Venezuela’s President Nicolas Maduro has blamed the United States for his country’s conflict. In Britain, Conservative Prime Minister Teresa May has been blaming the Labor Party for her country’s economic pains, though her party has been ruling now for 8 years. Nepali leaders have often blamed India for the country’s backwardness. In all these cases, those who are blaming others have been more to blame themselves.
Blaming others for one’s weaknesses has been a popular sport across the world–rich and poor, powerful and powerless countries do it all the time. Some of it is justifiable because it was not invited, but most of it is not. For instance, the colonized countries never invited the colonizers to colonize them. The second Gulf War was uninvited, and so was the US attack on Afghanistan in 2001.
In Nepal, the second Nepal-India War was uninvited. So was the economic embargo of 1969/70. Nepal has not invited Indian effort to bring Nepal under its wing and Chinese effort to prevent Nepal from developing even economic and social contacts either.
However, in other cases, a section of leaders in troubled countries have requested external interference and therefore, one-sided blame is has been unjustified. For instance, Juan Guaido asked for US interference in Venezuela. The Conservative Party itself has invited the Brexit and rising homelessness. In Libya, Yemen and Syria, one section of their leaders have requested the western intervention.
In Nepal, King Jaya Prakash Malla had asked for British Indian military support in 1767. Some Nepali leaders had encouraged India for the economic embargo of 2015/16. The 1989/90 Indian economic embargo had been a combined result of Indian anger at Nepal for importing Chinese weapons, the rift between King Birendra and Indian Prime Minister Rajeev Gandhi and Nepali democratic leaders’ call for help to restore democracy.
Both the invited and non-invited external interference has hurt the Nepali economy. However, these internal factors have hurt it more: the passive approach to development in the Panchayat era, the Maoist insurgency for a decade, and our own continued misappropriation and mismanagement in the post-1990 period.
For example, Nepal and South Korea had launched planned development at the same time and almost from the same base. By 1990, South Korea had become a developed country (having 29th highest per capita income in 2017 according to the UN) while Nepal continues to languish as a least developed one (169th), just above war-torn countries.
The decade-long Maoist insurgency has not only caused the death of 17,000 economically active young Nepalis and disability of many more thousands but has also inflicted the economic damage of more than 7 billion rupees and many more billions worth of lost opportunity and time. Misappropriation/corruption and mismanagement have continued to hemorrhage our economy after the end of the insurgency.
Thanks to the misappropriation and corruption, every year, more politicians, bureaucrats and businesspersons have been joining the millionaires’ club without incomes to back their rise. We are 124th in the Transparency Index. Expensive cars and palatial houses in Kathmandu and Swiss bank accounts and the Panama papers have already proven it. At all levels, corruption has been flourishing: legislative and policy level, managerial level and operational level.
At the top of the pyramid, the parliament and the cabinet themselves have been the main conduits of institutionalized corruption. For instance, the funds allocated to every member of parliament at their discretion is one example of institutionalized corruption. The inclusion of hundreds of political projects without proper justification and planning or of thousands of studies to fool voters without the intention to pursue them further is another.
Another equally gargantuan source of institutionalized corruption has been the cabinet. It has been providing health assistance, disaster relief assistance, martyrs compensation, one-off grants to the powerful, rich, and politically connected.
The health assistance has been going to the pockets of top leaders, their families and their supporters, who are well off, rarely to those who really cannot afford. Only a small portion of the disaster relief assistance has been going to the real victims of disasters. The rest has been going to the same group as the health assistance.
Equally misused has been the martyrs’ compensation. The family of every martyr has been getting 1 million rupees. Anyone politically well connected but dead in a traffic accident, gang fight, or fall from a tree, or political protest would qualify as a martyr. No wonder why Nepal has had over 10,000 martyrs, which trivializes the genuine martyrs.
The one-off grant has been seldom one-off. It has been the regular source of milking the state for the politically influential people, who are also well off.
To add insult to injury, the managerial level and operational level have been further aggravating corruption and misappropriation. Consequently, revenue collection has been consistently sub-optimal, expenditure has been riddled with loopholes and leakages, and justice has been corrupted.
As long as the legislative and policy level institutionalized corruption continues, corruption and misappropriation cannot be stamped out at the managerial and operational levels. So the promise Prime Minister KP Oli has made to wipe out corruption is an empty slogan, just like his predecessors’. The prime minister and his ministers have been quick to drop the name of the Commission for the Investigation of Abuse of Authority for controlling corruption.
However, the Commission is part of Nepali society. More seriously, it has no jurisdiction over the parliament and the cabinet. Elsewhere, its performance has failed to inspire confidence. At times, people who should have been the subject of its investigations have headed it. Commissioner Raj Narayan Pathak is only a small fish. At other times, politicians who appoint them and who should be under its purview, have waved the flag of impeachment, directly and indirectly, if the Commission came after them. So the Commission goes after small targets, not big ones.
Mismanagement is another key factor for Nepal’s backwardness. Progress requires efficient use of scarce resources. But you seldom come across a project in Nepal that has been completed on time and within the budget. This happens because personal pecuniary interest, nepotism, and political preferences come in the way of awarding contracts, deploying staff and rewarding staff performance.
Ministers do their best to award contracts to their cronies and relatives who promise them commensurate returns and appoint to key posts those employees that are ready to serve their personal interests and preferences. Delivery on time and within the budget has stayed in the paper. Cost overruns, bad for the taxpayers and the country, are excellent for ministers, contractors, and bureaucrats, who can all squeeze more money from the same projects by delaying them.
Blaming others for one’s weaknesses is human nature. Only a few leaders and people have been exceptions to this general rule. And only they have led their countries and organizations to greater heights and glories. Therefore, Nepal will move forward significantly with empty slogans and blame game. Our leaders and we ought to take responsibility for what we have been doing and stamp out corruption and mismanagement at all levels if we want to join the league of prosperous nations.