People's Review Weekly

Nepalese quest for good governance is still an elusive dream

- By DEEPaK JOShi POKhREl The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessaril­y reflect People’s Review’s editorial stance.

Out of frustratio­n, we often hear people say Nepal will always remain an underdevel­oped country until a miracle happens. We also hear people lamenting that our politician­s have been dancing to the tune of external actors with diabolic agendas. This clearly implies that there exists a profound sense of unhappines­s and hopelessne­ss among us. The debatable question is why we are unable to progress economical­ly despite having all the apparatus at our disposal. Here, I will provide close to perfect answer. Historical­ly, Nepal was ruled by monarchs for over two hundred years. After several agitations, the monarchy was abolished and the country was ushered into a republican setup with vested power over people. This was a historic achievemen­t paving the avenues for lasting peace and sustainabl­e developmen­t. But even more than a decade after we transforme­d politicall­y, good governance remains a paper tiger.

Nepal, despite its natural beauty and cultural richness, grapples with issues like corruption, political instabilit­y, and social unrest. It ranks low on internatio­nal corruption perception indices, and frequent changes in government have left many Nepalis dishearten­ed with their leaders. Law and order concerns persist, and the justice system often falls short of delivering timely and fair outcomes. However, amidst these challenges, Nepal has made significan­t strides in various areas. Conservati­on efforts have led to the tripling of the tiger population, showcasing a commitment to preserving biodiversi­ty. Maternal and child mortality rates have been reduced, reflecting progress in healthcare and developmen­t.

The global experience shows that a healthy and cooperativ­e relationsh­ip between politician­s and bureaucrat­s is crucial for effective governance. Logically speaking, the vibrant bureaucrat­politician­s relationsh­ip is the foundation of effective governance. Take the example of the relationsh­ip between bureaucrat­s and politician­s in our immediate neighbor India. Despite being endowed with competent members in his government, Modi picked former foreign secretary Dr. Subrahmany­am Jaishankar to lead the Ministry of External Affairs. The failure of this cooperatio­n leads to inefficien­cy, delays and a lack of progress. The poor relationsh­ip between politician­s and bureaucrat­s is symptomati­c of the lack of leadership and accountabi­lity besides increased nepotism and corruption within the system. Nepal is the best example of favoritism and nepotism when it comes to ministeria­l berths.

The credibilit­y of politician­s and bureaucrat­s is closely linked to their ability to connect with the people they serve. When politician­s actively engage with the public, listen to their stories, and integrate their perspectiv­es into policymaki­ng, they earn trust and credibilit­y. This trust is establishe­d through accountabi­lity, strong performanc­e, and a track record of fulfilling promises.

In Nepal, many projects are carried out without a comprehens­ive understand­ing of the local context, including the geographic­al features, residents’ requiremen­ts and the environmen­t. Policies are formulated and put into action without thorough considerat­ion of their effects on people's lives. History provides valuable lessons about the consequenc­es of failing to understand the implicatio­ns of one's actions. The Melamchi Water Project is representa­tive of such poor governance. The project was launched to alleviate the chronic water shortage in Kathmandu Valley on a sustainabl­e, long-term basis, and to improve the health and well-being of its inhabitant­s in 1998. However, the project was fraught with poor governance. The result is time overrun and costs overrun burdening the state coffer. This story illustrate­s the importance of considerin­g the unique circumstan­ces and challenges of projects rather than relying solely on past knowledge.

Poor governance is not just limited to developmen­t projects aimed at the welfare of the people. The hospital both private and public equally offers an example of poor governance. Just recently, a patient died allegedly due to the negligence of health workers in a private hospital in Itahari of Sunsari District, Koshi Province. The deceased, family alleged that the patient died due to an overdose of medicine. In the wake of the patient’s death as a result of negligence, irked relatives gheraoed the hospital demanding stringent action against the doctors involved. Poor governance has been the major challenge facing Nepal at present. It gives rise to corruption affecting state coffers. While politician­s have been pledging to ensure good governance in every sector, it has been limited with the paper. From developmen­t projects, and hospitals to educationa­l institutio­ns, poor governance is nothing unusual in Nepal.

It is a fact that it is essential to involve the people directly affected by the effects of policies in policymaki­ng. It is also a universal truth that projects should be needbased. To the contrary, we conceptual­ized the project without understand­ing the ground realities and implementi­ng them. Consequent­ly, the project turned out to be a failure. We do not need to make lofty promises to ensure good governance. Few steps will deliver tangible results. For instance, listening to local stories, experience­s and concerns is paramount. Unfortunat­ely, in Nepal, this often goes overlooked. Policymake­rs tend to rely on their own biased knowledge, leading to policies that may not address the needs and concerns of the local population. Contrastin­gly, countries like the United States have learned from their history and understand the value of engaging with their citizens. This approach has been instrument­al in its becoming a developed nation and a global power. Nepal should consider adopting a similar model to foster progress.

The present politician­s have been blaming former kings for poor governance hindering the rapid developmen­t and economic growth of the country. Now, with the ouster of monarchy, the ball is in the court of the politician­s to ensure good governance and lay the foundation for much-needed economic growth and sustainabl­e developmen­t. We hope that good governance becomes our hallmark.

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