Calendar pages flutter by at an accelerating rate, the older you get, the more pronounced this phenomenon. Years merge seamlessly into each other, however you measure the passage of time. Yet the habit of using the New Year, Western, Nepali, Tibetan or other, to measure progress and predict the future dies hard. In fact, it staggers about like a drunk on New Years Eve, refusing to go to bed or stop drinking, despite the damage done to oneself or others. So here goes, for what it's worth.
1) War in the Middle East will begin but not end this year. America's high altitude electronic war gaming will render key bits of Iraqi infrastructure irreparable, but for unforeseen reasons-be they biological, chemical, nuclear, or conventional-the reconstruction effort will not begin in earnest over the next year. This will disappoint many, not least large construction companies in the United States and Europe, and sound-bite politicians in Western capitals who will face growing public disquiet. The damage to the Iraqi people will matter least.
2) Terrorists will attempt another spectacular strike, perhaps succeeding in part. It won't be another World Trade Center but it may be another Bali. Over the same period, there will be countless dire warnings from harassed looking officials, security and civil rights restrictions on easy targets like the vast majority of honest, well-intentioned people will continue to tighten. It won't matter. Many entrepreneurs will identify opportunities in the new paranoia that will continue to spread outward like cancer, from the killing fields of West Asia, to our own backyards.
3) The government and the Maoists in Nepal will continue to play word games with the notion of peace talks, terrorism, revolution and accusations of atrocities. Some of the latter will be covered more boldly than ever before in local media. Messengers will come under pressure while their message is ignored. It's happening already in the rape fiasco and it will happen again and again until some lessons are learned here. Meanwhile, Nepal's killing terraces will pass through another season of death and decline, until increasingly distant Kathmandu finally starts to feel some pain from insurgency. Whether this adds urgency to official efforts to resolve the crisis remains unpredictable.
4) There will continue to be talk of holding "elections" in Nepal, and "constitutional reform". Both these crucial notions will be bludgeoned into further irrelevance by the continuing mayhem and economic decline. Nepal's valuable and hard-won institutions of modernity will continue to be cheapened by a combination of hypocrisy and design.
5) International agencies, bilateral and multilateral, will continue to read from the same mealy-mouthed script as the "conflict resolution" gravy train gets up a good head of steam. No relief from conflict will be provided by any of this but many consultants will be amply rewarded for running workshops and "building capacity". Sadly, along the way, the significant number of truly committed and effective individuals working in development here will leave-driven off by the cynicism of colleagues or a collapse in funding.
6) Remittances from expatriate Nepalis in other lands will become ever more economically significant as tourists stay away and foreign aid dries up. Sadly, few in authority will do anything to assist those who remit. Some will even hinder, or try to profit unjustly from it. It won't matter. People will still go abroad to work.
7) The Nepali Times will continue to be a star but in an ever-widening galaxy of local media, newly emboldened to cover all manner of wrongdoing, and to celebrate indigenous success when appropriate. Bring on the competition, it's the best thing we have to look forward to.
8) I've been wrong before, so let's hope that I am about the more dire predictions.