Nepali Times
Strictly Business
Think national, act local


What's to hope for in 2011 for Nepal? Most Nepali wishlists would have: a national constitution, general elections, and a fresh start for a newly elected government. Specifically, what should businesses and development agencies hope for?

All of the above, with one specific addition: speedy re-establishment of elected local governments in districts, towns and villages.

Elected local government = good for all. Last week, for two days, villagers padlocked The Last Resort's (TLR) bungee bridge, and threatened to close the resort, which had earlier been featured prominently in a Nepal Tourism Board promotional video.

In a press release, TLR complained that despite what it had done for the local villagers over the last decade in terms of providing employment, supporting health posts, building toilets, and starting income-generating projects, it had to endure the threat of a forced closure on the eve of Nepal Tourism Year 2011. Happily, TLR has since re-negotiated with the villagers, and is now open for business.

But the incident reveals a deeper problem in the Nepali countryside. There has been no elected, accountable local government in Nepal's 3,915 VDCs and 58 towns since 2002, when Sher Bahadur Deuba dissolved all local governments. In the intervening years, the space for local governance has been usurped by the local branches of national political parties, which are often rabidly partisan.

Mirroring their national brothers, these local parties quarrel with one another, or team up with one another to gang up against a third, and basically force their various party agendas onto the table even if that means acting against the interests of the very villagers they are supposed to represent and serve.

The villagers dare not speak out publicly because of security reasons or because, in most cases, many of the young people who could have spoken up have left for jobs in the Gulf or Malaysia. Since there are no local elections to hold them accountable, most local politicians thus have an incentive to lord it over villages and towns with a degree of unaccountable power, which has, no surprise, corrupting influences.

What results is a nightmare for development agencies and businesses, though they choose to keep quiet, lest they attract unwanted attention.

Say you are a hydropower company. Instead of negotiating with one elected local government for a predictable period of time over a lease agreement of a water body, you now have to continuously negotiate with all the local parties and keep them all happy Ė years before you see a single paisa of profit, if you see it at all. If one political party is unhappy with you for any reason, it can force your business to shut down, regardless of what positive work you have done in the villages. In such an environment, who wants to think long-term for investments?

In essence, what the absence of accountable local governance has done is increase the elements of uncertainty and unpredictability, and thereby raise the costs of doing development or commercial work in villages and towns. If one gets to do the work, it's hard to build up locally sustainable institutions in politically charged locations.

So, here's my wish for 2011. I am not sure whether the CA members will actually draft and ratify the constitution in May. But if they only find ways to take steps to re-establish the process of elected local government in all VDCs and towns, the process of local accountability and development could continue at a faster rate. That way, at least the rest of the country need not remain hostage to the mind-numbingly dumb antics of a few infantile netas at the top.

1. Sargam

Overall ripping success of the blog generation

In modern times, the teenagers speak of MSN, SMS, MMS, MP3, iPod, iPhone, emails, Facebook and Twitter as something they always dealt with since their very cr√Į¬Ņ¬Ĺche allowing them to browse the net as the real professionals, rendering at the same time their parents a bit naff.

Obviously, such a topnotch digital evolution in Information Technology (IT) has brought a seismic change in the whirligig of daily perception and the daily behaviors of the old and new generations of human beings involved. All know that future will never be the same old bashing where strictness and traditions were always hitting the front pages of Newspapers.

This sort of 'survival of the fastest' trends of technology made the CEO of Facebook, namely, Mark Juckerberg proclaim Microsoft as an underdog which a decade back nobody would have dared say a word against the monopoly of this aforesaid Windows' giant while this society was minting billions. When Bill Gates preferred his philanthropic agenda to the modernization of Microsoft, after Vista was a failure under a new CEO Steve Ballmer, where Google was surpassing everybody in promoting its new browsing tools in rapidity and collecting up to date and worldwide information leaving far behind the slap-happy Microsoft out of breath but slogging hard enough. And Apple has proved to be a new giant of worldwide IT.

As of now, the youth from all over the world would feel like the fish out of water if the technological sweeping revolution anyway try to infringe on their rights. They have now reconfigured their daily activities by passing hours to chat, to write a blog, to compose SMS, and to surf the Internet searching for a popular song on You Tube or whatnot. Those netizens feel at ease everywhere where there are these modern facilities for the very fact that they are born and brought up with those above mentioned ancillary gadgets.

Most pointedly, reading books and Newspapers appear to be a bit square and also too austere. Plus before a television everybody remains passive, whereas the new digital technology of thumb (for mobile) and mouse (for Internet) respectively maintains an interactive relationship amidst the participants or the family members

Fair enough, the portable mobile has been transformed into an 'authentic extension of oneself.', because the mobile along with the PC and laptop and now iPod of Apple serve as the personal aide-m√Į¬Ņ¬Ĺmoire, the archive of photo-souvenirs and of course the private office and the personal diary becoming a sort of the safe haven for keeping intact our intimacy. Blogs make us travel from one place to another in a jiffy at the same time it becomes easier to dispatch photos, messages either personal or professional through texting, footage and sounds etc.

Next, some of us have become addicted to especially when it concerns the live planet soccer or other games with our favorite teams on the playing ground, the video games getting outrageously gory and violent that could perturb and overwhelm the premature teens suffering from vertigo for the very fact that this privilege is open to abuse thanks to easy access to this modern and worldwide technology, passing whole day and night before the screen. In consequence, if they are left at their own, they could neglect their schooling thanks to karaoke or some other extra curricular activity.

It is time that the parents become more concerned if they want their kids do not get astray as it happened often in Japan and Korea of late.

Hopefully, Google has enhanced some other anchor points on its website comprising photography, designing, mapping, languages, and some other knowledgeable subject matter.

In such a technical revolution the youngsters without beating about the bush adhere to the terms such as 'communication', 'zapping', 'high speed' and 'connecting obsession' which are, nonetheless, the invisible codes of this generation of the new boom of the upcoming second decade of the 21st century that we are about to step in.

2. Brajesh Vaidya

Your comment really baffled me. I could not relate your comment to what Ashu has written. Next time you copy and paste, do it in right place.

3. Ramu Kaka
Sargam, after reading your comment, one imagines having this kind of a conversation with you.

Ramu Kaka: "Hello, Sargam".
Sargam: "The world is coming to an end. The sky is falling."
RK: "How are you my friend?"
S: "We all should wear yellow socks and pajamas that say 'sue me', and go to bed with nothing on but the radio."
RK: "Were you not in the US, did you come back recently?"
S: "Crocodile meat is what we should be exporting in 2011. The momos made of such meat just swim in your guts." 
RK: "Where do you live and work these days, in US or in Nepal?"
S: "I like to take a bath everyday with fruit-flavored alcoholic juices, with scantily-clad women rubbing my back from top to bottom."
RK: "Ok, Sargam, have a good day. I see that you have changed since you went away for your higher education."
S: "All is well. Well is all. Is all well? Is well all?"

This is what it feels like when one reads your your eruditely recondite comments.  

4. who cares
military security.

5. Kenji

I was rolling on the floor with laughter reading Ramu's riposte to Sargam.  Thanks for livening up my day!

On a more serious note, Ashu's column highlights the incredibly high 'opportunity cost' that Nepal is paying for the poor/nonexistent governance the country has suffered through for decades now.  While it is encouraging to see all the new construction, new products, and new services that are transforming urban life in Nepal's cities, those remittance-driven trappings of modern life are a veneer that hide the desperate infrastructure & productivity situation in Nepal created by political instability.  Without the needed business environmental certainty in place that businesses large and small require to make investment decisions, only the most sure-fire investments will go forward, and only the most gung-ho investors will commit.  For every one project that does get launched, there are hundreds that don't even leave the mind of an investor or entrepreneur.

As a result, while iPhones and Santros proliferate, real weath creation in Nepal barely moves.  Electricity production is one of the main proxies for production (and consumption) in a country, and because the hydropower projects that Ashu mentioned don't get built, electricity production and consumption per capita in Nepal is less than 1% of that in the advanced countries.  Meanwhile, a major new power station is opened every 2 weeks in Nepal's northern neighbor, built to provide power to the mushrooming industries that are lifting hundreds of millions out of poverty.

The Nepali condition reminds me of a question that often comes up when touring old castles in Europe.  The huge stone castles that dot many European countries are impressive to behold, but had no plumbing, no heating to speak of, and were very cold and unpleasant places to live. And if you got sick while living there, well, you better have your affairs right with the Almighty.  The question "Would you rather be king of this castle and kingdom in the Middle Ages, or be a member of the middle class in modern times?" is almost invariably decided in favor of modernity.  The myopic bickering netas of Nepal are like kings in the musty old castle who have been offered a look forward into a future of incredible wealth for all, but still choose to live in pre-modern squalor as kings of darkness.

6. Sargam

Duh, at last somebody out of the blue braced himself for the news! For starters, everyone who is a regular browser of this thread knows that I always appreciated the write-ups of Mr. Ashutosh Tiwari as we both have Degrees in Management and Communications as such I for one appreciate his writings and teaching skills whereby he always tries his best to harness the creativity of Nepalese from every nook and corner of the country. But this topic relevant to the local things is so much discussed about already that I get jaded and faded whenever folks bring this topic in front of me. FYI, I'd a very good discussion with Professor Khagendra Thapa, USA lately. He is for sure the possessor of some brand new ideas worth due consideration. Which is why, I didn't like again to indulge myself in this somehow boring subject. Instead, you all had to taste a rundown of my makeshift over the present advancement of the Information Technology (IT) that you all see and use everyday but you do hardly take care of. We should leave this topic about building up local administration aside to get matured so that in the nick of time in distant future we can again think over the ways and means to make better use of them.

This Vaidya twerp didn't notice the heading of this rubric called as 'Strictly Business'. Since when to talk about what is happening around the IT tools that we use everyday to do business is not talking business? Huh, it might be because he is too busy with his untouchables so why he gets miffed every time when he ain't able to understand things even as pristine as the sky hovering over Phewa Tal or Mansarovar. He lacks wit and knowledge to fit in.

Whereas Ramu Kaka, gracious God, a surname Ramu but what you crib is no-brainer. Again FYI, I never spent a dime of the Nepalese Government. All my studies I did in a Military Boarding Institute as good as the Eaton College and for Degree courses as a scholarship holder. For post graduate studies, I financed myself my travel (By working as a tourist guide, license holder) to Europe to obtain the equivalence by working and getting promotion for my further studies.

And you know what is Kaka in French? It is written 'caca', that means S**t. So why, Ramu Kaka you have a s**t head. Don't ever try to bully somebody with your clueless masquerade. An Arab proverb goes as follows: 'If you have nothing interesting to say, just shut your trap. Otherwise everybody will know that you are no better than a moron.'

Kenji, your drivel and gibberish talk about the European cold castles are to no avail and is simply not worth of a guy who wants to get rid of his pidgin vernacular. I know exactly what it is when you want to have an empirically grounded approach of the unknown things. Learn from my past experiences as I also went through my probationary periods with not less than 9 languages by speaking and writing exactly like the native folks, because I like the perfection. If you speak a language not exactly like the inhabitants of the country there is no use of practicing it.

Better elaborate an authentic technique to be used to organizing one day in future the local elections. Already the Government Exchequer is as empty as the Danaides' jar without any cash at all. The donors have already warned if Nepalese Government just tries to milk them as the cash cow as it is bleeding the country along with the Maoists and other commies and NC by self-serving a whopping emolument and perks of some great Pashas of erstwhile Middle East countries doing absolutely nothing. And as the icing of the cake most of them send their offspring to study in the USA, the GB or Australia while back home they play the role of Iago every time when things begin to become a tad bit normal they restart asphyxiating the shareholders either by means of the impromptu strikes or organized rip-off and loot of the innocent populace in bright daylight.

The donors have no bucks to throw out of windows to stuff the baddies of Asia who will become one day in near future as dangerous as the Cobras when the West and the East, not to name China, will confront for the supremacy of superpowers.

Nepalese, you stand up and march.


May you all get untold happiness

With every passing day;

For you all, my dear compatriots,

On the occasion of this just kicked-off New Year 2011

I wish the very best of everyday.

7. Arthur
Ramu Kaku #3, thanks - brilliant!!!

who cares #4, "military security" is a bit cryptic.

Are you saying that the Sargam produced by a "military boarding school as good as Eaton" is typical of military security people. Perhaps you meant "military intelligence" - the well known oxymoron?

8. Subedi
Mr. Sangram, can you please stop ur verbose. Thing unsaid are golden and said brazen. You have already proved that you are Qualities.... no more please.

(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)