Planning For Prosperity

 

Mukti Rijal

Nepal is committed to achieve prosperity and development within a short span of time. The Prime Minister, ministers and political leaders are all harping on the theme of development and prosperity time and again. The aspiration to achieve prosperity and development does indeed rest on the capacity to generate and mobilise resources and utilise them effectively. However, a casual review of the project performance in Nepal reveals that the country's capacity to implement development projects is very poor characterised by low utilisation of the resources, among others. This has resulted into shortfall in achieving the developing target. This has also engendered low and shrunken outcomes in building infrastructures and physical assets critically needed for the development and prosperity of the country. Several projects which are glorified as the projects of national pride are allowed to languish in tatters. Whether it is airport, road, hydropower or irrigation constructions, no project has been completed in time. They incur exorbitant and escalated cost overruns. 

Resource utilisation

 In order that our development projects are completed in time and make planning process more result-oriented, it is essential that our capacity to utilise resources is bolstered. Needless to say, in the least developed countries like Nepal, economic planning is the tool for development. Economic planning for development has been used in Nepal for the last several decades.  The philosophy of the economic planning can be broadly categorised into two typologies that is the indicative planning and imperative planning. The indicative planning is mostly used in the countries where free market economy has been adopted. The indicative planning sets the targeted rate of growth for the economy as a whole for a specific period of time. In this type of planning role of private sector and civil society is considered to be very vital and important where state plays the role of a facilitator and enabler.

 On the other hand, imperative planning is a fully state administered and guided   kind of planning. This kind of planning functions within the hierarchical framework of state machinery. This was more popular in the socialist countries, like the dissolved Soviet Union introduced by now discredited communist leader Joseph Stalin. But now this type of planning has been more or less abandoned.  Nepal follows the mixed type of planning process where the role of the public, private and civil sector has been recognised for development. However, it is generally agreed that a development planning process should start with a perspective plan.  The perspective plan embodies an assessment of the country’s long term development outlook and broader goals. Then the perspective plan is followed by the periodic plan. The annual plans and projects implement the targets of the periodic plan. The total activities of the government should elaborate and reflect in the planning document. 

Nepal has already implemented more than a dozen periodic development plans and projects, including the ongoing fourteenth plan. The review, conducted by the government, has shown that the most of the plans could not achieve their targets.  The reason why plans for development fail in Nepal is typically diagnosed by the Swedish economist Gunar Myrdal who had earned reputation worldwide for reason of his famous work called ‘The Asian Drama’. He mentioned that poor technology, underdeveloped institutions for enterprise and development, imperfections in the authority of the government, centralised governance system, corruption, low efficiency and poor standards of integrity in public administration have been the major impediments affecting the implementation of development projects in Nepal.

With a view to address some of the issues and challenges pointed out above, Nepal embarked upon   the moves towards instituting decentralised development planning process so that the local development projects are executed efficiently and effectively.  The Local Self-governance Act, enacted in 1999, had conceived of the decentralised planning process starting from the settlement level moving up through local levels to the national level.  

Since last year, the central government has divested itself of the responsibilities for the petty local development projects published in what is known as Rato Kitab (Red Book) which used to be sanctioned through lateral interventions. However, the planning process has been totally disrespected and the projects evolved from grassroots that are based on the genuine needs of the people have been shelved. The big shots in the decision making level and powerful politicians controlled and sidelined the defined statutory planning process and plan their own pet projects to support their respective constituencies.

Centralised

As mentioned above, planning process has been rendered completely dysfunctional in Nepal. The planning process is not only centralised but also personalised. The political leaders, bureaucrats and those who can dictate the official channels can make the planning wheel move as a consequence of which projects are misallocated and resources are misused in larger proportion.  In theory, Nepal has adopted the bottom-up planning process and the projects prioritised by the people to meet their needs and aspirations should form the basis of the national plans. But the whole process has been turned into mockery allowing the crafty politicians and rapacious bureaucrats to meddle fully in the planning mechanism and system.

The projects recommended from the villages and districts are thrown into the dustbin. Even after the election to the local governments under new federal dispensation, this pattern has not changed much. Though the local governments are allocated increased resources through grants, there is no priority given to the need based strategic projects. Unless the whole planning system is revamped and reoriented Nepal’s development endeavors will not only be hurt but completely prejudiced and our much vaunted road to prosperity and development will remain untrodden.

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