Nepali Times
Economic Sense
Time for real change


The political parties who love their bandas so much did their usual, officially shutting the country down for three days this week. This is not surprising, for as we have noted before, avoiding work is Nepal's national hallmark (see 'Another Dasain', #394). The country renaming itself as a republic is all well and good, but people need to understand that just getting rid of the king is not going to solve all our problems. In fact, we need similarly radical transformation in almost all aspects of our
daily life.

Nepal has lived for 238 years under a monarchy which would declare holidays on such special occasions as the king taking an hour-long flight to Delhi, or coming-of-age ceremonies of distant, minor members of the royal family. If the king is now to be a commoner and all are to be equal in Nepal, we need to get royal subjects out of our mentality , and stop agreeing to public holidays for every rhyme and reason.

In the middle ages serfs were grateful when their feudal lord granted them a day or two's holiday, because their labour was not their own. Now we live in a world of 24/7 business operations. Time literally is money, and no one making their living from the modern economy, whether employer or employee, benefits from this ridiculous amount of holidays, which paralyse our productivity
and growth.

Our joy at yet more holidays granted only reflects our 'servant of the master' mentality, in which we ourselves are the real losers. Business loses thousands of valuable working hours, and international investors are pushed away from the idea of putting their money in such a country.

And if we are really moving from a Hindu kingdom to a secular republic, we need to consider the hold that religion has on so many of our systems. Nepal can no longer completely shut down for 10 days for a Hindu festival if it claims to be secular and inclusive of all beliefs. Government forms should no longer ask people's religion, as it is a private matter. Apart from the fact that the person filling it in might be an atheist – which is, by the way, one of our rights now. The state will also have to end the preferential privilege of Hindu organisations, religious sites and institutions. Either they will have to support all religions equally, or none at all. This is what secularism means, though I wonder if our politicians advocating it have realised that.

Above all, we need to move away from a society that patronises and fawns on certain individuals and institutions. Vacuous 'congratulations on the occasion of' adverts have increased over recent years. The layout and protocol of our conferences have been set up to allow a royal to grace the occasion (judged to be the mark of success or failure), who would usually come and go without uttering a word. Why are they still set up in this way?

Even the way leaders interact with the public has not changed – it is as if the new democratic leaders think they are the new kings. The Beed only hopes that the icons of the king and royal family which used to hang in all public buildings are not just replaced with the new political elite, to be venerated with the same unquestioning deference as the one-time kings. If we really need to have an aesthetic focal point, can't it be something like Mount Everest?

This historic transformation of the country must be more than just symbolic gestures like the eviction of the king from Narayanhiti. We have to understand that there is no more any ruler and ruled, and that only implementing egalitarianism in our laws will secure a better future.

(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)