Published in Telegraph Nepal in February 2015
Prof Ram Kumar Dahal, Senior Political analyst,TU Nepal
With the process of globalization, the decision making power of the government is gradually shifting to international institutions – MNCs and donor agencies, thus weakening the former’s capability. In some cases, discussion on the topics of high importance like – national interest and priorities, national sovereignty human rights and so on – is not allowed. Under the powerful pressure of these international institutions, the national governments are forced to conclude that they have no alternative left but to accept their harsh conditions. National officials are pressured into signing on the dotted line when the Bretton Woods authorities appear in a backward country with highly sophisticated computerized statistics and already formulated policy prescriptions (Bruin, 1996: 7). The market reform processes in the developing world, as Rehman Sobhan opines, “introduced by multilateral agencies have undermined democratic institutions and disempowered states and citizens” (International IDEA, 1997: 85). In most underdeveloped countries, they have, rushed like as Schwab and Smadja opine “a brakeless train wreaking havoc” and the globalization process is “threatening a very disruptive impact on economic activity and social stability in many countries. The mood in these democracies is one of helplessness and anxiety, which helps explain the rise of a new brand of populist politicians (which) can easily turn into revolt. The human and social costs of the globalization process are multiplying to a level that “tests the social fabric of the democracies in an unprecedented way” (Klaus and Claude, 1996). “National politics has more or less has lost control. Many democratic governments are facing this problem today and people are asking why we are letting the markets rule our countries” (International IDEA, 1997: 83).
The process of globalization in Nepal, as in other countries of the Third World, has pressurized the state to redefine the traditional notion of power, legitimacy, sovereignty and political authority. It has also led to the growth of elitist democracy and the rise of a comprador class into power. People are being pulled, across the nation state for the creation of a larger political order based on different rules (as European Union) coming very close to pooling the citizen’s loyalties and shaping their common economic, political and social life (Dahal, 1998).
The transnational corporate power has been able to enhance the repressive power of the state to silence the opposition, the only viable institution resisting the harmful effects of globalization and its tools within the national boundary. Moreover, the integration of all the components of the national economy – information, transportation, labor, raw materials- to a unified system of market naturally erodes the viability of national economies and the capacity of the governments to govern. The declining capacity of the government has caused a crisis of proper political representation and raised a serious question of independent status within the state. This process has also paved the way for the depletion of the ecological base of life on this planet and marginalized the majority of the powerless citizens. The authority of governments that flowed from the institutional position and election is also decaying under the weight of planned modernity. So is the ability of the state to mediate between the contending gender identities, social classes, social groups and political parties. To-day’s well developed information mechanism (global media) has weakened the citizens’ bonds with the nation-state (such as family), faith in community, neighborhood and enhanced the power of the governments to compromise the democratic values for the satisfaction of their economic ends. In many countries, the government, political parties, national police and armies serve not the nation but, the security of these international institutions which often violate the supreme laws of the land.
As privatization and globalization processes have led citizens towards capitalization, the feeling of nationalism has become weak. Those who talk about national upliftment, nationalism and national interests are considered as the mad stray dogs barking unnecessarily without realizing the hard reality of life in Nepal. To become multimillionaire overnight and to have capital reserves in foreign banks by deceiving the people and betraying the nation have become the ideals of the political elite. The process of economic globalization has made it difficult for the rulers to rule effectively. The undermining role of the legislature in Nepal, had led to “ineffective enforcement of the law” and the “inability of the government to enact legislations that it may consider necessary for fighting corruption” (Pandey and Chitrakar, 1996: 1). If the parliamentarians are just there to endorse or ratify the readymade decisions coming through the MNCs and BWIs, what is the need of the people’s supreme legislative body in Nepal? Why cannot the MPs assert their role? The three organs of government have met on the common forum, when their personal interests were concerned. The facilities, enjoyed by them often unconstitutional and illegal especially duty free Pajero, have rendered the theory of separation of powers and the checks and balances of the organs of government redundant. Indeed the process of globalization has led to a conflict between nationalism and corporate class. The position of the VAT, as imposed on the recommendation of the World Bank, and the Arun-III became highly controversial among the nationalist forces (INHURED International, 1995; Bruin, 1996: 62).
Impact on Bureaucracy:
The de-bureaucratization process, under the pressure of the BWIs to cut down the administrative budget, brought the retrenchment of more than nineteen thousands civil servants leading to politicization of bureaucracy and political instability in the country. Under the influence of globalization, there has been a change of attitude towards Nepalese bureaucracy. The bureaucracy in Nepal is the first to be shaken. During 1990-1998, the civil servants have been moved, removed, replaced and inducted so many times with each change of government that the civil service has become paralyzed as a public institution. Obviously, the civil service remains at the mercy of the ruling authority and its role has been confined primarily to that of the executor of the ruler’s order. The democratically elected governments of Nepal during 1991-98 have thought about the “spoil system” along the line of the US which has made the bureaucracy a mere rubber stamp. “Successive governments, “have looked at the civil services not as an ally but as a rival for executive power and also as a berth for their relatives or party workers and henchmen ostensibly to ensure that their programs or ‘manifestoes’ would be carried out faithfully by their own trusted men rather than the so called civil servants appointed by an earlier government” (Malhotra, Sunday Despatch, January 25-31, 1998: p. 1). The process of globalization has led to the growth of corrupt practices in Nepal. “Eradication of corruption” “needs a broad based attack which cannot be constrained let alone eradicated without reforming the political process. The current social values sanctified by the ethos of the so called market economy and liberalization,” “need to be recast. Battle against corruption must be made an integral part of foreign aid strategy. Networking among concerns and institutions interested in clean governance and cost-effective aid must be developed” (Pandey, 1995: 1-10).
Mechanism to Minimize the Negative Effects of Globalization:
The growing negative impacts of globalization have adversely affected the operation of present day Nepalese political system. It would be, thus, essential to develop effective mechanisms to minimize them and to maximize the positive ones. In this connection, it would be essential to identify the agencies (both national and international) of globalization and to study the approaches, methods, strategies and tactics used by them to achieve their targeted goals. Are they not like the Summer Institute of Linguistics (SIL) that once worked against Nepal’s national interests by encouraging and distributing money to the supporters of Free Tibet Movement with a view to damaging or adversely affecting Nepal’s age-old ties with its northern neighbor? It would also be appropriate to study their vested interests and their short and long term strategies separately. If it is long term one, can we sacrifice the short term interests, benefits and its side effects? Is it essential to develop a separate mechanism to meet the challenges created by them (if they are long term ones)?
In Nepal’s particular case, it is a must to search for an appropriate answer whether the reckless globalization process we are welcoming here, which does not provide goods, services and benefits to the larger masses, can be considered globalization in a real sense or not. Only a process which in fact does maximum well to the maximum number of people should be welcomed. Moreover, while adopting the process, priority should be given to the mobilization of local resources, protection of indigenous culture, promotion of sustainable development and participatory democracy at local level and the acceptance of foreign aid accordingly. The traditional socio cultural and economic organizations and the service focused NGOs should be encouraged and strengthened at local level that, in fact, does not endanger indigenous culture, life styles and habits and nationalism should be encouraged and strengthened at local level.
As Nepalese economy and polity are not self reliant, they have certainly to accept or adopt the process of globalization, but while doing so, Nepal should strictly preserve its national interest and benefits, national identity and values. Globalization at the cost of national interest should never be permitted. In order to prevent the Nepalese society from the negative effects of globalization, the political parties, political and non-political groups, interest and pressure groups and the conscious section of people have to play an important role. The political parties, with their sister organizations under their fold, in particular, have to develop national consensus over the most controversial and important issues like security, nationalism and national interests, goals and objectives; acceptance of foreign aid in different sectors, giving approval to the agents of globalization, to mention a few. A scientific and most up to date record of the agencies of globalization; NGOs and INGOs and current statistics concerning the movement of foreigners within Nepal and Nepalese citizens residing outside Nepal – must be maintained in HMG particularly in Foreign and Finance Ministries.
In order to minimize the weaknesses of globalization, the conscious section of the society has an important role to play by watching the activities of the agencies of globalizations: international institutions, NGOs and INGOs operating within Nepal’s territorial jurisdiction. They should also work as the watchdogs of democracy strictly observing the behavior of their democratic leaders, especially those in power. The political parties, like other interest and pressure groups of Nepal – the Human Rights Organizations, the trade unions, student organizations, women and youth groups, to mention a few – are trying to globalize themselves by establishing links with similar organizations throughout the world and their participation, thus, is increasing at global level. These groups could play effective roles in lessening the negative impacts of the process of globalization by stressing key concepts like nationalism, national interests, goals and objectives. They must try to make Nepal self reliant rather than emphasize dependency theories. The core laws of the state should be strengthened so as to solve the existing problems (e. g. citizenship). The share of the state in the GDP and in utilizing indigenous local resources should be increased. The public power should not benefit the comprador class and a few private individuals; rather it should be utilized for the welfare and benefit of the larger section of the people, especially the marginalized ones.
Nepal to-day needs production revolution, not the consumption one, to direct the political economy towards self-reliance and the sovereign state should enjoy complete autonomy in this respect. As this process has affected each and every sphere of Nepalese life, mass consciousness has to be aroused so as to judge to what level and extent, they should welcome the globalized agencies and for what. As to-day’s Nepalese state is based on class and is largely determined by money power, it has in fact promoted elitist democracy and the outright betrayal of the mass and participatory democracy, though the ruling elite never admits this openly. Nepal should also actively participate in the regional process strengthening its relations with the neighboring countries and stopping reckless globalization. A powerful and active cell in the governmental machinery particularly within the Ministry of Finance and Foreign Affairs should be established to overview the impacts of globalization, particularly towards minimizing its negative effects on Nepalese polity
As nationalism is a strong device to mitigate the evils of globalization, its base should also be strengthened; and the people’s legitimate right to development should be established. When the public sector becomes weak, it negatively affects the state and thus the concept of good governance should also be encouraged so as to encounter the negative impacts of globalization. The parliamentarians, the most trusted and democratically elected leaders of the people, should play assertive and dynamic roles within and outside parliament in minimizing them. Instead of putting their Lyapche or approving blindly the ready-made package policies prepared by BWIs and other institutions, the MPs should effectively play the policy making role keeping in view the key concepts of nationalism, national interest and public welfare. The power elite can play an effective and dynamic role in this direction. They should serve the interests of the electorate who have elected them, not to the BWIs, other international institutions, INGOs businessmen, comprador class and a few elites or their Yes men and the so called the Tatha-Batha or their Chumchas only. They must not be guided by personal interests but by nationalistic concepts, national interests and objectives. Moreover, the cabinet itself can develop an effective mechanism or cell to check the negative impacts of globalization.
The impact of globalization on the Nepalese polity is two-fold. On the one hand, it has helped to democratize, liberalize and decentralize the power of the state while on the other, it has stripped away the vital decision- making power of the government to govern: to formulate public policies and execute them. Globalization has also led to the homogenization of the ideologies of mainstream political parties, induced “identity politics” and generated political factionalism.
The effect of globalization on the Nepalese polity is the proliferation of laws, rights, and institutions without corresponding increase in enforcing mechanisms, resources, responsibilities and viabilities for policy effectiveness. The levers of globalization (privatization, denationalization, decontrol, deregulation, etc.) have made Nepalese democracy a surrogate of market forces and delinked the social web of state power. In a multi-ethnic, multi-religious and multi-racial society where development is uneven, the globalization process has intensified the rich-poor, urban-rural gaps, notwithstanding its positive contribution to renewed consciousness towards the universalization of rights, international cooperation, gender issues, environmental ethics, and a move toward demilitarization of development. How can the Nepalese citizen enforce accountability of their leaders, maintain the transparency of the regime, and legitimacy of their political order? Evidently, the answer lies more on devising the competitive ability of the citizens to obtain benefit from the global distribution of opportunities and minimizing the risks, social, economic and political in nature to the multi party dispensation. Text courtesy. Impact of Globalization in Nepal, NEFAS publication, 1998. Thanks NEFAS and the distinguished author Dr. Dahal. Some more to follow: Ed.