Opinion | Race to stupidity

Dinkar Nepal

Dinkar Nepal

Opinion | Race to stupidity

A cauliflower statue at Sidhuwa Bazar, Dhankuta | Photo: Ajaya Shrestha

We Nepalis have always dreamt of being ruled by visionary leaders assisted by disciplined and competent governance machinery. But what we got is the exact opposite. We have become a nation ruled by conflict mongering, criminal-minded and incompetent politicians who are assisted as enthusiastically in ruining the nation by the inefficient and corrupt bureaucracy. Political instability and an endless transition has made things worse.

To put things in perspective, let me begin with a comparison that came as a shocking eye-opener. Next to the small farmhouse that I am about to launch in my hometown, at a beautiful bhanjyang in the serene village named Chisapani in Waling Municipality, in Syangja district, a community school is being renovated. I spotted the contractor working on the project procuring the best quality tiles and granite slabs at the local hardware store, and some eager enquiries revealed shocking details.

The budget for the school’s toilet block is more than my total budget for the farmhouse. It is more surprising because the primary school has only 26 enrolled students. This seems an atrocious waste of scarce resources that could have been used on other important infrastructures like libraries and books. Such an absurd spending pattern has become a norm across the social sector and in government projects.

Much of this rampage of inflated expenditure in projects is caused by corrupt intent, and an ineffective monitoring and evaluation mechanism. But some sociological and political factors also need exploring while looking for deeper reasons. 

Let me share another example. I work in agriculture, and I am striving hard to initiate evidence-based and data-driven practices in small-scale farming. But at the local level, there are many government bodies one has to coordinate with to get benefits from different schemes targeted at farmers, or even simply to get some data about agriculture.

At the municipality level, the technical agriculture branches of the municipality work under the office of the Municipal Executive, which comprises elected and nominated local representatives. There is hardly any coordination between the district, province, federal and these municipal agencies.

Previously, the government had been providing agricultural extension services through various agriculture service centers and livestock service centers directly controlled by the ministry. But with the rolling out of federalism, the District Agriculture Offices have been closed. 

The government of Nepal had launched a plan to establish Community Agriculture Extension Service Centers (CAESC) under the  Agriculture Development Strategy, a 20-year strategic plan to guide the overall agricultural development of Nepal before the promulgation of the new constitution. It has now been redesigned to suit the federal structure. The Decentralized Science, Technology and Education Flagship program of ADS has a vision of establishment of CAESC in each VDC. But, in practice, things haven't shaped out as planned.

According to a study carried out by the Global Sustainable Research and Development Center, the CAESC’s established in Sindhuli and Rautahat districts have not been implemented effectively. The infrastructure is now used by rural municipality/municipality for their office purposes. As a result, we have dozens of government agencies in the district with no coordination with each other. When I strive to base our decisions on some reliable data about agricultural production, it seems like mission impossible.

Our politics, for the past three decades, has thrived on conflict mongering. As a result, our politicians have hardly any experience on governance. The result of the past four years, at different levels of our government, proves their ineptitude to prioritize correctly. While the federal government was incapacitated with the battle of egos of main leaders, the provincial and local governments have initiated some really laughable projects.

The country has a plethora of stupid projects as the mayors seem to be in a race to win the title of the stupidest politician. One municipality had cut down a healthy tree in a road-crossing to erect a concrete statue of a fruit, and many others have spent crores of rupees on view towers, concrete statues of animals, vegetables and even liquor bottles. One municipality recently spent more than Rs 2 million in building statues of cauliflowers and potatoes. That amount could have been utilized in establishing a research and advisory center to help farmers. 

Combined with this senseless anarchy led by our criminal-minded rulers, who are amply assisted by an inefficient governance structure, we as a society are also playing our part. Let's face it: unless we stop being tolerant of inefficient practices and unless we start ridiculing corruption in our family gossip, our children will face such endless injustice again and again.

It's high time we forced our government to spend the taxpayer money more efficiently.