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Maximum Tuition Fee Limit Regulation That Backfires

In advocating for equal access to quality education in Kathmandu valley, Ministry of Education (MoE) has recently devised the regulation to set maximum limit on the tuition fees of private and boarding schools based on official categorization of the schools and the grade standards they conduct. While the maximum tuition fees limit per student studying at 9th and 10th standard for grade-A school is set at NRs 3,600, the tuition fee limit is set varying for other schools belonging to different category for the grade standards they conduct.

Given that the appeal for this price/tuition fee control is justifiable in order to make sure that quality education as a fundamental need of the society is affordable to all income holders, the side-effect of such restrain regulation that distort the balancing mechanism of the market is unfathomable and historically observed. Simply take the cliché case of maximum rent price regulation practiced in different cities of the world that brought the entire tenancy housing market into dire straits. New York City stays as a classic example whereby setting maximum rent price below the usual market price at tenancy housing market not only disturbed the incentive to supply enough apartment to meet the growing demand for it, but it also resulted to degradation of housing quality as house-owners could not afford to upgrade and maintain the housing standard while depending on below feasibility rent revenue. Alas, it led the city to only offer the fiasco of inadequate-barely livable residential housing thanks to rent price control legislation.

Importantly, it is necessary to recognize that the disastrous unintended consequence of rent price control has less if any to do with the unique characteristics of the housing industry of a particular city, but more if not all to do with distortion of the governing market fundamental (i.e., price) that allows the supplier of a particular commodity to supply it in a particular quantity and in quality as demanded by the market.  Similarly, in implicating the distortion of same market fundamental or price in the private education market in Kathmandu, the exact same horrendous consequences are likely to be observed.

At first and foremost, when private schools are forced to depend on limited tuition fees set by the maximum limit regulation, they are also forced to invest limitedly on infrastructure maintenance, upgrade, and in adopting innovative education practice in order to break-even. And, if the legislation prescribed tuition fees or the revenue is below what the market would offer, investment on increasing the education related infrastructure and the quality of the education will also be below the pace of what price liberalized private school market would have offered. And henceforth, the quality of the private education system is more likely to be compromised.

Likewise, the ability to charge below-feasibility maximum tuition fees as per the regulation shall also discourage new investment in private schools enough to meet the demand growth of private education possibly triggered by the guardians who are encouraged to transfer their children from public schools. A research from Samriddhi Foundation clearly states that cost structure and initial investment outlay for opening schools with infrastructure required for meeting Grade-C category cannot be feasibly fulfilled by the maximum tuition fee limit set for them. Therefore, a rational investor willing to make profit will not have incentive to establish schools of such category in order to meet the growing demand of private school education. Given the widening gap in supply and demand of private school education as the consequence of this regulation, the motive of this very regulation to make private school education affordable to normal people can instead backfire. With virtually no growth in number of private schools in compared to demand for it, the supply-shortage will rather create an underground economy whereby people with better connections and willing to pay more money off the table are more likely to get their children admitted at private schools while the marginal ones are left out.

This directive on setting maximum limit of tuition fees can be a costly constraint on growth of private educational institutes of Nepal. The directive meant for ensuring quality education to all at affordable prices, in itself can be a major factor hindering the growth of educational sectors. There are numerous reforms required in Nepal regarding its quality of education. In current scenario, the government must instead focus on improving the quality of public schools and not on decreasing competitiveness among private schools affecting its quality and lowering the possibility of low income household children to get a quality education.

 

Ayushma Maharjan

About Ayushma Maharjan

Ayushma is working as an intern in the research department of Samriddhi Foundation.

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कालाबजारीया कि उद्यमी ?

– अब्यय न्यौपाने, अशेष श्रेष्ठ, दिनेश कार्की

नेपाल अहिले पेट्रोलियम पदार्थको चरम अभावबाट गुज्रिरहेको छ । नेपालको एकमात्र पेट्रोलियम पदार्थको आपूर्तिकर्ता नेपाल आयल निगमले भारतको “अघोषित नाकाबन्दी” तथा मधेश आन्दोलनका कारणले गर्दा बजारको माग अनुसार सोको आपूर्ति गर्न नसकेकाले देशको अर्थतन्त्रलाई ठुलो धक्का पुग्न गएको र आम नेपाली जनताको जीवन दिनानुदिन कष्टकर बन्दै गएको सबैमा अवगत नै छ । यस्तो अवस्थामा सबैले देशको आर्थिक लगायत अन्य सम्पूर्ण क्रियाकलापनै ठप्प हुने अनुमान गरेको भएता पनि निकै अचम्म लाग्दो तरिकाले सारा मानिसहरु आ–आफ्नो दिनचर्यामा लागिपरेका छन्, आफ्नो गन्तव्यमा पुगिरहेका छन् । “त्यसो भए यी प्रयोजनका निमित्त मानिसहरुसँग पेट्रोल र डिजल चाहिँ कहाँबाट आइरहेको छ त?” भनी तपाई–हाम्रो दिमागमा प्रश्न आउनु तसर्थ स्वाभाविक नै हो । यसको जवाफ “कालो बजार”को संज्ञा दिईएको व्यापार र “तस्कर” कहलिएका व्यापारीहरु नै हुन् । त्यसैले पनि उप–प्रधानमन्त्रीले कलोबजारीयाका कारणले गर्दा नै इन्धनको चरम अभाव हुन नपाएको भन्ने खालको वक्तव्य दिनु त्यति आश्चर्यजनक कुरो भएन ।

कानुनी रूपमा हेर्ने हो भने प्रचलित कानुन विपरित व्यापार व्यवसाय गर्नुलाई कालो बजारी भनिन्छ । त्यसो भए कानुनी दायरामा नरही व्यवसाय संचालन गर्नु पर्ने बाध्यताको किन जन्म हुन्छ त ? साधारणतया जब कानुनी दायरा बाहिर रहेर भन्दा भित्र रहेर व्यवसाय गर्दा महँगो र झन्झटिलो हुन जान्छ, तब “कालोबजारी”को जन्म हुन्छ ।

कानुनी बाटो महंगो हुने कारण कानुनी प्रावधानहरु नै हुन् । जस्तै, कुनै पनि नयाँ कम्पनी सुरुवात गर्दा व्यवसयीलाई आफ्नो व्यवसाय दर्ता गर्ने प्रकृयामै धेरै समय र पैसा खर्च लाग्छ र करको महसुल पनि उच्च छ भने उसले सकेसम्म साना व्यवसायहरु दर्ता नै नगरी चलाउन थाल्छ । नेपालमा अनौपचारिक अर्थतन्त्र फस्टाउनुको एक मुख्य कारण पनि यही हो । जब कुनै क्षेत्रमा सरकारी बाधा–अड्चनले गर्दा नयाँ व्यवसयीहरु प्रवेश गर्न सक्दैनन्, त्यहाँ गैर कानुनी रुपमा व्यापार हुने प्रवृत्तिको विकास हुँदै जान्छ । नेपालमा अनौपचारिक रुपमा पेट्रोलियम पदार्थको आपूर्तिको कहानी पनि यही नै हो । एक पटक कानुनी रुपमा एकाधिकार सम्पन्न सरकारी आपूर्तिकर्ता तय गरिसके पछि सोको अप्रभावकारिताका कारण बाजारमा माग बढ्न जाँदा बढ्दो माग र यस सँगै जोडिएर आउने उच्च प्रतिफलको सम्भावना देखेर त्यसको परिपूर्ति गर्न खोज्ने साना पेट्रोलियम आपूर्तिकर्ता स्वभाविक रुपमा नै सबै कालाबजारीया हुनेनै भए ।

कालोबजारबाट उपलब्ध हुन आउने सामानहरुमा मानिसले साधारणतया व्यक्त गर्ने प्रमुख गुनासो भनेको “कालाबजारीयाहरुले उच्च मूल्य लिए।” भन्ने हो र यसको दोष हामी सम्पूर्ण रुपमा कालाबजारीयाहरु माथी नै थोपर्ने गर्छाैं । यद्यपि यसको लुप्त तर मुख्य दोषी कालाबजारीया नभई उद्यमीलाई कालाबजारीया बन्न बाध्य पार्ने एकाधिकारमुखी नियमनहरु नै हुन् । सरकारी संस्थानले एकाधिकार कायम गरेपछि उक्त वस्तुको अन्य सबै आपूर्ति गैरकानुनी हुने भए । यसरी गैरकानुनी भएपछि स्थापित व्यवस्था छलेर व्यापार गर्न व्यापारीले जोखिम उठाउनुपर्ने हुन्छ । उदाहरणको लागि, गैर कानुनी कहलिने कुनै पनि काम गर्दा विद्यमान कानुन बमोजिम सो व्यापारी प्रहरीको फन्दामा पर्न जाने खतरा ठूलो हुन्छ । समाजबाटै पनि उसले ठूलो आलोचना/अपहेलना भोग्न पर्ने जस्ता सम्भावनाहरु हुन्छन् । यी सबैका बावजुद सो व्यवसाय गर्ने हो भने उसलाई कमसेकम यति आमदानी चाहिन्छ जसले उसको कानुनको कारवाहीमा फस्ने, सामाजिक आलोचनाको भागिदार बन्न पर्ने ईत्यादि जोखिम/अवस्थाको क्षतिपूर्ती समेत होस् । तर व्यवसायी नै भएको नाताले उसले यो सारा लागत आफैले कदापि उठाउँदैन । उसले यो लागत अन्ततः वस्तु वा सेवाको खरिदकर्तामा नै स्थानान्तरित गरिरहेको हुन्छ । बैंकहरुले पनि धेरै जोखिम व्यहोर्न पर्ने प्रकृतिका ऋणहरुमा अन्य भन्दा उच्चतम ब्याज दर तोक्ने कारण यस्तै हो । जति धेरै जोखिम, त्यति नै धेरै मूल्य । यो पछिल्लो उदाहरणको फरक यति हो कि बैंकले ऋण दिँदा उसले विद्यमान कानुन मिचिरहेको छैन तर जोखिम धेरै उठाईरहेको छ । यही “रिस्क प्रिमियमले” गर्दा मूल्य उच्च हुने हुन्छ । फर्केर पेट्रोल व्यवसायीको कुरा गर्दै गर्दा यदि नियम कानुन सहज भएको भए यसरी कानुनको दायरा भन्दा बाहिर रहेर व्यवसाय गर्नु पर्ने बाध्यता हुने थिएन र “रिस्क प्रिमियम” पनि जोड्नु पर्ने थिएन ।

अर्को गुनासो भनेको गुणस्तरको सन्दर्भमा हो । गुणस्तरको प्रत्याभूति महत्वपूर्ण विषय हो तर सरकारले मात्रै कुनै पनि कुराको गुणस्तरको प्रत्याभूति दिन सक्छ भन्ने सोच मित्था हो । सरकारी निरीक्षण हुँदाहुदै पनि मिसावटयुक्त इन्धन सरकारी लाइसेन्सप्राप्त पम्पहरुले बेचिरहेको कुरा सर्वविदितै छ । सरकारी निगरानी भन्दा पनि बजार समन्वय मार्फत नै गुणस्तरको निगरानी स्वतः हुन पनि सक्छ । जब इन्धन व्यापार–व्यवसाय प्रतिस्पर्धात्मक हुन्छ, उपभोक्ताहरु मिसावटयुक्त इन्धन बेचबिखन गर्ने ब्यवसयी सँग किन्दैनन् र यस्ता ब्यवसायिहरु क्रमशः पाखा लाग्दै जान्छन् । यसै प्रकृयाबाट जो व्यवसायीहरु उपभोक्तको माग अनुसारको गुणस्तरयुक्त इन्धन आपूर्ती गर्छन्, ती व्यवसायीहरु बजारमा टिक्छन् र बजार स्वस्फूर्त रुपमा चलिरहन्छ । यसरी उपभोक्ता आँफैले गुणस्तर र मूल्यको निगरानी गर्छन् र व्यापारीले माग अनुसारको गुणस्तर उपलब्ध गराउँछन् । तीन चार जना फरक फरक व्यवसायीसँग पेट्राल खरिद गरिसके पछि जसले उच्चतम गुणस्तरको पेट्रोल दिएको थियो उसैकोमा फर्केर उसँग मात्र पेट्रोल खरिद गर्न थाल्नेहरुको उदाहरण पाउनको लागि हामीले आफ्नै साथीभाईहरु भन्दा अन्य व्यक्तिहरुको मा धाई रहने पर्ने आवस्यकता आज छैन ।

यसैगरी हामीले कालोबजारलाई कानुनी रुपमा मात्र नभएर आर्थिक सामाजिक पाटोबाट पनि हेर्न जरुरी हुन्छ । अहिलेको अवस्थामा पेट्रोलियम पदार्थको व्यापारलाई कानुनी रुपमा अवैध भन्न मिले पनि कालोबजारकै माध्यमबाट नागरिक, कलकरखाना लगायत अरु अत्यावश्यक क्षेत्रमा इन्धनको आपूर्ति भएको छ । चिकित्सकहरु समयमै अस्पताल पुगेका छन्, शिक्षकहरु स्कुल-कलेज पुगेका छन् । कालोबजारकै साहयताले धेरै मानिसहरुले आफ्नो कर्तव्य निर्वाह गर्न सफल भएका छन्।

अहिले इन्धन ब्यापारको क्षेत्रमा अवसर देखेरै मानिसहरु यो अवसरबाट फाइदा लिनको लागि यसमा लागिपरेका छन् । यसमा उनीहरुको संलग्नताको कारणले गर्दा समाजलाई नै टेवा पुगेको छ । यस्तो अवस्थामा कालोबजारीको उपमा दिइएको यस आर्थिक गतिविधि अपराध हो कि उद्यमशीलता? नेपाल सरकार र यसको एकाधिकार सम्पन्न संस्थान नेपाल आयल निगमले झन्डै ४ महिना बितिसक्दा पनि इन्धनको सहज आपूर्ति गर्न नसकेको अवस्थामा कालोबजारीयाको उद्यमशिलताले देशमा इन्धनको माग केही हदसम्म पुरा भइरहेको छ । त्यसैले अहिलेको परीस्थितिमा कालोबजारी नियन्त्रणभन्दा यसलाई कालोबजारको घेरामा पस्न बाध्य नपारी कसरी वैधानिक व्यवसायको सीमाभित्र राख्न सकिन्छ भनेर हेर्नु उचित होला । विगत चार महिनाले इन्धन आपूर्ति गर्न सरकारैमात्र सबल छ वा आवश्यक छ भन्ने धारणालाई त गलत साबित नै गरिसक्यो । यस्तो अवस्थामा यस्तो अत्यावश्यक वस्तु आपूर्ति गर्ने आर्थिक गतिविधिलाई गैरकानूनी बनाइराख्नुको कुनै औचित्य छैन । बरु उद्यमशिलतालाई प्रवद्र्धन गर्दै इन्धनको सहज आपूर्ति कसरी गर्न सकिन्छ भन्ने कुरालाई प्राथमिकता दिनुपर्छ । यसका लागि प्रतिबन्धात्मक सरकारी सन्धि तथा नीतिलाई हटाई, इन्धन आपूर्ति खुल्ला भएको घोषणा गरी प्रवेश बाधा हटाएर उदार ढंगले प्रतिस्पर्धात्मक तथा सुरक्षित रुपमा इन्धन व्यापारलाई अगाडी बढाउनुपर्छ । यसो गर्नाले कालोबजारले निम्त्याउने महँगाई तथा मिसावटका समस्या स्वतः सम्बोधन भई सहज आपूर्तिको वातावरण सुनिश्ति गर्न मद्दत पुग्नेछ ।

 

Dinesh Karki

About Dinesh Karki

Dinesh Karki is an independent researcher. He has Economics degree from Xi'an Jiaotong-Liverpool University, Suzhou, China.

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Rise of government as paternal authority

As soon as someone hears of something that has happened or is happening that s/he doesn’t like, s/he goes, “The government ought to do something about it!”. Where does this idea that government can solve all of our problems (especially the economic ones) we face, come from?

This characteristic is a remnant of a thought from the past – before modern freedom, constitutional government, representative government, republicanism or federalism. For centuries, there was a doctrine accepted by everyone in this world, that a King, an anointed king, was messenger of the God and he had more wisdom than his citizens. King had supernatural powers and was able to provide and protect his citizens. As recently as the beginning of the nineteenth century, people suffering from certain disease were expected to be cured by the royal touch, by the hand of the king. Doctors were usually better; nevertheless, they had their patients try the touch of the king. Same reasoning can follow as to why a king should overlook other aspects besides the health of his subjects; other aspects like education, food and shelter. The very aspects of life that are best governed by the market interactions rather than decision of some king or benevolent government. One of the relevant examples from the context of Nepal is nationalization of education (both private and public) in 1971. Before 1971, schools were autonomous and functioned in a decentralized fashion.

Today most countries have democratically elected governments and very few monarchs have survived. But has the doctrine of the superiority of supernatural kings with inherited powers that can solve all problems of their subjects disappeared? At present, most of the government bodies consist of elected officials and not an anointed king, but the idea that there is someone wiser and more powerful that could govern and solve all problems of society has not gone away. This is evident from both the wishes of people for government intervention to solve problems, even if markets can provide better solutions, and also the wish of the governing body to try to expand its horizon to solve all problems that societies face by regulating, banning and subsidizing.

This is not to imply that a government does not have any role in the economy. It has very important roles, namely: maintaining law and order, and enforcing property rights so that it can create space for markets to function. Apart from its limited but very important roles, other actions like regulating prices, wages, rents and profits are beyond the scope of government because it does not lead to the desired result. Prices, wages, rents and profits are best determined by the market forces (demand and supply) and any attempt by government to regulate or control distorts the market and leads to unintended consequences like formation of cartels, shortage of goods and services, to name a few. This is also very evident in current crisis of fuel (apart from the Unofficial Blockade) that stems from the government being the sole provider of petroleum based fuel instead of allowing markets to work it out.

Why is it that government actions to intervene and regulate any aspects of the market, even if it arises with the best of intentions, like the minimum wage so a poor can make more money, rent control so a poor can afford a decent living space, price control on gasoline, milk, eggs and other basic goods so that an average earner can afford, banning of alcohol so that people will not be addicted to alcohol etc. do not lead to the intended outcome and only lead to negative unintended consequences instead? It is because in the centrally planned economy, everything depends on the talents, and gifts and perception of very few people that hold the decision-making power. That which the kings/dictators or governing committees do not know is never taken into account in the planning and decision-making and hence always the negative unintended consequences. Even if all the information that is required for sound policy-making is available to the king/dictators or government committees, their plan will never match the invisible hand of the market and the result of millions of interactions of households and businesses driven by self-interest and incentive.

Inspired by readings of Ludwig von Mises

Dhruba Bhandari

About Dhruba Bhandari

Dhruba Bhandari is Research Fellow at Samriddhi, The Prosperity Foundation. He joined the Foundation in July 2015. He completed PhD in Development Economics from Oklahoma State University (USA) in 2013. Prior to Joining Foundation, he worked as Research Associate at Oklahoma State University.

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Four Problems in Credit Market of Nepal

Every year, the Canada-based think tank, Fraser Institute, publishes the Economic Freedom of the World Report. Samriddhi, The Prosperity Foundation releases the report in Nepal as the country partner. This time around, Samriddhi Foundation also undertook a Country Audit process to test how truly the numbers in the Index reflect the attributes of the economic sector of Nepal. The process further studies how the economic freedom of the Nepalese people has been restrained.

Out of the five major components and forty-two sub-components of economic freedom, Nepal score a 7.28 (out of 10) in the Credit Market Regulation sub-category under the category “Regulation”. The country audit process has identified the following 4 problems in the credit market sector as the major challenges to instating economic freedom in Nepal.

  1. The first major problem in Nepalese banking sector is low public participation. A large proportion of the people do not have access to banking. In real 1984/85 terms, the per capita cash deposit in the banks and financial institutions was as less as Rs. 20 in the year 2007. This figure depicts that a large number of people are deprived of banking services, and consequently, of credit as well. This deprivation is one of the main hindrances for capital accumulation and formation, and thus, higher economic growth.
  2. The direct control of the government over the banks has added more problems. The government has pressured banks to provide collateral-free loans at low interest rates to some ‘deprived/marginalized’ groups. This has compelled banks to make riskier investments in order to increase revenue generation from alternative sources. Also, there is a provision in the monetary policy of 2012/13 that prohibits banks and financial institutions from charging interest of more than 9 percent for refinancing in the productive sector. Such interest caps can also been seen in some other sectors too. It is true that these sectors may get loans at cheaper interest rates; but only at the cost of interest expenses of other sectors, meaning, banks will charge higher interests in other sectors to cover up the loss.
  3. The Central Bank has also regulated the spread. In July 2014, the Central Bank issued a directive that restricted the spread rate –the difference between interest charged to borrowers and that paid to the depositors –at 5 percent. These controls over the credit market, in the pretext of benefitting some groups, have hampered the growth of a free credit market.
  4. Another problem in the credit market is lack of alternative channels of investment. There are inadequacies of the entities like hedge fund, mutual fund and venture capital. These alternative forms of investment provide opportunity to the people to invest in various forms and gain higher returns instead of saving in the banks and earning negative real interests or investing in the physical assets. Development of these alternatives will lead to more choices to the investors and will induce more investments.

Hence, the regulatory control of the authority over banks seems to be the main reason behind the underdevelopment of the credit market. Freeing the credit market may help boost up the financial system and thus yield higher levels of growth. Although the regulator had not set forth any regulation over the specific interest rates since liberalisation started in Nepal in the early 1990s, the 2014 directives of Nepal Rastra Bank (the Central Bank of Nepal) instructing commercial banks to keep the spread rate within 5 percent is against the principle of liberalisation and economic freedom. This has shown the Central Bank’s duality in its commitments and actions. The end of this control seems more justifiable to resolve the problems of the credit market.

Another potential solution could be pooling up the various government funds such as Youth and Small Enterprise Self-Employment Fund into a single larger fund and mobilizing it through a private party. Similarly, in order to increase the banking habits of the people, the provision of the bill-payment of the various public utilities through banks should be executed. Another requirement for an improved Nepalese banking sector is competitiveness. Allowing the foreign financial institutions to enter the Nepalese market freely can promote competition, lead to innovation, increase choices to the consumers and thus improve the whole financial market.

Along with the free entry of foreign banks, a liberal Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) policy should also be implemented for an easy inflow of capital. Allowing FDI would also help local banks, enhancing their client base.

In addition to these, a liberal financial policy that will foster alternative channels of investment such as hedge funds, mutual funds, and venture capitals may provide capital owners with choices beyond conventional banking and real estate.

For more details on the 2015 Economic Freedom Country Audit Report Nepal, please click here

Ashesh Shrestha

About Ashesh Shrestha

Ashesh Shrestha is an independent researcher. He has an Economics background and is interested in Monetary economics and Public finance.

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Where is the trust in the market?

It is somewhat consolation to us all, that the constitution was eventually ratified and a long political process came to an end. But when it comes to prosperity and growth, the constitution does not have enough ground work for better environment for entrepreneurs. Ultimately, it is not the government that is going to be the engine of economic growth of our country. What government can and should do is to lay out ground rules that encourages innovation and protects entrepreneurs. Government should create an environment that promotes competition by reducing barriers to entry and by preventing the formation of cartels.

This is preamble of the Constitution of the Federal Democratic Republic of Nepal:

Nepal is an independent, indivisible, sovereign, secular, inclusive, democratic, socialism-oriented, republican, multiethnic state which shall be called Nepal in short

That sentence without the word ‘socialism oriented’ is still perfect to describe new Nepal under the new constitution. Since the word is there, what is its implication now? Is government going to take responsibility of providing goods and services for its citizens, even if the market is perfectly capable of doing so?

The constitution guarantees all sorts of rights for individuals for example: right to health, right to clean environment, right to education, right to employment etc. Among the rights that is provided for individuals, labor right and right of consumers provides interesting insight into how policy makers think of private sectors. Following are some excerpts from the constitution:

Every worker and employee shall have the right to form and join trade unions and to engage in collective bargaining for the protection of their respective interests, as provided in law

Every consumer shall have right to get quality goods and services. Victim of loss incurred from low quality goods or services shall have right to compensation as provided by the law

These clauses have an underlying assumption that business are always looking at every opportunity to take advantage of their consumers and workers. And these clauses also have the assumption that government is the big brother which is going to protect us (consumers and laborers) all. Another assumption in those clauses is that the government is benevolent saint that has public interests at its core. Well it could not be further from the truth. The fact that it took this long for the constitution to be drafted and ratified (it took eight years) proves that legislative bodies, political parties and bureaucrats have their own self-interest namely: securing votes, re-election and securing budget. Public interest is the least of their concern even if they make us believe it is.

It is true that businesses look for every opportunities to maximize profit. It is also true that there can be incidents of business malpractices. The way out of this problem then is to create an environment of competition driven by efficiency and innovation. In an environment of fair competition, the businesses that engage in mal-practices will not survive and will have to exit the market. The government should let the force of market work its magic rather than imposing iron clad regulations on businesses, which can lead to many unintended consequences and are very hard to change even if the regulations are not leading to desired outcomes.

This lack of trust in the role of market and entrepreneurial spirit (core of which is competition, efficiency and innovation) is very tragic for Nepal, a country which is in desperate need of rapid economic growth. Rapid economic growth does not come from regulating the private sectors. And policy makers should be very mindful of this.

Dhruba Bhandari

About Dhruba Bhandari

Dhruba Bhandari is Research Fellow at Samriddhi, The Prosperity Foundation. He joined the Foundation in July 2015. He completed PhD in Development Economics from Oklahoma State University (USA) in 2013. Prior to Joining Foundation, he worked as Research Associate at Oklahoma State University.

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Taxi Troubles

taxi troublesIf there’s something that has been common across the urban streets of the world, it would sure have to be taxi troubles. From the joyous streets of New York to the bustling Melbourne corners to the chaotically maddening streets of Kathmandu—taxis have grabbed headlines many a times.

Like governments elsewhere around the world, the government of Nepal took it upon itself to correct the marketplace imperfection that would have been caused if private players were allowed to take over the taxi industry sans the much needed regulation. And hence, in May 2000 A.D., the government banned registration of new taxis in Kathmandu Valley. Prior to the halt, about 8,000 taxis were registered to run in Bagmati zone and this amounted to about 80% of the total taxis in the country. According to the most recent data from the Taxi Unit, Bureau of Standards and Meterology, 4,834 of these ply on the valley roads and these are over 15 years old. With quite a percentage of them being out of order and the existent ones being run down and battered over the decade, the halt on registration raises some serious issues.

For starters, the idea of restricting entry means that the interests of rent-seeking taxi industry incumbents were valued over taxi customers. Restricted entry meant that the cost of licenses went up (quite unnaturally) and few held those licenses for their own benefits in the shadows of this artificial shortage. Also, over the last decade, the population of the valley has gone up at unprecedented rates—people from all walks of life have been drawn to this epicenter of dreams, opportunities and possibilities. But with this growth, the number of taxis has only fallen down—the ones that remain are a witness to the wear and tear that comes over time of repeated usage. These reasons combined have led the customers to pay higher prices for services that do not meet the quality standards as they are left with no other choice—after all, an over paid ride in a battered taxi is better than having to walk back home after a long day at work.

Instead of letting the market forces be at play, the already regulated industry is further scrutinized by the government’s price control mechanisms. The government has a ready-made rationale behind it—taxis have been charging exorbitant rates from passengers and there have also been reports of tampering with the meters. So, on July 16th 2013, the government raised the fare by 15.6 percent. The meter starts from NRs. 14; the fare has been raised to NRs. 37 per kilometer from NRs. 32. In earlier years too government has been raising the taxi fares according to the rate of inflation, increasing fuel prices and changing wage rates for the drivers.

While the government tries to justify the regulation citing reasons as private players monopolizing the market and public safety, it is easy to understand how competitive taxi markets and unfettered entry and fares for taxi providers would mean lower fares, higher level of services to the customers and possibly service innovations. If nothing else, this would mean entrepreneurial opportunities for many interested. Because of their flexible services like 24 hour-a-day availability and capacity to provide door-to- door service taxis have become an added element of a modern-urban lifestyle and the regulations have not only restricted the much needed competition but have also killed whatever little incentive they might have had to innovate and provide better services at much cheaper rates.

 

Anita Krishnan

About Anita Krishnan

Krishnan holds dual degrees--in law and sociology. Currently, she works as a Research Associate at Samriddhi, The Prosperity Foundation.

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