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Akash Shrestha

About Akash Shrestha

Akash Shrestha is Coordinator of the Research Department at Samriddhi, The Prosperity Foundation where his focus areas are petroleum trade and public enterprises. He also writes newspaper articles, blogs and radio capsules, based on the findings of the studies conducted by The Foundation.

The Economics of Minimum Wage

(This article was first published in the HImalayan Times on the 22nd of July, 2018.)

Sometimes, the most noble of intentions might yet produce severe unintended and negative consequences. Nepal’s minimum wage law comes ominouslyclose to achieving this feat.

We, as a country, are setting out on a mission to achieve unprecedented levels of growth and create new economic opportunities. We need all the international and domestic investments we can secure in order to trigger that growth. Our policies, institutions and hard infrastructures will greatly determine how successful we become towards that end. But the minimum wage law seems to be incompatible with investment targets; it also appears to have overlooked domestic labour scene.

Scaring away investors

From foreign investment perspective, the new minimum wage (Rs. 13,450) which is a 38% growth from previous minimum wage makes Nepalese labour the most expensive in the region. Merge that with Nepal’s dismal performance in other global competitiveness indices like the Doing Business Index or Corruption Perception Index or Economic Freedom Index (just some among many), any prospective investor could quickly put off thoughts of bringing investments here. It already takes months to acquire a business visa to Nepal. According to the Doing Business Report, it takes 339 hours just to pay federal taxes and three years to enforce contracts.

No investor will research all small initiatives regarding foreign investment promotion in a new host country before making investment decision. They will look at these indicators and work out what country offers them the highest prospect of return. Towards that end, such dismal performance plus minimum wages that have grown 400% in the last decade while labour productivity has failed to keep pace will not help.

An ignorance of domestic reality

Cost of labour is an important factor from a domestic investment perspective as well. Formalisation of labour and organic wage growths are other couple of important aspects of labour.

If we look back at the last couple of years of Nepal’s economy, construction industry has grown at one of the fastest rates. Demand of construction workers is therefore high. Consequently, the wages of construction workers have skyrocketed. Today, one can hardly find a mason who will work for below Rs. 1500 a day. This is way above the government-set daily minimum wage. This simple example goes to show that if we create opportunities for investments to flourish and industries to grow, the government does not have to intervene and set workers’ wages in order to guarantee a decent income to them.

But then again, there is a great number of workers in the service and agro industry who have not seen their wages grow at similar rates. This might beg a question as to what we do about them. But even here, we have to be weary of the fact that a great many of these workers (who make the least income) in these sectors are informal workers in the first place. Therefore, a raise in minimum wage does not really enhance their economic positions. In fact, that brings us to another greater risk – the risk of lay-offs.

Risk of lay-off is real

Once again, for an investor (domestic or foreign) labour poroductivity matters. If the labour productivity increases in a similar rate as wages, then s/he can churn out greater profits from her/his business and everybody is happy. But when labour productivity does not increase at the same rate (which is what is happening in Nepal), then it is only a matter of time before the investor starts thinking of laying off workers and getting the same job done through fewer workers. Of course, s/he could offer some raise to those workers who are more productive and can take in some extra load. Such a raise will have come at the cost of the worker that is laid off. In the end, the law that was supposed to help the worker got her/him out of the job.

Minimum wage should not disincentivise

When we argue that minimum wage should cover at least the basic needs of an individual, we should be careful that a minimum wage does not put an individual in a position that s/he no longer needs to worry about being more productive or enhancing her/his economic position further. At best, it should be a support position while s/he starts out as an economic actor. It should be a position that everyone wants to grow out of. In that sense, it should incentivize an individual to be more productive, and not the stagnate.

Looking back at our minimum wage policy and the growth of minimum wages over the years, this will be another very important factor to look into two years from now when we sit to revise it again; if we continue to live with this policy until then, that is.

Akash Shrestha

About Akash Shrestha

Akash Shrestha is Coordinator of the Research Department at Samriddhi, The Prosperity Foundation where his focus areas are petroleum trade and public enterprises. He also writes newspaper articles, blogs and radio capsules, based on the findings of the studies conducted by The Foundation.

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Let It Die

-This article was originally published by Akash Shrestha in Republica on September 26, 2016.

After the 1990 political change, Nepal embarked on the path of economic liberalization. The private sector would from then on lead the economy, with the government offering growth-boosting policies and laws. In this context, between 1990 and 1996, the country grew by 5 percent a year,  hitting an all-time high of 8.2 percent in 1994. This showed that liberalization works in Nepal if we have liberal policies. So in its ninth five-year plan (1998-2002), the National Planning Commission recommended privatizing 30 state-owned enterprises (SOEs).

But economic liberalization has not been a smooth sailing for Nepal. We have gone through a decade-long civil war, another decade-long peace-building and constitution-drafting transition and various political movements. Meanwhile, economic policy reforms took a back seat.

Nepali Congress had led the first wave of economic policy reforms. Today, NC is the largest parliamentary party and controls the Ministry of Industries (MoI), the same ministry that was at the forefront of first wave of economic liberalization. It is therefore interesting that MoI itself is looking to revive some of these sick public enterprises (PEs) that were picked for privatization during the 1990s. The ministry, we are told, aims to revive at least three PEs within this fiscal, including the Nepal Drugs Limited (NDL).

Some arguments in favor of reviving NDL are: It will ensure availability of quality and affordable drugs to the general public; it will save the government money that would have been spent in procuring drugs from outside; it will send a positive signal to private investors; and that it will help create jobs. Let us look at these assumptions.

First, government running the NDL will not send a positive message to domestic and foreign investors. NDL is only one drug manufacturer in an industry that has more than 50 registered private enterprises. Most of them are making profits. So private investors are already interested in the drug industry, having spent around Rs 20 billion in it. Private drug-makers today meet half the market demand in Nepal. NDL will struggle to compete in this competitive market.

Nor will reviving it send a more positive signal to investors. Since NDL is a state-owned enterprise, the rules that apply to private companies do not apply to NDL. NDL neither has to depend on investors for its capital, nor on consumers for its revenue. Therefore, it will put NDL at an unfair advantage.

Second, it is not true that reviving NDL will save government billions of rupees and ensure quality drugs in the market. Yes, NDL could produce drugs that replace some foreign incumbents. But the impact will be minimal. The government distributes a total of 70 drugs (including antibiotics, medicines for diabetes, high blood pressure and heart diseases) for free, spending big money. Going by NDL’s past record, if it is to produce all these drugs, it will do so at a higher cost than the costs of the private companies. NDL has already accumulated over a billion rupees in losses and another half a billion in unfunded employee retirement liabilities. It owes another billion rupees to the government.


*Source: SOE Information: Yellow Book, Ministry of Finance, 2002/03 – 2015/16
** Data for the year 2012/13 could not be accessed

As is the case with most other sick public enterprises, NDL was also beset by constant political intervention and mismanagement, before it shut down. Millions of rupees have been injected into it to resume its operations (Rs 50 million four years ago being the latest injection of cash). With that track record, there is little prospect for structural reforms in the NDL. Again, with so many successful private enterprises, do we even need NDL?

As regards quality, 37 private drug industries in Nepal have the World Health Organization’s Good Manufacturing Practice (GMP) certificates. But NDC is yet to acquire GMP certification.

Third, of course new enterprises create jobs. But the government is not a productive agent in itself. Rather it is a redistributive agent. And, historically, the government-run state enterprises in Nepal have not been known for their job-creation capabilities. The money that is going to be injected into the NDL is going to come from the national budget, which means from taxes, grants and loans.

In today’s context, every job that the government creates displaces the job that the private entrepreneurs could have created themselves. Government does not create new jobs, it shifts jobs from one industry to another, and puts the human resources to a less efficient use. If it is employment we are worried about, like Milton Friedman said, we could simply ban the use of machines and make everything manually. Voila! Employment all around.

Fourth, on balance of payment, we export what is of lesser value in the domestic market and import what is of higher value in the local market. If everybody is gaining in value through this trade, should we be imposing a constraint on economic actors? Alternately, if local producers were producing high-value commodities, we would not need to import them. But in our effort to revive the NDL, we are ignoring the contribution of profit-making enterprises and putting our bet on a loss-making, inefficient enterprise. If it is so much about balance of trade, let’s export all electricity to Bihar and import fashion from there.

Finally, the Ministry has not clarified if the old structure of the NDL will be retrained. And will it be privatized based on public-private partnership (PPP), management contracting, or cooperative model? Saying that NDL will be privatized is not enough.

Yes, there are flaws in Nepal’s private sector, which indulge in own anti-competitive practices that have often compromised the well-being of consumers. But it is also true that Nepal as a poor country has serious administrative and fiscal deficiencies. If a government with this scale of administrative and fiscal deficiency tries to do it all, it will result in nothing but failure. The government should rather be acting as a facilitator and a monitor guaranteeing that there is a conducive policy regime, no anti-competitive practices and businesses compete to deliver affordable products.

Akash Shrestha

About Akash Shrestha

Akash Shrestha is Coordinator of the Research Department at Samriddhi, The Prosperity Foundation where his focus areas are petroleum trade and public enterprises. He also writes newspaper articles, blogs and radio capsules, based on the findings of the studies conducted by The Foundation.

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Where the private investors are pawns

With the permission given to nine private companies to import and sell petroleum product, and thus break the monopoly of the state-owned Nepal Oil Corporation only on July 10 being scrapped on July 21, the Government of Nepal (GoN) has pulled a massive joke on the Nepalese private sector, and consecutively the Nepalese consumers. On a very serious note, this is an ominous level of policy instability and has sent all kinds of negative signals to the foreign investors that have (or had) been thinking about making investments in Nepal.

If nothing else, the recent trade blockade should have taught us a lesson. Nepal was compromised largely in terms of availability of goods and services that the government has monopolised, for example, petroleum products. Another observation here will be that government to government agreements can sometimes compromise the well-being of the citizens. Because India wanted to make a statement, IOC was forced to do as per the interest of the Indian government. And since IOC is the only supplier and NOC is the only importer, Nepalese people had no way out

Had there been private companies involved in the process, they would be guided by a completely different set of interests – profit, for example. Irrespective of the government’s interests and stance, they’d be looking to make as much profit as possible. This means that the movement of goods and services would continue. And in fact, we saw this happen, too. We saw that some private individuals managed to bring in petroleum products through informal channels. This is how more than three-fourths of Kathmandu’s demand was met. It was illegal, but only because the law barred them from getting involved in the process. But people needed fuel and they were willing to pay. Now imagine if private companies were legally allowed to engage in petroleum trade! The impact of such blockade on Nepal, and most importantly, on the lives of Nepalese people could have been much less.

But now, that’s a thing of the past; and we need to focus more on the future; and we have a lot on our plates already. We need to build infrastructures, we need to invest in education, health, agriculture … you name it. And for this, we need capital to invest. And people invest when there is some prospect of return. In order to see this prospect of return, there needs to be policy stability in place. What policy stability does to prospective investors is that it gives them a sense of predictability. Irrespective of the ideologies of the government, when investors can be secure that the policy environment is going to stay stable for a certain period of time, they can at least plan their investments factoring for other constraints within that time frame and work out possible returns. But when policies change in a matter of days, investors will not bother doing all that maths. What’s worse, if you are a poor nation and need to bring in foreign investors to solve your third-world problems, you’re frankly not even going to make it to the list of possible countries in which to make an investment.

Akash Shrestha

About Akash Shrestha

Akash Shrestha is Coordinator of the Research Department at Samriddhi, The Prosperity Foundation where his focus areas are petroleum trade and public enterprises. He also writes newspaper articles, blogs and radio capsules, based on the findings of the studies conducted by The Foundation.

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Let People Create Jobs

– This article was originally published by Akash Shrestha on July 3, 2016 in The Himalayan Times.

With the start of July, we are now into the month of the new fiscal year 2016/17. The budget that was presented before parliament five weeks ago will go into implementation from mid-July. The objective of the budget once again is to “… increase income and employment …,” and “to attain high economic growth through increasing productivity and production,” among many.

On one hand, we have these; on the other, there are people migrating out of Nepal by over a thousand a day in search of economic opportunities — including some of the most hostile territories in the world. They do so because they have no other choice. When there are no jobs in the country, one makes the obvious choice of becoming an economic migrant.

One common thing that binds the budget, the Constitution and migrants is jobs. And what creates ‘new’ jobs? Private enterprises! And creating private enterprises that will create new jobs is not easy for Nepali citizens to do. Thus, the immediate focus should be to work towards facilitating enterprises. To begin with, the two most important aspects of facilitating ‘enterprise’ will be ‘facilitating entry’ and ‘facilitating exit.’

Starting a business — facilitating entry

Facilitating entry should eventually translate to a situation where a Nepali can easily dream of starting his/her own business. Then, the next thing to look into will be how long does it take for an aspiring entrepreneur to get from thinking about starting a business to registering one and moving to the operation phase. As things happen in Nepal, the latter tends to hinder the former.

Say, one wants to start a small manufacturing industry. If one studies the official processes, it will look like the company can be registered in a matter of weeks, if one is lucky. But for an entrepreneur, registering a business at the Office of the Company Registrar is merely creating a legal person. This legal person does not have any right to engage in economic activities unless it gets necessary permission from other agencies, depending on the nature of its business. This is where things get more inhospitable for aspiring entrepreneurs. If one needs to do an Environmental Impact Assessment, it can only be passed through the Department of Industries and can take him anything between four to six months, to years.

Then there are a number other agencies to get the permission from before one can operate, vis. the Office of Cottage and Small Industries, the Inland Revenue Office, other concerned departments, et cetera. Some of the common grievances of all existing industrialists are that there are too many and unclear legal processes, and all of these cost a lot of time and under-the-table fees. Now that Nepal is going to implement federalism, people should feel that this is a positive change for them. From starting a business perspective, this can be achieved through devolution of the regulatory agencies that are centred in Kathmandu to all new provinces, further guaranteeing that people get all kinds of services from One Stop Service Centres (OSSCs), and reviewing and reforming existing procedures to get rid of redundancies and make them less time-consuming.

Closing a business — facilitating exit

Another equally important factor that affects people’s decision to start a business is how easy it is to close the business should s/he choose to. Sometimes businesses go in loss, other times, people feel that there are greater prospects of profit in another business and want to close their existing business. In order to make sure that the switch is prompt, people are still economically active, and the utilisation of resources is optimised, it should be easy for business to wipe their slate clean and start anew.

To put it simply, there is no clear policy regarding exit. One of the hurdles is that it is a challenge to find your own file at the regulatory agencies, then, tax files are practically never closed, you have to hire a liquidator irrespective of the size of your business, the regulatory agencies are not at all friendly, and there is no coordination and harmonisation across functions of different government agencies. When people see that it is difficult to get their hands off a business once they get into it, that their resources are likely to be stuck in a not-so-profitable or even loss-making business, and that they are always being monitored, that already acts as a big demotivating factor.

To start with, facilitating exit would require a clear exit policy on the regulator’s part. Then, the processes will need to be simplified and made entrepreneur friendly, redundancies be done away with, and entrepreneurs be made to believe that the regulators are there to facilitate rather than to stifle their entrepreneurial spirits. Just as in case of entry, the exit processes should be handled from the provincial level, too.

It is when people feel that they can earn their own livelihoods by starting their own businesses in Nepal that we will be able to meet the goals as stated in the Constitution and the budget. We cannot be promising to create jobs for people without analysing why people are not doing it on their own. At the end of the day, it is private entrepreneurs that create new jobs, and not the government.

Akash Shrestha

About Akash Shrestha

Akash Shrestha is Coordinator of the Research Department at Samriddhi, The Prosperity Foundation where his focus areas are petroleum trade and public enterprises. He also writes newspaper articles, blogs and radio capsules, based on the findings of the studies conducted by The Foundation.

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Modernisation of Agriculture – Evidences, Government Commitments and the Sorry State

I believe it will be worthwhile to repeat these numbers once again, before we begin. So currently, 66% of Nepal’s total workforce is engaged in agriculture. This two-thirds chunk contributes one-thirds to the GDP of Nepal. According to the World Bank, Nepal ranks among the lowests in terms of agricultural productivity in the whole of South Asia.  One of the major contributing factors to this is that 85% of the total workforce involved in agriculture is in it for subsistence. Furthermore, average land holding stands are mere 0.67 hectare (ha). These people lack access to improved technology. So much of the people involved in agriculture solely for subsistence, along with fragmentation of land at such a scale also means commercial agriculture is not feasible at present.

International experience over the last century shows that development of agriculture happens not by more people being involved in agriculture, but by modernization (video also available below) through newer technologies and commercialization of agriculture. In the process, a big chunk of the workforce involved in agriculture leaves this sector and shifts towards manufacturing and service industries. All the while, productivity of the sector increases and this, coupled with progress in other economic sectors of the country, leads to the growth of entire economy.

Identifying the need to increase the agricultural productivity and to diversify the sector such that it can lend inputs for the industrialization of the Nepal, Government of Nepal (GoN) has committed to (including in the budget for the FY 2016/17) modernization, diversification, commercialization and marketing of the agriculture sector. Scores of policies, plans and strategies have been laid out to “achieve” these. But, do they?

I was in Birgunj in May, 2016 (part of a longer visit to the districts in the Terai region) to meet entrepreneurs and local-level government agencies to learn the functions of regulatory agencies at such local level, and also test what kind of government services were available to the people. Unfortunately (but expectedly), I saw once again that government promises and practices do not resonate very frequently.

Lorik Prasad Yadav (with not much education, but very innovative), a resident of Sugauli, Birta -6 purchased a tractor with an initial investment of Rs. 1 million. He used it as a mobile mill to mill cereals like wheat and paddy. This was a huge service to the locals and made lives easier for everybody. Firstly, the women did not have to travel hours to the stationary mills anymore. Lorik would come to their doors. These women could now invest this time into some other economic activity.  His was a cheaper service, too. He charged only Rs. 1.5 per kilogram while the other stationary mills were charging Rs. 2.5. In other words, people were now able to save. He’d leave the chaff (bhoos) behind so the farmers could use it further. Since it operates on diesel, load shedding has no effect on it; so people could get service anytime.

Now, innovations and new technologies always threaten the status quo. The people running stationary mills were facing a massive competition. Either they had to upgrade their business and make lives easier for their customers as well in order to retain their customers and save their business. Or, they’d have to shut down. Of course, they chose a different alternative. They filed a complaint against Lorik at the Department of Cottage and Small Industries (DoCSI), Parsa.

The same government that has committed to modernisation of agriculture to enhance Nepal’s agriculture productivity came to their rescue. Citing reasons that there is no provision of registering mobile mill business in the Act, the DoCSI intervened and closed down Lorik’s business. Right across the border, in India, there are others like Lorik who are freely operating the same business.

On one hand, the GoN spends billions of rupees on agriculture subsidy for productivity enhancement, while on the other, the same government kills innovation that would in fact enhance productivity.


Akash Shrestha

About Akash Shrestha

Akash Shrestha is Coordinator of the Research Department at Samriddhi, The Prosperity Foundation where his focus areas are petroleum trade and public enterprises. He also writes newspaper articles, blogs and radio capsules, based on the findings of the studies conducted by The Foundation.

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उत्प्रेरणाको भूमिका

निम्न लेख रसल रोबर्ट्सको निवन्ध “Incentives Matter” को आकाश श्रेष्ठको नेपाली अनुवाद हो| यस अनुवाद पहिलो पटक ‘विचार डबली’ मा मे , २०१४ मा प्रकाशित भएको थियो|

– रसल रोबर्टस्

अठारौं सताब्दिको अन्त्य तिर आएर बेलायतले कैदिहरुलााई अष्ट्रेलिया पठाउन थाल्यो । जल यातायातको सुविधा नीजि क्षेत्रले प्रदान गथ्र्यो भने खर्च ब्यहोर्ने जिम्मा भने सरकारले लिन्थ्यो । जाँदाजाँदै बाटैमा थुप्रै कैदिहरु मृत्यूको शिकार बन्न पुग्थे — कारण, खराब पोषण, अत्याधिक भिडभाडले निम्त्याउने विभिन्न प्रकारका अन्य रोगहरु र स्वास्थ्य चिकित्सा सेवाको अभाव, वा कतिपय अवस्थामा त चिकित्सा सेवाको प्रावधान नै नहुनु । १७९० र १७९२ को बिचमा मात्र १२ प्रतिशत कैदिहरु बाटैमा पलायन हुन्थे । थुप्रै असल बेलायती नागरिकहरु यस्तो अवस्थाका कारण मन खिन्न बनाउँथे । उनीहरु जे जस्तै भए पनि अष्ट्रेलिया पठाउनु भनेको मृत्यू दण्डको पर्याय हुनु हुँदैन भन्ने भाव राख्थे । एक पटक एउटै जाहाजमा लैजाँदै गरिएका मध्ये ३७ प्रतिशत कैदि सम्म मृत्यूको शिकार बन्न पुगे ।

अब यस्तो अवस्थामा, ती जाहाजका कप्तानहरुलाई कसरी चाहिँ ती कैदिहरुको राम्रो हेर–विचार गर्न लगाउने त ? त्यस बेला यस प्रकारको एउटा निकै गम्भिर प्रश्न उठ्यो बेलायती सरकार माथि ।

सबै भन्दा पहिलो विकल्प भनेको ती जाहाजका कप्तानहरुलाई मान्छे नै मर्ने गरेर कैदिहरुको केहि वास्ता नै नगर्नु त अमानवताको पराकाष्टानै हो नि भनेर लेक्चर दिनु थियो, र केहि हद सम्म त्यसो गरिएको पनि थियो । अर्को भनेको जाहाजका कप्तानहरुलाई उनीहरुको जाहाजमा भरिएका कैदिको संख्याको आधारमा पैसा तिर्न मिल्ने गरी कैहिहरुको यातायातको लागि राज्यले सुहाउँदो किसिमको बजेटको व्यवस्था गर्ने होला । यसो गरिसके पछि ती कप्तानहरुलाई ती कैदिहरुको राम्रो हेर–विचार गर्नु भनेर फेरि लेक्चर दिने वा सम्झाउने । (किनकि कोहिकोहि कप्तानहरुले कैदिहरुकालागि भनि छुट्ट्याइएको अन्न र औषधिहरु बचाएर पछि अष्ट्रेलिया गएर बेचबिखन गरेर पैसा कमाउन गरेको पनि पाइएको थियो । ) ती कप्तानहरुलाई पैसा अलि होस पुर्याएर खर्च गर्न भनी पनि अनुरोध गर्न सकिन्थ्यो । तर जे गरे पनि आखिर यी विकल्पहरु भ्नेको ती कप्तानहरुलाई आफ्नै व्यवहार सुधार्न भनेर कुनै दोस्रो व्यक्ति वा समूहले चेतना फैलाउने प्रयास गर्नु मात्र हुन्थ्यो ।

अन्त्यमा यो समस्याको समाधान निकालियो । फरक यति थियो कि कुनै दास्रो व्यक्ति वा समूहले घच्घच्याउनु भन्दा ती कप्तानहरुलाई आपैmले नै यसको बारेमा केहि गर्न उत्प्रेरित गरियो । सरकारले कप्तानहरुलाई अष्ट्रेलिया पुगेपछिको हरेक जिवित कैदि बापद बोनस दिने निर्णय गर्यो । यसर्थ, एक भिन्न प्रकारको विकल्प छानियो ।

त्यस पछिको लगत्तैको भ्रमणमा तीन जहाज गरी ३२२ कैदि मध्ये केवल एकको मृत्यु भयो । एउटा सरल परिवर्तनले चामत्कारिक भूमिका खेल्यो । यति बेला ती कप्तानहरु प्हिले भन्दा बढि विनम्र र करुणमय भने भएका थिएनन् । तीनिहरु प्हिले जत्तिकै कंजुस र छोट्टा थिए । तर नयाँ नीति अनुसार तीनिहरुले विनम्र र करुणमय ढङ्गले व्यवहार गर्न उत्प्रेरणा पाए । अर्थात्, तीनिहरुले विनम्र र करुणमय ढङ्गले व्यवहार गर्नुमा आफूलाईनै बढि फाइदा हुन जाने पाए । यो परिवर्तनले कप्तान र कैदिहरुको सरोकारलाई एकै विन्दुमा केन्द्रित ग¥यो । कैदिहरु अचानक मृत भन्दा जिवित अवस्थामा बढि मूल्यवान हुन पुगे ।

जे भने पनि मान्छेको दिमागमा उत्प्रेरणाले ठूलो भूमिका खेल्छ । अर्थशास्त्रमा एउटा निकै चर्चित अदाहरण दिने गरिएको पाइन्छ —डिमान्ड कर्भको । अर्थात्, जब कुनै वस्तुको मूल्य बढ्न जान्छ, तब मान्छेहरु त्यो वस्तु कमै मात्र किन्छन् र कमै उपभोग गर्छन् , र जब कुनै वस्तुको मूल्य घट्न जान्छ, तब मान्छेहरु धमाधम त्यो वस्तु किन्न थाल्छन् र उपभोग गर्न थाल्छन् ।

कोहि मान्छेहरुलाई भने अर्थशास्त्रको यो मूल सिद्धान्त अलि पच्दैन । शंका गर्ने व्यक्तहरु भन्छन्, “जब इन्धनको मूल्य आकाशिन्छ, म तब पनि त इन्धन किनिरहेकै हुन्छु ।” अझ कडा शब्दमा भन्ने हो भने “यस्ता गफ जति नै गरेपनि मान्छेलाई त्यै गाडि चलाउन इन्धन नभई हुँदैन, त्यसैले मूल्य जति नै बढे पनि मान्छेले चाहिएको वस्तुको मूल्य बढोस् वा घटोस्, मान्छेले त्यो वस्तु किनिरहेकै हुन्छन्, त्यसको उपभोग गरिरहेकै हुन्छन् । ”

हो, मान्छेलाई इन्धनको मूल्य जतिनै बढेतापनि किन्ने पर्ने वाध्यता हुन सक्छ । तर मान्छेले जसरी भए पनि कसरी कम खपथ गर्न सकिएला भन्ने बारे चाहिँ सोचिरहेका नै हुन्छन् । हो सबैले इन्धन खरिद गर्नै बन्द नगर्लान्, तर कम खपथ गरेर पनि काम चलाउने उपायहरु भने खोजी नै रहन्छन् ।

मूल्य बृद्धि हुँदाको अवस्थामा मान्छेहरु उत्प्रेरणा पाउँदा कसरी व्यवहारमा परिवर्तन ल्याउँछन्, यो निकै कौतुहलको विषय हो । जब इन्धनको मूल्य आकाशिन्छ, कोहि मान्छे गाडि हाँक्नै कम गर्छन्, कोहि कम गतिमा हाँक्ने बानी बसाल्छन्, कोहि कसरी एकै पटकमा धेरै भन्दा धेरै काम निप्टाएर इन्धन जोगायन सकिन्छ भन्ने सोच्न थाल्छन् । यदि अलि धेरै नै अवधिकोलागि इन्धनको मूल्य माथि नै रहिरहने हो भने त्यस पछि मानछेहरु राम्रो माइलेज दिन गाडिहरु खोज्न थाल्छन्, अफिस वरपर तिर नै वसोवास गर्न थाल्छन् र इन्धन प्रयोग हुने महँगा सोखहरुमा कटौती गर्न थाल्छन् ।

हो, सबै जनाले यस्तै गर्न थाल्छन् भन्ने पनि होइन । कसैकसैलाई यो मध्ये कुनै पनि काम गर्नै नपर्ने पनि हुन सक्ला । तर सम्पूर्ण जन समुदायलाई हेर्ने हो भने इन्धनको मूल्य आकाशिनुले मान्छेलाई इन्धन प्रयोगमा कटौतिगर्न भने पक्कै पनि बाध्य तुलाउँछ ।

यसै गरी, जब वस्तुको मूल्य घट्न थाल्छ, अन्य सबै कुरा यथावत नै राख्ने हो भने, मान्छेले सो वस्तुको बढि उपभोग गर्न रुचाउने देखिन्छ ।
उत्प्रेरणा भन्ने बित्तिकै मान्छेलाई त्यसले केहि गर्न अवस्य झक्झक्याउँछ । तर कसरी गर्ने भन्नेमा चाहिँ मान्छेहरु निकै रचनात्मक हुन सक्छन् । एउटा अर्को निकै चर्चित उदाहरण चिलीको हुन सक्छ । चिलीमा मुद्रास्फिति भएको बेलामा त्यहाँको सरकारले पाउरोटिको अधिकतम खुद्रा मूल्य तोकिदियो । यस्तो नीतिले व्यवसायीहरुलाई नकारात्मक असर पर्न जाने देखियो । कानूनले तोकेको मूल्यमा बिक्रि गर्दा व्यवसायीहरुको लागत नै नउठ्ने अवस्था सृजना हुन पुग्यो ।

यस्तो अवस्थामा मान्छेको सबै भन्दा पहिलो सोचाइ भनेको अब व्यवसायीहरुले पाउरोटि उत्पादन नै बन्द गर्लान् भन्ने हुन जान्छ । निश्चयनै, चिलेमा पनि सबै मान्छेले अब बजारमा पाउरोटि पाईंदैन भन्ने सोच्न थाले । तर व्यवसायीहरुले चतुर भएर एउटा नयाँ तरिका अपनाए । सर्वप्रथम, व्यवसायीहरुले पाउरोटिको मात्रानै यसरी घटाइदिए कि सो पाउरोटिको उत्पादनको लागत त्यसको अधिकतम खुद्रा मूल्य भन्दा कम पर्न गयो । त्यस पछि सरकारले न्यूनतम तौल पनि निश्चित गरिदियो । यसको उत्तरमा व्यवसायीहरुले काँचै पाउरोटि बेच्न थाले जसले गर्दा त्यसको तौल सरकारी मापदण्ड अनुसार हुन पुग्यो । वस्तुभाउको मूल्य बढ्दै गएर व्यवसाय गर्न अझ गाह्रो पर्न गएपछि व्यवसायीहरुले प्लास्टिकमा पीठो र पानी बेच्न थाले ।

अर्थशास्त्र भनेको पैसाकै बारे अध्ययन गर्ने शास्त्र हो भन्ने विश्वास जानमानसमा रहेता पनि, गैर मौद्रिक उत्प्रेरणाले पनि मान्छेको व्यवहारमा निर्धारन गर्नमा मौद्रिक उत्प्रेरणाले जतिकै भूमिका निर्वाह गर्ने क्षमता राख्दछ । हाम्रो व्यवहारमा परिवर्तन ल्याउन सक्ने विभिन्न कारकहरु मध्ये एक हो समय ।

मानौं तपाईलाई प्रख्यात बेलायती साङ्गितिक समूह बिटल्स निकै मन पर्छ । अझ मानौं, कुनै चमत्कारवस बिटल्सको एक महिना पछि एउटा अन्तिम कन्सर्टकोलागि मात्र भनेर सो समूहको चारै जना सङ्गितकारहरु फेरि एकै पटक एउटै स्टेजमा उभिएर तपाईको घर निरैको हलमा प्रदर्शिन दिने भनेर घोषणा भयो । तपाईलाई यो खबरले कतिको आनन्द देला ? तपाई अब जसरी भए पनि त्यो कन्सर्ट हेर्ने नै भनेर तम्सिनु होला । तर अब सो कन्सर्टकोलागि पैसा तिरेर टिकट किन्न नपाइने र सबै भन्दा पहिला पुग्ने २५० व्यक्तिलाई मात्र टिकट दिइने भयो भने ? निःशुल्क, तर सुरुको २५० ले मात्र हेर्न पाउने ।

अब यो कन्सर्ट निःशुल्क भन्ने नै रहने गएन । झन् महँगो पो हुन गयो । कन्सर्ट हेर्नै पर्ने हो भने त अब त्यो हल वरपर नै एक महिना अगाडि देखि डेरा गरेर बस्न पर्ने भयो । यसो नगर्ने हो भने र त्यो सुरुको २५० जना मध्ये पर्न सकिने अवस्था नै नरहन जान्छ । अनि यति गरे पनि टिकट पाइन्छ नै भन्ने चाहिँ ग्यारेन्टि नरहन पनि सक्छ । किनकि जब कुनै वस्तुको मूल्य मान्छेलाई आपूर्ति भन्दा बढि माग गर्न लालायित गर्ने गरी निर्धारण हुन जान्छ, तब मान्छेहरु भद्रभलाद्मी पाराले लाइनमा नै बसेर टिकट काट्न जान्छन् भन्ने कुराको केहि ग्यारेन्टि हुँदैन ।

एउटा चर्चित रेस्टुरेण्टको बारे सोध्दा योगि बेर्राले भनेका थिए , “आजभोलि त्यहाँ यति भिड हुन थालेको छ कि कोहि मान्छे जाँदै जाँदैनन् । ” एस्सो सुन्दा कस्तो नसुहाउँदो प्रकारको र व्यंग्यात्मक सुनिन्छ यो भनाइ । तर गहिरेर हेर्ने हो भने निर्कै भावपूर्ण बन्न जान्छ फेरि यहि वाक्य । उनको भनाइको अर्थ के हुन सक्छ भने यदि कसैलाई समय को निकै महत्व हुने हो र त्यो समय कुनै शान्त र आनन्दको ठाउँमा बिताउने इच्छा रहेको भए तीनकालागि अन्य विभिन्न विकल्पहरु छन् । छोटकरीमा भन्ने हो भने, “त्यो ठाउँमा यति भिड हुन्छ कि मान्छेले “मैले पनि केहि गरेको छु है” भन्ने महसुस गर्ने बित्तिकै त्यहाँ जानै छोड्छ । अथवा योगिले यो भन्दा भिन्दै पनि केहि भन्न खोजेका हुन सक्छन्, जस्तै, “त्यहाँ यस्तो भिड हुन थाल्यो कि आजभोलि त्याहाँ जान पाउनकोलागि आपूm कोहि न कोहि त हुनै पर्छ, । त्यहाँको साहुले नै जो पायो त्यहि अ‍ैरेगैरेलाई त त्यहाँ छिर्नै दिँदैनन् ।”

यसले पैसानै सबै थोक होइन भन्ने पुष्टि गर्छ । तर समय मात्रै पनि सबै थोक होइन । मान्छेले उसको ईज्जत र स्वविवेकको बारे पनि सोच्छ । मान्छेलाई वीरता, राष्ट्रियता, माया–प्रेम जस्ता भावहरुले पनि उत्तिकै झक्झक्याउँछ । यी सबै कुराहरुले मान्छेलाई उत्प्रेरित गर्न सक्छन् ।

जब कोहि अर्थशास्त्रीले उत्प्रेरणाको महत्वको बारे कुरा गर्न थाल्छ, तब साधारण मान्छेले खाली मौद्रिक उत्प्रेरणाकै बारेमा मात्र कुरा भइरहेको जस्तो सोच्न थाल्छ । जब त्यो अर्थशास्त्रीको भनाइको तात्पर्य के हुन्छ भने अन्य सबै कुरालाई यथावत नै राख्ने हो भने, जस्तै, शान र लाज, गौरव र अपमान, र त्यहि बेला मौद्रिक इनाम बढाइदिने होे भने मानछे पक्कै पनि त्यो काम गर्न लालायित हुन्छन् । र तीनै कुराहरु यथावत नै राखेर कुनै काम गर्दाको मौद्रिक इनाम घटाउने हो भने मान्छे त्यो काम गर्न हिचकिचाउन थाल्छन् ।

अर्थशास्त्रीहरुले मौद्रिक उत्प्रेरणलाई बढि महत्व दिनुको एउटा कारण के पनि हो भने यस खालका उत्प्रेरणाहरु सजिलै देख्न सकिन्छन् र यिनको मात्रामा फेरबदल गर्न पनि सजिलो हुने हुन्छ । एक अर्थशास्त्रीको नजरमा जब डाक्टर पेसाको तलब बढ्न जान्छ, तब मान्छेहरु पनि डाक्टर नै बन्न खोज्छन् । तर मान्छेहरु भने के सोचेर भ्रममा पर्न जानछन् भने डाक्टरहरु लोभी हुन्छन् र पैसाको लालचमा आएर डाक्टरी पेसा रोज्न पुग्छन् । तर वास्तवमा भएको चाहिँ के हुन्छ भने अन्य सबै गैर मौद्रिक संतुष्टिलाई यथावत् नै राख्दा डाक्टरी पेसामा बढेको तलबले मानछेलाई सो पेसा छान्न उत्प्रेरित गर्छ । अन्य कुनै पनि पेसमा पनि यहि नै कुरा लागु हुने हो । र मौद्रिक उत्पे्ररणालाई छोडेर अन्य गैर मौद्रिक उत्प्रेरणा बढाउने हो भने पनि सबै प्रकारका पेसाहरुमा यस्तै बदलाव देख्न सकिन्छ ।

मौद्रिक र गैर मौद्रिक उत्प्रेरणा बिचको भिन्नता बुझ्नकालागि कुनै मृगौला रोगीकोलागि एक स्वस्थ मृगौलाको महत्व वा भनौं मृगौलाको माग र आपूर्तिको स्थितिको उदाहरण लिन सकिन्छ । हालको कानून अनुसार संयुक्त राज्य अमेरिकामा मृगौलाको किनबेच गर्न गैर कानूनी ठहर हुने अवस्था छ । आजको दिनमा मृगौलाको आपूर्ति पूर्णतः मान्छेको दया–मायामा भर पर्ने कुरा हो । हरेक वर्ष हजारौं मानछेले आफ्नो ईष्ट मित्र वा कोहि अनजान व्यक्तिको ज्यान बचाउनकालागि आफ्नै ज्यान जोखिममा पारेर मृगौला दान गर्ने गर्छन् । थप कतिपयले मृत्यू पश्चात मृगौला दान गर्छन् । यस प्रकारको दानी भाव कसैलाई सहयोग गर्दा मिल्ने आत्मसन्तुष्टि बाट प्रोत्साहित भएका हुन्छन् । यस प्रकारको सन्तुष्टि पनि एक प्रभावकारी उत्प्रेरणा हो । तर यति भन्दैमा यसले मृगौलाको माग बराबरको आपूर्ति कायम गर्न सक्ने क्षमता भने राख्दैन । हरेक वर्ष अन्य हजारौं मान्छेहरु त्यहि मृगौला नपाएर मृत्यूको शिकार बन्न पुग्छन् ।

यदि यस्तो अवस्थामा मृगौलाको माग र आपूर्तिलाई सन्तुलनमा ल्याउन खोज्ने हो भने हामी फेरी उहि अष्ट्रेलिया लगिंदै गरिएका कैदि र ती छोट्टा कप्तानहरुकै जस्तो समस्या पाउँछौं । रोगी मान्छेलाई र्मगौला दिने हो भने स्वस्थ मान्छेहरुलाई उनीहरुको मृगौला दान गर्न उत्प्रेरित गर्न पर्ने हुन्छ । कि त मान्छेलाई मृगौला दान गर्नु भनेको धर्म हो र यसो गर्नाले पुन्य कमाइन्छ र अथाह आत्म सन्तुष्टि मिल्छ भनेर सुनाउँदै हिंड्न पर्यो कि त सरकारले नै जिम्मेवारी लिएर यसो गर्नु मानवताको पहिचान हो भनेर वकालत गर्न थाल्नु पर्यो । तर यसो गर्नु भन्दा सजिलो उपाय भनेको चाहिँ पक्कै पनि मृगौला किनबेचलाई कानूनी मान्यता प्रदान गर्नु हो । मागेर काम लिन भन्दा पैसा तिरेर काम लिन खोज्ने हो भने मान्छेहरु मद्दत गर्न बढि तत्पर हुन्छन् ।

उत्प्रेरणा जस्तो गुणले मान्छेले अर्काको वा समूहको सम्पतिको दाँजोमा आफ्नै सम्पतिको रेखदेख गर्ने पद्धतिमा ठूलो भिन्नता ल्याउँछ । मान्छेले भाडाको गाडि भन्दा आफ्नै गाडिको बढि हेराचाह गर्छन् । सोभियत संघमा पनि सामूहिक खेतहरु भन्दा नीजि खेतहरुको राम्रो उत्पादकत्व रहेको पाइएको सबैलाई अवगत नै छ ।

प्लाइमथमा मान्छेहरुले सामूहिक खेति सुरु गरेका थिए । तर पहिलो वर्षमा खराब उव्जनी भए पछि त्यहाँ सामूहिकता भन्दा भिन्न प्रकारको उत्प्रेरणाको संयत्त्रलाई अपनाइयो । गर्भनर ब्राडफर्डले आफ्नो जर्नलमा यसका बारे लेखेका छन्,

“र त्यस पछि हरेक परिवारलाई परिवारको सदस्यको संख्याको आधारमा, खेति गर्नकालागि भनेर र वंशानुगत हक दावी गर्न नपाउने सर्तमा एक–एक टुक्रा जमिन दिइयो । यो तरिका साह्रै सफल ठहरिन गयो । हरेक सदस्यले पहिलाको सामूहिक खेतिमा बढि मिहिनेत गर्न थाले । गभर्नरको जिम्मेवारी घट्नुका साथसाथै पहिलाको भन्दा राम्रो उब्जनी हुन पुग्यो । पहिले बिमारी र असमर्थताको बहाना रच्ने महिलाहरु प्नि अब स्वेच्छाले खेताला गर्न थाले । यति मात्र नभई आफ्ना बालबालिकाहरुलाई पनि खेताला सिकाउन थाले, जुन कुरा पहिला गभर्नरले गराउन खोज्दा त्यसाई जबर्जस्ती, निरंकुशता र दमनको संज्ञा दिइन्थ्यो ।”

पहिला पहिला किसानहरुले बाली पाक्नु भन्दा पहिले नै उठाउने गरेको समस्या हुने गरेको अवस्था (जुन खेतालाको सम्बन्धमा गैर कानूनी शिकार जतिकै मान्यता राख्ने समस्या थियो) मा यो नया शैलीले सबै जनाले बढि मिहिनेत लगाएर काम गर्ने मात्र नभई अब त बाली पूर्ण रुपमा नपाकी उठाउँदा पनि नउठाउने उत्प्रेरणा दिई सो समस्याको हल पनि निस्कन गयो ।

त्यसैले, उत्प्रेरणाको ठूलो भूमिका हुन्छ । ठोस इनाम, चाहे मौद्रिक होस चाहे प्लाइमथको उदाहरणमा जस्तो वस्तुगत, निकै प्रभावशाली हुन्छ । मौद्रिक उत्प्रेरणाले मान्छेकै एउटा नया प्रजातीको सृजना गरेको भैंm भान हुन्छ — होमो इकोनोमिकस , एक यस्तो मर्सिनरी जसले पैसाकोलागि जे पनि गर्न बाट पछि हट्दैन । म मेरो विद्यार्थीहरुलाई मेरो कक्षामा मैले ए ग्रेड बेच्न पाए म निकै खुसी हुन्थें भनेर भन्ने गर्थें । तर त्यसो गर्न मिलेको भए मैले दिन ग्रेडको मूल्य फ्रान्सको कुल गार्हस्थ उत्पादन बराबर हुन्थ्यो । अर्थात्, मेरो ग्रेडको मूल्य यति धेरै हुन्थ्यो कि कसैले पनि त्यो मूल्य चुकाउनै सक्दैनथ्यो । म केहि को पनि लालचमा पर्ने थिइन । सत्य त के हो भने मेरो हात बाट त्यसरी ए ग्रेड किन्ने सामथ्र्य कसैले पनि राख्दैन ।

तर कुनै मौद्रिक वा अन्य ठोस वस्तुको लालच बाट मैले मेरो गौरव र स्वच्छ नियतलाई जति जोगाए पनि एउटा यस्तो गैर मौद्रिक इनाम छ जुन पाउने हो भने म मेरो गौरव र इमान्दारी पनि बेचिदिन्थें । मलाई लाग्छ म सायद फ्रान्सको कुल गार्हस्थ उत्पादन भन्दा निकै कमैमा बिक्थें होला, यदि मेरा छोराछोरीको ज्यान नै बाजीमा भएकोृ भए । गैर मौद्रिक मूल्य र प्रतिफलको सहि अंकलन गर्न सक्ने हो भने सायदै यस्तो मान्छे होला जो कुनै हालतमा पनि बिक्दैन ।

Akash Shrestha

About Akash Shrestha

Akash Shrestha is Coordinator of the Research Department at Samriddhi, The Prosperity Foundation where his focus areas are petroleum trade and public enterprises. He also writes newspaper articles, blogs and radio capsules, based on the findings of the studies conducted by The Foundation.

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