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Towards prosperity: Time to come out of cocoon

Illustration: Ratna Sagar Shrestha/THT

Nepal has seen political, social, environmental, economic and technological transformations in recent years, but the progress is still less than desirable. However, time has come for Nepal to accelerate things, as despite having great potential, we have not been able to exploit it to the fullest.

There was a time when Nepal was known as the legendary Shangri-La of the world. Nepal has so much to offer to the world culturally, historically and naturally.

Perhaps, this is the reason the catchphrase “once is not enough”. Sadly, the country went through some upheavals, which unfortunately put a spoke in the wheel. The decade-long civil war between 1996 and 2006 halted development works. The unrest led to decrease in flow of foreign investment.

Development efforts took a back seat. The country could not see smooth growth due to other various events. After the end of the Maoist insurgency, the country embarked on the rocky path from the monarchy to federal democracy. Political stability was something the country required the most to give impetus to development activities. As a result, we failed to maintain pace with other countries in development efforts.

Nepal was ranked 144th out of 188 countries in 2016 in United Nations’ Human Development Index. The per capita income was pegged at $730, with 15 percent of people living on less than $1.90 per day. Nepal is indispensably an agrarian economy, providing subsistence livelihood for 70 per cent of its population.

The structural transition from agriculture towards knowledge and technology sectors has been sluggish. The economy does not have the capacity to create employment for all those entering the labour market. The lack of economic opportunity and poverty has fuelled migration of an estimated three million Nepali workers to various countries.

Remittance contributes to around 25 per cent of Nepal’s GDP. Nepal has been receiving international grants for over 65 years. More than quarter volume of the current government budget comprises the contribution from the international donor communities. Despite all these, the country has severely lagged behind. While Nepal should learn to utilise the foreign aid it receives, it also needs to tread carefully to steer clear of the over-dependency on the assistance. In this context, Nepal now has the opportunity.

With the successful holding of three tiers of elections — local, provincial and federal parliament — under the new constitution adopted in 2015, the country is poised for a stable government.

A government which can serve for a full five-year term will mean political stability, lack of which has been a stumbling block in the past to development. In two years or so, Nepal will also graduate from the Least Development Countries.

A stable government at the centre and provincial governments in provinces will help unlock Nepal’s potential, putting the country in the race of modern-day development. Through local elections, local governments have reached the doorsteps of the people. The doors for foreign investment have been opened now, while the country can now focus on investing on energy, health, transport, financial, information and communication technology, water and food sectors.

The new government should prepare favourable environment for entrepreneurs to generate more employment opportunities, which will not just help to advance critical infrastructure but will also assist to retain young human resources of the country.

Lack of opportunities at home has been forcing millions of Nepali youths to fly abroad in search of jobs.

Nepal can also offer what they call good business practices through its abundant natural resources. According to the World Bank’s 2014 report, Nepal’s contribution towards CO2 emissions (metric tons per capita) is 0.284 whereas the countries like Bhutan which has branded their nation as ‘zero carbon nation’ contributes 1.289.

Even though we have abundant natural resources that can offer responsible business practices, we haven’t been able to utilise them.

As the world is looking for a responsible way of doing its business and investment, Nepal can offer its unique aesthetic beauty along with carbon negative practices. Nepal now needs to leapfrog to the age of modern-day technology. Investors in various sectors should be invited to help Nepal achieve its development goals.

The government should realise the country’s potential and offer a win-win situation that can benefit both the investors as well as the country. Nepal should understand that just pumping a huge amount of money without concrete vision will not drive it towards prosperity. Tangible outputs are expected.

Nepal may have got into the shell for years due to various reasons, but time has now come to open its wings and fly towards the path of prosperity.

Stability which was required the most to expedite development efforts is just knocking on our doors. We just need to pay heed to opportunities that are on our way. It’s time Nepal came out of the cocoon.

A version of this article appears in print and online version on January 04, 2018 of The Himalayan Times.