Parties must have a common vision of development so that policies remain the same regardless of change of government

Nepalis must be thrilled by the prospect of the country graduating from a Least Developed Country (LDC) category by December 2026. But know that this comes with challenges, as the facilities, concessions and assistance from the international community that the LDCs are entitled to will no longer be available once Nepal officially becomes a developing country in 2026. On Wednesday, the 40th plenary of the 76th Session of the UNGA had unanimously adopted a resolution endorsing the graduation of Nepal as well as Bangladesh and Lao People's Democratic Republic from the LDC category after an extended preparatory period of five years – instead of the usual three years – for the smooth transition.

The two extra years have been given so as to plan for post-COVID recovery and implement policies to reverse the damage done by it. There is no turning back for Nepal now; hence, every effort must be made to see that we transit to a developing country as scheduled and meet all the SDGs by 2030.

To graduate to developing country status, a LDC must meet two of the three eligibility criteria, namely per capital income based on average gross national income, i.e., gross development product plus net incomes received from overseas; human assets index (HAI), which looks at the level of undernourished population, under-five mortality rate, adult literacy and gross secondary enrollment ration; and economic and environmental vulnerability index (EVI), which looks at natural disasters, remoteness, goods and services exports and agriculture production. LDC membership is revised every three years to see if any LDC country is meeting these criteria. During the last two triennial reviews held in 2015 and 2018, Nepal had met the HAI and EVI criteria, but fell short of meeting the per capital income criterion of $1,222. Hence, Nepal had requested that its graduation be postponed following the highly destructive earthquakes in 2015, which had devastated the economy. Right now, it has a per capital income of slightly less than $1,200.

It is a fact that remittances over the years have contributed heavily in reducing poverty in the country.

While the remittances have largely helped millions of families wriggle out of poverty – not only to end hunger, but also to send children to school and pay for the treatment of family members – the billions of dollars that our youths remit year after year from overseas have not been put to productive use. Unlike Bangladesh, Nepal's exports are feeble, with imports 12 times that of exports. Nepal has failed to make use of the immense facilities offered by the Western world to LDC exports. With all trade concessions gone after 2026, exporting goods and services will be a real challenge. We need to start developing niche products that we can export in bulk or in which we have great advantage. Sustainable development demands that Nepal invest heavily in tapping its immense hydro and solar power, commercialise agriculture, utilise its forest products and enhance its tourism potential. This calls for developing a common vision of development among the political parties of Nepal, so that policies remain the same regardless of change of government.

Stay alert

The Ministry of Health and Population has urged the people to remain cautious and follow the health protocols following the outbreak of a new variant of the coronavirus in South Africa, which is said to be even more contagious than the one that appeared in April as the second wave. As Nepal has resumed international flights following the vaccination drive, there is every possibility of the new variant, or Omicron, classified as B 1.1.529, easily spreading in Nepal as well.

Therefore, the ministry has made it compulsory to stay for a week in quarantine for those who come to Nepal from South Africa. Although the ministry has said the new variant has not been detected in Nepal, it is better to stay alert and not allow things to get out of hand. Scientists are also not sure if the vaccines currently in use all over the world are capable of treating Omicron. Although we do not need to panic with it right now, we must, however, remain cautious.

Apart from vaccinating the eligible population, we need to wear facemasks, avoid crowds, ventilate our rooms and wash hands frequently. These are the best tools to fight against any kind of variant that has already emerged and is likely to appear in the future.

A version of this article appears in the print on November 29, 2021, of The Himalayan Times.