The institutions that shoulder the most crucial responsibilities such as planning our infrastructures, remodeling our education, addressing our financial sector issues, strengthening our health systems, bolstering our national security, maintaining law and order among many others must be designed to withstand any odd circumstances if not to function in the most efficient manner at minimum.
Today's world is fast-paced and technologically evolved. Advancements in science and technology have pushed us to conquer time and distance. Western industrialized nations are far ahead in the game — competing in a new space race, exploring life among the stars, and attempting to make mankind an interplanetary species. The tale appears odd on the other side of the planet, where the same humanity is seeking to establish a simple basis for their linear existence. Although the countries together have achieved tremendous milestones in overcoming global poverty, there are still 689 million people in this world who are living in extreme poverty on $1.90 per day or less.
The gap between the rich and the poor is immeasurable. For instance, the drug companies claim that by the end of the year, enough vaccine doses will be available to vaccinate most of the world. The developed world has made commendable progress. However, only 0.3 percent of the 1.5 billion doses administered have reached the world's poorest countries. As the West continued to stockpile vaccines, another egregious contradiction emerged from Bill Gates, the former Microsoft CEO and "big-dollar philanthropist," who resisted sharing vaccine technology with the developing nations. The world reacted angrily to his outlandish stance, dubbing him the "Vaccine Monster." However, this has been the sad reality of our world — the richer countries are working to uphold their influence among poorer countries while the bigger corporations and their owners are working to beef up their monopoly power in the global market.
The coronavirus disease (COVID-19) has wreaked havoc on many social and economic structures around the world, exposing many prevailing injustices and inequalities. In a recent report, the World Bank estimates that an additional 150 million people will fall into extreme poverty by 2021 and eight out of the 10 “new poor” will be in the middle-income countries. If this does not ring a bell, I am not sure what will. It is now a challenge for the developing nations like Nepal to improve their systems and rise from their levels for better. The only way forward is for us to improve our own competency in governance, policies, economy, and every other area that is essential for us to become a stable and prosperous nation.
According to forecasts, poorer countries like Nepal should anticipate encountering insurmountable hurdles that would obstruct our near-term and long-term economic ambitions in numerous areas. Additionally, Nepal's economy shrank for the first time in four decades in fiscal year (FY) 2020, with GDP falling by 1.99 percent. The Asian Development Bank, on the other hand, predicts that Nepal's GDP will grow by 3.1 percent in FY2021 and 5.1 percent in FY2022. These projections are based exclusively on the assumption that political stability will be maintained and that all sectoral strategies will produce returns consequently with the progress in vaccination and the government's increasing focus on high-value agriculture, construction, and tourism.
But, before we get too carried away with our ambitions, let us try to find honest answers to these issues first, while keeping our ground realities in mind.
Is our country’s administrative and management capacity adequate to implement our economic policies?
Is our public sector's ability to absorb aid and deliver projects adequate?
Can we put our faith in the competence of our federal and provincial governments to successfully plan government spending and effectively provide public services?
Can we put our faith in our agencies' ability to fight corruption and enhance governance?
If our answers to these questions are not affirmative, it is more likely that we will not succeed to attain our objectives because wishful thinking alone is not going to cut it. Our outcomes have almost nothing to do with the objectives we establish and everything to do with the systems we employ. Thus, systems are important.
Prioritizing our capacity building
“Institution Building'' is at the core of implementing the vision to attain our goals of comprehensive economic and social improvements. The institutions that shoulder the most crucial responsibilities such as planning our infrastructures, remodeling our education, addressing our financial sector issues, strengthening our health systems, bolstering our national security, maintaining law and order among many others must be designed to withstand any odd circumstances if not to function in the most efficient manner at minimum. Without strong institutions, our strategic development goals to overcome underdevelopment will remain farfetched.
A combination of strong human and financial resources, and adequate knowledge compounded by thorough experience is required to tackle the vast problems that dominate us. Our country is transitioning from a unitary government to a federal government system. This is the right time to undertake the necessary institutional reforms and strengthen our public institutions as it is one of the key components for the actual implementation of federalism. In the lack of institutional capacity, we have often failed to maximize our internal resources and absorb external resources whether they are in the form of development assistance, technical expertise, or global public goods.
National progress is dependent on our government capacity which is ultimately dependent on the capacities of our institutions. Therefore, addressing inefficiencies and malfunctions in the systems and structures of our institutions must be our top priority.
Framing the Initiative
Once we have understood the needs for strong institutions, the government should carry out analyses to identify the major areas that need attention. Only after proper identification of the problems can the right conversations about the necessary policy interventions begin. To begin with, we can target the problems that are clear and rampant such as poor public financial management, public procurement, and corruption.
Fiscal indiscipline is a widespread problem that has been resulting in poorly-built infrastructures and weak service delivery. Bunching of capital expenditure in the last quarter of the fiscal year has been a problem forever and [almost] everyone is aware of it. With careful plans and strong resolve, we can end this once and for all, and I am confident that our officials and administration are more than capable of doing so.
Fighting corruption must be a primary political agenda and a strict objective for the government to resolve since we have made little to no progress in the fight of corruption for a long time. According to empirical studies, the poorest pay the highest percentage of their income in bribes. It goes without saying that the neediest people in our country are the ones that are being robbed the most. The uncontrolled corruption has impeded investments thereby damaging our economy. Digitizing payments and therefore minimizing transactions in physical cash at public offices can be a remarkable move to take against bribery. Digital payment may not be the magic bullet, but when the world is looking for better alternatives, it is also worthwhile for us to look beyond cash.
We can exponentially uplift our identity at the world stage and fully unleash our potential in agriculture, energy, natural resources, education, or any other sector we wish for by simply focusing on our capacity to deliver. Let us unite, create, and prepare for the future. Let us dive into our national capacity building.