Rakesh Wadhwa has a drastic solution to save Nepal, a bit like the radical step he took this year to save his own life. He wants to free the economy from the prescriptions and restrictions of government and let it take care of itself.
In April, at age 53, he was diagnosed with the auto-immune disease, lupus. He found that the prescribed drugs had serious side-effects, so he subjected himself to a one-month fasting therapy that helped him lose 22 kilos and rid him of the disease.
"The therapy allowed my body to use all its energy for the healing process, allowing it to detoxify itself," says Wadhwa. His wife Shalini, who publishes the boss and VOW magazines, also underwent the therapy and brought her diabetes under control.
"There is nothing like a virtual death sentence to concentrate your mind," says Wadhwa. "If you were fasting for a
month just to lose weight, then it probably wouldn't work."
Wadhwa also claims the healing process at the True North Health Centre in California allowed him to regain his mental equilibrium and focus his mind on his novel, The Deal Maker, co-written with South African Leon Louw. It is being published by Rupa and will be launched in Kathmandu on 12 November. The novel tells the story of an Indian socialist dystopia of the future, and a visionary young prime minister with principles. The underlying message is one of freedom, and the triumph of the human spirit. "My life's purpose is achieved with this book," says Wadhwa, who admits he is a proud follower of Ayn Rand.
Wadhwa, who runs several casinos in Nepal, has always been a libertarian. So it is not surprising that he wants freedom to underly economic matters in Nepal. He wants all trade barriers lifted and the economy opened up for foreign direct investment, removing the government's interference in business.
After having worked in and run businesses in Nepal, Wadhwa finds it is a pity that a country that straddles two Asian giants with the highest growth rates in the world should be so economically stagnant. With Nepal's lower labour costs, it could be a magnet for foreign investors if it took steps to facilitate free trade, slashed tariffs and used its natural assets.
"Opening up completely to FDI would attract investors who still find India restrictive," he says. "You could change this policy in 24 hours, and start seeing results soon after."
Investment would create jobs, raise economic growth and lift the country out of the doldrums. Corruption could be a concern, but graft can be controlled by minimising government interference, Wadhwa adds.
"Nepal has to be more attractive to investors than neighbouring countries, otherwise why should they come here," he asks. "We have to go further ahead than India, you have to be even more liberal than India."
We ask Wadhwa to tell us in one sentence what he believes in. "I don't need a sentence," he replies, "it's one word: freedom."
Pre-order The Deal Maker at gharmai.com
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