The grim prospect of Nepal’s existence as a viable state has once again been highlighted by the Fund for Peace annual ranking of 178 countries in its Failed State Index 2012. In this year’s rankings, Nepal is placed 27th from the top (the higher up the table a country is placed, the more vulnerable it is), the same ranking it achieved in 2011. Nepal has the dubious distinction of being ranked alongside some of the most unstable states in the world like North Korea, Myanmar, Sierra Leone and, closer home, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka. We believe the reason for Nepal’s dismal standing should be interpreted as, above everything else, a collective failure of our political class. The great hopes of stable and peaceful Nepal raised by the 2008 Constituent Assembly polls were dashed as the elected CA was dissolved without completing its task of delivering a new constitution for a federal, republican Nepal.
In the last four years, dirty power politics; sidelining of important agendas raised by the 2006 Jana Andolan, 2007 Madhesi Andolan and the subsequent movements of various ethnic and marginalized groups; the decline of national economy owing to lack of infrastructure and militant unionism; mass exodus of youth from rural areas, crippling the agro-based economy—they all contributed to the country’s failure to transform itself into a more peaceful and equitable place. It isn’t a surprise that Nepal fared the worst in addressing group grievances (9 out of 10 in the Failed State Index), which indicates its failure to settle competing demands among different groups in the society. Indeed. It will not be wrong to say that the state’s failure to heed the voice of marginalized communities has to date been among its biggest constraints on development. Moreover, the country’s poor human rights score (8.2) reflects its failure to bring perpetrators of grave rights violations (both during and after the conflict) to book. The politics of brinksmanship and uneven development, according to the Index, are the other major contributes to the country’s high score.
As Fund for Peace points out, the shocks and pressures each country faces are mitigated by strong state institutions based on the rule of law and democracy. Currently, Nepal does not even have a legitimate government as the political consensus needed to remove the prevailing political and constitution vacuum has been elusive. Absent this, not only have important political agendas been shelved, the country’s struggling economy has been dealt another severe blow. Consider the fact that of the total Rs 72.61 billion set aside for development expenditure in the current fiscal year, just Rs 31.74 billon (less than half the budgeted amount) has been spent in the first 11 months, severely hampering the country’s growth prospects. Now, there is a danger that the government, in keeping with the tradition, will look to spend the rest in haste and in an ad hoc basis. All these poor socio-economic and stability indicators should prompt soul searching among the Nepali political class. We believe pushing ahead with the search for political consensus is still the best way out of the current political and economic crisis