Discourses On Development


Pallav Bhusal

It appears that the concept of development, as traditionally understood, has become a myth. This notion becomes starkly evident when considering the example of Nepal, juxtaposed against the ever-evolving standards of developed countries. While Nepal aspires to reach the milestones set by developed nations, it faces a Sisyphean task — each time it nears the summit, the peak shifts further away. This continuous evolution of what constitutes "development" underscores the need to redefine the very essence of progress.

Nepal is a country rich in culture and natural beauty but is facing various economic and infrastructural limitations. For decades, it has strived to emulate the development paradigms of the West, aiming for higher GDP, improved healthcare, and better education systems. However, as Nepal makes strides in these areas, the benchmarks set by developed nations also evolve. Technological advancements, shifts towards green energy, and increased focus on mental health and happiness indices are examples of new standards emerging in developed countries.

Consider the historical context of development. In the post-World War II phase, development was synonymous with industrialisation, urbanisation, and economic growth. Countries like the United States and those in Western Europe raised the bar. Nepal, with its agrarian economy, lagged behind, striving to industrialise and urbanise. By the time it began to make tangible progress, the goalposts had shifted. Developed countries had moved towards a knowledge-based economy, emphasising technology and innovation.

In the 21st century, the narratives of development have undergone changes. Scandinavian countries, often held as paragons of development, now focus on sustainable living, social equity, and happiness. Bhutan, Nepal’s neighbour, champions the Gross National Happiness index, highlighting well-being over material wealth. If Nepal were to achieve the industrial and economic milestones of the late 20th century, it would still fall short by today's standards, which prioritise sustainability and quality of life.

This constant evolution raises a fundamental question: Can Nepal ever truly "catch up"? The answer lies in redefining development itself. The traditional model, which equates development with economic metrics and technological advancements, is inherently flawed. It creates a perpetual race, where developing nations are always a step behind, chasing an ever-receding horizon.

Instead, development should be viewed through a multidimensional lens. For Nepal, this means embracing its unique strengths and crafting a path that prioritises sustainability, cultural preservation, and well-being. By focusing on renewable energy, for instance, Nepal can bypass the polluting phase of industrialisation that plagued early developers. Investing in education that fosters innovation tailored to local needs, rather than merely replicating Western models, can create a resilient, self-sufficient society.

Moreover, redefining development to include happiness, social equity, and environmental stewardship can make the concept more attainable and meaningful. Nepal, with its rich cultural heritage and communal values, is well-positioned to lead in this redefined paradigm. By valuing and enhancing what it already has, rather than chasing an elusive Western ideal, Nepal can set a new standard for development that other countries might eventually follow.

The myth of development as a one-size-fits-all model needs debunking. For Nepal, the goal should not be to catch up with an ever-changing Western benchmark but to redefine what it means to be developed. By focusing on sustainable, inclusive, and culturally relevant growth, Nepal can create a development narrative that is not only achievable but also inspirational. The future of development lies in diversity, adaptability, and reimagining progress itself.

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