Thinking big

Double-digit growth has been the slogan of some groups and individuals in Nepal. One of them is the party that heads the current coalition government. Some of them seem to be zealously promoting this concept, and they say it can be realised for Nepal. Now that the CPN-Maoist and its Finance Minister Dr Baburam Bhattarai have stressed double-digit growth, and the Maoist short-, medium-, and long-term plans for Nepali development imply double-digit growth, and they appear to be pretty serious about making a difference. It is good to have a vision, and those who do may not move in the right direction. If it can be realised as soon as possible, everybody will be happier. For several years, China has been registering something like it; Brazil’s annual growth rate has outstripped five per cent but still hovers well below 10 per cent; India comes between 5 and 10; and Russia also finds itself in the Brazilian league. These are among the fast-developing countries today.

Now that the insurgency has ended, the Jana Andolan II has succeeded, the CA polls have been held, the monarchy abolished, the new government formed, and the peace process is on the way to its logical conclusion. Therefore, political leaders have started stressing the need to bring about economic revolution to secure political revolution. For instance, Prime Minister Prachanda said as much on Sunday in his inaugural address at a three-day economic conference (erroneously called a ‘summit’) in the capital, with the agenda “Double Digit Growth: A National Commitment” organised by the Confederation of Nepalese Industries (CNI). Everybody knows that if all the potentials of the nation can be fully harnessed, it can reach new heights of development - if tourism is highly promoted, if water resources tapped to the hilt, if the full possibilities of the proximity to the two neighbouring giants can be exploited, if agriculture is revolutionised, if manufacturing is modernised, if the service sector is highly developed, and so on. There are a number of if’s.

This is a simple fact that people and rulers in the past knew. In the past, too, there came and went a number of economic slogans, such as meeting the basic needs of the people by the year 2000, poverty reduction (elimination, and now alleviation) according to the fads and fashions of aid donors. Now it is also the Millennium Development Goals. But the gap between precept and practice has been too wide. The economic issues taken up by the conference may well prove to be a good intellectual exercise. But the conference topic appears too broad for the CNI, which would have provided better service by focusing on topics related to the Nepali industries, including promoting employment in the industrial sector and creation of a conducive industrial environment. The government should play the role of facilitator in economic growth. If it can create a good environment, including the building of basic infrastructure, the people know how to respond to the economic opportunities. The government should focus on such things as creating employment, providing general good governance, formulating sound economic policy, and cracking down on the economic offenders. Then, other things would take care of themselves.