Nepal: Least developed to developing in just nine years

Its efforts at finding political stability and a new constitution have remained elusive, but Nepal hopes to improve its rank among nations of the world in the next nine years.

This week the National Development Council approved the country’s 13th development plan which aims at turning Nepal from a least developed country to a developing one by 2022.

The plan is to achieve an annual growth rate of 6% and bring down the percentage of population living below the poverty line from the existing 23% to just 18% within that period.

The government is hopeful that the target can be reached by focusing on hydropower, education, healthcare, tourism, agriculture, industry, trade, infrastructure and good governance.

Annual growth rate of 4.5% in agriculture and 3.2% in employment, reduction of maternal mortality and increase in life expectancy to 71 years are also part of the ambitious plan which will be in force till 2016.

Considering the present state of affairs in Nepal it might seem a difficult if not impossible goal. And experts have already started voicing doubts over the plan formulated by the interim non-political government.

Nepal’s economy is in tatters due to the country’s political instability. Failure to exploit hydropower potential has affected all manufacturing industries. The country’s infrastructure also needs a big boost.

If it hadn’t been for the billions of rupees sent as remittance by millions of Nepalis working abroad due to lack of adequate opportunities at home, the country’s condition would have been far worse.

The Human Development Report 2013 released by UN in March this year ranks Nepal 157th among 187 countries surveyed. Only Afghanistan at 175 ranks below among all South Asian countries.

At a time when both its bigger neighbours—China and India—are witnessing rapid development, Nepal has lagged behind due to a decade long conflict and failure to consolidate after peace was achieved.

Even countries like Bangladesh which were known for their backwardness are taking rapid strides towards development based on human development indicators and a booming manufacturing industry.

But all is not lost. The HDR 2013 mentions that multidimensional poverty in Nepal has come down to 44.2% from 64.7% since 2010. The report also says that the wealth gap in the country has come down by nearly 15% during the same period.

The Oxford Poverty and Human Development Index released earlier this year showed that the percentage of poor people has come down sharply from 2006 and if this decrease continues at this rate Nepal could eradicate absolute poverty in another twenty years.

The study also showed positive figures in infant and child mortality rates, maternal mortality, nutritional level and enrollment in schools. Nepal is progressing very well on meeting most of the millennium development goals (MDGs) set by UN.

According to latest Nepal Rastra Bank figures the country recorded a balance of payment surplus of NRs 38.60 billion during the first 10 months of the 2012/13 fiscal year. Foreign exchange reserves also increased by 10% to NRs 483 billion during the same period.

Nepalis have heard numerous slogans over past decades on how the country can be transformed. It remains to be seen whether this latest one remains just that or is able to achieve the stated goal.

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