Nepali Times
Economic Sense
Happier new year


We are emerging out of the New Year's eve hangover, but it will take longer to get over the hangover of 2008. We have to try to make 2009 better and sitting in the dark is not the best way to be optimistic about the future.

Last year in this space the Beed wrote 'New Year revolutions' (# 380), and he could just reprint the column here?nothing has really changed.

Whatever were the concerns and issues at beginning of 2008 remain the same at the beginning of 2009, but perhaps more pressing. It has only been a few months since we saw queuing at gas stations but discussing real estate prices and talking about hydropower still dominate the cocktail circuit chats. In the past year, house prices haven't fallen down nor has any significant hydropower capacity been added.

Donors, the development community and the private sector can't come up with any major achievements for 2008 in each of their sectors. The political players have changed. This year, from the interim seven party coalition confusion it has moved into coalition confusion. The uncertainties never seem to go away whether the parties are in government or in opposition. They can't figure out whether they are good at making policies and implementing them or just opposing everything that moves.

The political patronage of trade unions, student unions, teachers unions and militant youth groups continue to dominate the political landscape. The political parties believe they can take on anything in 2009 with brawn power rather than brain power.

The economy can't take any more battering because it is so battered already. When inaugurations of bank ATMs form a greater chunk of news in the business pages one can understand there is something seriously wrong somewhere. The construction of apartments and their sellout in record time demonstrates that from weekend 'marriage' games, the gambling has shifted to the real estate market. A country with blank editorials and stories of worker excesses will keep domestic investors off. Foreign investors are even more skittish and it will be only the really brave who will venture to Nepal.

The way the current government is trying to open up all sectors to inject some social reform there is great uncertainty in the business community about new laws, regulations and institutional frameworks. By taking on the media and the judiciary head on, the Maoists have proven that they have serious intentions of silencing the opposition. A set of people going all out to appease those in power will be creating problems that will take years to solve.

Nepal's future lies in swift economic recovery and creating foundations for rapid growth. The words 'swift' and 'rapid' have to be taken into consideration in the international context and not in the Nepali context- which will make even two per cent growth look impressive. We need to create employment and self-employment opportunities and the sooner the government realises that it is better to have enterprises without unions than unions without enterprises the faster Nepal will recover and grow.

Hopefully, the private sector, donors and development organisations also made some new year resolutions but for Nepal in general the key one would be to resolve to have at least three successes to talk about at the end of 2009. This year would be a make or break year for Nepal and let's see if the Beed will have a more optimistic column at the start of 2010. Wishing you all a happier new year.

(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)