On The Way Up

From HIMAL, Volume 5, Issue 2 (MAR/APR 1992)

It is not long ago that a Finance Minister of Nepal had to remind the representative of an international development bank: “I am on the driver’s seat now. You just fill up the tank when it is necessary.”

In this issue of Himal, rather than try to address the existential question, whether foreign assistance is bad or good, we look at the mechanisms of aid giving and receiving. How can more of the money be redirected from expatriate pockets and Kathmandu mansions to the “target beneficiaries”?

The uniqueness of Nepal is that its entire “modern” post-Rana era has been in the company of the aid agencies. Our rulers, planners and much of our public cannot remember a world without assistance. When aid has become so much a part of our being, therefore, to criticise it is to criticise ourselves.

Since the catalytic function of aid projects is almost never realised, perhaps we should just lower our sights. So, forget it if the Nepali on a study tour of the Arkansas learns little about the application of computers in mechanised dairy farming. Is it not enough that during his first trip overseas he learns to differentiate between time zones? Only minimum expectations, it seems, will save us from fatal cynicism.

Himal, too, has been a beneficiary of aid. When personal savings ran out, we turned to the “donors”. NORAD (Norway), the World Wildlife Fund (USA), the Ford Foundation, and the Swiss Development Cooperation, among others, provided crucial support during our second and third years, while Unicef has steadfastly backed our annual Nepali Himal.

Himal’s Vol 1 No 1 (July 1988), carried our first report on foreign assistance: “The Good, the Bad, and the Development Consultants” by Anil Chitrakar. The cartoon above, by our long-time contributor Sharad Ranjit, illustrated that piece.

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