The sole objective of Nepal’s development strategy has been to set forth as to achieve prosperity, development and happiness of the people within a short span of time. The prime minister, ministers and political leaders are all harping on the theme of development, prosperity and happiness time and again. Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli has made a repeated plea to the investors to put in their resources in the development of the country. Whether in Davos or other forums the prime minister does not fail to articulate his vision of development and prosperity and argues that the country has all requisite infrastructures and guarantees for investors to put in their capital and technology.
However, the aspiration to achieve prosperity and development does indeed rest on the capacity to generate and mobilise resources and utilide them efficiently and effectively. A casual appraisal reveals that the country’s capacity to implement development projects is very poor characterised by low utilisation and miscarriage of the resources. This is clearly mentioned in the report presented by the Public Expenditure Review Commission (PERC) the other day. 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 projects have been completed in time. They incur exorbitant and escalated cost overruns. In order that our development projects are completed in time and make planning process more viable and result oriented, it is essential that our capacity to utilise resources is bolstered and project development and implementation governance is fully set right. Needless to say, in the least developed countries like Nepal, economic planning is the tool for development. Economic planning has been used in Nepal for the last several decades.
The philosophy of the economic planning can be broadly categorised into two types-- 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, civil society, cooperatives and other development partners is considered to be 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 communist leader Joseph Stalin and continued till the fall of communism in the dissolved Soviet Union. But modern China has made innovative adaptation and used this method of planning very successfully. 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, cooperative and civil sectors has been recognised and valued for development. However, it is generally agreed that a development planning process should start with 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. 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. However, the decentralised planning process has been totally disrespected. The overlapping and duplication of the federal, provincial and local level projects as indicated in the PERC report speaks volume of the centralised mindset in the planning process. The big sorts in the decision making level and powerful politicians control and sideline the defined statutory planning process and plan their own pet projects to support their respective constituencies.
Prime Minister Oli and leaders like Prachanda are not an exception to it. As mentioned above, planning process has been rendered completely dysfunctional in Nepal. It is not only centralised but also personalised. The political leaders, bureaucrats and those who can dictate and manipulate 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 sanctioned and validated by the federal constitution. 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. Unless the whole planning system is revamped, reoriented and project governance system reformed in the true spirit of federalism, Nepal’s development trajectory is not likely to take off and move upward.