Nepal: The View From The Top Is Not Pretty
Photo Credit: Shutterstock.com/filmlandscape
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With the exception of Mt. Everest, Nepal has very little that the mainstream media finds newsworthy. You cannot really blame the Western media though -- this small land-locked country of South Asia does not get much coverage in regional Asian press either. Naturally, anything that is hidden from the eye tends to acquire a sense of enigma over a period of time, and the Nepalese nation has done just that.
Enigmatic or not, but such seclusion comes at a price: most of the time, progress tends to slow down, and in this article, I shall attempt to analyze the state of Nepal and its current situation.
But before that, let me ask you: think of Nepal, and what comes to your mind first? Alright, probably Mt. Everest again! And? A small-ish country that has somehow managed to defy most of the colonial powers in the past? Apparently, this very small country, in spite of its brave history, seems to be heading towards a rather downward spiral.
So, what exactly is happening in Nepal?
Multiple things, to be honest. But since we live in a world that defines and assesses your worth on the basis of your wallet, I will begin with the economy.
Nepalese economy has the potential to see its own share of high tides. However, one does not simply emerge as an economic power, especially when one is surrounded by ever evolving economies both in the north and south. Truth is, anything that Nepal seems to do in terms of economics, India and China have managed to do better.
In fact, stagnant economy was one of the key aspects of the manifesto of the revolution that toppled the monarchy in Nepal and transformed the erstwhile Himalayan Kingdom into a Republic. Yet, the conditions have not changed. Or at least they have not changed for the better, sadly.
The primary flaw of Nepalese economy has been the rampant corruption, which has crippled the entire homespun economic model. Oh dear, economists will cite multiple reasons for this: lack of capitalist and privatization model (yeah, whatever), excessive state interference in the growth model, little foreign trade, untapped natural resources, and so on. But at the end of the day, if you are seeking reasons for the dismal state of Nepalese economy, you do not need to look so far.
Truth is, the monarchy has been replaced by a government that is not, by any means, stable. Political instability is the mother of economic fluctuation. Add to it the fact that a land-locked country in a mountainous region does not have the best opportunities in terms of infrastructure, and you have all the recipes for economic disasters. In spite of it all, Nepalese economy has proven to be resilient enough: even during the last days of the monarchy, Nepal managed to retain the homespun characteristic of its economies.
Furthermore, on the paper, the record is not so bad: as of 2012, out of 37 state-owned enterprises, 21 are operating with a decent profit margin. In reality, if anything, Nepalese economy is marred more by the disparity in income and poverty, as well as cultural issues.
Speaking of cultural issues -- this brings me to my next point.
Culture and Society
With a decent growth in population and education, Nepal is going through a transitionary phase. Yet, religious dogmas and godmen dominate the society even to this day. And by domination, I do not mean the Indian or Pakistani model, where the major cities have managed to develop a rational line of thought, and the dogmatic lifestyle is best witnessed in rural or semi-urban areas. In Nepal, even the capital city of Kathmandu is predominantly orthodox and often superstitious.