Maoists' Plan Will Reverse Progress in Education and Healthcare Sectors

>> Thursday, November 6, 2008

By Ajay Pradhan | November 6, 2008

Finance Minister Baburam Bhattarai has reportedly asked the private educational institutions in Nepal to look for alternative means for making investments. The media reports quote him as saying today at a function organized by Maoist-affiliated student wing, that it is the state's responsibility to provide basic education and healthcare services to its people. His statement reveals what may be on the way in Maoists' education and healthcare policy.

There is something wrong with this picture. First, as if by the power of magic, Bhattarai appears to have curiously developed the ability and acumen of a financial investment analyst to advise investors how and where to invest their money. Bhattarai is no investment analyst. He's a politician. He's a politician with rigid communist ideology that has produced no beneficial results anywhere the ideology has been practiced.

Second, Bhattarai's plan (or is it just a wish?) clearly leaves no room for private sector participation in education and health sectors. It's not bad for the state to provide basic education and healthcare services (and actually, it is expected) and I'll give Bhattarai credit for that. But, for a country that needs to leap-frog if at all it wants to emerge from the shackles of poverty and underdevelopment, "basic" is just not enough. Thanks, but no thanks, Mr. Bhattarai.

What does Bhattarai want to do? What now then? No Rato Bangala? No Budhanilkantha School? No St. Xavier's and St. Mary's? No AVM? No Norvic? No private school? No private hospitals?

To the extent that the government's role is to enable the state to provide basic education and healthcare, I agree with Bhattarai. But, his idea that private sector involvement is not necessary in either education or health sector comes off as a belligerent argument of a nut-case politician. I'm sorry for this harsh assessment, but Bhattarai has left no room for much else.

Nepal needs public-private partnership both in education and healthcare sectors. That is the only way Nepal will create centers of excellence. Just to provide fodder for ultra leftists within the party that are indoctrinated with unbending political philosophy that equalization is the objective, Bhattarai is simply trying to lower the bar for excellence. You don't need to destroy centers of excellence in the name of providing equal opportunity. Instead, government's focus should be on increasing investment in public school system and improve their quality. That's how you provide opportunities to the underprivileged, not by eliminating private sector participation. The government should leave private schools and private hospitals alone.

Eliminating private participation in education and healthcare sectors, or any other sector, for that matter, will not only stifle the spirit of promoting excellence, but will also be a bad economic policy. It will drive away capital investment from abroad. Nepal badly needs foreign capital investment to develop its resource base.

If Bhattarai has problem with certain run-of-the-mill private schools and healthcare centers whose quality of service is questionable, then he ought to be able to control them. He has the power and the wherewithal to do so. You don't amputate the whole limb if your finger is hurting.

Eliminating private sector involvement in education and healthcare sectors is the surest way of eliminating the basis for promoting excellence. Without excellence, Nepal government might as well forget making Nepal competitive in today's globalized economy.

Bhattarai also remarked that "the government is preparing to distribute academic certificates through open universities to those individuals who could not receive formal education due to their involvement in the Maoist war." Is Bhattarai for real? Has he lost his mind? Well, he might as well go ahead and distribute Ph.D.'s to all his Maoist "friends who could not pursue education due to their involvement in the armed conflict." This is too bizarre that it isn't even funny.


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