Crying need Visionary leadership and some fundamentals

Bhavani Dhungana

In recent months, a considerable number of meetings, seminars, and workshops have been organised in Kathmandu to discuss various facets of Nepali economy by both public and private sector organisations. These meetings seemed to be useful in sensitising the public as well as other interested groups on critical issues of the nation’s current state of socio-economic situation. However, it would have been much more useful and would have contributed significantly, if the organisers and the participants had deliberated on long term perspectives of nation’s development. Almost all the meetings were held in the capital city, sometimes two or three meetings held on the same day, sometimes on the same topic. Most of the speakers and resource persons were always drawn from a limited pool, where the same speakers had to shuffle quite frequently between meetings. Most of the deliberations took a monotonous course of discussion on the present state of nation’s difficult situation, challenges, conflict resolution and reinstatement of peace and good governance.

While all these issues are of great importance, however, reiteration of problems and mere lamentations for the present state of affairs are not going to help much. More important is to dwell and discuss on who are responsible for this situation, how it could be improved and how we plan to correct the past mistakes and prepare ourselves to deal with the current as well as emerging challenges in our future development efforts. A distinct vision for nation’s long-term development with an effective and pragmatic programme of action for dealing with specific issues under different sectors needs to be evolved. A mechanism for the programme’s effective implementation with clear accountabilities, responsibilities and ownership need to be suggested for placing things in order.

Lessons need to be learned that Nepal as a poor and deprived nation lost decades of potential development opportunities in the absence of democratic framework of governance during those decades. It is quite clear that several countries, including our neighbours, did create effective fundamentals for further growth during the past decades, and have now been able to accelerate growth and achieve remarkable and respectable levels of socio-economic development. It is, therefore, urgent that we review and examine the nation’s concerns in proper perspectives for positive development achievements in future.

The current politico-economic situation of Nepal is not only the result of mismanaged democratic governance of the last 12 years of party rule, but also the result of a cumulative effect of the half century’s misrule with ineffective leadership, cronyism and inter-play of vested interests of people in power for decades. We never took a long-term interest in creating national capacities for growth, development and prosperity within the country. Policies were formulated and reformulated but capacity to implement those were inadequate and inefficient. Institutions were created, but they were never allowed to function effectively, as ad-hocism was the governing methods in those decades.

Social sectors such as education, health and other related areas were completely neglected either in resource allocations or in programmes. Educational institutions were politicised as it was felt that they could emerge as potential threats to the then existing political system. It was completely ignored that investment in social sectors such as education and health were the areas which needed priority attention for enhancing the nation’s capacity for growth, development efficiencies and for promoting competitiveness. Investment in science and technological infrastructural build-up and improvements were not even considered as necessary. Everything was assessed from shortsighted gain.

Inefficient leadership in public offices and corporate entities were allowed to function for a longer period at the cost of institutional mismanagement and utter failures. Such a situation was not corrected even during the political parties’ rule, after the restoration of democratically elected governments. Neglect of the large section of the population, eographical areas and ethnic groups, especially the potentially dynamic group of rural and urban youths and the emergence of a small vested interest group as beneficiaries of development, resulted in the current state of malaise, domestic violence and instability. Utter frustrations, hopelessness and destitution pushed people against the walls of poverty and unemployment, and pushed them towards violence.

It is important for us to look as to how we can create an environment where dedicated, sincere and visionary leaderships can emerge, how our institutions can function effectively and efficiently, how the different stakeholders and actors can contribute in formulating nation’s vision and programme of action for development and prosperity and how accountability and responsibilities can be clearly demarcated and monitored. A visionary leadership within a democratic system of governance, well functioning institutions, rule of law and a national understanding and consensus on core critical issues of development are the calls of the day. These fundamentals are necessary even for the establishment of peace and stability.

Dr Dhungana is a retired UN official.