Why Big Projects Fail In Nepal

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A country rich in cultural heritage and natural beauty, has failed to turn its potential into successful government programmes that benefit its people. Government projects play a pivotal role in spurring economic growth, enhancing public services, and improving the overall quality of life of people. However, the story of government projects has been marked by a series of failures, leading to wasted resources, missed opportunities, and disillusionment among the populace. When a project does not meet expectations and delivers what was required, it is deemed a failure. However, there have been some notable successes in recent years. The construction of new highways and bridges, the expansion of the educational system, and the improvement of public healthcare facilities are all examples of government projects that have been completed successfully. 

Yet, the country struggles with a recurring issue – low capital expenditure. Capital expenditure is critical for infrastructure development and private investment. Despite the need to address infrastructure gaps and encourage private investment, the government's capital spending remains constrained, potentially impeding economic growth and development. This huge disparity speaks to systemic difficulties hindering the country's overall growth and long-term progress. The continuous low capital spending is a multidimensional issue, hindering development goals. 

Lack of consistency 

This chronic problem can be solved by exploring the political, bureaucratic, economic, and structural variables that contribute to the inefficient distribution of funding to critical infrastructure projects. The country has seen numerous leadership changes and adjustments in government policies which frequently result in changing agendas and interrupting project timetables. As new administrations take office, they prioritise projects that are congruent with their short-term priorities, diverting resources away from continuing programmes that leads to a lack of consistency and a fragmented approach to capital expenditure, impeding long-term success.

Delays and misallocation of funds get worse by lengthy administrative procedures, confusing approval processes, and a lack of clear accountability systems. The difficulty of navigating bureaucratic processes frequently prevents timely implementation and optimum utilisation of authorised money, resulting in underspending and incomplete execution. Furthermore, a lack of coordination and communication among government entities hinders successful project management. Establishing a streamlined procedure for project approval along with training initiatives to improve bureaucratic effectiveness will assist reduce delays and ensure project continuity.

Skilled professionals, who can successfully develop, manage, and carry out initiatives, are crucial to the success of government programmes. The skills gap can be closed by working with educational institutions to provide specialised curricula and training programmes suitable for project management. Investing in government personnel’s ongoing professional development can also help them become more capable and produce better project results. The story of Dhulikhel IT Park, the only information technology park, which the government abandoned after enormous investment of half a billion rupees, exemplifies capital expenditure inefficiency. Despite its initial phase completion and launch in 2000, the IT Park remained neglected. The decision made by the government to convert the area for a security press exemplifies misplaced priorities.

The failure to capitalise on this initiative, the dissolution of key commissions, and the subsequent renewed demand for IT facilities highlight a trend of poor planning and resource utilisation in development efforts. This is the result of poor resource management and a failure to incorporate local communities and beneficiaries into project development. The best way to ensure that the needs of local communities are met is to implement procedures for meaningful consultation and interaction with them throughout the project lifespan. Furthermore, raising awareness and educating the public about the advantages of government programmes can aid in gaining support for them. Poor monitoring and evaluation systems make it difficult to assess project progress, spot problems, and make appropriate adjustments..

Despite three decades of fame, the uncertainty surrounding the Nijgadh International Airport reflects capital expenditure issues. While Nijgadh was chosen as the primary location after extensive feasibility studies, disagreements over forest clearing and environmental concerns stopped its progress. This case parallels struggle to effectively allocate funding and well-intended controversy, reflecting the country's greater developmental challenges. The way in which big projects meet criticism and disruption as they develop, demonstrates Nepal's expenditure on capital inefficiency. When opposition grows, politicians frequently bow to political pressures, jeopardizing project implementation. 

Appropriate groundwork

Because of a lack of commitment and a preference for preliminary preparations over real action, many important initiatives have remained on paper. Because of non-implementation, superficial project announcements create unreasonable expectations and public dissatisfaction. Before project announcements, infrastructure experts emphasise the importance of accurate technical, economic, and social studies, emphasising that progress requires effective planning rather than mere publicity. The rush to launch projects without appropriate groundwork has resulted in delays and protests.

Low capital expenditure is a complicated issue influenced by a tangle of political, bureaucratic, economic, and technological challenges. Addressing this challenge would necessitate a comprehensive approach that includes simplifying bureaucratic process, increasing private sector engagement, developing technical skills, strengthening accountability systems, and aligning capital investment with strategic development goals. Government, civil society, and international partners must work together to address political instability, bureaucratic inefficiency, skills shortfalls, infrastructure limits, corruption, stakeholder involvement, and monitoring weaknesses. The government must customize solutions to each situation via strategic planning and simplified operations. Transparent and efficient procedures can increase public trust and help boost economic growth and development.

(The writer works as a Research Development Aid at Arizona State University and pursuing Master’s in construction management and technology, USA)

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