State Holiday for The State Visit
State Holiday for The State Visit
Siddhi B Ranjitkar
The government has announced the State holiday on April 17, 2017: the day the president embarks her first State visit to India today, and the day she returns to Nepal on April 21, 2017 means the nation would lose the two days of business. Is it rational, logical, and even wise for the government to do so? What is the justification for making the State visit of the head of State a national holiday? Will it make the nation more prosperous and prestigious in the world? The country that needs to work day and night for catching up even to be the developing country has unfortunately lost the two working days for seeing off the president and then welcoming her back home. Is it not an economic and social crime the home ministry and the cabinet as a whole under the leadership of the prime minister have committed?
The first president of the Federal Democratic Republic of Nepal did not receive such honor when he made a State visit to the neighboring country. Rational and logical thinking people thought that the government had done right thing not making the president’s visit a state holiday and the nation saved at least some working days from losing to such State holidays. It also had broken the tradition of declaring the foreign visit of the head of State a national holiday.
The home ministry and the government have no justification for making the president’s visit a state holiday costing millions to the nation. Why the entire country need to go for recess when everybody needs to work hard for making Nepal a little bit prosperous. The government has simply squandered the two working days for nothing, every reasonable person thinks.
The government bound the hands of the private companies and the state agencies for not working for two days. It simply reminded me how the previous regime had tied together the hands of the entire population for more than 240 years making Nepal the most destitute from one of the most prosperous countries in the world more than two-and-a-half-century ago.
The State agencies would certainly stop the service delivery for two days for the sake of the State visit of the president. It is hard to state the loss people make in terms of the economy but many service seekers walking for days from their home to the district headquarters for getting citizenship certificates would need to stay idle for two days. Who will pay for such loss? Certainly the service seekers will pay not the government agencies that celebrate the State visit of the president.
The State agencies would lose the two days of the decision making process. They have delayed two days of making decisions thanks to the State holidays for the president to visit India. The State administration has been infamous for delaying decision-makings. The delayed decision-makings have been one of the main reasons for Nepal lacking any tangible progress even after the reinstatement of democracy in 1990. Now, the government has made the State agencies not to work for two more days for the State visit of the president.
The private companies would lose the two productive days. They lost the production, and the gains from the production of goods and services to the president’s state visit. Another loss the private companies have to bear the wages and salaries paid to the laborers and officials for the two days without work. In other countries, the State usually compensates the private companies for the loss caused by the State’s actions.
My house electricity bill is due to pay today but when I called the counter of the Nepal Electricity Authority (NEA); it said that the counters were closed because it was a state holiday for the president’s visit to India. I lose a day to pay the electricity bill. NEA must have lost millions in collecting the revenues. This is only the story of NEA but the country has other agencies such as telecommunications, and other State agencies that conduct business. So, they lose the two days of collecting revenues.
Banks and other financial institutions have lost the most valuable days for business. For what, is it? It is for the president’s state visit. It sounds unbelievable for any sensible and logical thinking person. Why these agencies needs to lose the business for the president’s visit. What they have to do with the president’s visit. Surely, they have nothing to do with the State visit of the president but they have to suffer from it because the government wanted so.
Now, what do those laborers and officials relieved from the duty for two days for the State visit of the president do?
When I joined the State job as an officer in the late 1960s the then government had made mandatory to the State officials to stand on the sidewalk specified by the concerned State agency, and clap when the State dignitary passed by while going to the airport for the State visit. After applauding the dignitary, we were supposed to go home but most of my colleagues carried playing cards in their pockets, and went to one of the colleagues’ home and played the card games. Thus, the State lost the productive day of the State officials to the games of cards.
Certainly, some rural State officials and laborers working at the private companies might use the day-off caused by the State visit for tending their land, and cleaning the livestock stalls, collecting fodders and so on. Thus, some good officials and laborers did not lose a day for nothing but smartly utilized for their family purpose. In this case, the State did not lose a day of the productive laborers.
In other cases when the laborers and officials instead of going home and doing some domestic work, they go to a pub and drink or they gathered at some places and indulged in the boozing. They got home drunk in the evening while other family members had hard time to make the good dinner.
Some people might go for picnics, sightseeing, visit the shrines to various deities, and hold religious ceremonies, and so on. These kinds of recreational activities might recoup energy and energize the officials and laborers for the next day’s work. This might save the country to some extent from a total loss caused by the State visit of the president.
One of the useful gains of the State holiday would be the positive impact on the most polluted air in Kathmandu. Thousands of State-owned vehicles stop running on the streets causing fewer fumes exhausted by vehicles. Fewer vehicles would be running on the streets causing less smoke and dust pollution to the Kathmandu air for at least two days thanks to the State visit of the president.
The State agencies also would save millions in using no fossil fuel for running the State vehicles on the official holiday. It would be a great saving for the nation that could hardly afford such a lavish State visit of the president. Millions of taxpayers’ money that would have gone for running the State-owned vehicles remained in the State coffer on the official holiday declared for the president’s state visit. These are surely the blessing in disguise even though they have come at the cost of the nation.
The Nepalese laborers and officials working at the foreign agencies in Nepal are not so fortunate to have a day off for the president’s state visit, as other Nepalese working in the State agencies and the private companies do because the foreign agencies are not bound by the Nepalese law in the case of the State visit of the president. So, they don’t close their workplace even when the honorable president makes a State visit in other words they don’t celebrate the State visit of the Nepalese president.
However, the foreign agencies follow the labor act and the rule of Nepal when they need to pay wages and salaries to the Nepalese laborers and officials, as it makes them cost effective. Even then, the wages and the salaries the foreign agencies pay to their Nepalese staffers in Nepal are a number of times more than the State employees and laborers receive. Nepalese State employees get compensation for the low wages and salaries from the unseen but transparent-to-all incomes that come from the backdoor for doing the regular official work. So, such incomes more than compensate for the low wages and salaries the State employees receive in Nepal.
If we were to believe the data of the Federation of Nepal Chambers of Commerce and Industry then every State holiday means the loss of the business of two billions (the data was of a few years ago; the loss might be even more today). So, the nation loses two billions of the business for a day means the president’s state visit causes at least four billions of business loss. Who is responsible for such a loss? Certainly, the decision-makers, who have made the president’s State-visit a national holiday. Anybody causing a loss to the nation is a criminal, is it not?
April 17, 2017