Nepal’s human resource development planning

Binod P Bista
National planning commission of Nepal is responsible for the overall development of Nepal. It acts as the
principal advisor in the economic affairs and development of the country. It also claims to have
“successfully pioneered the formulation and implementation of economic liberalization and reform
programs’’. Additionally, it has the responsibility for monitoring and evaluation of economic development
of the country. “The commission also serves as an institution involved in analysis and finding solution to
the problems of private sector in the country’’ reflects its website. It has an important responsibility to
advise the government on all matters relating to foreign aid, obviously with its utilization function
included. After completing ten five year plans including interim plans during transitional periods, it is
again at its latest three-year interim plan (2007/2008—2010/2011), now already extended to four and
half years, supposedly for the transition period that would have been completed under normal
circumstances. Nepal’s current state of affairs, particularly the state of economic development speaks for
itself.
The background to the latest interim plan states that five decades of planned development focused on
physical infrastructure, regional development, fulfillment of basic needs and poverty alleviation. It further
states that past policies “failed to address structural problems of the economy like inequitable access to
productive resources and means, distributional conflict and shortfalls in good governance’’. The
commission sees the problem of disparity that it states has increased in spite of implementation of
various programs in line with changed economic and social policies after the people’s movement of 1990.
It acknowledges, though, that “as a result of past development efforts, agriculture sector has moved
from subsistence to commercial agriculture’’. Overall the report states that steady improvement and
progress has been made in most sectors and it does not see any alarm for concern. The goal of the
interim plan is to “lay a foundation for economic and social transformation to build a prosperous, modern
and just Nepal’’. Under the rubric social development, human resource development (HRD) finds some
space in the interim plan.
The interim plan reflects the necessity of providing appropriate education, technical and vocational
training and promotion of health and collaborative efforts between the government and private sectors.
The objective of HRD is set at developing “competent and competitive human resources capable of
competing in the necessary national and international labor market’’. Strategy adopted talks about
carrying public-private joint works, motivating private sector in HRD. It also discusses utilizing some
portion of remittance as well as conducting proper management for external cooperation. As regards
programs, the plan acknowledges HRD as a cross cutting issue related with the social and economic
sectors, thus necessary policies have been included under the education, health and labor sectors.
Nepal’s perspective on HRD drawn by its central level policy making body is thus cited in the interim plan.
Human resource development activities for newer national projects of the government and high-level
expertise and specialization for the private sector development as well as for coping with the functions of
regulatory bodies fall on the shoulders of the Nepal National Planning Commission. There is no clarity in
the document in this regard. At a recent study conducted on Asia’s competitiveness by Asia focused,
Beijing based international organization named Boao Forum for Asia, Nepal is placed at the bottom of 37
economies of the Asia-Pacific in the overall economic index. Whether it be infrastructure or human capital
and innovation index Nepal figures out in the bottom three positions. Actually in the human capital and
innovation index Nepal’s ranking is 36th out of 37 countries. It certainly indicates that Nepal’s HRD
planning requires revamping and a significant change in order to cope with the challenges of the future
and cash in all available opportunities.
There are many stark indications that reflect that all is not well with Nepal’s HRD plan. A recent news
report on termination of employment of about 300 faculty members of Tribhuban University (TU) in the
past nine years, who did not return after completing their higher studies abroad, on leave from the
university under a contract, speaks for itself. Although the authorities of the teachers association blame
such behavior of former teachers on lack of appropriate pay and perks and prestige in Nepal, the Vice
Chancellor of TU believes that they do receive equal pay and facilities similar to civil service personnel
and there are enough opportunities for those who wish to work in Nepal. The teacher association is of
the view that research projects should have been the responsibility of the TU teachers, instead, such
works are done by firms and agencies operated by close confidants of the ministers and government
secretaries. This argument, apparently plausible, is governed by a variety of factors. New and high pay
research works come to persons having acceptable competence and knowledge besides being pushed by
the people in decision making capacities as most of these works are commissioned by foreign agencies
either under grants or loans.
Lack of clear public policy and competent regulatory bodies with the government has impacted the
general public with a myriad of difficulties such as high prices of sub-standard goods and services with no
recourse for corrective action. The government has an inherent responsibility to take care of its people,
especially when it has adopted liberal open market policies where the private sector calls the shots in
production and distribution of goods and services. A few instances of some raids on food and drugs firms
and related businesses would never suffice. Nepal’s problem has always remained at the central level that
it simply believes in acquiring scholarships on higher studies and training regardless of nation’s
requirement. A proper manpower planning would not only identify the areas for further education and
training but also prioritize and subsequently implement it with or without foreign assistance. As far as
private citizens are concerned, outside of its civil or military service, they are welcome to pursue higher
education or trainings based on their perception of the market. In this regard the private sector can be of
big help in either sending its employees for higher level of training and education as the case may be.
The public-private cooperation can be useful in assessing the level of training acquired by Nepali citizens
while at work in foreign countries such as the Middle East, South East Asia and other countries and its
application in the domestic context. However, help and assistance from private sector in producing and
training regulatory authorities would only weaken the purpose of such planning and ultimately make it
ineffective.