May 23, 2012

केही लिबर्टेरियन भनाइहरु - १०

१) तपाईंले राजनितिमा चाख लिनु भएन भन्दैमा राजनिती ले तपाईंमा चाख नलिने होईन ।  -Pericles (430 BC)

२) यदी हामी आफुलाई मन नपर्ने मान्छेको 'अभिव्यक्ती स्वन्तन्त्रता'मा बिश्वास गर्दैनौ भने, हामी खुद  'अभिव्यक्ती स्वतन्त्रता' माथी नै बिश्वास गर्दैनौ । - Noam Chomsky

३) सरकार एउटा कुरामा अत्यन्त माहिर हुन्छ - पहिले तपाईंको खुट्टा भाँच्न , अनि त्यसपछी तपाईंलाई बैशाखी थमाएर - हेरत यदी सरकार नभएको भए तिमी हिंड्नै सक्ने थिएनौ भन्नमा ।  -Harry Browne

४) जब एउटै व्यक्ती वा एउटी व्यक्तिको समूहले तरवार र पैसाको थैली नियन्त्रणमा लिन्छन्, तब स्वतन्त्रताको अन्त्य हुन्छ ।  - George Mason

५) सरकारको बिरुद्धमा आफ्नो देशलाई समर्थन गर्नु देशद्रोह होईन तर आफ्नो देश को बिरुद्धमा सरकारलाई समर्थन गर्नु चाही देशद्रोह हो ।  - Stephen T. Byington

६) देशभक्ती भनेको आफ्नो देशलाई माया गर्नु हो, आफ्नो सरकारलाई माया गर्नु होईन ।  -Michael Cloud

७) स्वतन्त्रता भनेको समानताको अवस्था होईन , असमानता को अवस्था हो । यसले प्रकृती को यो तथ्यलाई स्विकार्छ- मानिस हरुमा रहेको अन्तर्निहित क्षमता, चारित्र,स्वभावको भिन्नता - र यसलाई सम्मान पनि गर्छ । हामी एक अर्का उस्तै उस्तै हुँदैनौ र कुनै पनि कानून्ले तेसो बनाउन पनि सक्दैन । - Frank Chodorov

८) राज्यवाद सामाजिकिकरण गरिएको बेईमानी बाहेक केहि होईन । यो अर्काको अर्काको पखेटा खोसेर आफ्नो गुँड राम्रो पार्ने खेल मात्र हो । नैतिकताको कसीमा पाकेट मार्नु र प्रगतिशील कर प्रणाली लागु गर्नुमा कुनै भिन्नता छैन ।  -Leonard Read

९) राजनितिज्ञहरु सधैं मानिस हरुमा चाख लिन्छन । तर यो सद्गुण भने होईन । उपियाँ पनि त सधै कुकुरप्रती आकर्षित हुन्छन ।   -P.J. O'Rourke

१०) सबैको मालिक बन्नका लागी राजनितिज्ञहरु आफु जनताको सेवक भएको ढोगं रच्छन ।   -Charles de Gaulle

May 20, 2012

In defence of liberalisation

In the political and economic discourse of Nepal, liberalisation might sound like a popular word but it is also one of the most derided. From the critics who blame it for everything that has and can go wrong to the apologists, liberalisation rarely finds a voice in its support. For politicians and planners, it is the perfect scapegoat for their own wrongdoings, whereas for left leaning intellectuals it is the thing to bash when-ever they have an urge to pour out their frustration and hatred. Many also hold a mythical notion that liberalisation is a panacea to every economic evil.

This was well reflected when a prominent economist of Nepal recently wrote an opinion piece saying, “Despite liberalisation, more than 50 per cent of children are unable to attain secondary level of education and 15 districts are yet to be connected by roads.” Unfortunately, liberalisation in itself does not do these things. It just allows a platform for all of these things to be done by the individuals in a free society. It would be beneficial for any rational economic discourse to analyse if Nepal has truly liberalised its economy and if liberalisation has any contribution in keeping the poverty levels where it is.

The myth about liberalisation

One of the greatest myths regarding liberalisation in Nepal is that after reforms of 1990s, Nepal is a fully liberalised free-market economy and an epitome of free-wheeling capitalism. Critics love to assert that despite all attempts, the promised utopia of liberalisation not only seems elusive but unattainable. However, nothing can be further from the truth.

Liberalisation in its essence means an economy free of interference from the government (or politics for that matter). Though government has done so in paper, it is not in practice. From agriculture to transport and health, every sector reeks from the heavy hand of government control or sponsored distortions. The best example is the government approved cartels in the transport sector which have wrecked havoc on the overall economy through monopoly.Energy, one important prerequisite for economic growth, is still in the grips

of the government. Nepal Electricity Authority, the sole authority on electricity in Nepal fails to provide power even for 12 hours a day and has negative net worth. Petroleum products are also in the government’s grip. Frequent disruptions in fuel supply have become common now.

Infrastructure is also mostly controlled by the government. Although concepts of Public Private Partnership and Build-Own-Operate-Transfer have been discussed for a while, we are yet to see any significant progress in implementation. The fact that 15 district headquarters are not yet connected by roads, begs a deeper question: Whose fault is it? If we expect liberalisation to work miracles, should we not first free the sector from state’s monopoly?

Labour market is miles away from liberalisation. Politically backed militant trade unions have monopolised the labour market but slapped any liberalisation attempts in Nepal. State-owned enterprises whose losses and quality of service are inversely proportional, such as Janakpur Cigarette Factory, Nepal Airlines Corporation and Nepal Oil Corporation are a drain on the economy.  Liberalisation has been unable to spread to these darkest corners of the state.

The myth of failure of liberalisation 

In this context, it is imperative to rethink Nepal’s liberalisation reforms or even call it a liberal market-oriented economy. Shifting the blame for underachieved development on liberalisation suggests that policy-makers are cynical and lack commitment to take reform efforts to conclusion. Liberalisation, in its limited form, has worked wonders, if not miracles. A common farmer in the remotest part of the country using a cell phone symbolises the success of liberalisation, wherever it has been done.

The thriving and vibrant media sector of Nepal is another example. The critics of liberalisation should consider that absolute poverty, a major problem of Nepal which decades of planning and government action could not solve, is being rapidly alleviated by a simple move towards liberalisation. Liberalisation in making passport has allowed mill-ions of poor Nepalis to find jobs abroad and raise their living standards. Critics are quick to point dependence on remittance is not desirable for the economy. But, are there any realistic and better alternatives? Relying on the government to fulfil the Nepali dream of prosperity is being naive.

Nepal’s liberalisation, despite many discussions, has remained a will-o-wisp till date. It is true that liberalisation has not been able to deliver to its fullest so far, but liberalisation itself is the last thing to be blamed for it.

-Surath Giri

(Published in The Himalayan Times - Perspectives of May 20, 2012)