Nepali Times Asian Paints
Economic Sense
Let’s get cracking


When one sees the instances of cars and bikes jump the red light at Maiti Ghar or the arrogance in the eyes of the pedestrians crossing the streets in Ratna Park not using the overhead pedestrian bridges you know that democracy has arrived.

While the much required political freedom has been achieved, your fortnightly columnist of the past six years (yes, it's been that long) has always lectured you that if there is economic growth economic freedom should follow.

Economic freedom surely would mean a process of economic reforms. Political parties should remember how the effective first wave of reforms was squandered by meeting the demands of the labour vote bank thereby creating an environment of a psuedo-militiant labour force that has pushed our comparative advantages out of the window.

While trade union leaders should police the businesses that do not give their labour their due, they should also push the agenda of reforms in the labour legislation. There is no point having a workforce that does not have productivity or efficiency at par with global standards. With the WTO in force, we will loose whatever little we had as our USP if we do not have labour laws that are competitive.

The other is the knotty issue of party financing. This Beed has always maintained that contributions to political parties should be made transparent and legit. This would allow the businesses to contribute without feeling scared, financial reforms will begin in the political parties as accountability will become important and one of the root causes of corruption will have been addressed. Countries that have allowed legitimate campaign funding have had more vibrant democracies.

If they try to please everyone, the political parties and the current government may end up pleasing no one. Reform oriented legislation need not be pulled back just because it was passed by the previous regime. Some of them were initiated by some of the parties which are now back on the saddle. The government should make it loud and clear that there is no respite for willful defaulters and subsidies that bankrupt the exchequer will not be reintroduced.

They should also ensure that the state owned enterprises that have been made a playground for nepotism ('Nepal+Optimism') be handed over as far as possible to professionals working there. Further, it is important to go through the 2006-07 budget going through a fine tooth comb.

Businesses, the engine for economic growth can only function in an environment that is conducive for smooth operations. Industrial and business security has been a primary issue and it is important that personal threats, extortion, labour excesses should be wiped out through the ceasefire code of ethics. The option of integrating the Maoist militia post disarming into a well functioning Industrial Security Force that businesses can pay for should not be ruled out.

Finally Nepalis will have to deliberate and debate a national agenda for economic growth before it is hijacked by parachute consultants. The donor community should perhaps help and wait for the Nepalis to put-together a prioritised laundry list rather than impose one. While the political parties with different ideologies are trying to agree on a common political agenda, it is important that the diverse donor community for once agree to a common plan of action.

(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)