Where Have We Missed In Developing Our Country?
Author : Dikendra Dhakal, Date:2 Jan 2012
My heart aches when some of our people say Nepal will not change and it has no future. And we hear interpretations like: The people are lazy; the leaders are corrupt; the upper-caste rulers exploited the country; the country’s situatedness is like this that it is already in the bottom; Yo desh ma basera kaam chhaina, jati sakchhau bidesh bhaga.
Is it really as it is talked?
Let me again discuss on those few taken-for-granted “development-obstacles” that we often talk about of our country and portray depressing future. We talk about the mountainous geography and landlocked situatedness of our country as the hindrances for the development. On the other hand, Europe which has the highest number of landlocked countries with similar upland topography like of Nepal and Israel which has around 60% of its land covered by desert have prospered way off despite the similar obstacles. South Korea which has more than 70% land occupied by mountains is another example that geography alone cannot be development hindrance.
Now let’s observe one of our internal reasons established by a pioneer Nepali Anthropologist Dor Bahadur Bista in his time honored study “Development and Fatalism” where he has also argued that the so- called upper caste rulers maneuvered the state development mechanism on the benefits of Brahmans and Chhetris only and vast number of populations are excluded from. However, the Karnali region mostly populated by these upper castes reasonably does not substantiate it!
There are people who say that the Nepalese have actually been unemployed or “unoccupied”. But the real understanding of everyday life of the majority populations in the country shows that they toil from dawn to dusk to meet the two ends but still they are merely able to fill their belly with flat two meals a day! A good house to live in, warm clothes to survive in the cold, access to health facilities, better education, entertainment and holidays are the distant dreams to the majority Nepalese as yet.
Where Have We Missed Then?
I am not going to define what development is in this article. Rather I will talk about what people perceive when we talk about development. Infrastructure. Haven’t we built many development infrastructures in last six decades? Where have we missed then? It is reasonable to argue that we have missed to do proper development strategic planning.. Take one example: the roads. Our roads have not been well-planned for achieving economic development as much as they should have been. They mostly help the administrative movement.
When we talk about development infrastructure like roads we cannot keep them in isolation. Together with roads settlement planning is very important to take into consideration. How have our towns ‘grown’ (not ‘develop’) in recent years? A road passes through uninhabited places. A few people start to build sheds to sell eating items to the passers-by. And a couple of years pass and the same uninhabited places become spontaneous towns!
Well, I’m not totally against the evolutionary theory of the development but the point is there must be proper planning. It’s the matter of urbanizing the villages systematically so that the agriculture and other activities commercialize, and the disguised unemployment is solved and the demography retains back in the rural-towns.
Both means and ends are very important in development process. That means development execution needs proper “decentralization” for the people’s participation. Nepal has never practiced decentralization in its truest sense. The disgrace is that without practicing, it has already failed politically. The Bikaas Chhetra concept can be still improvised in line with the federalism concept to meet the end! The concept was not materialized because it was virtually impossible in the centralized system of Panchyati byabastha. The parties in the rule, afterwards, did not give a try to improvise it. But we have still time, if the country is to be saved from falling into alien concept of federal pit!
Another development strategy can be the regional priority. Have our development plans been adequately serious about the geography? Unless the hilly/mountainous regions become the development priority the terai cannot remain the granary of Nepal for long!
Sectoral priority can be next very important development strategy. Our development, so far, seems to depend upon the periodic development planning. It tries to pronounce our development priorities, as well. Say, poverty alleviation etc. These are very generic and standardized without being precise. Its emphasis shifts without proper evaluation of the outcome/impact. Has there been objective and transparent evaluation and the new priorities are set as recommended? The answer one meets will be quite vague. This shows our rulers’ indifference and negligence.
Now, this discussion of lack of proper reviewing of our plans and achievements leads us to discuss about culture of monitoring, evaluation and learning. Learning, improving and continuing with our own successful development model is very important to develop our country in our own context. Often our development focus is in the forest and we don’t pay attention to the trees. Let’s take an example of sana kisan bikas karyakram. The karyakram has not only been comparatively successful and popular to put small farmers together, acquire loans, invest for improvising agriculture but also to receive additional grants from the donors, run community development program etc. But there has been no monitoring and evaluation from the government side. This not only hinders us to learn and improve our development practices but also demotivates the ones who are involved to invest, the development partners/agencies, as well.
When we are talking about development priorities and development partners, we should bear in mind seriously to put up our priorities by ourselves. Our development experience shows we have failed in this regard as well if we assess the “donor led development” activities. The donors choose, prioritize and budget the projects on their own and we silently accept them. It has grown up into so serious level that it seems that even the Government Ministries and political parties are run under the consultancy of the donors. The policy feedback projects, trainings in the name of democracy are few examples that remind us of these penetrations into ministry level and party circles. One question I have been always interested to ask our Constituent Assembly Members is: “would we not be able to draft our constitution if we are not injected donors’ money unto us?”
It does not mean that we have to remain isolated and closed from the global system in this post modern era. What do we have to do, then? Follw the ‘glocal’ approach. The simple approach is: we should have clear donors’ investment guidelines. If they become ready to work in our conditions, it is fine. Otherwise, we should be able to say “no thanks”, as well.
Finally, renaissance that we need: Do we really need foreign money and consultation to build our pati pauwa, pani padhero, chautari, kulo and so on. Didn’t our people sacrifice many things; even their lives to build up our nations in the past? Where has the zeal and zest gone now? It’s high time that we needed development renaissance. Can’t we suffer a little more for a few years with dignity in our own land to develop our country? Isn’t it this way that Japan progressed or S. Korea is able to stand where it is today?