Sep 27, 2011

केही लिबेर्टेरियन भनाइहरु -६


  1. धन को उत्पादन माथिको नियन्त्रण मानव जीवन माथिकै नियन्त्रण हो ।  -Hilaire Belloc
  2. कर उठाएर कुनै देश धनी हुन्छ भन्नु कुनै मान्छे बाल्टिनभित्र बसेर बाल्टिन उचाल्न खोज्नु जस्तै हो । -Winston Churchill
  3. पहिले उनीहरुले तपाईंलाई बहिस्कार गर्थे - काले भएकाले । अहिले उनिहरु तपाईंलाई समाबेश गर्छन् - काले भएकाले । तपाईं त्यसलाई प्रगती भन्नुहुन्छ ? -Marylin French
  4. कुनै पनि सरकारले स्वेच्छाले आफ्नो आकार घटाऊदैन । सरकारी कार्यक्रमहरु एक चोटि लागु गरेपछी बिरलै मात्र हराउछन ।  -Ronald Reagon
  5. समाज आफ्ना सदस्यहरुको भलाईको लागि अस्तित्वमा रहन्छ नकी समाजको भलाईका लागि मानिसहरु । -Herbert Spencer
  6. नाफा कमाउनु नराम्रो हो भन्ने बिचार  समाजवादीहरुको हो , म त घाटा खानु चै नराम्रो कुरा हो भन्छु । -Winston Churchill
  7. राजनीतिग्यले आफुले भनेको कुरामा आँफै विश्वाश गर्दैन , त्यसैले अरुले उस्का कुरा पत्याउदा उ आँफै छक्क पर्छ । -Charles DeGaulle
  8. मृत्यु र कर बिचको फरक के हो भने ,मृत्यु सदन बसेइ पिच्छे नराम्रो हुँदै जादैन । -Will Rogers
  9. लोभी पुँजिपतीहरु पैसा कमाउन परे व्यापार गर्छन् , असल समाजवादिहरु पैसा कमाउनु परे अर्काको खोस्छन । -David Friedman
  10. अधिकार भनेको "जुन तपाईंलाई अरुले दिनुपर्छ " भन्ने होइन । अधिकार भनेको "जुन अरुले तपाईंबाट खोस्न पाउदैन" भन्ने चै हो । -Ramsey Clark

Sep 26, 2011

Development Buzzwords: What do they actually mean?

William Easterly is no doubt one of the most prominent and effective critics of the mindless "aid" industry that plagues almost every developing economies in the world. As evident from the cases of Africa and of course Nepal, development is a very lucrative industry that is harming poor economies like us more than helping us. I have read his book "The Elusive Quest For Growth" and found it very interesting. Recently, he has compiled a hilarious insider's dictionary for development sector. Check it out here.

By the way, here are some samples (LMAO) :

“beneficiaries” : the people who make it possible for us to be paid by other people
“baseline” : a point which is so low that positive results are the only possible outcome
“empowerment” : what is left when all the quantifiable variables give non significant results
“entrepreneurial” : vaguely innovative and cool, but definitely nothing to do with the hated “market”
“sustainable” : will last at least as long as the funding
“ownership” : we held a workshop

Do you have any, add them to the comment!

Who's responsible for adulteration?

Recent revealing of adulteration and malpractices in almost every consumable goods has shocked all of us. From the traditional gudpaks to sausages, no edible goods seem to be uncontaminated and unadulterated. Critical questions about the integrity of the private sector and ignorance of the Nepalese consumers are being raised. Findings have delivered a huge blow and another setback to the already dwindling image of private sector. The government's move to check the quality of food and media's support in highlighting the findings are appreciable. However, some opinions being expressed question the very existence of private sector and whether the state should start playing a greater role in providing goods and services.

Since reactions to the incident has been towards the lack of integrity of private sector, it is imperative that role of all the three parties involved, namely-government, private sector and the consumers be brought under the scrutiny of public discourse and debates. 

The private sector

A critical look at the history of Nepalese private sector would be enough to convince the observer that in Nepal private sector's greatest enemy has been the private sector itself. Neither has it been able to follow ethical and moral standards of business nor has it been able to assert its importance in the economy during policy formulations. Syndicates, cartels, rent-seeking behaviors have always characterized Nepalese private sector. This is partly because of the patronizing attitude the state has always taken towards the sector since it took its first steps in 1951. Similarly, despite being the largest employment provider of the nation and the engine for economic growth, private sector has failed to assert itself when policies are being formulated. 

Free markets and ensuing competition are believed to weed out the ineffective and unethical players out of the market. However, as evident in our case, blatant ignorance on the part of consumers and government apathy at justice administration in cases of malpractices can provide incentives for enterprises to cheat the consumers and put their safety at risk. Government protection and promotion of rent-seeking behavior too is disrupting the market forces in our society. Syndicates in almost every sector of the economy prevent competition and innovate players from entering the market which is why competition has been ineffective in ensuring the quality of products and services.

Nepalese private sector should contemplate on the question that when private sector is already being attacked and blemished in the political discourses of the country, will such practices be any helpful for the continued existence of the sector?

The Government

Government's initiative to expose aberrations in the market is truly appreciable and initiatives such as these can discourage such malpractices. However, whether Nepalese consumers will  start getting  quality goods or not will mostly depend on whether or not such inspections are carried out on a regular basis rather than once in ages and whether or not the culprits are punished.

The fact is that many of the guilty enterprises were very popular and had been in operation for years which signals how ineffective the government had been  in its role as a quality controller. What were the government's regulatory and monitoring agencies were doing when almost every product available in the market was adulterated? Will all businesses that were found guilty be penalized and will the penalty be enough to deter them from engaging in such practices again in future?

Inability to punish the owner of Sugam Gas Company who was responsible for tampering with 15,314 LPG cylinders and deaths by LPG related accidents indicates the level of sensitivity of government towards consumer safety. This also inspires enterprises to engage in quick profit making schemes by risking consumer's health and safety.

The Consumers

As market inspections continue to unveil series of aberrations in the market, it is imperative that Nepalese consumers learn to be more alert and take informed consumption decisions. Nepalese consumers need to learn to take care of themselves rather than relying on the moral standards of business owners or effectiveness of government bureaucrats. It does not take a degree to know or at least assume that qualities of goods and services being offered by many of the business enterprises are of sub-standard quality and consuming such goods is hazardous to their health and safety. It is an open secret that cheap prices come with a compromise in quality. Such incidents should help us reinforce this learning in us.  Developing a habit of checking the information provided by the product covers and packages and raising voices against irregularities and frauds is another measure Nepalese consumers could take to mitigate such hazards.

Conclusion

Blaming the private sector alone wouldn't only be injustice to the businesses which are operating with ethical standards and providing quality goods and services but could also prove to be a great folly if it leads to diminishing the role of private sector in the economy rather than punishing the culprits and promoting innovation and competition by providing access to new players in the market. The private sector should learn to be ethical if it doesn't want to facilitate its own destruction whereas the government could do a better job by making such inspections regular and punishments effective. Most of all, incidents such as these should shake Nepalese consumers out of complacency and make them more responsible in taking care of themselves.

Surath Giri

(Published in The Himalayan Times-Perspectives of 25th September, 2011)

Sep 24, 2011

Niall Ferguson's 6 killer apps of prosperity and Nepal

Click on the image to watch the video.
Got this TED video recommended by a friend. Niall Ferguson who  is a British historian specializing in in financial and economic history, particularly hyperinflation and the bond markets, as well as the history of colonialism explains briefly in this 20-minute presentation the 6 killers apps West used to create the huge amount of wealth and prosperity in the last 200 years. He says these apps were what differentiated the West from the rest and caused the huge divergence in the level of living standards and the best news is that these apps are "open-source" i.e. share-able and adaptable. And in fact that's what many of the rapidly developing Asian and Latin American countries doing, i.e. downloading and using them. 

Following are the 6 killers apps for prosperity:
  1. Competition 
  2. Scientific Revolution 
  3. Property Rights
  4. Modern Medicine
  5. Consumer Society
  6. Work Ethic
Well, I find the future of Nepalese society pretty much bleak as we have been inept at using these apps so far and if the trends of Nepalese political and social discourse were to be followed we are very hostile to these apps. We doubt the "open-source" nature of these apps and instead prefer to consider them as "proprietary apps" developed by the West. Majority of our political leaders and public intellectuals believe  apps like Property Rights, Competition and Consumer Society are in fact viruses and malware and getting rid of them would bring prosperity in our society although anyone with common sense will fail to see how apps that have worked "miracle" everywhere else can still be malware to our society. Even the supposedly fans of these apps such as private sector, civil society and entrepreneurs are trying to destroy these apps. Labor unions are hell bent on sending work ethic to recycle bin. In this context, I hardly see these apps making any changes in our lives. What do you think?

Sep 10, 2011

Government's relief packages: My thoughts--I

The government has introduced a series of relief packages and as you might already have guessed, I am as  skeptic as ever. But since his holiness Dr. Bhattarai could do no wrong, I would rather present my curiosity and inquiry than slam criticisms. 

Government to instruct local administrations to immediately return seized land and property: 

Source: www.ekantipur.com
Well, that's something we all would welcome. I just hope it really happens because the new "revolutionary" land owners seem to be making themselves pretty comfortable and enriched with their new acquisitions. They might be a little reluctant to give up their acquisitions and "immediately" could easily turn into "ages" and just to help Dr. Bhattarai make "informed" decisions, local administrations have been proven weak and ineffective for the job. I think his holiness should employ YCL cadres for the job if he wants to get better results.

By the way, just a small curiosity: How come returning the land to their rightful owners a "relief" package? I used to think land ownership was a right not a "relief" package. But never mind, what's in a name? I really welcome the move!

Government to provide Rs. 200000 each to 50,000 youths under youth employment program:

Last time's youth self employment scheme generated really huge fanfare and tons of accolades for his holiness before fading into oblivion. For a research purpose, along with my friends, I had gone to the finance ministry to inquire about the status of the scheme. The scheme had been confined to a single room in the ministry and was providing generous employment to about half a dozen people. Besides the employment, the scheme had also provided additional perks to its employees as we found a lady vigorously scanning some question papers and a text book when we visited the office. We were pretty surprised to find the lady extremely reluctant to talk about her additional perks though. So, I think his holiness should consider employing more than just a dozen (already relatively well-off) people.  

And maybe his holiness should consider letting enterprises like Surya Nepal Garments run. Despite being capitalists and bloodsuckers,  20 such enterprises, if allowed to run, could easily provide jobs to 50,000 youths without spending a dime from the government treasury.

Government to subsidize LP gas (a cylinder a month per family) and kerosene (5 liters for oil lamp users): 

Source: www.ekantipur.com
Well, I love this move and I believe so do majority of the Kathmanduites. Getting subsidized LP gas is awesome even though it might mean using poor people's (who have never used LP gas and majority of people in Nepal can't afford LP gas) tax money to help relatively well-off people to consume LP gas. I am really surprised why almost every government relief package has a subsidy on LP gas provision. But as they say, आम खाओ पेड मत गीनो, I shouldn't really keep dwelling on it I guess.

By the way, recently, a businessman who had been tampering with gas cylinders and regulators posing great risks to thousands of LP gas consumers walked free after paying minimal fine. Your holiness, if you could punish (and I mean severe enough punishment here) criminal such as those, consumers could feel more "relief" than a subsidized gas.

....
I will continue my ramblings in another post as well. Do help me figure things out with your comments!

Sep 7, 2011

In developing countries, government is usually the problem

I was going through a blog post titled "20 Things I’ve Learned From Traveling Around the World for Three Years" by Gary Arndt in Tim Ferriss's blog. One of the things he has learnt really caught my eye. Below is his lesson no 16:

16) In developing countries, government is usually the problem.

I have been shocked at the level of corruption that exists in most developing countries. Even if it is technically a democracy, most nations are run by and for the benefit of the elites that control the institutions of power. Political killings, bribery, extortion and kickbacks are the norm in many places. There is little difference between the Mafia and the governments in some countries I’ve visited. The corruption in the Philippines was especially surprising. It isn’t just the people at the top who are corrupt. I’ve seen cops shake people down on the street for money, cigarettes or booze.