As good as it gets

Ostensibly to place Nepal on a path of higher growth, the World Bank has now come forward with a grant of $3 million to help finance the technical assistance aspects of its comprehensive

reform agenda. The grant, which comes under the Economic Reform Technical Assistance Project (ERTA), aims to strengthen homegrown reforms in the areas of public sector capacity,

service delivery, social inclusion, governance and reduction in the unproductive public sector intervention in economic activities. Given the weak technical base of Nepal’s public sector, this is a welcome initiative. The country’s policymakers have been grumbling since a long time that governance could not be improved because of poor technical backup. This has resulted in the public sector management lagging way behind in providing efficient services. The Bank’s grant should thus provide them with an opportunity to prudently put the amount to proper use so that the public sector gets to enhance its performance. And since the grant is particularly for homegrown reforms, it would be vital for not only helping the entrepreneurs but also for promoting social equity. This would do the country a lot of good at a time when it is reeling under insurgency.

However, all the past World Bank assistance to Nepal’s public sector has not been entirely fruitful. The most telling example is the support for reform in the Rastriya Banijya Bank (RBB) and Nepal Bank Limited (NBL) through a new management system. The public is well aware that even after more than two years of foreign management, these two banks are yet to show promising results. Though it is unrealistic to expect immediate returns, the new management should have been able to at least raise the level of confidence in what it says it is doing. One wonders who or what is stopping the foreign management teams from making the progress. Is it the lack of transparency or the official willingness to stem the flow of information regarding the vital components of the organisations that are being manipulated to suit certain vested interests? Any successful implementation of ideas involves a close study of human behaviours and attitudes. Similarly, any reform programme has to be acceptable to all the stakeholders of the institution concerned. The growth and progress bring benefits to all.