Nepal’s Low Development Index

It is very likely that Nepal will soon become one of the two least developed countries in Asia, along with Afghanistan. War is the main reason that these two countries will bear this tag. A whole decade of Maoist insurgency, from 1996 to 2006 has ensured that economic activity in Nepal did not really take off.

More than 17000 people have fallen to this insurgency, but strangely the GDP during this period and after this period has remained fairly steady without much fluctuation. A lot of infrastructure was destroyed, but to be fair, there was not much infrastructure in the first place, given the levels of corruption in the country. The standard of schools and health posts remains as much the same today as it was before, ten years after the war has ended. Other countries which have suffered even worse wars have overtaken Nepal on the development index.

The reasons for Nepal’s backwardness are not far to seek. The government in Nepal is not an enabler in development, rather it is an impediment. The rulers are corrupt and all public offices are for sale. Many ministries and institution in the field of education, universities, electricity and aviation have been whittled down and left powerless and half dead. The private sector is no better and cartels and syndicates join hands with political bosses to form business mafias to establish monopolies in drinking water, energy, transportation and food markets. Most profit from the governance in the education and health sector is almost no existent.

The education sector in Nepal receives foreign aid to the tune of an amount that is currently pegged at almost one billion USD per year. Nepal has been receiving this kind of aid for close to sixty years and this aid constitutes close to twenty five percent of the government’s budget. Since the 1950s Nepal has received foreign aid and technical advice initially under the aegis of the “Education for All” program and then subsequently under the “School Sector Reform Program”, but only thirteen percent of those who enroll in schools manage to pass the High School Examination.

Aid from donors is kept up at a steady pace and many countries have also announced substantial increases in aid. At the same time, Nepal has slid down the Transparency International Corruption Index as politicians of all hues continue to share the spoils by diverting the aid money. Government management is so bad that a quarter of the funds set aside for capital investment remains unspent annually.

At the end of each year, there is a spurt in government spending to show some kind of government action. The donors are aware of this, but continue to measure their own success against the amount given in aid and the amounts disbursed as against measuring what has really been accomplished with the use of the funds. Few donors are willing to call the bluff as it will only expose the long cunning scandals in the development industry. To really see improvement on the ground, Nepal requires a whole lot of committed workers, not just aid.

Atreyee Roy (have 690 posts in total)

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