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Political instability undermining development

People living in Nepal's mid- and far-western regions suffer from extreme neglect due to a lack of development
People living in Nepal's mid- and far-western regions suffer from extreme neglect due to a lack of development (Naresh Newar/IRIN)

Continued political instability in Nepal is hampering development initiatives and could worsen humanitarian challenges in the already impoverished Himalayan nation, humanitarian workers and analysts warn.

 

Over three years have passed since a 10-year civil war between the state and Maoist rebels ended, but the country has been beset with political instability and weak governance, which analysts say is mostly due to constant feuding between Nepal’s biggest political parties - the Communist Party of Nepal-Maoists (CPN-M), the Unified Marxist Leninist (UML) and Nepali Congress (NC).

 

“The impact of political instability has been growing and we are seriously concerned about it,” said Mohan Manandhar, a senior adviser to the independent Kathmandu-based Organization Development Centre (ODC), which trains aid agencies.

 

Nepal is highly dependent on foreign aid, especially for its development programmes, but the political deadlock could shake the confidence of international donor agencies, Manandhar said.

 

Foreign aid makes up nearly 60 percent of the government budget, and is estimated at around US$2.14 billion for the fiscal year 2009-2010, according to the Ministry of Finance.



Stalled legislation


 

The Maoists won a landslide victory in the 2008 Constituent Assembly elections, but quit the government in May this year over differences with other major political parties. Since July, an unwieldy coalition of 23 parties headed jointly by UML and NC has been in power.

 

The former rebels are now threatening mass street protests to bring the nation to a grinding halt if parties fail to form a new government under Maoist leadership.

 

Humanitarian workers say the political situation is hampering efforts to improve basic infrastructure, and to develop preparedness for disasters in the country, which is prone to floods and landslides.

 

Political feuding also means that legislation to improve policies on issues such as disaster management, climate change adaptation and transitional justice has stalled at cabinet level.

 











Drivers and travellers stranded on a blockaded highway about 200km southeast of Kathmandu. Road blockades by political parties have become part of daily life in Nepal

Naresh Newar/IRIN
Drivers and travellers stranded on a blockaded highway about 200km southeast of Kathmandu. Road blockades by political parties have become part of daily life in Nepal
http://www.irinnews.org/photo.aspx
Thursday, October 8, 2009
Political instability undermining development
Drivers and travellers stranded on a blockaded highway about 200km southeast of Kathmandu. Road blockades by political parties have become part of daily life in Nepal


Photo: Naresh Newar/IRIN
Drivers and travellers stranded on a blockaded highway about 200km southeast of Kathmandu. Road blockades by political parties have become part of daily life in Nepal

Growing vulnerability




The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) in Nepal said it was concerned about the growing vulnerability of communities, especially in food-insecure and disaster-prone areas.

 

“Political deadlock at the centre means that a lot of important legislation has not gone through,” Wendy Cue, the head of office for OCHA Nepal, told IRIN.

 

She said legislation was key to reducing risks among the most vulnerable populations.



"You need an end to the vulnerability that is being caused, and political deadlock is blamed by the development sector. This is a big blow because there is financing available, but the implementation has been delayed," said Cue.

 

Numerous changes in key official posts and personnel also make it difficult to keep the momentum of certain initiatives going, she said.

 

Bhusan Tuladhar, the executive director of the Environment and Public Health Organization (ENPHO), an NGO, said the delay in passing legislation underscored a lack of commitment from the government to mitigate poverty-related deaths.

 

Between July and August this year, nearly 282 people died from a diarrhoea epidemic in the mid- and far-western regions, while 141 perished in the remote and poverty-stricken Jajarkot District, 400km northwest of Kathmandu. Poor hygiene and lack of safe drinking water were the main reasons, according to Nepal’s Ministry of Home Affairs.

 

“In August, the government promised to build 5,000 toilets in Jajarkot, but so far that has not been done. The government is basically not serious about development efforts,” said Tuladhar.

 

Lagging growth

 

Government officials say they are committed to development initiatives.

 

“I don’t think the government has shown unwillingness towards development growth, and there has always been a strong political will towards economic growth,” Yubaraj Khatiwada, vice-chairman of the National Planning Commission (NPC), told IRIN.

 

The government’s national plan for 2009-2010 focuses on improving governance and aims to achieve 5.5 percent gross domestic product (GDP) growth per annum, and reduce the incidence of poverty to 24 percent by next year, against the present 31 percent, according to the NPC.

 

“Nepal is in a transition period, and political stability takes time,” said Khatiwada.

 

However, Nepal’s economic performance lags behind that of other South Asian countries, and its per capita GDP remains the lowest in the region, according to a July 2009 report on the country’s development constraints  published by the Asian Development Bank (ADB), the UK Department for International Development (DFID) and the International Labour Organization (ILO).

 

The report, which is critical of Nepal’s poor development performance, states that political instability is among the main constraints.

 

About one third of Nepal’s population lives below the poverty line, but the situation could worsen with the current slow pace in development, compounded by global recession, according to the ADB.

 

“We have to ask, that with the development effort going on for 50 years already, why is there so little infrastructure,” said ADB’s country representative, Barry Hitchcock.

 

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This article was produced by IRIN News while it was part of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Please send queries on copyright or liability to the UN. For more information: https://shop.un.org/rights-permissions

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