A study of the Evolution of Governance in Nepal

Pramod Dhakal, CFFN, Ottawa, Canada

Proceedings of Unfolding Futures: Nepalese Economy, Society, and Politics
Friday-Sunday, October 5-7, 2007, Ottawa, Canada

Abstract

Establishing a system of governance that instils rule of law, welfare of people, provision of facilities, standardization and development of trade, education of people, and growth of industry and innovation remained the primary challenge for Nepalese society throughout its history and it remains today. The research reported in this paper has found that Nepal had a rich history of knowledge, innovation, and prosperity until 18th century. Historic anecdotes tell that a proper system of governance must have four faculties: executive, legislative, judicial, and innovative, in intransitive power relations.

There was never a superior geographic boundary, but there existed superior art, architecture, industry, and trade. But the society plunged into darkness when rulers embarked endeavours of territorial expansion and political repression. In general, distributed governance led to sustained innovation and prosperity, whereas the focus on centralization led to short lived progress, oppression and entry to dark periods. Hierarchies, which are the key enablers of a centralized state, were useful only in maximizing the output from past knowledge and skills and in territorial expansion but were not useful for developing sustained peace, equity, and prosperity. The paper recommends that Nepal must seek a prosperous future in massively distributed system of governance. The organization of such systems must be centered on building system of accumulating knowledge and transferring it over to generations through properly engineered collaborative system. Continue reading

The Royal Army: An Analytical Obituary

By Nishchal M.S. Basnyat

ABSTRACT

The safety and security of the nation should never again be a family run business. Yet, in the midst of diversifying the army’s upper-hierarchy and “de-royalizing” this inherently royal institution, it is also imperative to keep the army out of political hands. As the country’s most powerful entity, it is also the most perilous and potent.

FULL TEXT

As the backbone institution that predates the country itself, Nepal’s army is irrefutably the most polarizing entity in the country. People either fervently love or passionately loath the organisation. An element of heated debate, the army has been regarded as a personal force of the King and his bourgeoisie sycophants. Marred by reticent corruption and apparent nepotism, today it has lost the trust of the very people it claimed to proudly protect.

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Nepal’s Economic Situation: A State of Perpetual Poverty, Stagnation, and Regional and Ethnic Disparities

Ram Acharya, Canada Forum for Nepal, Ottawa, Canada
and Prem Sangraula, America Nepal Society, Washington D.C., USA

Proceedings of Unfolding Futures: Nepalese Economy, Society, and Politics
Friday-Sunday, October 5-7, 2007, Ottawa, Canada

Abstract

This paper compares Nepal’s economic performance with its neighbours India and China, and examines regional and ethnic, language, and caste (ELC) group disparities, and intra-region and intra-ELC group disparities in the economic standing and educational attainment of Nepal. The regions and ELC groups considered in the paper are the same 12 regions and groups previously identified as building blocks for a federal Nepal (Acharya, 2007). Results show that Nepal’s productivity has stagnated and that it contains alarming levels of poverty. There are wide disparities in economic standing by region and ELC group. The wealthiest region and group is approximately four times richer than its poorest counterpart. However, these disparities come mainly from the income differences between people at the highest strata. The poorest are equally poor across all regions and ELC groups, but the share of people living in poverty varies greatly by region and group. This makes poverty a national and, to some extent, a regional and group issue. Nowhere in the country is the rate of illiteracy less than 46% (in some cases it is up to 59%), indicating that basic education is also mostly an outcome of economic disparity rather than of regional and ELC group division. However, there are wide regional and group disparities at the higher levels of education attainment. Furthermore, the female illiteracy rate is at least 20% more than that of males in all regions and ELC groups. Taken together it appears that while poverty, illiteracy, and gender inequality have certainly been influenced by regional and ELC group disparities, they penetrate across all regions and groups in Nepal. One of the causes of these problems is the alarming amount of intra-region and -group income disparities, especially in the wealthier regions and groups. The current state of the Nepalese economy indicates that there is a failure of past economic and social policies. This failure warrants an immediate and new national strategy with appropriate regional and group dimensions in order to address these problems. Continue reading

Challenges in Nepal’s new era: health inequalities, inequalities and disparities

D.P. RasaliRegina, Saskatchewan, Canada
Proceedings of Unfolding Futures: Nepalese Economy, Society, and Politics
Friday-Sunday, Octobet 5-7, 2007, Ottawa, Canada

Abstract

The vast majority of Nepal’s population is rural, poor, and disadvantaged. Poorer and disadvantaged communities are sicker and receive fewer health care services from publicly funded health facilities compared to richer/advantaged communities. The existing structure of the state’s public affairs is based on feudal practices which favor the “haves” rather than the “have-nots”. Without fundamental reforms in the way the health care system provides health care to the masses, health care will continue to be inaccessible to disadvantaged groups such as the poor, women, children, rural and remote groups, and Dalits, Madheshi, and Janajati ethnic groups. This paper will draw from my personal experiences and internationally available data to discuss these issues in the context of a new Nepal.Health disparities across the population are so rampant that inequalities are vividly obvious to the casual observer even in the absence of reliable statistical data. The limited available data used for this paper also shows the same trends. One figure that reveals the extent of health disparities in Nepal is the under-5 mortality rate, which is nearly double in lowest wealth quintile (130 per 1,000 live births) compared to the highest wealth quintile. A similar pattern exists in under-5 mortality between rural (112 per 1,000 live births) and urban areas (66 per 1,000 live births). Diarrheal diseases continue to be a major cause of sickness and death among children largely due to a lack of safe drinking water. The proportion of births attended to by skilled health personnel in rural areas is less than one-fifth of the proportion in urban areas. The reported life expectancy in the Dalit population is 51 years compared to the national average of 59 years. The mortality rate of children under 5 is 171 per 1,000 live births in Dalit population, while the national average figure is 105 per 1,000 live births.The majority of the Nepalese population lives in rural areas yet most health infrastructure and human resources are clustered in urban areas, especially the capital city. Restructuring the state machinery for regional autonomy and accountability of health care distribution, and applying a universal system of health care that is uniform across the country could make health care more accessible to the masses than it has been in the past. Closing the gaps of existing health inequities, health inequalities, and health disparities among populations could be a way forward in the new era of Nepal. Continue reading

Farmer Cooperatives for Food Self-sufficiency, Agricultural Commercialization, and the Socio-economic Development of Nepal

Durga D. Poudel, University of Louisiana, Lafayette, Louisiana, USA

Proceedings of Unfolding Futures: Nepalese Economy, Society, and Politics
Friday-Sunday, Octobet 5-7, 2007, Ottawa, Canada

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Abstract

In Nepal, where ninety percent of the population depend on agriculture for their livelihood, the country as a whole has had a food deficit for the last 26 years, mainly due to subsistence farming, small and fragmented land holding size, low agriculture input and productivity, uneconomical farming units, and lack of decentralized grassroots-based agricultural developmental policies and programs. Widespread poverty, malnutrition, political instability, resource degradation, and a serious food deficit have become major national problems. Agricultural policies and actions for raising farmers’ living standards, achieving food security, and enhancing the natural resource base are urgently needed. Farmers need to begin thinking as a group and take unified action in order to achieve these overarching developmental goals and to sustain their livelihood and agriculture. Farmer cooperatives which are formed by the farmers, governed by the farmers, and run by the farmers in a democratic fashion are an ideal mechanism to increase agricultural production and farm income, enhance agricultural sustainability and food self-sufficiency, while promoting Nepal’s socio-economic development. Through cooperatives, farmers are empowered and economic growth is stimulated. Appropriate governmental policies, programs, rules/regulations, and support systems are essential for the success of farmer cooperatives. Continue reading

Food Security, Livelihood, and Nepalese Agriculture: Challenges and Potentials

Kalidas Subedi, CFFN, Ottawa, Canada
and Bishnu K. Dhital, Sustainabile Soil Management, Nepal

Proceedings of Unfolding Futures: Nepalese Economy, Society, and Politics
Friday-Sunday, Octobet 5-7, 2007, Ottawa, Canada

Abstract

Agriculture is the backbone of Nepalese economy, and serves as the basis of livelihood and subsistence for the majority of its people. Despite its importance, the agricultural sector faces several challenges and limitations when it comes to meeting the demands of its growing population. This paper analyses the biophysical and socio-economic conditions of Nepal’s agricultural sector, food security, livelihood issues, environmental sustainability, and opportunities for improvement. It is a matter of great concern that in a predominantly agricultural country, 43 districts out of 75 (especially in the hills and mountains) are food-deficient. Food production and distribution are highly skewed. Subsistence farming, fragmented/small-sized farms, poor technical know-how, land degradation, and erratic climatic events (e.g. floods, droughts, water limitation) are the key factors that lead to low agricultural productivity. The key factors causing food insecurity, especially in remote mountain districts, are an increasing population, remoteness (causing lack of transportation and distribution), low income-generating opportunities, and lack of access to food. On the other hand, rapid urbanization, indiscriminate use of agro-chemicals, and poor technological know-how has led to environmental problems such as chemical contamination, soil/air/water pollution, and land degradation. There is definite potential for improvement when it comes to agricultural productivity and environmental sustainability in Nepal. However, effort and resources must focus on priority programs such as land consolidation, crop diversification, soil and water conservation practices, infrastructure development (e.g. using the country’s vast water resources for irrigation), rural electrification and roads, and capacity building for farmers (i.e. through training, education, and pro-poor agricultural research and extension). Nonetheless, the rate of population growth must be checked in order to maintain the carrying capacity of the country. Continue reading

A Model for Political Restructuring and a new Electoral System for a Federal Nepal

Ram Acharya, CFFN, Ottawa, Canada

Proceedings of Unfolding Futures: Nepalese Economy, Society, and Politics
Friday-Sunday, Octobet 5-7, 2007, Ottawa, Canada

Abstract

In this paper, I develop a framework for political restructuring of a Federal Nepal, and provide a model for a new electoral system. I identify the natural homelands of 11 ethnic, linguistic, and caste (ELC) groups, called ELC focus regions. I argue that these regions must be an essential component of federation, but that it is not economically desirable to base federation upon them. The desired objective of making Nepal a federation of such ELC groups (i.e. inclusiveness in political power sharing) could be achieved by making these regions electoral constituencies. I further argue that the political constituencies of a federal Nepal should be provinces that extend from north to south as a result of combining ELC focus regions. This north-south corridor would generate immense benefits from the complementarities in natural endowment and in the comparative advantage between northern and southern regions which is not possible if federation is made up of all ELC regions. Moreover, this arrangement will allow all provinces to be bordered with the rapidly growing economies of China and India. Hence, I propose that ELC regions be electoral constituencies and Nepal be a federation of four provinces (each province with three ELC regions), and one territory in the most north-western part. I propose bicameral parliaments at the national and the provincial levels whereby all citizens are equal in the lower house of both levels of parliament, all provinces are equal in the upper house of the national parliament, and all ELC regions are equal in the upper house of the provincial parliament. Finally, I devise a proportional representation system and electoral formula where ethnic, linguistic, caste, gender, and regional issues are addressed to foster an inclusive democracy. Continue reading

Ethnic Nationalism and the Future of Nepal

Basu Sharma

Proceedings of Unfolding Futures: Nepalese Economy, Society, and Politics
Friday-Sunday, Octobet 5-7, 2007, Ottawa, Canada

Abstract

Politicians, concerned citizens, and scholars have searched for a suitable governance system for a new Nepal. Federalism is one widely proposed model. However, there are various types of federalism, and it is important to select one in view of the ethnic, geographic, and linguistic diversity of the country. The objective of this paper is to inform decision makers about this important issue. To that end, I will examine the concept of ethnic nationalism, and analyze its role in determining an appropriate federal structure. Since the ultimate objective is to uplift the lives and living conditions of the citizenry, I outline the economic policy framework necessary to achieve this objective by drawing on insights from development economics and business strategy. I conclude with remarks about alternative futures for Nepal. Continue reading

Decentralization of Energy Systems for Sustainable Economic Development in Nepal

Arjun B. Chhetri, Dalhousie University, Halifax, Canada

Proceedings of Unfolding Futures: Nepalese Economy, Society, and Politics
Friday-Sunday, Octobet 5-7, 2007, Ottawa, Canada

Abstract

Energy is a key determinant factor for economic development that supports basic needs including cooking, lighting, water pumping, health services and communication, spanning the industrial, commercial and transportation sectors. Despite the fact that Nepal is endowed with huge energy resources, especially hydropower, solar and wind power, the majority of Nepalese people still have to rely on traditional energy sources such as biomass because of lack of access to modern forms of energy. Moreover, current energy development and management practices are centrally managed and focus mainly on supplying energy to urban areas, thus leaving the majority of rural populations disconnected from mainstream energy systems. An adequate and reliable energy supply is a prerequisite for sustainable economic development in Nepal. Even though the demand for biomass energy is supplied internally, the demand for fossil fuels is solely met by imports, requiring more than 40% of the total export earnings of Nepal. Over 85% of Nepalese people living in rural areas use biomass as their energy source, especially fuelwood and agriculture residues. Despite having enormous hydropower potential, the Nepalese energy sector is still foreign dependent, and the lack of petroleum products has made the economic sector the most vulnerable in the region.It appears that conventional, centrally managed systems will never be able to meet energy requirements due to harsh geographical terrain. A decentralized energy model based on the future re-structuring of Nepal is thus discussed. Only decentralized energy systems where users are involved in planning, development, construction, operation and maintenance are sustainable in the long-term. Being small in size but more efficient, decentralized projects avoid the major environmental and social disturbances and foreign investment associated with large-scale centrally managed energy systems. A model for waste-to-energy production for sustainable living has also been illustrated.This paper discusses the misconceptions of Nepal’s hydropower potential, the potential and prospects of various renewable energy sources, and the local and regional opportunities available for hydro power development. Situated between the two energy giants India and China, Nepal has the immense potential to export excess electricity. However, real economic benefit can be captured only if such excess electricity is used to produce and export marketable goods rather than to export electricity. This will create local jobs, add value to the products and create greater economic opportunities than exporting electricity directly. Nepal’s energy problem is inherent in the current geo-political system rather than resulting from technical or economic factors. The interests of foreign corporations, vested interests of political parties, financial irregularities and the rampant mismanagement of the country’s energy sector have caused irreversible damage to the Nepalese energy sector. This paper deconstructs the conventional feudal-based policies and discusses the necessity of a paradigm shift in energy policy in Nepal. Nepal’s comparative advantage in exporting energy among the SAARC countries has also been detailed, which will have a significant positive impact on lessening the trade and economic imbalance. Hence, decentralization of energy systems is the key to the sustainable economic development of Nepal. Continue reading

Political Transition in Nepal: Toward an Analytical Framework

Chaitanya Mishra, Tribhuvan University, Kathmandu

Proceedings of Unfolding Futures: Nepalese Economy, Society, and Politics
Friday-Sunday, October 5-7, 2007, Ottawa, Canada

Abstract

Nepal is in transition heading to a political break from the monarchy and the past semi-feudal instruments but the scope and implications of the transition remain uncertain. Also remain uncertain the constitutive political-economic themes: neoliberal vs. liberal democratic vs. social democratic, and state structures: union of near-sovereign units vs. less than federal but highly autonomous local governments vs. centralized. The conjecture made in the article is that the ensemble of historical shifts and contradictions at multiple levels of social organizations, for example, the levels of the individual, household, class, gender, caste, ethnic groups as well those at state and international levels, have led to a specific form of political transition in Nepal. The constitutive features of the transition in general and democratization in particular were erected upon five variables including (a) the weakening and demise of precapitalist, including feudal, political, economic and cultural forms at multiple levels of social organization, (b) the expansion and intensification of capitalism. The framework for explaining the historic development leading to the 2006 political transition in Nepal is developed on those five variables is presented in this paper.

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Citizen Participation in Local Government Management

Ishwor Dhungel, Canada Forum for Nepal, Ottawa, Canada & University of Western Ontario, London, Canada

Proceedings of Unfolding Futures: Nepalese Economy, Society, and Politics
Friday-Sunday, October 5-7, 2007, Ottawa, Canada ID

Abstract

Citizens’ participation in program development, management and service delivery is an integral part of local government administration. It is obvious that involved participation of the people will let new ideas emerge, including techniques, methods, and innovation in local government settings so that quality services can be delivered. Participatory management will support local governance through productive, impartial, sustainable and democratic development practices. Local governments in the developing world still have less autonomy compared to the developed world. It appears that more power lies with the federal and provincial government. With the lack of power decentralization and autonomy, local governments don’t often develop citizen participation in the developing world. This is one of the barriers that local governments face to serving their citizens better. The crucial factor in establishing a sustainable citizen participation program is providing room for local people in the management and decision making process of the local government initiatives. Developing, implementing and institutionalizing citizen participation programs at the local level are very important in empowering government staff and local citizens. It is noted that local government employees’ attitudes toward citizens are often negative and unsupportive. Either they have no power or fear dealing with the roles and rights of citizens. Continue reading

Inclusive Education: Empowering Public Education in the New Age of Communication

Pramod Dhakal, CFFN, Ottawa, Canada

Proceedings of Unfolding Futures: Nepalese Economy, Society, and Politics
Friday-Sunday, October 5-7, 2007, Ottawa, Canada

Abstract

Ranked 140th out of 177 countries by UNDP in Human Development Index, Nepal suffers from chronic illiteracy and human poverty. However, attempts to rescue its 28 million people out of this situation have produced dismal results and the Millennium Development Goals set by UNDP remains an illusive promise for Nepal. While politicians and policy makers are busy selling their own policies as being inclusive, the gap between the rich and the poor, the privileged and the marginalized, and the elite politicians and the grassroots people are steadily widening. Breaking this cycle of gloom is not going to be possible unless some non-conventional and innovative approaches are used to deliver education to the people living in the economically deprived regions of Nepal. Among the many approaches proposed in the article as being important for delivering significantly improved access and quality of education to the population, two have been identified as the most significant:

  1. Making education supported and sustained by the communities themselves,
  2. Supplementing educational institutions with a common pool of knowledge-resources collected and distributed with the use of modern telecommunication, computing, and multi-media technology.

This approach necessitates mechanisms for pooling of technical and knowledge resource, economical to distribution of existing knowledge, compounding new knowledge, and creating the environment for rewarding the emergence and growth of new knowledge, innovations, and inventions.
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