Nepali Times
Publisher\'s Note
In a state of deprivation

This may be the wrong time to discuss the latest findings of a new poverty survey, when the whole country is consumed by uncertainty as parliament tries for the third time to elect a new prime minister. Or this may be just the right time because it proves that it is political mismanagement that has turned Nepal into the poorest country in Asia.

To be sure, we have taken giant strides in the last 20 years in child and maternal survival, the distribution of safe drinking water, and promoting literacy. But imagine how much more progress we would have made if it hadn't been for that ruinous war, if there was a government that could ensure efficient delivery, if the development budget was actually spent, and if there was political stability.

Nepal ranks 82 among 104 countries in the latest Multi-dimensional Poverty Index (MPI) put together by the Oxford Poverty and Human Development Initiative and UNDP's Human Development Report Office. The new index uses 10 indicators grouped under health, education, and living standards and tracks the level of deprivation from these services. It shows that 84.7 per cent of Nepalis are deprived, and more than 18 million people are 'poor'. It should be little comfort to us that India ranks 74 in the MPI: even war-torn Sri Lanka is way ahead at 32.

In fact, what little progress we've made since 1990 has been achieved despite government, mostly through individual and community-based initiatives. What is perhaps surprising, to put a positive spin on this shameful national ranking, is that with all the mismanagement and political disarray, Nepal did not fare worse. If we want to feel still better, we can cite the National Planning Commission's figures which show 'only' 31 per cent of the people living below the poverty line, or the World Bank's estimate that 55 per cent live on less than $1.25 a day.

The reason is that 15 per cent of Nepal's population is working abroad at any given time, and they send home $2 billion a year. This is improving family cash income, but it doesn't always correlate with access to services like years of schooling, safe drinking water, electricity, or chronic hunger in children. Many of these basic services are the prerogative of the state, and an unresponsive state keeps its people poor.

Politicians horsetrading for Monday's election should look at the MPI figures and hang their heads in shame. They can't pass the buck because many of them have been at the helm of the state since 1990. They should also be deeply worried by the statistics of mass deprivation because of what it means for the future of the political process in this country.

Go on, tear yourselves apart politically if you must to get into government. But work on a minimum national consensus on development. Set out an ambitious, visionary strategy to improve service delivery and increase purchasing power by job creation. Get real-time monitoring in place so progress can be evaluated and course corrections made.

Nepal's politics has made us a laughing stock. Our poverty is a national disgrace.

It's getting stale, mate, PRASHANT JHA
Women MPs seek to unlock deadlock, RUBEENA MAHATO
An open letter to the Big Guys, SUNIL B PANT

1. jange
But surely the Maoists' murder, mayhem, loot and extortions were worth it. We have got rid of a hated monarchy that had been sucking the people dry for 240 years, we now have a CA that is well on its way to making a new constitution, and we are all building a New Nepal.

Surely these are worthy achievements and worth a few more years of poverty.

2. jange
Very positive data.

Despite the murder, mayhem, loot and extortions of the Maoists for more than a decade Nepalis have managed to achieve all this.

Eat your hearts out, Maoists. You failed to destroy Nepal despite your best efforts.

3. Baje
The positive side is that we are not ranked 104 in the world but the negative side is we are ranked 82. We must not disillusioned ourself stating that India is ranked 74. India's economy is growing very fast and soon it will be third largest economy in the world only after USA and China.

Nepal is full of natural resources and can grow very fast provided that the country is stable both politically and economically.

There are investors both at home and in abroad waiting for a stable Nepal, of course any investor would like to see a good return on investment and safe repatriation of his funds as and when necessary. The present condition in Nepal is not conducive to investment. 

It remains to be seen that the politicians of Nepal have understood their obligations and responsibility. The politician treat Nepal as cash cow for their own individual self greed.

Perhaps these so called politician get together and choose one moron to become the PM and move ahead to see if they can be useful to carry out national interests.

Thank God we have our brave citizens slaving away in foreign land so that they could remit funds so that the politicians could spend on their families and commissions to their agents.

It is a matter of great concern that the inflation is at around 10 percent and the presumed growth around 5 percent. It does not make sense so long as the inflation is not controlled the poverty will not be reduced. Our immediate neighbours both India and china has growth above 9 percent why can not we move along with them. The politicians seriously consider this .

Is there anybody in Nepal who could put sense in our politicians head?

4. Slarti
I am no genius and I have very little education (not really a graduate even) but here is the thing that intrigues me - 

Why won't you or anybody else in the country use the considerable mathematical talents of people like Prashant and Artha Beed or someone like this guy Sujeev Shakya (who has apparently written a dynamically titled book) to really bust the myth about growth over the past 20 years?

It is pretty simple stuff really, there is something called regression analysis (I think) which would help you establish that medical, educational and other relevant infrastructure which underpins the survival of Nepal today was established during the much hated Panchayat era. 

Secondly that the survival of Nepal today is a result of the pre-established social safety valves - that is the reason why the society has not melted down.

The danger that this might lead royalists like myself to then go on and advocate the re-establishment of the old system is a bit pathetic and is expressive of the lack of confidence in the new elite.

The first thing that I believe people such as yourself appear to have lost is your frame of reference. This has dangerous implications for the cause of the nation, and of peace and democracy.

For example, look at things this way. Facts is that Nepal survives because of the in-built traditions such as the strength of the family, individual and communal character, respectively. Many young men and women have followed the right path and focussed on their education etc not because of hope but as a result of being part of strong families who keep their progeny firmly anchored to their duties and responsibilities.

This part in my view should be left alone, the consequences of interference in this aspect of society by "intellectuals" who cannot help but refer to Trotsky (le trout) to elicit the flight path of homing birds would be disastrous.

The second, and far more controversial element of your analysis is the macro-economic conditions, institutions and their impact on growth - the fact that the nation continues to survive.

The basis of my belief that the underpinning of the success came from rulers who were aware of the real conditions in the country. This is borne by the fact that nearly 50% of this (now) god-forsaken country's population is around the age of 20-30. 

Surely, the arrival of democracy did not automatically produce healthy babies who survived!! 

Even though the joys of expectant mother in relation to political developments may have been one of the points that perhaps one of the intellectual giants of Europe may have discoursed upon.

The reason why us Royalists have no hope, neither the desire, to revert to that system is that it was not participatory enough, other than at the very efficient - to the non-ideological fact based living bipedal life-form such as I - VDC level.

This meant that it did not have an effective and very sensitive feedback mechanism. If something went wrong, there was no way to understand the popular response. Furthermore, it limited the choice.

Moreover, the system was a product of the prevailing global conditions -and despite its claim to religion and the fact that it was led by a dude wearing a feathered crown -  it was essentially socialism. And that is just plain wrong. 

Anyway, I am sorry I have a habit of going on and on. 

My point is that if you must talk about something all the time - why not (for once) talk about the truth, based on facts, borne by evidence, to produce insight which hopefully would help us understand our world better. 

5. Alok Dixit
It is a shame that country like Cambodia, savaged and devastated by Pol Pot has not only recovered but has gone ahead of us. Why? Nepal is as beautiful and resourceful as Cambodia but why we are lacking? Cambodia is buddhist and Lord Buddha was born in Nepal. Kingship is only in name in Cambodia and Nepal abolished it. Pol Pot was toppled by the present rulers and Pol Pot in Nepal are trying to change their bandwagon to a civilian party.

The only difference most probably is that politics and political party are different. We are not development focused and they are, though both rank as having most corrupt bureaucracy and judicial systems. Most probably Cambodia has a stable government for the last 20 years and parliament functions. May be we don't have a dictator cum democrat like Hun Sen who have ruled Cambodia since 1979.

(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)