Nepali Times
Egoistic altruism

Last week, I went to a big five-star hotel to attend the presentation of the research findings of a Kathmandu-based NGO. In a few hours, ten different people were given the opportunity to express their findings and viewpoints. There was a lot of talking, but nothing was being said.

It turned out to be a session organised merely for the NGO and its international donors to compliment each other and feed each other's egos with kind and pleasing words. The research findings were predictable but vague, there were no facts, and there was no valid evidence. There were shortsighted shortcuts to generalised conclusions, one of which is always the same: "It was difficult! Circumstances did not allow us to complete our work as hoped, but we were successful and more action is needed. So we need more funding for new programs."

Some people in the meeting called the research 'groundbreaking' and 'a big success'. But when more funding is happily given, we continue agreeably, exchange some more gratifying words in meetings in the biggest hotels of Kathmandu, keep scratching each other's backs and all feel good about the great work we are doing! But nothing changes, except the bank accounts of the people working in the NGOs, the big international donors and the government.

The development world in Nepal is guilty of egoistic altruism. Organisations, national and international, use the notion of doing good for disadvantaged people for self-gratifying reasons. And they all support each other in keeping up this shameless farce, because this is the very paradox of development work. The goal of any development intervention should be to ensure its sustainability to the extent that external actors are eventually not needed anymore. But if an organisation solves the problems of its beneficiaries, then it is out of a job. So if I really do my job well, I am out of a job. Some people work for the job, others work for getting the job done. In Nepal, the vast majority of people do not work to get the job done; they merely work to keep their job. And that leads to egoistic altruism: a dreadful disease that this country needs to cure itself of to really develop and flourish.

True development is decreased egoism and increased altruism. This development should first of all start with the government and the national and international development agencies. Only if we develop in that sense can the true growth of this beautiful country happen. The Buddha said: "True charity has no notion of giver, gift and receiver." In Nepal, the birthplace of the Buddha, charity and development is sadly about the giver in the first place, the gift in the second place. There is no true place for the receiver, except in the empty words uttered by the majority of the development clique.

I fear, however, that this clique will keep talking, will keep saying nothing and is just concerned with feeding its collective ego. It's a waste of time to keep pointing fingers. Let's become true agents of change by working on what we can control and influence. Work with a win-win attitude, be authentic and work with genuine compassion and altruism. Then true development, growth and magic will happen in Nepal.

Etienne Duijf

1. Bimal

Nepal's longest suspension Bridge in Mahakali River to join one and only Island of Nepal near Shuklaphanta wildlife Reserve It is  is  1496.5 meter long.

But Nepali times(#508) menssion in the capation of a photo in a front page that "....Nepal's  longest susspension brige (344m)...." . Is it correct? 

2. KiranL
I think the caption should have said the longest single span. The Mahakali bridge gas seven spans.

3. prabhatmani
Very true. I worked couple of yrs in that sector and left disgusted: in the name of the poverty alleviation Kathmanduites, the West Educated so called "doctor sahebs", were milking money while poor became poorer.

A friend of mine, who is now a big name in certain circle, at that time said to me: America and the West have money, they want to spend; we don't have so we take. This is just give and take. In between if there few fall outs, its great. Is there any harm in it?

I think that was the philosophy then and nothing has changed. I once asked a big donor adviser, "All the reviews of your projects give you 100 mark for achieving goals but how come Nepal is going down and poor and becoming poorer." He just smiled. He knew that he himself gave 100 mark to his project. He never had to ask that favor from Nepali consultants, they just gave him 100 marks because they needed his next project. If some crooks had the guts to go otherwise, they were dumped.

What happens is that a consultant is hired to write an evaluation report on a project, he submits and will be corrected for mistakes. The final report he just signs.

4. Arthur
Good letter! When Nepal breaks through and shows how to defeat these cliques it will provide a major example for other least developed countries.

5. jange
Stop complaining. They are not spending your money. What is it to you how others spend their money?

6. Frank
A great letter! 

This however is a response to Jange. First of all it is my money! I pay taxes to my government, who spend it in such irresponsible ways. 

Secondly, this is not an issue of money. But an issue of character, integrity and helping people and ending poverty. Because of this irresponsible behavior it is actually hampering development. It is NOT about the money. For the majority of the national and international development organisations it however IS about the money. 

Lastly, read the last paragraph, the author actually suggests, that it does not work to complain and that we should start to become a role model to make a change. 

(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)