Nepal is not the poorest country in the world. There are 20 countries poorer than us in terms of GDP per capita income.
Having said that, we are by no means rich. We are still a poor country where nearly half the people live under the line of poverty. (Edited: I found out that it’s actually 21.5% of Nepalis who are under the line of poverty.) We are poor for a number of reasons.
The first is our geography. Try building roads, canals, railways and other infrastructures in the high mountains. It costs two or three times more than building the same in countries with mostly flat terrain.
The second is that we are landlocked, which makes trade with other countries complicated and expensive. In the north lies China and between us lie the world’s highest mountain range that acts as an almost impassable natural barrier. In the south, east and west lies India, which is not sympathetic to our cause for reasons of its own.
The third reason is that our country has just emerged out of the feudal age. Until recently, we had absolute monarchy with all the power concentrated in the hands of the royal family and their relatives. Though the king was well-meaning, he was surrounded by greedy and power-hungry aristocrats and sycophants who didn’t have the best interest of the country in their hearts. We are still suffering the consequences of centuries of feudalism.
The fourth reason is that we haven’t had the good fortune to have honest, able and visionary democratic leaders like Lee Kuan Yew of Singapore and Mahathir Mohammad of Malaysia. On top of that, our leaders are constantly squabbling.
The fifth reason is the culture of corruption. Corruption has become so ingrained in our society that you won’t find a single government officer and politician who hasn’t take a bribe or misappropriated state funds. This is a country where the wealthy are respected regardless of how they made their money.
The sixth reason is that we did not have the critical population size needed for development until recently. We did not have a large enough population to produce a sufficient number of engineers, entrepreneurs, industrialists and other skilled workers. Fortunately, we have that now.
The seventh is that older generation Nepalis are too steeped in traditions, culture and religion. As a result, they are highly resistant to change. While they say they want development, the moment you come up with a new idea they will oppose it under one pretext or another.
These are the reasons I can think of at the moment. But there is no need to worry. Our country has a very bright future. Despite all the bad news you hear, we are firmly on the path of progress. I am hoping to see a new, prosperous, modern and forward-looking Nepal by 2050.
Article by Madan K Limbu