27 Oct - 2 Nov 2017 #881

Beggars can choose not to beg

Nepal is not poor, it is just poorly managed
Anil Chitrakar
Gopen Rai

This the first installment of my new fortnightly column in Nepali Times. In this space over the coming months I will try to change the way we think of Nepal and to help start a positive conversation to enable this beautiful country to become prosperous and well-governed.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi declared in his rousing speech in 2014 to Nepal’s Constituent Assembly: “Kya nahi he apke paas” (What does Nepal not have?). We indeed have it all, and yet we are still focused on what we do not have.

Decades ago, the joke in Kathmandu was that planners and politicians who travelled to Europe concluded that the reason the UK was ‘developed’ was because even small children spoke English. Many remember the Prime Minister Deuba’s outburst on BBC Sajha Sawal that there was no way he could get enough Oxford educated people to run this country.

For many years, Nepal’s rulers have complained that one could never develop a country that was so mountainous, not realising that it is the same mountains that give us our huge potential to generate hydroelectricity. For decades we looked upon our youth population as a liability, while other countries took them away and put them to work building infrastructure and their own economies.

Instead of taking advantage of the fact that Nepal is situated in between two of the world’s largest and fastest growing economies, we have blamed our poverty on something we can do nothing about – that we are landlocked.

Every two weeks in this column I will challenge this mindset and explore new possibilities for Nepalis. Over the years Nepal has been a beneficiary of aid which has actually diminished our ability to manage and solve challenges ourselves. The real capacity seems to be to convert every problem into a begging bowl. We are now too addicted to aid that we have no shame in asking China to donate stationery to be used in our voting booths in the last elections.

Is Nepal poor? No, it is just so much easier to beg. In the meantime, our government has no problem buying expensive vehicles for politicians and officials. Look at the vehicles that ply the congested streets of Nepal, look at the houses we live in, the clothes we wear. Look at the restaurants we eat in . Nepal is not poor, just poorly managed.

I am naming this column ½ Full because the Nepali ‘glass’ has a lot in it already. It is at least half full. We need to build on what we have, and not try to start from zero. We do not need to invent a door every time we have to leave the room. The aspirations that we have for Nepal are achievable if we focus on these assets, capabilities, skills and knowledge, but more importantly, the good decisions we need to make.

Nepal’s glass is also half full because good decisions come from experience, and experience can consist of past bad decisions. We have made enough mistakes, and this has made us more experienced. We must have a larger public debate that leads to good decisions for a prosperous and peaceful Nepal.

This week the media is carrying a story quoting the Ministry of Agriculture that Nepal is to have a bumper rice harvest worth Rs108 billion, which translates into a record 5.4 million tons of Nepal’s favourite and staple food. That is a lot of rice, food, nutrition, carbohydrates and should be able to meet the annual requirement of 146 kg of rice a year of every Nepali eating two meals of rice a day.

The government says the greater harvest was due to an increase in cropping area, good rainfall, irrigation, technology, fertiliser and seed inputs. And yet, the World Bank and Asian Development Bank brought down its earlier GDP growth forecast saying the floods in September reduced rice production. Let’s wait and see who is right.

Anil is President of Siddharthinc

comments powered by Disqus