Nepali Times
Politically Cracked
The failed people


Minister: Don't spend time doing nothing. Secretary: Don't spend time cutting ribbons.

The day the Fund for Peace announced that Nepal ranked 26th on its annual Failed States Index, the most powerful members of the executive were having a heart-to-heart session. The ministers, led by Prime Minister Madhav Kumar Nepal, chided the bureaucrats for inefficiency, failure to follow directives, and therefore the nation's economic backwardness.

Madhav Nepal was particularly displeased about the lack of progress in the maintenance of shoddy roads in the capital, a highway connecting his constituency in Rautahat to his other constituency in Kathmandu, and the establishment of a republic monument, or the giant horse that could fly. "You don't even obey the orders of the prime minister," he droned on.

The bureaucrats said they were helpless. There was too much pressure from the politicians to do things they didn't want to do, they said. Repeating what they had told the Public Accounts Committee last week when asked why funds were being diverted to projects in powerful politicians' districts, they said in unison: "We are forced to."

In the wake of a string of new corruption allegations against various members of the cabinet, the meeting was, to say the least, illuminating. If those who set the agenda and those who execute them are helpless pawns in each other's schemes then no wonder we rank so high on the Failed States Index.†No wonder we are chronically behind on development.

Only last week, it was reported that illegal tree felling in 25 locations in the Tarai had left long stretches of land almost bare. All this was happening under the patronage of community forest users groups and District Forest Offices, and even the†Minister for Forests and Soil Conservation Deepak Bohara was found to be involved with the timber racket. This is the same ministry that orchestrated a Climate Summit at Everest Base Camp and has accepted a £40 million grant from DFID to tackle deforestation.

After initially denying that any of the trees had been felled illegally, the ministry has finally started disciplining those involved. So far, one officer has been suspended. Not fired. Suspended. "But we can't take action against everyone because the papers said they are guilty," said the secretary of the ministry. Fair enough. But how about for failing to do their job, which was to protect the forests that now no longer exist?

Accountability is meaningless if you have immunity. Just 0.01 per cent of civil servants were dismissed out of a total of 77,000 last year. When bureaucrats say they are helpless, are they afraid of losing their jobs or being transferred to a less lucrative department? Haven't the ministries of finance or home always been coveted places to work, as opposed to the Ministry of Parliamentary Affairs?

Politicians are made accountable by elections. Through their actions, or lack thereof, they have maintained a sense in the voters' minds that the electorate is incapable of bringing about change. Frank Herbert put it nicely in the Dune series: "if you think of yourselves as helpless and ineffectual, it is certain that you will create a despotic government to be your master." Our government may not seem despotic, but isn't despotism a system where people are treated as subordinates?

On Monday, both bureaucrats and politicians said they were helpless, even though they continue to collaborate efficiently when it comes to embezzlement and corruption. They meekly announced that new solutions were needed. The solution is simple: they should work for the people and the country; if they can't they need to be dismissed. If we are complaining about 'the way things are', then we cannot rule out a solution because of 'the way things are.'†

India changing, PRASHANT JHA
The lure of the national, CK LAL
Been there, done that, PUBLISHER'S NOTE

1. A Gurung
what a nice article!!! the writer has brought out the real world of Nepali politics and bureaucracy................Hats off to the writer!!! Indeed, your articles are always "the best".....keep it up......!!!

2. SS
if you think of yourselves as helpless and ineffectual, it is certain that you will create a despotic government to be your master

well said

3. hange
While you've done an excellent job of hitting the nail on the head, you've done what all us Nepalis excel at:  describing the problem.  The problem is that we never solve the problem.  While well-written (and absolutely true), these thoughts have been written, explained, discussed, dissected, and debated ad nauseum.  If, instead, we could harness Ms/Mrs. Nepal's intellect to actually lead a government, then we might actually go places.

4. Arthur
Good article. Conclusion, they must be dismissed!

5. bibek
both bureaucrats and politicians said they were helpless, even though they continue to collaborate efficiently when it comes to embezzlement and corruption
It's the reality. But I can not agree that we are the failed people, although we had selected a bunch of failed face as our leader and leave them the rein. We know what's going on, what is right and what is wrong, we raise voice, we write nice articles but get divided finally while taking a firm stance in the name of caste, ethnicity, religion and party. This becomes another golden chance for these jerks. So the intellectual power inside us should be used to lead the country  rather than letting it be banderko hatma nariwal.

6. Slarti

I am sorry, but why is everybody so happy with the idea of being mediocre?

First, the PM needs some silly little index to tell him that Nepal is fast becoming a failed state. Something he should have shown concern for and been aware of for some time. Then how does he blame bureaucrats. Tells them that the reason they have failed is because, a) they are inefficient, b) that they failed to follow directives.

Pray, what were these directives ‚Äď 1. though must create an inlusivist society, 2. though shalt'nt liest not even in thine slumber, 3. though shall must create a conducive environment for the great new republic of hollowville and its new gods or, (roars and thunders) fear ye all, tremble, lest you be called into my office and be chided. Worse, be made fun of in the media.

What a disgrace. I will write more on this. Right up my alley.

7. Anish
Yes, the bureaucrats are at fault but what is incentive for doing their jobs? I know this sounds idiotic but in this country where success or failure of the professionals depends on their loyalty to the politics, where people are rewarded for their sycophancy and punished for accomplishments, how would any worldly person muster up the courage to swim against the current? In this modern day and age, people respond to real world incentives. Integrity, ethics, patriotism all are abstract notions. You can fire all the bureaucrats you want, but until and unless there's a system of rewarding the worthy and punishing the guilty, no one is going to do their job.

8. Slarti

Thank you #7

Corruption is a universal phenomenon, people are corrupt because they can be, because they need the money, and most commonly, in cases like Nepal, because there really is no other choice.  

A system, as #7 rightly points out, is required which would enable efficient functioning. A government and a nation cannot depend on the hoped for altruism of bureaucrats to function.

9. DanielGajaraj
Democratic administration to be effective , a little bit of spiritualism is essential.i.e.with a sense of  service and  renunciation How can we integrate this discriminative  value in the time of materialism and only physical science and dialectical materialism  and Marxism? We are creating conflict only this way. Let us postpone this topic for the time being.
politicians should know that civil servants are not  there to comply with their wish and fancy against existing rules and regulation; their populist actions with nepotism ,political expediency and chicanery. Civil servants are not subservient to their whims and fancy. They are to give advice and take pertinent order from the political boss. Their job is to uphold the constitution and the law of the land.
LEADERSHIP IS BY EXAMPLE,WALK THE TALK.,should be trustworthy.A good leader makes his subordinate feel taller not feel smaller.  at the prevailing circumstances our administrators in all branch of service  are subjected to many unwanted and unwarranted situations and many have been demoralized and joined the corrupt bandwagon.If you cannot lick them ,join them has been their motto; it has been profitable to them also. So is the collusion going on and on. No one is role model; no one is paragon of virtue any longer. This is the saddest part of it.. Physician cure thyself. Madhavji, chicken will laugh at you now.after all you are all Pygmies.                                                                                                                                              

10. Satya Nepali

Good job, Ms. Nepal! Hope you continue to write more hard-hitting pieces like this. The following line is spot-on:

"Accountability is meaningless if you have immunity."

Our people keep providing immunity to the politicians in the name of "supporting democracy". Politicians should be made to pay for their failures in real, tangible terms. Like being booted out of office and having their illegitimate decisions reversed. Then they'll feel the pinch and become accountable. Just wailing against them in newpapers has no effect.

(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)