Nepali Times
"Let's not be the laughing stock"

Ramesh Singh Malla worked for many years in Nepal before joining ActionAid International as CEO. He was visiting fellow to the Hauser Centre for Nonprofit Organisations at Harvard University and will soon be joining the Open Society Institute in New York.

Nepali Times: How is Nepal's development record viewed by the international community?
Ramesh Singh Malla:
My impression is that the international donor and development community generally likes Nepal for a positive and welcoming attitude of Nepali government and institutions for anything donors bring to or do in Nepal, the ability to do more for less money and for hard work frontline communities and institutions put in. However, I doubt that we command respect of donors and international communities. Our institutions are weak, even corrupt, and we lack the vision, determination and strength to negotiate international assistance on our own terms. If we are able to do that not only would we command their respect but also would have made much better out of all international assistance that comes to the country.

What have been Nepal's greatest achievements so far?
A lot of progress has been made in physical infrastructure like roads and telecommunications. All physical quality of life indices such as life expectancy, child mortality, maternal mortality, school enrolment etc show great progress. The UN HDR 2010 congratulated Nepal for making the third fastest progress in HDI over the period between 1970-2010. And of course, the restoration of democracy is worth being proud of, even though the present political chaos and utter failure to bring out our new constitution makes us a bit of a laughing stock.

What else have we failed in?
Nepal continues to be one of the poorest countries in the world and all international reports and rankings put Nepal near the bottom. The basic feudal and patriarchal structure of the society and our institutions continues to remain violent, exploitative, discriminatory and corrupt with impunity. Our institutions and politics are still dominated by leaders who have failed us over and over again and continue to divide society.

Are you going to return to Nepal to try to set things right?
During my two decades of work in Nepal, it has never failed to amaze me how our community-led efforts have done wonders even in the bleakest times. These are the things Nepal can be proud of and teach other countries too. There is a lot of hope for this country, especially with the younger generation taking charge. I wish to work with them.

1. nepali forever

We need to work together as nepalese and put our past behind all the race and religion and develop our country. our mothere land is greater than heavan indeed, but most importanly we need to get those corupted goverment MPs out and the moist part out. We want our nepal back and bak soon.

2. Prakash
I have always searched for such article.
I am a Nepali citizen and i was always wondering whats the reason behind we lacking development. I always thought the government was not good enough (fair ) and the youths did not even care.
However, these days i have seen youths participating in various activities and the politicians still licking the floors of the neighboring nations.

I really want to thank Ramesh Singh Malla for this article.

3. papa
if ngo's were the solutions, we'd not be here after all this ngo-tantra. as this interviewee shows - it is mostly for those who run such orgs and use them to springboard their career.

4. kamal.kishor
I personally don't know this man, but one of my friend is his admirer. He was born to a lower middle class family and by his own strengths he is one of the few Nepalese known world wide. I admire him very much.

But the problem with NGOs is that they have become the handy tools of donors for their dirty politics in Nepal. All most all the big NGOs are politically aligned and openly participating in the political games and donors don't mind because through these NGOs, they have the reach and influence over bureaucracy, political parties, and the society. 

At present, the most affluent people in Kathmandu belong to NGOs. Those middle class people have become the new masters of Nepal. Instead of serving people, they have served themselves. It is a pity.

5. Shakazuloo

People are suffering due to lack of basic facilities.

"Experts" collect generous salaries to "solve" the problems about which they have no direct experience.
Rule #1: these people are the problem (and not the solution) along with politicians and government salarymen in general.

Look no further than the record�

After many decades, and billions upon billions of rupees in 'aid' money and meetings, discussions, and reports, the great 'aid' kerfuffle has the primary achievement of "roads and telecommunications"!

Private businesses, entirely on their own, have messed of communications ("Maf garnu holla, tapaile dial garnu bayeko number milaina�")

That leaves roads�  Does he really believe that a comfortable ride in an air conditioned, chauffeured Land Rover with tinted windows makes for a good road?

Let's send him around ring road for a day in a crowded mini-van�or perhaps an overland junket to Kakarbhitta, and thereby, he will learn that to go east from Kathmandu, the bus must first head west and then south for 5-6 hours on a road jammed with pollution and traffic because there is no other route.

The 'Aid' cadre continue to give glib answers in defense of, or rather to justify their existence (and enormous salaries) while the populace suffers from basic challenges, eg, clean water, lack of water, lack of nutrition, lack of electricity, dangerously poor infrastructure, fatally poor hygiene, poor health, and most of all, corrupt officials.

(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)