THE inauguration of prime minister KP Oli comes with high hopes, and anticipation that the government will take swift measures to usher transformational economic growth, national development, and political reform anchored on the new constitution.
The new government has a unique opportunity in Nepal’s history to implement key policy reforms and activities to facilitate the transformation of the life of ordinary people. Attracting foreign direct investment and maximising official development assistance towards economic progress offers singular pathways to setting the country on a high development trajectory.
Nepal needs resilient, rule-based, accountable and transparent national and local systems to forge an inspiring national vision around which the formulation and implementation of bold policies, programmes and strategies can be anchored. This requires the mobilisation of the Nepali society to achieve transformative growth and development. It is in this context that I share some perspectives:
First, setting clear development priorities and commitment to deliver results is key for high quality growth and equitable development. The latest Nepal poverty indicators reflect major socio-economic disparities among provinces.
The indication that provinces two and six are behind on several key indicators of progress should be of major national concern. Priority action must be towards decreasing disparities among provinces and concerted efforts towards large scale employment generation, enhanced productivity, and investment in industry and infrastructure.
The Nepal Human Development Report 2014 accurately captures major challenges and makes sound recommendations for course correction. It is critical that these practical and sound recommendations are translated into concrete government plans, fleshed out into actionable programme activities such as hydropower, industries, tourism, agriculture and services — and are prudently implemented. This will lead to life-transforming outcomes for the population in health, education, and other services.
As the adage goes — a tree is judged by its fruits — as such there is a need to show results that make a real difference in the lives and livelihoods of Nepalis, particularly among those that are increasingly being left behind. It is needless to emphasise on the necessity of seeing through development projects, as the country has no shortage of examples of well-valued projects that remain incomplete and immensely slow to start and finish, with limited accountability. There is a strong need to make the development planning process decentralised and action oriented.
Second, human capital development and retention with a focus on youth empowerment programmes is fundamental to nation building. It will be important to assess the present and future human development needs, and to take steps to strengthen human and institutional capacity necessary to achieving targets commensurate with Nepal’s development needs.
With 40 percent of the population falling under the youth bracket, the country can harness its demographic dividend. The youth have been, and continue to be, a major force in the nation’s path to democratisation and are currently the leading source of revenue from remittances, which is above 20 percent of Nepal’s gross domestic product.
Migration and the search for prosperity is a growing global phenomenon, from which both the host and the migrants’ countries of origin benefit. It is reported that a large number of Nepali students go abroad for studies. And as the opportunities at home are limited, a majority of the students have no incentive to return home after graduation, depriving Nepal of a return on its human capital investment. The government must attract citizens, particularly the youth and in the diaspora to take a more active role in nation building.
Excessive migration might lead to an overdependence on remittances, which portends a bottleneck to national development and presents a high risk to Nepal’s economic stability. There is growing concern on slowing down of migration which will result in stagnation of remittances and threaten to bring about a backlash in the social and economic situation at home. It is high time to undertake concrete steps to identify decent employment schemes and scale up job creation measures to mitigate this real risk.
Third, commitment to justice, the rule of law and a strong stance against corruption are central to ending poverty and hunger, arresting underdevelopment and achieving shared prosperity. In this regard, accountable and effective public institutions are fundamental enablers for improved service delivery and boosting confidence for increased private sector investment.
According to the World Justice Project, Nepal stood 58th against 113 in the rule of law index 2016. In addition, Transparency International’s 2016 Corruption Perceptions Index ranked Nepal 131th out of 176 countries and considered Nepal the third most corrupt nation in South Asia after Afghanistan and Bangladesh. This is a damning indictment on Nepal’s reputation as a destination of foreign investment and on the transparency of the system and institutions.
Adopting e-Governance in service delivery and establishing strong measures in strengthening of institutions and prosecuting corrupt practices will be critical to improve service delivery, improve goodwill and in enhancing the image of the country as an investment destination.
In addition, the government must also take swift measures to restore justice for thousands whose judicial verdicts have been concluded under the Truth and Reconciliation Commission but are yet to be delivered — a decade after the conflict has ended. Justice delayed is justice denied. It is critical for the government to take measures to resolve these outstanding administrations of justice in line with the international best practices and international laws.
Fourth, progress on the domestic front on the above malaise will not suffice, unfortunately. Nepal must also continuously foster regional and international partnership. The participation of Nepal in United Nations peace support operations spans a period of over a half century, when its national Army and Police force played vital roles to maintain peace in places such as Kosovo, Lebanon, Somalia, Congo, Sierra Leone, and East Timor. Many highly skilled Nepalis play prominent roles in global development and relief efforts, and in the corporate and academic world.
Nepal has adopted the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and its 17 SDGs to end poverty and promote partnerships for shared prosperity while committing to protect the environment. It is crucial that the government makes the SDGs an integral part of Nepal’s development plan, including an integral pillar of the national budgeting processes. The Agenda 2030 calls for international cooperation and partnership while putting emphasis on national ownership including on financing for development.
Over the years, international cooperation has played a key role in Nepal’s development. For example, in the fiscal year 2015/16, the volume of foreign aid reached a total of $1.2 billion as Official Development Assistance. There is a demonstration of the excellent goodwill among friends of Nepal including the UN and international non-governmental organisations towards the country’s development. It is crucial for Nepal to continue to nurture these relationships across the world.
Lastly, the Government should promote joint collaborations, create export incentives and facilitate investments with provisions for specific economic zones and tax rebates and other foreign direct investment incentives. The Belt and Road Initiative and the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, both spearheaded by China, should be pursued as opportunities for funding strategic infrastructure projects and support improved marketing of rural produce.
Equally, Nepal must identify and protect strategic economic, social, political and development interests through expanding national resources portfolios and aggressively pursue private sector investment, particularly by promoting ease of doing business.
The implementation of such bold reforms backed by the legendary resilience and industriousness of Nepalis — both at home and abroad — place the goal of a socially and economically transformed Nepal tantalisingly within reach.
Kathmundupost.com, March 5. Bishow Parajuli is currently serving as the UN resident coordinator and UNDP resident representative in Zimbabwe.