Prosperity Under Discourse
Dr. Narad Bharadwaj
The meeting of the selected intellectuals representing a broad spectrum of specialities organised Monday by former prime minister and Chairperson of the CPN (UML) KP Oli, once again, tried to blow into flame the flickering ambers of national aspiration for achieving prosperity. The meeting of minds among intellectuals and the top leadership of the CPN (UML), including the troika of the party’s former prime ministers transmitted the message that the UNL is ready to tap available reservoir of knowledge to enrich its policies and programmes.
The Monday’s meeting was unique intellectual forum which helped thrash out the problems and constraints that pose hindrance lying on the path of achieving a high development goal of shaking off the shackles of poverty by 2099 B.S. At the meeting, scholars, senior diplomats, development professionals, business leaders and industrialists gave futuristic projections on how Nepal can achieve prosperity by the turn of the era.
In recent years, former Prime Minister Oli has been leading his party in initiating new discourses and formulating agendas to safeguard national sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity. This time also, he stole the show by leading a top crop of Nepalese intellectuals in a brainstorming session on issue of development only days after the successful conclusion of a historic mass mobilisation through—the Mechi to Mahakali campaign.
Open and transparent dialogical approach is rarely practised either in Nepal or in any other countries of the region. By initiating a process of strengthening policy formulation process through feedbacks from and sharing of knowledge with scholars, the CPN (UML) has made a genuine attempt to free itself from a straitjacket of ossified ideology. This initiative has also proved that the UML leadership is anxious for putting the country onto a trajectory of modernisation and prosperity even when in the midst of struggle to end political transition and attain political stability.
The participants of the programme raised concerns on the prolonged transition and the political instability which they said were the greatest hindrances to Nepal’s drive to modernity and prosperity. They were almost unanimous in their views that the country must concentrate its entire political will to hold the three tiers of election to unleash the forces of democratic reforms.
Another important insight shared there was that strengthening public education was the key to modernisation and prosperity of the country. The speakers said that countries which have achieved unbelievable transformation in their socio-economic conditions had invested on public education. Nepal’s declining socio-economic capacity had to do with the collapse of public education system, institutionalisation of superficial and non-contextual teaching and learning as well as a general disregard for meritocracy. If Nepal was to make a leap forward to development and prosperity, serious measures would be required for overhauling public education making it the mainstay of cognitive learning of the Nepalese society.
Similarly, the commentators at the intellectual forum also brought on board the need of developing think tanks on various sectors of intellectual pursuits. Stress was given on the need for linking the policy making process with the reservoir of knowledge created through serious and down to earth research practices establishing a norm of rewarding new discoveries and innovations in the field of pure science, technology, agricultural science, national defence and other areas of creative endeavours.
In a four hour-long programme, participants floated useful and imaginative approaches to attaining new heights of achievement. Some scholars expressed their concern about deepening polarisation among the political actors of the country. They stressed the need for evolving a consensus making it obligatory for any party in power to implement the national pride projects agreed upon previously through intensive dialogues and discussion.
The participants also said that identifying mega-projects on strategic areas like the hydropower, transport, railways, irrigation, river navigation, modern agricultural farming and mining was also crucial in unleashing the development potential of the country. For realising these objectives, stress was also given for Nepal to be a party of China’s One Belt One Road (OBOR) Project as soon as possible. If a couple of mega- projects on hydro-electricity, transport and solar energy could be implemented, they would change the rule book of development. In this regard, the participants also threw caution that a proper prioritisation and channelising adequate resources were key to timely and successful implementation of such projects.
During discussion, attention was drawn to the need of identifying and implementing projects based on the ground reality of the Nepalese society. For an agricultural country like Nepal with 70 per cent people still depending on agriculture, it would be necessary to devise vision, objectives and plans to increase agricultural productivity by formulating and implementing proper land-use policy.
At the present time of looming global food crisis with 16 million people on the verge of facing death due of famine in Sudan, Somalia and Nigeria, the prospects of Nepal emerging as a food supplying country cashing on its abundant water resources and fertility of the land was discussed. But a well-thought out and scientifically sound policies needed to be evolved and implemented with a long-term objective of developing a strong agro-based industry.
For any country aspiring to transform its socio-economic status, development of a chain of manufacturing industry is indispensable. The experience of countries achieving development in a short time span shows that stress on manufacturing capacity had helped address the unemployment problem, achieve systematic urbanisation and increase revenue by promoting export trade.
When Singapore became independent from Malaysia in 1965, its leader Lee Quan Yew had stressed on manufacturing industries, housing and public education. He constructed international airport and seaports changing his country into an air service and maritime shipment hub within a short span of twenty-five years.
China started its modernisation drive in 1978 under the inspirational leadership of Deng Xiaoping. It followed the path of four modernisations of agriculture, industry, national defence and science and technology. Because of its correct policy of opening to the world and hard work it is on the way of becoming number one global economic power exceeding the US.
Israel’s success story, too, is emulating. Israel was in dire economic strait till 1959. It did not have its own natural resources. There was high unemployment and low foreign currency reserve. But this country developed high technology, manufacturing plants, diamond cutting industries and setup agricultural farms. It invested on high quality public education. Later on it discovered large reserve of gas and developed solar energy. It attracted foreign investment, developed tourism destinations and achieved the pinnacle of success in a short period of time.
Nepal enjoys much more favourable conditions for kick-starting economic development than Singapore and Israel were enjoying when they started their journey to prosperity. The existence of abundant natural resources, varied geographical and climatic conditions, alluring tourism destinations and existence of about 57% population in the job market is a window of opportunity which Nepal must use to achieve a galloping pace of development.
The CPN (UML) has stood out from the crowd by bringing the issue of development and prosperity within the realm of political discourse. If all the political parties forge consensus, shift their focus from a pointless bickering over theoretical niceties and show commitment to start political mobilisation for economic transformation of the country, prosperity to the people will not remain a distant dream.