Review

What 'Unleashing Nepal' unleashed for me
Madhurima Bhadra

Washington DC: First I am a Nepali, and then I am a multi-caste/ethnic woman. I have had access to resources and opportunities that were denied to generations that came before me and also those who were not born into homes like mine. I have been away from Nepal for the past 3 years pursuing higher education with aspirations to improve things back home. Speaking mostly for myself and maybe some of my generation, I would say that I am at a crossroads. I am torn between the need to pursue my dreams and hopes for myself and the loyalty that I feel for my country and to do good by it. One of the problems that confront my generation is that we know something is amiss and may understand what is wrong. But we don't really understand what contributes to the gears and bearings to the dysfunctional system that is today's Nepal.

For someone like me, who wants to do good by my country and for myself as well, Sujeev Shakya's book might be the answer to my questions 'How did it ever get this bad?' and 'What can I do and how can I be successful?'

I attended the session In Conversation with Sujeev Shakya organized by the Washington Nepal Forum on October 26, 2009. Sujeev's take on the Nepali economy comes from a layperson's perspective. Sujeev in his discussion touched upon the history of Nepal and its effects on the economy, the people's movement and the opportunities that have been squandered by the governing parties and private sector as well. The discussion ended with some recommendations by Sujeev and some really good questions from the audience.

Having attended school in India, I do not have detailed knowledge about the history of Nepal and the key players in the political economy of early Nepal. Sujeev's highlights of political events will help immensely in bridging that information gap. As he began to talk about the confused state of Nepal and the ignoring of key issues, I saw myself being able to soar above the confusion I feel. One idea that was interesting and rang true for me is the 'rent-seeking mentality' (which is the pattern of elite members of society remaining content with doing nothing other than collecting rent and being socially praised for such inactivity) we Nepalese have. It is not something that I had thought about earlier but it made so much sense and seemed to explain the psyche that drives us to do things the way we do in Nepal.

Another issue that Sujeev made me think about was the fact that Nepalese are always migrating and looking for greener pastures. His words 'Nepal is where Nepalese are' made me sit back and think, 'Duh! Why have I never looked at it that way?' We do have this attitude that nothing happens in Nepal and also the frame of mind that what can I as a single person do. Sujeev's endeavor to write and publish his book is inspirational proof that a single person can do something. For someone who sees the world through the lens of a public health worker and understands the complexity of how different situations and stakeholders influence outcomes, I was very appreciative of the fact that Sujeev mentions the squandering of the country as attributable to the political powers, private sector and the aid providers.

It was evident that I was not the only one Sujeev stirred into thought by the comments and questions that were an integral part of the conversation. We discussed the role the Nepalese diaspora could play and where we could start. Touched upon were the issues of agriculture, land and labor reform, the power of tapping into hydro power, community based organizations, motivation of politicians, remittance workers, and redefining economic boundaries to name a few. Being in a room full of Nepalese who are interested in the state of the country and carry the motivation to move towards change was to say the least invigorating. Maybe this book will be the catalyst that will change, as mentioned by one of the audience, 'the lethargic beat' we find in today's Nepal to an energy that is proactive and supportive of others' endeavors. Speaking for myself, what I took away from the Converstation with Sujeev Shakya is that things will look up if I do my bit and if nothing else the audacity to hope.

(Madhurima Bhadra is a dentist and works in the public health sector)
Beed Management Nepal Economic Forum Arthabeed Sujeev Shakya