Monday, January 16, 2012

Government sponsored think tanks in Nepal

PM Baburam Bhattarai feels that the country needs think tanks to give inputs to the government on matters related to foreign affairs and economic development. He is thinking of establishing Institute of Strategic and Foreign Affairs Studies and Institute of the Economic and Development Studies to be run with government grant.

A very positive initiative. The country needs a civilized clash of ideas and ideals with sounds analysis and policy research to distill the most apt economic policies and implications of proposed policies. The proposed think tanks should be given enough seed money to start independent policy analysis.

For too long, advocacy and debate on economic policies have been one-sided and project based (often guided by donor and private interests). The proposed think tanks should be run independently, without political, government and donor interference. The donors should not be asked to foot the bill for its establishment. Else, it will be no different than the several government sponsored media and policy analysis institutions. With regards to foreign policy, there already exists one (something like the Institute of Foreign Affairs).

It should have an independent board, which will hire staff and devise a plan to make the institutions self-sustaining in few years time. It will save the institutions from unnecessary political interference. The primary purpose should be to generate debate on new ideas and their implications. The government can get inputs from them in a strictly professional way. We already have National Planning Commission and the PM’s economic advisory council to deal with giving advise to the government on economic policies. The think tanks should be allowed to weigh in on those policies, facilitate informed debate and generate both alternative and supportive ideas.

A good initiative. It should be done in the right way.