This article was originally published by Prience Shrestha in the Himalayan Times on January 5, 2020.
The advent of federalization in Nepal delegates the crucial role of regional development to provincial governments of the country. The task of regional development begins with adequate development of regional infrastructures that enable access to regional economic competencies and facilities essential to improve the economic conditions and standard of living of the regional population.
Provincial Ministries of Physical Infrastructure and Development (MoPIDs), enlisted in the cabinet of the Provinces following the formulation of Province Government (Work Division) Regulation 2018, is the body of the Provincial Government that is primarily responsible for regional Infrastructure Development and Management. As such, MoPIDs of all Provincial governments that have only recently come into operation after formation of the Provincial cabinets in 2018 require sufficient capacity in terms of adequate legislative, executive, and strategic provisions in order to fulfill such responsibility. On such account, it comes to the observation that MoPID of all seven Provinces have visibly progressed in formation of their executive organs, and are expediting to formulate necessary legislative provisions. However, limited to no progress in terms of formulation of long-term infrastructure development strategy at the provincial level is seen among the MoPIDs of the seven Provincial governments.
International case observations of Province or State bodies responsible for Infrastructure Development in successful Federal countries have presented findings that recognize the advantage of developing long-term infrastructure Development Strategy. The advantage yields in the form of enabling the State Governments to build effective approaches on procurement, projects selection, and collaboration with Private Investors and other Governmental bodies to plan, finance, and execute State Infrastructure development. On such note, building an effective approach for public procurement and contracting by Provincial MoPIDs remains crucial at this early stage of the delegation of the task of Regional Infrastructure development to Provincial Governments. This observation appears relevant as limitation in areas of public procurement and contracting for Infrastructure Development has remained a legacy in governance system of Nepal. Likewise, the opportunity to devise and adopt Innovative Infrastructure financing practices by engaging Private parties, as discussed, is another benefit of formulating long-term infrastructure development strategy at the Provincial level. The vitality of such opportunity can be recognized from the observation that innovative financing practices and revenue generation mechanism that make Private investment feasible for Public Infrastructure development has enabled State Government of other successful Federations to not only tackle financing constraints for State Infrastructure Development but also lead the landscape of State Infrastructure.
Moreover, the case observations have also identified the role of long-term infrastructure development strategy to anticipate future Infrastructure demand, and conceptualize innovative infrastructure supply to address such forecasted need of the future. However, such practice of planning for future Infrastructure demand appears farfetched in the context of an underdeveloped economy whereby the resource is mostly occupied to mitigate prevailing Infrastructure gaps. Regardless, the newly devised level of Government at Provincial level can aspire to adopt the idea of Planning for Infrastructure Demand in future in order to contribute towards revolutionizing the transport landscape of Nepal.
Lastly, an expert opinion on Public procurement articulates the importance of developing long-term infrastructure development strategy to allow thorough plotting of the network of government authorities and agencies to expedite Infrastructure development efforts with maximum integration and limited resistance with relevant stakeholders. Such advocacy is believed to have been made with expectation that Provincial Governments are likely to be enmeshed in inter-jurisdictional conflict with Federal and Local-level of governments, and also among newly devised Ministerial and Directorial authorities within the Provincial executive framework itself. Such expectations are formed as the current governance system features fresh and less familiar complexity of bureaucratic order and jurisdictional authority amid recent transition towards Federal system.
As the Provincial MoPIDs instigate regional Infrastructure Development within the limit of their jurisdiction, the period remains opportune for the very Ministries of all Provinces to formulate long-term infrastructure development strategy that incorporates the discussed approaches and benefits. The approaches if devised and adopted at this early stage of Provincial purview of Regional Infrastructure Development can definitely build into a sustainable governance mechanism of also exemplary nature.