An ex-prime minister can't find his way to the right enclosure at the airport, so he calls a shutdown, closing businesses. An Indian actor allegedly says something that nobody heard, and all the country's businesses come to a standstill. When the rebels want to pressure the government, they force businesses to close. People defining or un-defining 'regression' occupy the streets, closing down businesses. When the government or universities ignore student demands, they close businesses. Here is the clincher: businesses themselves announce shutdowns to force the government to agree to its demands.
Over the past decade, we have seen businesses closed on every pretext, but none of the reasons were as important as the result. In Nepal, political victory means closed shutters and empty roads. Last week, we saw yet another infringement on the right to do business, in the form of vandalism and looting. Spontaneous or organised, rioters decided to follow examples from other parts of the world 'as seen on tv'.
Like you, the Beed is fed up. He feels the right to do business is a fundamental human right, like the right to freedom of speech. The business community needs to emulate the non-negotiable stance the media takes in defending press freedom. In a monetised economy, businesses will exist irrespective of the economic system in place, be it crony- or quasi- capitalism, or socialism, failed or mixed.
The freedom to keep shutters open, the freedom to keep enterprises open, the freedom to have operating supply chains, the freedom to operate businesses, the freedom to make investments and the freedom to earn profits are all part of the freedom of doing business. The time has come for the government to protect this freedom. The onus is on the government to protect the rights of its citizens, including corporate citizens, and if it can't then it does not have the right to levy or demand taxes. If it can't fulfil its role as constitutional guarantor then it can't use other tax-related legislation either. The government needs to take the right to do business seriously!
It is also important that the right to do business does not infringe upon the rights of other people. Businesses must be regulated so they cannot prevent people from breathing fresh air, holding annual general meetings at the right time or protecting copyright. Stories of businesses defaulting on loan payments, businessmen prospering individually by bankrupting organisations or being in cahoots with corrupt politicians has left the Nepali public with a bad impression of the business community. This is why support for business at this time of need is lukewarm.
Businesses have an opportunity to assert their rights by learning from past mistakes. This has now become important for the very survival of Nepali businesses. If business is done right, consumers will protect the right to do business.