If politics is to seep into the appointment of the secretaries, it will be most unfortunate for Nepal’s civil service and the country as a whole
Lawmakers in the parliamentary State Affairs and Good Governance Committee are engaged in a heated debate over whether top-level bureaucrats, namely the chief secretary, secretary and joint-secretary, should be hired on contract, in the hope of giving the much-needed fillip to the under-performing bureaucracy. Until now, they were appointed based on the promotion of civil servants. The lawmakers were divided, not necessarily on political lines, during clause-wise discussion on the Federal Civil Servant Bill on Tuesday, although majority were for hiring civil servants on a contract basis through open competition. It would be naïve for the committee to take a rash decision on the issue without looking at the pros and cons of it as the bureaucracy could fare worse if a wrong decision is taken. True, Nepal’s civil service is bloated, inefficient and corrupt and is seen as a hindrance to Nepal’s march to development. Some ministers have found their secretaries to be incompetent, although they got promoted after going through the due process of the Public Service Commission. Former minister and NCP lawmaker Janardan Sharma, during deliberations on the bill at the committee, was blunt enough to say that there were quite a few under-performing secretaries. Hence, his demand that the recruitment process for the top level bureaucrats be made flexible. His argument and that of like-minded lawmakers is that the appointment of highly competent people at the helm of the civil service structure on a contract basis would steer the bureaucracy towards more accountability. But will it? It is too early to say how the contract system or the open competition will go. But past experience in appointing the heads of public enterprises, and health and educational institutions on contract through open competition has not been very successful. Most public corporations are not faring well, although their managers have been hired on contract. This is largely because of the heavy politicisation in the recruitment process, where one’s loyalty to the party in power is the foremost criteria for one’s appointment. Add to this frequent reports in the media of big money changing hands to secure an appointment. So if this is going to repeat in the appointment of the chief secretary, secretary and joint secretaries also, then it will be most unfortunate for Nepal’s civil service and the country as a whole. Nepal’s civil service definitely needs a shake-up - it can no longer continue the way it is working now. Not a single sector is functioning properly. Had the civil service been efficient, competent and non-politicised, the country would have made a lot more progress, instead of getting bogged down in constant red tape, corruption and sluggishness. As debate rages over how best to get the best of people into the civil service, especially in the top echelons, one way to streamline it would be to hire people who are tech-savvy. Investing heavily in new technology will help things to move faster without the need to have a huge civil service, the largest employer in the country. But let us not put all the blame on the civil service for the country’s misery. It is the political leaders who must show the will to change not only the civil service but also the country for the better.
Spend active life Diabetes patients are on the rise in the country due to the sedentary lifestyle, unhealthy diet, excessive consumption of alcohol and tobacco, stress and obesity, to name a few. According to WHO’s Global Report on Diabetes, the number of adults living with the disease has almost quadrupled since 1980 to 422 million. According to the National Academy of Medical Sciences, Bir Hospital as many as 11,000 patients visited the hospital alone in fiscal year 2017/18. The Ministry of Health and Population, however, does not have any updates on the number of people suffering from type-2 diabetes. Due to the changing lifestyle and unhealthy food habits, even young people below 40 years of age are also being diagnosed with type-2 diabetes, which causes severe damage to the kidneys, heart and eyesight if the sugar level is not controlled. Avoiding processed food with fat and sugar, maintaining weight, consuming plenty of green vegetables, fruits and fibrous food and regular physical exercise can help control the sugar level and also prevent the disease. Compared to the people in the rural areas, people in urban areas are more likely to suffer from the disease.