On The Road To Prosperity
With the installation of the left government with a two-thirds majority touted as the strongest government since the restoration of the multi-party democracy in the 1990s, popular expectations are high that Nepal will undergo a sea change as this has ended the transition period and political instability. In fact, as long as political instability coupled with the transition period is there, the state of underdevelopment may persist.
It has been nine months since the present government was in place. The government has vowed to bring about prosperity so much so that this year has been declared the foundation year for prosperity. Moreover, the slogan ‘Prosperous Nepal, Happy Nepali’ has been aptly coined. The government programmes and policies have accordingly been formulated. And the budget for this fiscal year was also passed well ahead of the start of this fiscal year.
Dreaming of prosperity is not a bad thing. Without such a dream, no country in the world can prosper. A burning example is Singapore, which was able to catapult itself into the status of prosperous country in a span of twenty-five or thirty years. As such, the leaders of Nepal frequently say that they will make Nepal Singapore by emulating the prosperity mantra of the latter.
The thing is making speeches and swinging into action are two diametrically opposite things. To make any country prosperous, a visionary leader, not a soapbox orator or a demagogue, is required. By and large, the leaders of Nepal are literally demagogues. They tend to make tongue-in-cheek speeches ad nauseam. That is why, people have stopped believing them.
One of the prerequisites for development is investment in industrial and infrastructure development. When it comes to such development, Nepal is on the drawing board. The country is dependent on imports even for agricultural products. Once, the country was an exporter of agricultural produce. Now, it has to import food items products from abroad on a large scale. And the percentage of people engaged in agriculture and allied activities has also come down to around six-five, which was once a whopping ninety per cent.
As far as industrialisation is concerned, most of the industries have closed down after the privatisation drive was embarked upon after the restoration of a multi-party democracy. This has made Nepal a predominantly import-based country. A widening gap between exports and imports has caused a gargantuan trade deficit, which is very hard to afford for a least developed country like ours.
However, it is not out of the question to make Nepal prosperous. The country is rich in natural resources. It is only a matter of how to harness them. In today’s high-tech age, technology should not be a constraint. As far as funds are concerned, the country has been receiving foreign assistance and grants from foreign governments and donor agencies for decades. What is required is the will of the leadership that the country will be made prosperous at any cost and against odds of any kind.
As far as embarking upon development works is concerned, the role of the administration is of paramount importance from selecting development projects to completing them. The success of any development project depends on the honesty and integrity of project officials and contractors with no interference from the government or other authorities. In the present context, all is not well with development projects. The problems of delay, financial indiscipline and other adversities are always there. That is why, development projects are not completed in time. Even if they are completed in time, cost overruns make the projects costlier than estimated.
The tendency of under-spending the development budget has been plaguing Nepal for years. In the past, budgets were not passed in time, resulting in a delay in releasing allocations. This time around, the budget was endorsed in time. Still, the malady of under-spending has not left the country. It is reported that only eight to ten per cent of the current development budget has been spent so far. Just putting the funds in the state coffers will not speed up development works. Banks and financial institutions, which are considered as the part and parcel of the economy, are also grumbling that failure on the part of the government to spend the budget adequately has given rise to a liquidity crunch in the market. It is true beyond doubt that government spending will have a positive impact on the banking and financial sector. The heavy government spending in the month of Asadh considerably boosted the liquidity position.
Prosperity is not a highway. There are many irons in the fire. The government should make plans for developing every sector, be it transport, education, healthcare or infrastructure. What is required is a strong willpower on the part of the government. And there should be a strong apparatus for monitoring development works, ensuring that financial indiscipline does not creep into such works. It is a no-brainer that as long as there is corruption, the dream of prosperity will remain a dream only. Under the present circumstances, the tentacles of corruption have pervaded every sector of the society.
The state ombudsman, the Commission for Investigation of Abuse of Authority (CIAA), is there to probe corruption cases. It should be equipped with even stronger teeth to make it capable of investigating any corruption case independently without interference from any sector. If corruption can be nipped in the bud, the pace of development will pick up on an unprecedented scale. As a matter of fact, it is corruption that balks development projects of the required funds, making them inferior and costly. There is no doubt that even the general people will lend a hand to the government in its sacrosanct mission of making Nepal a prosperous country.