January 2, 2013 Sujeev Shakya

2013: The Year of Hope

JAN 01 – When one looks back at 2012, one keeps on wondering whether it was a good year or a bad year. If one just wants to go by the newspaper headings and the endless discussions on television, it may seem things have become far worse than when we began a year back. However, there are lot of things to cheer about and, therefore, we at Beed have christened 2013 as Year of Hope for Nepal.

In 2012, people realised that their economic and social development was not really tied to politics. If there is stability, it is well and good; but six decades of Nepali political history shows that political instability is the only constant. Therefore, people, especially outside Kathmandu, have realised that we need to be entrepreneurial, try out new ideas and build a sustainable income stream.

People are also realising that there is more economic growth; one sees fewer signboards of INGOs and NGOs. The business of poverty and yelling at the top of their voices that Nepal is poor does provide a few consulting jobs and sustains a few NGOs, but that will not change the tide for Nepal. Nepal is a country of 26 million people, more than Australia and three-fourths of Canada. So the livelihood sustenance of so many people and the growth of their aspiration will continue to fuel growth. Of course, a lot of seminars will be organised to determine whether such growth fuelled by consumption is right or wrong, but the reality is that consumption will only drive the economy.
The year 2012 has also shown that if there is a will, there is a way for the government to enforce law and order. The zero tolerance to drinking and driving celebrated its anniversary, but the liquor business and consumption did not decline. Only the modes of distribution and consumption changed and saved many lives. We forget that only a small segment of Nepali society owns vehicles, so the law does not impact the majority. Women traffic cops stand on the roads late at night to check potentially male drunken drivers. Where else in South Asia can this happen? We have more women taking on the reins of households, wheels and jobs. The time has come to change the views of gender experts, those who make money talking about gender mainstreaming at seminars, and yell at domestic women or their daughters-in-law at home.

The year 2012 saw the unearthing of financial crimes, the unfolding of more stories of the business-politics nexus, the loss of credibility of private sector associations and the occasional guts of the judiciary. This has made people wonder whether spending time to run around finding more designations to put on one’s business card rather than focusing on the real stuff of growing one’s business is not a waste of time. More people are realising

that it is better to corporatize, follow transparency and inculcate professionalism for  sustainable growth. People in rural areas and small towns, who are continuously taken to various donors, INGOs and NGO meetings, are realising that is better to focus on one’s business that has become successful rather than waste time at endless meetings, seminars and other programmes.

People are also realising that one can do well and excel in the things one does without kowtowing to politicians or having a bureaucrat as a relative. Communication, the internet and social media have changed how people, in different parts of the country, perceive livelihoods. This change is permanent, and if politicians and private sector players cannot understand this, they will definitely be left behind. Customers and voters are similar: if you cannot take care of them, someone else will.

The power of Glo-Yuva, the ever globalising Nepali youth, will change the discourse and Nepal’s course in the future. In the scene of the arts, literature and music, while the older generation gets felicitated at mutual admiration clubs, it is the younger generation that is laughing all the way to the bank. Younger IT entrepreneurs are making better bucks and are looking beyond Nepal, as the older ones are still busy seeking votes for the next association election. More young Nepalis are taking to education, changing the lives of many more younger ones.

Outside Nepal, icons like Prabal Gurung are shaping the ambition of Nepalis, and nothing in this world remains outside the realm of a young Nepali. Listening to college Nepalis gives you the best hope: they see the society, the world and Nepal prospering and changing for the better. In 2013, older leaders in all realms of life, should go and listen to these young minds, not go and lecture them on issues they are either not interested in or are far from the reality they live in.

The stagnation of the European economy is already letting foundations and other investors under the US$ 10 million range to look for avenues of investment. They are going to Africa; and in South Asia, Nepal continues to be the best destination for them, as in India, without US$ 100 million, it is difficult to make any noise. We are already seeing many of them doing their familiarisation trips; in 2013, some of them will actually materialise.

The business of development will start shifting to direct engagement with the issue rather than continuously writing reports, hosting seminars and conferences or organising junkets. Linking enterprise to the sustainability of philanthropic and other development activities has begun, which will start taking shape in a bigger way. The uniqueness of Nepal will strengthen community involvement with more public private community partnerships (PPCP) that will surely push at least some hydropower projects to make history by being the first to use community as comparative and strategic advantage.

Tourism will continue to see growth; and it is time for tourism entrepreneurs to start thinking of how can we tap the 10 percent of the 26 million Nepali population for domestic tourism rather than trying to figure out one’s pie out of the million tourists that come to Nepal. With road networks increasing along with vehicle density, domestic movement will grow in the years to come.

If Nepal needs to focus in 2013, it will be on just two things which can happen whether a constitution is made or not or whether an election takes place or not. One, the discourse has to shift from rights to responsibilities and becoming accountable to society. A new constitution will not force instant noodles or other packaged food sellers to pick up the trash they generate, but the companies can definitely charge 50 paisa for collecting each packet through their dealer network and dispose it responsibly. Similarly, the private sector can come out with a code of conduct that they can abide by. Labour unions can just think of one responsibility they can take on additionally for every 10 rights they demand.

Second, inculcation of civic sense can begin and be propagated. Companies and organisations that get posters stuck on to every open space they get, that also without paying, should feel responsible for removing them. Vehicle dealers, who run profitable businesses, can help to make people “realise” not “train” them on issues of civic responsibilities while driving. Schools can start make this something for their students to grow up with, and perhaps teachers should be the ones to inculcate the habit in themselves first. Nepal has moved a long way since it opened up to the outside world in 1950. In 2013, let us hope it will move further. Of course, for Nepal to unleash its potentials.

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