This is a time of need and our most important need is a climate that encourages action.

An old saying goes, “united we stand divided we fall.” Individuality is becoming more pronounced throughout the world. Nuclear families are now the norm and the youth are striving for the ability to emancipate themselves from their parents at earlier ages. The apparent conundrum: as more people strive for independence from family the number of disaggregated individuals increases; as more people in society function as individuals instead of members of a family, the number of divided individuals increases.

In Nepal also, more and more people are leaving their homes at an earlier age in search for employment. However, the chain of events following our recent earthquake also provided us with beautiful examples of cooperation, love, and peace that our country has been emblematic of. This recent event allowed us to see firsthand the importance of strong and secure individuals and how they can contribute to the collective. People participating in society as individuals and looking out for themselves is not at all a matter of concern, rather, it should be encouraged so as to strengthen individuals’ abilities. Once individuals are strengthened, their ability to help others also improves. Let us reason by using foreign employment as an example. The youth are moving abroad in search of work and employment opportunities because doing so makes them better off than living in Nepal. By doing so, these individuals may be bettering the lives of their families, but, few would embrace the idea if there was nothing in it for them.

If the number of people working abroad, which now amounts to 8 million, were employed in Nepal, their efforts would not only enrich their lives and whoever they want to support, it would also benefit the individuals who employ them. Ultimately, employing people in Nepal would benefit more parties than the current arrangement is capable of. Since reconstruction of Nepal is the most important topic currently, it is important for us and our country’s planners to realize the shortcomings of our country and its economy and prepare for a future free of any embarrassments.

Nepal is fortunate enough to have well wishers and friends in the international community to help it in this time of need. However, this aid is representative of the disaster that invited it and is of a significant size. A persistent problem the Government of Nepal and its administrative bodies are facing is the inability to make use of resources effectively. During the 2014/15 fiscal year alone, the Nepalese government was unable to spend Rs 67 billion from its budget. This occurrence is not an anomaly and such events occur repeatedly in Nepal. However, the fact that our government is not the most effective at utilizing resources is a given. We should aim for solutions within the environment we reside and look for opportunities.

Nepal’s opportunity lies in empowering social structures. One may point out that I have just contradicted myself by first arguing that individuality is growing, yet, here I advocate the strengthening of social structures. By strengthening social structures, I mean strengthening the environment within which individuals reside so that their capabilities are channeled to productive uses. If a person employed in a garment factory or a tannery or other physically challenging activity has to walk multiple hours in very difficult terrain or suffers from a disease which could be easily cured then his/her productivity is likely to fall and make him/her a less desirable employee. The aid that Nepal is receiving should be employed to strengthen social structures because a safe and sound living environment will entice individuals to take advantages of the facilities to better their situation.

Think about Maslow’s Hierarchy; this theory proposes that the needs or motivations of people are exhibited in an order: physiological, safety, love or belonging, esteem, and self-actualization (in that order). Maslow proposed that individuals are motivated to gather the requirements that facilitate their physiological needs such as food, sex, water, shelter before they start looking for safety or attempting to establish themselves as upright members of society. If we look at all the developments that have taken place in the modern world, then these modern achievements have taken place there instead of in Nepal because the people that reside there spend much less time for fulfilling their basic needs than Nepalese do. When you have to spend less time worrying about basic needs, you have more time to think about science and technology.

In order for a change to truly take place in the country, it is important to look at and think about the way people live their lives every day. While no individual should be forced to live a particular way, it is important to allow them the opportunity to make use of their time and resources in the way they see fit and enable them to choose. Moreover, when the environment facilitates productive activities, choosing to stay idle becomes an expensive decision given the opportunity cost of staying idle. Ultimately, it should be understood that while planning is essential for a country to move through time, planning should be reserved for actions that have distinct or predictable results. Planning to build a road and doing so will lead to definite outcome: the road will be built, but planning for the betterment of people will never have a definite result as people very often act unpredictably as individuals or as a group. We should be aiming for a climate that entices action.

The bottom line is if you want to change the nation, change the conditions that people live in as doing so will automatically give individuals a chance to change themselves.

– Anurag Pant is Research Officer at Samriddhi, The Prosperity Foundation.