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Interview with Rabindra Adhikari, Honorable Chairman, Development Committee of Legislature-Parliament

Interview with Rabindra Adhikari, Honorable Chairman, Development Committee of Legislature-Parliament

As the chair of the Development Committee of the Legislature Parliament, what is your assessment on infrastructure development process in Nepal?

Development activities, especially infrastructure development have not moved ahead as expected. We have lagged behind other countries in terms of delivery of infrastructure and this is a hugesetback to our overall economic development. Had we built sufficient hydropower projects, among other infrastructure projects, strong supply capacity for export and Information Technology within the country, our economic performance would have been at a different level. Our progress on the economic side is far less compared to what we have achieved in social development aspects over the last few years. People, political parties and policy makers are unaware of the significance of infrastructure development in economic prosperity. To keep the pace of other countries, we have still a long way to go in terms of infrastructure delivery. 
We are lacking capability to spend development budget. We need to enhance our capability to implement development works to achieve desired economic growth.

What are the weaknesses you found responsible behind our performance in infrastructure delivery?

First and foremost thing is that we failed to formulate a Master Plan and clear roadmap for infrastructure development specifying the time and responsible agencies to implement it. Worse still, whatever plans and policies regarding the infrastructure development were made, could not be implemented. 
Lack of political willpower, practice of formulating plans without any necessary home works, political instability and absence of coordination among concerned government agencies are among the key elements that have weakened our capability to timely deliver the infrastructures. Our experience shows that even the private sector is not so competent to develop infrastructure projects.

So what are the challenges of infrastructure development in Nepal?

The government has been making efforts to materialize national pride projects and IBN itself is also facilitating large-scale projects. In addition, different ministries have also identified projects for investment and have conducted studies on them. However, the progress in implementation of the project is very disappointing. Our capital expenditure amount is lowest. A sincere effort is required on the government’s part in order toovercome development bottlenecks. Inter-agency coordination and legal reforms are also necessary to facilitate timely implementation of large-scale projects and attract private investment. 

However, we have a pathetic state of affairs: our development projects are delayed citing scarcity of sands and pebbles whereas we are rich in such river products. Similarly, our engineers are unemployed at a time when our development projects could not move ahead due to lack of skilled technical manpower. We can’t imagine the democracy function effectively without economic development. So, economic prosperity is a most for democracy to sustain. 

But, land acquisition and environment issues seem to be stumbling blocks for infrastructure development. What is your take on it? 

The EIA/IEE process has undergone a series of reforms. Concerned parliamentary committees have also directed the concerned ministries to smoothen the process of EIA/IEE and forest clearance to pave the way for fast implementation of development project.  However, we need to make the process more flexible as it has been consuming significant amount of time during project implementation.

In recent days, political party leaders and even ministers have been saying that certain infrastructure projects be developed by the government itself. Don’t you think that such idea is detrimental for attracting much-needed Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) in the country? 

The idea of implementing certain large-scale infrastructure projects, by the government is pitched by different political leaders and sitting ministers and is just for popularity and public consumption. Nepal cannot implement large-scale projects without FDI not because of insufficient financial resources but due to the absence of technological know-how and skilled human resources. Without attracting FDI it will be far cry to achieve economic prosperity through infrastructure development. 
In a bid to boost investment in large scale projects, IBN was established in 2011. However, the environment has not been created to allow IBN to move in line of its set objectives, due to lack of coordination between government agencies.  Until and unless we attract FDI along with technology and encourage the private sector, we cannot narrow down the infrastructure gap. We have to learn the experience of other countries which have achieved prosperity promoting FDI.  

How can we move forward in infrastructure delivery when government agencies are defying instructions issued by different Committees of the legislature-parliament?

Parliamentary Committees have been giving instructions to government agencies time to time to shore up development budgets and speed up infrastructure development process. Latest in a series of such moves, the Development Committee has presented a report on non-performing development projects at its meeting today. The Committee has identified that 41 crucial development projects were not implemented or failed to perform as expected. It will be discussed in the full house of parliament also. It is very depressing that priority projects are showing such dismal result despite over 200 instructions to implementing agencies by the Committee in different times. However, we will leave no stone unturned to make necessary efforts as a parliamentary committee to put pressure on the government agencies for effective delivery of development works.  

What should we do to speed up development activities in the country?

Over a couple of decade, we saw impressive social awareness in our country. However, development awareness is very weak. We need to raise awareness among policy-makers, political parties and general public about the significance of infrastructure development.  

What are your suggestions to ensure timely delivery of infrastructures in the country?

First of all we have to showcase our potential projects to investors properly. Then, we need to identify the procedural bottlenecks in implementation of large-scale projects and initiate process to overcome such obstacles through legal and administrative reforms. We also need to promote our country as an ideal destination for investment by informing investors about the incentives, benefits and opportunities. We can learn more from Laos- a land-locked country like ours- on how to attract, facilitate and encourage FDI. Proper coordination among government agencies, political stability and political commitment to mobilize and facilitate private sector investment are also necessary for investment promotion. ●