Is Monarchy Relevant for Nepal? (Part I)

Though this article was written immediately after king’s first address, UWB has published it in order to bring the issue of monarchy for public debate.

By Mahesh Poudyal

Friday night’s talk – after the royal proclamation – was mainly about king Gyanendra trying to split the SPA-Maoist alliance by offering the post of PM to the SPA. However, people seemed to have realised his ploy as soon as his speech ended. We heard about the overnight demonstrations in Kathmandu and in a number of districts and cities outside Kathmandu – most notably those in Butwal area – rejecting palace’s offer. SPA leaders, after meeting on Saturday morning, had no choice but to follow the will of the public and they finally rejected palace’s offer officially late on Saturday morning. So it seems we’ll be seeing more demonstrations in days to come and it also seems Nepal is heading towards being a republic and not stay as a kingdom. The hot topic today in most of the online discussions, as well as in radio forums, has been whether or not we Nepalese will be better off keeping the white elephant in the form of monarchy – especially the current incarnation. So is this white elephant worth keeping? As a layman in my own country’s politics, I think this question should consider three main aspects of our society, namely economic, political, and cultural. Considering the pros and cons of keeping monarchy with regards to these aspects of our society should help us answer this question.

The economics of monarchy

This has to be the easiest point to consider. The task is simply to weigh the economic costs and benefits of having a monarchy in Nepal. Let us first consider the benefits – is there any economic benefits that our monarchy bring to the country? I am having as hard a time in saying YES as working on my other academic papers during these demonstrations in Nepal, seriously. We all know there is no direct income that monarchy brings to the treasury, in fact the treasury loses out as they (the monarch and his family) don’t even pay taxes. Now, if we look at the British monarchy, they bring in direct and indirect income from tourism, such as by opening up their palaces to the public.

In Nepal, the Shah dynasty does not have much to show really in terms of its legacy, but for a few exceptions like the palaces of Prithvi Narayan Shah (the legacy issue will be discussed more in cultural aspects of monarchy below). We very well know that the legacy of the Mallas and Lichchhivis – the durbar squares in Kathmandu valley and art/architecture in the towns and villages in and around Kathmandu valley – are still the major attractions to the visitors of our country, and thus benefit our economy. If given choice, which would you visit – old palaces in these durbar square or the Narayanhiti?

Any hope that the monarchy would bring economic benefits to the country must have extinguished especially during king Gyanendra’s reign.

The unceremonious circumstances in which he became monarch in 2001, his political meandering during these five years of his reign – especially the last 15 months or so – have brought about more suffering (politically as well as economically) to Nepalese people than any of his predecessors in about 250 years of Shah dynasty. Just looking at the official budget for the year 2005/06 of over 350 million rupees (US$ 5 million at $1=70 rupees rate) for the king and the royal palace affairs, it becomes clear what an elephant we are keeping here. For a country where nearly half the population still live below poverty line (using a dollar a day criteria of the World Bank), and where average per capita income still hovers around $200, that amount has to be nothing but a staggering waste of national treasury given virtually no economic benefits that this monarchy brings. The amount above is just an official budget however. We just have to look at king Gyanendra and his family’s lavish lifestyle, which is fully funded by the national treasury, to see the actual extent of costs to the people.

“… a staggering Rs 50 billion as been paid out from state coffers to fund purchases of royal limousines, organising royal weddings, handing stashes of cash to loyal royals and large mysterious payoffs to the Home and Defence Ministries. A detailed list of dates and amounts paid shows billions transferred from budget account heads to Contingency and Miscellaneous and then slipped across.” Nepali Times editorial, Issue 288 (03 March 06 – 09 March 06)

How clearer can it get as to what the king is up to during these few years of his reign? Is he really trying to address people’s suffering OR pile more misery on them by bankrupting the national treasury? If the above quote is not enough, some more details of misappropriation of the national treasury below should surely address any lingering doubts on how costly it really is to keep this monarchy.

“On the week when victims of the Myaglung fire were sent back empty handed in January 2003 because of “lack of budget” a sum of Rs 130.5 million from a disaster relief budgetline was transferred to another account and then sent to the palace. Rs 70.9 million from the ‘Integrated Development’ account was moved to Miscellaneous over a period of four days last month. In July 2002, Rs 20 million was transferred with unusual haste from a standard budgetline to a contingency account within four days of the national budget being passed and then used to purchase of two bullteproof Jaguars.” – Nepali Times editorial, Issue 288 (03 March 06 – 09 March 06)

So, aren’t Nepal and Nepalese people better off economically by getting rid of the monarchy than by keeping it? If the above points are to go by, there could only be one answer and that is – Nepal and Nepalese people are better off economically without the monarchy than with it.

UWB Note: Mahesh Poudyal writes his personal web log random jottings.

(The remaining two parts of this article will be published in the following days)






67 responses to “Is Monarchy Relevant for Nepal? (Part I)”

  1. melissa Avatar

    actually shanti, the fact that you think education is not a requirement of politicians is laughable. No, there’s no guarantee than an educated politician will not be corrupt. But there is a higher probability that he/she will be *less* corrupt than an uneducated politician.

    Educated people realize that all human beings are made equal, in their conscience; they realize that taking $$ from the country is something wrong. Whereas, uneducated people have no concept of what is right and what is wrong. As we have seen in recent protests, the uneducated (pathetic) RNA members and Police members beat men, women and children on the streets.

    BBC showed footage of 5 police beating a boy who looked about 17, he was saying ‘ayaa’ and the police was brutally beating him on the head. Educated people wouldn’t do that. I believe, yes, that education brings compassion to a human being. And education doesn’t mean being able to read and right, when I say education, I mean at least a masters degree. Any idiot can read or write, to graudate university, however, people need higher brain skills.

    If you want to celebrate your uneducated king and RNA members then go ahead.

    Once again, I hope you understand that I don’t mean to say ‘uneducated people are more corrupt than educated people.’ I mean to say, statistically, educated people have a more developed conscience, and are more likely to be less corrupt than uneducated people (who have no idea of what is right and what is wrong).

    And Sadhowrati, I highly doubt some of the people here will understand how the American system works. In their minds they think ‘the american president is like our prime minister, he takes $$ from the people’ or somesuch nonsense. I don’t think you can explain it to them.

  2. shadowrati Avatar

    Thanks Melissa. I don’t begin to think i understand how the Nepal system works, even though I worked there for an internatioal environmental NGO for many years (which shall go unnamed, to protect my friend’s privacy!).
    I just share my feelings. Whenever an American gets on this forum and expresses their opinions about Nepal, it always becomes a slam fest. let’s see, if she says something bad about Nepal, then we need to dig up something really bad about the USA! I am not saying my country is the best in the world or that it does not have problems. And I am not saying you have to follow our lead. But I am saying that in the USA, our system for the most part, WORKS and that democracy and capitalism has lifted more people out of poverty than any other sytem ever. That’s all. Period. So please, don’t start the Iraq statistics on me! this is about Nepal, not Iraq!! (just wait…someone will shift the discussion to how bad the war with Iraq is and how that means everything about the USA is terrible)…

  3. Layman Avatar

    I think Shadowrati is same halfcrack Sanobahini of about three/four months ago, who was always taliking about the strengths of USA and saying that it is the superpower, it can do anything in any corner of the world, that sort of Chauvanism, you understand guys ?

  4. melissa Avatar

    Shadowrati has said nothing about America taking over any cornor of the world right now so I don’t have any reason to assume she’s some crazy american–‘manifest destiny’ believing– former member of this blog.

    That said, I understand what she means and the system does work (for the most part). The two term rule was set by George Washington to *ensure* democracy. This way, some despot cannot find means of swindling votes and staying in power forever (that’s not democracy).

    I live in Canada and feel the canadian system is much better :P.

    However, it’s futile trying to compare US (or canada, sweded, norway etc, or even India) with Nepal since these are two very different coutnries. Realistically, Nepal is one of the poorest countries in the world.

    It’s sad that some fellow nepalese members of this blog cannot show decency to foreign posters. Sometimes, the Nepalese are more xenophobic than (for example) an uneducated redneck from Mississippi.

  5. Bhudai Pundit Avatar
    Bhudai Pundit

    At this moment I am so disgusted and in shock by what you have said that I liternally feel like puking:

    “Whereas, uneducated people have no concept of what is right and what is wrong.”

    “education brings compassion to a human being”

    Have you seen the plight of the World today? You think we don’t have enough educated people today? Why would you say that education brings compassion??????? Are you saying the Dalai Lama is not compassionate because he is uneducated? Are you saying that these poor simple village folks in rural Nepal were not compassionate?? I cannot believe the arrogance and the ignorance in your statement.
    However, before I burst out more I would like to give you an opportunity to explain yourslef…..

  6. Laters Avatar

    One thing I remeber from sociology 101 class is that people who hold college degree are more violent, more intimidated and more impatient than “uneducated people?” who do not have a college degree.

    So, Melissa, no correlation there.

  7. glade Avatar

    Allright, this moderation of posts is getting on my nerves. I wrote something to Shadowrati earlier and it still is not showing up even after hours. And just because it had a link.

    I am going to put up an forum where we can atleast discuss thing in proper manners regarding UWB articles. Raise your hands up if you agree ; )

  8. Laters Avatar

    Sorry I forgot to add, who do not have college degree IN THE SAME GROUP.

  9. melissa Avatar

    I disagree with your sociology class Laters, unless you can provide a link to a reputable source.

    And B. Pundit, I didn’t make it clear in my post, but when it comes to political personel and officials in the army/police, I believe that an education would bring more compassion to these people.

    Note that political personel and members of the armed forces have no similarities to the Dalai Lama, or poor villagers (some of whom have joined maoists and have shown NO compassion to their fellow villagers).

    Don’t talk about the Dalai Lama or people who have absolutely no relevance to this subject.

  10. Bhudai Pundit Avatar
    Bhudai Pundit

    “And B. Pundit, I didn’t make it clear in my post, but when it comes to political personel and officials in the army/police, I believe that an education would bring more compassion to these people.”

    And where did you get this horse shit from????? Do you know what compassion means????
    Maybe you are trying to say they are more sensible and realize the reprecusions of their actions BUT THAT SURE AS HELL DOESN’T MAKE THEM MORE COMPASSIONATE doesn’t make them more compasionate???
    Look at the British and American forces – theses are the most well trained and probably the most educated armed forces….errr did you forget this place called Abu Griab??
    Hell look at Babauram who has a PhD….. you think this Mofo is compassionate?

  11. Bhudai Pundit Avatar
    Bhudai Pundit


  12. Laters Avatar

    Melissa, here: I dont have my notes, it has been a while but googling, I found these..

    Women News


    Find Articles

  13. Laters Avatar

    It has been a while i went to school, so i do not remember the source, but googling I have pasted some article/graphs, that might pique your interent into what I was saying. But the Moderate Man is going through it right now..hopefully he will not find anything “naramro” there.

  14. Bhudai Pundit Avatar
    Bhudai Pundit

    moderate man can go screw himslef.
    what the hell does he/she think they are trying to do moderating? this pseudo-intellectual fourm is meant for average everyday folks to voice their opinion. so I don’t understand why the hell they are being so damn pretentious and trying to act all important with this moderation
    i say we start Jana andolan III against the opression of UWB

  15. sr. Avatar

    hahahah….pandit seems really angry huh…anyways talking about monarchy in nepal…it has accepted to be ceremonial so no need to talk anymore about it….let it be…we should leave this topic and talk about other subjects which are the main issues of nepal right now….before baisakh 11 monarchy was a topic but i think not now…it has ended…

  16. Chankhe Avatar

    Will BHHUTAN learn a lession from Nepal? It is time to topple Druke racist monarch. If necessary, Nepal should assist democratizing Bhutan.

  17. melissa Avatar

    Laters, they’re interesting but not entirely reputable. Lol, you can’t use google as a database when writing research papers, you’ll get an F for your sources.

    Reputable means from scholarly journals, encyclopedias etc.

    B. Pundit, the people committing the atrocities (and by that you mean the weird pictures taken in Abu G. right), are high school pass, uneducated people. You need to come up with a better example than that!

    And you know what, if the largly uneducated led RNA was in Iraq instead of the Americans, they’d beat up and kill a lot more CIVILIANS than the Americans because in their mind the civilians and the enemy are the same. You know why the Americans aren’t doing that? Because they’re led by educated members even though most of the members of the army are just highschool pass. I believe that. If you don’t, there’s no need to shout and make yourself look immature.

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