June 14, 2012
In a Xinhau editorial published on June 11, “Who Smothers Nepali Dreams?” author Zhou Shengping lampoons Prachanda’s vision of turning Nepal in to the “Switzerland of Asia” and Prime Minister Bhattarai’s, “oft-told dream, a real dilly, that Nepal can be ‘a vibrant bridging state’ not only between India and China, but also of South Asia and East Asia.
“Time tests all,” the article continues. “Prachanda's dream turned into a very short- lived passion that decayed upon growing inter-and intra-party rifts, resulting in a jest of media critics thanks to deadlocked politics and stagnant economy. With lots of bureaucratic hurdles and without a stable investment environment, Nepal, one of the poorest countries in Asia stands foreign investment off.”
This latter criticism, that the Maoist-led government has crippled foreign investment, is a sensitive issue for Bhattarai. Only this week, Bhattarai, at the prime minister’s official office in Baluwatar, emphasized that his Investment Board was poised to attract national in international investments.
There is ample evidence to the contrary.
The latest instance: On June 11, the New York Daily News published an article written by Mukul Humagain, which reported, “Nepal's petroleum exploration plans have suffered a setback with two of the world's leading oil companies, Texana Resources Company and Cairn Energy, announcing that they would stop survey work, citing ‘force majeure.’
“This is not the first time that Texana and Cairn have invoked force majeure. They have halted work in the past citing volatile political and security situation.
“Sources said Texana was now considering international arbitration against the Nepal government and a loss could lead to millions of dollars in compensation. Cairn has told the government that it would ‘pull out’ of Nepal altogether but it was not clear whether it would also go for international arbitration.
“The two companies said they were frustrated with the way the industry ministry and the department of mines had handled the whole issue. Officials of the companies said the industry ministry had not shown any interest in addressing their issues despite repeated requests.
‘Every time we meet them, all they tell us is that our issues will be addressed,’ said one oil company official.”
The youth of Nepal would understand the rich oilmen’s frustration.
The most recent figures show that the Maoist-led government’s failure to create jobs has resulted in a huge loss of youth workforce with more than 400,000 Nepali youths leaving home in search of jobs in foreign lands…all in the last 10 months.
“The increase in outflow was recorded due to three reasons: Increased outflow of Terai people, demand of unskilled workers in Qatar and the closure of domestic industries,” according to migration expert Ganesh Gurung. “Currently Terai people in large numbers are taking up foreign jobs due to the closure of industries based in Terai following the energy crisis, high interest rates and frequent labor disputes.”
The Chinese article concludes that Nepal’s leading politicians have “degraded themselves” by building sand castles for public consumption.
My question is: To what extent has the Nepali public – those likely to vote in the next elections -- become fed up with a steady diet of sand castles?