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The importance of think tanks in public policy in Nepal

Published Date : August 16, 2019

Kamal Dev Bhattarai

Kathmandu: After promulgation of the new constitution in 2015, we have embarked on a journey of economic growth and prosperity with national slogan ‘Prosperous Nepal, Happy Nepali.’

We have settled political issues ending a prolonged instability, and kick started the journey to socio-economic development, or we concluded a painful journey and just began a new period.

As per the constitutional provisions, we are in the process of formulating new laws, policy and regulations in various sectors.

Many countries in the world are now facing mutiple problems such as extreme poverty, adverse impact of climate change, diseases, and terrorism among others. We need in-depth ideas and views to take appropriate policy decisions in order to overcome the current challenges.

From health to education and social security to well-being of migrant workers, we are viewing the challenges from fresh perspectives. At the same time, weare reviewing our foreign policy keeping in mind th eradical and unpredictable emerging challenges in the changing global order.

Our mission of achieving prosperity could be materialized only if we take prudent, research-based and broader approach in line with the changing times. To deal with complex and unpredictable international situation, we have to change our modus operandi in all areas.

In every area, we have to adopt a long-term broader perspective considering possible scenario for the next at least 40-50 years. We need to develop a think-think that closely engages with the government agencies providing ideas and knowledge, and also critically examines the current policy and programs from multiple dimensions.

In this connection, the government can utilize the knowledge and skills of people from various walks of life including intellectuals, scholars and academicians.

Hence, we can assert that the scholarly inputs to the government will greatly help shaping the national agendas for the well-being of the people.

However, we have to think beyond just establishing a think tank consisting the Nepali members for exploring multi-dimensional perspectives and recommendations towards determining, adopting or implementing suitable public policy in Nepal.

To undertake these tasks we can take the support of Nepali diaspora currently residing in various parts of the world. When we think about the Non-Resident Nepalis (NRNs), we only think from the perspectives of bringing investment from them. And, even we don’t hesistate criticizing the Nepali diaspora for not bringing investment to the home country.

But we have not thought about utilizing the knowledge and skill of Nepali diaspora scattered across the globe. Many scholars associated with international universities and think tanks are eager to share their knowledge and expertise voluntarily.

Some of them have achieved academic excellence, engaged in in-depth researches and teaching in renowned foreign universities. Scholars in Nepal and diaspora community could work together to establish the think-tank in Nepal for conducting in-depth research on public policy issues.

The think-tank supported by NRN would be effective and durable due to various reasons. First, it would be easy to collect funds from the NRN community to provide financial support for the operation of think-tank in Nepal.

Think tanks in Nepal are either inactive or ineffective due to the lack of sufficient financial resources for their functioning. Even though some are receiving support from the donor agencies, they are not capable of independent functioning.

Even small support from the Nepali diaspora could be instrumental for running the think-tank. We are inviting the NRN community to invest in hydropower, and tourism, among others, but there hasn’t been debate and discussions yet on how they can contribute for establishing public policy think tanks in Nepal.

Second, such think-tank can bring all Nepali scholars and academician residing across the globe together. They can share their knowledge and experience. In this digital era, it is not necessary to be present physically. They can share their knowledge and ideas each other through digital platforms.

A large number of Nepali scholars and academicians are willing to contribute in the field of research and study. The main task of think tanks can be carrying out policy research, analysis, the impact assessment on a number of issues related to the people-centric and sustainable development and recommend best alternatives to the government.

Similarly, we can provide open and accessible platforms for wider public policy learning, sharing, networking, debates and discourse among government non-profit or private sector public policy experts, academia, advocates, consultants and practitioners in Nepal and globally.

Such think-tank should work in close coordination with National Planning Commission, ministries and our universities. Indeed, the government’s support would be vital to accomplishing this goal. Of late, the government has realized the importance of think-tank in Nepal which is very encouraging and positive. However, such think tanks should be apolitical. That means we do not need right, left or other thinktanks. In other words, it also gives an impression that the government recognizes the importance of the think tanks at a time when the policy makers are being criticized for not giving due importance of scholarly inputs in formulating the national policies and programs.

What we need is a think tank that holds evidence-based discussions on public policy issues. Such think tanks should be able to influence the policy-making level.

Bhattarai is a Kathmandu-based journalist.

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