EDITORIAL: Development for all

The improvement in inclusive development index just as Nepal aims desired economic growth is a positive sign

Nepal has topped South Asia in the Inclusive Development Index (IDI) published by the World Economic Forum (WEF) on Monday. Improving five points in the index, Nepal ranks 22nd among the 74 countries dubbed “emerging economies” by the WEF. The 2018 IDI has analysed the progress in inclusive growth of 103 economies of the world. IDI is a measure proposed by the WEF in the wake of criticism faced by the traditional way, say gross domestic product (GDP), of measuring economic progress and wellbeing. IDI while takes into account growth, as measured using GDP per capita, employment and productivity, it also tries to incorporate several other metrics, including poverty estimates, life expectancy, public debt, median income, wealth inequality and carbon intensity. Investments in human capital, depletion of natural resources and damage caused by pollution are also considered. According to the WEF, GDP — the sum of the goods and services produced by a nation — is an insufficient measure of national economic performance.

Nepal’s improvement in the IDI ranking at a time when the country is on its course to institutionlalise its new federal set-up, aiming to devolve power from the centre to the grassroots level through three tiers of governments — central, provincial and local — and ensure proper use of resources for the overall development of the communities is but good news. Inclusive development is a pro-poor approach that values and  incorporates the  contributions  of  all  stakeholders, including  marginalised  groups, in  addressing  development  issues, says Oxfam, which also on Monday in its report, highlighted sharp global inequality, saying 82 per cent the wealth generated last year went to the richest one per cent of the global population while the poorest half of the world’s population — 3.7 billion — saw no increase in their wealth.

The IDI made public on Monday by the WEF is based on the trends of the last five years. Nepal’s decade-long insurgency was a major setback for the country’s economic growth. After the beginning of the peace process in 2006, Nepal for the last 11 years has struggled to get on the path of stability. The improvement in the IDI just as Nepal is on the cusp of achieving the desired economic growth is a positive sign. Nepal has moved up the ranking on the basis of overall growth and development, inclusion and inter-generational equity. Nepal’s overall IDI score is 4.15 while the five-year trend shows 8.15 percentage point improvement. Policy makers now should focus on a new growth model that places people and living standards at the centre of national economic policy to achieve more inclusive and sustainable development. Employment generation, skill development and focus on small and medium enterprises; equitable distribution and utilisation of local resources; budget decentralisation encouraging female entrepreneurship; improving health care through community-based monitoring system; joint efforts of the government and civil society organisations on the formulation of policies on food security; and reducing pollution among others could help in overall development. More inclusive and sustainable model of growth and development that promotes high living standards should be the focus.

Crunch of fund

The Ministry of Finance (MoF) has refused to release fund to the Ministry of Health (MoH) to provide Rs 5,000 monthly allowance to every patient of kidney failure, cancer and spinal injury. The MoF has said the demand of money came all of a sudden. It also stated that it was not included in this fiscal budget. The MoH has demanded additional Rs 200 million from the MoF to support these patients. A Cabinet meeting of the Sher Bahadur Deuba-led government had decided to provide Rs 5,000 as monthly allowance to each of the patients suffering from kidney failure, cancer and spinal injury on December 28.

The MoH had submitted a proposal to the Cabinet meeting on December 15 seeking the additional budget to provide financial support to the said patients. As many as 4,611 patients suffering from various forms of kidney failure and 8,643 cancer patients received financial assistance from the government in the fiscal year 2016/17. The MoH will not be able to continue the programme if the MoF refuses to provide the fund sought by the line ministry as per the Cabinet decision. The Cabinet should have consulted the MoF before taking any decision to this effect.