Enter the project bank

  • Province 3 has launched a software-based database containing details of all projects
- MADHUKAR UPADHYA, Kathmandu

Jan 2, 2019-

With sub-national governments established at the provincial and local levels, the question now is how they function as per the constitution to deliver long-awaited development. They have to address issues ranging from poverty, infrastructure and disaster to climate change. 

These issues fall under the 16 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) that Nepal has committed to achieve by 2030. The challenge for local and provincial governments is to develop and implement plans to help build coordination and collaboration with each other to pursue collective goals in harmony. 

The benefit of having fully responsible governments at provincial and local levels is that they devise their own solutions and mechanisms to address local issues with which they are more familiar. One such creative way is the concept of project bank launched by Province 3 to implement its development projects in a more systematic and transparent manner. 

The provincial Ministry of Economic Affairs and Planning has introduced a software-based project bank which records details of all projects related to its seven ministries. The database provides the status of the project, the stage of implementation, and the expected benefits including its possible relation with other projects. 

Remarkable leap

The budget, including the source and arrangement, is indicated in the database. It also includes the duration and area of implementation including the beneficiaries segregated into gender and age groups. 

The project bank also determines whether a project is addressing poverty and whether it is gender responsive. The database indicates how each project addresses climate mitigation and climate adaptation benefits, and which of the SDGs and nationally determined contributions it addresses. The project bank shows how each project is related to disaster risk reduction responses. 

The project bank is a remarkable leap compared to the past when influential people inserted their pet projects in the annual plans at the last minute, upsetting the whole notion of bottom-up planning. 

The practice generally resulted in the diversion of funding to their projects at the cost of more urgent schemes. The key sectors that particularly suffered from such practices were irrigation, drinking water, and roads. These projects came with substantial budgets and thus lured contractors with political connections. The politicians used this practice to please their vote banks and ensure support in the next election. The project bank, in this sense, seems to be a turning point. 

Broadly, the development projects planned by sub-national governments need to address SDGs and nationally determined contributions which address various segments of development. Due to limited resources, only smart planning will help address these multipronged issues. The project bank initiative of Province 3 seems to be a promising step in this direction. 

When the plans are rolled out, the database will help make necessary changes with the best possible options and outcomes. This holds especially true for issues such as climate change. Unlike prescriptions for mitigation, which are straightforward as spelled out in the nationally determined contributions, adaptation is generally tailored to and depends on local contexts and capacities. 

Adaptation to water scarcity in the valleys, for example, may involve digging wells; but this is unfeasible in the hills where climate impacts are harsher. 

Again, taking climate change as an example, the vigour that Nepal showed while preparing the National Adaptation Programme of Action nearly a decade ago has slowed and almost fizzled out in the federal structure. A majority of development responsibilities now fall on sub-national governments; and we are ill-prepared to see how the existing knowledge, expertise and skills can be shared with all 753 local and seven provincial governments. 

December-January is when sub-national governments begin forming provincial and local development plans for the next year. With Province 3’s project bank initiative, the year 2019 can demonstrate how to apply smart planning in the rest of the provinces and, eventually, at the local level.

Open government data 

First and foremost, project bank can help eliminate the general practice of inserting projects in the plan as and when one feels like it, and helps establish a system of organising development. With a clear and undisputed picture of the projects and every detail planners need, allocating  resources in a judicious way will become easier. Decision makers can identify points to improve coordination, and take steps to solve outstanding issues related to the timely completion of projects. The transparency it provides can be expected to help foster an informed and healthy discussion in the provincial parliament while prioritising projects and approving the budget. 

Since the data is software-based, and the server is located at the central secretariat accessible to planners at both federal and provincial levels, it will eventually help promote open government data--a philosophy gaining momentum globally in promoting transparency, accountability and value creation by making government data available to all. 

While the project bank helps foster interprovincial coordination and planning for projects that involve several provinces, it also provides a basis for the National Planning Commission to design national-level projects and explore the possibility of synergy by fostering coordination among sectors. This level of coordination is what has been lacking in our development pursuits. 

Upadhya writes on issues relating to watershed, climate change, disasters and their intersections with society.

Published: 02-01-2019 07:16

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