Tuesday, August 16, 2016

PM urged to crack the whip over development projects

Apart from improving the current governance system and restructuring the administration, the political leadership must regularly prod the bureaucracy to expedite development projects, according to experts.
Until policy reforms, depoliticisation of the bureaucracy, enhancing of institutional capacity and restructuring of the administration can be achieved, the government has to work under a Plan-B, with a commitment towards national development, they said. The government – especially Prime Minister Puspa Kamal Dahal 'Prachanda' – should take a lead role in expediting development projects under the personal initiative of the prime minister, they suggested.
Although obsolete policy and the lethargic  bureaucratic structure need to be reformed as soon as possible, until then the prime minister Dahal – under Plan-B – has to himself monitor  development projects regularly, every fortnight if possible, to expedite development work, suggested senior economist Prof Dr Bishwhambher Pyakuryal.
Either Nepal has to address development projects on a war footing now or remain poor, under developed and paralysised, he said, suggesting the government also adjust the three-year plan, the annual fiscal plan and the long-term plans, as these do not dove-tail.
The delay in development projects is also due to negligence in monitoring and evaluation, and this has to be looked into seriously, he said.
"Though there are various mechanisms under the National Planning Commission (NPC), the Prime Minister's Office and also the ministries concerned with monitoring and reviewing development, the progress at almost all development projects including the national pride projects is pathetic," according to former vice chairman of the NPC Dr Govind Raj Pokharel.
Commitment from both the bureaucracy and the political leadership is key, he said suggesting enhancement of institutional capacity and logistics to help expedite development projects.
Currently, the Prime Minister's Office looks after mega projects whereas the Finance Ministry looks after projects with outlays of above Rs 150 million. The ministries concerned are also responsible for monitoring development projects apart from the planning commission. Likewise, the parliamentary committees – especially the development committee – also takes stock of development projects, though it has been blamed for obstructing the development rather than facilitating.
Almost all the development projects are either running behind schedule, thereby escalating costs, or have shown little progress. "Political instability is no excuse although it is a reality hampering the progress of the development projects," according to another former NPC vice chair Deependra Bahadur Kshetry.
However, he opined that every authority – including the Project Monitoring Division under the planning commission – must be held responsible and they must function on a routine basis even in the absence of ministers. "Otherwise they also should be penalised," he added.
The NPC meets every three months to take stock of development projects and review their status but these  meetings, which are chaired by the Prime Minister, have become a mere formality, he added.
Delayed development projects have not only been holding the the country back but also adding to economic costs for the people. The weakness of the planning commission and also the various ministries in effectively monitoring development is going to cost not only the economy but also social progress, as scarce and precious resources are misused in the last months every year thereby encouraging financial indiscipline and recklessness.

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