• Strategy versus Stakes

    Vladamir Putin secured his fourth term as Russian President swiftly with more than seventy percent vote in his favour. Russian history is a testament to leaders with diverse and varied characteristics with Lenin, Stalin, Kruschev, Brejnev, Gorbachev, Yeltsin and now Putin. But political generals aren’t the only leaders Russia can boast of, it also boasts of his fascination with the game of chess. The game of chess was a national pastime after the revolution of 1917. The game was subsidised and heavily encouraged. This naturally meant that its influence flew with national leaders as each of them have their own personal story with the game. Lenin was a serious player, but Russian author Maxim Gorky claimed Lenin got angry when he lost. Leon Trotsky reportedly played in Vienna and Paris. Stalin cared so much about his reputation as a chess master that he publicised a fake game in which he claimed to defeat party loyalist and future chief of the secret police Nikolai Yezhov. Anatoly Karpov and Garry Kasparov are known Russian grandmasters. Naturally is can be concurred that the strategy of politics and chess have been intertwined in Russian history.

    With the end of cold war and America’s hegemony over world affairs, Russia indeed switched its game with Putin at the helm. Garry Kasparov, in this interesting video by The Economist explains the superfluous strategy of Russia, Putin and the West.


    Courtesy: The Economist, YouTube

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  • Know Thy Economist: Adam Smith


    Adam Smith is our guide to perhaps the most pressing dilemma of our time: how to make a capitalist economy more humane and more meaningful. He was born in Scotland in Kirkcaldy near Edinburgh in 1723. A hardworking student, he became an academic philosopher and wrote a major contribution on the importance of sympathy and logic. But perhaps how we know him today is towards his major contributions in the field of economics.

    Smith wanted to understand the money system because his underlying ambition was to make nations and people happier. Smith remains an invaluable guide to four ideas: When one considers the modern world of work, two facts stand out:
    – modern economies produce unprecedented amounts of wealth.
    – many ordinary people find work rather boring and (a key complaint): meaning-less.

    The two phenomena are in fact intimately related, as Adam Smith was the first to understand through his theory of specialisation. He observed that in modern businesses, tasks formerly done by one person in a single day could far more profitably be split into many tasks carried out by multiple people over whole careers. Smith hailed this as a momentous development: he predicted that national economies would become hugely richer the more specialised their workforces became. One sign our world is now so rich, Smith could tell us, is that every time we meet a stranger, we’re unlikely to understand what they do.

    The mania for incomprehensible job titles – Logistics Supply Manager, Packaging Coordinator,
    Communications and Learning Officer – prove the economic logic of Smith’s insight. But there is one huge problem with specialisation: meaning. When businesses are small and their processes contained, a sense of helping others is readily available. But when everything is industrialised, one ends up as a tiny cog in a gigantic machine whose overall logic is liable to be absent from the minds of people lower down in the organisation. A company with 150,000 employees
    distributed across four continents, making things that take five years from conception
    to delivery, will struggle to maintain any sense of purpose and cohesion. So Smith discerned that bosses of the specialised corporations of modernity therefore have an extra responsibility to their workers: to remind them of the purpose, role and ultimate dignity of their labour.

    Smith’s age saw the development of what we’d now call consumer capitalism. Manufacturers began turning out luxury goods for a broadening middle class. Some commentators were appalled. The philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau wished to ban ‘luxury’ from his native Geneva. He was a particular fan of ancient Sparta and argued that his city should copy its austere, martial lifestyle. Disagreeing violently, Smith pointed out to the Swiss philosopher that luxury consumerism in fact had a very serious role to play in a good society – it generated the surplus wealth that allowed societies to look after their weakest members. Consumer societies, despite their frivolity, didn’t let young children and the old starve, for they could afford hospitals and poor relief. So Smith defended consumer capitalism on the basis that it did more good for the poor than societies devoted to high ideals. That said, Smith held out some fascinating hopes for the future of capitalism. He didn’t want it to stay stuck at the frivolous level forever. He observed that humans have many ‘higher’ needs that currently lie outside of capitalist enterprise: among these, our need for education, for self-understanding, for beautiful cities and for rewarding social lives.

    The hope for the future is that we’ll learn to generate sizeable profits from helping people in truly important, ambitious way

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  • A Retrograde Economic Vision

    The UN categorisations for development of nations in the world is based on the three different levels- HAI, EVI and GNI- measured to give rise to three distinct categories, least developed, developing and high income or developed countries. Without a doubt, Nepal lands in the first category. But considerable progress has been made. Nepal recorded a marginal rise above the threshold on the HAI Index with 68.7 points while the EVI Index was within the threshold limit with 28.7 points. Nepal, however, recorded a low performance on its GNI per capita Index with $865 in the FY 2016/17. Despite the remarkable improvement in two major indices, the GoN stated that the country isn’t prepared for graduation.

    All of this begs to a question as to why the Nepal government was reluctant to graduate to the league of developing countries in the first place? Continue reading

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  • दोश्रो चरणको आर्थिक सुधार तर्फ

    सन् २०१५मा  ‘नेपालको संविधान’को घोषणा भए संगै, नेपालमा एकात्मक राज्यव्यवस्थाको अन्त्य भई संघीयता कर्यान्वयन भएको छ । यस २ वर्ष ४ महिना नेपालमा पर्याप्त प्रगतिहरु भएका छन्  र यी सबै मध्ये संविधानको मर्म अनुरुप तीनै तहको निर्वाचन र नयाँ स्थिर सरकारको गठन सबै भन्दा महत्तपूर्ण  हो । मताधिकार पाएका लगभग  ७०% जनताले  निर्वाचनमा भाग लिई स्थानीय, प्रादेशीक र संघीय तहमा आफ्नो जनप्रतिनिधि चुनेका छन् । बितेको एक दशक हेर्ने हो भने सबै भन्दा धेरै राजनैतिक, आर्थिक उतार चडावहरु भए  बावजुत एक वर्ष भित्र तीनै तहको सफल निर्वाचन सम्पन्न  भई  हामी अब राजनैतिक स्थिरता र आर्थिक समृद्धिको बाटो तिर अघि बढ्ने संकेत गरेको भन्ने बुझ्न सक्छौं ।

    नेपालको विकास नहुनुमा प्राय हामी राजनीतक अस्थिरता र एकात्मक राज्यव्यवस्था प्रणालीलाई नै दोष  दिने गर्दछौं । पश्चिमी मुलुकहरु हेर्ने हो भने आर्थिक विकासका  लागी राजनीतिक स्थिरता संगै त्यहाँका नीति नियमहरुले उद्यमीहरुलाई के-कस्ता व्यवस्था गरेका छन्  भन्ने कुरा विशेष महत्व राख्दछन्  । केन्द्रिकृत राज्य व्यवस्थाले देशका विभिन्न क्षेत्रमा बसोबास गर्ने मानिसलाई राज्यको सेवा सुविधाको  पहुँच हुन सकेन भनेर नेपालमा नयाँ किसिमको लोकतान्त्रिक शासनविधि सुरु भएको हो । साथै विभिन्न प्रशासनिक कामका लागी राजधानीनै आउनु पर्ने बाध्यकारी व्यवस्थाले जनतालाई थप पिडा थपेको थियो । अत: संघीयताले सम्पूर्ण जनतालाई छिटो, छरितो र चुस्त सेवा प्रदान  गर्न सक्ने भएकाले नेपालमा यो व्यवस्थालाई संविधानले आत्मसाथ गरेको छ ।

    नया सरकार बने संगै संघीय लोकतान्त्रिक गणतन्त्रात्मक शासन व्यवस्था सहितको नेपाल पछिल्लो ७ दशकमा  विभिन्न आरोहका साथ यहाँ सम्म आइपुगिसकेको छ । अगाडी हेर्दा झन् ठुला चुनौतीका पहाडहरु छन् तर अब फर्केर जाने वा स्थिर रहने सवाल छैन । समय गतीशील छ । नेपालका अबका चुनौतीहरुमा संविधानको मर्म अनुरुप संघीयता  कार्यन्वयन, अधिकार सम्पन्न प्रदेश र स्थानीय सरकार, दिगो आर्थिक विकास, भौतिकसंरचनको निर्माण, प्रशासनिक सुगमता, सुशासन, भ्रष्टचार मुक्त समाज,रोजगारी सिर्जना, उद्यमशिलताको विकास आदि हुन ।

    अत: आर्थिक समृद्धि र सुखी नेपालको सुनिश्चितता गर्ने काम लोकतान्त्रिक पद्धतीमा जनताद्वारा निर्वाचित जन-प्रतिनिधिहरुको हो । आम जनताका लागी घर घरमा सिंहदरबारको सुनिश्चितता गर्ने काम यिनै जनप्रतिनिधिहरुको हो । उचित नतिजा निकाल्न मनग्य मिहेनत र लगनका साथै उत्तिकै समय र परिश्रम चाहिन्छ । ज्ञान, शिप र कौशलले जस्तो सुकै समस्याको समाधान गर्ने बाटो देखाउঁछ । नेपालले सन् १९९० को दसकमै  आर्थिक उधारीकरणको सुरुवात गरेर पहिलो पुस्ताको आर्थिक सुधारिकरण गरी नेपालले  ८% भन्दा बढी आर्थिक बृद्धिको सूचांक  हाँसिल गरेको उदहारण छ । दोश्रो चरणको आर्थिक सुधारिकरण गरी कम्पनी दर्ता तथा खारेजीमा सहजता र सरलीकरण ,अन्तर विभाग समन्वय, कम्पनी बिघटनका वाध्यकारी व्यवस्था हटाउने , दामासाहीको प्रक्रिया छोटो र सजिलो गर्ने , तथा करार कर्यान्वयनलाई सजिलो र छिटो बनाउन तत्काल कार्य थालनी गर्नु पर्छ । यसका साथै विदेश व्यापारलाई चुस्त दुरुस्त बनाउन बहुआयमिक मालसामान बिल, कम भन्दा कम कागजपत्रको प्रयोग व्यवस्था, एकृकित नाका व्यवस्था, नीतिगत सामन्जस्यता, विद्युतीय तथ्यांकको प्रयोग तथा सूचना आदान प्रदान, प्रविधिको उचित प्रयोग गर्न जरुरि छ । हाल नेपालमा कर भुक्तानी गर्ने प्रक्रिया निकै झन्झटिलो  र समय लाग्ने खालको छ। अत: नेपालले छिटो भन्दा छिटो डिजिटल प्रबिधि अपनाई विद्युतीय मध्यमबाट भुक्तानीको व्यवस्था मिलाउन जरूरी छ ।

    हाम्रो सरकारले के कति काम गर्यो भन्ने कुरा अहिले बनेको सरकारको कार्यकाल सकिएपछि ५ वर्षमा थाहा पक्कै हुन्छ तर कुन कुन समयमा के के गर्यो भन्ने पनि महत्वपूर्ण कुरा हो । हामी कहाँ बिगतका उदहारण हेर्ने हो भने  आर्थिक वर्षको अन्त्य तिर या चुनावका  नजिकै, विकास निर्माणका कामहरु तिब्व्र रुपमा अघि बढेको देख्न सक्छौं । सरकार र  ठेकेदारहरुको लापरबाहीका कारण राजस्वको दुरुपयोगले देशलाई झन् दरिद्र बनाएको छ । त्यसैले यस्ता क्रियाकलापले  स्रोत र साधनको उचित प्रयोग नगरी आमजनताले तिरेको करको दुरुपयोग हुदै आएको देखिन्छ । जनताले अब बन्ने जुन सुकै सरकारलाई  निग्रानीमा राखेर उचित मूल्यांकन गर्न पर्छ । सरकारले लिने निणय  आमजनताका दैनकीलाई सजिलो एवं सुलभ बनाउने र  सुशासनलाई आत्मसाथ गर्ने हुन पर्छ । सरकारले जनताका भावनालाई बुझेर नतिजा मुखी भई आफ्ना सेवा तथा कार्यक्रमले जनताको दैनिकी सहज हुने गरी गर्नु पर्दछ । निर्वाचनको जनादेशलाई सम्मान गर्दै अल्पकालीन तथा दीर्घकालिन योजनामा के कतिको प्रगति भएको छ भन्ने कुराहरु  जनप्रतिनिधिहरु निरन्तर रुपमा जवाफदेही हुनपर्दछ  । नागरिक समाज, बुद्धिजीवी वर्ग, पत्रकार तथा पत्रपत्रिकाहरुले सरकारका खराब निर्णय र कदमलाई निरन्तर खबरदारी गर्न जरूरी छ ।


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  • Economy

    Why Use Behavioral Sciences in Nepal’s Policy-Making?

    The “Economics in Crisis” theme has become one of the favorite themes of discussions among the journalists, economics commentators and the academicians. All of them, in particular, take examples of failure of modern economic theories to correctly predict Global Financial Crisis 2007-2008, Brexit and Trump Presidency in the US and their overall consequences on world economy to justify their arguments.

    As a consequence, there has been an ongoing debate that seeks to try to integrate theories from other academic disciplines into the mainstream economic theories to design more holistic policies that result in better policy outcomes. A 2017 work by Neil Irwon, a senior economics correspondent for The New York Times also highlighted this changing shift in economic thinking and policy-making in the US and other major world economies. These shifts in economic thinking became even more evident after Professor Richard Thaler received last year’s Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences for his contributions to behavioral economics. Professor Thaler was long been considered as one of the main critics of economics, especially after he published his much debated paper – Toward a Positive Theory of Consumer Choice.

    These recent changes in economic thinking, especially those related to incorporating behavioral science components into the long-standing economic theories, go beyond simple debates and have long been affecting lives of the people across the world. The governments, private institutions and policy makers in different parts of the world have long been using behavioral science theories to better the net outcomes of their economic and related public policies. Some of the countries that have been using and also benefiting from behavioral science theories include USA, The Netherlands, UKSingapore and Turkey. Furthermore, besides their considerable influence in economic policies, behavioral science theories – Professor Thaler’s Nudge Theory in particular – also have significant in framing a variety of public policies. For example, countries like Austria, Belgium, France and Spain have proved that effective use of Nudge Theory in organ donation campaigns not only encourages more people to voluntarily donate their organs but also makes overall campaigns more efficient.

    In the light of these issues and Nepal’s existing realities, I see ample opportunities for concerned stakeholders in the country to invest in and also engage in researches and discussions focused on identifying applicable behavioral science theories that could best be utilized in ameliorating present economic theories. I have tried to highlight some of these issues in one of my past opinion pieces for The Kathmandu Post.

    We all are well aware that Nepal started adopting liberal policies as early as in early 1990s. However, country’s growth since then has been minimal. As expected, people normally blame the decade long Maoist insurgency (1996 – 2006) and ten more years of political transition (2007 – 2017) as key reasons for Nepal’s more than two decades of stagnated growth. But I think, besides aforementioned crises, our failure to update our policies and also formulate new policies as per the changing national and global circumstances also played their roles for minimal growth of the country. I am sure that some of these issues will also be highlighted in World Bank’s upcoming Nepal – Country Diagnostic report. Thus, it is high time that we start discussing about usefulness of behavioral science theories in developing and adopting proper policies that not only drive country’s growth but also help us to maintain existing social, cultural and environmental harmony. What do you think?

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  • Obtaining Tax Clearance Certificate in Nepal

    The infographic depicts the process of obtaining tax clearance certificate from Inland Revenue Office.  A taxpayer has to go through a number of steps before he finally obtains tax clearance certificate. Out of all the steps, some of the steps seems redundant and they can be clubbed into a single step without affecting the efficiency of the entire system. For example the Dues section checks if any previous dues are left or not. If previous dues are left, the tax payer has to go the bank and pay the due amount, and present a photocopy of the payment slip at tax office. Again, the Tax payment Unit, verifies if the self- assessed tax amount payable by the tax payer is correct or not. If the self- assessed amount is lesser that the amount to be actually paid, the tax payer again has to go to the bank and pay the remaining amount and bring a photocopy of the payment slip.

    Here, we can see that if a taxpayer has his previous dues left and if his/her self- assessed tax amount falls short of what is actually to be paid, he/she has to go to the bank twice. If checking previous dues and correcting the self- assessed tax amount can be done in a single step, the taxpayer would be spared from having to visit bank twice for similar purpose. This will reduce total time required to pay taxes and will also make tax payment process more easy and convenient.

    Currently, a taxpayer has to allocate an entire day for obtaining tax clearance certificate (given no previous dues are left and self- assessed tax amount is correct). But, if previous dues or left and/or self- assessed tax amount is incorrect, it can take up to 2- 3 days to obtain tax clearance certificate. The large amount of time required for just paying taxes and obtaining tax clearance certificate has increased the cost of doing business. Therefore, it is essential to reduce the number of processes and time involved in obtaining tax clearance certificate so that entrepreneurship would not be discouraged.

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