Nepal lost around USD 3.3 billion in 2014 as per then UNDP report on corruption, one can only try to imagine, what the amount would be now!
In 2014 UNDP and UNOCD worked with government and civil society on understanding and implementation of the UN Convention against Corruption (UNCAC) amongst government officials and the donor community. UNCAC formally adopted in 2003, Nepal formally ratified the convention in 2011 and worked towards strengthening the legislations, by adopting national strategy and plan of actions on anti-corruption.
The 2014 UNDP report even mentions some of the suggestions to address corruption. Namely, having a concerted effort to consolidate the various anti-corruption agencies and government entities with the Commission for the Investigation of Abuse of Authority (CIAA); to establish and strengthen regional judiciaries and courts to alleviate stress on central authority; to improve rule of law within the country with stronger foundation for development activities; and for the Government of Nepal to improve efforts in developing the process and result oriented programming for the people of Nepal. We have yet to see the results of the above suggestions.
The country has sufficient food production potentials, with hardworking and honest people, yet it has not been able to address its poverty and food crisis due to the lack of political will and corruption.
It is a matter of great concern, that the country has not been able to take the right direction even after decades of political exercises in Nepal. As a society, we Nepali people need an in-depth critical and insightful analysis of the situation and pragmatic course correction measures, lest we as a society sink into the unavoidable entrenched chronic corruption which will only make the lives of ordinary people extremely difficult.
It is clear that the country has not been able to pave the way for development and prosperity due to the lack of vision, inherent selfishness, dishonesty, arrogance and corrupt character of the ruling political parties and their leaders.
We as the common people, need to ask more questions on the governance, transparency and accountability of the public welfare systems, and demand more concrete and visible actions to address common people’s suffering.
Nepali people are emotional; we have become more obsessed and interested in politics than what is necessary and ignoring the lack of proper governance and systems that impact us. There is a strong tendency to get involved in a lot of political activities and almost all the people in the country belong to one political party or the other and are spending their time more in bickering about politics than demanding answers from the political parties, parliament and the various government institutions.
Political instability has marked the country for a long period now, people have witnessed repeated short intervals of political changes, especially in the political system and governance of the country.
During the last election, people elected the Community Party of Nepal (CPN) with two-thirds majority, yet a close scrutiny reveals that the elected government is no different from the unstable and transitional government of the past. It rather reflects an arrogant, inherently selfish and an ignorant government which is bent on pushing the country – already on the brink, and its people into the abyss of perpetual despair and crisis while profiteering from its misery.
The ruling party and its various mechanisms are abusing the inherent state power to acquire immeasurable wealth, while the current Prime Minister himself protects the corrupt and has shown his least interest to have an efficient government and motivate the government staff to increase their own efficiency.
The current government seems lacking in becoming a truly people’s government, perhaps it reflects the fact that the Prime Minister and his cabinet is trying to run the country based on his sole interest, having a lop-sided uneven and unbalanced foreign policy, lacking reliable development policy, plan and action to be implemented for the people.
One has to just scratch the surface and hear some of the CPN (Maoist) leaders and cadres who are themselves not satisfied with the current government, as they also feel that the will of the government is neither clear nor honest towards the country and its people.
We could look at the current situation of the Wuhan originated Corona virus, i.e. COVID-19 which has wreaked havoc globally and also severely impacted Nepal. Instead of effectively solving the problems caused by the pandemic situation, the government’s actions are only increasing the infection. Nepali people who previously wanted to return back to Nepal – especially those who were working in India and lost their jobs due to the COVID-19 impact of economic shut down, after having arrived at the Nepal-India border found that instead of arranging for proper quarantine and treatment for suspected cases, the government was instead avoiding them to get into the country. Unable to return home in Nepal, they were trapped at the no-man’s land between the border. One can only imagine how insensitive the government and their officials were in leaving people destitute, suffering unnecessarily, developing mental anxiety and living with that now. Some unfortunate souls even lost their lives due to the apathetic treatment given to them, not to mention the highly unorganized settlement activities undertaken to return them home.
During the COVID-19 crisis, the ruling party took no initiative to address the grievances of many economically challenged people, choosing instead to control and misuse the government funds while pocketing profits.
The situation of COVID-19 was further exaggerated due to the government’s reluctance to expand the scope of polymerase chain reaction (PCR) and antibody tests to enable health professionals to conduct COVID-19 tests, to set up separate hospitals for treatment, and to focus on the management of the potential areas from where the infections were spreading and rising.
The government also brought treatment materials from China, which were found to be of poor quality along with financial irregularities. Despite cancellations, there were still irregularities found in the procurement process and the government tried to wash its hands off by passing on the procurement process to the Nepal Army. The government has also avoided dialogue with experts and stakeholders, the people are further kept in the dark and while the public sentiment is turning into anger. Instead of coming up with creative solutions to address the COVID-19 challenges and the economic downslide, the government is turning to the situation of lockdowns and restrictions of movement keeping the people under de-facto detention in the name of prohibition and stopping the spread of COVID-19. Many analysts are stopping short of mentioning that there is an undeclared state of emergency being operated by the government and the rule by law to control the public.
Carelessness and wrong policies towards addressing the pandemic situation, testing, making public treatment available and providing necessary basic services is only creating stress, distress and perpetuating the spread of COVID-19, as there is lack of public support and trust to any initiative by the government.
The government is wreaking havoc by imposing an undeclared state of emergency and spending huge amount of money to maintain such a situation, rather it should focus on lessons learnt from Thailand’s case – increasing public awareness on prevention, facilitate public to access personal protection kits (PPEs) or even face-masks, standardize laboratory testing criteria, facilitate and ensure common understanding on COVID-19 laboratory testing throughout the country, ensure rational use of the laboratory resources in order to contain COVID-19 spread, ensure basic amenities are available at affordable prices – there is no hoarding of goods and strong actions are taken against anyone doing so, public transports and other facilities are still available, and public activities which support economically challenged people to earn basic livelihood is gradually revived with all precautions.
The uncontested COVID-19 health care supplies from China have repeatedly been found to be of poor quality and extremely expensive, yet the government continues to purchase them. Public health stakeholders and CSOs have repeatedly raised the issue of corruption in the government’s activities, including the import of substandard goods and no public scrutiny of purchasing policy which is shrouded in a state of secrecy by the involvement of the army in the purchase of COVID-19 related health items.
Without doubt, Nepali people are getting frustrated and being pushed into a state of hopelessness and forced to think of alternatives by themselves just to survive, forget living, enjoying their lives and pursuing their interests – a gross violation of the dignity of Nepali people and their human rights.
People are beginning to expect the government to be held responsible and accountable, this once again brings us to the question – how long will the government survive public ire.
Opposition parties and their leadership too have failed to criticise the government’s inaction, their leadership has failed to show the public that they possess the quality to lead the country out of the dire situation and that there is hope and optimism.
Rather people are getting a sense that the government and the opposition leaders are wining and dining together giving two hoots to the public’s situation and their sentiments.
An indifferent leadership and their lack of ability to act to uphold public good is a clear indication that the crisis will further deepen and the citizens will be further oppressed and stripped of their dignity.
There are reports seemingly emerging that provincial governments, districts and municipalities have also become ineffective due to the volatile staff mobilization and bad resource management by the central government. They are falling into swamps of administrative hassles due to unnecessary pressure from political parties operating in their areas, oppressive activities of the central and provincial governments, unstable staff administration, sloppy attitude among employees, along with the culmination of corruption and irregularities and selfish activities of the ruling parties and their cadres.
The present Oli government has displayed a total lack of development vision and policy planning of programs not only in normal times, but also in pandemic situation. Public resources are spent on pursuing political interests with politicians and administration showing lack of knowledge of development priorities and public need.
In such a situation, it is expected that CSOs would show some leadership qualities, but unfortunately neither the civil society is strong currently, nor are they able to come out of the shadows of their political circles and show independent existence lest they stop receiving political patronage, funding and access to the corridors of power.
This is the time for international development partners and donor agencies to play a pivotal role in moving beyond their so called “access” to the political quarters and political interests and look at actually serving the people of Nepal with evidence-based impact of their programs and activities and show their people-centred thinking and approach visible on the ground, not in their speeches, pictures, selfies, social media postings with politically correct hashtags, and politically correct taglines and gathering only likes on their public profiles.
The Nepali public will have to also consider the fact that they will have to pave their own way. It is high time that we the people of Nepal consider our own means of developing self-reliance and self-respect by developing our own skills, abilities and entrepreneurship including keeping ourselves away from bickering political influences and serving the interest of political parties.
We cannot expect the government to immediately rise above corruption and partisan interests, but it would be appropriate to say that we need to start taking steps to raise concerns in the public, demand accountability and transparency and ensure political parties are serving the people and not making people serve them.