Nepal is too big for ad hocism

This reality show is as real as it gets, and we better get new systems in place


A country of 30 million is not small. A country that cannot spend 70% of its development budget is not cash poor.

Nepal is big enough to need systems in place and use them to manage the country. It cannot muddle through on ad hocism, and especially during a crisis like the one we are going through now.

As we begin to emerge hopefully soon from the impact of the lockdown, we must shed the practices and habits that have characterised governance in Nepal: the attitudes of ke garneafno manche, bholi, chali halchha.

Ke garne attitude kills people, Laxmi Basnet

Meritocracy will have to replace nepotism, goal-orientation has to replace fatalism, and we have to do yesterday what could have been done tomorrow if anything is going to change for the better in Nepal. If Nepal does not get remittances from those employed abroad in the post-COVID-19 era, how will we pay for the country’s fossil fuel imports? We need to think systems.

No matter who comes to power, there is an underlying belief that being in power means the freedom to make ad hoc decisions. The god kings and oligarchs ruled made decisions on a whim, and those bad habits seem to have been inherited by our federal, republican democratic strongmen.

Once in power, they do not like to put in systems because that will mean decisions have to be consultative, accountable and transparent. The problem with making ad hoc decisions is that they may offer short term benefits, but you do get into trouble at some point or other in future. How many times can you use the excuse that you did not know what was going on?

In a country with seven provincial and 753 locally elected governments, systems have to be in place if people are to feel the impact of Nepal’s political evolution over the last seven decades – after all what were those changes for if not to improve governance, service delivery and spur development?

Thinking out of the box to rescue Nepal, Prem Jung Thapa

The COVID-19 crisis is a watershed moment. It offers Nepal a unique chance to digitise government services that will do away with ad hocism and corruption that comes from human to human contact. You cannot grease a palm if it is virtual, and wrongdoers leave digital footprints.

Making transactions cashless and physical distancing could be the best ways to fight corruption in Nepal. If we can introduce contact tracing and ensure it is meticulously enforced, we could make fighting crime and corruption very useful by-products of this pandemic.

The global pandemic has offered Nepal and the whole world a chance to re-imagine and re-build the health sector. The lockdown was meant to be a strategy to buy time for the government, health professionals and related businesses to ramp up capacity and ability to respond. These include everything from the manufacture and distribution of masks and PPE to developing tests and vaccines.

Nepal's accidental leaders, Anil Chitrakar

In Nepal, the pandemic has felt more like a paid holiday for many. There was no attempt by the government, development partners or professionals to convince and bring the sectors together to use this opportunity for the future. Health for all, insurance, research and development, supply chain management, trainings, up gradation of hospitals and health facilities, formalising pharmacies ... so much could have been done. But it is still not too late.

We have a whole generation of people who have grown up watching Hollywood movies where Superman and Wonder Woman track down the bad guys making lethal viruses, killing them and destroying their labs in the nick of time. What we have not seen is a movie which picks up after the virus has been contained, and society has to chart a new path of revival, learning from the mistakes of the past.

Watching a movie passively knowing that there will be a happy ending is one thing, but today we are individually all players in the unfolding plot and ‘I’ could very well be the next victim, or hero. This reality show is as real as it gets. Lives and livelihoods are being lost, and the virus is quick to pounce when it detects weak leadership, denial, or a lack of systems.

We in Nepal must use this opportunity to address inequality and discrimination. It is a chance to clean up Mt Everest, dredge Phewa Lake, prevent sewage from flowing into the Bagmati, repair trails and trail bridges, upgrade the seven major monument zones in the Kathmandu Valley, Janakpur and Lumbini.

Nepal's chance to green its budget, Kaustubh Dhital

Cities across Nepal need to create dedicated sidewalks for pedestrians and bicycle lanes, make sure that Nepal’s transport system moves to clean hydroelectricity. Nepal has no oil and we need to plan for energy security by reminding ourselves how many times India has cut off our petroleum supply in recent history.

Once again, the government may not take the lead here because it does not have the systems in place. We have to collectively step up as a people. Time calls on us to move away from sound bites and photo ops. After all, the first fatality in Nepal attributed to COVID-19 required young volunteers from Bhaktapur to quietly step up and enable the cremation.

Anil Chitrakar is President of Siddharthinc.

Anil Chitrakar