Intellectual Honesty & “A Big Fish in a Small Pond” Syndrome in K-town

If one is not intellectually honest about small things, one cannot be honest about bigger things

Ashutosh Tiwari

Not at all surprised that people are finally up in arms about CK Lal’s supposed intellectualism.

I had my first newspaper ‘fight’ with him in 1992, when he unfairly criticized my article published in the then The Independent. His criticisms were personal, and NOT at all related to whatever the demerits were of that article on education.

I had my second newspaper ‘fight’ with him in 1999, when, upon reading one of his newspaper pieces, I realized that he had shoddy understanding of the ‘laws of war’ (i.e. jus in bello and jus ad bellum), and was (ab)using these international legal terms to write about the then raging Maoist war. [I even showed his article to a professor in whose course on international law I had received an A, and for which I had written a 20-page paper on the laws of war, with applications to the then Maoist war. The professor agreed with my characterization of CK's misunderstanding of those Latin terms.]

I had my third ‘fight’ with CK in the early 2000s when he wrote that Narayan Gopal, the singer, was a taxi-driver. Continue reading

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A Deviated Path: The Private Life of Nepali Private Sector

Siromani Dhungana/UWB

Nepal’s private sector, as evidences show, is shying away from its major responsibilities and becoming much like NGOs. The current situation is such that the private sector is acting like nonprofits or as a project implementing body. Popular perception is that our private sector lacks innovative approaches and entrepreneurial mindset.

Recently, me and my friend Hom Nath Gaire did a story on the recent trend of private sector engaging in appeasing donors for projects instead of being involved in businesses. I want the news to speak and help you readers make a judgment about our private sector:

A Donor-Dependent Private Sector

By Siromani Dhungana and Hom Nath Gaire

Aid orientation has been evident among Nepal’s private sector organizations as they are hell bent on bagging projects from donor agencies to carry out activities for their own welfare and day to day activities. Sometimes, their race for getting projects appears to be ‘unhealthy’.

Here are some examples:

• USAID Nepal Economic, Agriculture and Trade (NEAT) activity provided grant to the Confederation of Nepalese Industries (CNI) to conduct Public Private Dialogue (PPD) on draft of Foreign Investment and Technology Transfer Act (FITTA) last year. The draft was prepared by the Institute of Policy Research and Development (IPRAD). CNI’s rival, the Federation of Nepalese Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FNCCI), started to criticize the activities under that project. The dispute became visible when the FNCCI formally organized a programme to challenge some provisions of the draft such as allowing Nepali investors to invest abroad, and accused that the draft was totally in favour of some businessmen affiliated to CNI. Due to the controversy, the Ministry of Industry could not table the draft at the Cabinet meeting. Government officials say that the reason behind the conflict between FNCCI and CNI was nothing more than the grant from USAID NEAT, which phased out last year.

• European Union had tentatively agreed, according to a FNCCI source, to provide a grant of five-million euro to FNCCI for the promotion of products listed in the Nepal Trade Integration Strategy in the European market. Later, the project was bagged by CNI in the name of “Go International”. In informal discussions, FNCCI officials still blame CNI for using all kinds of tricks to get the project. In this case, even employees at EU were dragged into controversy. Now, the project is being handled by CNI instead of FNCCI.

• Similar is the case of the SAARC Trade Promotion Network (SAARC TPN), a regional trade facilitation project supported by German International Cooperation (GIZ). There was a big hue and cry on which organization should represent Nepal’s private sector in this project as the project seeks participation from all SAARC countries. Both FNCCI and CNI were at loggerheads over the participation. Later, the GIZ decided to include all umbrella organization creating different sub committees to settle the dispute. The third organization, Federation of Nepal Cottage and Small Industries (FNCSI), also became a part of the project due to dispute between two big organizations, FNCCI and CNI.

• Businessmen affiliated with Nepal Chamber of Commerce (NCC) started a new initiative, National Business Initiatives (NBI) with grants from International Alert and GIZ. Many consider it as NCC’s attempt to get projects from donor agencies.

Foreign Aid: A Meeting Agenda
According to some members of CNI and FNCCI, members of both umbrella organizations get engaged in heated debates over foreign aid during their board meetings.

Some members directly accuse the leadership of inefficiency if the rival organization gets a donor-funded project, a member of FNCCI told The Corporate on the condition of anonymity.

“It’s a shame that our businessmen openly ask for projects during talks with representatives of the donor agencies,” a CNI member said, “They should be rather talking about bilateral trade or expanding Nepali business abroad or even inviting foreign investors.”

Making Umbrella Organizations a Begging Bowl
Why is our private sector making the umbrella organizations a begging bowl? It is tough question. It is no surprise as our private sector has ‘feudal mindset’ and they are hell bent on amassing profit, ethically or unethically, says Deependra Bahadur Kshetry, former vice-chairman at National Planning Commission.

It is shameful that they are also dependent on the government to carry out their activities. But they scold the government whenever they get the chance just to cover their own weaknesses, he claimed.

Nepal’s private sector lacks innovative approach, he opined. “They utilize their creativity just to make profit from the policy lapses. For instance, they amassed billions from the multi-billion VAT scam. Problems such as under and over-invoicing, income splitting and transfer pricing are rampant,” said Kshetry.

Instead of making the umbrella organizations a begging bowl, the private sector should utilize their income source to become self-reliant, he said.

Major umbrella organizations – FNCCI, CNI and NCC – are member-based organizations and they should run from their members’ contributions, a businessman suggested. Besides, FNCCI, CNI and NCC earned millions by issuing Certificate of Origin. But the problem is they are never transparent, according to him.

Dependency to what Extent?
It may sound ridiculous but it is a fact that Nepal’s private sector seeks help from the government not only for promotional activities but also to get opportunities for foreign trips and organizing events such as seminars, summits and conferences. For example, some umbrella organizations wrote to the government demanding that the government bear their travel costs to participate in the Ministerial Meet of WTO held in Bali, Indonesia. But the government refused the proposal.

Representatives of the umbrella organisations promote their businesses abroad but ask the government to provide air-fare and other essential cost, an official said. This suggests that Nepal’s private sector is completely dependent and inefficient, Kshetry claimed. “Many evidences show that, apart from some genuine firms, we can categorize our private sector just as household businesses.”

They Get Aid From:
FNCCI: FNCCI has been actively cooperating with various foreign / international organizations such as UNDP, USAID, DFID, UNIDO, UNCTAD/GATT/ITC, THE WORLD BANK, ILO, PPPUE, SEQUA-GTZ Private Sector Promotion Project, UNFPA, Asia-Invest, JICA, IOE, NIKKEIREN, APO, JETRO, SAARC Secretariat, ICIMOD, AOTS etc in carrying out various activities for the promotion of business and industry. (Source: FNCCI)

CNI: USAID, European Union, GIZ, DFID, IFC, Association for Overseas Technical Scholarship etc.

Nepal Chamber of Commerce: Nepal Chamber of Commerce is representing Nepal as a national focal point for Regional Investment Information and Promotion Services (RIIPS) of UN\ESCAP. The Chamber has been conducting seminar and training, related to business and economy, with the help of International organizations, such as International Trade Centre – ITC (UNCTAD – WTO) and the Asian Pacific Centre for Transfer of Technology (APCTT). (Source: NCC)
(The news was originally published in The Corporate Weekly)

(Siromani Dhungana is a Kathmandu-based journalist and Media Educator. He is also editor of United We Blog, Nepal’s first blog site. Email: siromanidhungana@gmail.com | Twitter: @siromanid.)

Women Entrepreneurs in A Country Where Business was Men’s Domain

Women entrepreneurs in Nepal have come far but they still have a long way to go. Women entrepreneurs are still waiting for a situation where they will get a chance of working as freely as their male counterparts.

Siromani Dhungana/UWB

Over the last few weeks, I have met several women entrepreneurs who are doing amazing work in the entrepreneurial world. I listened to women entrepreneurs and got motivated from their amazing journey of struggle.

I was truly inspired by the struggle of the first generation women entrepreneurs in Nepal. I know, women still face problem from their very commencement of enterprise in Nepal. The society still does not believe in their capacity and even their own family does not want to invest their capital in the business run by women due to lack of confidence in the women’s ability to run a venture successfully.

Yet, they are doing very good especially in Small and Micro Enterprises (SMEs) field. Currently, women own about 14,300 small and medium enterprises in Nepal, accounting for 2 percent of GDP (registered formal sector) and employing over 200,000 workers. A study commissioned by International Finance Corporation (IFC), private sector lending arm of the World Bank Group, suggests that meeting their current credit requirements of US$ 106 million can increase their contribution to the economy.

Long Journey

The other day, I spoke with Hajuri Bista, a first generation women entrepreneur in Nepal. Business was men’s domain even few decades ago, she says. You know people used to laugh at women who were in favor of setting up venture, she shares her experience. Entrepreneurship was a male preserve and the idea of women taking up entrepreneurial activities was considered as a distant dream, she adds. Continue reading

An Analysis of Corruption in Nepal: Is It Becoming Socially Acceptable?

Siromani Dhungana/UWB

It is no surprise that Nepal is a very corrupt country, but a cause of worry today is that politicians are robbing the state coffer openly and sometimes ‘proudly’ in Nepal.

This is an analysis of very recent allegations of corruption against our politicians, which have mostly gone un-answered.

Here are a few examples:

News 1: Nagarik Daily published a series of in-depth investigative reports (by Subodh Gautam) about erosion of Chure Hills in its February 22 and 23 editions. The news has hinted the apathy of the police to control rampant illegal activities in the Chure area. According to the articles, around 0.75 billion Nepali rupees have been misused under President´s Chure Conservation Program (PCCP). Can the commission for the investigation of abuse of authority (CIAA), an anti-graft body in Nepal, and the government agencies concerned, bring the guilty under scanner? Many believe they canno

News 2: On the February 22 edition, Annapurna Post published an article (by Govinda Pariyar) about import of sub-standard medicines worth Rs 500 million from India. According to the article, the government has been importing medicines that the Indian government has banned. The issue should have received a great deal of government attention, especially because this directly relates to the health of a large population, but no legal action has been initiated so far. Continue reading

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The Kathmandu Post interview: When blogs were Twitter and Facebook

UWB:

Dinesh Wagle interview with the Kathmandu Post

UWB founder Dinesh Wagle is interviewed by Kathmandu Post’s Weena Pun in today’s issue of the newspaper.

What is United We Blog?

It is a political blog—Nepal’s first—founded on my personal web domain in 2004. Initially it started as a forum to express private feelings and the daily grind lived by journalists and included stories by my friends Ujjwal Acharya and Deepak Adhikari and myself. Later, the site was hosted on blog.com.np and soon became the only uncensored source of political information in Nepal for a while in 2005.

Why did you decide to blog?

I was excited by the new medium of expression. In 2004, I had been a journalist with the mainstream media for seven years, and at that time, the new media was still very new in Nepal. Blogs were the ‘social media’ of that time. They provided additional and unlimited space for expressing ourselves, as opposed to limited print and air space of the old media. This ‘limitless’ space was the second reason for me to start a blog.

Originally posted on Wagle Street Journal:

The Kathmandu Post celebrates its (and Kantipur’ s) 21st anniversary today by publishing a 16-page pullout on Nepal’s social media scene. The supplement, titled “ Platforms of Change “, explores how Nepalis are using the Internet and its various platforms mainly to express themselves and to connect and share and debate. In the lead article ‘Teleprinter to Twitter’, Editor-in-Chief Akhilesh Upadhyay talks about the impact of technological changes (and a constitutional provision that guaranteed press freedom) in impressive expansion of Nepal’s media.

Dinesh Wagle interview with the Kathmandu Post
I was interviewed by the Post’s Weena Pun on my political blogging and journalism days.

Here’s the page as it appeared in the Post (PDF) and the following is the text:

When the then-king Gyanendra imposed his authoritarian rule in February 2005 and later clamped down on all private media outlets in Nepal, United We Blog became the go-to site for delivering uncensored political news. One of the two co-founders behind the blog, Dinesh Wagle, a former journalist with…

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Thabang: The village that didn’t vote; once hosted Maoist guerrillas

This gallery contains 16 photos.

Originally posted on Wagle Street Journal:
A man in Thabang, Rolpa, face smeared with colored powder, celebrated Maghi festival. On the background is an anti-election slogan- “the one who asks for vote will get chot (hurt).” (यो लेखलाई नेपालीमा पढ्न…

Liars! Nepal’s Politics Suffers from a Trust Deficit

The trust deficit among major political parties and their leaders continues to exist even after the election of the second CA and the new Prime Minister by the parliament last week. Leaders continue to spit venom at each other.

By Siromani Dhungana

By now it is clear that the consensus between two major political parties –NC and UML– has become an elusive pursuit. They have failed to win confidence of each other. Evidences suggest that their journey ahead will be full of distrust and discomfort. After the election of the second Constituent Assembly (CA), the two parties are at loggerhead over power sharing deal.

The all-powerful Home Ministry has become the bone of contention between two parties. Nepali Congress has been dismissing the UML claim that there was a ‘gentleman’s agreement’ between the two parties to give Home portfolio to UML. NC’s veteran leader Ram Sharan Mahat, who is the sole minister but without any portfolio in the Sushil Koirala cabinet, tweeted on Wednesday (12 Feb): Who says there was a ‘gentlemen’s agreement’? False news has been disseminated intentionally.

On the other hand, UML leader Bamdev Gautam who has been proposed as Home Minister by the party, continues to claim the existence of such agreement. In an exclusive interview with Setopati, he said: ‘Congress dumped the gentlemen’s agreement.’ Continue reading

For the Record: Sushil Koirala Elected the Prime Minister of Nepal

By The Kathmandu Post

Nepali Congress President Sushil Koirala, who has never held a public office, was elected prime minister on Monday (10 Feb) , garnering more than a two-thirds majority in parliament.

A seven-point deal signed between Nepali Congress and CPN-UML, the two largest parties in Constituent Assembly, on Sunday paved the way for 74-year-old Koirala to become the country’s 37th prime minister.

During a poll, Koirala—the sole candidate—got 405 votes in his favour. The third largest party, UCPN (Maoist), and some other parties voted against Koirala. Votes against his candidacy numbered 148.

PM Koirala’s priorities

Just before being elected, Koirala presented a list of his priorities to the parliament: Continue reading

Nepal: Elections, Voters and the Economy

Nepalis Are Not Dumb. They Voted Parties with Best Economic Policies for Nepal

By Siromani Dhungana/UWB

“An empty stomach is not a good political adviser”- Albert Einstein

The Constituent Assembly election is over now but its impact will remain until the next election. People have expressed their aspirations and exercised their power during this election so as to set the progressive course for issues that matter them the most. After humiliating defeat of left-extremism, there is hue and cry among so-called progressive analysts who think the country still needs extremist agendas to dominate Nepali life and influence policies. Supporters of left-extremism (aka ethnic federalism) are trying their best to interpret the result as voters’ revenge against Maoists but not their approval of stands taken by the Nepali Congress and the UML on federalism (multiple identity). In this article, I am not going after the ethnic extremists’ lame argument. This is my attempt to analyze the election results in the light of economy. Continue reading

Predicting the Future: Nepal Elections 2013

UWB:

Here we reblog Ushaft’s latest entry.

Originally posted on Ushaft's Blog:

More info (22nd Nov): Followups to this blog post can be seen here: How was the polling day? and Citizens’ Statement about Maoists’ walkout from vote counting. I have made some revisions about my prediction made on this post on the blog post written after polling closed across Nepal, and the results that are coming out right now confirm the general mood in Nepal I had described in one another post.


This is the third post in my election-update series. The first one is here, and the second one is here. The first post contains the definition of the Nepalese “echo chamber,” a theme which will be referred to throughout this series.


We discussed in the past blogs the reasons you need Ushaft’s election updates on Nepal and how the echo chamber you may easily fall victim to loves predicting the past. We’ll try to predict…

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