Prime Minister Oli’s Priorities During Pandemic

By Gopal Khanal (KATHMANDU, 11 September 2020) – Amidst the internal homework to rejuvenate the ruling Nepal Communist Party (NCP) and the government, Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli held two meetings, which are significant in outlining the government’s priorities during the COVID-19. On 6 September, the day after his close lieutenant Finance Minister Dr. Yubaraj Khatiwada resigned from the post, he called the business leaders in his residence, appraised the impact of pandemic in country’s overall economy and assured that economic activities will be gradually allowed to resume restoring the devastated economy.
After listening to the business community, Prime Minister Oli, on 8 September, interacted with psychiatrists and psychologists on how to reduce negativism, pessimism, traumatic situations and mental sickness further aggravated with the flow of false information about COVID-19.

Crucial tasks
Prime Minister Oli has to complete two crucial tasks concerned with the party and government considering the constructive suggestions of Chairman Prachanda and the party secretariat. He has to keep the party’s unity intact while cementing the hard-achieved consensus and reshuffle the cabinet on the basis of meritocracy. Despite such daunting tasks, PM Oli initiated these two meetings with seriousness to the crises of the country during the pandemic.
One must not be tempted to live in political utopia, where everyone lives in harmony, everything functions well and all the stakeholders maintain needful coordination. PM Oli better knows that politics is not a bed of roses. Challenges are always there. It’s true that NCP received overwhelming support to rule the country for five years, but it is equally true that PM Oli has been facing the internal challenges from the very beginning.
But the situation now appears to be positive. The two chairmen have endorsed the proposal of party unity recommended by the six-member task force led by general secretary Bishnu Poudel. The standing committee meeting held on 11 September, endorsed the ”consensus document” ending the nasty bickering at least for now.
The reshuffling of the cabinet is the prerogative of the Prime Minister, but PM Oli will complete this task after consulting Prachanda as mentioned in the report. They will forge consensus on crucial policy and functional decisions related with the party and the government.
Let’s contemplate over the two discussions. Prime Minister Oli is worried about the economy hard hit by corona crisis. In the meeting, representatives of three private sector umbrella organisations – FNCCI, CNI and NCC – urged the PM to allow business to operate by maintaining the safety protocols prescribed by the government. They expressed their concerns over the crippling business environment created by the five-month-long lockdown. The entrepreneurs also sought an effective coordination among the three layers of government to address the current situation.
The economies in many countries have gone downhill due to the pandemic but Nepal’s economy has not gone so negative. There are indications that the situation would have been much worse than this. Expert-turned politician Khatiwada built the foundations of national economy in which the future finance minister obviously will build on it. Khatiwada was selected by the Prime Minister to execute the ‘Prosperous Nepal, Happy Nepali’, an ambitious national plan aimed at transforming Nepal into socialism-oriented country as envisioned in the constitution.
Khatiwada’s proficiency and expertise has put the national economy on track despite the criticisms of adversaries. The Indian economy contracted by 23.9 per cent in the second quarter, the most drastic fall in the decades. India’s economic decline is the worst among the world’s top economy, with US economy shrinking by 9.5 per cent in the same quarter. Anticipating the economic recession in post pandemic period, the Prime Minister held discussions with the private sector and sought their suggestions for gradually resuming the economic activities.
Prime Minister Oli’s telephone conversation with his counterpart of Bangladesh Sheikh Hasina on 1 September is another clue of his priority on the development of agriculture sector. He sought Bangladesh’s support to supply 50,000 tonnes of urea fertiliser to Nepal on refundable basis. Prime Minister Hasina took the request positively.
Psychological counselling
Prime Minister Oli interacted with psychiatrists and psychologists on the mental health of the people affected by COVID-9 pandemic. He said that psychologists and health workers could play a major role in dealing with pessimism, negativity, fear and anxiety of the citizens caused by the pandemic.
The COVID-19 pandemic has negatively affected many people’s mental health and added a new burden on those already suffering mental illness. Prime Minister’s focus was to provide psychological counselling for the mental wellbeing of the people. This is the time everybody should support the people of mental illness and those losing self-confidence believing in rumours being spread about the pandemic. The virus can be defeated if we are mentally stronger.
During the interaction, the PM directed the officials from the Ministry of Health and Population, and the private sector to prepare plans and programmes for psycho-social counselling in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. Prime Minister Oli has been saying that the first priority is to save the life of the people from the COVID-19. If life is saved, everything will be earned.
Prime Minister Oli is on track to pinpoint the problems and to solve them.

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