LONDON - Economic thinkers, policy makers and intellectuals gathered at a conference in London this week to examine the causes and repercussions of the global economic crisis and to discuss ideas for ending poverty and building a common future.
The relevance of words like development, North, South, developed countries and underdeveloped countries were discussed while the importance of aid, overseas development assistance and organisations like the World Bank and IMF were analysed.
Participants questioned the morality of the bailouts taking place costing trillions of dollars to counter the inefficiencies of bankers and regulators in the US who still manage to get off scot free. People had strong opinions on how the poor will only get poorer if the rich get less rich. Delegates discussed the shift of focus for future economic growth from the London-New York axis to the Shanghai-Mumbai axis.
For a Nepali participant, there were many issues to ponder upon. Nepal is still looked upon as a country where conflict resolution 'parachute consultants' have not yet unpacked their bags. The experts wouldn't be very unhappy if another conflict broke out and they could get back to business.
Post-conflict reconstruction and development seem like areas no one has a clue about, so it is left to the Nepalis to tell the world about what we have learnt from our yet incomplete peace process. How did we carry out this dramatic political transformation relatively peacefully, the world wants to know. The only people talking about this are foreign consultants, when are we going to tell the world about our experiences so far?
We need to see this process through and be able to articulate the kind of help we need from the world community. It is our country, so we know best how to get out of the current stalemate. Nepali voices need to resonate proactively in conferences such as the one in London as well as in the forthcoming G20 summit in April. Nepal will be competing with African states for future investments in business, trade or aid.
What are the policy prescriptions we are really seeking from the world? What is our list of issues that the government, private sector, donors or civil society needs to address? What type of support do we need from the international community in specific terms? Have we lost ourselves in the quagmire of domestic politics and myopia of resolving relatively smaller crises that we no longer know what the larger picture is?
What do China and India really mean for Nepal in the longterm economic future and what does Nepal mean to these two countries that may take on the role of economic restructuring in the aftermath of the financial crisis, similar to the economic rebuilding role played by the US and UK post World War II. If aid loses relevance in the world, what is the next strategy for Nepal? The questions are endless.
Nepal has enough development workers, social reformists, gender specialists, conflict experts and other specialists. What we now need is a new breed of economists who will start pondering Nepal's place in the new world paradigm.