Sunday, October 28, 2007

Nepal Government Shoots At People's Back

By Mohan Nepali, Kathmandu

The Nepal government headed by the Nepali Congress has pleased the oil dealers of Nepal by increasing the petroleum oil and cooking gas prices once again. Economic experts claim that the government raises an annual tax of more than eight billion rupees (about US$12 billion) from the sale of oil to people. This is the amount that can adjust the irregularities in the oil market. Compared to the per capita income of Nepalis (currently US$250 p.a.), the market prices are 100-500 percent higher and they de-humanize people’s living standards though the ruling elites and a large number of domestic and foreign illegal money-amassers do not feel affected at all. So far oil dealers of Nepal have de facto been been running the government-owned Nepal Oil Corporation, one of the leading corrupt corporations from where many government officials and private blackmarkeeters hugely benefit.

Previously, when the oil prices were increased, the transport enterpreneurs proposed to the government for an exorbitant increase in transport fare and the government, without consideration of any scientific method of calculation, increased the transport costs as per the wishes of profiteers.

The Nepal government was indulged in stinky oil polititics for over a year by making thousands of vehicles queue up in the streets of Kathmandu to create in people a psychology tolerable for price hikes. As people had to queue up for the whole day and night, they rather began to believe that price hikes could do them better. This was exactly what the government wanted people to think before price hikes would be announed.
As Nepal is going throuh a vacillating peace process being affected by war business elements and political feudal-compradors, the Nepalis do not have an income status to manage properly along with the price hikes. Most of the poor masses live in rural parts and are downtrodden. They need more state help and income generation programs. But Nepal’s leaderships founded on feudalist mechanisms have not been able to demonstrate better alternatives for the people to develop their economic activities. Thus, most feel that the latest oil price hikes do not match with the democratic values.

The Nepal government has been pursuing an irresponsible path without standardizing the remuneration of Nepali workers. Most of the Nepali workers in the country draw a wage less than a dollar daily. Although the governemnt has been trying to justify its oil price hikes by the American and European makerts, most of the people in Nepal are not happy at this.

In response to the oil price hikes, thousands of Nepali students affiliated with different political parties on Thursday protested in the streets of Kathmandu. Similarly, transport enterprenuers have also criticized the hike.

The pricing system of oil in Nepal is nontransparent. Most of the people, including both political leaders and journalists, do not have any idea of how the petroleum products are priced. Out of this nontransparency, many doubt that there is some kind of secret compromise between the brokers of Indian Oil Corporation, Nepal Oil Corporation and oil dealers. It is usually said that even a single oil dealer can easily manipulate the state-owned oil corporation that is equipped with the authority to increase oil prices any time to any extent.

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