Nepali Times
Think nationally, act locally


The results of this year's Himalmedia Public Opinion Survey 2012 that were released last week proved once more that the main concern of most Nepalis are mundane day-to-day issues like jobs, education, health, or roads. Politics figures way down on their list, and when it does, there is widespread disillusionment with politicians at the national and local levels.

But what is even more surprising is that compared to the cynicism and disenchantment in the capital with the state of the country, most Nepalis are upbeat about the future and think there have been marked improvements in development. This is borne out by statistics that show dramatic improvements in Nepal's literacy rate, child and maternal survival and the spread of roads over the past decade.

The 3,210 respondents in 38 districts across Nepal were asked in which areas they have seen improvements. More than 61% ticked roads, showing that most Nepalis equate 'development' with road access. Of these, more people in the Himal (85%) than in the Pahad (50%) and Tarai (41%) felt there had been progress in roads.

In response to another question about the state of the country compared to last year, there was a dramatic decrease in the number of don't know/can't say answers. People seem more outspoken, not afraid to voice their opinions, but not always to complain. Sixty per cent of respondents felt things were improving, or were hopeful they would improve.

Interestingly, more people in eastern Nepal and in the Tarai felt things were getting worse, and that they wouldn't improve. Disaggregated data shows that more men than women felt things were getting worse as did city-dwellers, educated, hill 'upper' caste, Newars and Madhesis. When those who felt things were getting worse were asked who was responsible, nearly one-third blamed the Maoists and 27% felt 'the government' was responsible. Various ethnic groups, it was felt, were responsible for strikes and shutdowns in the poll which was conducted in the third week of April.

In all three regions and from east to west, most people thought political violence, extortion, property seizures, and crime have gone down in the past two years.

When asked to name the three main problems the country faced, more than three-fourths of the 3,210 respondents cited inflation, and more women (81%) were worried about price rises than men (71%). More among the illiterate (82.3%) felt inflation was a problem, whereas the educated ranked corruption higher. In fact, the corruption perception index rose from 56% in the Himalmedia Poll last year to 75% this year.

Asked which institutions they trusted the most, respondents still held the media in high regard both at the national and local level and felt journalists were doing an even better job than before. However, the police and civil service were not held in such high regard. At the local level more than half the respondents said their trust in local politicians had dropped in the past four years. Surprisingly, the erosion of trust of the VDC and municipalities was not as marked, with 29% thinking they were doing a better job and half saying they were the same.

There is a feeling that local service delivery has improved across the board in health, education, roads and drinking water, but there was frustration over the lack of progress in electricity and garbage disposal.

People in the west and mid-western districts were most positive about improvements in road access.

If that is the case, respondents were asked, what should be done to improve basic services? The top three answers were: hand over management to local communities (21.5%), increase local budgets (21.2%) and remove political interference (18.8%). Asked when there should be new local elections, 41% said 'right away' and 26% said after the new constitution but before the general election. There seems to be an obvious correlation in the minds of people between accountable elected officials and service delivery.

Alas, at the rate things are going the people seem to have less and less respect for local leadership of the political parties with most equating them with discredited national leaders.

These results, together with the popularity surge of Baburam Bhattarai, the plummeting support for Pushpa Kamal Dahal and the negligible endorsement for the leaders of the NC, UML and Madhesi Front, provide one big message to our leaders: work on integrity and performance, listen to the people and maybe they will vote for you in the next election.

HimalMedia Public Opinion Survey 2012: Complete Poll Data

See also:
Make-or-break media

Voters' voice

More things change more they stay the same

The terrain shifts

The times they are changing, ANURAG ACHARYA

1. Ramprasad
Survey done without any statistically can't come to any conclusion from this survey...

(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)