7 Onerous Challenges for Nepal Government in Corona (COVID-19) Era

7 Onerous Challenges for Nepal Government in Corona (COVID-19) Era

Coronavirus (COVID-19) has thrown the whole world in chaos. Thousands of human beings are losing their lives every day since December 2019. Many nations are affected; there are no winners from this pandemic. Experts are still trying to figure out the exact financial impact of COVID-19 on the global economy. Developing nations like Nepal are unaware of the present and future consequences, who are still tackling the issue on a day-to-day basis. Especially politics in Nepal has been in turmoil for a while now, be it for MCC (Millennium Challenge Corporation) or border dispute with India or the managing COVID-19. The steps (if any), taken by the Nepal government are all questionable and disappointment with the government is at its peak.

7 Onerous Challenges for Nepal Government in Corona (COVID-19) Era

Some challenges were engendered by the government itself and others were from various sources. Most of these were manageable to some extent if proper planning and execution were carried out in time. In the midst of this pandemic that has stopped the global wheel, the government should be focused on fighting with COVID-19 with all its might but it has been busy dealing with various disputes such as test-kit corruption, Ordinances, MCC, Conflict inside NCP (Nepal Communist Party) and careless and thoughtless actions of various government bodies etc., to name a few. 

Negativity and disappointment have reached the pinnacle this time. Here are the most challenging issues that need immediate addressing and failing to do so might result in nation failure or greater catastrophe than COVID-19.

7 Onerous Challenges for Nepal Government in Corona (COVID-19) Era

1. COVID-19

The government approach to deal with COVID-19 has been very poor and questionable. The number of tests conducted in the past 2 months has been a worry. Lack of test-kits, PPE, and medical equipment have increased fear in people in this frightening scenario. Thousands of returnees from India have not been tested and allowed to enter their village because of kit shortage. Consequences are already visible; infection has already started to emerge in remote villages where it might have been controlled. 

Lockdown was a good initiative but depending solely on lockdown to solve this crisis is foolishness and the government is yet to acknowledge this. 

Thermal gun is used to test COVID-19 in returnees from India due to shortage of test kits
Source: Myrepublica
In Nepal, lack of test kits, PPE, and medical equipment have contributed to deaths in this Corona era. The government's inability to utilize private hospitals and other resources effectively is another concern. The health sector in Nepal is almost non-existent compared to developed nations. If carelessness and thoughtlessness continue, millions of people might lose their life in Nepal. This is only increasing the risk and spreading COVID-19. Nepal is at the starting phase of this pandemic and a long treacherous road lies ahead. 

COVID-19 is the most pressing issue and is the number one priority of governments around the world but Nepal's government isn't treating it with that urgency. If we are to be victorious in this situation, immediate action with proper planning is a must. Failing to take timely meaningful action might result in something we won't be able to reverse. 

The government had 2-3 months to prepare for this pandemic but not a single meaningful plan or action is visible to deal with COVID-19.

2. People returning from abroad

This can be divided into 2 parts: first, how to evacuate people from abroad in time and secondly, what to do once those people land in Nepal ? The government has been incapable in dealing with returnees from India; one has every right to question the government about the people returning from overseas. The government has been reluctant to act with these issues. 

Returnees from India are lying on the floor helpless with hunger and lack of test kits
Source: DowntoEarth

Is it a fair treatment: people who were providing remittance with their blood and sweat, treated like this ? It has been more than 2 months and the situation of people living in a foreign land with no job, no food or place to live is deteriorating with each passing day. Only 15-20 thousand people will be entertained in the first lot, which the government has said will be evacuated in a week or two. 

The government's plan for the second issue (What to do once they return?) sounds good but the important question is: Will it be implemented ? 

All the promises and plans from this government have been sweet to ears but implementation is/was missing. What will happen this time especially in a situation like this ? 

3. Unemployment

According to the UN ILOs report, it is estimated that 195 million people will lose their jobs. Unemployment is just one of the results of COVID-19 but it is a serious one because it leads to hunger and hunger leads to death [1]. Global unemployment is already record high and Nepal is no exception. People working in Nepal and people returning from abroad have lost their jobs due to this pandemic. One can easily doubt whether the government has a proper record system related to the job market. 

The government has hyped Prime Minister Employment program but the effectiveness and efficiency of this program are controversial. Lucidity and implementation were/are missing from the program. The additional budget has been added this year to this program but doubts remain. Can it or any other plan proposed by the government handle or solve the crisis we are in right now? 

Nepalese youths standing in a queue for form submission to apply for Korea
Source: The Himalayan

The government's statements and budget plans have failed to address this issue properly. The labor market won't be the same for a few years. Those people who were working in the international market will be unemployed with no money. This very serious situation that might lead to famine and other social calamities if it's not addressed properly. The government is yet to come up with anything concrete. People with no technical or vocational skill will be hard to utilize as well. Agriculture along with technical or vocational training might be a short-term solution. However, the problem lies very deep and requires meticulous planning and implementation in the long term. 

This is an opportunity to mobilize labor in full potential. But having seen government industries shut down in recent years, this looks highly unlikely. 

4. Economy

The government is still struggling/waiting for the availability of the test-kits, so it has been unable to think how  COVID-19 will impact the economy. Sustaining the industries, especially the tourism industry is a huge challenge. For tourism, things won't be normal for a year or two, or at least until the vaccine is discovered. Providing soft loans is a good step but not the last or decisive. 

Impact on industries, especially on the import of raw materials and production stoppage for the past 3 months has already been devastating and it's unknown how long this lockdown will continue. The budget doesn't seem to help the private sector either. Most of the plans and policies proposed by the Agriculture Minister has been disregarded for this fiscal year. There are few glimpses of hope for this sector in budget, like community cold storage and access to food. This is an opportunity for Nepal to become independent in food sector which can be achieved if the right action and measures are taken. 

"Crisis" word printed out of a typewriter - Economic Crisis due to COVID-19

Plenty of workforces to utilize, the government just needs to provide means and direction. Price hike and inflation will be a huge challenge this year. Citizens have already seen a price hike during this lockdown. The situation will be much worse if the tension between India and Nepal flares. Since most of Nepal's demand is fulfilled by India, it will be a challenging time for the government and nation. 

Will the budget be only on paper or will it be implemented this time? All the previous and this government were/are unable to utilize the budget; only 20% of the total budget was utilized in the first half of the last fiscal year. Will it be the final hour rush or "Asare Bikash" like always or things will change this time? [2

If it's all plans and policies are implemented, it would be a good first step in this road to recovery.

5. Famine

Nepal is among the world’s poorest countries, ranking 148th out of 189, with a Human Development Index (HDI) score of 0.574 in 2019. Challenging geography, political instability, civil unrest, and a lack of infrastructure, complicate efforts to improve livelihoods, establish functioning markets, and transport food. The 2015 earthquakes wiped out 25% of that year’s GDP [3]. How much will COVID-19 wipe out? We will find out soon but that should not be the focus. The government should focus on mitigating the effects on the food industry. 

Detailed information about food imported by Nepal in the last fiscal year
Source: Kathmandupost

Nepal has already seen a few people starve to death during this lockdown. The story of daily wage workers and the battle they are fighting against food scarcity is visible throughout the nation. The situation will get even worse when people from India and overseas return. In 2018, Nepal imported Agro-products worth Rs. 200b [4]. This shows just how much Nepal is dependent on other nation for food products. Now imagine, this was a normal situation before COVID-19, and food situation/crisis now is similar throughout the world. Many countries have stopped exporting food products. What will happen to a country like Nepal that survives on imports? The risk of famine is very real than we think. Crops or agriculture sector has been affected due to COVID-19 and recent news regarding diseases and insects is alarming. 

Photo of a woman and her four children - Portraying poverty in Nepal
Source: NepaliTimes (NIMENDRA SHAHI)

Though, Nepal is known as Agricultural country; people involved in agriculture are decreasing every year. This is due to market mismanagement, traditional agriculture methods, and poor implementation of policies. 

During this lockdown, Nepal imported vegetables from India while farmers in Nepal had no choice other than watch their vegetables go to waste due to poor Supply Chain and ignorance of Government. Now, people are more worried about death due to starvation than COVID-19.

6. Border dispute

In a difficult time like this, the government is dealing with border encroachment from India. Till now, the government has been brave and has done the right thing. It has stood its ground and published a new map which previous governments failed to do. This has been the only time, this government has done something praiseworthy but this issue has also deteriorated the relationship with India. The government needs to be ready for Blockade 4.0, so that, even it happens, things will be smoother this time. We can only know for sure in the coming days how it will pan out. 

New map of Nepal released by government after encroachment from India
Source: Ratopati

The government was unable to question China, concerning the agreement between India and China regarding Nepal's land. China should have informed Nepal before signing an agreement. Everyone in this world asks the property owner before building or doing anything in his/her property. But China failed to do so. So, both India and China should be held accountable for this issue. 

In the coming days, much more will depend on future Nepal-India relationship. It will be a test for this government to clear the air with India and China regarding this border issue. 

Issuing a new map changes a thing or two but is it really what it seems or is there any hidden agenda? You never know in politics especially Nepali politics. Are they pushing it to publish or is it just a facade to fool public? 

7. Education

At this moment, SEE students are the ones that have been most affected mentally and emotionally in Nepal's education system. It's safe to assume that we all are familar with the demotivation that comes with postponed exams. If SEE was not given the VIP treatment which it doesn't deserve, students and the government could have moved on. 

Students attending class in open classroom due to lack of infrastructure in Nepal
Source: MOE

In Nepal, lack of teachers and proper infrastructure has been the key issue for years. In this type of scenario, talking about computers or the internet or online class is unthinkable and unpractical for government schools [5]. Private schools or parents might be able to offer it but what about the children and parents of government school? 

Students and government schools that were barely surviving; is it wise for the government to announce anything, which is not possible as the things are going right now. Will the attitude change this time or is it just words like always? 

Solutions ?

Most of the challenges cannot be solved completely in a year or so because of the magnitude of the impact; it's hard even to comprehend. Almost all of the issues can be tackled and the effects can be alleviated if proper planning and implementation are done promptly. Things that can be controlled or managed are not so difficult if action is taken diligently.

Data sets and forecasting tools will be crucial to make strategic decisions in these unpredictable times. Being aware of the risks should help in formulating corporate strategies and business planning. It’s time to turn “crisis management” to “risk management” quickly without a delay. Along with good governance, innovation, and design & implementation of effective Supply Chain are crucial for upcoming years for Nepal and the whole world. Times are challenging but it's also an opportunity to set an epitome for upcoming government. 

"Only Time Will Tell" 

What are your views/thoughts on current governance? What else does the government need to focus on? Please feel free to share your thoughts. 

Thank you for your visit. I hope everything was clear, if not please do not hesitate to contact me for suggestions or queries regarding this topic. Honest feedback is highly appreciated. You can contact me via “ashishworks2020@gmail.com “. Thanks again. 

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