Nepali Times

The decline in Nepal's carpet exports began with a decline in quality: inferior yarns, inconsistent knots, dated designs and irregular sizes. Then there were concerns about cheap chemical dyes and the use of child labour. The Nepali carpet industry first tried to dodge these charges, but finally bowed to green and child-free labels. But it was too little, too late. The damage had been done, others overtook us, and the industry never really recovered.

Something similar happened to our garment exports. Unscrupulous exporters used Nepali quotas to stick 'Made in Nepal' on products from countries which had saturated their quotas. They took little interest in building indigenous capacity by training and increasing long-term competitiveness. As quotas are replaced by new free-for-all World Trade Organization (WTO) rules, there is no way we can compete with countries in the region who have invested in equipment and training to boost productivity.

It is always easier to blame others. Our rug-makers searched for convenient scapegoats among Indian and Chinese exporters bent upon undermining their market. They blamed green

and child-labour activists. When that didn't work, they blamed the media. Unless the industry puts its own house in order, no one least of all the government, can do anything to help in a cruel and globalised world.

And where went carpets and garments, it seems, tourism is sure to go. The short-sightedness of those who benefit most when tourism flourishes are the ones who seem to bent on wrecking it. Tourism is one area where Nepal has some competitive advantages-Mt Everest, Buddha's birthplace, temples and the gentility of the people. These are formidable assets. Others couldn't destroy it even if they tried. But we can, and we have proceeded to effectively wipe out tourism as the last remaining hope for the economy. As if frequent bandhs, reports of Maoist violence and chronic political instability weren't enough, hoteliers and their labour unions took it upon themselves to complicate matters beyond redemption. If it weren't true, you wouldn't believe it: some hotel owners actually evicted guests from their own establishments on 11 December. This must belong somewhere in the Guinness Books. News like this spreads like bushfire across the Internet, and that is exactly what happened.

Then there were the riots. Hoodlums went around hotels targeting Indian tourists. With patriotism like that who needs enemies? So, no surprise that arrivals have plummeted and everyone seems to be bent on preventing a recovery. Hotel owners are not listening to the unions, the unions are not talking to the hoteliers over the ten percent surcharge, and all the while the 11 Feburary deadline looms. Most bookings for that week and the rest of the month are already cancelled. So, while they haggle over ten percent, tourism is showing an 80 percent downturn. There is only one word for this: "Suicide"

(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)