PRI Facing Problems To Work, Say Officials
- Aashish Mishra
- 27 Sep, 2021
By Aashish Mishra
Kathmandu, Sept. 27: The Policy Research Institute (PRI), established three years ago as a national think tank, could have been a credible institution informing public policy in the country and grounding the state’s plans on evidence and research.
However, despite having a team of 42 employees, memorandums of understanding with Tribhuvan University (TU), Kathmandu University (KU), Nepal Administrative Staff College (NASC), Nepal Academy of Science and Technology (NAST) and Institute of Foreign Affairs (IFA) and the state-given mandate to conduct policy research, its own officials acknowledge that has not been able to achieve its full potential.
At the programme organised in Kathmandu to mark the Institute’s fourth establishment day on Sunday, Executive Chairperson Dr. Bishnu Raj Upreti admitted that the PRI had not been able to play an integral part in the state and cited the slow legislative process as the reason behind it.
“The act made to formally establish the Institution has still not been passed by the federal parliament,” Upreti said during the programme, adding, “This has limited our ability to work.”
PRI was formed in 2018 by the then KP Sharma Oli-led government under a development board formation order. The next year, in December 2019, the government tabled the Policy Research Institute Bill in the National Assembly where it stayed for five months before being passed in May last year. Now, the bill needs to be presented to and passed by the House of Representatives but that has not been done yet.
According to Upreti, the Institute has the ability and the expertise to carry out in-depth research and make concrete recommendations to the federal ministries. “But the absence of an act has kept our hands tied.”
Upreti said, to an audience that included a few lawmakers, “I urge the government and the parliament to prioritise the Policy Research Institute Bill.”
The lack of an act deprives the Institute of stability but it does not prevent it from working altogether. The PRI can utilise its internal resources and the experts in its contact to carry out the research activities it deems necessary. But there, budget constraints and the government’s recruitment rules emerge as hindrances, Upreti complained.
The budget allocated for the Institute in the fiscal year 2018/19, when it had only two employees, was Rs. 56 million. The budget allocated in the present fiscal year 2021/21, when it has 42 employees, is Rs. 60 million.
“This amount is not enough to do everything we plan. We have talked to many government officials about the insufficiency of the budget and while everybody agrees that it should be increased, no one does anything to make it happen,” Upreti expressed his dissatisfaction.
He floated the option of creating an endowment fund of Rs. 4 billion which would allow the PRI to work independently without worrying about the budget.
Regarding recruitment, highly qualified researchers have shown their interest in working with PRI, Upreti informed. But the Institute’s rules only allow it to hire people based on six-month contracts. “This makes the scholars uneasy about joining us as they don’t know if their contracts will be renewed or not. It would be better if we could offer longer contracts of two to three years but that requires a change in our rules,” he lamented.
Chairperson Upreti urged policymakers to realise that policies should be based on research to be impactful and sustainable.