May 21, 2012
A three-day nationwide shutdown (bandh) is the latest in a string of protests mounted by Nepali groups opposing recent plans made by main political parties to create 11 federal states. This occurs in the same week that the World Bank issued its 2012 Logistic Performance Index (LPI), reporting that Nepal’s competence in trade has taken a plunge – now ranking 151st place among 155 countries.
The LPI measures logistics efficiency, now widely recognized as vital for trade and growth. Nepal’s plunge in ranking revealed the country’s inability to trade. Delays and unexpected political strikes contribute to this abysmal record.
The most recent outbreak of strikes in Nepal stem from political factions, which have failed to agreed on a legal and administrative framework for the young republic. There are more than 100 ethnic groups in Nepal, many of which are pressing for individual states to be named after them.
Shutting down the already paltry road system in Nepal seems to be the various political groups’ favorite venue to voice their outrage, an internecine folly that, over the last several years, has triumphantly sapped business confidence both inside and outside Nepal’s borders.
Most recently, the strikes have occurred over divisive proposals within the new and yet-completed constitution, particularly the notion that the nation will be split up and demarcated along ethnic lines.
Five people were killed in a blast this month in the southern town of Janakpur during a protest in favor of a separate state.
On Sunday, police and officials reached from Nepalgunj, Bhairahawa, Pokhara and Birgunj said transport and businesses were "totally" shut by the strike. Trucks bringing goods from India were stranded.
"About 300 trucks are waiting to enter Nepal with essential goods on the Indian side of the border," said policeman Jitendra Kumar Basnet from Sunauli, a major trading point on the border with India, 171 km (107 miles) southwest of Kathmandu.
Yesterday, in the capitol, the most recent strike took on a new level of belligerence.
At least half a dozen vehicles belonging to different media organizations were vandalized during the first day of the three-day general strike in Nepal. The strike called by Nepal Federation of Indigenous Nationalities representing various ethnic groups including Newars, Tharus, Muslims and other minority groups brought life to a virtual standstill in major cities across Nepal including Kathmandu.
As per usual, transportation services were halted, educational institutions shut and markets were closed. Besides the regular business in Kathmandu, its tourism sector has also been badly affected by the frequent strikes called by various ethnic groups.
It comes as little surprise, therefore, that according to the 2012 Logistic Performance Index report:
“The lack of reliability and unpredictable delays, which do more damage than the average costs and time that can be factored into the supply chains, create high induced-logistics costs in low logistics-performance environments and add dramatically to the challenge of economic diversification in low-income and many middle income economies.”
“Logistics performance is strongly associate with the reliability of supply chains and the predictability of service delivery available to producers and exporters.”
Bottom line: Economically, (along with Chad, Haiti, Djibouti and Burundi), Nepal leads the world in shooting itself in the foot.
Update: May 22, 2010
"Strike in Nepal Affects Movement of Cargo", as reported by Chinese news service XINHAU:
Around 1000 vehicles carrying essential goods are stranded in the northern and southern border areas of Nepal due to general strikes called by various groups, compelling importers to pay extra cost, which will eventually be transferred to consumers, according to local media.
Cargo trucks are currently lying in the yard of Biratnagar Customs Office. Trucks that are carrying raw material for industries and fast moving consumer goods, are currently stuck in the customs office since the last five days, Binod Kunwar, chief of customs office, told Tuesday's Republica daily.
Similarly, imports from China have come to a complete halt and more than 60 containers are stranded in the yard of Tatopani Customs Office, while around 350 empty-containers are in the Birgunj inland containers depot (ICD). The containers that are stranded in the Birgunj ICD had brought iron, feeds and fast moving consumer goods.
"The empty containers which are on the property of Indian shipping companies charge 14 U.S. dollars per day," Rajan Sharma, president of Nepal Freight Forwarders' Association, told the daily.
Similarly, goods such as summer apparels and cosmetics that are imported from China are stuck in the Tatopani Customs Office. " More than a dozen containers are lying in the Tibetan territory of China," said officials at the Tatopani customs.
Importers, such as Arjun Sapkota, fear agricultural products, like fruits, imported from China might be ruined if they are not taken to the market in time.
Normal life across Nepal has been brought to a standstill on Monday, the second day of the three-day general strike called by various ethnic groups demanding ethnicity-based federalism in the new constitution.
As the deadline -- May 27 -- of the constitution drafting draws near in the country, various groups are demanding their representation in the new constitution of which more focus is laid on the "autonomous regions" based on ethnicity and identity.