Strategies for local level planned development in Nepal : an evaluation of the decentralization act 1982 from the local perspective

D.P. Paudyal

    Research output: Thesisexternal PhD, WU

    Abstract

    <p>The difficult mountain terrain combined with a poor communication network posed serious problems in planing and monitoring rural development activities when development programmes were started by the newly created and Kathmandu based Ministries and Departments, after the over-throw of the Rana Oligarchy in 1951. A number of efforts were made, particularly during the Panchayat period (1960-90), to develop a self sustained local level planned development process by strengthening and integrating the local administration and local political organizations. The Decentralization Act 1982 and its By-Laws 1984 (together called the Decentralization Scheme) was one of such steps to decentralize power to the local organizations for the local level planned development (Chapter 1).<p>The Decentralization Scheme (DS) envisaged that all sectoral activities were initiated at the village level, with technical support from the Service Centres located at nine Ilakas (political constituencies) at the sub-district levels. Five different Plan Formulation Committees at the district level consisting of District Panchayat (DP) members and subject matter specialists of the line agencies examined the technical aspects of proposals and submitted them, first, before the District Panchayat, and then to the District Assembly for approval. They were then sent to the respective Ministries and the National Planning Commission (NPC) for inclusion in the programme and budget of the following year (Chapter 4).<p>In order to understand such a complex institutional interaction, the study adopted a case study approach in which 1 District Panchayat (DP), 3 Village Panchayats (VPs) and 2 projects were separately studied. But for the analysis the three level of case studies were embedded into the district level case study, as the main focal point. Moreover, for the analysis of the dynamics of the District Development Plan (DDP) formulation and implementation, some hypotheses and research questions were made in order to test during the course of the study. At the macro level, an 'opinion survey' of the policy planners was conducted as a part of the macro level study, to understand their interpretation on the issues examined at the local level (Chapter 3).<p>The findings of the field study, presented in Chapter 5 and 6, were analyzed in Chapter 7. The analysis was based on the conceptual framework of stages of planned development (elaborated in Chapter 2, in which also concepts on decentralization, coordination, participation and struggle of scarce resources were discussed) and on the basis of hypotheses and research questions. It was found that there was neither an appropriate mixture of devolution of decision making power to the local level political bodies and deconcentration. of administrative authorities to the district level public offices nor was there the partnership between local and national level actors to encourage local initiatives, as envisaged by the DS.<p>In the local level political organizations, local elites Were mainly elected under the administrative protection and financial support of the national government as the so called "government candidate". Usually, they expressed their economic and political interest through "development projects". The projects were collected from the Ward Committees in the form of 'shopping list' and included in the Village Development Plan by the Village Assembly and finally, aggregated in the District Development Plan (DDP) by the District Assembly with the condition "to be implemented on the basis of technical feasibility and resource availability". Short listing of projects for feasibility studies was made mainly by the District Panchayat Chairman, in which political consideration played an important role. The short listed projects were often designed by the DP employed sub- overseers, in stead of the Public Works Office which was a 'section' of the Local Development Officer (LDO). In many cases the feasibility studies were only made in order to follow the administrative and financial procedures of projects. The project designs and their appraisal were seldom made on the basis of reliable data and thorough fieldwork.<p>There were three stages of approval: first, to include all projects in the DDP in order to obtain fund for carrying out feasibility studies, second, to include the "feasible" projects in the DDP (and send the DDP to the ministries for inclusion in the national plan and budget), and third, to include the approved projects in the current year's programme for budget release. Consequently, annual plans' required nearly three years to reach the implementation stage. Moreover, the concept of aggregating district plans into the national plan and budget was used for "approval" of district plans by the national level authorities.<p>Local development projects were supposed to be implemented through the Users Committee. Provision was made that the Users Committee would be elected by the project beneficiaries. But it was amended when the national level leaders apprehended that anti-Panchayat members could be elected in the Users Committee. In the changed version the local political leaders (ward and Village Panchayat chairman) were the ex- officio chairman of the Users Committee.<p>The DS had envisaged an integrated local administration under the coordination of the Local Development Officer (LDO). But due to lack of deconcentration of authorities at the local level the sectoral offices were depending on their head offices for the final administrative decisions. The ministries and their local offices did not trust the LDO as their administrative link with the local level. Moreover, the conceptual ambiguity of the matrix of the sectoral offices with vertical accountability at one hand and horizontal coordination at the other led to serious problems of coordination at the local level in all stages of planned development.<p>Poorly constructed projects and even incomplete projects were certified and handed over to the Users Committee for maintenance and operation. But due to extensive institutional arrangements of the DS the village tradition of mutual help was diminished, and as the institutions created for project maintenance by the DS were not working, the aftermath of projects was often chaos.<p>The existing arrangements of monitoring and evaluation were very weak and gave little idea on what was happening at the project level. Due to the lack of evaluation of projects or programmes, there was no way to learn from the past experiences.<p>The above analysis shows that the achievement of the DS was far short of expectation. It was found that although a number of methods and approaches was unrealistic and inapplicable at the local situation, they were maintained, at least in the files, as prescribed in the DS procedure. It indicates that extensive institutional arrangements and procedural formalities were no more than a "window dressing" for the international community and aid donors for obtaining their continuous support.<p>At the national level maintenance of the status quo was the real objective of the national government. Therefore wider changes in the existing power structure were not permitted. Moreover, the formal structure and procedures under the constitution had marginally effected the actual conduct, which was informally centralized in the Royal Palace. The national level bureaucracy, which had been developed under a century old feudal tradition, was unable to internalize the implications of the principles of the decentralization as a way of life.<p>The study concludes that changes and innovations within the Panchayat System- were only allowed to the extent that it did not alter the existing power structure. But such changes were needed in the DS which envisaged a wide range of restructuring in the existing power structure. Moreover, the concept of area specific development contradicted with the centrally prescribed extensive institutional and procedural arrangements. The bureaucracy was used for the political purposes which led to corruption within the bureaucracy and made the existing quality control mechanism of development affairs ineffective. Consequently there was very little insight on what was happening in the development process and no learning took place of the past experience. The study suggests that learning from the past experience should be an important element of future local level planned development in Nepal.
    Original languageEnglish
    QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
    Awarding Institution
    Supervisors/Advisors
    • van Dusseldorp, D.B.W.M., Promotor
    • Ahmed, S., Promotor, External person
    Award date12 Oct 1994
    Place of PublicationS.l.
    Publisher
    Print ISBNs9789054852827
    Publication statusPublished - 1994

    Keywords

    • rural planning
    • rural development
    • socioeconomics
    • government policy
    • economics
    • legislation
    • nepal
    • economic planning

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