Nepali Times Asian Paints
Economic Sense
Bandas and blockades


The Beed has overheard plans to organise car and motorcycle rallies during the next banda. Over the past two months much has been written about how bandas have crippled life and its economic impact, but perhaps no one has come forward with such a radical idea. It could worth be a try. The banda psychosis fits in well with the lazy and escapist Nepali lifestyle, and is secretly more than welcome in some quarters.

Government offices tell you to collect documents after the next banda and card game lovers cannot resist the lure of the next hartal. But the most interesting is that the hotel people, who were crying foul on tourism decline due to banda calls, are now ganging up to organise a strike. They want the government to dole out subsidies to them to be able to pay outstanding bank loans.

The lesson for neo-socialists to learn: in a market driven economy, if one cannot repay debt obligations, then one should turn to the government. If the government doesn't oblige, then threaten to call a strike. And we say we are an economy ready for WTO, SAFTA and BIMSTEC. Wake up.

The trading psyche of Nepali business has never been upset by bandas or blockades, rather it has provided more arbitrage opportunities to make that extra rupee. The vegetable vendors in Kalimati as well as the adulterated fuel gas stations, always pray for that landslide in Krishna bhir or the strike by any organisation-as long as life comes to a standstill. Business that thrives on capitalising opportunistic nuances has served to further bandas. If the business community came forward to try and address these issues without really looking at their own self interests, things would be different.

Blockades also bring about the need to look at supply chain management that has never been an issue of focus for most businesses. Issues of alternative highways, more connecting roads or more aircraft for the national carrier therefore should not be ignored as these are the times when one wishes there were alternatives. Surely, the government cannot ignore these issues either.

It is time to take a serious look at what the real impact of such bandas or blockades on the economy is. There is a socio-cultural side to what image we are really selling about Nepal and Nepalis. We need to learn from the Indian state of West Bengal including Kolkata, which, despite all liberalisation moves it is making, has yet to get rid of the stereotype image it sowed in the 1970s as a city with more non-working day than working days. Despite great improvements over the past decade it has yet to shed that image.

In the tourist or the economic map of the world, Nepal does not want that reputation. While political issues may take its own course on settlement, the economic agenda should be de-linked by all. Surely, the business community has a great role to play in this. Hello, hoteliers.

(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)