Nepali Times Asian Paints
Economic Sense
Another Dasain



The answers at government offices are similar to the 'try again later' message you get on cell phones. From now on, no requests will be processed or work done until after elections. It's as if Dasain came in Chait this year. Seeing as anthropologists love multi-ethnic and exotic Nepal so much, maybe they could do us a favour and have some studies into this facet of the Nepali character.

We need to understand why we love to 'dodge' work. Even at the highest levels of government, discussions are not focussed on making the constituent assembly functional after elections, but on how to add more holidays to our already holiday-laden national calendar. Demanding a holiday at any time will be our first constitutional right. While the world is moving towards 24-hour, 365-day operations, we still prefer to work upto 4PM for half the year, and preferably not at all, given the opportunity.

Our love for festivals and breaks from doing nothing has held Nepal back severely, and I believe that if we really want to see Nepal change for the better, we need to mend our ways. Although our incorporation of other religions' festivals apart from Hindu ones to the national calendar scores top marks on inclusivity, it also means that our calendars now have more red days than black ones.

The elect of the constituent assembly must actually attend it and legislate, not just bask in the sun on their verandahs. Perhaps their salaries should be dependent on how many sessions they attend rather than a fixed sum. Then we might be able to coax them to come and do what they're paid Rs 70,000 a month for.

The onus of pushing efficiency and productivity lies with the private sector, which is considered more efficient and productive than other sectors. But this sector has its own Dashains, tea breaks and pointless interminable karyakrams. It needs to move beyond self-congratulatory expressions of mutual admiration in the newspapers to something concrete that will bring about real improvements in professionalism, governance and competence-building.

It is a sobering thought that more column inches are devoted to the announcement of candidates and candidate offices for the Association of Foreign Employment Agencies than to reporting on their work and ensuring better regulation of this business so that fewer people are cheated, and normal Nepalis get the best services at the best prices.

The business community missed the opportunity to set the economic agenda for the parties as they were busy setting their own election agenda. When the CA is actually constituted, rather than just putting Best Wishes messages in the papers as usual, the business people of Nepal need to work together with the assembly to bring about a constitution which guarantees private property rights, rights to do proper business and crucially more rights for the consumer.

Perhaps the first issue to tackle could be getting a labour law framework which would allow enterprises to link pay with productivity. This may ruffle feathers in many places, but in Naya Nepal it is time for a real change.

But for now anyway, Holiday Greetings on the occasion of another long break.

(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)