Nepali Times Asian Paints
Economic Sense
Youth power rising


Last Saturday, more than 30,000 young Nepalis swayed to rock music in the National Stadium. In the evening, thousands more moved to the beats of DJs in an open-air festival in the streets of Thamel. Tens of thousands across Nepal attended the Sundar Shanta Nepal Travelling Peace Concert that had its grande finale in Bhaktapur on Sunday. Marketers are wondering what to peddle to this growing segment of young consumers but all of us should be considering how we can positively channel this youthful energy.

Such gatherings of youths can turn both ways. What happens if the crowd turns into a mob? Do we have adequate security for such open-air dos? What if there is a bomb scare? Have we forgotten the mob frenzy of 1 September so quickly?

Using the opportunity offered by the unilateral ceasefire, thousands of young people travelled to watch the just finished cross-country peace concerts. It was a cry for peace that seems to have fallen on deaf ears. While the establishment and politicians might be satisfied that this generation seems unmoved by the dirty game of politics, we should ask if their involvement might make a positive difference to the future of this country. The issue needs to be addressed.

It is also interesting to see institutions such as the British Council sponsor events like the Thamel music festival, to see more music videos and albums being released daily and more parties happening weekly. But it is also important to offer young people other types of activities, such as discussion forums on how to extend the ceasefire or integrating Nepal into the global economy.

What about organising live debates for youth, along with quiz contests and knowledge forums? We may want to leave the sponsoring of DJs and music concerts to beer companies and focus more on finding new avenues for youthful energy. We need to address the concerns expressed by friends of this Beed about Kathmandu having more institutions that train DJs and RJs than it does career counselling centres.

Youths can transform politics and the economy. While the non-retiring student leaders in the Indian state of West Bengal made the education system and economy into a fiasco, the non-political enterprising youths of Karnataka helped Bangalore become the second Silicon Valley. While young people in China, Thailand and Vietnam are driving economic growth, young people in Kathmandu want to escape the 'serious' issues by partying and rural youth just want any opportunity to leave the country and work abroad.

Our political parties squandered the opportunity offered by the multiparty system to give youth a chance and the current regime is displaying the same reluctance, at the same time wasting the chance to make economic reforms that is open to a government without opposition.

Youth power is more visible now than ever before, simply because half our population is below 20. Now is the time to find the right ways to harness this energy for positive uses. Yes, young people will drive the future economy because of their sheer numbers but we must ensure that their contributions in all facets of our society will be positive.

(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)