Nepali Times
RAJEEB L SATYAL
Nepalipan
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RAJEEB L SATYAL


Why has commercialisation suddenly become a bad word? We hear politicians bemoan "commercialised education". NGOs are insulted if they are called commercial, "we are a non-profit social organisation", they say. And international development agencies refuse contracts to for-profit organisations. Even commercial sex workers now want to be called "female sex workers".

Across the developing world, including Nepal, the term 'commercialisation' now has a negative connotation and business people have been attached an anti-social stigma. This is unfortunate because the country's economic backbone, the sector that could take Nepal forward, has been vilified. The prime minister publicly scolds and demoralises the business community every chance he gets. It has become a clich? to bad mouth commerce, sending the wrong message to the public and future generations.

On the other hand, there is an obsession for anything that has the prefix 'social' on it. 'Socialisatio&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#̵'216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;', 'social servic&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;', 'social workers'. That is why at some point, even the most successful businessmen, industrialists or entrepreneurs underrate their own profession and choose to project themselves as social workers. Society has been over-projecting pseudo-social workers as heroes and the business community as villains. This is having an impact on commercial activity in the country and is reflected even in government policy.

There is a role and value for socially-oriented organisations and some do exemplary work. But their role has been overrated, and are acknowledged far more than businessmen and entrepreneurs even though legitimate questions can be raised about their 'non-profit' status or voluntary nature.

And since international donor agencies are required to fund only 'non-profit' organisations, there has been an epidemic of fly-by-night groups that are 'non-profit' just for registration purposes. In fact the number of 'not-for-profit' organisations outstrips registered commercial organisations in Nepal.

'Non-profit' has become a profitable tag for donor-driven organisations to attract international grants. It is about time Nepal's funders realised that there are few genuine 'non-profit' or 'voluntary' organisations even though these esteemed values may be incorporated in their charters.

No organisation can run without money and every organisation must save some surplus between what it gets and spends in order to sustain their organisations. We should encourage existing non-government development outfits to adopt business techniques and management procedures to streamline administration and improve productivity. Every organisation must be allowed to generate revenue so it can sustain itself after project funding is terminated.

In fact, we should stop calling them NGOs and treat them like 'professional service organisations' geared for efficient and effective service delivery, allowed to charge a reasonable fee for overheads instead of pretending to be a charitable non-profit.

This will get us out of the dependency trap, foster sustainability and take prosperity to the grassroots. The country can achieve prosperity only if there is equal and equitable division of commercial opportunities, skills and resources among all Nepalis.

Commercialisation and privatisation have actually made the delivery of health and education more efficient, it has made hydropower a viable proposition and encouraged competition in the telecom sector. Deregulation of the domestic airline industry has improved services and brought down prices. In retrospect, whatever little development Nepal has achieved over the years have been mainly due to commercialisation, privatisation and better marketing of consumer goods and services. Commercialisation of agriculture has improved farmer's incomes from fruit and vegetable produce. The reduction in poverty is reflected in better health of farming families. Community forestry user-groups that are run commercially are the most viable and successful.

Open and transparent commercial activity serves the people's needs better than corrupt and pretentious 'social service' either by the state or through the non-profit sector. It's time to wake up from this spell, break the negative stereotype about commercial activities and the abhorrence we have developed for the profit motive and private initiative.

Rajeeb L Satyal is a management and social marketing consultant.


LATEST ISSUE
638
(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)


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