Nepal’s Displaced Patriotism

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History dictates, without some level of patriotism, the economy of a country has seldom prospered: Japan- after the Second World War, South Korea – after the 60s and the US after the great depression. There was always some nationalistic slogan- without which prosperity there is often questioned. How does Nepal relate to these instances?

Most of the popular cyber criticisms aroused here relate to patriotism in terms of birth place of Buddha, expressing anger over a comedy show in the US which makes fun of Nepali diplomats not speaking proper English, or even remarks over Kumari and the shape of our flag, Mount Everest being in Nepal and so on. Most of these cases deal with natural phenomenon, historical coincidences and other minor attempts to make ourselves unique in the global arena, like the shape of our flag, or the mercenaries who originated from our nation and achieved in wars fought by other countries. It has always been unbearable to us if any of these integrities are questioned. All of these integrities that we have held so dear to our heart have one aspect in common- we never worked for any of these aspects that we are proud of.

Take the case of Lord Buddha being born in Nepal. It was one of the main agendas of the deliberation made by the Indian Prime Minister Modi at our Constituent Assembly. Strategically set, and aimed at garnering public support in Nepal. It was not because of some planning by us Nepalese or any other achievement that led to Buddha being born in Nepal. It was sheer coincidence. He could very well have been born across the border if only some of our historical treaties had been twitched a little. Moreover, the cyber critics and anger they display, every time this fact is questioned don’t state any logic on why this aspect is so much of an importance to us. Are we, as a nation, so insecure that no other human achievement made in our land stands out in this respect and therefore we need to state the same fact in our hundred rupee bill? Robin Sharma, the motivational speaker and the author of the book ‘The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari,’ was also born in Nepal. That doesn’t make him a Nepali citizen! Nationality and birthplace are very different aspects. Even more so, at a time when neither Nepal and India, nor these nationalities existed. There is a greater issue that surrounds this matter.

Why isn’t our patriotism reflected in the poor GDP per capita we have, or the political mess we are in, or the dysfunctional systems we have in our country? According to the World Bank data for 2013, our GDP per capita ranks 170 out of the 189 countries studied. The CIA fact-book shows we stand 176th out of the 191 countries studied. So basically, we are nowhere. If we look at the ease of doing business, we rank 105th out 189 countries; corruption perception index by transparency international ranks us 116th out of 175 countries; education index by the UN ranks us 153rd; the Human Development Index ranks us 145th out of 187 countries; WHO’s world health care index ranks us 150th. Look at any other index.  We stand close to the bottom. Our patriotism would yield some result if the national sentiments were centered here.

The Asian Tigers should serve us as inspiration. Each of these places was in a pretty displaced state before the 1950s. National focus of these countries was strengthened because of exemplary leaders like Lee Kuan Yew who transformed Singapore from a third world country status to where it is at present. Though other countries among them have their own rich history that drove them to the present level of economic success, their national value system was never limited to patriotism fettered with identity and geographical pride. An economic priority was always there, talk about the “Chaebol’s” in .South Korea or the “Keiretsu’s” in Japan- the economic priority was always juxtaposed into the national priority.

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In the long run, a patriotic shift towards economic and growth related issues would trigger something of the sort that was experienced by the Asian Tigers in us as well. The very reason behind the sorry state of our economy is that people are not aware of issues at all. For instance, the Upper Tama Koshi Hydro IPO is planning on issuing thousands of shared to government officers (CIT, EPF and Beema Sansthan) who don’t have a stake in the investment at all. If someone were to ask why they are getting those shares, there is not logical argument to be made. The same way, if our patriotism were to shift a little to the activities of Nepal Rastra Bank or the policies that govern doing businesses in Nepal, a lot of the government activities would have to be more accountable to the people than they are at present. Why is the rate of interest what it is at present? Why aren’t bonds being issued for profitable hydro prospective? What is happening to the tax money? Why is our fiscal tool only limited to the Budget Speech once a year? And so on.

Stephan Dercon, the chief economist of DIFD and the professor of Development Economics at Oxford, in many of his works argues that the norm and value of the nation as a whole is more important the competency and qualifications. Simply, if the value system of a country isn’t committed to making a change it simply cannot spring up. This raises a simple question of our patriotism and value system. Why isn’t it focused on economic growth and prosperity? Why is our sentiment fixed around issues like the birthplace and the natural records our country claims? Has our patriotism already accepted economic failure so fast? Is our patriotism that displaced?

Serene Khatiwada

About Serene Khatiwada

Serene Khatiwada is a Research Intern at Samriddhi, The Prosperity Foundation. He did his Economics Honors from Hansraj College, University of Delhi.

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