Nepal needs incremental changes from the bottom to change; the top down approach has not worked
The New Year, which always seems to arrive sooner than expected, presents a fitting moment to pause in retrospection. In Nepal, though we have the privilege of celebrating multiple New Year celebrations, the culture of deep reflection and resolution-making is often dismissed as unimportant. Our strategy largely revolves around pushing things to the next year and later drowning in missed deadlines and opportunities.
Reflection is an important aspect of meaning-making. Numerous studies have highlighted its importance in success. A study led by psychologists Giada Di Stefano, Francesca Gino, Gary Pisano, and Bradley Staats demonstrated that employees who spent 15 minutes at the end of the day reflecting about lessons learned performed 23 percent better after 10 days than those who did not reflect. Keeping the spirit of reflection in mind, this piece highlights several resolutions for Nepal for the upcoming year.
In Nepal, ‘time’ often appears to be an obscure concept. Events rarely start on time and deadlines are often contorted to appear as ‘suggestions’. This year, the government personified these ideas. Deadlines were consistently missed and stagnation seeped through all federal levels. Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli, perhaps, could lead the way in challenging this culture in the upcoming year. By committing to time and remaining true to deadlines, his leadership can inspire a rupture in this seemingly perpetual ‘leave it for tomorrow’ attitude that we continue to promote in the country.
The year has also bore witness to many instances of violation of basic norms and ethics. There have been plenty of examples of misuse of public funds—from parliamentarians pocketing the salary of their staff, to excessive paid junkets and lavish religious events sponsored with public funds. Criticism towards the president’s lavish spending has also reminded many of the Monarchy. The president must lead by example by traveling with less fanfare and desiring no expensive privileges.
Like previous years, lots of skeletons have come out of the closet: be it gold smuggling, construction scams, telecom scams, tax evasion or the judiciary being embroiled in grafts. This year, let us see that these big cases are actually investigated. And, most importantly, let us see culprits going to jail and not getting out on a Rs. 50,000 fine. This will surely send a good signal to the world that the corrupt-days of the Nepali judiciary and parliamentarians are history.
The discourse on whether federalism is good or bad and should (or will) happen or not also needs to end. Our duty as law abiding citizens following the provisions of the constitution is to work together to make federalism work. Every citizen can play a role but the folks in the government have bigger roles. They must ensure that the plethora of pieces of legislation need to be passed and institutional structures be put forward.
The political system of Nepal was run during a transition period by a political cartel fittingly termed as the All Party Mechanism (APM). This year, we actually have an opposition in our parliament and provincial assembly. It is important that the opposition parties understand the powerful role they have in a democracy. Unlike previous years, this is a government that will run for another four years and if the opposition does not do anything, they will be again out of business for another five. Thereafter, it is time for relaxing with excellent geriatric care, not being in politics.
In 2018, we saw the liquidity crisis taking different shapes and banks carteling (and de-carteling). The Nepal Rastra Bank was trying hard to convince people to take steps-which is a similar approach to prescribing contraceptive pills to cure malaria. We need more trained economists in corporations and banks. There are many young Nepali economists who are waiting for the right opportunity to show what they can deliver. There are think tanks that are more than happy to help the institutions. Let’s leave the guessing game to soothsayers with parrots at Ratna Park. There are so many others just waiting to exercise their full potential.
In 2018, the proposed Integrity policy-which was led by a government that belongs to a party that is entrenched in the business of development—has raised mixed signals. We need to ensure that if there are not for profit organizations or INGOs that do consulting, get them under the Companies Act. Let us get the Trust Act and other frameworks for Family trusts and foundations. Let us ensure that accountability is practiced and governance prevails. May be start with small things like not billing alcohol consumption as chicken chilly while submitting bills. The Social Welfare Council (SWC) should be made contemporary in its thoughts and action. There is a lot of global philanthropy money along with the multilateral and bilateral available if Nepal behaves well and can spend the money it gets on the right things.
We also need to understand that when an economy grows, it needs more money to fuel further growth. Managers of poverty programs do not get this well and therefore, they start pushing restrictive and prohibitive measures which will further aggravate the problem. We need to understand that when a business grows, it needs more working capital to take care of its growth. Even a 6.5 percent growth means close to $2 billion, we need money to fuel this growth.
Another sector that could benefit from reflection is the economy. There is an urgent need for economic reforms. Capital from around the world is waiting for good opportunities. Investment Summits may work, but past performance does not give any indication that we know how it works.
Lastly, we need to ensure that we pause a little before we start on the blame game. When we point fingers at others, three are pointing at oneself. Before talking about corruption please do ask, do you go to temples and make unfair wishes? Before blaming bankers for high interest rates, do you now enjoy super returns from banks as shareholders? Before complaining about services, ask how you deliver the service? Nepal needs incremental changes from the bottom to change; the top down approach has not worked.