I am often asked about the differences between the private sector and the development sector. In the former, goals are narrower and sharper: beat the competition, meet the quarterly sales targets, show profits for growth, and
For a firm, the metrics and the consequences move in the same direction: if you do not sell enough, you will not be able to pay your employees.
In the development sector, however, goals sound loftier with an overtone of moral superiority. They are also diffused: reduce poverty, make poor people's health better, raise employment levels, and so on. In development, the metrics and the consequences move in opposite directions: if poverty is not reduced more money is lobbed at the problem. There has been much criticism of the development sector for not having agreed-upon sharper, clearer and measurable goals to reduce poverty.
Things are now clearer. In 2000, world leaders adopted what has been called Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) "eight time-bound global and local targets on income poverty, hunger, maternal and child mortality, disease, inadequate shelter, gender inequality, and environmental degradation". The targets are set to be achieved by developing countries, including Nepal, by 2015. To that end, for the last 10 years, most development institutions in Nepal have recast their work as contributions to meeting the MDGs for Nepal.
Now that the third leg of the 15-year stretch has started, how close is Nepal to meeting its MDGs? It's on track, according to a recent report published by the NPC and UNDP, except in achieving full and productive employment and decent work for all, achieving universal access to reproductive health, and in halving proportion of population without access to improved sanitation such as safe water and toilets. Of these, the first and the third are especially important in that they are about earnings and basic hygiene that serve as visible-to-all indicators for progress.
In the past, this column had argued for ways to promote entrepreneurialism as a way to create jobs. After all, a large, young and restless population with nothing to do is a time bomb for massive social unrest.
But it's also increasingly clear that to get entrepreneurialism programs going on at scale, new thinking has to come up: With about 500 Nepalis leaving for overseas jobs every day, the government has little incentive to seriously look for ways to create in-country jobs.
Some businessmen, elected to the CA and who enjoy doubling up as economic statesmen in the media, could have been credible advocates for jobs creation. Understandably, they see more value in being narrowly pro-industry – demurring when it comes to promoting pro-market and pro-competition views that ultimately benefit job seekers and consumers. And development agencies set up to help promote the private sector tend to bring highfalutin templates from other countries, and shoehorn Nepali companies to fit in without bothering to invest in strengthening the local ecosystem in which jobs creation can flourish. Unless there's a high-level time-bound public-private type of a National Jobs Agency, specifically tasked to propagate and practice policies that create real jobs, addressing unemployment is likely to remain a problem.
Improvement of sanitation, yields a nine-dollar return through spillover health, education and livelihood benefits on every dollar spent, it remains a development scandal as only 74 out of 3,915 VDCs in Nepal have been declared open-defecation free, and 16 million Nepalis still have no proper toilets.
Taking job creation and sanitation as emblems of Nepal's persistent development challenges, the sharper, smarter, private-sector-like goals for New Nepal are abundantly clear: jobs and toilets for all.