As I sat down to write my final column, I went through the collection of my articles online Ė after 10 years as a columnist, you forget how and where it all began. Kunda Dixit, the man who pushed me into starting this column from issue zero, told me that I was the last columnist to have been here from the first.
It has been a long time since I adopted the persona 'Arthabeed', in collaboration with Kunda Dixit and Binod Bhattarai. I enjoyed the anonymity in the initial years and the guessing game till Arthabeed's first public appearance at the fifth anniversary of Nepali Times. The joy of living another character has been amusing, like an avatar you create online. You have the freedom to vent your anger, think aloud, and of course give advice as a personality that people recognise. Arthabeed witnessed the most eventful phases of Nepali political and economic history. When the column began, we had a constitutional monarchy and the insurgency had started to get really nasty. Then the royal massacre took place, crowning a new monarch who later imposed direct rule. His failed attempt paved the way for a republican Nepal, and we elected a constituent assembly to write a new constitution for a new Nepal.
The ten years saw good governance and the national economy losing out to party politics and those keen on personal gain. While our neighbours grew at an express rate, our politicians were content in clinging to whatever power they could grab, providing jobs to family, extended family and party cadres and of course, hopping onto junkets abroad. Decentralisation took place, in corruption rather than power, and a new vocabulary gained currency in economic analysis: bandas, unions, and extortion. Graft became more chic as deals shifted to the coffee shops of five-star hotels. Plundering natural resources for personal gain was the best business one could be in.
New age chakari, or the display of sycophancy through messages of congratulations or condolence, provided good sources of revenue to media houses feeling the heat of a failing economy. The architecture of management changed as unions dictated to owners and the owners, instead of managing businesses, became busy managing associations and chambers. The numbers of financial institutions soared; every second person was a promoter of XYZ Finance. It was a decade of taking speculative positions for gains that a sane financial and economic world would never deliver. Asset prices started to stagnate and non-performing assets at banks started to build up. Phew Ė how eventful.
But this beed enjoyed looking at the silver lining in the dark clouds ó in the emergence of art forms, in lifestyle changes, in the bright lights of party palaces, in the launches of shopping malls, and in the lines of stores real international brands were opening up. Barefoot, ragged poster boys and girls for the donors were replaced by Nepalis decked out in cheap Chinese jackets and shoes. Mobile phone penetration brought in an unprecedented revolution of connection. The media prospered through community radio, broadsheet dailies, and some hard-hitting television programs. Village roads connected more destinations and there was a significant increase in access to financial services. Lifestyles went through significant changes; people became open to holidaying abroad and spending money on hobbies. You just need to stand on a busy street and watch the movement of people, you'll see things have definitely changed in the last decade. But whether it's confidence or arrogance, one cannot say.
Meanwhile the remittance economy kept the decade afloat, upholding our economic history that survived on money sent by Gurkhas and Lahures. Aid continued to pour in (though I have consistently wondered aloud about the productivity of each dollar of aid). Despite the political mess, we still stayed afloat!
It was the readers who inspired me the most and the beed has now transformed into a brand-driven management consulting and advisory company (www.beed.com). There are many beeds now and there will be many more in the years to come. Thank you readers for encouraging me to go this far. I look forward to making occasional appearances.