After promises failed, secretaries told to focus on ‘flagship’ projects

  • It is implementation, not the addition of loaded phrases in policies and programmes, that matters, officials say
- ANIL GIRI, Kathmandu

Apr 11, 2019-

Last year’s Policies and Programmes, presented by President Bidya Devi Bhandari just ahead of the fiscal budget, carried several commitments and promises. Popular expectations ran high as the country had attained stability and this was prepared by the strongest government in more than two and a half decades.

But the KP Sharma Oli administration, which completed its first year in office in February, has met with severe criticism for failing to deliver on most of its promises.

As the fiscal year draws to a close, the government is now working on the Policies and Programmes for the fiscal year 2019-2020. Officials familiar with the developments say the government this time is coming up with even more ambitious plans and projects.

During last week’s secretary-level meeting, the Post has learned, top bureaucrats were asked to focus on large projects and adopt bigger and flagship schemes while formulating the programmes.

Minutes of the meeting, a copy of which was obtained by the Post, say secretaries should adopt a “bigger approach” in the infrastructure sector and “best quality approach” in social sectors like health and education “to increase the government’s effectiveness”.

Yet another phrase which has got a lot of emphasis is “flagship approach”. The meeting also urged top officials to abandon the policies that failed in the past and to adopt new and contemporary policies describing the process as “farewell and welcome approach”.

At least two government secretaries the Post spoke to said that since the government failed to achieve what it had announced in last year’s programmes, bureaucrats are struggling to find new and innovative ideas, and phrases such as “flagship,” “bigger” and “farewell and welcome” were the outcome of that.

Out of 21 large and big-ticket projects, only a few—two airports in Bhairahawa and Pokhara, Bheri-Babai Diversion Multipurpose Project, Upper Tamakoshi Hydropower Project,  Pashupati Area Development Project and Lumbini Area Development Project— are making good progress, according to an official at the Prime Minister’s Office. “The rest of the projects have dismal performance,” the official told the Post on condition of anonymity because he was not authorised to speak to the media.

Some of the big promises in last year’s policies included effective coordination between the federal and provincial governments, and formulation of necessary laws.

Among others were establishment of a government-funded think tank, double-digit economic growth, fiscal discipline, increasing development expenditure, and curbing exploitation of the state coffers. These plans have largely failed or have made dismal progress.

Opening bank accounts for all Nepali nationals, all state and private payments through the banking channel, organic agriculture across the country, insurance of all agriculture-related products,

developing major cities as green cities, construction of several transmission lines, establishment of industrial villages in the seven provinces and local federal units also have failed to make tangible progress.

The government had also announced that it will reinvigorate sick industries, end syndicates, set up one-stop service for aspirant investors, and improve the major highways. There is also dismal progress in construction of north-south corridors, Mechi-Mahakali railway, Kathmandu-Birgunj and Kathmandu-Kerung railways. Government secretaries who asked not to be named told the Post that these were announcements only.

Other officials said the failure to translate the promises into reality was partly because of the lack of a proper oversight mechanism.

“Each ministry executes its policies and programmes. We do not have a separate mechanism to follow the implementation status. Ministries, however, update the progress of the big projects undertaken by them on a regular basis through a mobile app,” Binod Bahadur Kunwar, spokesperson for the Prime Minister’ Office, told the Post.

Experts on governance, however, say the problem lies in the way the government formulates the Policies and Programmes.

Swarnim Wagle, former vice chairman of the National Planning Commission, said most of the time policies and programmes come in the form of an essay.

“There was hardly any significant departure from earlier ways even though last year’s Policies and Programmes were presented by a government with a two-thirds majority,” he told the Post. “Policies and Programmes of last year lacked focus. The document did not come up with prioritised areas that could accelerate growth, ensure governance and raise hope,” he added. “It was a continuation of old policies and programmes.”

Published: 11-04-2019 11:09

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