When everybody was talking about the Unity scam, the Beed was reminded about an excellent piece in this same paper ten years ago by Manisha Aryal, unearthing a Ponzi scheme started by Nepali elites (Scheme/Scam, #54). Ten years later we have another scam but this time, all the high profile people allegedly involved have remained behind the scenes. While one section of the media was working on investigative journalism to expose Unity, another section was carrying advertorials explaining why the scam was good for the Nepali economy.
But successive scams expose not only crooks but also the lotto-mentality of Nepalis, who believe that windfall profits are the norm. In casinos, carrom and chess games, and in the financial services market, there's always a wager to be won. No wonder banks attract deposits by providing gold coin prizes rather than ATMs that work or better customer service. No wonder Nepalis prefer to keep casinos in business rather than trying their luck with micro-enterprises. Perhaps we should allow Nepalis to enter casinos legally!
Ask an average Nepali on the returns to the investments they want to make. It seems people visualise slot machines. How else can a pyramid scheme attract more than half a million people in a country with such liquidity problems? People still feel more comfortable putting their money in unregulated cooperatives than go to banks; the words tax and disclosure scare them. This Beed is still amazed at the numbers of people, including professionals and bankers, who have promoted cooperatives. No one knows how many co-operatives fold and abscond with people's money, because no one wants to attract undue attention from the authorities.
How can a Rs 300 million land sale deal go ahead without the taxman getting a single rupee? How can a country boast of collecting income tax that equals the real estate price of a strip of land in the heart of Kathmandu? How can a country progress when most taxi drivers con you on fares, ISPs con you on bandwidth, gas stations sell substandard fuel, courier companies ask you to collect your documents, telecom companies get away with bad service, and restaurants charge service without providing it?
If Nepal is to progress we need to really tackle the issues of professionalism and transparency. If people in the most respected professions do not emerge as star tax payers, it will never encourage other sections of society to follow suit. If entrepreneurs do not embrace transparency in their dealings, they can never inculcate transparency within the people in their institutions.
The advent of IT has made it possible for systems and processes to be transparent, and could encourage professionalism. This happened in India, changing the way companies operated and making it possible for them to globalise and take on global markets and customers. Young Nepali entrepreneurs who have had global business education and exposure could also change the rules of the game here. Nepal awaits their professionalism.
Magic wand, Dhruba Simkhada
Resurrection, deconstructed, Prashant Jha
Complicity journalism, CK Lal
Revisiting Crapmandu, Rabi Thapa
Ménage à trois, Ass