Nepali Times
Strictly Business
Loser takes all



How is one to simplify the complexity surrounding what pushes Nepal ahead? Four thoughts come to mind.

1. Youth = future.
Our leading politicians today do not represent Nepal's future. They remind us of our past. Though we are thankful for their sacrifices, the future is so uncertain that past achievements on anyone's part are no guarantee for prosperity ahead. Meantime, with 13 million out of 26 million Nepalis under the age of 17, it's the young who are our future.

Unless our geriatric politicians grasp this straightforward fact well enough to either step aside to let young people in their party to come to the fore or start deeply engaging with the youth in education, health services and career-related skills, there is no new Nepal.

2. Accountable politics.
There's something fundamentally wrong with our political process that allows politicians who've suffered losses in elections to return as ministers and party leaders. This losers-take-all process signals that individual competence and the public's (lack of) confidence in the individual do not matter for governance.

Besides, if losers stay on the top of the bottle as bottlenecks, how can any political party grow its next set of leaders? Moreover, our unchallenged practice that as long as one politician gets an election ticket, he need not be a stakeholder in any constituency in which he is to run for public office makes him put his party's interests above anyone else's. Is it any wonder that our representatives, once elected, could care less about the voters' concerns?

3. Predictable legal regime.
There's a reason why journalists want the ongoing culture of impunity to end. It's not only because of the attacks against the media and the killings of journalists. When crimes are committed by party cadres, and
politicians are there to cover the alleged criminals, it's only matter of time that the trust in the political process breaks down completely.

Once trust is thus destroyed, there will be no loktantra of any kind, no matter how lofty the rhetoric is. Additionally, there will be negative spillover effects. Investors will see laws not being followed in one domain. They will conclude that laws will likely not be followed in Nepal in any domain, and they'll stay away.

And which hardworking Nepali will want to live and work in a supposedly democratic country in which rules are unclear, laws are easily bent, and those in power are not interested in empowering the courts to mete out justice? The only way to restore trust in the system is to strengthen the legal institutions by making them independent and strong.

4. Private sector for jobs.
In a lecture recently, a presenter said that though our politicians fought for democracy, none have ever fought to improve our economic lives. The result is that we are stuck in a doom loop of endless party-political conversations that do not touch upon ways to create jobs for thousands of young Nepalis, who we see milling about on the streets.

Unless those in power take the issue of job creation seriously by reframing how they view the private sector as a platform on which jobs are created, the difficulties of running a business together with rising unemployment levels will only foment social upheavals in a few years.

True, for some, it's in their interest to keep Nepal's problems complicated and hazy. But for a majority of Nepalis, the simplicity of focus on youth as our future, accountable politics, independent judiciary and skill-based and competition-driven job creation programs help imagine the new Nepal that's still being over-promised and under-delivered.

(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)