The Harvard Alumni Group of Nepal held its monthly meeting on June 10, 2015 in Kathmandu. Mr. Krishna Gyawali, a member of the alumni group and former secretary of the Government of Nepal, gave a talk on “Implementability of Plans and Reforms in Nepal’s Political Economy Context.”
Gyawali, drawing from his extensive experiences in government, focused on government and governance. He discussed four basic contexts through which to view government: the political economy context, institutional capability context, behavioural context and the way forward.
Referring to the article ‘Why Planning Fails in Nepal’ by Aaron Wildavsky (1972), Gyawali highlighted that there is no dearth of knowledge and planning skills in the Nepali government. The failure can be clearly attributed to the failures in implementation.
Gyawali also shared his summary of the article “Three ICs,” the three of which include Implementation Commitment, Implementation Capability, and Implementation Climate. Institutional Commitment refers to the responsibility of politicians, Institutional Capability to that of the bureaucrats, and Implementation Climate to the role of the civil society, private sector and the media, among others. He said that the Nepal Growth Diagnostic (2014) also supports this hypothesis, singling out “Policy Implementation Uncertainty” as one of four “binding constraints to economic growth of Nepal.” Gyawali emphasized that, overall, governance is poor, but project governance is even poorer.
With regard to implementation commitment, the issue of political instability poses a huge challenge. Political instability (frequent change in government and fragility of governance environment) has resulted in governance instability which means the inconsistent continuity of the policies, systems, institutions, and the individuals who drive them.
He said that the government may change, but that should not necessarily mean that policies should also change by default, or else the governance system will lose its credibility, leading to “governance instability and uncertainty.”
Gyawali shared his view that institutional capability is a combination of competence, attitude and behavior. However, he pointed out that in Nepal, competence is “overly and unjustifiably” rewarded and prioritized over the other two. Therefore, individuals are sent for various trainings and education programs, but due to the lack of a clear mechanism of transfer of individual capability to the institution, there is no continuity. To add to this further, Nepal is plagued by “irshya ko rashtriya sanskriti”, a morbid culture of jealousy that prevents teamwork and deals a further blow to continuity.
Institutional capability also suffers because, according to Gyawali, in Nepal, institution-building means institution-creation. Older institutions are not nurtured, but instead the government keeps creating new ones. Gyawali spoke critically of the decision to create a new reconstruction body without adequate homework on its structure, functions and relationship with other government line agencies.
In Gyawali’s view, an attitude of positivity, that “something can be done and I can do it” is largely missing in Nepal. “Analysis should be critical but the conclusion should be positive, not unrealistically so but with a grain of positivity,” he said. A more negative view, “prejudiced analysis,” is more prevalent, leading to inaction and complacency.
To exacerbate the problem further, inaction is rarely penalized. The likelihood of making mistakes, sometimes even procedural errors, is greater when you do the work. Since the tolerance for mistakes is very low and can jeopardize an entire career, this encourages a working culture where it is better not to do anything than to do it and make a mistake. In the behavioral context, complacency abounds in Nepal’s institutions, according to Gyawali.
Gyawali made a few recommendations for moving forward. He encouraged the alumni group to see governance stability as being more than simple “political stability,” namely: stability of government, laws and policies, institutions and people. Given the continued possibility of pre-and post-constitution political fragility, Nepal must embrace coalition governments.
Within such a state, for continued and consistent operation of policies, acts, rules and procedures, institutions and human resources are critical. What matters at the end of the day is vision, honesty and capability amongst the ‘policy actors’ and trust, monitoring and penalty among the ‘policy beneficiaries.’
The talk was followed by a lively discussion among the alumni group. Bhojaraj Pokharel, coordinator of Adhoc Committee of the group, moderated the talk and wrapped up the program by thanking Krishna for his valuable presentation.
The Harvard Alumni Group in Nepal was recently been reactivated. The group’s goal is to serve as an interactive platform for proactive discussions on topical issues of national and global importance, as well as to promote professional networking among the alumni community in Nepal.
For questions about the group, please contact Bhojraj Pokharel, firstname.lastname@example.org.