Nepal has been implementing planned development, at least in theory, since 1956. Since 1956, fifteen periodic plans (including three and five years) have been implemented and the 16th is in the making. Government reports note that Nepal has scored good points in a number of areas such as poverty reduction, primary education enrolment, and maternal mortality. Despite these achievements, the country has been encountering daunting challenges in providing basic services guaranteed in the Constitution of Nepal 2015. For examples, some of the fundamental rights, out of a total of 31, related to basic services guaranteed in the Constitution include Clean drinkable water, Access to affordable health services, Access to affordable and quality education, Right to employment, Right to obtain quality goods and services, and Right to information. Furthermore, one of the most discussed and relevant issues in Nepal is rising corruptive practices in all sectors which revolve around policy corruptions, grand corruptions, petty corruptions inclusive of abuse of authority, bribery, embezzlement and nepotism.
The reality checks demonstrate, although the Constitution is full of guarantees, Nepalis, particularly in urban regions, cannot drink a glass of water filling the glass directly from government supplied piped water system. In relation to clean environment, most of Nepal’s cities fall on the top levels of air pollution. The employment opportunities either do not exist or government is unable to generatehopes, resulting into an exodus of approximately 1700 youths every day for serving in the foreign countries, leaving their families back and often time they happen to return in coffins. The bad governance practice is vividly evidenced in the yearly reports of Office of the Auditor General and the yearly rating of corruption index produced by Transparency international. The position of Nepal is consistently in the ‘lowest’ scoring 34 points last year and 35 points this year out of 100. Physical infrastructural development activities and urban development processes across the country are in absolutehaphazardconditions and the future patterns based on current practices even look darker and gloomier. Theself-centered corruptive mindsets from politicians to bureaucracy to contractors and non-coordination between different governmental institutions including line-ministries and three tiers of governments, development activities have been never ending processes like the Myth of Sisyphusand heading towards a permanent recipe for disasters.If anything, these need to be changed through the 16th planning in the making!
In this backdrop, now it is time to painfully celebrate that a plan recommender [only] body, the National Planning Commission, is drafting the 16th period plan and there is hullabaloo in town these days about what needs to be there in the plan as if the country has fulfilled basic public needs/services in relation to the fundamental rights I discussed in the preceding paragraph and now it is time to bring Rail from China and send a rocket to the mars for the study. In plain language, the 16th plan must not be a document full of wish-list but needs to be implementable in actions/activities, first and foremost, fulfilling the basic needs/servicesof the people. It must have actionable details of ending poverty and reducing hunger. For examples, programs such as agricultural production must include production, market and post-market plans and required to have plan A, plan B, and plan Cif the agricultural products are not sold during the seasonsto benefit the farmers in order to end poverty and reduce hunger. To create an enabling environment, government or private sector must build enough number of cold-storages to keep the agricultural products and prevent them from getting spoilt under normal conditions. Government must have plan to manufacture alternative products in case the first products do not get sufficient markets in the season. For example, milk can be bought by government, and can be turned into cheese, ghee etc. and market them. Similarly, different items can be made from tomatoes and flowers etc. These need to be clearly articulated to make farmers economically sound and hold trust to engage in agriculture. This can only then contribute to fundamental rights relating to food and livelihood security. In combo, they can contribute to reducing poverty and hunger among other rights.
The Plan must ensure that basic services are of quality and quantity. Basic servicesmust be made available to every Nepali citizen without any IF or BUT. For examples, ensure clean and safe drinking water (do not use language like improved water quality—this is confusing and useless) provided no Nepali in cities can directly fill a glass of water from the piped tap and drink feeling safe. This is fundamentally basic rightbut not available to people until now although we have 16th Plan in the making. The Plan must focus on making health services accessible to all rich and poor—the country must take responsibilities in the areas of health and education (education up to high school) as inscribed in the Constitution. Currently, health and education services are mostly privatized and they cater only to people with money in the so called social democracy-oriented country. Therefore, most people in Nepal have to buy medicines over the counter because health system is lethargic and expensive. In approximately 68 years of periodic planning, the country has failed to provide quality drinking water, quality health service and one type of education to its citizens. As a result, youngsters in the search of secured basic services arechoosing to go abroad but NOT for quality education as our politicians claim to divert our attention elsewhere to hide their failures and inability.
Another important concern is about social inclusion. Most of our current social and physical infrastructure are exclusionary. Each and every infrastructure development must be gender friendly and socially inclusive. For examples, most of the roads made until now do not have sidewalks or sizeable for pedestrians, disabled friendly accessibility and cycle lanes for cyclists. Buildings do not have disability friendlyramps and those that have are like roller-coaster slides. So, for any infrastructure development (both physical and social) must be GEDSI friendly. Do not write bogus wish-list statements but tell exactly how this can be actualized in the existing infrastructure and future development. Furthermore, the focus needs to be on developing sustainable cities and settlements but there appears to be zero level of understanding of it and current plotting system developed by land mafias is full of contradictions from the parameters of sustainable urban development. First, clarity is required about —what is sustainable city? Smart cities and sustainable cities are different things. Smarts means focusing on technologies while sustainable means, inter alia, focusing on technologies, good governance, people, agriculture and livelihood. Connect the concept of sustainable city development with thelatest versions of Town Development Act, Building Code, Development Authority Act, Agriculture Act, Water Policy, Climate Policy etc. and entirely discard current practices of mafia-captured land plotting—which is has long been a recipe for disasters. Focus on vertical urban development in terms of housing NOT on horizontal. Plan to change mindset of the people from horizontal to vertical development.
Climate change has been one of the most threatening challenges of 21st century. Do not engage in telling only ‘snow is melting in the Himalayasand do not only limit discussions to loss and damages’rather present how climate change can affect all walks of human life and activities and ultimate survival of people in Nepal and South Asia. Addressing climate change must not be limited to adaptation in agriculture practices and water but all our new infrastructure including roads, housings, livelihood options, agricultural system, water system, among others, need to be climate resilient. Demonstrate clear pathways about how this can be actualized vividly. If this remains unaddressed, the guff of sustainable economic growth and development is flimsy and transitory only.
Bad governance appears to be in the heart in Nepali politico-bureaucracy system, therefore, demonstrate how the country can achieve good governance. How actually can the system be made ‘zero-tolerance against corruption’? Hit on election practices and hit on the heads of corruptive mindsets as well in order to make the country corruption free.Demonstrate pathways to actualizefull-fledged good governance system to avoid current mess of bad governance. Direct how e-governance can lead to good governance and change the existing little useful practice of e-governance.In fact, current e-governance practice is a nonsense practice. For example, fill up online form, and again go to office with all physical copies and present yourself. Bring references and analogies from Denmark, Finland and New Zealand about how they are at the top on good governance practicesand hold top positions in not doing corruption and stay as leaders on global corruption index.
Show how sustainable growth and development can be achieved as current growth and developmentpractices are very transitory. In fact, government and bureaucracy have done littlefor sustainable growth and development and as of now it is automatically happening because of inflow of remittances. In such scenario, once remittances collapse, the country is bound to encounter several rounds of economic shocks and all round human-made disasters. So, focus must be in the making of endogenously powerfulsustainable economy which currently it is full of brokers [DALAL] economy.Prioritize investment in agriculture, investment in hydroelectric [both run of the river and dam], invest in energy mix but with solid evidence that these can be done for sustainable development of the country. Prioritize more on social infrastructure and continue inclusive development of all and physical infrastructure. Remodel social protection system and if one is getting pension from either government of Nepal or outside, s/he must not be paid another in the name of elderly social protection.Last but not least, while preparing the 16th Plan, do not overwhelming get guided by international architectures only, consult Constitution of Nepal 2015, Local Government Operation Act 2017, Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Act 2017, Climate Change Policy 2019 among others and make sure what the country has promised there is being guaranteed actually and sustainably.
Dr. Chandra Lal Pandey is an Associate Professor and Head of the Department of Development Studies, SoA, Kathmandu University. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org