Fingers crossed

January 12, 2017 00:25 AM Republica

New leader in NRA 
It is true that the outgoing chief of National Reconstruction Authority (NRA), Sushil Gyewali, had little to show for his year in office. As we have repeatedly written in this space before, there seemed to be a big gulf in Gyewali’s words and actions. For instance, in an interview with Republica following his appointment to the post in December, 2015, Gyewali had said the survey of the destroyed infrastructures were ‘nearly complete’. But a year later, he was still assuring his countrymen of the same thing. We understand that 
Gyewali didn’t have best of working environments. The government of KP Sharma Oli, who had appointed him, was replaced by the government of Pushpa Kamal Dahal at the start of August, 2016. Gyewali, already struggling in his dealings with a recalcitrant bureaucracy that had chaffed at working under someone brought from outside the bureaucracy, was doubly crippled when he also lost the support of the (new) prime minister. So whatever his achievements as NRA chief, he was always going to struggle to keep his job. But that is not the whole story. 

It would have been far easier for Gyewali to deflect the blame of ‘inaction’ had he actually done something meaningful to bring comfort to up to 600,000 people who were rendered homeless by the 2015 earthquakes. If people felt that he was indeed doing a good job, such goodwill would have been reflected in the popular press. Take the case of 
Nepal Electricity Authority (NEA) Chief Kulman Ghising. Even though many members in the NEA board have been scheming to remove Ghising, they have not been able to touch him because of the enormous popularity Ghising enjoys. And he is popular because people actually feel the change under his leadership of NEA: in the form of the 
vastly reduced load-shedding hours. But following Gyewali’s dismissal, the voices of support for him have been few and far between. Even those who wanted him to stay for time being, like this newspaper, were for his continuity because they feared that reconstruction efforts, which are already tardy, could be further delayed by the untimely change in NRA. 

That continues to be our fear. Replacing Gyewali as NRA chief is former vice-chairman of National Planning Commission, Govinda Raj Pokharel. Interestingly, Pokharel had been 
appointed the NRA chief by Prime Minister Sushil Koirala, but he had to leave as his appointment could not be confirmed by the parliament owing to political differences. Now Pokharel again finds himself in the hot seat. Pokharel comes with a long experience of dealing with Nepali bureaucracy and since he was involved in initial post-quake 
assessment, the task at his hands right now won’t be unfamiliar. But with the dismissal of Gyewali for ‘unsatisfactory progress’ with post-quake rebuilding, there will be even greater pressure on Pokharel to deliver.

We hope that the new chief will waste no time in distributing the remaining installments of government grants to quake victims and in getting his engineers and technicians, who didn’t always see eye to eye with the previous chief, to work with him to rebuild damaged homes. We also hope that our fears prove unjustified and Pokharel can really deliver; the lives of hundreds of thousands of quake victims are on the line.    

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