I know what most of you may be thinking-“Is he out of his mind?” And I don’t question on your analysis regarding my suggestion. But as bitter as it may sound, this is the most viable option.
In the aftermath of the earthquake disaster at Nepal, many countries, inclusive of its organizations and individuals, pledged support in terms of relief materials and money to the victims of Nepal. It was very welcoming but as days passed by, the government released statements that of the total pledged support, only 5% had been directed through the government channel and 95% had either been channeled through INGOs or through local organizations or groups.
The reason for this trend is obvious- people’s lack of trust on government’s transparency and accountability. Nepalese know that the government does not use its budget to the maximum and that most of the money gets ended up in the pockets of the government officials and their relatives. For example, the large quantities of tents that have been sent to Nepal have either been sparsely distributed or taken care of by the political parties’ cadres/relatives to sell it at two hundred times the cost price. That is what most of us hypothesize. We end up relaying the message to the Nepali diaspora abroad that the money must not be sent to the PMDRF, but instead to the international organizations like The Red Cross, Save the Children, UNICEF and so on. I do not blame my people. But from what I have read about the situation of the financial assistance that Haiti received back in 2010, the idea of not depositing the funds in the government’s relief fund can prove too costly in the long run.
In the initial phase of the post earthquake trauma, most of the time is spent on saving the lives of those who are still alive under the rubble. After this, the relief operation shifts to supplying basic needs and seeking out for those in need of medical attention. After the second phase, the priority shifts to reconstruction of damaged/collapsed buildings, which is the ongoing phase. Most of us may not realize it yet, but the most difficult part will be to build new shelters for the affected ones. It is why I urge you to donate through the PMDRF.
If we are worried about the long term developments, then it is absolutely necessary that government funds are gathered. Nepal cannot carry out the reconstruction phase alone and needs international aid to do so. Nepal’s government will be the one to undertake rehabilitation process and it has the necessary equipment to undertake mass rehabilitation. Forget about the INGOs, they mostly do not have the necessary construction materials/they lack the area of expertise/they genuinely cannot carry out in a large scale. There are also fears that the adage ‘every penny counts’ which the individuals/organizations have advertised to collect funds may not be as it has been circulated. They may be used to cover the transportation costs for the volunteers or to feed themselves on the way to the relief areas. I appreciate the mass relief operations that INGOs are carrying out in remote areas and the thousands of lives that were saved in the process. But beneath the social works, there are clearly indications of just how the funds can be misused as justified by the lack of developments in the aftermath of Haiti earthquake. I am just saying that lessons ought to be learnt and implemented.
Now, I would like to digress a bit and clarify further on your false assumptions that the money may be embezzled down the government hierarchy. From what I have read from this article titled “What is the PM’s Disaster Relief Fund and What it is Not?“, it is clear that the PMDRF is not affiliated to PM himself, and he has no control over its use. The fund is established by the National Planning Commission. Furthermore, it is directly dispatched to the Chief District Officer who ensures that the money is spent directly on the affected victims. In a sense, there is little that the political leaders can do to divert the funds to their comrades/relatives.
The second and the most important reason that I love about this fund is that it is transparent. Were you to visit the fund’s website, you can easily download the copy of the transactions made from the account. It is a check and balance system in action. No worries. We can know who donated how much and to whom it has been dispatched. It then becomes our duty to check whether the funds have been used appropriately at the local level or not.
Those of you who are still in the dilemma of where to donate the funds, the reasons that I have highlighted explain the gravity to urge you to make the government channel the best one. This earthquake is an opportunity in disguise and if we don’t make the most out of it, then history will punish us for committing a crime in being unable to develop it to a full scale. Make the best choice because the long term developments are what will define Nepal and its people.