KATHMANDU, Aug 17: Until few decades ago, Nepal used to share some similarities with East Asian countries like Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam in terms of development and economic activities.
These days, however, these East Asian nations have become a destination for Nepali leaders, parliamentarians and bureaucrats to learn development activities, particularly infrastructure projects, and study economic transformation that these countries are undergoing.
Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam are among the countries visited frequently by Nepali policymakers in recent years. Such visits are mostly organized and funded by development partners like the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank, among others, who are also financing and supporting development activities in those countries.
Laos and Cambodia are in the category of high growth developing countries, while Vietnam is an emerging market with high growth. Economic growth of these countries is largely backed by massive investment in infrastructure projects as well as foreign investments. Economic growth of these countries is above 7 percent, compared to Nepal's average economic growth of around 3.5 percent in recent years.
Over 200 top bureaucrats and politicians travelled abroad in different programs funded by development partners in first 30 days (mid July to Mid August) of the current fiscal year. Most of those visits were to East Asian countries. Thailand, Indonesia and the Philippines were the other destinations of Nepali bureaucrats and politicians.
In the past decades, Japan, South Korea and European countries used to be the destination for such visits.
Speaking at a discussion program on sick industries on Tuesday, Rabindra Adhikari, chairperson of the parliamentary Development Committee, expressed frustration at slow pace of infrastructure projects in Nepal. “It is unfortunate that we are lagging far behind East Asian countries. But we should not hesitate to learn from their success,” he added.
Members of the committee are preparing to visit Cambodia and Laos in the third week of September to study different infrastructure projects like hydropower and road projects. Nine members of the committee recently visited Indian toll road and metro rail projects, and reconstruction works in Gujarat state.
The visit was funded by the Government of India.
The motives behind such visits are to learn development process, handle development projects, and enhance efficiency and understanding of the development activities, according to government officials.
Gopinath Mainali, joint secretary of National Planning Commission (NPC), said: "Visits to emerging economies allow us to observe and learn how development works are implemented. Nepal and East Asian countries have many similarities. They also saw civil war which hindered development works.”
However, Mainali acknowledged only a handful of visitors have learned from development experience of these countries. “What is worrying is, knowledge and experience gained during those visits have not been institutionalized so far,” he added.
Mainali has participated in such visits to Cambodia and Laos.
During Tuesday's discussion, Arjun Karki, secretary of the Ministry of Physical Infrastructure and Transport, said problems are with us (bureaucracy) and the political leadership. “It would be meaningless to blame donors for slow pace of development,” he added.