Review

Nepal: The stakes and mistakes
By Dr Vaidehi Nathan

With its new found freedom and democracy, Nepal stands on the crossroad, weighing which way to go. The Indian way, where democracy rules or the China way, where the state controls lives of people? Till recently Nepal was considered by Indians as 'our own' but the growing anti-India sentiments for sins done, not done have made us wonder if China is behind it all, in its expansionist zeal to envelope the Himalayan nation into its fold.

Sujeev Shakya, a Kathmandu-based Business executive and an economic columnist in Nepali Times for the past years, has written a book 'Unleashing Nepal: Past, Present and Future of the Economy,' which looks at the country from a predominantly economic point of view. A population of 30 million, increasingly get assertive economically, youth with global desires and resourceful village communities that are not dependent on Kathmandu for everything - Nepal no doubt is poised for a leap. But which way will it go, given its past aristocracy, Maoist war and ascendance to power and the geographic reality that it is land locked between two hugely growing economic giants which are vying for No. 1 spot, as US President Obama complained recently.

Gurcharan Das has written the foreword in the book, in which he advocates the Indian way for Nepal, despite all the pitfalls of democracy. He quotes the ripe wisdom of his mother in choosing this.

Shakya mentions six major factors for Nepal's low levels of economic growth. Some of these are: its land locked, protectionism, rent-seeking mentality, a popular feeling that development is a culture imposed from outside and constant search by Nepalis for greener pastures outside the country. Divided into three parts, the first part of the book deals with Nepal's history and the stirring of anti-monarchy feelings, the second part deals with events upto 2008 and the third part is the dream of the author for the unleashing of Nepal. Given that more than half the 30-million population is below 26 years of age, there is a huge human resource potential that is constantly in search of opportunities outside home.

Nepal is now among the least developed countries. Some of the measures mentioned by the author are privatisation, globalisation and change in the life and attitude of the people. He has also discussed reforms in tax, land, labour, financial sector etc. According to Shakya, leveraging agriculture is an area in which Nepal can gain tremendously. He says there are 700 medicinal plants and herbs in the country, out of which 300 have been tested in the labs for their medicinal qualities. Instead of processing them for commercial exploitation, the raw material is being carted to India and the west, who in turn are making huge profits out of them. Despite having one of the best scopes for hydro electric production, Kathmandu suffers power cuts, routinely upwards of 10 hours.

The author definitely knows Nepal very well and feels for it. This book is really a plea for action. As he says it is the outcome of his conversation with hundreds of people - from cab drivers to vegetable vendors. As a close neighbour India feels and bears the repercussions of whatever happens in Nepal. This book gives a clue on what could and should happen.

(Penguin Books India Pvt ltd, 11, Community Centre, Panchsheel Park, New Delhi 110 017)

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Beed Management Nepal Economic Forum Arthabeed Sujeev Shakya