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Apr 13, 2010

Sujeev Shakya’s Unleashing Nepal:Past, Present and Future of the Economy: A review

If one observes the contemporary political economic scenario of Nepal, especially the last  2 decades covering the eventful period of Jana Aandolan I , civil war, royal coup, Jana Aandolan II, comprehensive peace agreement and constitution assembly, they could confidently say Nepalese are fond of hoping for the best and dashing for it and are very familiar with having their hopes thwarted and coping with the worst. If the person digs further into Nepalese history, they can see it has been the same way since the beginning. Despite of  being a free nation for centuries unlike its neighbors who suffered the shackles of colonialism and having the potential to be a nother Asian tiger , Nepal has been  marred by abject poverty and  lagging incomprehensibly behind in case of economic development. The primary reason? Economy of the country has never been an issue; neither to the rulers not to the citizens.The claim can also be justified by the fact that though we have numerous treatise on political, sociological and historical development of Nepal, Shakya's Unleashing Nepal:Past, Present and Future of the Economy is among the few books if any that looks at the country from a predominantly economic point of view.

Understanding a nation's economy is a tough job and when it comes to understanding and explaining a tumultuous and messy economy like ours that is intricately entangled with politics, the job gets even tougher. In this regard, Mr. Shakya has done a marvelous job of tracing back the economic history of Nepal since the country's unification explaining how Nepal's poverty was caused to highlighting the nitty gritty of current scenario.The lucid and logical explanations of the hurdles that prevented and prevent our growth makes the reader wonder if the policy makers would only consider a little bit of this knowledge , we would be save a great deal of anymore foolishness and thereby impoverishment. In this regard, I believe Shakya's book can be termed  the missing manual. It's a missing manual to all the policymakers of the country  on how to and how not to deal with the economy and to the general citizens on what demands to make if they want prosperity as a priority.

Shakya has divided his book into three parts, i.e. Past, Present and Future. Each part starts with a short introduction giving readers a glimpse of what's coming but without being too obvious. The past has been well researched. Shakya comparison of the contemporaries Prithvi Narayan Shah with Adam Smith and King Mahendra with Jawaharlal Nehru is particularly interesting. The present has been well explained. Shakya is quite familiar with the various aspects of Nepalese economy and has eloquently highlighted all these aspects. His being a economic columnist Nepali times might help in explaining his familiarity with Nepalese economy. The Future section where Shakya tries to explain the potential Nepal holds in various sectors is , however, a bit too fanciful and superficial. Shakya paints such a rosy picture of our economy without actually giving any hints on how to achieve them practically.Readers get into their minds a dreamy Nepal where every sector of the economy is prospering but are left with a bittersweet taste and without any clues on how to achieve that dreamy situation. Shakya being a well known business executive and a popular economic columnist , could have done better than just telling about the possibilities Nepal holds which any well aware general Nepalese citizen could easily explain.One would surely expect some practical policy steps to realize the situation which the book doesn't offer. Bad aspect of this fact is that, reader after completing the book would only be frustrated and clueless rather than hopeful which is I believe is one of the objectives of the book. And given the current political economic scenario of the country, rosy pictures or dreams aren't of much help.

Another point I disagree with the author is his "capitalist welfare state" model. Capitalist Welfare State in itself a very vague model and the lack of clear distinction between capitalism and welfare can be used (as is the case ) by our politicians to revamp the socialist ideas. I believe its the entanglement of liberal policies and welfare state model that created the confusion and thereby decline of the economy after the first Jana Aandolan.

Despite these minor flaws, I found the book very interesting and a must for anyone aspiring to understand the Nepalese economy and the policies that took our economy down the drain and what to do about it. Reading this book can be the first step one can take to unleash Nepal, once and for all.