There is a need for Nepal to make huge investments in the productive and service sectors to upgrade itself from the Least Developed Country (LDC) category to a developing country, five years from now by 2026, as per the latest report of the United Nations Committee for Development Policy (CDP). The CDP has recommended for Nepal's graduation from the LDC category with a preparatory period of five years. This means that Nepal's graduation would be effective in 2026, as per a CDP release issued on Saturday. The CDP, in its triennial review held from February 22 to 26, made this recommendation as Nepal had met the criteria for graduation from a LDC in three consecutive reviews. Out of the three indices which the CDP considers while deciding on the question of graduation – Gross National Income (GNI) per capita, Human Assets Index (HAI) and Economic and Environmental Vulnerability Index (EVI) – Nepal met the thresholds for the latter two, thus being eligible for graduation. Nepal was supposed to graduate to a developing country by 2022. But due to the extraordinary challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic and based on the request of the Nepal government, the national preparatory period of three years has been extended to five years.
Nepal must do adequate homework to meet the necessary threshold related to GNI per capita to graduate from a LDC
Though Nepal had met the graduation criteria for the first time in 2015, the CDP in its 2018 triennial review had recommended deferring the graduation at the request of the Nepal government, considering the setback on Nepal's economy by the 2015 earthquake and other disasters in the following years. The CDP has said its recommendation is an important milestone in Nepal's development trajectory towards the national ambition of 'Prosperous Nepal, Happy Nepalis' and the nation's development aspirations as reflected in the 15th Periodic Plan. This recommendation needs to be endorsed by the UN Economic and Social Council, which shall then be 'noted' by the UN General Assembly later this year. Nepal will continue to have access to all LDC-specific support measures until 2026.
The most important thing that Nepal needs to make progress is in the per capita GNI index. Economists believe that it will be meaningless to graduate from a LDC to a developing country unless Nepal meets the necessary threshold related to GNI per capita. Therefore, it is important to do adequate homework to meet the GNI threshold. After Nepal graduates from a LDC to a developing country, it will not be eligible for concessional loans and other facilities that LDCs enjoy. As per the 2019 statistics, Nepal's per capita GNI stands at $1,090. In order to graduate from the LDC, Nepal needs to increase the per capita GNI to at least $1,250 in the next five years. The World Bank has listed Nepal as a lower middle-income country. The preparatory period of five years to Nepal is a crucial phase. So, Nepal should best utilise these years by making good investments in the productive sectors so that millions of families in the rural and urban areas can be lifted out of poverty, as China did, years before the UN's SDG-2030. For this to materialise, we need to have a stable government with sound policies applicable at the grassroots levels.
With Nepal's conservation efforts largely focussed on large wildlife, such as the tiger and rhino, the smaller animals and birds, though legally protected, have failed to get the attention they deserve. A case in point is the owl, whose population has been dwindling over the years due to excessive capture. An estimate has it that about 2,000 owls are smuggled out of Nepal every year to India and even as far as the Middle East for pet keeping or for ritual sacrifices. Different owl parts are also believed to have medicinal value, making them lucrative for the poachers.
Thus, the Owl Conservation Action Plan (2020-29) of the government to ensure a viable population of the bird by conserving their habitat is a welcome step. Habitat loss due to deforestation, illegal trapping and hunting, pesticide use and low level of awareness among the people pose a threat to the conservation of 23 species of owls found in Nepal.
Owls are birds of prey, whose diet primarily consists of small rodents like rats and voles, but they also eat frogs, lizards and snakes, helping to maintain the ecological balance. People must, therefore, be told why owls are important to humans if their conservation is to be a success.
A version of this article appears in the print on March 1, 2021, of The Himalayan Times.