Roadmap For Prosperity
Dev Raj Dahal
One grand promise of Nepal’s Left Alliance of “national prosperity” during recent federal and provincial elections scotched it striking success opening the route to power. The tenor of promise can unveil a fresh drive if there is a solid roadmap to fulfil the unfulfilled goals and liberate people from enduring doubt about the emptiness of politics. Keeping the promises is the highest virtue of politics which lifts up political leader to a statesmanship. If not, the chasm between new times and narrow fixation on power will catch them into a populist trap. Whether the roadmap will be attuned to constitutional spirit or as usual tailored to global policies conditionalised by foreign aid is not clear. Election milieu, marred by ideology and policy drags, raised a question how political leaders from various parties work together to make Nepal’s prosperity liberating from fear and basic needs deficits and animate civic life.
Policy success depends on its efficacy. Nepali leaders need to synthesise diverse ideas and free the frame of prosperity from the disciplinary clutch to refract the world through their own lens. Politics devoid of contextual policy risks the influence of social science fads which contains an acerbic potential of rationality insensitive to national goals and devoid of morally worthy action. Nepal cannot eternally become a lab to experiment development theories that fail to address national needs and equitable outcome for the poor.
The application of technical solution to Nepal’s problems without learning from the long experiences of people suffered the same fate like earlier theories cantered on growth, modernisation, government intervention, statism, free market, regionalism, MDGs, etc. It only exiled policy from the Nepali parliament. The uses of techno-bureaucratic and cost-accounting approach distanced itself from people’s survival needs. The collective vision of politicians now made their regime soft to growing political and institutional costs subsidising the bloated size of politicians. The planners’ new faith lies in the success of sustainable development goals. Ironically, international institutions set majestic goals without matching commitment, means, action, resource and accountability. If the goals fail, their consultants only repackage them with the similar contents, tools and executing agencies so that life of projects goes on and ownership of capital at individual level stay unaffected.
Now, a scientific consensus set on the community governance, assumes to mediate impersonal state, greed of the market and self-interest of individuals couched in rational choice by embedding all in deep ecology, culture and people’s rights. Nepal cannot pin a hope on a disgusting choice between elite status quo and a wild leap into an uncertain future. When no political force fully owns the constitution it is hard to get democratic order which is a must for prosperity. Neighbours’ opulence ignites a hope for the nation’s modernisation. But it requires a creative way to deal because each fears the other’s support a clog in the gear. An adaptive innovation can build trust and elicit donors to invest in productive sectors. Circulation of capital in the society is necessary for the adoption of a just economic system enabling Nepali people to realise their self-worth and dignity in a multispeed world.
Development belief based on linear progression of human life has misjudged the range of Nepali society and spatial pivot of its history. Advocates of free-will abhor single cause “determinism” of the nation’s future. Those socialised in fatalism, regionalism, class, civil society, NGOs, social movements, market, etc. or those holding blind faith in scientific miracle created unstable equilibrium. Awakened people cease to be morally inert, see the synergy of prosperity in many sources and use democratic power a binding ideal to decide politics, laws and development policies where experts can only aid. Nepal’s right-based polity aims to foster choice, not determinism and liberate policy from the demand side of interest groups who distort public institutions disabling the government to serve the people.
Market materialism claims the continuity of biologically defined social order like in a pre-liberal era of human history. Market “efficiency” interpreted as “fighting ability” and “competition” prevailed in social relations until now. It assumes that the wealth amassed by wealthy can “trickle down” prosperity. Structural adjustment of the poor is crafted against the democratic spirit of choice in deciding appropriate policies. Nepal’s brutal privatisation of public sphere - media, economy, health, education, public security and rule of law – has enriched the upper classes without assuaging the misery of the poor.
Institutional approach entails measurable impact of progress set free by the entrepreneurship of youth and intergenerational reproduction of human capital. Encoded division of labour specific to caste, gender and class always deprives their social mobility and delay the flattening of economy. Economic inertia in Nepal for long has exhausted the ability of its governing institutions, weakened leaders and crushed hopes of people for prosperity. The inner forces of government often control delivery side of politics through rent-seeking, corruption, tax escape, capital flight, project allocation to favoured clients and twist general economic security.
Much of Nepal’s troubles have emerged from bad management of private sector, administration and politics even civil society which know only to raise demands without building the state capacity to fulfil. Democratic order is based on the good use of public reason which can combat deforming effects of bad economic policies that causes the scarcity of resources. The execution of constitutional rights can create an order rooted in justice. It provides a scope for redistributive politics such as social inclusion, proportional representation and many rights. But leaders are easy with the corporate instinct, an instinct which links the local to global coalition for fear of its motives being exposed by diverse demand-articulating groups and, therefore, align with them to pre-empt poor’s influence on policy by controlling the institutional lever of political economy.
The culture of human rights is moulding the destiny of Nepali people. Its practice can offer them social mobility from fixed division of labour and scale up their destiny to a new level beyond the fatigued trial of globalisation which only generated the wealth gap across people and nations incubating endless causes and effects for social imbalance. The constitution aims to abolish class, caste, gender and regional bias through equity. The vision of welfare state intends to socialise responsibility of the public, private and cooperative sectors of economy as a means to solve the problems of poverty, joblessness, inequality and deprivation.
Owing to a lack of access to critical resources, a large swath of population is outside the reach of public goods. Powerlessness can be overcome if people learn the enterprise of producing basic necessities of life and actively engage in public sphere. Prosperity amounts to the levelling off of people’s lives including those 28 per cent stumbled to poverty line by strategically using the nation’s productive potentials and chaining the economic evils. New learning about ecology has bound Nepali scholars to rediscover the nation’s own roots of creating “mindful society” where resilience of nature is tantamount to human survival.
The success of Left Alliance rests on setting the priority of prosperity by inspiring the opposition to its initiatives and turning all institutions accountable to the people. National political community must be inclusive and group-bridging, not group-differentiating in terms of rights and privileges. Inclusive economic growth and the distribution of public goods can improve the living standards. Now, people are caught in the knife-edge between traditional order which has been banished and silent turmoil stoked by contesting visions on social contract theory of governance which infuses post-traditional values including the social rights, extensive franchise, social inclusion, social justice and equitable development spurring the full realisation of human faculties. They provide a ray of hope. But it needs the lubrication of economic size and productive use of its surplus.
The crisis of trust among top leaders, caused by the betrayal of each other in the past, made top-down approach totter while bottom-up laggard in restoring the condition of prosperity. The grasp of hope demands many suitable means, such as reflective intelligence, institutions, strategies, resource and political will of leaders for complex performances. This provides a chance for them to gain inner experience of life and acquire material prosperity to the fullest extent possible.