (NRA) which finally “took off” on December 26 after a six months delay has now allocated some of the USD 4,4 billion supposed to be spent as quickly as possible on rebuilding houses and public infrastructure. So, what’s the allocation going to be spent on – so far an amount of 290 million rupees? Well, in one word, “administration”: the NRA is setting up seven local offices which it needs to plan and implement the reconstruction. Continue reading »

Dec 292015
 

Waiting for the NRA: woman in front of a typical shelter (Kavre)

Waiting for the NRA: woman in front of a typical shelter (Kavre)

Out in the districts hit by the earthquake in April, locals have long-since started to build temporary shelters. How temporary – or permanent – those shelters are going to be is an open question. The answer, though, lies in no small part with the government and it’s National Reconstruction Authority (NRA). The government has already released 15,000 rs. (around USD 200) to every household whose home was destroyed – but they have pledged a lot more. Indeed, USD 4,4 billion are in the pipeline for reconstruction! However, the NRA, tasked with distributing all this money, has not really started working yet. Continue reading »

Sep 252015
 

Major laws have to be passed before local elections can happen - and major laws can take time.

Major laws have to be passed before local elections can happen – and major laws can take time.

The constitution was promulgated on September 20th – and the main reason for postponing local elections in Nepal seems to have vanished! Or has it? Well, if the legislation needed in order to implement the constitution runs smoothly, perhaps local elections – the first since 1997 – will happen within a year. However, it’s major laws that have to be passed, and major laws can take a long time to go through. Above all, seven provinces have to be legally created – along with various provincial institutions – and under the new constitution the country’s 4,000 Village Development Committees (VDCs) are to be re-delineated by a special commission and turned into Village Municipalities. Continue reading »

Sep 202015
 

Frontline between security personnel and protesters in Terai: is it all over?

Frontline between security personnel and protesters in Terai: is it all over?

Is it all over now or will the conflict over the constitution flare up again? Well, protesters have withdrawn from the barricades and curfews have been lifted. On Thursday, Madhesi and Tharu leaders even met with the “Big Three” – NC, UML, and the Maoists – to discuss terms for future talks. However, the Terai leaders still reject the constitution. They demand that Kathmandu not only call back the Army and release all arrested cadres but also – once again – that they redelineate the provinces! Continue reading »

Sep 162015
 

To whose benefit: life disrupted across the Terai, here in Biratnagar

To whose benefit: life disrupted across the Terai, here in Biratnagar

How can the ongoing bandh and riots over the constitution benefit the people in Terai? Indeed, politics has its own calculations of “benefit” and “advantage” – securing “vote banks”, “positions” and “influence” may be part of it – but ordinary people may have a hard time seeing what they gain from it. Sure, party leaders justify their respective demands and actions as ultimately serving the “people” as a whole – or at least their constituencies – but meanwhile most locals seem to only suffer from the escalating conflict. Continue reading »

Aug 212015
 
The six provinces as proposed by the four main parties

The six provinces as proposed by the four main parties, now changed to seven by splitting the far-western province into two

What does the constitution tabled at present entail for local Nepal? Well, it’s hard to cover it all – the draft document stands at 104 pages plus appendices – but essentially it looks like much will be different in the future, although much will also remain the same. The overarching issue is indeed the creation of a new sub-level of government: provinces. The draft constitution provides for eight provinces – later the four main parties for some reason decided on six, now gone up to seven provinces – but numbers aside: what is a province? Continue reading »

Aug 132015
 

Local elections are a major priority area in 2015-16: President Yadav delivering his policy speech in parliament

It was a turbulent week in the “life” of local elections in Nepal last month – as it’s been several times before. On July 8 President Ram Baran Yadav presented the government’s policy programme in parliament for the next fiscal year – 2015-16 – and made clear that “local polls” are a major priority area. In fact, the reconstitution of elected local bodies – dissolved since 2002 – is a prerequisite, the President made clear, to an efficient reconstruction process in the earthquake-affected districts. So, for those eager to again see elected local politicians coming to power, this was a major cause of optimism! Continue reading »

Jul 242015
 
Emergency grant before the rain starts: 15,000 rs. to build proper temporary shelter

Emergency grant before the rain starts: 15,000 Nrs. to build proper temporary shelter

In early May the government pledged 200,000 Nrs. to every family who lost their house in the earthquake. Shortly after, it was decided to quickly hand out an initial 15,000 Nrs. – as an immediate emergency grant – for building temporary shelters before the monsoon. It wasn’t a huge amount but enough to buy zink sheets and get a roof over the head, and so it seemed to solve one of the most urgent matters in the earthquake aftermath: to provide at least some shelter from the elements before the rain started. But then the program stalled! Continue reading »

Jun 132015
 

Textbook distribution: a chain of commission

Government is supposed to pay compensation to landowners

It’s not all rosy when the dozers plough through the land of the locals. Indeed, the value of the property may go up once the road opens. But in the meantime, the only way to avoid loss is by way of receiving government compensation. To be sure, the government usually pledges a formally calculated compensation – ropani by ropani – to affected land owners. However, this promise is not always kept. In one example from the Mid-hill Highway construction, several hundred locals – even ones displaced by the road – were left without any compensation at all! The funds were allocated, but nobody saw it on the receiving end. The local reaction? Protest and agitation, stalling construction work for weeks! Continue reading »