By PR Pradhan
Nepal Airlines Corporation (NAC) observed its 61stanniversary last week. On the occasion, Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli publicly denounced the NAC management for not being able to fly its aircraft and for demanding money with the government every time to bail the Corporation out. Oli said, why were the NAC aircraft grounded?
Is PM Oli’s attitude of slamming the NAC management at a function organised to mark the anniversary of the very same Corporation appropriate? What has he thought about himself? He is the executive chief of the country and he is also responsible for the non-functioning of the national flag carrier.
If we go through the past performances of the Airlines, it was a profit making government undertaking until the introduction of multiparty democracy. The people used to feel pride in working with the Airlines. The Airlines was operating flights to the European destinations and also to Japan and was preparing to fly to the US of America. Along with the dawn of multiparty democracy, the Airlines became like a milking cow for the political leaders. The then prime minister Girija Prasad Koirala disposed Boeing 727 aircraft at a very low price. The Airlines management had to work under the brokers’ grip and a plan was developed to finish the Airlines under Koirala’s schemes such as the Dhamija scandal, Lauda episode, etc.
The Airlines became a political recruitment center for those in power. Finally, the Airlines virtually became an Airlines without aircraft.
Today there is a lack of professionalism and there is a strong domination of different employees’ unions belonging to different political parties. That apart, there is a strong presence of brokers or say commission agents manipulating the political leaders and also the NAC management. The two wide-body aircraft were purchased in the interests of commission and all the influential leaders either in the ruling party or in the opposition have enjoyed attractive shares from the commission amount. Without proper planning and without fixing the destinations for the wide-body aircraft, the two aircraft were purchased and later it was planned to give on lease the two aircraft, by showing the operational losses by the previous management. Such a plan was developed as the commission agents would not get commission if the Airlines did not operate its scheduled flights, on the other hand, by leasing the aircraft, an attractive amount of commission would be received by the agents who would then share it with political leaders. The management, along with the decision of the purchase of the two aircraft, had to train manpower needed to operate the aircraft and also had to work for setting destinations to fly to. Instead, the management decided to hire foreign pilots to fly the aircraft by paying hefty amounts, that too in US dollars as pay. Due to the lack of necessary manpower and also lack of fixing the destinations, the wide-body aircraft became a white elephant for the already debt ridden Airline. The Prime Minister and the ministers, instead of taking action or suspending the main culprit Sugatratna Kanshakar, the then general manager who was the key person in purchasing the wide-body aircraft, allowed him to work in office until he completed his tenure at the NAC.
When the new management took over the office, it saw anomalies in the Airline, and thus demanded the government support to run the Airline smoothly. After all, the Airline is a government undertaking and it is the responsibility of the government to run the Airline smoothly. By forgetting such responsibilities, PM Oli lambasted the management without diagnosing the real disease from which the Airline is suffering. As the Airline has experienced both the story of success and loss, if studied the Airline’s chapter of success and implemented the outcomes of the study properly, again, the national flag carrier can expand its wings abroad.
Today, the aviation business is very competitive. Different countries have been protecting their national flag carrier by giving different facilities. Qatar is providing fuel to the Qatar Airlines at subsidized price, therefore, the Airlines has been recognized as the five-star airlines. One of the Royal family members is the chief of the Airlines. Accordingly, Ethiopia, an African nation, suffering from famine, and also a backward country compared to Nepal until some decades ago, has focused on harnessing all its resources for economic prosperity. Today, the Ethiopian economy is better than ours. The Ethiopian Airlines has been recognized as one among the best airlines in Africa and Europe. This became possible not because of the contribution of the chief executive officer of the Airline alone, but because of the support and cooperation provided by the Ethiopian government.
The Thai Airlines and Nepal Airlines were established in the same year, today, Thai International is flying to all parts of the world, whereas, one can see the plight of the Nepali national flag carrier.
The Nepal Airlines is just an example, the same applies with other government undertakings also. All profit making and import reducing government undertakings were ruined along with introduction of multiparty democracy. Due to the wrong or say corrupt attitude of the political leaders, all the government undertakings providing employment to thousands of youths in the country have been ruined and those jobless youths are compelled to go abroad for work, which is very much unfortunate.