1) By heralding a societal transformation.
2) By changing our limiting mindset.
3) By fostering a culture of learning.
Based on my work and background, I see Nepal primarily as a country of potential. When we look back over the past 30 years, the GDP has grown 10 times, quality of life and life expectancy are increasing, education access is getting better, and there are job opportunities for Nepalis not only in Nepal but around the world. When we look at all this, we can definitely call Nepal a country of potential. But we have not been able to achieve our full potential because of certain issues.
Nepal’s transformation most definitely has to be based on societal transformation. If we look at our politics, it is the reflection of what happens at our home. There is no home without a fight and we can see this reflected in Nepal’s larger political issues. If we look at our culture and value system—be it on corruption, nepotism, patriarchy, or hierarchy—all these happen in the society and are reflected nationally. So, the key would be societal transformation. Without that, there will be no economic transformation.
Change in mindset
The second thing to look at is the change of mindset. It has been around 20 years since I first talked about Nepal being, at that point of time, the 40th most populated country in the world. Nepal is currently about the 50th most populated and in terms of economy there are a hundred countries that have a smaller size. So, we are not a small country. This narrative has to change.
We are land-linked to the two fastest growing economies in the world: the narrative of ‘landlocked’ needs to go because we are connected to a market of 2.8 billion people. That is a great potential we need to work towards. Which means we have to change our mindsets, start believing that we can integrate into this global world. We need to change our mindsets to become global citizens by adapting global practices: Be it by considering English language as important as other languages of Nepal, or allowing our regional languages to flourish, or syncing our calendars to international calendars. We also need to align our time. We are the only country with a 15-minute time difference to major time zones.
The demographic potential
Women compromise half of our population but we hardly see them in key positions, although this trend is changing. In the 90s, only 12 percent of those giving SLC exams were girls; now it is 50 percent. If there is no nepotism, come 2030/2035, half of our ambassadors will be women. That would be a huge transformation. Fifty percent of the population that was excluded is going to be integrated and I can see women-power driving many changes.
Along with that, our youth power needs to be taken into account. We’ve seen in the past 15 years the tremendous transformation in the IT industry—all led by young people. We are a country where 50 percent of our population is under 25, and 70 percent is under 35. The challenge is how to unleash their potential. Once their potential is unleashed, Nepal can transform beyond recognition. And it’s not difficult. In the past few decades, we have seen countries like South Korea, Sri Lanka and Ghana progress by leaps and bounds.
We have to have a learning mindset. We tend to not learn. We are averse to hiring smart people and getting international experts to do things. We need to create that learning culture to make the transformation. It is about taking your stories to the world and letting good stories from the world influence you.
Quick Questions with Sujeev Shakya:
Is there such a thing as “too many entrepreneurs?”
No. Every person is an entrepreneur. You may be working for yourself or others, but you can continue to be creative.
Are Nepal’s tax policies conducive for new businesses?
Policies are conducive, but they can surely be better. Yet the real issue is their implementation.
Are trademark/copyright laws in Nepal too lax?
Yes, and I hope media houses stop accommodating advertisements of those who violate such trademarks/copyrights.