Category Archives: Political Economy of Disaster

Rebuilding trust

The following article was originally published on 15 May, 2015. Please click here to be directed to the original post.
‘Fundraising’ has been a common response to show empathy towards earthquake victims and therefore has come to be equated with ‘patriotism’, especially among Nepali communities overseas. A number of gatherings are happening across the world to generate funds for Nepal. However, donors are keen to know how the money is going to ‘reach’ the needy amidst the controversy around the Prime Minister’s Disaster Relief Fund (PMDRF). I would label the failure to make earthquake funds effective a product of diminishing public trust in governance. A number of factors are at play.As a consequence of opening up of market and society after the introduction of democracy in 1990s, the Nepali government started to lose its control over major societal and economic activities. In other words, the dark sides of representative democracy have come to overshadow its brighter aspects. The regulatory capacity of government has been eroding by the day as even basic social services such as health and education have been left to private sector. The ball of advocacy and capacity building has been thrown firmly in the court of nongovernmental organizations. People have seen this shift in responsibility as the government’s incapability and, therefore, the PMDRF has also been increasingly questioned over the past few weeks.
 The ‘trust’ issue with PMDRF should be viewed alongside the ‘government’ vs ‘governance’ debate. Government is a product of politics and mainly refers to the executive in general and the head of government in particular. Gerry Stoker calls government a formal and institutional process that operates at the level of nation-state to maintain public order and facilitate collective action. In many countries including the UK, therefore, people understand the government as Blair or Cameron government. We also have a similar custom in Nepal. A slightly broader understanding of government covers the executive, the legislative and the judiciary.But governance is broader and takes into account networks, markets and partnerships as its integral elements. In contrast to government, it is a product of public administration. R.A.W. Rhodes defines governance as a change in the meaning of government, referring to a new process of governing, or a changed condition of ordered rule, or a new method by which the society is governed. In a broader sense, governance not only covers government but also deals with how the government interacts with other actors—such as the private and not-for-profit sectors in the society.As growing distrust has been expressed over the functioning of PMDRF, Nepali politicians have failed to explain the notion of governance to their electorate. Despite a severe democratic deficit in the country in the last 25 years, particularly at the local level, people have been relying on ‘governance’ rather than ‘government’. But we have not been able to measure people’s trust in government as compared to governance arrangements.

Geert Bouckaert has identified at least three clusters of trust: society’s trust in public sector; the public sector’s trust in society; and trust within the public sector. Recent discourse over the channelization of PMDRF suggests ‘distrust’ in all of these domains. Firstly, Nepali society—both domestic and diaspora—has increasingly expressed dissatisfaction over PMDRF because it regards the public sector as corrupt and inefficient. As an alternative, a lot of illegal routes have been utilized to provide relief funds.

Secondly, public sector itself does not fully trust many societal initiatives. From this perspective, government authorities believe that private and non-governmental initiatives always try to avoid or refuse ‘regulation’. An example of this kind of trust deficit is the government’s recent decision to use the banking system to apply additional controls over donated funds.

Thirdly, there has been a growing distrust in the public sector because of its own mechanisms and processes. Public authorities including senior civil servants constantly act against national rules and regulations. (Recently, a government Joint Secretary expressed mistrust of the governance system.) Coordination problems among governmental organizations in the aftermath of the earthquake, particularly between Nepal Army and Ministry of Home Affairs, have bred more distrust. Our heavy process orientation and Weberian bureaucracy are other examples of how public sector is itself fostering mistrust of governance.

However, some attempts have been made of late to increase trust in governance over the last few weeks. For example, Swarnim Wagle, a member of National Planning Commission, released a note on what is and is not PMDRF, so as to enhance public trust on utilization of earthquake funds; Rabindra Mishra, a journalist and nongovernmental activist, asserts that his charity organization, Help Nepal Network, will cover administrative costs in handling of earthquake relief by itself; another potent article by Amit Dhakal on setopati.com highlighted how belief in governance can foster patriotism; Sukhdev Shah, writing in Republica, also tried to explain ways to increase trust in governance.

Moreover, the chaos of earthquake has been seen as an opportunity to build our nation from ground up, by the likes of Baburam Bhattarai, a former premier. But first we need to reform our liberal policies by adding additional and tight regulatory provisions, to better regulate both the public and private sectors. The role of government has certainly increased in terms of providing services, but it also needs to expand its regulatory reach. A comprehensive public sector reform, therefore, is the need of the hour.

In the age of network, partnership and collaboration, the government actors should be fully aware of the potential of private sector and not-for-profit sector. Unless all of these sectors work together for a single objective, the cloud of mistrust will only grow darker. The PMDRF is again a case in point. But even the darkest cloud, they say, has a silver lining. That will be the case if the prevailing trust deficit can be used to bring about sweeping reforms in governance.

 

Deekshya Nakarmi

About Deekshya Nakarmi

Deekshya Nakarmi is Communications and Outreach Assistant at Samriddhi, The Prosperity Foundation. She is a student of Development Studies.

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Trust Deficit

The following article was published on May 28, 2015 in Republica. Please click here to be directed to the original article.

‘Fundraising’ has been a common response to show empathy towards earthquake victims and therefore has come to be equated with ‘patriotism’, especially among Nepali communities overseas. A number of gatherings are happening across the world to generate funds for Nepal. However, donors are keen to know how the money is going to ‘reach’ the needy amidst the controversy around the Prime Minister’s Disaster Relief Fund (PMDRF). I would label the failure to make earthquake funds effective a product of diminishing public trust in governance. A number of factors are at play.

As a consequence of opening up of market and society after the introduction of democracy in 1990s, the Nepali government started to lose its control over major societal and economic activities. In other words, the dark sides of representative democracy have come to overshadow its brighter aspects. The regulatory capacity of government has been eroding by the day as even basic social services such as health and education have been left to private sector. The ball of advocacy and capacity building has been thrown firmly in the court of nongovernmental organizations. People have seen this shift in responsibility as the government’s incapability and, therefore, the PMDRF has also been increasingly questioned over the past few weeks.
 The ‘trust’ issue with PMDRF should be viewed alongside the ‘government’ vs ‘governance’ debate. Government is a product of politics and mainly refers to the executive in general and the head of government in particular. Gerry Stoker calls government a formal and institutional process that operates at the level of nation-state to maintain public order and facilitate collective action. In many countries including the UK, therefore, people understand the government as Blair or Cameron government. We also have a similar custom in Nepal. A slightly broader understanding of government covers the executive, the legislative and the judiciary.But governance is broader and takes into account networks, markets and partnerships as its integral elements. In contrast to government, it is a product of public administration. R.A.W. Rhodes defines governance as a change in the meaning of government, referring to a new process of governing, or a changed condition of ordered rule, or a new method by which the society is governed. In a broader sense, governance not only covers government but also deals with how the government interacts with other actors—such as the private and not-for-profit sectors in the society.As growing distrust has been expressed over the functioning of PMDRF, Nepali politicians have failed to explain the notion of governance to their electorate. Despite a severe democratic deficit in the country in the last 25 years, particularly at the local level, people have been relying on ‘governance’ rather than ‘government’. But we have not been able to measure people’s trust in government as compared to governance arrangements.

Geert Bouckaert has identified at least three clusters of trust: society’s trust in public sector; the public sector’s trust in society; and trust within the public sector. Recent discourse over the channelization of PMDRF suggests ‘distrust’ in all of these domains. Firstly, Nepali society—both domestic and diaspora—has increasingly expressed dissatisfaction over PMDRF because it regards the public sector as corrupt and inefficient. As an alternative, a lot of illegal routes have been utilized to provide relief funds.

Secondly, public sector itself does not fully trust many societal initiatives. From this perspective, government authorities believe that private and non-governmental initiatives always try to avoid or refuse ‘regulation’. An example of this kind of trust deficit is the government’s recent decision to use the banking system to apply additional controls over donated funds.

Thirdly, there has been a growing distrust in the public sector because of its own mechanisms and processes. Public authorities including senior civil servants constantly act against national rules and regulations. (Recently, a government Joint Secretary expressed mistrust of the governance system.) Coordination problems among governmental organizations in the aftermath of the earthquake, particularly between Nepal Army and Ministry of Home Affairs, have bred more distrust. Our heavy process orientation and Weberian bureaucracy are other examples of how public sector is itself fostering mistrust of governance.

However, some attempts have been made of late to increase trust in governance over the last few weeks. For example, Swarnim Wagle, a member of National Planning Commission, released a note on what is and is not PMDRF, so as to enhance public trust on utilization of earthquake funds; Rabindra Mishra, a journalist and nongovernmental activist, asserts that his charity organization, Help Nepal Network, will cover administrative costs in handling of earthquake relief by itself; another potent article by Amit Dhakal on setopati.com highlighted how belief in governance can foster patriotism; Sukhdev Shah, writing in Republica, also tried to explain ways to increase trust in governance.

Moreover, the chaos of earthquake has been seen as an opportunity to build our nation from ground up, by the likes of Baburam Bhattarai, a former premier. But first we need to reform our liberal policies by adding additional and tight regulatory provisions, to better regulate both the public and private sectors. The role of government has certainly increased in terms of providing services, but it also needs to expand its regulatory reach. A comprehensive public sector reform, therefore, is the need of the hour.

In the age of network, partnership and collaboration, the government actors should be fully aware of the potential of private sector and not-for-profit sector. Unless all of these sectors work together for a single objective, the cloud of mistrust will only grow darker. The PMDRF is again a case in point. But even the darkest cloud, they say, has a silver lining. That will be the case if the prevailing trust deficit can be used to bring about sweeping reforms in governance.

 

 

Deekshya Nakarmi

About Deekshya Nakarmi

Deekshya Nakarmi is Communications and Outreach Assistant at Samriddhi, The Prosperity Foundation. She is a student of Development Studies.

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Only 15 per cent of $423 million sought received so far

The following article was originally published on May 14, 2015 in The Himalayan Times. Please click here to be directed to the original post.

United Nations Resident Coordinator in Nepal Jamie McGoldrick today said Nepal Earthquake Flash Appeal for $423 million got responses only for 15 per cent of the amount sought from the donors and international community today.

Speaking at a press conference, McGoldrick said his office would intensify consultations with the donor agencies and international community in the next few days to shore up support for Nepal’s earthquake victims. When asked why there had been lukewarm response to the UN and its humanitarian partners’ Flash Appeal for Nepal’s quake victims, McGoldrick said one reason could be that the agencies involved in search and rescue operation were about to complete their assigned tasks.

Nepal’s former permanent representative to the United Nations Jayraj Acharya said the UN Flash Appeal failed to get encouraging response from the donor agencies and international community because of its weak campaign and Government of Nepal’s weak credibility in mobilising relief materials. “UN bureaucracy is not much different from ours as far as its campaigns are concerned. UN’s role in mobilising support for quake victims in Haiti was not very effective,” he said. Acharya said government’s insistence on carrying out relief works through one window system also did not go well with the donors and international community.

“Donors want their money to go directly to the needy people. They do not want cumbersome distribution of relief materials. They do not want three or four authorities endorsing the relief distribution process,” he added. Nepal’s former ambassador to India Bhesh Bahadur Thapa said donors’ tendency to take direct credit for their assistance could be one reason why UN Flash Appeal failed to get encouraging response from the donors and international community for Nepal’s quake victims. “We can see international community’s prompt bilateral response in the search, rescue and relief operation,” he said and added that the donors wanted to take credit for their assistance and therefore they were more interested to give bilateral assistance than putting their money into a UN fund. “When a country puts its money into a UN fund, people cannot easily see which country made what contribution and this is the reason countries are not very eager to commit their assistance to a UN fund,” Thapa added.

McGoldrick said the international community, the Government of Nepal and local communities were carrying out search, rescue and relief works but ferrying relief materials to far flung areas of 14 worst affected districts was becoming difficult due to difficult terrain. The April 25 earthquake and major aftershocks have only worsened the quake victims’ problems, he added. McGoldrick said the humanitarian assistance providers also wanted to ensure that the quake victims received adequate relief supplies in their own areas so that they do not lose a chance to grow future crops in their own areas. “If the quake victims fail to grow crops, then they may rely on international assistance for relatively longer period.”

 

 

Deekshya Nakarmi

About Deekshya Nakarmi

Deekshya Nakarmi is Communications and Outreach Assistant at Samriddhi, The Prosperity Foundation. She is a student of Development Studies.

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Distribution of Tents Among MPs Halted

The following article was originally published on May 14, 2015 in The Himalayan Times. Please click here to be directed to the original post.

Plan to give at least one tent to each member of Parliament was scuttled today following criticism from the lawmakers themselves and the media.

MPs were receiving tents by signing a record book in the Constituent Assembly building before today’s parliament meeting. The tents that were collected for earthquake victims were sent there in a truck by the Ministry of Urban Development after many lawmakers demanded at least one tent, according to a ministry source.

However, the tent distribution was halted after some media published or broadcast critical stories and some of the lawmakers voiced their opposition to the distribution to Speaker Subas Chandra Nembang. Some UML leaders, including Bhim Rawal and Rabindra Adhikari, urged Nembang to stop the distribution of tents among MPs. Nembang then instructed the Parliament Secretariat to stop the distribution.

“After some MPs criticised the distribution of tents collected for earthquake victims among the lawmakers and Speaker Subas Chandra Nembang instructed the Parliament Secretariat to stop the distribution, the distribution of the tents has been stopped. Those who already received the tents have been asked to return them,” said Spokesperson for Legislature Parliament Mukunda Sharma.

Following the criticism and Nembang’s instruction, some of the MPs who had received the tents were seen returning them although many had already left the building with the tents. Nembang said the distribution was done without informing him.

Nembang said at the beginning of today’s Parliament meeting that he had urged those who had received the tents to return them or send the tents to Dolakha victims. Nembang also urged the government to distribute the tents among the real victims.

Unified CPN-Maoist Chief Whip Girirajmani Pokharel said, “Eight MPs of our party had received eight tents and the party has instructed them to send them to Dolakha victims.” Although there is a demand for at least five lakh tents and tarpaulin sheets for quake victims, the government has so far distributed three lakh tents, according to Spokesperson for Ministry of Urban Development Padma Kumar Mainali.

“The ministry had decided to give tents to the MPs not for their use but to provide the same to the needy people,” Mainali said.

 

Deekshya Nakarmi

About Deekshya Nakarmi

Deekshya Nakarmi is Communications and Outreach Assistant at Samriddhi, The Prosperity Foundation. She is a student of Development Studies.

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Hard lessons

The following article was originally published on 12 May 2015 in Republica. Please click here to be directed to the original post.
According to news reports, the dead bodies are lying under the rubble and in open areas in many places in Gorkha, the epicenter of the April 25 earthquake. Other severely affected remote areas are in the same boat. No government and international community rescue, relief and recovery team has reached some of these places yet, though rescue has largely been completed in more accessible areas like the Kathmandu Valley.
The damage has been colossal from the 7.9 Richter tremor. The second only to the 1934 quake of 8.3 Richter scale, this one has killed nearly 8,000 people. The 6.8 magnitude quake on Tuesday has only compounded things. Many more are still buried under the rubble. Nearly, 16,000 people have been hurt and nearly 7 million have been directly affected by the quake.
 This massive convulsion has made three things unequivocally clear. One, managing the aftermath of a major disaster is extremely difficult. Two, the government proved ham-handed in handling this catastrophe. Three, some businessmen, organizations and individuals shamelessly sought to profit from the misery of the disaster victims.Managing the impact of a catastrophe of this scale is always difficult, even for the richest countries. The United States had been slammed severely for its incompetence in handling the impact of Hurricane Katrina in 2005. Though less, the British government was not spared when flood inundated Somerset last year.Naturally, it was not easy for the government of Nepal to tackle competently the impact of such a gargantuan earthquake. It was so not only because the government is incompetent, but also because it does not have the resources and equipment to do the job effectivelyand because most of the affected areas are remote without easy access.Consequently, there is wide public dissatisfaction with the government’s performance where it has reached and anger among people where it has not. Even the better-resourced and equipped international community is yet to reach those remote areas for rescue and relief. Owing to this, many people who could be rescued have died and those who survived the immediate impact are now dying of hunger, cold and disease.

It makes me sad but does not surprise me. Rich, accessible and privileged areas always get the first priority in good times as well as bad.

What, however, baffled me is this: Despite the knowledge that Nepal is in a seismically active zone and despite the requiring measures for disaster preparedness and mitigation to minimize the loss of life and property, the government had neglected its duty. It did not have in stock tents, food, and equipment to manage such crises and a mechanism to manage rescue, relief and recovery on the ground.

The problem is partly political and partly technical. Politics has been volatile for decades and local level elections have postponed for over a decade. There are no local representatives to manage rescue, relief and recovery at the grassroots. As a result, the main political parties jockeyed for advantage at the national and local level after the trembler struck, while letting people die lacking rescue and relief.

Sure, the parties in power — Nepali Congress and the CPN (UML) — are more culpable for this political paralysis now. They should have done what was right for the disaster victims and for the country. However, the opposition parties, mainly the UCPN (Maoist), which have prolonged the transition and prevented local level elections are almost equally guilty.

Personally, Prime Minister Sushil Koirala could not show leadership when it was needed most. I have no qualms that he learned about the quake from his Indian counterpart Narendra Modi. India has communication systems that we do not have. Often the United States and Russia tell their friends around the world what is happening in their neighborhood, because they have the technical resources to find it out before anybody else.

However, Koirala failed to galvanize the country after he learned of the catastrophe. He did not fly to Kathmandu the same day he heard about it through Delhi or Kolkata. Once in Nepal, he did not address the nation asking government agencies and ordinary people to do their best to save lives. He did not issue a stern warning that those found stealing or looting would face aggressive justice.

Bureaucracy displayed a mixed performance at best. The uniformed bureaucracy — the army, armed police and community police — earned accolades from the victims and wider public alike. They are largely treated as heroes and saviors now, and rightly so. They were in the front line, doing the hard work of rescuing the victims even with their bare hands.

Nonetheless, the civilian bureaucracy performed poorly. The news of unfortunate discord between the chief secretary and home secretary spilled out in the media, making clear that the central administration was hobbled by turf war. Chief district officers, who head of local disaster relief committees, did not display the moral courage to do the right thing at the right time.

Unfortunately, they decided to hold the coattails of the local political leaders, who were not even elected, and the victims needlessly suffered.

While the government bared its weaknesses, some in the private sector and some individuals did not present an honorable conduct, either. Reportedly, relief materials were found hidden in private godowns of some noted business houses in Kathmandu and Bhairahawa. Some thugs looted relief materials for personal profit. And some non-governmental organizations were caught selling such stuffs. Many more such cases might not have come to light at all.

What does it show?

It shows, as a society, we not only suffer from economic poverty, which we definitely do; we also suffer from the poverty of commitment and morality. We may blame each other, but we are all in it together.

Fortunately, I did not have to rely on the government, the private sector or non-governmental organizations to deliver my support to the earthquake victims. I asked my son who lives in Kathmandu to buy relief materials and medicine locally and distribute directly, which he did. Those who depended on the government or private parties to channel their support were sorely disappointed.

It is said development starts in our head — in our attitude. Unless we change our attitude, unless we look ourselves in the mirror before criticizing others, and unless we build trust between our government and us and among ourselves as people, we will remain a poor and underdeveloped society.

In this context, the commitment paper embraced by the Constituent Assembly is a complete sham. It shows the bankruptcy of our leaders’ vision and imagination. It is a means to pull wool over the victims’ eyes. Where is the money? Nepal does not have it. We will be lucky if one-fourth of the external pledge translates into real cash. Besides, have our politicians ever kept their commitment?

Practically speaking, we ordinary people should seek to rebuild our own lives, take necessary precautions — like building quake-resistant houses and selecting a stable lands to build– so we do not suffer the same way next time. Do not expect much from the government that is both poor and corrupt. If you want government to be responsive to your needs, learn to hold it accountable for its failure.

 

Deekshya Nakarmi

About Deekshya Nakarmi

Deekshya Nakarmi is Communications and Outreach Assistant at Samriddhi, The Prosperity Foundation. She is a student of Development Studies.

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भूकम्प पीडित परिचय पत्रमा ढिलाई

बीबीसी नेपालीमा मिति बिहीबार, जेठ १४ , २०७२ मा छापिएको लेख ¦ सो लेख मा निर्देसित् हुन यहा क्लिक गर्नुस्

भूकम्प पीडितलाई बुधबारबाट परिचय पत्र वितरण गर्ने सरकारी योजना भएपनि अझसम्म छपाइकै काम नसकिएको अधिकारीहरुले बताएका छन्।

तीन हप्ता अघि संसदबाट संकल्प प्रस्ताव पास गर्दा भूकम्प पीडितलाई परिचय पत्र दिने निर्णय प्रधानमन्त्री शुशील कोइरालाले गरेका थिए।

तर परिचय पत्र छपाईमा ढिला भएपछि बुधबारदेखि शुरु गर्ने भनिएको सो वितरण कार्य केही दिन ढिला हुने काठमान्डु महानगरपालिकाका निमित्त कार्यकारी अधिकृत सनत कुमार थापा बताउँछन्।

छलफल

उनी भन्छन्, “परिचय पत्रको नमूना तयार भइसकेको छ। त्यो नमूना जिल्ला दैवि उद्धार समितीले तयार गरेर छपाईको क्रममा छ। त्यो प्राप्त हुनासाथ हामीले स्थानीय निकाय मार्फत पीडित समुदाय समक्ष वितरण गर्नेछौं।”

कमी कमजोरी नहोस भनेर निरन्तर अध्ययन र छलफल भइरहेको उनी बताउँछन्।

भूकम्प पीडितहरुलाई सरकारले उपलब्ध गराउने सुविधा वितरणमा सरलिकरण गर्नु र वास्तविक पीडितको पहिचान गर्नु सो परिचय पत्र दिनुको उदेश्य रहेको बताइएको छ।

सरकारले गरेको यो ढिलासुस्तीप्रति पीडितहरुले भने गुनासो गरिरहेका छन्।

स्थानीय पहल

तर केही स्थानहरुमा भने स्थानीय पहलमै भूकम्प पीडितहरुलाई अस्थायी परिचय पत्र वितरण गरिएको देखिएको छ।

त्यसैका आधारमा राहत वितरणको काम भइरहेको देखिएको छ।

तर व्यवस्थित परिचय पत्र वितरणमा ढिलाई हुँदा त्यसले राहतलाई नदोहोर्याइकन र वास्तविक पीडितकहाँ पुर्याउन कठिनाइ भइरहेको छ।

भूकम्प पीडितलाई दिने भनिएको परिचय पत्र तयार भइनसकेको बताइन्छ

 

Deekshya Nakarmi

About Deekshya Nakarmi

Deekshya Nakarmi is Communications and Outreach Assistant at Samriddhi, The Prosperity Foundation. She is a student of Development Studies.

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