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  • Oli govt should talk about developing health and education, not just ambitious infrastructures

May 3, 2018-

The KP Oli-led government has repeatedly said that its primary priority is economic development, and it has been taking various steps towards that end. Recent developments in bilateral relations with both India and China have focused on the construction of massive infrastructure projects. Nepal expects to gain significantly from its membership in the Chinese-led Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), including a railway line that directly connects Tibet with Kathmandu. Similarly, there is an expectation that a railway line connecting Nepal to Raxaul in India will be established. Various projects that have faced major delays are now being expedited, including hydropower projects. Local governments across the country have also been affected by this drive towards development and, just about everywhere in Nepal, resources are being spent to build new roads.

All these are certainly positive signs. But at the same time, there appears to be a lack of focus on the people who are meant to benefit from these projects. In all these plans and priorities, there does not appear to have been any substantial calculation (and public explanation) of 

how the citizens fit in into these schemes 

for development. The opposition to road 

building by the residents of Khokana in Kathmandu provides an indication that these development programmes should take into account local sentiments.

Furthermore, while the government is strongly focused on infrastructure development and inviting foreign investment, much less attention is being paid to developing the capacities of the people. For example, the prime minister hasn’t said much about investments in education and health. This is a major lacuna. For, the population will not be able to take advantage of development if they lack the skills to do so. The hundreds of thousands of Nepalis working in the Gulf and other countries are mostly unskilled, as we reported on our newspaper on Wednesday. The country has been unable to train them in such a way that they will be able to take on jobs that require skills.

The history of countries around the world indicates that a sole focus on development without a corresponding interest in improving the capacities of the people leads to undesirable outcomes. First and foremost, it leads to a major growth in inequality. When the majority of a country is unable to take advantage of modern sectors of the economy, those who are already wealthy are able to reap disproportionate benefits. The government should remain cognizant about such undesirable outcomes and need to take measures to combat them.

For starters, the government could begin with consulting more widely, take greater note of 

the people in the areas where development projects are planned. Greater efforts at improving access to health and education, including skill training, would be a solid new beginning for long-term development.

Published: 03-05-2018 07:32

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