4-10 September 2015 #774

Annus horribilis

We are just halfway through 2015, and what a year it has already been. After much back-and-forth, to-and-fro, hither-tither, pillar-to-post, not to mention hemming-and-hawing, it was bound to happen: we are stuck with the ‘F’ word. 

In their hurry to get to power, the Four-pack tried to bulldoze through a quickie constitution via Federal Express. Now, all hell has broken lose. No one is happy. The grunts are disgruntled, Brahmins are on warpath even though the deal was done between the all-Brahmin leadership of the parties, the Madhesis are all worked up but they’re not exactly sure what they are so worked up about, the Saffron Brigade is brandishing tridents, the Tharus are up in arms, the Newars are planning a motorcycle rally. Everyone has called for infinite, nationwide overlapping bunds. Most parts of the country have multiple shutdowns on the same day, including curfews which are government shutdowns enforced with Hawaii Fire. All we need now is for someone in Kathmandu to also declare a definite bund demanding that the capital also be shut down indefinitely so we don’t have to go to work for the unforeseen future.

In all this doom and gloom, it is tempting to throw up your hands and say, “That’s it, I’m emigrating to New Zealand.” But instead of whining and dining, we would urge our valuable customers not to take any hasty decisions, Nepal is destined for greater things. It is our defeatist attitude that makes us see the glass as half-empty when it is actually completely empty. These hurt-alls are a boost to the economy, they are great for GDP growth, and we should have more of them. Let’s just look at what we have achieved with three weeks of shutdowns:

1. Nepal saved 500 million litres of petrol and diesel in three weeks thus wiping our Balance of Payments deficit with India. If we have another month of this, we will even have a trade surplus. Of course there is a shortage of LPG in Kathmandu, but as the Great Helmsman himself once remarked you can’t make a cheese omelet without milking the yak.

2.  Till last month, there used to be 50 highway fatalities in Nepal every week. Which means the nationwide shutdowns have saved 150 lives so far. This is a stupendous achievement for which the full credit goes to the arsonists and the security forces.

3.  Our back of the envelope calculation also shows that in the past three weeks, 65 goats, 27 ducks and 450 chicken that would have been victims of road kill on our highways lived to see another day, just so they can be sacrificed during Dasain.

4.  More than 7,000 marriage processions with lavish juntis, baja gaja, sumptuous banquets and other unnecessary wedding expenses were not incurred because of highway closures, riots, tear gas, rubber bullets and petrol bomb attacks. The cumulative cash savings to the national treasury from non-nuptials nationwide is estimated at a couple of arabs. 

5.  Nepalis all over the country saved another 100 corrodes because they couldn’t get to hospital and were therefore spared having to pay exorbitant medical bills. 

6.  The bunds have achieved what decades of government policy interventions have not managed to do: reduce outmigration to the Gulf and Malaysia and induced thousands of Nepalis to stay on in Nepal. The reason being that they just couldn’t get a bus to travel to Kathmandu to take flights out.

7.  Meanwhile, tens of thousands of jobless youth were provided three weeks of full-time employment on a daily minimum wage basis setting up highway barricades, setting fire to buses and carrying out target practice with projectiles aimed at fast-moving motorcyclists. This has enhanced the purchasing power of the population, and had a multiplier effect on the economy.

8.  Nepal’s annual GDP growth rate has therefore now been revised to go up by 1.5% this fiscal ear also because of the dramatic increase in the sales of gin, vodka, whiskey, rum, beer and moonshine during the bund period. 

9.  A new national sport has been launched to replace Dandi Biu. It’s the Dandi Charge, and our athletes have been practicing it day and night on the streets. By the time it is included in the Olympics as an official sport, Nepal should be able to bag a couple of golds.  

10.  Tourism entrepreneurs have short-sightedly called for a ban on bunds. That would be counter-productive. We should look at marketing hurt-alls to potential visitors by having niftily designed signage promoting deserted streets, pollution-free cities and free treks from the airport to hotel.

11. And it’s not just Nepal that has benefited. India has also come out smelling like roses. Earlier, when India blockaded Nepal it used to be criticised internationally for being a bully, now they just get the Nepalis to blockade Nepal.

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