Sujeev Shakya

Articles & Publications

उच्च व्यावसायिक नेतृत्व

नम्र स्वभावका, जहिले पनि चिटिक्क देखिने, सबैलाई आदर गर्ने उद्योगपति थिए– प्रभावकर शमशेर राणा । उनीसंँग मेरो करिब ३० वर्षको यात्रा विविध संस्मरण र सम्झनाले भरिएका छन् । ग्लोबल नेपाली : मेरो उनीसँगको प्रथम भेट म सोल्टी होटलमा तालिम लिन जाँदा भएको थियो । उनीसँगको मेरो गहकिलो भेटचाहिँ चार्टर्ड एकाउन्टेन्ट बनेर बधाई लिँदाको थियो ।

उनले प्रोत्साहनसाथै नेपालमा केही गर्न आह्वान पनि गरेका थिए । त्यसबेलासम्म नेपालमा काम गर्ने कि अन्य देशबाट प्राप्त अवसर अँगाल्ने भन्ने दोधारमा थिएँ म । उनीसित जति नजिकिंँदै गएँ, त्यति ग्लोबल नेपालीका रूपमा यहीं बसेर गर्न सक्छु भन्ने विश्वास बलियो हुँदै गयो ।

सायद उनको समयमा नेपालमा धेरै कम व्यक्ति थिए, जसले दिल्ली, लन्डन र वासिङगटन डिसीमा काठमाडौंमा झैं आफ्नो नेटवर्क बनाएर बसे । बेस्मेन्टमा रहेका अफिसका कोठाहरूलाई उनले विश्वको महत्त्वपूर्ण कोठा बनाइसकेका थिए । जहाँ संसारका बिभिन्न ठाउँबाट नाम चलेका व्यक्तिहरू आउँथे र भलाकुसरी गरिन्थ्यो । सत्ता दाउपेचका कुरासम्म हुन्थे । नेपालमै बसेर ग्लोबल हुन सकिन्छ भनी प्रभाकरले सिकाए ।

व्यापारिक शैली ः उनी व्यापारी बनेर जन्मेका पनि होइनन्, तर व्यापारसँंग जोडिँदै गएपछि लगानीकर्ता बनेका हुन् । उनी आफ्नो ‘करिअर’ परराष्ट्र मन्त्रालयबाट सुरु गरेको सुनाउँथे । तर त्यसलाई छाडेर पछि सोल्टी होटलमा म्यानेजर भए । जागिरे भएको २० वर्षपछि लगानीको अवसर आउन थाल्यो र उनी त्यसैका लगानीकर्ता बने । व्यस्थापनमा रहँदा उनले व्यवस्थापकको भूमिका निर्वाह गरे भने लगानीकर्ता बनेपछि लगानीकर्ताको रूपमा बोर्डको भूमिकामा आफूलाई सीमित राखे ।

व्यवसाय प्रोफेसनलहरूलाई चलाउन दिए । व्यवस्थापनमा अब्बल सहयात्रीहरू चाहिने कुरामा जोड दिए । होटल व्यवसायमा उनले ओबराय र पछि इन्टरकन्टिनेन्टलसँंग साँठगाँठ गरे । जलविद्युतमा अमेरिकी कम्पनीसंँग साझेदारी गरे । स्वमित्व र व्यवस्थापनलाई छुट्टै रूपमा हेरे । व्यवस्थापकहरूलाई उनी निकै छुट दिन्थे ।

सायद नेपालमा व्यापारी घरानाहरूले प्रोफेसनल व्यवस्थापकहरूलाई जिम्मा दिएर उद्योग, व्यापार चलाउने देखासिखी भएको भए सिन्डिकेटको आडमा विदेशी लगानीको विरोधमा उत्रेर व्यवसाय गर्नुपर्ने अवस्था आउने थिएन । उनी मसँग सोधिरहन्थे, ‘हाम्रो कर्पोरेट कल्चर देखासिखी गरेर होटल, हाइड्रो, गाडी डिलर गर्नेहरू किन अघि नबढेका होलान् ?’ त्यो प्रश्नको जवाफम खोजिरहेछु ।

नेतृत्व र मार्गदर्शक : नेतृत्वको कुरा गर्दा हामीले गुरु–चेलाको रूपमा हेर्ने गरेका छौं न कि मेन्टर र मेन्टी । सायद यो अवधारणामा विश्वास नगर्ने भएर होला, हामीले यसको नेपाली शब्दहरू पनि बनाएनौं ।

मेरा निम्ति प्रभाकर राणा जागिर दिने व्यक्तिमात्र थिएनन्, मार्गदर्शक थिए । सोल्टीमा पदका भर्‍याङ चढ्दै जाँदा जीवनका अनेक खुड्किलामा उनले प्रभाव पारे । समयको महत्त्व बुझाए । भेटघाट ठिक समयमा सुरु हुने प्रथा बसाले । ९ बजेको बैठक हो भने ८ः५७ सम्ममा बसिसक्नुपर्ने सिकाए । डायरीमा ६ महिना, ९ महिनापछिका कार्यक्रमको समय नोट गर्न सिकेँ । यात्रा गर्दा लबीमा ठ्याक्क समयमा भेटेर बैठकमा जान सिकेँ । आफूले गरेका कामको प्रतिक्रियामा उनी विश्वास राख्थे ।

त्याग्न सक्ने क्षमता : भनिन्छ, मानिसलाई त्याग्न सक्ने क्षमता आउन धेरै गाह्रो पर्छ । तर उनीबाट सबैले सिक्नपर्ने भनेकै त्याग्ने कसरी भन्ने हो । धेरै व्यापारिक घराना, राजनीतिक र अन्य संस्थामा एक पिढीकाले अर्को पिढीलाई नेतृत्व हस्तान्तरण नगर्दा समस्या धेरै आएका छन् । उनी भने कार्यभार त्यागेपछि कहिलै दख्खल दिन फर्कंदैनथे । पेसा, व्यवसाय छोरा सिद्धार्थलाई सुम्पेपछि उनले आफूलाई लागेका विषयमा समय बिताए । छोरालाई भार थाम्न सक्ने भएपछि मात्र नेतृत्व हस्तान्तरण गरे ।

सुशासन र पारदर्शिता ः सुशासन र पारदर्शिताको कुरा आउने बित्तिकै हामीलाई दातृ संस्थाका कुनै प्रतिवेदनको सम्झना हुन्छ । किनकि हामीले यी दुई शब्दलाई धर्ममा मोक्षजस्तो कुरा गर्न सकिने, तर प्राप्त गर्न नसकिने कुराको रूपमा सोचेका छौं । तर उनले नेपालमै बसेर यी दुई शब्दलाई अँगाले ।

उनी भन्थे, ‘कर बढी छ, लगाएको तरिका गलत छ । सरकारले त्यो पैसाको दुरुपयोग गर्न सक्छ भनेर कर तिर्दिन भन्न मिल्दैन ।’ कानुनी रूपमा गलत छ भने कानुनी रूपमै लड्नुपर्ने उनको सोच थियो । तर कर तिर्दिन भन्न मिल्दैन भन्थे । त्यही सिद्धान्त अनुरुप उनले स्थापना गरेका कम्पनीहरू अहिले पनि वर्षेनि कर विभागबाट पुरस्कृत हुन्छन् ।

प्रभाकरसंँगै एउटा युगको अन्त्य भयो । उनका बारे कसैले पुस्तक लेख्लान् । उनको जीवनबाट हामीले सिक्ने कुरा धेरै छन् ।
https://bit.ly/2WDSrFi

Nepal still awaits economic reform

Nepal is struggling to implement much-needed reforms for rapid economic growth. When Khadga Prasad Sharma Oli was sworn in as Prime Minister in March 2018, he was expected to go about delivering ‘Prosperous Nepal, Happy Nepali’ — a slogan that helped secure his landslide election victory.

Oli leads the Nepal Communist Party, a coalition of communist parties that united in May 2018. His choice of technocrat — former governor of the Central Bank Yubaraj Khatiwada — as Finance Minister sent good signals to people in Nepal and those watching from outside. In April 2018, Khatiwada released a White Paper discussing what was not working in Nepal and gave the impression that he intended to set the course right. But the new government’s first budget, presented in May 2018, did not suggest that he was pursuing substantial reforms and the second one presented in May 2019 was even worse. It propagated distributive economics and protectionist measures.

As Khatiwada prepares to submit his next budget, he is saddled with the same problems as his predecessors — growth has not been as expected, the fiscal deficit grows and capital expenditure spending is dismally low at less than 40 per cent. Promises of job creation remain unfulfilled as more Nepalis leave Nepal in search of work. Nepalis send US$8 billion home in remittances, while Indian workers in Nepal are sending back US$3 billion — making Nepal the eighth largest source of remittances to India.

As Nepal looks to graduate to a middle-income country by 2030, it faces three major problems.

Not enough foreign investment is coming into Nepal. Nepal needs over US$100 billion in investment over the next decade in order to graduate to a middle-income country. With low domestic capital formation, only foreign investments can bring about the much-needed impetus to economic growth. But while there have been many attempts to attract investment, on the ground realities pose a huge challenge. The country’s mindset cannot deal with foreign investment and still prioritise protecting domestic businesses. Nepal is yet to realise that it must compete for foreign investors with hundreds of countries — there is no queue of people wanting to come to Nepal.

The market in Nepal is dominated by ‘cartelpreneur’. Through cartels and super-cartels, the private sector acts as the biggest impediment to reforms by resisting legislative changes. For instance, construction companies have cooperated as a cartel (registered as an association) to ensure that a government law requiring the following of international standards not be promulgated. Similarly, sugar producers were able to push the government to impose bans on the import of sugar. Dairy companies pushed the government to put agriculture on the negative list for foreign investors, stopping large international companies from entering Nepal.

Many of these cartels in the garb of associations are structured to be part of a political party apparatus, allowing them to drive the parties. In the absence of legitimate funding, political parties are dependent on donations from these private sector companies with many cartels acting as fund-collecting bodies. The big dilemma for politicians and political parties is that if the number of foreign investors were to grow, they would not be able to provide funding to parties due to stringent anti-corruption laws. So, Nepal tends to attract foreign investments from companies and countries where such issues are overlooked.

Any country that is pushing a reform agenda needs a champion — and there is no such champion in Nepal. No bureaucrat or politician has come forward to push the reform agenda. With a communist regime that believes in distributive economics and promotes rent-seeking behaviour, there are also not many entrepreneurs outside the cartel circus who are advocating for reforms.

This leaves a few think tanks, organisations and individuals to push the reform agenda in whatever way they can, but they have not been able to gain the clout required to put pressure on the proceedings. Development partners also do not want to confront the government on this issue. They are happy to operate their private sector development programs with cartels and super-cartels despite knowing the plan is destined to fail.

Nepal needs a big transformation in attitudes towards reform in order to achieve ‘Prosperous Nepal, Happy Nepali’.

https://bit.ly/2F76CIh

End of an era

In the basement of a building at the Soaltee Hotel, at the end of a long corridor, a room exists where many major decisions have been taken that have changed the fate of the business, the country and its people. A room occupied by Mr Prabhakar Rana for four decades since the building was added at Soaltee in the late 70s, this room saw luminaires from around the world for breakfast, lunch or tea, and of course, lots of conversations. I walked this corridor in 1989 when I joined as a trainee as part of the Chartered Accountancy course. I got to meet Prabhakar Rana when he was the chairman of the Soaltee Hotel. He was one of the most influential people in Nepal and contrary to what I had heard, he was such a warm person;  his messages of inspiration are still fresh in my heart. Later, the walks along the corridors to his offices continued–and became more frequent–as I took on more responsibilities and moved up the ladder. The board meetings, the pow wows, and getting introduced to amazing people from around the world–all became a part of my life. The business expanded, the diversification of business and partnerships grew, but he remained the same astute business person.

After I left the group in 2008 as Group President, my relationship with Rana became a different one. We did not have the baggage of the association of being of an employer and employee, and the relationship grew into one of a mentor and mentee. As I started Beed, the firm I still lead, he introduced me to people who became our clients and continued to help expand my network. He continued to be the brand ambassador one could dream for. He joined the Nepal Economic Forum, the think tank I chair, as an Advisory Board member and provided the much-needed boost to push it to the next level. When in Kathmandu, he attended every event we hosted, and never did they end without quick feedback on what he liked and what could be done better. The big lesson I learnt from him, which I will always cherish, was to take feedback consistently and act on them. Many things will be written about him, but for me, three key things stood out.

I got to meet many people from around the world in my career, both at home and abroad. The character that distinguished Rana from any other Nepali was that he was truly global. He can be regarded as one of the few Nepalis who traversed the world, provided opinion on global affairs, had a fantastic network, yet resided mainly in Kathmandu. I learnt from him that you can be global at the same time be grounded in Nepal. His rolodex comprised of the who’s who in the world and he ensured he kept in touch with people. He planned his itineraries meticulously and never forgot to call people that he could not meet. Rana was magnanimous in hosting people but was never opulent. He had a class of his own that reflected the breakfasts and meals he hosted–or even just the simple conversations over tea. An avid reader, he kept in touch with world affairs and many of us agreed on the fact that even till the last meetings we had with him, we emerged out of meetings learning two new things. His mind traversed the globe in seconds and he was futuristic in his thoughts. When Rana told me in 2006 after the second Jana Andolan to be ready for a decade of transition in Nepal, we did not believe him. But it turned out to be true. When he talked about the rise of China a decade ago after the Beijing Olympics, we could not really understand the extent to which he saw the world polarising between the US and China. When he talked about the rising world of authoritarianism we did not understand, but in one of my last meetings with him, he did emphasise, ‘did not I tell you?’

I learnt many personal lessons from him too. Like how to detach and move on. In a country where family feuds are omnipresent and succession in families messy, we learnt from him what a handover meant. When he passed on the mantle of the group to his son Siddhartha, whom I got to work very closely with, he really did let go of the business. He intervened at shareholder meetings and advised us only if we went to him to seek advice. In the Nepali business world, Rana became synonymous with transparency and professionalism. He partnered with the best companies in the world and hired the best people. He learnt how to keep ownership and management separate. He ensured that his people were empowered, but also that they were accountable. Rana believed in fair competition and pushed for global standards and delivery. His values are a stark contrast to the current Nepali business world of cartels, blurred ownership and management structures, myriad of conflicts of interest and nexuses between business and politics. In the later years of his life he lamented on the way Nepali businesses had evolved and how the different chambers and associations he had founded and he was associated with had ‘fallen from grace’.

When I saw him in September in New York battling in a hospital room, I thought as a fighter he will fight and that we will again meet as he had promised for lunch in either New York or Kathmandu. That lunch never happened, but we are hopeful that a book will come out in the future that will help us learn more about a man who redefined Nepali identity and business.

https://bit.ly/2MpkMdS

We need to promote high-end tourism

Last week, a major piece of news from this paper went quite noticed. The average spending of tourists coming to Nepal had hit a seven-year low at $44 per day, which means that there are a good number of tourists probably living on less than $10 a day–therefore bringing down the average spending. The country is obsessed with volumes, like how many people were invited to a wedding reception rather than how the quality of food served was. It is never about quality, and always about quantity here. When students grow up getting more marks for the number of pages they write rather than what they write, it is natural that the country becomes obsessed with numbers. The one million-foreign-tourists-a-year goal, which was set twenty years ago, has finally been met but at the cost of pushing down average spends. However, this is little understood as Nepal positions itself as a low-end destination despite having the best places to visit in the world. Recently, the Nepal Tourism Board came up with an advertisement for students to submit project reports, for which they will be paid Rs. 25,000 ($220). When you hire students to write plans, paying peanuts at that, the end result becomes quite predictable.

Handling high-end tourists

Nepal’s tourism history began with people who were high-spenders; the few who could afford expensive air travel and hotels. It is not uncommon to hear stories of Everest expeditions in the 1970s, where people spent nearly a million dollars in just over three months. Tiger Tops in Chitwan was an iconic destination, one of the most expensive ones in Asia during its heydays. Even when I started working at the Soaltee (which was then the Oberoi), rooms used to sell close to $200, and we used to cater expensive dinners at the Bhaktapur Durbar Square–and even as far as in Lukla. I still remember people who were taken in helicopters to Lukla for breakfast, who then had lunch in Nagarkot and then went to Tiger Tops to spend the night. It is not that this segment of high-spenders has vanished from the earth. Rather, this segment has increased dramatically. But Nepal has not been able to attract them. It neither has the understanding of this segment of tourists nor the infrastructure required to cater to their needs.  It is not only the government to be blamed here: people in the private sector need to share the blame, too. No hotel in Nepal now has an understanding of handling high-end sit-down dinners, as they are often bereft of staffs and managers who understand the level of service required to create luxurious, comfortable experiences.

A week ago, for instance, a high-profile group of multi-millionaires visited Nepal for two days as part of the China, Bhutan and Nepal circuit. I was trying to draw from them their feelings on Nepal. The issues they shared with me were basic. Members of the group shared that Nepal does not understand them–Nepalis do not know how to deal with tourists who seek quality. For example, they were talking about how the telecom roaming charges in Nepal were very high and that Nepal is not part of the global telecom plans that they buy that are valid in over 170 countries. The group said that they never think of changing SIM cards for every country they visit. They also complained about high charges of parking fees for private jets without giving any additional facilities to the people who are visiting. Insurance plays a big role for these multi-millionaires; the fact that Nepal legitimately–with full knowledge of the government–engages in insurance scams for situations such as rescues does not give them any sense of comfort. Also, they were expressing dissatisfaction about how they cannot come in large groups as the number of luxury vehicles available on hire is limited and over-priced. One strong comment they made was that perhaps Nepal did host VIPs like ministers and other high-profile dignitaries, but that has little to no correlation to actual tourists. In ministerial visits, the person travelling does not pay and they actually do not know what the costs are. Therefore, the service providers just need to take care of the ‘fixers’ without delivering much quality. The visitors said that even if they are multi-millionaires, they are business people; that is, they want value for money. They will not throw money on services they do not get.

Learning from others

Nepalis involved in the tourism sector do not have to go on free junkets to Switzerland to learn about tourism. They can very well learn so from countries like Bhutan, or another landlocked country–Rwanda,  Africa. Bhutan has been able to maintain its high-end brand and can command high prices. By managing the tourism sector well, they have been able to build luxurious lodging facilities and thereby attract tourists who do not mind spending. This, even with the slight distortion of having Indian tourists who do not need a visa to visit jostle in the same space as people who pay $250 per person per day.

In Rwanda, when I first travelled there seven years ago, a visit to the gorillas was priced at $600, which was later increased to $750. Now, it costs  $1,500 to spend an hour with the gorillas–and only 80 permits are issued per day. They have also built a world-class convention hall estimated to cost $400 million to boost tourism and promote Rwanda as a conference destination. In Nepal, we have a reputation for hosting the cheapest international conferences and trainings for the development sector. It is not that we do not need low-end services and attractions, but having high-end revenue streams at the same time would push the average spend upwards. However, the recalibration in thinking can only occur when the individuals and groups in the private sector will voluntarily break the cartels and super-cartels that they have formed, in order to pursue real entrepreneurship. They will have to go for global certification or accreditation. Keeping Everest climbing cheap, and trekking controlled by cartels cannot bring about transformation. The government can do its bit, but major rethinking has to come from those involved in the private sector.

 

http://bit.ly/2HF3sMn

Reimagining diplomacy

Twenty-first century foreign policy and diplomacy revolves around economics.

In the first quarter of 2019, there were three key indications of a wave of change within the current government centred around the foreign minister. First, Nepal took part in the World Economic Forum in Davos for the first time. Second, the finance minister along with the foreign minister talked about Nepal on the Global Stage at the Kantipur Conclave. Third, the Investment Summit held in March saw Nepali ambassadors being active in getting delegations and becoming ambassadors for investment for the first time. While this is a good recalibration, there is a long way to go as a complete revamp is required in the way we look at foreign policy and diplomacy, and how we leverage them for Nepal’s economic growth.

 

Reimagining foreign missions

During the Shah regime, Nepali embassies abroad were meant to be an extended arm of the palace to facilitate travel, accommodation and provide guardianship to students from the royal family and courtiers. Generally, members related to the royal family or people loyal to them would be leading these embassies and get appointed to the positions. Post 1990, this has not undergone significant change, and sending relatives of politicians—including the mother-in-law of one prime minister—and party loyalists became the norm. The purpose of embassies and ambassadors never got relieved from the roles they played during the royal days of chaperoning people from the airport, providing food and lodging, providing logistical support for tourism or healthcare, and overseeing students.

In the past decade and a half, after non-resident Nepali politics started to rage along party lines, they now have an additional role of promoting candidates for elections to the multiple Nepali associations that exist abroad. The embassies were never seen as an arm of foreign policy. This was demonstrated by the fact that Nepal did not have an ambassador in New Delhi for years. While governments changed, they were consistent in their attitude towards dealing with appointments or non-appointments.

A big change has also been the revenue stream they can potentially garner by providing services to the Nepali diaspora, especially in countries like the United States, United Kingdom and Australia. Service fees and visa fees have tremendous potential, and they can fund many activities of the embassy, and also ensure that the physical space and aesthetics make a Nepali proud so that he or she does not have to hang his or her head in shame.

However, the way people commented upon the new residence of the ambassador in Washington,  DC makes it seem that a good section of the people want Nepali missions to be housed in dilapidated structures—probably in the hope of getting more aid. The embassies will have to be transformed physically and, of course, we will need people who can give the impression that Nepal can deliver. Therefore, it will become very important to appoint the right set of people as ambassadors and staff in the embassies. They are no longer there to receive guests and show them around, they are there as agents of investments in Nepal.

 

Discourse on visas

If Nepal is to become an investment destination, it is not only about easing the way foreigners get visas to Nepal, but it is about how Nepalis also get visas to other countries. For Nepalis, getting a visa has become the most difficult thing psychologically. The government has done little to ensure that this becomes easier. We have to look and evaluate the role of the honorary consuls based in Kathmandu. Some of them do facilitate the process, but some of them have not done much. While many governments are opening up to e-visas and making all processes redundant, it is still a slow process.

Countries like Cambodia and Rwanda have made travel easy with e-visas. Indonesia’s  simplifying visas and arrivals has led to thousands of Nepalis traveling to this country. Nepalis are doing business in countries like Kenya where they get visas on arrival. Our government must seek out and see how we can ease bilateral movement. With more Nepalis working in the knowledge industry, tourism and medicine, they should be able to move about with ease and bring income back. Nepalis are now invited to global forums around the world, and speaking at a conference should not become a headache due to the bother of obtaining visas.

With tourism arrivals crossing the 1 million mark, more than half of them paid visa fees last year; and half a million Nepalis travelling out of Nepal pay hefty airport fees and taxes. We need to use them to create world class e-visa portals and ensure that we can upgrade our global identity to a country where people’s movement from the security perspective is taken up seriously. These should be contracted out to the best global companies. If we can create a reputation for ourselves of being the custodians of safe and secure movement, other countries will be more than happy to open up their borders with easy access, like visas on arrival. A Singaporean passport commands global respect not because Singapore is an economic superpower, but because it takes movement in and out of the country seriously. They give visas on arrival to Nepalis as well, because they know they can monitor people closely. This is the 21st century paradigm, and we need to understand this well and act accordingly.

In the 20th century, free movement across countries got curtailed as a visa regime was instituted due to the advent of air travel and the world wars. The embassies, therefore, were an extension of the security and intelligence apparatus. But later, part of the 20th century saw embassies converting themselves into extensions of the business and investment arms of the government. The 21st century is seeing this recalibration rapidly in many countries as embassies get converted into investment bureaus, tourism bureaus and educational consultancies. It is time for Nepal to change with the times.

https://kathmandupost.ekantipur.com/news/2019-05-07/reimagining-diplomacy.html

Unleashing transformation

A fresh perspective is needed on how we market our country to the world.

There was a high level breakfast roundtable moderated by Wall Street Journal columnist, Sadanand Dhume, on the sidelines of the recently concluded Nepal Investment Summit 2019.  Dhume had a very simple question to ask:  ‘If there are people who have never heard of the country Nepal, how will you introduce your country?’ It was a simple question, but it made many ponder on how best to answer.   While young Nepalis are slowly changing the way Nepal is introduced to the world, many of those in leadership positions continue to portray Nepal as a poor country, sandwiched between China and India. The rent-seeking rulers and leaders, combined with the power and resources of poverty-brokers, have left a long-lasting, negative imagery. I heard people speak with foreign delegates about Nepal, and it was tough for them to provide a positive narrative. Ofcourse, they were good to talk about the business they do, yet were never short of complaining. For instance, on the sidelines, bankers continued to talk about how regulators are a big problem. But one of the foreign investors threw back:  ‘What are you doing about it?’ He was very firm—if you have good bankers around they will surely push regulators to transform.

It was sad to see Nepalis not being able to talk to foreign delegates about their own food, culture, religion or history. When a delegate would ask about a particular popular food item, few could actually describe what was in it. When someone was asked about when Patan Durbar Square was built and what the palace complex contained, people could not provide convincing answers. Infact, there were many Nepalis in the group who did not actually know about the Patan Museum, forget about visiting it. It seems that we, in our quest to be inward-looking, and in insulating ourselves to the views of persons with similar mindsets, have forgotten how to speak to the outside world. Over the decades, perhaps we have rent-seeked on selling the problems of Nepal, and consequently have forgotten how to articulate the positives of the country. At the summit, people did not know how to introduce Kathmandu, despite it being a historical cosmopolitan with an unmatched culinary experience. Neither could they explain the natural beauty surrounding the Valley that one can experience by traveling just a short distance.

In need of writers

It is always tough to write on business and the economy. It requires passion for reading and research—both habits not common here. We have witnessed business journalism relegated to event reporting. The politics around cartels have become juicy fodder. And, of course, it becomes easier to write about product launches. News of the launch of new ATM machines have been the imagery of economic progress that young Nepalis have grown up with. The difficulty of writing about business and economics in our official language makes one drift towards writing about individuals and organisations, or quasi-advertorials of products and services. Thanks to this practice, we saw very little analysis emerge about the investment summit. Apart from some media devoted to business and economics, and a few that engage in investigative journalism, there is little one can read that contains incisive analysis backed by research. Some of the journalists who have the capability to produce quality content over time join lucrative positions in international organisations and become bureaucrats managing administration, rather than focusing on their real skills of research and articulation.

Perhaps for Nepal to push the narrative of transformation, we need more people who are studying business and economics to start off as reporters, investigative journalists and columnists to provide stories that are backed by data. When I was moderating a session on financing infrastructure development at the summit, I talked about how Nepal needed an investment amount of over $110 billion in infrastructure. The Germany-based Allianz fund talked about how they are investing over $600 billion in 70 countries. Later after the meet, one of the cartel members told me that I had got my numbers wrong—I had apparently added an extra zero—that I was selling too much of positivity! In an environment like this, we need more data, information and interpretation. Therefore, we need more people to conduct this analysis and write in English, Nepali and local languages too.

Transformation in discourse

When Unleashing Nepal was published ten years ago, and I went around talking about my book, people thought that I was selling a pipe dream. Ten years later, at the Summit, I heard echoes of many of the issues I had raised. These opened up discourses that were aimed at generating  investments. From a country that is usually happy discussing current problems, here was an effort to look at the future.

Everyone must have realised that money is not the problem. Rather, it is the recalibration of the mindset of people in politics, bureaucracy, business and professional organisations. There has to be this big transformation in the way we talk about Nepal, and the way we sell Nepal as an investment destination. Also, we have to better our record of implementation. Three months later, I will be examining these issues again. Hope remains that there will have been substantial progress for me to to start a meaningful conversation.

 

https://kathmandupost.ekantipur.com/news/2019-04-09/unleashing-transformation.html

Making bureaucracy deliver

Bureaucrats, as public service providers, are facilitators, not controllers of operations

With the Investment Summit Nepal 2019 a few days away, there seems to be some sort of consensus among many who are meeting political leaders that serious efforts are underway ushering investments. For politicians who will go to polls in another four years, they will have to deliver jobs and imagery of prosperity. Political certainty and mandate of five full years of government have put pressure on the political folks to learn that they cannot be just making commitments and promises; they will have to deliver. So where is the problem? Much has been talked about domestic cartels and super-cartels being big impediments to foreign investment, but it seems not enough has been talked about the reforms in the bureaucracy.

Control or facilitate?

Historically in the Shah and Rana regimes, bureaucracy was designed to ensure that  bureaucrats were loyal to their masters and they function as a control agency along with being intelligence gatherers. For business people during those days, it was important to have a good relationship with the bureaucrats as they were the gatekeepers to the palaces. The appointment to the bureaucracy that began with jagirs and birtas, which was linked to revenue collection, remained an apparatus for the palaces and nobles to collect their shares from businesses and economic activities. Post-1990s, there were no structural changes to this setup. The nexus between politicians and bureaucrats did not change, with some bureaucrats openly joining political parties, bureaucrats started to also be segregated along party lines. Further, when the interim government of chief justice of the Supreme Court mandated to host elections, he inducted former bureaucrats as ministers. These ministers in terms of position, perks and recognition were no different than those ministers under democratically elected government or those directly appointed by the King. Therefore, the bureaucrats see themselves as ones who control operations rather than ones who are there to facilitate services to the citizens. It would do them good to remember that the citizens actually pay taxes that go on to pay their salaries, perks and benefits.

At a recent meeting with investors, hearing the CEO of the Investment Board of Nepal refer to investors as ‘customers’ who he and his team have to serve was like music to my ears. This role transformation is important to understand and to execute. Therefore, the guy at the Department of Industries responsible to move files for foreign investment needs to see how can s/he help to ensure that the movement is swift and and smooth. Similarly, officials at the Nepal Rastra Bank need to understand that if they want to get more foreign exchange into Nepal to undo the crisis of drying up of foreign reserves, they need to help foreign investors get their paperwork done in a jiffy.

Posing to be important sitting in a seat with towels laden at the back may give a good pose for theatrics, but does not leave a good impression on a person who is risking his/her money in a country that s/he knows little about. The big transformation, therefore, remains the attitude of public service providers, who need to think of themselves as facilitators and not controllers.

Lateral entry into the bureaucracy

Many countries have learnt that the transformation in dealing with foreign investors is distinctly different from dealing with foreign consultants. For the latter, you can act pricey as they are also asking for a favour to speak at a workshop or accompany a visit of a dignitary or just provide time to meet key officials. They may be rewarded with a junket, a visit, or some honorarium if meetings are after hours or for consulting assignments after retirement. But foreign investor representatives think they are already taking huge risks of coming to Nepal. And since they will be paying taxes, they will want service, too. The last thing these consultants want to do is entertain questions by bureaucrats who pester them with question about a visit to their homeland.  Thus the way we deal with INGO’s, representatives of consulting firms and with foreign investors needs serious introspection.

In Vietnam, bureaucrats had to go under transformation to move away from the dogmatic socialistic thinking to being trained to understand the linkages between markets, job creation and government revenues. These included English language proficiency lessons, too.  To ensure that there is a lateral entry into the bureaucracy, an entire institution has been created to train future bureaucrats who can understand the language of foreign investors. The Fulbright School of Public Policy and Management is in partnership with the University of Economics, Ho Chi Minh City and the Harvard Kennedy School, USA. Nepali bureaucracy, modelled around the Indian bureaucracy system inherited from the British, is a 19th-20th century design, and has little space for an internet, communication and technology led economy of the 21st century works.

It is high time we start thinking out of the box. Starting competitive examination systems in partnership with global institutions which will ensure that there are Nepali who have global education, come back to serve in Nepal could be a good start. This would not only ensure that global Nepalis will get an opportunity to serve in Nepal, which at this moment, can only happen if you hold a party ticket. What’s more, such new practices will also establish a culture of much-needed competition. For politicians have to go to the voters at least once every five years  to stay relevant, but bureaucrats never get out of power and thus become complacent.

It would be safe to say that collectively, most of us following this investment summit, wish to see in the next decade a laterally inducted bureaucrat heading the largest private company with foreign investment based solely on merit.  But we need to work now for this transformation to  happen. 20 million Nepalis under 35 would not mind this recalibration.

Will the new Acts help—or hurt—foreign direct investment in Nepal?

‘Regulation is about controlling as well as facilitating’-  An Interview for the Kathmandu Post

It’s good to see that the government is serious about bringing the much-needed reforms in the foreign investment regime. However, in the midst of this hype, we must take a closer look to new changes being made and how it will make foreign investors’ entry and exit flexible and simplify administrative process while doing business in Nepal.

Why can’t Foreign Investment Technology Transfer Act be called Foreign Investment Facilitation Act? The choice of the word itself is wrong. The amendments are not progressive as they should have been. Why should there be a negative list in the FITTA?

Prioritise facilitation

The objective of amending these acts is to ease business and facilitate investments. But our focus has always been on regulation and control. Regulation is not only about controlling, it is also about facilitating. The regulators in the country–Nepal Rastra Bank, Securities Board Nepal, Industry Department–do not realise that one of their jobs is also to make conducting business hassle-free and investors comfortable.

There is a “no welcome” attitude for FDI in Nepal. That is why I often say FDI here means “foreigners don’t invest”. We never made foreign investors feel welcome. More than legal issues, we’re harassing investors through procedural issues. If we want to execute a larger project (hotel), we need technical manpower from abroad and that should be paid in foreign currency. As per the existing legal arrangement, their remuneration can be paid only after completion of the work. Who will come to Nepal if we continue to have this system? This is where we need intervention.

If Nepal wants to execute mega projects, international legal, accounting and consulting firms must come to Nepal. But we’re not seeing top class contractors, consultants coming to Nepal.

Any international company handling a project worth over $1 billion will trust none of the Nepali legal and accounting firms. Even if they have to hire Nepali firms, they will hire them under international consulting firms umbrella.  The practical issues–easy availability of working visa, remuneration–have become impediments of late. And this is something the government must look into.

The government has recently introduced new regulations to govern private equity and venture capital, but the document is in Nepali. How can foreign investors understand what is there in the regulations? This shows the narrow vision of Nepali stakeholders. We cannot dream of large scale FDI if we continue to have every document written in Nepali.

 

http://kathmandupost.ekantipur.com/news/2019-03-22/will-the-new-acts-help or-hurtforeign-direct-investment-in-nepal.html

लगानी भित्र्याउने मौका

नेपालमा केही हप्तादेखि लगानीको गफ बढेको छ । चैत १५–१६ मा हुनलागेको अन्तर्राष्ट्रिय लगानी सम्मेलनको तयारी चलिरहेको छ । यसलाई सफल बनाउन सरकार लागिपरेको छ । नेपालमा ठूलो रूपले सहयोग गरिरहने विश्व बैंक, एसियाली विकास बैंकका ठूला पदाधिकारीहरू आउंँदैछन् ।

यी सबले यसलाई नेपालका निम्ति केही गर्ने अन्तिम अवसरका रूपमा हेर्दैछन् । नेपालको विदेशी मुद्राको स्थिति र तरलतामा देखिएको संकटको निवारण विदेशी लगानी नै हो । यसर्थ लगानी गफ अत्यन्त महत्त्वपूर्ण भएको छ । गत तीस वर्षमा विदेशी लगानीकर्ताहरूको होडबाजी किन भएन भनेर बुझ्न आवश्यक छ । यी समस्याको निवारण गरिएन भने यथास्थितिमा कुनै परिवर्तन आउने छैन ।

विदेशीले चन्दा दिँदैनन्

नेपालको राजनीतिक संरचनाको सबभन्दा ठूलो कमजोरी भनेको राजनीतिक दलहरूले व्यवसायीसँग खुला रूपमा चन्दा लिन सक्दैनन् । संसारभरि राजनीतिक दलहरू व्यवसायीहरूले दिने चन्दाबाट चल्ने हुन् । धेरै देशले यो परिपाटीलाई पारदर्शी बनाएका छन् ।

नेपालमा भने चन्दा लिनेदिने र गोप्य राख्ने चलन छ । पार्टी बैठकमा यसबारे कुरा हुँदैन । पार्टी चलाउनेहरूले यसको फाइदा उठाएका छन् । आफ्नो जीवन राजनीति गरेर बिताउने तिनलाई पार्टीले तलब दिँंदैन । तसर्थ चन्दामै कमिसन खाएर जीविकोपार्जन गर्नुपर्ने बाध्यता छ । तिनले चन्दा कति उठाए, कति आफूसँग राखे र कति पार्टीलाई दिए, यसको लेखाजोखा कहिल्यै हुन्न ।

विदेशी लगानीका कम्पनीहरूले चन्दा दिन सक्दैनन् । लेखालाई पारदर्शी राख्नुपर्ने बाध्यतामा हुन्छन्, यिनीहरू । चन्दा दिए के भनेर खर्च देखाउने ? नेपाली कानुनले यसलाई खर्च मान्दैन, करले त झन् यो खर्च कटाउन दिंँदैन । अब कसको खल्तीबाट दिने त चन्दा ? राजनीतिक पार्टीहरूका बैंक खातामा सोझै रकम पठाउनराष्ट्र बैंकले दिँदैन ।

नेपाली समाजमा भ्रष्टाचार गर्नेलाई अन्य देशमा झैं तिरस्कार गरिँदैन, बरु त्यस्ता व्यक्तिका अनुयायीचाहिँ बढ्दै जान्छन् । विदेशमा कुरो अर्कै छ । एउटा अमेरिकी सल्लाहकार कम्पनीमा आबद्ध मैले ६–६ महिनामा घुस विरोधी अनुपालन तालिम (एन्टी–ब्राइबरी कम्प्लायन्स ट्रेनिङ) लिनुपर्छ र प्रमाणपत्र नवीकरण गर्नुपर्छ ।

मैले राजनीतिसँग सम्बन्धित व्यक्तिहरू (पोलिटिकल्ली इन्फ्लुएन्सल पिपल/पोलिटिकल्ली एक्सपोज्ड पिपल) सँग काम गर्दैछु भने त्यसको विवरण खुलाउनुपर्छ । नेपालमा भने व्यक्ति विशेषले राजनीति गरेर व्यवसाय चलाउँदैछ कि व्यवसाय गरेर राजनीति, छुट्याउन नै गाह्रो छ ।

यसर्थ नेपालमा दिगो रूपमा विदेशी लगानी भित्र्याउने हो भने राजनीतिक दलहरूको चन्दा संकलनको परिपाटी नै पारदर्शी बनाउने नियम कानुन ल्याउन जरुरी छ । के कटुसत्य हो भने— लोकतन्त्रमा पार्टी हुन्छ, पार्टी चलाउन पैसा चाहिन्छ, पैसा व्यवसायीहरूले दिन्छन् । विदेशी लगानीकर्ता ल्याएमा चन्दा आउँदैन, त्यसैले चन्दा असुल गर्न सकिने स्वदेशी लगानीकर्तालाई संरक्षण दिनुपर्छ भन्ने धर्ना छोड्नुपर्छ ।

सिन्डिकेट अवरोध

कुनै पनि व्यापारीलाई विदेशी लगानी किन भित्रिन सकेन भनेर सोध्यो भने, उसले सरकार र त्यसका निकायहरूलाई दोष दिन्छ, ‘हामीले गर्दा’ भन्दैन । यथार्थ के हो भने विदेशी लगानी भित्र्याउन सबभन्दा ठूलो अवरोधक निजी क्षेत्र र व्यावसायिक संघ–संगठन हुन् ।

मःमःको व्यवसायमा बाहेक अन्यत्र सिन्डिकेटहरूले नै देश चलाइरहेको कटु सत्यबारे मैले धेरैपटक लेखिसकेको छु । यी सिन्डिकेटलाई सुपर संरक्षण दिने महासिन्डिकेट कानुनी पेसा, परामर्शदाता, लेखा, इन्जिनियर, डाक्टर र अन्य पेसाका आआफ्ना सिन्डिकेटका माध्यमबाट विदेशी सेवाप्रदायकहरूलाई दशकौंदेखि रोक्न सफल भएका छन् ।

नेपालमा अन्तर्राष्ट्रिय गुणस्तरको सेवा वा सामान विरलै पाउने गरिन्छ । विदेशी लगानीकर्ता आयो भने त प्रतिस्पर्धा गर्नैपर्‍यो ! सिन्डिकेट बनाएर मजासँग धेरै मोलमा कम गुणस्तरका सामान र सेवाको व्यवसाय गर्न गाह्रो हुने भयो। यसैले विदेशी लगानीकर्ताको विरोध गर्नैपर्छ ।

नेपाली कानुन व्यवसायीलाई हेरौँ । अंग्रेजीको अल्प ज्ञान भएर पनि तिनले अर्बौंका प्रोजेक्टका कागजातमा काम गर्न पाइरहेका छन् । राम्रा, नाम चलेका विदेशी कानुन व्यवसायीहरू आए भने ठूला लगानीकर्ता विदेशीकहाँ नै जाने भए । लेखापरीक्षकको, इन्जिनियरहरूको सवालमा पनि त्यही नै हुन्छ । नेपालका ऐनहरू नेपालीमा मात्र भएका र सरकारले अंग्रेजी अनुवाद पनि नल्याएकाले, अनुवाद गर्ने आफ्नो व्यवसायबारे सीमित–संकुचित सोच राख्ने व्यवसायीहरूले कसरी खर्बौंको सोच राख्न सक्छन् ?

नेपालमा लगानी भित्र्याउनु भनेको प्रतिस्पर्धाको परिपाटी तयार गर्नु हो । राजनीतिक धारमा बसेका, राजनीतिमा अडेर बसेका सिन्डिकेट र महासिन्डिकेटका कारण जनताको रिस, नयाँ पिढीका उद्यमीहरूको निराशा बढ्दै गइरहेको छ । यो यही नेपाल हो, जहाँ राजसंस्थाको अन्त्य जनताले गरेका हुन् ।

त्यसैले व्यवसायीहरू जति आफूलाई प्रतिस्पर्धा गर्नतिर लागे, त्यति वेश । विदेशी लगानीमा अवरोध र सिन्डिकेटको राजनीतिमा बिताउने समय आफ्नो व्यवसायमा बिताए आफूलाई प्रतिस्पर्धी बनाउन सकिने रहेछ । अहिले मै ६ देशमा काम गर्ने नेपाली कम्पनीमा आबद्ध छु भन्न पाउँदा गर्व लाग्छ । नेपालीले पनि विदेशीहरूसँग आफ्नो देशमा मात्र नभई विदेशमा पनि प्रतिस्पर्धा गर्न सक्दारहेछन् त ! सोच बदलौँ ।

गरिबीका दलालहरूको विडम्बना

नेपालमा सरकार र निजी क्षेत्रका विषयमा त धेरैले चर्चा गर्छन्। दातृ संस्थाको विषयमा कमै कुरो निस्किन्छ । सरकारी सेवाबाट अवकाश भएपछि जानुपर्ने ठाउँ त्यही भएकाले पदमा छँदा किन नराम्रो भन्नु भनेर प्रशासनका मानिस त्यसबारे खुलेर बोलेको हामीले सुन्न पाएका छैनौँ ।

सिन्डिकेट र महासिन्डिकेटवालालाई पनि बीच–बीचमा आउने विदेश भ्रमणको अवसर, आफ्नो संस्थाका निम्ति दिने अलिअलि सहयोग हेरेर चुप लाग्नैपर्‍यो । अलिअलि लेख्नेहरू पनि कुन बेला कता काम आउने हो, मन दुखाउने काम नगरौं भनेर चुप लाग्छन् । तसर्थ हामीकहाँ गरिबीलाई व्यवसाय बनाएर बस्नेहरूको कुरै हुँदैन । नेपाल अहिले पनि मध्य–आय मुलुकका रूपमा चिनिने सामर्थ्य राख्छ, त्यसो गर्ने बित्तिकै गरिबीका नाममा चलेका धेरै आयोजना बन्द हुनेछन् ।

विडम्बना के हो भने गरिब मुलुक भनेर चिनाउँदै गर्‍यो भने विदेशी लगानी आउँदैन र नेपाली समृद्ध भइरहेका छन् भन्नुपर्‍यो भने गरिबीका नाममा आएको पैसा बन्द हुन्छ। अहिले एसियामा अफगानिस्तान र नेपालमात्र अल्पविकसित देशका रूपमा बाँकी छन् । अफगानिस्तानले वर्षको ३ करोड डलर याने नेपाली ३ अर्ब रुपैयाँभन्दा कम पैसा ल्याउनेलाई विदेशी सहयोगकर्ताका रूपमा भित्र्याउने गरेको छैन । नेपालमा दुई बाकस लुगा दान दियो भने पनि मन्क्रीसहितको कार्यत्रम हुने गर्छ ।

विदेशी लगानी भित्र्याउने हो भने कुन र कस्ता दाताहरूलाई नेपालमा काम गर्न दिने भनेर निधो गर्नुपर्‍यो । हामीलाई समृद्धिको उत्प्रेरक चाहिएको छ, गरिबीका दलालहरू होइन । हाम्रा होटल र रेस्टुराँहरू विदेशी लगानीकर्ता र व्यवसायमा लीन भएकाहरूले भरिएको हेर्न पाउनुपर्छ, गरिबी बेचेर खानेहरूको जमातले होइन । संसारमा कुनै पनि मुलुकले विदेशी सहयोगबाट काँचुली फेर्नसकेको छैन । विदेशी लगानीले भने धेरै देशको अर्थतन्त्रमा आमूल परिवर्तन ल्याएको छ ।

सानो कुरामा ध्यान दिऔँ

लगानी भेलामा नेपालले ‘कति पैसा उठायो’ होइन, ‘के–के गर्ने भयो’ तिर ध्यान दिनुपर्ने हुन्छ । ससाना कुरामा ध्यान दिनुपर्छ । हाम्रा ऐन–नियमका मस्यौदाहरू अंग्रेजी भाषामा पनि ल्याउनुपर्‍यो । नेपालले आफ्नो समयमा यो १५ मिनेटको अन्तराललाई अन्त्य गरी ३० मिनेटमा ल्याउनुपर्‍यो, कन्फरेन्स कल मिलाउन कति गाह्रो ! अंग्रेजी भाषालाई पनि मान्यतादिनुपर्‍यो, नबुझ्ने भाषामा कोही पनि व्यापार गर्न चाहँदैन । सिन्डिकेट तोड्न लाग्नुपर्‍यो । नेपालका निम्ति यो लगानी भेला अन्तिम मौका होला । सबैले नेपाललाई ‘लास्ट चान्स’ दिएका छन् । खेर नफालौँ ।
https://www.kantipurdaily.com/opinion/2019/03/22/155322688035252639.html

Be the change

Behavioural transformation is the key to societal transformation

Like every year, this Women’s Day too was marked by a public holiday in Nepal, with 20 other countries around the world who celebrate International Women’s Day as a government holiday. But in Nepal, holidays  usually mean just another day for the menfolk to hang around, perhaps open a bottle or two, snack and engage in a game of cards. For the women, this means another extra day of work in the kitchen. Here, everything becomes tokenism. Those shouting slogans of ‘Buddha was born in Nepal’ would not know which year Buddha was born or what he stood for. Nor people who shout Mount Everest is in Nepal would be able to recognise the mountain in a picture or point it out in a map. Similarly, in a shallow expression of love, posting pictures on social media on Mother’s and Father’s Day have become trendy, too.  The same goes for feeling that compulsion to say something about Women’s Day. The way I see it, it is like colouring one’s hair: you do it because everyone else seems to be doing it!

 

Citizenship discourse

This year on Women’s Day, a powerful message on social media came from Subina Shrestha’s tweet. Shrestha, a journalist, wrote on her Twitter, “I have a dream, that one day a woman can walk with her child and she won’t be asked who the father is. I have a dream that no child, born out of a Nepali woman will be stateless.” This tweet of hers  echoes the sentiment of many who have been fighting a society that pushes politicians to keep archaic laws of discrimination against women intact.

The challenge of this patriarchal conservative approach comes from the demographics of our leadership. In a country where 70 percent of people are under 35 years of age, the leadership unfortunately across all fields is  from the small 3 percent of men above 65 years of age. It’s saddening to note that a mere 3 percent of men above 65 control the rest of the country. These men have no incentive to think about making changes in society,  as they have ensured their children are settled comfortably in foreign lands, or worse, have passed on their conservative beliefs onto their children too.  They do not really care about legal changes in the country.  And those who are only just joining the discourse  and are being forced to rethink the laws they helped create are there because problems are knocking at their door. Problems like their daughters getting married to a non-Nepali.

Conservative families try to fend off the possibility of their daughters getting married to foreigners by getting them married at an early age and spreading the gospel that they have to bear children before they hit 27 years of age. But with the liberal education and exposure Nepali children are getting today, it is tough to sell such dogma.

 

Beyond tokenism

Some time back, my young friend visiting Nepal was discussing  an interesting family situation. She was with her aunts and cousin sisters where intensive discussions were taking place on the ills of chaupadi in villages. Educated women, some of whom had their education abroad, were lamenting on the poor state of Nepal. However, not engaging in the discussion was her sister-in-law who was not allowed to enter the dining area as she was menstruating. This mindset of wanting the world to change but not wanting to change is strange.  But this is the precise reason why change does not happen.

I had written earlier in a column about a supposed male activist who while working on gender equality does not pour a glass of water for himself to drink; instead, he  asks his wife to do so. Given such double standards, it is imperative to take the discourse of empowering women and treating them as equals beyond mere tokenism.

Our culture,  as it is practiced, forces discrimination. A woman cannot be performing rituals like a man. Even when I was ordained as a Buddhist monk temporarily, it was appalling to see senior octogenarian nuns queue after temporary novices for meals. Even in a practice that is supposed to promote equality practices such discrimination. In cultural and religious practices, I have been questioning why is it that a woman has to wear whites and live a treacherous mourning period for her husband after his death, but a man does not have to do the same when his wife dies. People who propagate for change while writing reports, speaking at seminars and wanting to change others do not make any attempt to change practices at their own homes. I have seen supposed progressive actors in Nepal’s development referring to young women colleagues as “nani” or little girl.

Working in an organisation that tries to replicate the country’s demographics, I have been fortunate to be part of a practice where more than half of my co-workers are women and 70 percent of them under 35. Increasingly, organisations will be successful only if they can replicate the demographics of the country they operate in. Scandinavian countries have gone beyond tokenism. Equal income level there is not a myth but a reality. By making that possible,  they have been able to transform society by ensuring that gender equality is a work in process. In Africa, Rwanda has taken a great stride forward.  With women taking 67 percent Parliament seats, they have successfully outnumbered men. What’s more, there are more women in leadership positions, too. Citizenship issue is a structural change that will happen, but providing equality to women in terms of opportunities and status is the big transformation. A lot needs to be done in this regard. Given that, women’s day celebration should move beyond mere tokenism.

http://kathmandupost.ekantipur.com/news/2019-03-12/be-the-change.html