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Anurag Pant

About Anurag Pant

Anurag holds a Bachelors of Science in Economics and works as a Research Assistant at Samriddhi, the Prosperity Foundation. He also lectures on Economics at Xavier International College.

A “How to” on Promoting Indigenousness

When the armed conflict between the Maoist rebels and the Government of Nepal ended, certain conditions were put forth by the (then) rebels before they became part of the new government. One of the agreements that were signed entailed the reformation of the country’s governance structure in order to end the prevailing autocratic regime and to better the situation of the indigenous populace. Ethnic federalism became an attractive option to Nepal considering that there are many ethnicities in Nepal and it could provide the mechanisms for protecting the disappearing ethnic heritage. Moreover, given the logic that individuals are likely to identify with and aim for the betterment of the situation of individuals like themselves, this option seemed to fit the bill. However, satisfying the parties who designed the proposal has been a futile effort. Currently, lawmakers and leaders alike are debating on very important issues like the names of the states and the number of states that Nepal would need. Obviously, the most important aspect of any country is the name that is given to the regions where people live. Of course it is impossible to love or work for the benefit of your homeland if you do not love its name first.

Jokes aside, this is arrangement has failed to convince the participating political parties resulting in disagreements and power struggle. Of course, great leaders, you have forgotten what is truly important to us citizens because you are leaders. You have failed to implement the same logic you employed while deciding ethnic federalism: individuals who identify with each other think and conduct activities that benefit each other. You call yourselves leaders and strive to gain the stature of leaders. With your leader-mentality, how can we citizens expect you to identify with our needs? This is probably why you are completely unaware of the fact that indigenous people, in order to preserve their lifestyles and culture, do not need fancy names for the regions they reside in; they need the opportunity to benefit from the existence of such lifestyles and culture. Yes, great leaders, your constant squabbling and bickering have indeed empowered these people who you claim to serve…….NOT!

The existence of economic opportunity from saving one’s culture or the prevalence of benefit from saving ones culture will certainly safeguard cultures and heritage. There are clear examples of how economic opportunities (from conservation rather than exploitation) help protect resources that were once unsustainably consumed. In Nepal, Community Based Conservation practices have shown strong performance in terms of preserving local flora, fauna, and culture. On the flip side, alternative or conventional approaches to meeting the same end, i.e. conservation of local flora, fauna, and wildlife, have failed when the government forcibly stepped in to protect one group, at the expense of another. The example of Koshi Tappu Wildlife Reserve is relevant for a discussion on conservation efforts that have been unsuccessful. The government forcibly took over the land that was once the source of livelihood of the local populace for the conservation and protection of Nepal’s Wild Water Buffalo population. However, the conservation program has had to constantly struggle with the locals accused of encroachment and allowing domestic animals to graze in protected land. On the other hand Annapurna Conservation Area has received much accolade for empowering the locals to conserve the area they reside in; a local, non-political conservation committee by the name of Conservation Area Management Committee (CAMC) collects all the proceedings and uses it for the development of the area. In other words, the Annapurna Conservation Area Project envisioned the local communities as being stakeholders whereas in the case of Koshi Tappu, the local individuals were seen as a threat and, thus, driven out of the land to make room for water buffalo, which fueled resentment among the locals and fostered an environment of “rule breaking.”

What I wish to have highlighted from the above stories is that the willingness to conserve arises when there is benefit tied to the conservation effort. The individuals from the Annapurna Conservation Region have the initiative to actively promote the conservation of the National Park because they have incentives tied to their conservation efforts. The poor inhabitants of the Koshi Tappu Wildlife Region in the other hand were driven out of their land, where they had been grazing livestock for generations, to make room for Wild Water Buffalo who continue to be threatened due to habitat loss and encroachment. To make matters worse, the locals were not even properly compensated for their loss, in other words, they had to forcibly obey a government directive.

In our issue involving the creation of ethnicity based federal states, it is important to realize that this action may very easily create “water buffaloes” and “Koshi Tappu inhabitants” out of many societies and peoples. The politician’s and party leader’s lofty words of enriching cultural diversity and inclusion will do little for actually preserving indigenous language, culture, heritage, and the like if those who engage in conservation practices are not allowed to reap the benefits of their efforts. This proposed system can easily create new autocrats and displace many individuals from their ancestral homelands and do nothing to enrich or conserve indigenous culture and heritage.

It is very easy to provide economic incentives to protect culture, environment, and language and it is very hard to force people to do the same. The ruling parties do not have to continue beating around the same bush, rather, it is time they understood simple economics. People respond to incentives.

Anurag Pant

About Anurag Pant

Anurag holds a Bachelors of Science in Economics and works as a Research Assistant at Samriddhi, the Prosperity Foundation. He also lectures on Economics at Xavier International College.

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For a New Nepal, Start With You

For children, adults are wondrous creatures. They like coffee without sugar, eat unpalatable vegetables, read boring newspapers and books without pictures, and talk about things that would put any sane child straight to sleep. For Nepalese people—children in regards to the amount of development they have witnessed—it seems, other developed countries may well be feats of wonder. Last week, I talked to a friend who had visited Hong Kong who said that there ought to be more tiers to define the levels of development of a country, Nepal is not even “tenth world” compared to their development he said.

Let us think why we do not consider it possible to have a functioning railway in the valley to curb the problem of overcrowded public vehicles. Let us contemplate why our brethren are always skeptical about the availability of petroleum products. And let us laugh at why Melamchi Khanepani is a twenty year old joke that is still funny. The problem lies in our expectations. We still feel that the government can never provide a functioning railway system. We are doubtful of the ability of Nepal Oil Corporation, government owned of course, to deal with the Indian Oil Corporation. And we are wary of government owned utility companies with their take it or leave it attitude. It is time not to look up to the government to provide our services, rather, it is now time to look among us and allow those with ideas to take steps towards realizing those dreams. It is time not to ask the government to provide us with facilities and services; it is pertinent to demand a stable environment, one where our property is safeguarded from marauders and the government alike, in order to be able to grow our wealth. It is not necessary to wait for the government to plan, discuss, evaluate, budget, and authorize projects, but it is essential to demand to be able to take the lead and conduct activities in which one feels adept.

We are more than able to make decisions based on evidence and people from all walks of life showcase the ability to make decisions based on past experience and probabilities. Yet it seems, time and again, we simply ignore the inefficiencies of government sectors and continue to lament at the way it has affected our lives. While lines of customers waiting at the bank teller signals dependability and consumer trust, a similar line is alomost always a telltale sign of inefficiency in the case of government run enterprises. When long lines outside of KFC shows people excited to experience the taste of Kentucky style fried chicken (product), lines outside the license office or tax office hints at disinterested workers and management. We have enough examples, enough success stories, of individuals like you and me who have generated wealth and provided avenues for individuals to support themselves and their families. On the other hand we have sycophants and hypocrites, power hungry people pleasers and social discord creators, who take pride at having toppled the kingdom but still feel entitled to kingship.

Granted, demanding that the size of the government be reduced in Nepal is like demanding for the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, it is definitely possible to demand that its size not grow for the meanwhile. The time now calls for the government to be able to face the market and compete with others who are participating in the sector. It is time to call for politics to be separated from the economy. It is time to speak and say that our economy is not a scapegoat to further political agendas. It is time to pay heed to evidence and see how the private sector has created while those involved in governing or hoping to govern are simply halting, disregarding, or pilfering what is being created.

Anurag Pant

About Anurag Pant

Anurag holds a Bachelors of Science in Economics and works as a Research Assistant at Samriddhi, the Prosperity Foundation. He also lectures on Economics at Xavier International College.

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Curtail Cartels and Conniving Collusions

Each story has many facets and there are infinitely many sides that one can take or attack when talking about Nepal’s transportation industry. While the nation itself is mired in difficult terrain and inaccessibility, there are also other factors which contribute to the sub-standard service that many users of transportation have to endure. It need not be elaborated that virtually all aspects of the market relies on transportation—through its usage in transporting the food that goes on your plate, to ferrying individuals from different locales to different places in order to earn enough money to put that food on your plate—its importance can be well experienced simply by being part of this economic system. However, the recent surge in news about road accidents, rife with death and tragedy, paints a bleak picture on the efficiency and reliability of Nepalese transportation sector.

In the novel The Godfather, the Stracci family owns trucks, which are usually overloaded, as they have a transportation business. Now, because they are heavier, their trucks effectively damage highways faster. However, the family has large stakes in the construction business, so, they are also contracted to do the highway repairs.

As a regulatory agency, it is always easier to regulate the activities of a few groups than face the hassle of properly evaluating a multitude of players involved in an activity. Similarly, a few participants will allow the regulatory agency to extract enough benefit from the participants; not unlike the Stracci family, from the above mentioned fiction-novel, who also wielded political influence to be allowed to ply heavily laden vehicles on the road and, simultaneously, be awarded contracts to repair them. The ill functioning transportation regime of Nepal may be the fallout of a regulatory body that perceives its actions as being important for the well-being of the population while actually suppressing competition and removing the ability of consumers to choose from different service providers.

However, the regulators have barely managed to properly enforce the law on transportation sectors’ proprietors. Little seems to have been done to ensure the well-being of consumers by checking to see if transportation service providers comply with the basic rules that us regular citizens abide by. For example, even a cursory observation will show that many tippers, trucks, and buses do not have functioning brake lights or turn signals. Similarly, many cargo vehicles take little measure to ensure their contents are not being scattered about the roads. I have fond memories of trucks carrying sand and gravel spraying contents in the eyes and mouths of us individuals behind these large vehicles.

According to Status Paper on Road Safety in Nepal 2013, published by GoN 43.7, 6.1, and 5.2 percent of all road accidents were caused by driver negligence, technical fault of vehicle, and overload vehicles respectively. Of the accidents that happened this year, the bus that plunged into the Bheri river on November 20, which claimed 40 lives, and the bus that fell 50 meters in Nuwakot, killing 10, were both cited as having been overloaded and/or overspeeding.

While various activities regarding transportation safety—from “Maa Pa Se” checks to mandating that public vehicles be packed just enough for the doors to close—are occurring in the valley, the risky situation that consumers outside the valley are subject to gives us little faith in our transportation system.

It is now time to reevaluate the condition of the vehicles that are plying on roads and to make sure that the (transportation) system is not mired by inefficiencies and impediments to possible entrants. In a competitive market, consumers have the choice to choose between products and, hence, choose between product/service providers. High school economics also tells us that in light of competitive environment businesses tend to price their product close to the costs involved in production. The government set fares hint that our market for transportation services may be monopolistic. And this gives reason for the government to step in to “protect” consumers from high prices. However, this protection is simply a painted veil that our government has set up to cover the ugly curtain that our transportation lynchpins hide behind.

Anurag Pant

About Anurag Pant

Anurag holds a Bachelors of Science in Economics and works as a Research Assistant at Samriddhi, the Prosperity Foundation. He also lectures on Economics at Xavier International College.

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Basics of The Invisible Hand

  • Wealth is not finite and cannot simply be measured by money or gold:
    The wealth of a nation or individual cannot be measured simply through the amount of money they possess. Rather, wealth can be assessed with the help of the goods and services that are one possess or, at least, is able to acquire, albeit, through hard work.
  • Trade allows the parties to meet desired ends:
    It is through trade that individuals can exchange goods and services and thus fulfill a wide range of demands. In the absence of trade an individual or group would have no choice but to create the product they desire, with trade though, the individual or group can trade what they do best with some good or service that another party manufactures best.
  • Every individual strives to become wealthy by pursuing his/her own wellbeing:
    People, no matter how altruistic or self-centered, perform actions to fulfill their own needs in an attempt to cater to their own satisfactions. However, in doing so, end up providing for the needs of others as well.
    A butcher butchers not to fulfill the needs of others but in an attempt to better his own life. However, the butcher’s action allows others to satisfy their demand for meat.
  • It is important to eliminate restrictions an individual has to face to better their condition:
    Whenever there is no government intervention, markets operate at the natural level as individuals perform best when they are allowed to discharge their own actions.
  • Desirable ends can be reached by maintaining natural liberty:
    No individual or entity will ever be able to fully realize the potentials of the individual beside the individual themselves. Therefore, attempting to channel a person toward a certain end will simply infringe upon their natural liberty and result in inefficiencies.
Anurag Pant

About Anurag Pant

Anurag holds a Bachelors of Science in Economics and works as a Research Assistant at Samriddhi, the Prosperity Foundation. He also lectures on Economics at Xavier International College.

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Is My Food Sovereign Enough?

bazarFood is an essential need and almost all countries agree that it should fall under human rights. In a measure to protect its citizens from poverty-induced malnutrition, many countries support food security programs to ensure that citizens have access to essential food items necessary for survival and basic nutrition. However, food security, as a program, has received some criticisms for the approaches taken in the step towards eliminating hunger. Many proponent nations of food security have seen their national, local, products eradicated by being outcompeted by cheaper and easily available “factory-farmed” products. In a step taken to curb this possibility, Nepal has become one of the few countries to address issues of eliminating food insecurity, while, simultaneously striving to preserve local food systems and food diversity by attempting to indoctrinate Food Sovereignty in its constitution.

Food sovereignty is defined as the right of the people to define their own food systems. Food consumers and producers form the heart of this idea in an attempt to diminish the effects and influence of corporate farms and “world-markets.” As economies develop, it is more than likely that the persisting food systems within nations’ boundaries also change over time. This change may be induced by a preference for novel, exotic foods, media influences, or other reasons. Proponents of food sovereignty may infer that if such outside influences were not heeded, a nation could easily provide basic nutrition requirement through indigenous foods; and it is due to the import of new food cultures and food demand that we are forced to farm products that may not be well suited to our climate or require excessive import to meet local demand. While a sound argument, it is likely that such actions, if aggressively pursued by policy, may disenfranchise consumers’ wants and needs.

Simple reasoning allows us to conclude that locally available, or locally grown, or native foods will only be chosen by consumers if such food items provide equal, if not more, benefit than imported or locally grown but non-native varieties. Similarly, it is a completely rational decision, on the part of consumers, to seek assurance on whether local products are of equal standard to imported variants and it would be a violation of their rights to prevent consumers from choosing or buying the foods of their choice. Similarly, local products or foods may require additional processes or actions on the part of consumers before it can be used. As people spend less time on household activities and dedicate more effort to income generating activities—due to the availability of jobs or due to the economy gradually shifting from being agriculture dominated to service oriented, household activities become less economically viable.

However, the principle of food sovereignty is not all bad in the presence of a sound market and marketing opportunities. Proper utilization of science and technology, through research and development, can easily create stronger seeds and varieties of locally adapted varieties. And expert market research can identify consumer needs to add value to local products to create high value finished goods. What is required, though, are opportunities for businesses to add value to these local produces and present them to an audience that has acquired a taste for quality goods. Local food items have just as much potential in becoming high quality/high value products that we see in the market today. However, such progress requires easy access to markets and a secure business environment augmented by strong property rights. Unfortunately, business climate researches on Nepal paint a different picture.

Hence, before attempting such goals and policies—especially ones that may infringe upon the customers ability to make choices and decisions—the market and market needs must be taken into full consideration. Local products should be given credence, and from an environmental perspective, it is very important to preserve species variety and diversity in order to promote disease resistance and preserve necessary traits. However, it is infallible that markets should be allowed to decide what stays and what goes.

Anurag Pant

About Anurag Pant

Anurag holds a Bachelors of Science in Economics and works as a Research Assistant at Samriddhi, the Prosperity Foundation. He also lectures on Economics at Xavier International College.

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Of Trade: Your Money (in) My Country

fdi cartoonTrade is a wonderful aspect of modern economy; it enables us to consume products that we have no means of producing. There are many versions of trade: goods for goods, service for service, goods for service, and goods for money are a few examples. Like any rational process, trade also seeks the easiest way in. In order to promote trade it is essential to provide an environment that is supportive to the trading parties. A particular kind of trade that I would like to discuss today is “money for markets,” i.e. trading one party’s money for another party’s resources.

For a budding economy like Nepal, it is important to foster trade and to create an environment that is supportive of trade. Our consumers have acquired many new tastes, like cars, motorcycles, exotic foods, smart-phones and a host of other things. Amazingly, we consume all of these things without producing them. However, it is more than likely that we can also produce goods or services that other countries or economies may not be able to produce. Nepal has a diverse environment but due to our economy’s infantile stage, our production is mostly limited to products that cater to basic needs and necessities. With a stronger industrial base we can easily add value to our products, thereby, increasing the revenue of producers and providing satisfaction to consumers.

Our society is unique and there are distinctive values and ideals that, we, Nepalese pursue. However, globalization has molded our values with images that we have imported. We have also welcomed foreign influences in other, more direct, ways. Foreign investors have set up shop in Nepal to cater to the Nepali market’s needs and in the process have employed many Nepali workers as well. These workers are then introduced to new entrepreneurial skills and management techniques which in turn foster such qualities in our laborers as well. Foreign investments also require technology and skills that may not be available in the host country. In such cases, the investors can bring the required technology and manpower with them which help familiarize us with novel ideas.

Foreign investments are important to Nepal because we do not have enough funds with us to invest in large ventures. Our domestic saving is very low; this may be due to low income, high consumption, or a combination of both. Consumers can consume, save, or invest their disposable incomes, which is whatever part of their income that is remaining after paying taxes. A high rate of consumption without sufficient investment can lead to inflation. Similarly, low rates of saving may lead to high interest rates that could cause pressure on those who wish to invest.

For Nepal, foreign investment is one of the easiest ways to accumulate capital. This new capital will not only employ Nepalese laborers, it will also create avenues for Nepalese households to utilize their money. A wide selection of publicly traded companies might provide incentives for households to consume less and save or invest more. New resource-intensive industries will also help utilize our resources efficiently and provide opportunities for our country’s manpower which could help curb the current “brain drain.”

Protectionist means have been employed by many countries in the past but it was through the removal of such policies that these countries experienced growth. For example, India and China both saw massive growth once they liberally opened up for trade. Similarly, evidence shows that more open countries experience better growth than their closed counterparts. While there are many variables and constants taken into consideration while formulating these conclusions, it cannot be doubted that in order to remain an attractive site for foreign investment, Nepal needs to structure policies that make it as attractive as, if not, more than other countries.

Anurag Pant

About Anurag Pant

Anurag holds a Bachelors of Science in Economics and works as a Research Assistant at Samriddhi, the Prosperity Foundation. He also lectures on Economics at Xavier International College.

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