Finance Minister Dr. Ram Sharan Mahat did have a reason to dance at the conclusion of the February 2002 meeting of the Nepal Development Forum (NDF) in Pokhara. By supporting the government and committing US$ 500 million annually for the coming five years as aid to Nepal, the donors have fulfilled the expectations of Dr. Mahat and his team.
But the challenge now seems to be more daunting for the nation. Dr. Mahat may or may not continue as the finance minister two or six or 12 months later, but Nepal as the nation must continue to exist.
As the data released by the government and donors reveal, only around 40% of the committed assistance has actually been disbursed in the past. As a result, the government was able in the past to deliver less then 40% of its promise. In addition to it we must also allow for the leakages in the process of implementing what has been launched. And there has been no substantial improvement in the style of functioning of either HMG or the donors in the recent years. Rather it has deteriorated further in case of HMG because of the security problems. Therefore, aid disbursement in the future can be projected at best to follow. the same old trend.
This also means that the past trend of actual program implementation is going to be continued unchanged. This is going to be so despite World Bank Vice President Ms Nishimizu's advice to Dr. Mahat and his team for "implementation, implementation, and implementation". The actual implementation will be 60% less than planned thus leading to still more instances of the government failing to deliver its promises to the masses. In turn, the masses are likely to hate the present political and economic ideology further. If that is so, the very purpose of the promised aid will be defeated.
For the aid to be effective to yield desired results, the government has to go on two fronts simultaneously-economic and political. While the economic reform process has to be speeded up with the necessary care that an efficient driver takes with the speed of his vehicle, the political parties, led by the ruling party, should go back to the masses with their political agenda as well as some economic development programs. Without them taking up this challenge, the Maoists are not going to vacate the space out of pity towards these so called mainstream political parties.
This again presupposes a consensus among the political parties about the political process and the economic programs. It is to be seen how the political players decide to play their games now. The question is about how the government comes up with its programs, how the opposition faction within the ruling Nepali Congress itself cooperates with the government, and whether the newly reunited opposition party CPN-UML opts to participate in such a political-economic process or prefers to take some other short cuts to the power. With these and many unknowns still there, the desired outcomes of the recent commitments from the donors are only the guesses of the speculators.