How tourism can change Nepal

Jiba Raj Pokharel

It will only be tautological to say that Nepal has not been able to make desirable headway towards development despite five decades of planned development. Thailand and South Korea were in a similar phase of development back in the fifties. In the new millennium, Nepal finds itself lagging streets behind them. South Korea in particular has been an example to emulate for the developing countries round the globe.

What are the reasons for this state of affairs? Dor Bahadur Bista in his book entitled Fatalism and Development attributed it to the fatalism prevalent in our society. But the most important factor is certainly the lack of vision necessary for development.

Abdul Kalam, the president of India, in his book entitled India: 2020, writes that vision should appear non-attainable at first glance but should be achievable once the heart and soul is put into it. India has a vision of being transformed into a developed nation for which it is seeking to attain a per capita income of $1538 by 2020 from the present $440.

Countries round the globe fall under three categories—underdeveloped, developing and developed. The ultimate vision of any country is certainly the attainment of a developed status within a fixed period of time. Countries should identify their core competence areas in which they are strong and mobilise it for development. India has taken technology as its core competence. In Nepal, tourism and hydropower are widely recognised as two of the core competences.

Of these two, tourism could be a better option because of its soft feature compared to hydropower, which is of a hard nature. For the development of hydropower, it has to be sold to India and an approach has to be made to donors for financing. But in the case of tourism, it is possible with private sector investment.

Nepal has a per capita of $244 at present and it can be increased to $767 after forty-two years if it can achieve a growth rate of 5 per cent every year by restraining the population growth to 2 per cent. With 7, 8, 9 and 10 per cent national growth the per capita can jump to $1760, $2650, $3976 and $5942. The achievement, which India is seeking to make by 2020, Nepal can make by 2045 if it can generate a sustained growth rate of about 6.5 per cent a year.

The Ninth Five Year Plan had made a projection of 6 per cent growth but it slumped down to 3.6 per cent at the end. There have been several factors for this but the lack of investment has been pointed out as one of the most determining ones. The plan aimed to make an investment of Rs.370 billion but ended up financing only $310 billion. It is thus clear that an added investment of about 12 billion per year is enough to achieve a growth rate of 6 per cent.

The income from tourism is $400 per person at present takes an average stay period of ten days. If we can attract five lakh tourists from China in addition to about 4 lakh we get every year, less than 0.6 per cent of what China gets every year (86 million) the gap of more than 12 billion rupees can be filled up. With this the growth rate of 6 to 6.5 per cent can be achieved.

It may sound little discouraging to wait for four decades when our southern neighbor is attaining this status in two decades. But what we have to realise is that we have been far behind India in the race towards developmental goal.