Making Possible Economic Miracles in Nepal
KESHAV PRASAD BHATTARAI explains that the youth are the key to economic development.
One of the election and post-election slogans of the largest political party of Nepal—Nepal Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist)—is that they will perform economic miracle in the country. Their election manifesto boasted they would hold the entire world spellbound by performing such a miracle. They have also claimed that they will follow liberal economic policies with a priority on developing agriculture, hydro power and tourism. In this regard, they have sought support from the private sector and have promised to offer them all they rightfully deserve.
In their bid to seek support from the business community and win their confidence the Maoist leaders have even promised to promote liberal market policies and provide necessary security environment for their businesses and investments - the basics of market economy, which the Maoist have vowed to promote. Besides, they have also rightly observed that only the economic revolution reaching all sections of people will help Nepal attain sustained peace and political stability.
No doubt, Nepal urgently needs to compensate all its missed opportunities, make best use of its exemplary natural resources and seize on the comparative advantage of being located between two great and vibrant markets of the world - India and China, and stimulate broad-based economic development, and accelerate social transformation. Achieving development is not an easy task. It is people who make it easy. For this, the first thing we must start with is to help people restore their dignity of life and make them feel that they are truly significant members of society. Only then they can perform miracles. At the same time, all levels of decision-making must be fully informed by knowledge, vision, leadership and accountability. A sense of pride, enthusiasm and commitment on the part of leadership as well as common people is equally important. But unfortunately, we have not been able to achieve these assets. Lacking these, people are left with unproductive jobs, poverty and deprivation.
Nepal is a country of young people. The youth comprise 26.5 percent of the total population. This is more than 6 million people, and if they are trained and their skills are utilized and their desire for more knowledge is fulfilled, used and retained, this population can become a tremendous economic asset. If we could train them to meet the demand of national work force, they would also contribute mobility of the workforce achieving higher growth rate. Various studies have established that the youth alone exhibit greater job turnover rates than the older workers.
Youth appetite for better job not only contributes labor mobility but also the efficiency of the economy by speeding up workers' performance, contributing more demand for competent work force, good training , wider security nets for informal workers, performance-based salary structures and insurance coverage to all work force. The love, pride and honor associated with the production and service they produce and deliver, injects life in an economy. This is the way how miracles can be achieved.
According to the World Development Report and Berlin Workshop Series (2007) youth workers, who are generally more educated, healthy, and mobile, can strongly motivate foreign and domestic investments for new and expanding sectors of the economy. Moreover, a large community of such people, if productively employed, could provide a huge impetus to growth and development. In addition, the effect becomes more pronounced if, stereotyped barriers that prevent young women from entering the workforce are removed. However, if a young trained and experienced labor force experiences difficulties in joining work and bringing about results, the economy stagnates, posing additional risks to poverty alleviation efforts and national stability. In addition, the World Bank also acknowledges that education and training of the work force is the most important investment from the perspective of both the workers and the employers.
Therefore, increasing system accountability for better performance and strengthening the connection between education and work is the urgency of our time. This will broaden opportunities for better skills for youth force, and help them to start and live a productive life. In addition, policy focus should be not only on youth opportunities but also on their capabilities. This, obviously, will address the barriers standing on our way to improve and ensure better governance in educational and training institutes.
Indubitably, Nepal can enable the youth to play key roles to achieve sustained peace, progress and prosperity. This can be done by utilizing the youth workforce and their knowledge, skills, attitude, team spirit, communication expertise, experience, sense of honor, and their commitment to the people whom they serve and for whom they produce things.
Basically, encouraging and facilitating the acquiring of skills and increasing professional and technical opportunities in all sectors of society (including the enhancement of the job skills of disadvantaged populations) provide for efficient management of public and private resources by building a base of well-skilled and knowledgeable work force.
For this, policies must be sufficiently flexible so that young workers can adapt their innate and acquired skills to local needs or move to where those skills are needed. Also they are to be supported in improving their skills so that they can increase their ability to make better choices when entering the labor market.
Moreover, well-targeted social protection policies are to be implemented to give young people access to safety nets, and help them find appropriate jobs when initial opportunities are missed. Special programs are to be developed to accelerate underutilized labor, to help them become effective in the job through non-formal training.
The urgency of the hour is to equip girls and boys, women and men with the tools needed for the job market, and to foster employability skills in them so that they are ready to compete in the global economy. The resulting well-trained individuals attract multi-national and local corporate investment into the local economy by providing a talented workforce base from which companies can hire skilled employees.
Equally, policy makers also must not forget that comprehensive micro credit facility, insurance package for every family, especially to youth and women, for their training and small job or business initiatives have shown tremendous effect upon economy.
Furthermore, if the Maoist, as they proclaimed, are truly honest in their pledges (giving Nepal a world-class prosperity), they must place highest priority on investing on children and youth, especially on their education, health, nutrition, life skill acquisition and prospective job training. This is important because skill learning, adoption and innovation in their workplace, etc. help unlock all economic barriers prevailing in our society.
Besides, they also need to improve education system and ensure better governance at schools or training institutions, followed by the formation of entities at both the central and local level to asses the market needs of the workforce. Similarly, a skill council is to be formed, jointly by the supply and demand side of the workforce. Such a council could monitor and regulate all technical and vocational education and training to meet local, national, and international quality standards.
Poverty among people can not be tolerated longer for any reason. People cannot always support and put their trust on the state and political parties, who are not able to address their concerns but continue betraying their aspirations. The weak and troubled states have continuously been posing threats to international order because they are the source of conflict and grave abuse of human rights. Such abuses and conflict bread terrorism and extended violence- reaching into the developed states. If the Maoists do not consider this, their claim of performing economic miracles is no more than a political gimmick.
Analyzed minutely, we have ample examples of such dismal scenarios in Nepal. Therefore, reducing poverty, promoting growth or performing economic miracles requires building strong institutions for such miracles. This means restructuring institutions for promoting democracy and development, and inspiring people for achieving greater prosperity for all. This also means promoting good governance, improving democratic legitimacy and strengthening self sustaining institutions, which only can create miracles. The Maoists, in this respect, have yet to prove their credibility. Besides, poverty and destitution, which we are facing today, is also created and maintained by social system and political adventurism.
Peoples and nations are poor not because they lack natural resources or basic physical infrastructures, they are poor because they lack human capital and they will be marginalized further if the state system lacks political will and determination in addressing the real problems of people. It is not nations but the people who compete in modern economy. And people can be prepared to compete for their share through a better process of creation and application of knowledge.
For decades, we as a nation have not been able to lead and represent the people, their strength, enthusiasm, enterprise, courage and honor. We have been representing their weaknesses, prejudices, selfishness and corrupt practices. This, we think, has blocked our collective strength and ability to earn a life of dignity.
Promotion of human dignity by means of freedom, peace, democracy and respect to nature and right to development should become the ultimate aim of each and every working person and his or her organization. Only this can give Nepal a new status as proclaimed by Maoists.
But we cannot have it by chance or default. It can be done by design and competent and committed leadership at different sections of society. Guarantee schemes on rural employment, basic education and health may be the best solutions to address the problem of growing unemployment among youth. Without such programs, urban violence, political extremism and caste, ethnic and communal tensions are likely to continue to grow.
Again, if the Maoists are true to their commitment, they must come up with strong policy initiatives to encourage private investments to run and scale up youth training programs at different levels. They must also not forget that if the youth are trained to obtain skilled jobs and start business in rural economy, such activities will help accelerate development in creating a greater success story.
State accountability is also essential for performing miracles. This means, economic policy should touch every section of society and the government should be always available to aid people in need.
Needless to say that uncorrupt and effective service delivery systems make people proud of their nation and state, which only can be credited a major share for a successful economy.
It also requires bridging the digital divide among people and communities because modern economies are most often driven by modern technologies. In order to enable entrepreneurship, to accelerate development by performing miracles, the government also provide training in vital job skills to reduce poverty, promote employability, and empower all people, especially youth and women to become productive citizens.
In conclusion, as Nobel Laureate Joseph Stiglitz has mentioned, if we ourselves can solve all our political problems, can establish honest government, have less influential special interest, more efficient business houses, better educated workers (not afflicted by the curse of poverty), and last but not least, democratic political stability, we can turn all our failures into successes. So it is time now to see if the Maoist slogans will be able to address the real challenges of the country just about to be declared a republic.
The author is president of Teachers' Union of Nepal (TUN)
Posted by Editor on May 22, 2008 7:36 AM