Nepali Times Asian Paints
Economic Sense
Democracy = pluralism


It's nigh impossible to find a Nepali organisation that has not participated in a protest program or threatened to go on strike. Trade unions and even business associations dabble in it: the cinema owner's association has horns locked with the film producer's association, the bank employee's associations are threatening to go on strike, and there even is a lurking suspicion that the bankers may shut shop like hotel owners once did.

As this Beed has mused earlier, we have taken our democratic rights post-1990 too far. It wasn't supposed to mutate into what we now see-'roadocracy' or taking to the streets in mass rallies that serve no purpose but disrupt normal life and 'mobocracy' when the rallies are just mobs in thinly veiled political agendas. It also does not mean exercising one's right to protest against the right of enterprises to do business. On labour enterprises, this pseudo-economic militancy has taken a toll on Nepal's labour, making us one of the least productive areas in the region. Another manifestation of this attitude is enterprises ganging up against the introduction of tax legislation or protesting investigations of business houses by anti-graft bodies.

One has to ask how this came to be. Is it ingrained in our education system that libraries and schools must be burned because they are feudal and part of the establishment? Perhaps our collective failure lies in our inability to teach students to distinguish between disagreement and exercising their democratic rights. Somewhere along the way, Nepalis have failed to grasp that differences in opinions exist and pluralism only strengthens democracy. Did our history teach us elimination of contradictory opinion must be exercised through the elimination of the opinion maker? Public debate in this country is difficult, virtually unheard of, which is why we have yet to embrace economic growth.

Strong ideologies coupled with nation-stalling knee-jerk reactions carries through from university campuses into the professional arena, which explains why the attitude of the trade unions and associations like the transport entrepreneur's associations are no different from student unions. Both corrode and eventually destroy their own foundations, be it the schools, universities or the enterprises. We cannot hope for economic growth where differences of opinion culminate in complete destruction.

The cure-all could be the education system itself. The next Nepali generation needs to be taught to see shades of grey from the radical left to the conservative right. We all have the right to our opinions, but we must respect the same for other people. Our education must instil in us a respect for pluralism that democracy allows.

Today's economic growth model suggests that a free economy is a better means of achieving growth. A free economy can only flourish in a free society. If our path is not to be beset by psuedo-economic militancy, then it makes democratic and economic sense that liberal thinking must stem from education.

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(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)