TOPICS : Local periodic plans and MDGs

Planned development of the districts is gradually being recognised as the most logical way forward. The Local Self-Governance Act (LSGA) includes a mandatory provision that each local authority prepare District Periodic Plan, spanning 5-7 years, with long-term perspectives. The underlying purpose is to institutionalise the development process at the district, municipal and grass-roots levels.

As the LSGA has made participatory bottom-up planning, planning process has been strengthened. Reportedly, more than 55 DDCs have prepared their periodic plans with support of the National Planning Commission (NPC), MLDs, and donors. However, some DDCs are still incapable of implementing the plan. The problem with the DDCs is that it does not possess accurate data regarding its assets, resources and population. Though the planning process has followed the process laid down in LSGA, the qualitative aspect is below the mark. Line agency programmes have not been internalised as these agencies develop their plans and programmes independently.

Also, in the absence of in-house expertise, the districts depend on external resources for preparing periodic plans; most are prepared by consultants and are hardly consistent with comprehensive guidelines provided by NPC.

The NPC, in order to facilitate the process, has to provide DDCs with guidelines to match the goals of periodic plans and further establish its linkages with national plans and priorities. This requires the setting up of units within the NPC and the MLD to oversee the streamlining of the process. This also requires network linkages of key ministries and the MLD with the NPC.

A periodic plan specifies socio-economic targets for a given period. To fulfil such targets, objectives of the plan should be attainable rather than ambitious. A decentralised mechanism of district planning is likely to induce ownership of the process among the people and enhance accountability.

Millennium Development Goals Needs Assessment Report, 2006, Nepal, shows that the government must make a public investment of $12.6 billion over the next decade if the goals are to be met. More than half that money must be channelled towards reducing poverty, improving education and developing infrastructure. According to a study, more than 90% of the VDCs, 40% of the municipalities and 25% of the DDCs are fully dependent on government grants.

In this context, the role of district periodic plans is very important in the utilisation of geographical and economic resources. Periodic plans should also link the plans of other neighbouring districts, regional plans, national plans and the country’s international commitments. Hence, it is essential to localise the MDGs at the district level through periodic and annual plans, and internalise the thrust of the MDGs from the lower level. Unless the plans are formulated and implemented at the local level, Nepal’s commitment to fulfil the MDGs will only be a mere slogan.