Nepali Times Asian Paints
Editorial
Daylight robbery


KIRAN PANDAY
Nepal's revolution was supposed to lead us towards a New Nepal. A new set of elected leaders was supposed to bring us a new vision and infuse citizens with hope and a sense of national purpose.

Nepalis haven't yet given up hope. They want to give the government they elected a chance to prove itself-both in improving their daily lives and also by charting a new future for this country.

Any country that has suffered war suffers a hangover of violence. But there are other byproducts of insurgency: criminality, bribery, extortion and breakdown in law and order. Most transition states go through this phase: the former Soviet bloc was virtually ruled by the mafia for a decade after 1990.

In Nepal, a revolution that was fought at great human cost has ironically habituated people to kidnappings and corruption. Even if the lives of Nepalis don't improve, we need to have a perception that things are on the mend: that delivery of services is happening, that jobs are being created, that wealth is being spread. The present culture of impunity, the surge in crime and corruption do not give us that perception.

There is daylight robbery going on in Nepal's petroleum distribution network resulting in massive adulteration. The guilty are never punished. Local goondas extort 20 per cent or more from hospitals being built by charities in remote areas. Youth groups are on the prowl, threatening and extorting.

At this rate, it won't take long for the euphoria that followed the elections to evaporate. Among the public there is apathy about corruption, bordering on fatalism. It is seen as a given, it is accepted and its cost is factored into all transactions.

Yet we know that there is a direct correlation between corruption and lives lost because hospitals aren't built, or toxic fumes from adulterated fuels that poison us.

It is argued that corruption lubricates the bureaucracy, allows the middle class to get things done and spreads cash. But numerous studies have shown that corruption hurts the poorest the most. Some say it is poverty that feeds corruption, but actually it is greed.

It is retail street-level corruption that is most visible to us, but grand-scale corruption at the highest levels of government is more hidden and more destructive, deepening inequality and deterring investment.

While we wait for this government to get its act together as its honeymoon period runs out, it may as well start working on public accountability.

Extortion and bribery have become accepted evils, and unless they are tackled first, this government will find it impossible to meet any of its ambitious economic goals.



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


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