EDITORIAL: Measuring progress

A good monitoring and evaluation system will also bring out weaknesses in planning and implementation and suggest ways of removing them

The degree of the success or failure of any project or programme needs to be measured to know how much progress has been made in the implementation of it. The extent of this success considerably reflects the extent of the success of any government in economic, social and infrastructure development. But how much successful a project and programme has been can be truly reflected only if the measuring rod is scientific and therefore accurate. In Nepal, despite six decades of planned economic development efforts, a standard measuring rod, which is called monitoring and evaluation, is yet to be developed and adopted for all ministries and government agencies. Without such scientific methods, we never get close to how effectively our projects and programmes have performed.

The lack of a standard monitoring and evaluation system in the country has led to serious distortions of the picture of development. Ever since the Panchayat days, politicians and government leaders have easily painted a rosy picture of the performance of the various projects and programmes expressing them in so much percentage on a scale of zero to 100. Partly because of this tendency and partly because of the failure to put in place a rigorous system of monitoring and evaluation applicable to all projects and programmes, the official figures of development were generally looked at with a degree of doubt by many people. The situation may have improved somewhat over the years, but such tendencies and the lack of scientific measuring methods still exist. This has affected the accuracy of the progress of the government’s projects and programmes.

The existence of a uniform and systematic monitoring and evaluation and their rigorous implementation are necessary not only to find out the true extent of the progress but to ensure timely completion of the government’s various schemes, to hold ministries and officials responsible, and to help spend the capital budget fully on time. In this context, the work being done by the National Planning Commission (NPC) on drafting a Monitoring and Evaluation Act is a step in the right direction, though it should have been done many years ago. So far, the ministries and officials responsible have avoided action against them because there was no system in place to hold the poor performers accountable and to take action against them. The law in the drafting stage seeks to provide legal provisions to hold them accountable and bring them to book. The various ministries are supposed to follow uniform guidelines instead of their own guidelines as is the present practice so that comparing performances of the various ministries may become easier and more accurate. A good monitoring and evaluation system will also bring out weaknesses in planning and implementation and suggest ways of removing them. Such a sound system will also reflect how the projects and programmes have changed the people’s lives and how they have contributed to the country’s development. Monitoring and evaluation form a crucial part of any project and programme implementation, and the fact that it has taken us 60 years to just start making the legal provisions for them speaks for itself.

Ubiquitous bicycles

As we are facing the ordeal of fuel shortages less vehicles using petrol and diesel are seen plying on the road. Those who have to commute short distances should be encouraged to walk or use the ubiquitous bicycles. This would mean that the fuel would be used sparingly and too only for essential services only. There is no telling how long the stock of fuel will last.  It might not be possible for people who reside far from their workplace to walk a long distance. However, bicycles could be used for those who have to commute short distances.

The benefits to be accrued from riding bicycles are immense. Most people lead a sedentary life. Therefore, they could gain immensely by cycling to work or other places. This would provide them with healthy exercise they are badly in need of. Meanwhile, more space should be allocated for bicycles to ply in. The authorities have so far not been building separate lanes for bicycles and are not taking up this cause seriously. The badly polluted capital city could do with less air and sound pollution.