January 20, 2022 Sujeev Shakya

Hello, 2022

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If we have a better set of folks managing the country, better governance would help accelerate growth.

The year 2021 is best forgotten for Nepal if you look at politics. Parliament did no business, and inter-party squabbles kept the parties going. With the conventions of the major political parties over, the trailer for the mess coming up in elections 2022-23 is already out. There will be lots of money exchanged for party tickets as corruption, power and money seem to become synonymous with politics. Of course, the judiciary has also got into its own set of controversies. So, 2021 came and went, but Nepalis moved on. So, what could be some perspectives of hope for the coming year? I just thought of looking at a few. 

When you take a plane after sunset flying in different parts of Nepal, one can see villages, towns and cities glittering in the dark. This is a stark contrast to five-six years ago when Nepal reeled under up to 16 hours of power cuts daily. Night flights are becoming popular, and it is nice to see a passenger from Bhadrapur transit in Kathmandu for a bit and then take off to Bhairahawa, something we could not have thought about a decade back. At highway eateries, not only refrigerators, but we see multiple electric appliances and the big coffee making machines becoming something one can spot in even remote places. Electricity has also ensured towns and villages stay open longer, which means more economic activities. Night classes for working people are becoming a reality, albeit private institutions are raking it in. 

Global icons

One film can uplift a nation. 14 Peaks: Nothing is Impossible, chronicling the ascent of peaks by Nirmal Purja and the team has created ripples around the world, and perhaps given hope to many young Nepalis. It has helped to change how Western climbers get all the spotlight, but people make their climbs happen. The Sherpas who build the trekking trails in Norway to the Nepalis who go to Goa and Uttarakhand to manage and guide adventure sports activities are setting global aspirations. Similarly, a Nepali chef in the United Kingdom, Santosh Shah, has lifted the spirits of many Nepalis working in kitchens worldwide. His book will help introduce the diversity of Nepali cuisine to the world, and perhaps we may see some Nepali fusion restaurants and Nepali chefs winning Michelin stars. 

When people ask me about the transformation of Bangladesh in the last decade, I talk about how the introduction of ride-hailing services changed freedom of movement, especially for women. Women were sitting on bikes behind strangers; something people could not have comprehended just a decade back. Similarly, Instagram and TikTok have changed what it means to express oneself. As a friend said, look at these young people who express themselves, and the older generation which imposed a lot of taboos cannot do anything but smile. At friends’ weddings, I remember how daughters-in-law could not dance in front of their father and mothers-in-law, and now videos of all kinds fill internet space. Restaurants are changing to take care of people who want to see better décor, better presentation of food and one Instagrammer can make or break one’s business. Of course, everything can have a dark side, but if we can focus on the positive transformations and the changes, we can appreciate how society is transforming.

We cannot tire talking about the resilient nature of Nepalis who have little hope in their government and take things into their own hands to move ahead. We saw through 10 years of the insurgency, earthquake, natural disasters and now the pandemic. Nepalis push on; they find their solutions to their problems. Youth support groups emerge from somewhere to help, and social media has played a significant role in connecting the people with issues and people willing to help. It is beautiful to see organisations coming out to feed the hungry, take care of street animals and ensure people get hospital beds and oxygen supplies during difficult times. This nature of resilience continues to give hope to Nepal, unleashing its potential.

Economy moves on

The Nepali economy has nothing to do with income, it has to do with assets; and as long as asset prices rise, there is enough money in the system. Every Nepali household has someone outside Nepal, and the money they send back keeps the Nepali economy going. We have seen remittances continue to grow, and the only change could be that the mix of formal and informal remittances have changed. Imports surged, which means people have money to spend, and consumption did not take a hit like in other countries. Nepalis will never compromise on what they eat and drink and how they will hold their social functions like weddings, birthdays and endless festivities. This ensures that the economy moves. If the formal economy goes through challenges like liquidity crunch, then the informal economy starts to take dominance. Further, Nepalis learning to discover their own country and telling the world about their country has pushed domestic tourism during the pandemic and this will only grow. 

So, looking ahead to 2022, we will see many such societal transformations increase, and the economy will keep moving. If we have a better set of folks managing the country, then perhaps the process of reforms and better governance would help accelerate economic growth.

Read in Kathmandu Post – https://bit.ly/32xlSwF