Reasons Behind Underdevelopment
Nepal is an underdeveloped country. Although it has embarked upon planned development for the last six decades, socio-economic transformations are yet to emerge in the country. The country is being assisted in its development endeavours by foreign countries and international donors and agencies. The annual budgets of the country contain the lion’s share of such assistance. Still, the country has been sluggish in developing itself. Development plans and programmes are drawn up in the country on a continuous basis but their impact on development is not effectual.
Lack of commitment
Various factors have a role to play in accelerating development in the country. The country is rich in natural resources, including hydropower. The other important factor is leadership. Although popular participation is essential for development, the role of the government counts much more. Given that the country has no major problems with managing resources, the commitment and will of the government are a sine qua non for speeding up development in the country. Herein, the honesty of the government also plays a pivotal role in development activities.
The country is beset by a raft of problems. Every sector of the economy is in a shambles. However, the exquisite management of power in the Kathmandu Valley under the able leadership of the honcho of Nepal Electricity Authority (NEA) has indubitably shown why the country has been suffering from load-shedding. The valley has not suffered from power cuts since the festival of Tihar. Even during the festival, no load-shedding occurred to the delight of the Kathmanduites.
Many unscrupulous elements were involved in the load-shedding game for their benefit. They stooped down to extreme meanness by balking the Kathmandu Valley and other parts of the country of electricity, thus playing with the life of the people. As the actual fact regarding the NEA resorting to load-shedding, when it was not required, has come out into the open, it would be social justice to take action against those found guilty of keeping the people in darkness for their self-interests as the crime is of an unpardonable nature.
This has awakened the country and the people to the possibility of other sectors of the economy being manipulated at the hands of a few corrupt people for their benefit. Drinking water is also a burning problem in Nepal. The people are forced to buy water from tanker businessmen. The government has been assuring the people that water from Melamchi will solve the problem of drinking water in the Kathmandu Valley to a great extent. But the people are not ready to buy the assurances as the deadline of the completion of the project has been postponed many times in the past.
One of the reasons for a shortage of drinking water in the Kathmandu Valley is mismanagement of the distribution channels. Water is distributed in some places in excess amounts, whereas other places receive water three or four times a month. So, if only there had been equitable distribution of water, shortage would not have intensified to this extent. Rather than wait for the water from Melamchi to come to the Kathmandu Valley, the government should explore ways for managing sources of water within the Kathmandu Valley. Kathmandu Upatyaka Khanepani Limited should take the initiative in better managing the distribution of water and also in exploring additional sources of water. This will mitigate the problem of drinking water to a great extent.
The initiative taken by NEA needs to be replicated in other sectors as well. The healthcare sector is topsy-turvy. The health facilities are concentrated in the Kathmandu Valley. People in the remote areas have to depend on ill-appointed heath posts for receiving treatment. There should be at least one well-equipped hospital in each district of the country. But the leaders have not cared a damn about this. They prefer going abroad for the treatment of even minor ailments. The healthcare sector is a sensitive sector that is directly concerned with the people. Neglecting this sector for years has had a great impact on the people and the country.
There are still other sectors that are in a sorry state. Education, transportation and commerce, agriculture and other sectors also need to be developed. The government should pay adequate attention to the development of these sectors. These achievements made in eliminating load-shedding in the Kathmandu Valley have clearly shown that these sectors, too, can be developed.
It is deplorable to mention that the country, once an agricultural country, has lost its agrarian charm. Agricultural land in the Kathmandu Valley has converted into housing plots at the hands of the soi-disant land mafia. The trend cannot be reversed but agriculture can be developed in other parts of the country.
The government has formulated a plan for graduating the country from a least developed country to a developing one by 2022. If the government is really serious about this, the country can achieve the target even before the deadline. The development of the economy will make the country self-reliant in certain products. Now imports preponderate over exports, resulting in a behemothic trade deficit. The country was once an exporter of food grains. Now, it is a big importer. The current trade scenario shows that the country has taken an indolent attitude towards trade. This attitude should be supplanted with an import-substitution one. For this, the government should make special efforts.
The country is full of development potential. The only hurdle seems to be unwillingness on the part of the government to harness that potential. Now the time has come for the country to attain self reliance in the economic sector. This point was vigorously raised during the Indian embargo. But with an end to the embargo, it was also gone. It can, however, be revived if the government shows the determination to attain self sufficiency at any cost.
The government should, therefore, initiate development activities with a clean slate. The people will be more than happy to side with the government in the development endeavours aimed at uplifting their socio-economic status. After all, the country has to graduate to a developing country status by 2022.