Nepali Times
Economic Sense
No transparency please


This week parties field candidates in closed lists.

It is useless now to devote column inches to the supply crisis, as our predictions of a khattam Nepal are finally taking shape (and, as usual, in the time of the crisis our great ability emerges of finding ways to scrape through any situation, however dismal). This Beed was told that during the Indian embargo in 1989, oil prices shot up five times on the black market, but that is yet to happen this time. In fact, the Tarai crisis and oil crisis are just keeping the real story away from the public at large.

The Nepal Stock Exchange began a process to issue licenses to new brokers and, for the first time in Nepali history, the process was designed to be transparent, using the internet to call for applications which would both maximize transparency and allow the results to be available in real time.

The computer-aided tests would have determined the results instantaneously, and therefore were unacceptable to people who always want their own way. Apparently a sitting minister called the person concerned with the message that either their non-qualifier candidate would be added to the list, or there would be dire consequences.

Despite the fact that the minister made a public statement saying that it was not him but someone posing as him, the selection process had to be cancelled and a valiant attempt to bring about transparency ended in failure. The Beed definitely urges people to recognise such attempts at improving our working practices. Maybe one day, after so many failed attempts, one will have some success in changing the basic rules of the game.

Lack of transparency is a Nepali problem that never seems to go away. It was at its worst during the Panchayat era, but even with democracy, transparency has been more a word to play with than a practice to implement. Everyone knows the government is not transparent, from the way they allocate licenses to the way they hand over criminals to neighbouring police. Members of parliament do not have to disclose where they spend the funds they receive from government, nor local government disclose to the people how much income they actually receive from power plants. This Beed has written before about the non-disclosure of funds that get into the PM's relief fund and its application.

It is not only the government that does not believe in transparency. We do not know where and how the donors who are so important in Nepal spend their money. How do they manage to spend large amounts on budget heads without actually doing anything on the project? How do NGOs which are run by self-declared intellectuals and activists still manage to get away without their accounts being audited? How do people manage to go on jaunts without the organisation to which the invitation was actually addressed knowing anything about it?

Of course, the private sector is an equally strong believer of non-transparency. Reputed schools do not give a breakdown of the school fees and still get away with it. They perhaps forget that in business terms parents are their customers. Cable companies get away without providing the number of channels they are supposed to provide, and having advert scrolls all over the screen without the knowledge of the principal. Evasion of taxes in Nepal is not considered anything to do with transparency. Publishing houses get away without having their circulation verified by an audit bureau.

And as for the political parties, the word is little more than a painful joke. If we want Nepal to change, a small beginning would be for the political parties to fight to transparency of political contributions. The transparency in political funding and adequate disclosure of party financials would hopefully signal an end to the rampant corruption to which we are accustomed. We need a Young Clean League to bring about this transformation. Any takers? l

(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)