COON RAPIDS, Minnesota — With the recent news of the earthquake in Nepal, finding a solution to end global poverty has become increasingly important. After killing over 6,000 people, and injuring an additional 14,000, the 7.8 magnitude earthquake has ignited the discussion for relief and recovery plans. But what can these plans do for the future?
Aid and relief efforts have played an important role in the recovery of Nepal; however, these efforts are only able to target short-term relief. The reconstruction phase of Nepal will hang in the balance. In order to succeed, Nepal will need changes in infrastructure, political instability and income sources.
Seismologists report that the earthquake had been predicted. If this is true, could Nepal have been better equipped for the ensuing destruction? If improvements in infrastructure had been prioritized, would there have been less casualties?
“Nepal has long been desperate for a huge, sustained investment to strengthen its infrastructure in order to keep its people safer,” Oxfam America says.
Because per capita GDP is less than $1,000 a year, Nepalese citizens are able to build their houses without oversight. In 1994, government officials were going to enforce building codes after a deadly earthquake hit the country, but lacked the resources to enforce them.
Without rules and regulations, shaky infrastructure will persist. Even though Nepal is able to utilize incoming assistance, there is a deeper economic and social problem at hand. A civil war, poverty and political gridlock has prevented Nepal from flourishing.
In 2006, the Nepalese monarchy was abolished, igniting the decision to rule the country as a parliamentary democracy. However, with this decision came a need for a constitution—a task that has proven difficult to complete. The collapse of the government in 2012 and Prime Minister Sushil Koirala’s failure to meet deadlines have lead to delays in the ratification of the document .
Nepal has “never really been able to write a new constitution, so you’ve had a series of unstable governments,” Senior Brookings Institute Fellow Charles Ebinger says.
This political instability has blurred the potential for improvements in Nepal. Without proper political infrastructure, the country hasn’t properly received and allocated aid. There has been limited room for disaster risk reduction as well.
While countries like China and India have channeled relief efforts, Nepal needs a much stronger leadership to support itself. Widespread corruption only hinders efforts made by temporary relief assistance. However, the country has grown economically in recent years, but in order to succeed substantially, Nepal will need to seek alternatives.
As a country, 27.8 million people are crammed into a small space of land. It is categorized as a low-income country and ranks as one of the poorest countries in the world. Furthermore, there has been no growth in modernization and income potential.
“Nepal has not really made the transition to an industrial or post-industrial industry,” Jonah Blank, a senior political scientist says.
Nepal relies heavily on agriculture and tourism for income sources. Another 29 percent of its GDP comes from citizens abroad. Factors like these lead to slow development. Aid used to modernize Nepal could potentially lead toward greater growth for the country’s economy.
It is projected that reconstruction costs will total $5 billion in order to rebuild the destruction caused by the latest earthquake. As immediate plans unfold, the world will need to examine the way it deals with global poverty and reconsider the bigger picture.
– Briana Galbraith
Sources: Oxfam America, The Guardian, The Huffington Post, Time 1, Time 2