Planning In Federal Set Up

Mukti Rijal



The approach document of the fifteenth periodic plan was approved last fortnight. The noticeable and important aspect of the document has been that it has set specific target and indicators to be achieved upon the implementation of the fifteenth five year plan. This provides standard with which the effectiveness of the fifteenth five year plan could be judged and measured. This constitutes an important departure from the previous practices to commit and enhance the efficacy of the periodic plans that have been implemented in the country for last seven decades.
Similarly, the policies and programmes of the government articulated by President Bidya Devi Bhandari for upcoming fiscal year places emphasis on the implementation of specific projects to direct efforts and resources in achieving the physical targets of the development. Indeed, a cursory review of the last year’s plan performance reveals that our capacity to implement development plans is very poor characterised by starkly low utilisation of the resources. This has resulted into diminished outcomes in building infrastructures and physical assets critically needed for the development of the country.
In order to make our development planning more result oriented, it is essential that our capacity to utilise resources need to be enhanced. Otherwise, our development plans would remain limited in the piece of paper without generating any meaning to the life of the people. Needless to say, in the least developed countries like Nepal, economic planning is the tool for development and this has been used for the last seven decades. The philosophy of the economic planning can be broadly classified into indicative planning and command and control based planning. The indicative planning sets the targeted rate of growth for the economy as a whole for a specific time period. In this type of planning, role of private sector and civil society is important.
However, command and control type planning functions within the hierarchical framework of state machinery. Needless to say, Nepal more or less follows the mixed type of planning process by combining the elements of both indicative and command and control type where the role of the state, private and civil sector has been recognised for development. However, it is agreed that development planning process should start with a long term vision and perspective. The perspective outlook should embody an assessment of the country’s long term development vision and goal. Then should come the periodic plan followed by the annual plan. Any way the total activities of the government should reflect in the plan document.
Nepal has already implemented more than a dozen periodic development plans but the most of the plans could not achieve their goals and targets. The reason why plans for development fail in Nepal is typically diagnosed by the Swedish economist Gunar Myrdal who 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 standards of integrity in public administration have been the major impediments of the development.
With a view to address some of the issues and challenges pointed out above Nepal initiated the moves towards instituting decentralised development planning process so that need based projects are executed efficiently and effectively. This has been instituted through constitutional provision within the federal framework where three tiers-local, province and federal- of the government formulate plans and implement accordingly
Each tier of the government has respective sphere of jurisdictions, and the projects and plans have to be designed and formulated with due adherence to the limits of the jurisdictional authority. However, this has been totally disrespected and the projects evolved from ward levels based on the genuine needs of the people have shelved and sidelined at the Gaupalika level. Similarly, projects originating from Gaupalika but of province level size and scale are not taken into account while formulating the plans and projects by provinces. Federal level government overrides constitutional and statutory limits as powerful politicians and bureaucrats introduce their own pet projects to support their respective constituencies.
As mentioned above, planning process has been rendered completely dysfunctional in Nepal. There is no mechanism and process to strike linkage between the country’s needs and development planning so that appropriate projects are identified and selected and resources are allocated accordingly. 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 conforming to the federal polity but the process has been manipulated more or less allowing the crafty politicians and bureaucrats to meddle fully in the planning mechanism and system. Unless the whole planning system is revamped and reoriented according to the principles and value of the federal governance, Nepal’s development endeavours will not only be hurt but completely stifled.
The federal polity should take care of it so that there would be no conflicts among the different tiers of the government. What is required in this context is the strict adherence of the principle of subsidiarity where the different spheres of the government execute their functions autonomously subject to the competencies provided in the list of the constitution.

(Rijal, PhD, contributes regularly to TRN and writes on contemporary political, economic and governance issues) 

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