Nepali Times
Strictly Business
Great Leap Backward



Two weeks ago, the landlocked country of Mongolia put out five pages of advertorial in The Economist, which confidently describes itself as the magazine no self-respecting global investor is seen without.

It was all about the country's 'new beginning'. According to the advertorial, Mongolia sits atop rich mineral deposits, has now signed international conventions against corruption, fixed its legal and tax environment to attract 'big investors' such as mining giant Rio Tinto, expects to take advantage of the globalised world markets that surround it, and that, for "a small country", it expects to "set a great a competent player on the world stage."

The ad's language was confident, backed up by market-friendly quotes and upward-sloping data, and designed to make people with money around the world pause and consider Ulan Bator as an investment destination.

Last week, Colombia published a similar pitch, inviting global investors to come and invest in hydrocarbons. "Start the decade with the best investment opportunities", screamed the ad, alongside which was a schedule of a road show going places such as New York, London and Shanghai.

Two other emerging economies, Georgia and Estonia, regularly reach out through advertorials touting their low tax rates, educated and skilled workforce, reform-conscious bureaucrats, improved rankings on global business tables, and market-friendly governments. And in Dhaka last week, I was pleasantly surprised by the growing confidence surrounding Bangladesh's ambition to expand its trade volume to become a middle-income country - a label it wants as a birthday present for its Golden Anniversary in 2021.

In the first decade of this century, these countries and others have realised that they might have their share of God-given wealth, but in the absence of a system to convert that wealth into capital, there is not much they can do to improve the lot of their citizens. One can't fill a hungry stomach with unprocessed natural resources or with promises of a yet-to-be-fulfilled potential.

To move ahead, these countries have come to accept the benefits of making it easier for foreigners to earn an attractive return when they invest money, time, technology, know-how, contacts and sales and marketing skills. Such skills help transform the fixed wealth into moving capital, which can then be used to provide water, sanitation, jobs, education and health care to millions of citizens. Absent such investors, development and growth slow down considerably. All this is basic stuff.

Yet this basic stuff continues to elude the central committee members of a certain political party, which reportedly ordered its foot-soldiers to issue a letter to GMR ITD Consortium, an Indian company, to stop work on the 300MW Upper Karnali Hydropower Project.

It would have been one thing if the company had been in Nepal illegally. It is not. It would have been worth a debate if the party itself had produced a sensible alternative as to how to develop the Karnali Project. It has not done that either.

All it has done is threaten investors who are already here. In doing so, it has set itself up as The Decider of Nepal's future, discouraged future investors from coming to Nepal, and sent a message to Nepalis that it intends to keep them in darkness for a long time. Civil society pundits may have polite phrases to describe this sort of behaviour. But to those who value democracy (with a small d) and a rule-of-law driven free society, only one word explains all this: Gangsterism.

"Come invest in Nepal, and see how your investments get thrown up in the swirl of internal political quarrels" is not the message we should be giving to the world when we are all desperately trying to create a better Nepal.

1. Arthur
Nepal is still ruled by the same gangsters that have never been able to attract Foreign Direct Investment because the investors know that the cost of doing business in such a corrupt environment is too high. This is basic stuff but it continues to elude business journalists like Ashutosh Tiwari who imagine the old system can continue and somehow there will be no problems for investors. Hopefully Indian investors will get the message that they cannot have secure investments while trying to prop up the old system. Doing business with gangsters can never be secure. Only a government that actually represents the people can offer reliable guarantees for investors.

2. May
And the biggest gangsters are the Maoists, Arthur.

3. Rajeev Rauniyar
Ashu: after a long while I get to read something from you. Going back to Sajha days this is what I see: you have matured a a lot in your write. The way you compared various variables and nailed it down to the local specifics is worthy of commend. And now you understand Nepal better than anyone of us overseas do...

4. hange
Agreed May. While what you say is true Arthur in that the same gangsters need to reform, having new and more disruptive gangsters is not the way to go either. Aren't the Maoists the party that promised oodles of power in an unreasonably short period of time? And yet, when someone is actually brave enough to take the plunge to invest in Nepal, they threaten them? If this is how they "represent the people", I'll pass. The entire point here is that the investor shouldn't have to care about who is in the government, which party is in control, etc. If we are to become a land open to FDI, the investors shouldn't have to think at all about politics: just business. While that may sound unrealistic, your statement that Indian investors are trying to prop up the old system insinuates that we are allowing our southern neighbours to meddle in our domestic decisions. We shouldn't. And, for all the firebrand statements emanating from the Maoists, they rely on the Indians as much as any other political party. Of course, their statements are like a sin wave- up down, up down, and so on. We will provide power! We will kick out anyone who sets up dams! We believe in civilian supremacy! If you don't agree with us, we'll have our YCL beat you/threaten you/kill you/etc! A "government that represents the people" indeed. :)

5. suresh
yes frequent attack on the companies operating in nepal by the Maoist and other political supporter and demanding unnecessary demands had made any investor nervous about investing in Nepal. and no doubt Maoist are leading the league.during wartime they destroyed all the infrastructure we have in the rural area because they wanted to create vacuum. in my town we were without electricity fror two yearsbecause they destroyed the powerstation which was publicly owned and no any bridge were left. so still they beleive in making vaccum . i think we dont have that much capital to start everything ourself , so you can not say no to foreign investor who wanna do business in this country. i think nepal has one of the worst business environment, we don have proper labour system .a group of hooligan can burn whole the site of project just if their demand are not full filled, its so risky even to deal with locals they want everything when you operate in their area. they want 90% job to local they want to build school from project moneyand so on . how can you ask for somuch from the prioject that is just started ,and is already in financial hardship,i think our thinking of busineeperson as a illlegal man is still dominant in society . and maoist are just trying to stretch that thread. they are not trying to create environment for investment not only for foreign companies even local businessman also dont wanna invest. just ask them what they will answer.why dont these maoist learn from west bengal?

6. sshakya
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7. Ganesh
An expression felt by all ordinary Nepalis, truly written. All Nepali political parties are gansters indeed, with the gold medal going to the Maoist who have now experienced capitalism and the high life. Its proved intoxicating against their values and what better way than to shelve existing economic and infrastructure development to keep the ordinary Nepali impoverised, illiterate and hungry to keep themselves in the capalistic mould and give eloquent 'bhasans' to guillible Nepalis. The dream of a new Nepal is dead.

8. Arthur
Ok, everybody else disagrees. But I am not convinced by the arguments. According to the article and the other comments, the problem is quite simple. 1. It is obvious that foreign investment is needed. 2. This obvious fact is not understood by the Maoists (or else they deliberately want to keep people poor). 3. Thus they are gangsters. The conclusion 3 more or less follows from 1 and 2, and 1 is uncontroversial. But lets look more closely at 2. Its such a simple explanation, which naturally appeals to anyone already hostile to the Maoists for other reasons. But no evidence was offered in support of this explanation and no argument was presented to reject other explanations. It was simply stated as something that readers would (and indeed did) naturally agree with. I think Suresh made an interesting point in comparing it with the destruction of infrastructure during the People's War. Obviously that was a bad thing and readers here don't like it. But equally obviously it was effective in forcing certain changes which some readers here don't want at all and others do want. Why not consider the possibility that it was a reminder this could happen again - a "diplomatic" reminder without any actual destruction? Nobody can seriously pretend that Nepal has been very successful either at building infrastructure or attracting foreign investment over the many decades of the old system. Were the Maoists the problem for so many decades? Did the Maoists attract less or more aid and investment when they were in office for a few months. Has the economy improved under the present government? Now lets look at what was not mentioned in the article but should have been mentioned even if the author wanted to draw opposite conclusions about it from mine. Everybody knows that there is a very big crisis in Nepal at the moment over whether the peace agreement will be carried out and a constitution agreed to or whether there will be a return to civil war. Everybody also knows that the position taken by India is of great importance in the politics of Nepal. Everybody also knows that the Maoists blame India for encouraging the Army and other parties to take a stand against the Maoists. Most people here do not agree with the Maoists either about that or many other things. But surely we can agree that it is something that might be relevant to what happened and should be mentioned in the article? Suppose the peace agreement is not carried out and the two armies are not integrated. Does anyone imagine that Indian investments will be spared and only Nepalis will suffer during another round of civil war? Upper Karnali like other big hydropower projects are not "aid" but "investments" - this means they are carried out because both sides benefit (whether one benefits more and the other is exploited is not the issue here - both sides have something to gain or no investment would happen). So a big project that is important for Nepal is also of some importance for India. Reminding India that they too stand to lose something if they continue their interference in Nepal's affairs and this results in a return to civil war seems to me a much more plausible explanation for the Maoist action than the author's explanation that they are simply ignorant and stupid gangsters. (I think it is also more plausible than the Maoist statement that it was just a local matter). If my explanation is correct there would be nothing to stop the author from denouncing that Maoist action for that reason as "unnecessary", "dangerous" etc etc and nothing to stop the readers from agreeing with anything said against the Maoists, AS USUAL. The difference would be that instead of reciting things that are obvious to all and then claiming the Maoists are just ignorant gangsters for not understanding these obvious matters, the article would actually have to deal with the relations between business/investment issues and the political situation in a real and serious way. One thng I am quite sure of. India has competent financial and investment advisors and they are more likely to attention of the Indian government to the connection with political issues than they are to quote this article and just advise "no problem - its just some crazy gangsters misbehaving".

9. Satyajeet Nepali
It's all well and good bad-mouthing the Maoists. But who brought them into such power and prominence in our country? The same ppl who're crying hoarse now probably went about raising banners to "mainstreaming the Maoists" and "safe landing" them and "New Nepal (hand-in-hand with the Maoists)" and so forth. Why did all these people so enthusiastically support them? Why did they turn a blind eye to all their violence and radical ways? Were the Nepali people really ignorant about the true nature of the Maoists? Is ignorance an excuse? Before you go and support a "revolution" isn't it your business to know who and what exactly you are supporting? These are some of the questions that Nepali people should be asking themselves instead of always bad-mouthing the Maoists, politicians etc. Our polity is the way it is because of our own choices! Why did we make the choices we did? Were there alternatives available? Why didn't we take them instead? Just bad-mouthing the Maoists in the hope that they will change is no good. Some deep self-reflection is necessary if we, as a society, are to learn anything from this crazy episode in our history! ..but quite frankly I have not seen any writer/columnist/journalist engaging in anything of the sort. Yesterday they went bumping around against the king. Today they are whimpering about the Maoists and other politicians. Tomorrow it'll be someone else ..but will our people, esp our 'agra-panthi', who basically got us here, ever put themselves under scrutiny???

10. jange
It's an attempt at extortion, pure and simple. One of the3 principles of the Maoists- murder, loot and EXTORTION.

11. sloanmgtsch
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12. sloanmgtsch
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13. Krishna D
Ashutosh's column has 613 words. Arthur's two comments run over 800 words. Advantage: Arthur.

14. jange
I guess they don't teach the Mafia business model at the Harvard business school(or any other B school) . Otherwise Ashutosh would have recognised it.

15. Prithvi Raj
Excellent article Ashutoshji! I hope media will continue to expose Maoists' atrocities. Maoists yet again expose their true intentions: that they do not want development in Nepal. Rather they prefer instability and continue their bizarre experiment on 29 million people whom they have promised a "new model" of democracy that no one has seen or heard of. They thrive in an environment of uncertainty. These modern-day acolytes of the madmen of the past are running amok brandishing weapons, and they have created a seemingly irreversible culture of violence. The flawed peace agreement legitimized the murderers who are senselessly blaberring their outdated slogans in the 21st century. What can you expect from a band of thugs whose podiums are graced by murderous Stalin and Mao? Enough is enough:it's time force is met with brute force!

16. Arthur
Krishna D you are right, my number 7 was much too long. Here's a shorter version: "The article says in 613 words what jange says in 3 words. The people shouting "gangster" have never provided an attractive environment for foreign investment and never will. Look at African countries with corrupt politics and an unreformed army like Nepal's.

17. hariyali
and nobody reads that over 800 words comment :( good one satyajeet nepali! there should be an article on lack of self analysis among Nepalis. Add lack of self-respect too- if we had some, we'd refuse to get bullied.

18. jange
But these acts are done by Maoists therefore they are perfectly legitimate and even revolutionary. In this same issue of NT Ms. Aryal has an article about a schoolteacher who was murdered by the Maoists for refusing to be extorted or intimidated. And what does the author suggest to the dead man's relatives who want justice? A call to lobby the government for support to the relatives but no demand for the murderers to be brought to justice and punished. Pathetic. If the Maoists can get not only get away with murder but praised for it what's wrong with a bit of extortion?

19. jange
Thank you Arthur for your many words. You have provided valuable insights into the workings of a Maoist mind. It will be very useful for me at my next extortion meeting with the Maoists. I am not sure whether that fact that it is the third extortion meeting means I am winning or losing. No broken bones yet so I must be doing something right. I think Ashutosh should write a few columns on how to negotiate extortions. Would be very useful in the present business climate. I wonder if the Maoists give a discount or add a premium on extortion when there are foreigners involved. The Maoists could really encourage FDI by announcing extortion rates for the various industries and offering a discount for foreign investments. Transparency is always a positive factor in encouraging businesses- I think I got that from Ashutosh. Thank you, Ashutosh.

20. jange
If criminal behaviour is acceptable in bringing about political progress why is the same criminal behaviour not acceptable in bringing about economic progress? I guess I am of too little brain to understand.

21. harka
I fear that nepal is going the West Bengal Way. In the 50 and 60's West bengal was the Leading state in india both in terms of Investment and Growth. In the 70's after the Communist came to power. See where West Bengal is today after 30 years of it rule....... No Indusrty as all have fled to Maharastha, Punjab etc. NANO came and went before it ever rolled out. All because of Petty interest of the Politician. Nepal is exactly in the same boat...... Since the last 10 years we have moved backward instead of foward. Load shedding is UP, Water trickels once every 3 days (thats if you are lucky). The basic utilities for simple living in Kathmandu is fast disappering. With no prospect for FDI, or new induatry coming in the near futre, how do one expect the country to progress.

22. Norbu ghaley
Arthur, you said it to the point. Maoism in land locked Nepal doesn't doesn't work, as it worked in China, Cuba and in North Korea for a time being. Prachanda and Baburam did the copy cat of Chinese Maoism, thinking not of the future consequences and by not using their own intellect for something new to reform, they are just only stupid copy cats! This Maoism in Nepal is only good for few high ranking officials to misuse the power for their selfish needs, like that of Fidel Castro and Kims of N. Korea. Maoism can be a real obstacle for Nepal's Peace and Prosperity, they will make Nepal to leap backwards by bringing more bloodsheds, Maoism could even cause civil war in Nepal! At present all these comrades became rich, we can see them adding weights, only their bhoonris are bulging out, not the economy of Nepal! Down with Maoism in Nepal!

23. Eric Shrestha
After the end of Malla rulers, Nepal never had any form of government except for KLEPTOCRACY. I think everyone agrees with this.

24. rishav
I'm with Ashutoush on this one. Nepal's hydoelectric potential is something which has always been attracting foreign investment not just by India. Investors from all over the World hungry enough are prepared to do business in all kinds of environments dealing with red tape, corrupt politicians, countries with poor human rights records, look at the middle east, china, s.america and africa. Nepal is no exception to this but what does put off investors is the threat of nationalization, projects being forcibly stopped by political or any other form of activists and lack of security. Nepal from one reason or the other has come out worse during the investment deals done on hydroelectric projects. I guess this is where the actions by this political group to stop this project by force, in a very knuckle headed gangster manner has come from. Even though their intentions it appears from the outside may have been sincere, but mostly probably it was due to this group not receiving the usual backhander payments which is very lucrative in these projects as the real reason. The manner in which they have done things does discourage further foreign investment which is so much needed in Nepal right now.

25. suresh
my father always used to tell me that when 90 revolution ended he thought that though he may not be able see developed nepal in his life and hope that revolution will make new hope for developed nepal.i m in the same place now and i am just 22 years old now and i m thinking the same thing quite earlier trhan my father at least my father was 25 years old so i can say my generation is not moving forward i m actually three years back than his generation. we may have mobile phone in our hand laptopor anything individually but this country is even worse than that time. we used to even have better living standard than all other south asian countries though it does not mean that we were better in world stage but it is enough to prove that how slow we are moving or we stop growing . we never had growth rate more than 3 or 4 in last decade how good maoist agenda sound good and sweet maoism is not the answer for this country,frankly speaking communism just divide the people by giving them false dream thats what actually is happening in my country. we have so much problem with our democratic government in the starting of last decade ,but they could have been reformed .violence is never going to be solution for anything. our economy is totally again i dont see any hope when i see the way our leader are acting and how we people are passive regarding these things. now i wish though i will never gonna see developed nepal in my life i hope my children will be able to live in a develop country . god bless all

26. BB
@Eric, there was no Nepal at the time of Malla rulers. And if the Mallas were so angelic, why would they divide up one little valley into 3 kingdoms? ..must have been so that, not just one, but all 3 brothers got equal chance to steal from the people, eh?

27. Victor Brazensky
Investment in infrastructure, FI friendly policies, emphasis on quality education, health and agricultural productivity. This is what Nepal needs now, not politicians who do whatever they think like doing. The Maoists love to disrupt the economic basis thinking that it somehow it would align with their thinking but they are absolutely wrong. I can see demise of Maoist from Nepal in the political arena but their vestige will still haunt development.

28. Vivant
The Maoists have become victims of their own rhetorical success. They have convinced their grass-roots that  businesses need to be viewed the same way as the monarchy, landowners and the middle class  of yesterday - as instruments of oppression that need to be fought and deposed.  In spite of all the utterances to the contrary by their leaders, the Maoist rank-and-file see  very little room for private enterprise in the economy because they believe allowing such enterprises to flourish will once again allow wealth and power to accumulate in the hands of the former-haves.

29. Arthur
rishav, it is true that investors will do business anywhere they can make money despite red tape, corruption and lack of human rights and this is proved by examples from the middle east, china and south america. But you also mentioned Africa and that is both a bad example and more relevant to Nepal. Sub-saharan Africa has the same level of poverty as Nepal and is run by the same sort of kleptocracy as Eric Shrestha mentions. Like Nepal, these countries also have very little foreign investment because kleptocrats never actually allow people to make money but only steal it. Only "donors" can operate in such countries. Naturally the people living off the stolen aid funds have a world view that nothing else is possible and that anyone fighting to change the situation is really fighting to steal the loot for themselves. Also naturally they only talk to each other and are so used to agreeing with each other and repeating what they all think instead of seeing what is happening around them and actually arguing with other views that they end up as confused as Norbu Ghaley in #22 who can read jange sarcastically thanking me in #19 without understanding the sarcasm and simply repeats his own mantra against maoists like jange does, with no connection to anything anyone has said, but adding that he agrees with me (since he thought jange said so). There is simply no way for investors to function in a society where such people only able to steal and unable to think remain in power. There are plenty of people with other views even in Kathmandu. Take a look at the photo at that link. Why not try to actually meet and exchange views with some of these people instead of pretending to yourselves that everyone who doesn't think the same way as your friends is either a gangster or intimidated by gangsters? Can there be so many gangsters in Kathmandu? Can such a crowd be made up of people intimidated to come? Doesn't it show that there are enough people determined to end the kleptocracy that it cannot continue for long?

30. jange
The going rate for hydropower protection money from the Maoists is around 2 lakhs per MW. It looks like the Maoists did a miscalculation when extorting from a 300 MW project. The absolute amount in this case became too high hence the problems. Maybe Ashutosh can write some articles  on how to assess the market for extortion and how to set appropriate extortion rates.

31. Arthur
At the end of comment #29 my link did not work to a photo showing that even in Kathmandu there are very large numbers of people that commentators here could talk to for understanding other views. I used the link button in the new comment editor but not successfully (although the Boldface and Italics buttons worked).

Here is the link again:

32. rishav
Arthur, I don't know what country your from?!! Your obviously not Nepali, and have some rather idealistic left-wing views. You seem to sympathize with a lot of what the Maoist have to say and do. I doubt you have a ground reality understanding of what is happening to a lot of businesses both small and large in Nepal. The fact for many years these businesses have been forced to give back hand payments to the Maoists, is that not Gangsterish!!Hmmm!. Not surprisingly foreign investment projects such as in Hydroelectricity, is also noted as a good earner for this kind of activity. Africa you mention, foreign investors hungry will go any where that is a fact, taking risk that's what it is all about, Nigeria extremely corrupt but rich in oil attracts a lot of attention globally. The problems Nepal is facing now regard to water and electric shortages is due to the failure in Government to attract quality foreign investment in these sectors over the last 10 years or so, I guess the people's war didn't help what a waste of time that was. A lot is actually due to the foreign investors feeling it is too unsafe to commit to projects here. It is not just the Maoists that put them off, they are capitalist these investors after all, but dealing with a Government with the name United-Marxist Lennonists is not going to give a lot of confidence either unless their is strong commitment and trust of a free and fair market, look what Deng Xiaoping did for China, went against Chairman's Mao but instead galvanized and created a socialist market economy. Unfortunately, the Maoists and the other parties say one thing and do another, not enough I'm afraid to attract quality decent foreign investment, all we do seem to attract is a bunch of cow boys with poor records, or dodgy Indian Government officials trying to look for a quick bargain and we the Nepalese always come out worse on such deals. Arthur, my advice to you is to go and preach your socialist views in the democratic, capitalist starbucks drinking nation you probably come from. Convince them, if successful then come back and start expressing your views on sites like this. Nepal has had enough of these 3rd rate foreign analysts telling us Nepalese what we should be doing, even the maoists don't think much of your views. In fact when Dr Bhattari went to New york gave a lecture to a bunch of fat pony tail starbuck's coffee drinking communists, he said pretty much get off you fat arses and do something before telling me your theoretical BS of what should be happening in Nepal.

33. Arthur
Vivant, you may be right that the Maoist rank and file are inclined to believe that allowing private enterprise to flourish "will once again allow wealth and power to accumulate in the hands of the former-haves". That would seem natural since the only experience they have is of wealth and power being accumulated in those hands, which still have a grip on "private enterprise", a grip squeezing it so tightly that it can hardly exist, let alone flourish.

It is understandable that people who are certain they could not achieve anything in a modern society and view education merely as a form of social status like long fingernails would spend their time here bewailing the loss of their beloved Monarchy and hoping the Army could preserve their way of life by killing more people in another civil war. After all, could anyone imagine a profitable business run by people like Satyajeet Nepali, Prithvi Raj, Norbu ghaley, jange etc? What could they produce and who could they sell it to?

But why are so many others of the "educated civil society" here equally convinced that they have no future unless they can continue living off donor NGO funding? Why can't a "strictly business" journalist like Ashutosh Tiwari actually write about the business opportunities that would be open to people with education if they were not still locked in a desperate struggle to keep the majority of Nepalis, who have no education, out of power, deprived of education and unable to provide either a market or a labor force for business but forced to seek work and remittances from outside Nepal?

34. Anonymous
Note to moderator: I would appreciate if this comment is not clipped, I really have wanted to write this for some time and I have been careful not to be abusive or dismissive of anything.

Arthur, I am disappointed in the fact that you are talking more like a party propagandist than a reasonable person convinced by evidence in the virtue of the Maoist agenda. An argument about the superiority of an ideology or the suitability of a political structure for a country will never end. If plain reasoning could sort that problem out, the world would be a terribly boring place filled with compliant people with no individuality. 

However, Jange and Norbu Ghaley cannot be accused of repeating at all (maybe Jange to an extent). I find the reasoning extended by Norbu and Satya Nepali very reasonable and, because I have been to Nepal, I see a point in what they are saying. 

Now, more to the point. I have noticed that you repeatedly depend on the Maoist ability to mobilise a large crowd as evidence that their agenda is really representative of a large majority of Nepalese. I beg to differ. An assembly is no evidence that the argument being made and the agenda being pursued is the right one. It could simply mean that since the Maoists are the only people who can afford to gather for a meeting and not assaulted (because they control the largest armed militia anyway) they are the only ones gathering in large numbers. All you have to do is visit Nepal for as little as five days to realise the power of this militia and the fear they imbibe among ordinary people, as I did. And I assure you I was not even anywhere within a 100 miles of Kathmandu.

Meanwhile, I am not entirely certain that my experience of a short visit is evidence of any kind whatsoever. I am instinctively anti-communist, so naturally I let my bias slip in. But I do strongly believe that people such as you and I should not make sweeping comments about a society very foreign to us (and if you are western European even more than me) to make sweeping comments about social structures, particularly as complex as the one in Nepal. 

This brings me to my final comment. Could you not find something stronger than the abcdinstitute (say Mickey mouse academy:) to make your case. 

Don't get me wrong, I am certain that they are credible but they have worked hard to develop a solution for a different society and you can't use templates to design social and economic solutions. 

Doing that would require a whole lot more than blogging, abusing particular groups and raising fancy slogans. It requires careful work on gathering evidence, understanding it through close interaction with people that live these customs and contracts, and designing regulations based on principles that come from the society, not to it through the barrel of gun, shooting of teacher and mass kidnap of little children.

Since you also appear to have access to news sources other than this one, I hope you can find some archives which the extent of the Maoist brutality, insanity and the extent to which they have damaged this nation - for ever.

35. Anonymous
Arthur, I am convinced now that this is a waste of time but I still go on. Educated "civil society" does not look like it is in favour of these much vilified institutions at all. People expressing their opinions here are not part of civil society any more than you or I, they are simply ordinary people who see reason in ideas other than yours. And are bothered by issues other than what gets you.  

About remittances. Surely there are other countries under different political institutions that are dependent on remittances. Philippines a completely different society depends on remittances of its very hard working citizens (admittedly they also have a booming electronics export industry). This despite the fact that they have easy access to sea and therefore international trade. Of course, you could argue that they also need a Maoist governance to sort out that issue but the list of such nations just goes on. The point is that you seem to be attacking people for reasons other than their idea and that is simply not fair.   

You accuse that these people would hope to see that army killing more people in another civil war just to preserve their way of life. That is a perverse accusation. Nobody wants people to die, and surely you are aware that the army did not start this war and did not participate till much later in the insurgency. Instead it is apparent to a casual observer that it is the Maoist who would rather kill to get people to follow their idea of life and allow their control over resources - by stealing what belongs to others.

I am no expert on Nepal and its most important issue but I do find a complete lack of argument (the credible sort backed by evidence) on a whole range of issues that people are taking almost for granted (federalism, economic policy, history, structure of governance) and that is something that the Nepali commentators would have to defend and fight for themselves. But as an outsider to another, I find your arguments increasingly dogmatic.

The list of disagreements just goes on. I can, however, sympathise with you. My own bias is forcing me to participate in this forum when the events in Nepal hardly impact me at all. I know why you frequently write, I think it is because this could be the first time that like me you have actually gathered the courage to really stand up for something. And I think that is admirable, or may be not.

36. Krishna D
Arthur's word count: 1,582 words almost 1600 words. 

37. jange
Mr. Anonymous, your are being unduly pessimistic in thinking that the 10 years of Maoist murder loot and extortion have damaged this nation forever. Nepali society is strong enough to take it in its stride. It was a temporary lapse in critical thinking and common sense and we have paid the price. Unfortunately it is taking longer for people who egged on the violence, made excuses for it and hoped that the violence would further their social and political agenda to realise their errors and to make the necessary corrections.  This is especially true for the NT which, even as the Maoists were intimidating their political opponents during the elections considered them to be the only party representing "real change" (see issue 393). Fortunately ordinary Nepalis know better.

38. jange
The issues are quite simple. Was the Maoists' past and continuing violence legitimate and justifiable? If yes, then there is no need to complain as it is all in the cause of a higher objective. If no, then we have to ask ourselves whether all the so called political gains made as a result of the violence can be continued and maintained without further violence. It is the refusal to honestly answer simple questions that is at the root of all the problems. On the one hand you accept the fruits of the violence and at the same time you continue to protest when the Maoists use the same methods to achieve their aims.

39. jange
And don't forget, the NT rooted for the Maoists as the only party representing real change (issue 393 editorial). This is the change you wanted and you got it. So why complain?

40. Arthur
Rishav, "all we do seem to attract is a bunch of cow boys with poor records, or dodgy Indian Government officials trying to look for a quick bargain and we the Nepalese always come out worse on such deals". I agree. You think the foreign investors are scared off by Maoists and even the name of the UMLs. But you know that is not the case in China, which is almost as corrupt as Nigeria. The problem in dealing with the UMLs is not their name but their nature. They are only  capable of expressing pious aspirations, but not of actually implementing and delivering anything. So only "donors" can deal with them, not investors.

Previously the Government had no scary names like "Marxist" or "Leninist", but there was no foreign investment under Congress or the Panchayatis either. Certainly foreign investors would prefer to deal with people more like themselves rather than with Maoists. But there are few such people in a pre-modern semi-feudal society. The Maoists have proved they can implement and deliver by building an Army and YCL and other mass organizations. And yes they have also proved that they can implement a tax system - bo
th the payments businesses are forced to pay to the Maoists that you consider "gangsterism" and those they are now even forced to pay to the Government after a Maoist Minister for Finance organized to actually collect them. Businesses always complain about taxes but the countries where business and investment flourishes are also countries run by people who know how to implement and deliver services and how to collect taxes.

In Nepal the only party that shows the foggiest clue of what a modern society might look like is the Maoists. Even to get a road built in Nepal you have to sneak past the Kangresis and UML NGOs and find a contractor that works with the Maoists. It is completely unimaginable that a large hydro project will get built in Nepal before a competent government led by the Maoists is in charge.
All any investors are doing in the meantime is detailed project studies to prepare for the future and even for donor funded projects, ADB and World Bank insist on Maoist representatives attending negotiations rather than having to just deal with what currently pretends to be a government.

Anonymous, I hope Krishna D is keeping a word count for you too! That picture linked in comment 31 is worth more than a thousand words. Of course it does not prove anything about "the large majority of Nepalese" or that those assembled have the right ideas. What it does prove is that there are a lot of people, even in Kathmandu, with views very different from the narrow range of ideas in both articles and comments here.

Your theory that others are unable to assemble for fear of violence is clearly wrong - it is notorious that all parties regularly not only demonstrate but also enforce bandhs, with much smaller numbers than the Maoists and without any violence from Maoists.

We can agree about the lack of serious argument on important issues here. I think that is because the english speaking middle class in Nepal has relatively little contact with people that have different views from their own circles.

The article you describe as from a "Mickey Mouse Institute" is presumably the one from Battisputali in comment #19 in "Celebrating What's Good About Nepal". It is not part of "my case" but as well as my bias being pro-Maoist just as yours is "instinctively anti-communist" I happen to also be more interested in other views than you are.

PS For continued discussions a nickname would be better than "Anonymous" as there can be more than one "Anonymous". It need not be "Jim" ;-)

41. jange
From Arthur--"Even to get a road built in Nepal you have to sneak past the Kangresis and UML NGOs and find a contractor that works with the Maoists."  This simply proves what I have been saying all along. Maoists are Mafia. Work with a contractor who will give us our cut or don't work at all.

42. Arthur
jange, you already proved that the Maoist "donations" are voluntary when you boasted that you have attended three "extortion meetings" so far with no broken bones. Nobody reading that imagined it is because the Maoists like you - it is because the party policy prohibits actual extortion and breaking bones would be the only way to get a person like you to pay up.

Now you have agreed that the only people who know how to actually get work done are the Maoists. If you ran a business instead of just having money, you would of course still complain about the Maoists but you would be more willing to pay to get work done and spend less of your time dreaming of the days before the People's War when donors had not yet learned it was necessary to find a way past the Kangresis, Panchayatis and UML NGOs in order to actually get anything done.

Where in Nepal can you find actual workers who belong to UML or Congress unions? Workers have left the mafia organizations so they can only provide you with government officials and "reports".

43. jange
Thank you Arthur- Of course it is all voluntary. There really is no connection between not paying up and getting your bones broken, is there?  Guess I am just waiting to receive an offer that I cannot refuse!!  Of course it is not extortion. God forbid that glorious revolutionaries should extort or loot money!! It is just that we made an offer and you could not refuse!! 

44. rishav
Arthur. The Maoist can do no wrong in your eyes is pretty shocking. After1990 multiparty democracy, a newly elected government of Nepali Congress led by K P Bhattari created a new sense of freedom, openness and democratic ideals to express one self and do as one pleases in the confides of basic law and order without the fear of a Government backlash. Investors/Donors became more interested in doing business in Nepal with a legitimately elected democratic peoples Government. Corruption became a more common place but what south asian or any country in the world either communist/non communist, developed/non developed does not suffer from corruption. There was also political in fighting not that much different from today but at least it was done in democratic terms not by the threat of raising a gun, stick or fist. Democracy was only in it's infancy, 6 years from it's birth, comparing to the early days of democracy in the UK, USA and other successful democracies around the World it wasn't bad, when a bunch of disgruntled left wing opportunists decided to take arms against the state. By this act alone they had destroyed the hopes and dreams of many Nepalis who didn't want to be told or forced what to do any more but to make up their own minds. By taking up arms they had defaced, disrespected, shitted on the people's choice on how they would want to be governed and who they want to represent them. The sad thing is probably a lot of people writing in this column, even NT Kunda Dixit and family co,  probably would have agreed on a lot of what the Maoists were trying to raise in their early days but once they decided to take arms all respect and belief in their democratic credentials had gone. Their is no excuse for violence, intimidation and many of the evil tactics this extreme group has brought with them. When the UML ,through a democratic election free and fair, got in to power a lot of donor countries and investors then started to get cold feet in the mid to late 1990's. Despite being a quite well organized party at the time compared to NC, it was hard for them to get the same level of confidence in investors , despite their great efforts, with a noticeable drop in interest not surprisingly, people i guess just don't trust communists because they do things like take arms or nationalize institutions quite readily if things don't go their childish way. The real sad thing is that the maoists would probably have won a general election if they had just continued on the democratic path with out the need to take arms as the UML did, the maoist just didn't have any faith in the people of Nepal and that the people were actually more committed to change and the betterment of the nation than the Maoist could ever imagine. All that the people wanted was leaders who were deserving enough to direct a committed people who wanted change instead we got a bloody civil war. Their Gunderish tactics are their to all see, it was not along ago that the NT head quarters received a bit Maoist trade Union loving. Smashing windows looking for Journalists, I guess they deserved it hey Arthur they can do no wrong in your foreign middle class theorist but no action brain of yours. Reason why I mention middle class is how dear you talk about the middle class of Nepal in such disdain when your probably middle class yourself from what ever country your from?!

45. Anonymous
I am sure Krishna D would be kind enough not to bother. There is no doubt that people in Kathmandu hold different views, and that is something to be celebrated. However, in my view, you and many others fail to understand two very important points. First, is the extent to which the Maoist terror works on ordinary people. I will leave this just to a statement, there is no way to prove it other than by someone who lives in Nepal carefully explaining how it works.

Second is the limited influence of the "other" parties which lack a clear agenda anyway. Imagine why exactly anybody not deeply committed to the politics of UML or the Congress party would risk their neck in a rally or bother travelling all the way to the capital. 

They are in power because of the Maoists, following their agenda and have so far not presented any clearly stated alternative for forms of governance. At least that is the information I get from newspapers available to me. Both of these parties accepted republicanism, secularism, federalism and the demand for the Constituent Assembly without as much as allowing sufficient debate internally, again, that is what appears to be the case to an observer of news reports.

You have also sought to give the impression that the media is vocally against the Maoists. On the contrary. I have followed the press for the last six years and have concluded that other than one poorly edited rag, others take a pro communist stand. Of course, the intensity of that stance is on the wane but some ideas that have now become conventional wisdom in papers are notable. They are a universal agreement over the ideas described earlier, federalism etc. Now they may very well be right about arriving at those conclusion, but the fact that debate is so limited drives me to my next point.

In an environment where public discourse is removed from private values (of individuals), people like Norbu would find themselves isolated. This isolation would be better expressed by someone from Nepal, but my take on this is that almost no major leader is giving a clear indication of where exactly they stand (if they are on the right). And there is no movement that manages to tap into the angst of many over the tremendous loss that they have suffered. Unfortunately, I also believe that by the time they get to it, it would be too late.

46. Arthur
Anonymous, you "have followed the press for the last six years and have concluded that other than one poorly edited rag, others take a pro communist stand". There is really no hope of rational discussion with you.

Rishav, the hopes raised by the 1990 people's movement faded rapidly as nothing much changed in the villages where most Nepalis lived. You say "
the maoists would probably have won a general election if they had just continued on the democratic path with out the need to take arms as the UML did". Their enemies thought so too, and ended that possibility with Operation Romeo in late 1995. The People's War resulted in early 1996. Now they have won general elections and their enemies are still desperately trying to avoid implementing the peace agreement by maintaining a huge anti-democratic army in the hope of eventually being able to launch another round of civil war.

jange is right on one point. Either join him in advocating a return to civil war or accept that you lost the last one and really don't want another so you will have to stop pretending that the villages can remain as they were in 1990 while the corrupt enjoy their "new sense of freedom, openness and democratic ideals to express one self and do as one pleases".

47. jange
Mr. Anonymous- "Both of these parties accepted republicanism, secularism, federalism and the demand for the Constituent Assembly without as much as allowing sufficient debate internally, again, that is what appears to be the case to an observer of news reports." This is the core of the problem. The parties signed the 12 point agreement with, literally, a gun pointed at their heads. Same with regard to monarchy, federalism etc. etc. As this has happened without the normal democratic processes of political parties they are out on a limb as they are never sure whether there is genuine support for what they are proclaiming; whether it has broad based political support or not. Even the CA election was held with the Maoists holding their guns and the rest of the parties unarmed and defenseless with even the state security institutions unable to defend them as the Maoists killed, maimed and otherwise intimidated them. Now that the other parties are beginning to see the folly of their actions and beginning to lose the fear of the Maoists things are beginning to unravel. Of course this suits the Maoists just fine as their intention is to weaken all the institutions of the country, except their own, in order to carry out "state capture". The Maoists are very clear in this. It is simply that the other parties are hoping that this is not so, despite the massive evidence against it.

48. Arthur
Since the Royal Army was confined to barracks and the People's Liberation Army was confined to cantonments during the elections, the "normal democratic processes of political parties" was only able to kill a few dozen Maoists in incidents like the Gaur massacre and was unable to prevent the election of a Constituent Assembly that almost unanimously abolished the Monarchy at its first sitting. Only an election conducted at gunpoint by the Army and the parties subservient to it could ensure voters are not "intimidated" from voting as directed by landlord gangs and "patrons" and restore what jange wants, a centralized Hindu Monarchy with corrupt politics. The whole mantra about gangsterism and the concern for foreign investment is simply aimed at making things "unravel".

jange knows there was no foreign investment and lots of gangsterism under his centralized Hindu Monarchy and that is precisely what he wants. But there is a big problem, The people don't want another civil war and the Army knows it could not win the last civil war and the Maoists are stronger, not weaker now. The people want peace and a constitution that is not subject to dictation by the monarchist army. So all jange can do is keep chanting his mantras and hope that things unravel.

Perhaps things will unravel. If it was up to those joining in jange's mantras here they might. But I wonder whether even rishav actually wants another round of civil war. My guess is that people like rishav, will, like the Congress and UMLs just keep on dragging their feet, resisting and complaining but in the end they know that killing more thousands in another civil war will still not restore the old Nepal so they have no alternative but to carry out the peace agreement "at gunpoint".

49. Anonymous
Wow, you are really shifty Arthur. You quote one line without ever reading the following line immediately reject me as irrational, call yourself a liberal and then move on to attack an unsuspecting fellow, make new unfounded baseless charges and then move on.

50. Rishav
I don't drag my feet Arthur, I stand by my principles of peace, non-violence, no political intimidation, dialogue, free-fair elections and encouragement of successful capitalists to help our fledgling nation develop economically and socially. Don't start blaming the Nepali police force as the reason for the Maoist Insurgency. A cleverly orchestrated movement of taking arms, seizing peoples land and handing out their own form of Kangaroo justice was occurring in Rolpa at the beginning. What did you expect the authorities to do, as any Government around the World would and engage such groups. Unfortunately, certain forms of engagement as seen in Afghanistan and Iraq creates victims of the conflict which play straight into the hands of the insurgents, the Maoists knew this would happen. It wasn't anything wrong perhaps that the Government engaged against the rebels, it was the manner how it was done with a lot of innocent civilians caught up in the violence and fertile area for recruitment by the maoists. Hate breeds hate, what the conflict in that region showed was the naivety in dealing with groups like this but could you blame them, look at America and it's dealings in Afghanistan and Iraq. Also we are talking about a young, newly assembled democratic Nepal Government of 1995, only had been around for 5 years and obviously didn't have the experience or knowledge of what could happen, none of the so-called experts did.  What we have learned from the whole civil war is the need to open dialogue as soon as possible and to renounce violence. 14,000 people dead because the Maoist didn't have faith in the Nepali people's will and spirit for change. 14,000 people dead so we can get a bunch of politicians foolish, two-faced like Prachanda heading the Government. 14,000 people dead so this Mr Dahal can behave the way he did whilst he was in power and then really showing his appreciation of the sacrifice of so many lives by stepping down and running away like a child when he couldn't deal with the political problems at the time, what a coward, what a waste!! Arthur you keep quiet when asked where your from and why such interest in Nepal, what connection do you have to Nepal?? 

51. bridohi

It seems there is a more sinister side to this story. The Maoists were unable to capture the state militarily. Now their new strategy is to capture the state by gripping the economic jugular. What the PLA has not been able to accomplish, the Maoist Trade Union/YCL has made greater in roads in creating instability in the state through intereference in the economic sector. Businesses, industries & investment is drying up in Nepal. There is capital flight. Maoist trade unions have made the psychological & economical cost of doing business in Nepal untenable. Any sound business/normal person will look to alternatives. The only thing business that is flourishing in Nepal is real estate business (which is bound to crash anytime when it is artificially inflated/manipulated) & foreign labour market.

There is a school of thought circulating in Nepal that states that it is money invested/circulated from a certain party that has been instrumental in raising the real estate value. The other business of brain/labour drain means it is easier to control the masses when most working/thinking people migrate. The Grand Design strategy is to make it unbearable for all Nepalis to work & live in Nepal, so the Maoists can easily capture the state by bending its will.

52. Brad
No one will invest in an unstable country. Nepal is not stable. While it is easy to blame the Maoists, Congress, etc, the real problem is much more complex - although Maoists and Congress are part of it. Note that Amnesty International was critical of BOTH the PLA and the RNA.

Nepalis are some of the hardest working people on the planet, but they are not very good at organizing  or working together. This is true not only for political leaders, but for many ordinary citizens as well. Walk through any neighborhood in Kathmandu and the streets will be strewn with trash. The attitude of "dog eat dog" and "take care of yourself even at the expense of others" is all too prevalent at every level of Nepali society, even within families.

Most of the world is aghast when they learn of the large number political parties exist in Nepal. Too often when there is a conflict within a party - the party splits. Consensus is nearly impossible to reach in Nepal  because of this sort of attitude.

Presently, the country is considering dividing along ethnic lines. Testament to the lack of cohesiveness within the society, and the very opposite of the direction the country should go.

Until this changes and there is a general cultural change where people start working towards a greater good - rather than that of themselves, family, party, ethnic group etc - Nepal will continue in a downward spiral towards a failed state.

The other option is a strong benign dictatorship. I wouldn't trust either Gynendra nor Parras in this role, and judging by the size of the royal coffers ( a crime against humanity given Nepal's poverty), the country hasn't been able to trust the monarchy in this role for decades.

Yes I know there are glaring examples of selflessness and community organization in Nepal. They are far too few, and are not modeled enough by the general society. JFK said "ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country". Words to consider strongly in Nepal.

You can blame the Maoists, government, congress - but the fault is really of the Nepali people - particularly the educated elite.

53. Homey
@ 52. Brad: "You can blame the Maoists, government, congress - but the fault is really of the Nepali people - particularly the educated elite"

My father is a retired civil servant who got the gold medal from King Birendra for his integrity and service. My elder brother studied overseas, came back to Nepal to set up his own business, now works 18 hours a day, employs over 60 people.
I studied my ass off to graduate from Britain's top university while my mates were getting drunk and getting laid in Kathmandu. I am back here in Kathmandu now to do something in my own country. That probably makes me an educated elite in your book. So how is that my fault???

54. Brad
Not your fault individually idividually Homey. There are of course examples of people who are trying to work cooperatively for the Nepal - but too few.

 If you went to Britain to school, you are educated elite. That is not a bad thing, but is a factual statement. You are educated far above the the norm of Nepal making

The problem I see it with the educated elite are multifold:
1. As a class, educated Nepalis are avoiding politics. Business owners and those with political capitol fail to use their capitol, except occassionally  for their own benefit. For example, if the business owners of Nepal started organizing and putting money and support behind good candidates, this would help bring about change. I don't see this happening though.  Politics are left to politicians.
2. Those that do participate, seem to fall into the same old system. I met one of your current leaders grandchildren who was in nursing school in the US on a gov't scholarship. He proudly told me he wasn't actually going to school, but was still collecting the stipend.
3. Too small a percentage of those who study abroad do come home. This is understandable, but tragic and damaging to the country nonetheless.The brain-drain in Nepal is tremendous.


55. Dhan Bahadur Lama
I have been living in US for almost 15 years and last 7 years have owned couple of small businesses here.
I wanted to invest in Nepal and so took a trip to Nepal in Fall of 2009 for 3 weeks and since then have never thought of doing anything in Nepal - even though I initially really wanted to do something.

reason - people's attitude have changed so much and every opportunity I gathered -I had to think about how do I navigate this labor issue, that govt bureaucracy.
So no thanks.. never invest in Nepal - will never think again either

(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)