The state governments have been frustrated due to lack of cooperation from the federal government. Almost seven months after the Chief Ministers of states were sworn into office, they gathered for a special meeting in Pokhara last month to discuss the challenges they have faced in the transition to federalism. They came to the conclusion that the federal government has not made adequate provisions to help state governments function, making the federal system ineffective. At the end of the conclave, they drafted a list of demands from the federal government. A major concern was that the federal government had not accepted decentralization as a foundational principle in the new constitutional order. For federalism to work, it was going to have to let go of some power.
The core tenet of federalism is the devolution of the state power to the sub-national governments. According to the Chief Ministers, problems in governance such as insufficient budgets, lack of clarity in budget allocation, and lack of human resources have all been hindrances to a smooth transition in power.
“All the seven states have felt that until civil servants and the police are under the jurisdiction of the state government, that state will not have a government,” Prithvi Subbha Gurung, the Chief minister of Gandaki, told janata times during the conclave.
Only 15 percent of the national budget has been allocated to the state governments. Lack of funds have meant that state governments have not been able to deliver proper services to their constituents.
The Chief Ministers called for the immediate formation of national natural resources and fiscal commission, as required by article 60 of the constitution. The formation of the fiscal commission would make way for data collection that would allow for a precise system for distribution of national financial resources. The commission would act as a catalyst in the formulation and implementation of budgets. Since the development projects to be undertaken by the three tiers of government have not yet been classified, the commission would play a significant role in delineating responsibilities clearly.
Presently, the state governments have not been able to use its available budget as many offices in state and local governments remain vacant. Because the federal government has maintained a stronghold on the bureaucracy, state governments have not been able to mobilize human resources as necessary. The legion of bureaucrats in service today have been schooled in centralised form of governance, which has made the transition to federalism difficult. There have been reports of several incidents where Chief District Officers have undermined the authority of state ministers. This has severely hindered the functioning of the state governments.
One of the demands from the conclave is to make the district officers accountable to their respective state governments. The bureaucrats, however, are opposed to the decentralisation of public service because they fear that working for the state government will thwart their aspirations to climb the highest rung of the national government. To meet the demand for human resource and to also respect the career aspirations of those in public service, the conclave decided that once the chief secretary of a state government has accumulated enough experience, she should be considered as candidate for the post of chief secretary in the federal government. In addition, to fulfill the need for additional personnel in the police force, the conclave demanded that the federal government enact laws to form state police.
As the laws are prepared to integrate the bureaucracy, the Chief Ministers demanded that the federal government sends to state capitals the bureaucrats necessary to make the states function better.
Finally, the formation of Inter- State Council, presided by the Prime Minister with Chief Ministers as members, as dictated by the constitution, was another demand drafted at the conclave. This council would oversee the proper implementation of federalism. After the conclave ended, the Chief Ministers came to Kathmandu to meet the Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli. But feeling circled by the Chief Ministers, the Prime Minister denied to meet the Chief Ministers in group or individually. The demands made by the Chief Ministers remain within the bounds of the constitution. But with the current allocation of limited budget, authority, and a downright impolite refusal to meet the Chief Minister, the states will not be able to deliver much, thereby giving ammunition to anti-federalist to attack the federal setup.
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