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eGovernment Forschung seit 2001 | eGovernment Research since 2001
The government is the biggest employer in the country. Along with politics, public administration is the only profession that provides access to money, power and prestige.

However, students from prestigious schools and colleges do not even consider it as a career. Even people who are in government service do not recommend others to follow them. What is behind this attitude: why are the country’s best and brightest avoiding careers in government? The answer highlights the sorry state of Nepal government and explains why at present good-governance and e-Government are far-fetched ideas in this country.

Government is a broad concept in terms of its functions; however, in terms of authority to mold citizen behavior, access to state resources and information reach, public administration tops all other government organizations. Bureaucracy acts as a command center for a government: it plays an important role in policy making as well as implementation. It is a tragedy that employees of such importance do not constitute the best and the brightest of the country. Contrary to the saying that bureaucrats don’t like to interact with the population, it is the citizens who avoid bureaucrats in Nepal. Government bureaucracy is notorious for corruption, sycophancy, favoritism, and ineptness; the reason even a bureaucrat’s progeny looks at it with contempt. This article recounts the untold story of the collapse of Nepali bureaucracy and answers the question, “Why have people no confidence in their government?”

An economically driven bureaucracy started taking shape in Europe during the industrial revolution. Scientific Management, which advocates “one best way to do things,” reflects the influence of science and technology on public administration of that time. Max Weber’s bureaucratic machine was efficient: it was superior in precision, unambiguity, documentation, continuity, discretion, subordination, efficiency, and cost. In 1950s, Nepal embarked on modernization and started importing concepts, technologies and services from around the world. Prominent among them was the import of the Indian public administration system in its entirety, i.e., the concept, objective, structure, and experience along with trainers and advisors.

The Indian public administration was a legacy of industrial revolution and mercantilist economy. Weber’s public administration under British supervision was efficient in creating the basics of market-economy like ports, railways, telegraphs, markets, and schools. A miserably poor, isolationist but sovereign Nepal imported this machine. Except the idealist wish that the country be like Switzerland, there was nothing to feed to this machine: no purpose and vision, no communication and transportation network, no professional public administrator and policy maker, and no market.

The system further lost its credibility during the authoritarian Panchayat regime (1960-1990) as it was used as an instrument of repression. The then administration was highly centralized around the power of the king and ran on royal whims, disguised in the form of rules, rituals, and habits. Career advancement depended not on professionalism but on personal loyalty. On the one hand, this promoted cronyism and corruption, and on the other, it severely restricted government capacity to enforce rules and regulations.

The democratic regime that came into existence in 1990 further contributed to the worthlessness of this bureaucracy. Contrary to the expectation, instead of dismantling the patronage based authoritarian administration and introducing a system based on democratic principles, democratic forces not only adopted the old administration but also promoted the unethical practices associated with it. Absences of professional freedom, job insecurity, and cronyism made the system dysfunctional. Contemporary bureaucracy is neither democratic nor authoritarian, in practice and principle; it lacks vision, skill, motivation, and knowledgebase. No wonder the country is in such chaos! The British-India built Janakpur-Jayanagar railway seems in far better shape than Nepal government.

In the last two decades the world has changed dramatically; the world’s most populous countries and Nepal’s neighbors are on the way to becoming advance economies. This is an opportunity Nepal cannot afford to miss. This is also the information age: the increase in flexibility and capacity due to information and communication technologies (ICTs) has altered the nature of power, economy and knowledge. With the use of ICTs a poor nation such as Nepal can leapfrog many developmental hurdles and become a developed economy. However, looking at its present state, the country’s public administration charts a hopeless future: policy-makers have failed again; they have failed to make sense of ICTs in governance.

A public administration that is visionary, proactive and technologically driven has the potential to change the course of a nation. After World War II, Western democracies empowered their administration and employed it to promote free enterprises; this resulted in net upward mobility and mass affluence. As a consequence, the idea of a pervasive, welfare and interventionist state started gaining momentum; Western governments responded with the New Public Management (NPM).

The principle behind NPM is that a market-oriented approach can foster efficient and effective government: NPM changed the emphasis from traditional public administration to public management. Again, in the 1990s, the world adopted the principles of good-governance and started experimenting with e-Government: e-Government is considered to supplement good governance by increasing transparency, efficiency and effectiveness in public administration. In Nepal, other than privatizing major government holdings and posting pictures of senior officials on the Internet, these management concepts have changed nothing.

The problem with our government is that it has repeatedly failed to comprehend and make sense of the changes the world has undergone; this is particularly applicable to large-scale pattern recognition such as the transformation of the bureaucratic state into the informational state. Nepal has failed to understand that its public administration is a relic of the past and built for an economy and society it never had. Until Nepali bureaucracy internalizes this change regarding the creation, processing, flow, and use of information and learns to use it to the benefit of the nation, the present good governance and e-Government initiatives are not going to bring any meaningful change to its performance, or, for that matter, to its image.


Autor(en)/Author(s): Mukul Sharma

Quelle/Source: Republica, 03.01.2015

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