The development riddle

There is a yawning gap between the kind of development the country needs and the sort of development we politicians have been chasing for long. We have come to realize this during discussions carried out by the development committee of parliament.

During meetings of top leaders, which are held almost every day, development agenda gets the least priority. After the second Jana-Aandolan, we wasted eight years in name of writing a new constitution. Neither could we produce a new constitution, nor could we carry out development activities.republica

In our public speeches, we talk about development. We pretend to be the master in all fields and we never hesitate to make tall promises to the people. But then, we hardly do anything to translate our promises into actions.

When we were preparing for our first Constituent Assembly election in 2064, China was working on fast track rail service. At the same time, we were also talking about the east-west railway and fast track. China has already built 1,200 kilometers of railway track and is planning to expand it to 1,800 kilometers. Sadly, we are nowhere near toward achieving what we promised to the people.

Similarly, in India, after Narendra Modi became the Prime Minister, he introduced a rule that made it binding to sort out any kind of problem related to developmental project within 15 days.

In our country, rules and government policies sometimes hinder development works. For instance, a lot of time is wasted in studying the environmental effect of such projects. Sometimes, we don’t get enough human resources to carry out the works.

Our engineers are leaving the country for Australia and Canada every day. And we are paying over Rs 3 million in monthly salary to consultant engineers hired from other countries for several hydropower projects. We not only work with the foreign consultants, we actually depend on foreigners for advice on our policies on hiring foreign consultants. What could be more disgusting than this?

India is now embracing the super technology of ‘standard gauge’ instead of ‘broad gauge’ for bullet trains. Here, the planned east-west rail track is based on the outdated broad gauge technology.

We plan to take ahead two major road projects – Kathmandu-Tarai fast track and Hetauda tunnel way—that overlap each other. And we do not have reasonable explanation as to why both these projects should go hand in hand.

If we plan major developmental projects without assessing their usefulness, the result would be disastrous. If we begin projects all at once and fail to complete any, what’s the use? It’s a million dollar question. When will we be able to understand development in its real sense?

We politicians have made our experts and engineers carry files here and there and we do their job instead.

What is development, how can we achieve it, what should be done – we simply do not know.

A few days ago, Dr Surya Raj Acharya had given an interesting presentation on infrastructure development. He showed a few graphs about how East Asian countries like Japan, South Korea, Malaysia, Thailand and neighboring China achieved milestone in infrastructure development in a very short time. And he explained how infrastructure led to the overall development of these countries.

Dr Acharya said we should have gone for Kathmandu-Nijgadh bullet train instead of the fast track. Though that would have been costlier, operating cost of such a bullet train would have been more economic. He stated that a few years’ fuel cost would have funded electricity generation for the bullet train service. He presented his calculations so convincingly that we politicians had no difficulty understanding his development model. He explained how Turkey built the cheapest bullet railway and how the USA is now regrets not having built the fast railway track.

Interestingly, even if we politicians realize that this particular thing is right and we plan to execute it, bureaucrats state we do not have policies or rules to support the idea. In my opinion, politicians should not act like mere managers but should use their foresight. If politicians bind themselves to rules and policies, who would change them for the greater good?

If policies hinder development, we are the ones who should change such policies. It is the duty of the leadership to do the needful to pave the way for development. In our case, we let things remain as they are. We blame the anti-graft body or say that the environment is not favorable and so on. We need to find a solution. Why talk only about abuse of authority? Not fully using one’s authority for development is also an issue.

The question is: Do we have the necessary vision to bring real change in the country? Do we have a working plan to fulfill the dream of our people? Do we have enough technocrats for the huge undertaking we dream of?

We should get the help of experts and technicians to formulate better policies. We need to form a capable team of experts for the kind of development we need.

I want to cite a recent case. Following the controversy over hiring foreign consultant for the Tanahu Hydropower Project, we allowed the donors to handle the selection process. We pay Rs 3 million in monthly salary to the engineer, who is appointed by the consultant we hire. This directly increases the project cost. Yet, we politicians never spare enough time to produce our own team of technicians and experts.

Japan and Korea also depended on foreign countries for consultants and contractors. However, they did so just once. But once they completed a project, they had built their own team of technicians and experts. When are we going to learn all this?

The Upper Tamakoshi Hydropower Project is using at least 6,000 sacks of cement per day. As our domestic production does not suffice, we import construction materials from India.

It is the duty of the leaders to come up with a proper vision. And we politicians should take the responsibility of ensuring necessary policies to support the vision. When there is a right policy and plan in place, developmental works are carried out by bureaucrats.

In the course of carrying out development projects, outdated policies often create a hindrance.

In such conditions, the leadership must be quick enough to take a decision in favor of development. The leadership should make policy level changes and maximize the use of available resources. Politicians should learn from international experiences and be eager to ensure implementation of all important projects.

Adhikari is chairman, parliament’s development committee

Twitter: @RabindraADH
Source : republica Daily