Author: Sujeev Shakya
Price: Rs 299
Published by Penguin Books
KATHMANDU: Understanding a nation’s economics is difficult, and when it gets horribly tangled with the politics of the country, it becomes almost impossible to unravel the mess. Unless of course if you have Sujeev Shakya patiently detangling and explaining the intricacies and why’s of everything — why onions cost so very much to why we have to queue in serpentine lines for hours for a measly two litres of petrol and why being such a water rich country we have to bear 16 hours of loadshedding during certain months.
Shakya’s Unleashing Nepal is about Nepal and her economics, what went wrong in the past, why it went wrong and the immense possibilities that Nepal has only if we care to have a vision.
Divided into three parts, the author has made the reader’s job easy because each part has a separate brief introduction. So as one turns the page one already has an idea of what one is going to read. But that does not in any way take away from what Shakya is going to reveal and also explain in a lucid way that one keeps turning the page (unless of course loadshedding hits your locality).
Part I of the book chronicles the economic history of Nepal from 1772 till 1990s explaining how Nepal’s poverty was caused, Part II examines events from 1990 till date, while Part III ‘Unleashing Nepal’ is about Nepal’s immense possibilities. The book can be read from cover to cover (which is recommended) or if one so fancies, then one can read the parts in any random order (if you are familiar with Nepal’s history and politics). Each part is a complete whole in itself.
Beginning his book, Shakya cleverly juxtaposes king Prithvi Narayan with Adam Smith comparing one’s economic and political strategies with the other’s theories. Further along he compares king Mahendra’s strategies with those of Jawaharlal Nehru, India’s first prime minister. The fun part of these comparisons is that the author does so tongue-in-cheek.
The reader cannot afford to miss the forward by Gurcharan Das. It hones in the point why “there could be no better time for Sujeev Shakya’s inspiring book on Nepal”. He says that as a new republic, Nepal has two choices in front of her — to either follow the way of China or the way of India. And he explains the pros and cons of both of the fastest growing economies of the world. However, he suggests “the best Nepal can do... is to learn from the successes and failures of its neighbours... if it is smart, Nepal will hitch its economy... to its fast-growing neighbours and reap the benefits of integration.”
The main ras of the book is in its last part (III), which Shakya writes “has been shaped by my desire to constantly dream — this time the dreams have been for unleashing Nepal’s potential”. And he explores Nepal’s potential in very creative yet very possible ways.
He writes,” In every sector one looks at, there are vast areas of opportunity. In tourism, there is the opportunity to take tourists from snow-capped peaks to tropical jungle in less than an hour’s flight, to showcase the birthplace of Buddha and to offer heritage walks, spiritual sojourns and adventure sports. Branding Nepali tea, coffee, herbs and handicrafts or creating niche brands like Swiss Chocolate, would provide endless prospects for small and medium businesses that can be networked to support a pan-Nepali brand. If water is the key natural resource that the world will focus on this century, then Nepal is bestowed with a natural bounty of water that can be used for many purposes, including for clean hydroelectricity. If Nepal is to develop only half of its potential for hydropower and sell it to India, the export revenues would be more than what Saudi Arabia makes by selling oil. If household in villages can farm herbs that can be processed at home and then marketed, or just grow flowers for export to different parts of the world, rural households will flourish. The list of opportunities
Elsewhere in the book he writes about Manjushree Thapa’s Forget Kathmandu “which lucidly interprets Nepali history for a contemporary reader, made me wonder why there could not be a book analysing the Nepali economy just as accessibly”. Well, Sujeev Shakya has written ‘the’ book that people will undoubtedly take the name of whenever and wherever Forget Kathmandu is mentioned.
Every Nepali and anyone trying to understand Nepali economy and economics will not go wrong to have one copy of Shakya’s book in his/her possession.