TOPICS : Partnership between NGOs and private sector

Siddha Raj Pant:

It is obvious that most of the development interventions are taking a project approach in Nepal. Short project duration on the one hand leads to utilisation of resources in achieving visible results and on the other spends too much time in planning implementation activities. This leads to extension of the project demanding more resources. However, extensions do little to eliminate the past inefficiencies and improve outcomes. For some, project extensions become an opportunity extended and others an extension of the market. During the whole exercise paper work piles up, complicated set of recommendations come up, which the bureaucrats and the rulers either do not bother or understand.

Most of the projects have NGOs as a means of linking the project activities with the beneficiaries. However, absence of private sector — other than in providing some short-term specialised services — inhibits sustainable local economic development or combating poverty. Because to combat poverty we must create wealth in the society, this will only happen when private activities rise and develop on a sustained basis.

As a matter of fact, NGOs are better able to understand and work with communities than the private sector but there are opportunities for both the sectors provided that they work closely to complement each other’s objectives. The development agencies are also beginning to feel that the scarce resources can be meaningfully utilised by engaging the private sector in the development efforts, which indirectly help in meeting a number of demands.

The private sector is not quite visible in addressing developmental needs holistically except for some glamorous appearances of executives of business organisations such as FNCCI or CNI. Private sector is more vocal only when the government policy affects them as business entity. There is huge barrier of mistrust between the government, private sector and NGOs. This barrier has to be removed to speed up the development process in Nepal.

We must learn from such initiatives in other countries. The Asian Development Bank has already taken initiatives at regional level to bring together the private sector and the NGOs by facilitating and supporting partnerships between them. Helping the poor to come out of poverty and emerge as vibrant customers for the private sector is an opportunity to grab for competitive advantage in the long run. At the same time, by promoting private sector, NGOs gain access to private capital needed for their sustainability.

Unfortunately, both the sectors in Nepal are at a nascent stage and are incapable of visualising the need to come together. Most of the private sector is controlled by the CEO turned second generation of the traders who find it difficult to balance between the desire to become corporate role models and to earn quick bucks through whatever ways. Similarly, though the NGOs say that they are taking a welfare approach to development, they too look only for profits. There is a mismatch of competencies, objectives and outlook. Nevertheless, there is no disagreement for the need for the avenues to create a synergy. This may be possible by supporting a secretariat to bring all actors under one roof and initiate the much-needed dialogue of national interest.