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)

Published by UWB

Pioneering blog from Nepal...since 2004.

67 thoughts on “Is Monarchy Relevant for Nepal? (Part I)

  1. Don’t try to give too much details to make your point stronger. And try to make your analysis short so that it is readable.
    it seems now nepal has too many analysts and less implementors, i don know where this will lead us.
    We have enough of ideologues in Prachanda, Baburam, Girija and Madhav.
    Please stop writing. You still can blog. I hope that is enough.

  2. OK, enough said, than done.! We all know the unpopularity of the king and prince paras, but we just talk and talk, we fought for 19 days contineously and suddenly the king announces, ok I am defeated, here is your power back, and the power hungry political leaders snatches it within seconds… and the people started to jump and shout in joy.. Actually I dont see the people have won, the king has won to retain his utmost power, political leaders won to fight for power and money…. and what about WE, nepalese people, what did we get ???

  3. No. But we could have a figurehead king. What we’ve got to do is to thoroughly professonalize the army.

    Enough of those Ranas and Thapas at the helm. We need to modernize it. Then the ‘King’ will never be able to do anything with it.

  4. For some people I guess the glass will always be half-full (and probably even the water dirty!). Everyone try and also look at the brigther sides of the recent developments.

  5. It is rather simple:
    If a (main) effective democratic Maoïst movement joins as an official political party and they have together with other (communist) parties the majority (50%/66%)of voters against -even a ceremonial- kingship, than that is the democratic result and the king resignes as result. (He promised te do so in the words of last night, if he does not the people’s protests have to start again.)
    The Maoists (Prachandra&co) told they want to become democratic, they get the chance now.
    If they don’t want be democratic (allow the voice of the people to speak in majority for -ceremonial- monarchy), than all hope we have now, is in vain.
    Prachandra&co can save Nepal’s stability now.
    If not rebellion and killing will resume, which makes monarchy sentiment stronger again, and we are back in the same situation.

    It seems Maoist want to continue for brainless statigies?! Very Sorry for Nepal…

  6. Getting rid of the monarchy, unconditionally is impossible, RNA is there. Let democracy work and the voice op the people is will, including democratic Maoists.
    If main stream Maoists keep imposing their things violently, Nepal’s situation does not change.

  7. So political parties should concetrate on elections WITH A full democratic Maoist party.
    Other small and terrorst segments have to dy a slow death. (May be like in Nothren Ireland?)

  8. “some see the glass full, some see it half empty , but I see the glass as too big”:)

  9. Agree with you there Theo. I would also like to point out that our leaders, diplomats and bureaucrats must also learn the art of taking advantage of our big southern neighbour instead of always being taken advantage of. It’s a give and take thing. We don’t have to be like Bhutan-that’s not necessary. But we have things to give to India as a bargaing tool – our role in the SAARC, our role in the UN Assembly, in the WTO, our role vis-a-vis India and the other world powers (especially China) and many other things. We have got to learn to use these tools at our disposable more effectively to get what we want from India. With Indian support the Maoist problem would be so much easier to solve.

  10. “Nepal and Nepalese people are better off economically without the monarchy than with it.”

    yes. monarchy has no place now, economically, morally,emotionally,religiously, no it has no place.
    we have to kick him out constitutionally also.

    [icd]

  11. “But we could have a figurehead king!”
    why manan why this head??

    i don’t know why people get stuck in but, still….
    why can’t they have courage to face change and take charge.
    nepal doesnot fall apart without this king.

  12. yes theo i also wish the same
    all ganatantrabaadi get along and outnumber rajtantrabaadi and we get ganatantra nepal without bloodshed.
    i am all filled with hope and waiting for the day.

  13. Hey Coke,
    You are shouting as if you were the one defeated from people’s movement. I know you are one of king’s henchmen, you need to take a few days off dear!

  14. Some people round the king must have seen that there is no military solution, RNA in the lower ranks have their families against them.
    The momentum for he andolaan, demos and against the palace and ists RNA was just overwhelming, the palace was cornered, no escape. The momentum is still there and people now know what they can do, the revolution has shown Nepal and its people getting ready for the 21st century after having just made within 60 years what Europe took more than 200years. It is not over yet, after the french,communist, chinese etc revolution, there was a lot of suffering and the pendulum swung back and forth.

  15. i think the sooner CA election, the better it would be for republic nepal. because, now the people have boiling anger against king and have the momentum to go for republic.

    if the election is delayed, i fear people forget all these kartut of king and a voice deep down would tap them “ceremonial king is ok”.
    u know people have the tendency to get in the trap of habit.”kina kina raja ta chahincha chahincha”.
    “yattika barsa dekhiko raja kahan hataunu”
    they cannot justify the importance but still they need king .
    like an abused wife who continues to get along with her good for nothing husband.

  16. “ceremonial king”! The only ceremony where we need him will be ‘kukur puja’, what else?

  17. Forget about what this Mahesh Poudel guy has to say about King, it’s all well known. This article would have been a good read 3 weeks ago, not anymore. Read the following link for fresh debate:

  18. no to king! in my view. “kina kina yo raja nabhayepani ramro huncha jasto lagcha” 🙂

    I am nomore stupid and fool to pay tax to rapist, gangester, killer, and more.

  19. Mr Lahure!
    Me a King’s Henchman,hahaha!
    First ask your father how much he made during king’s rule. Then come and talk to me.OK!
    dont forget to ask your father.

  20. REPUBLIC is inevitable. No matter however good defensive strategy the king uses. I don’t think he’s so stupid to realize that majority of the public loathe him. Won’t he feel uncomfortable and awkward to stay as a king with nobody liking him, let alone regarding with esteem.

  21. Monarchy has no relevance particularly in a poor country like Nepal specially when they have such a notorious track record. Why take a risk in a wild white elephant who refuses to be tamed.

  22. I would like to recommend to give king one concession, i.e. he should be allowed to run his business as an honest ordinary citizen.

  23. Here is why Maoist’s are difficult to trust right now. We should keep our minds open, but not trust them blindly. Please click link.

  24. U guys from abroad don’t know the real situation of nepal. And you also don’t know its how hard to march around the ringroad for Full Democrary. So don’t quarrel over small peace of mutton. Get big Goat being here.

  25. Birendrea was a figure head king after he became a constitutional monarch. That did not change the income he and his family enjoyed. Even if he is a figurehead king, is a figurehead king worth US FIVE MILLION A YEAR??? $5,000,000…The President of the USA (Bush, Clinton, Whover) earns $200,00 and they work their butts off! The Queen earns a salary, but again, she PAYS TAXES and, more importantly, she knows her role and never ever interferes in the governance of the country. And the Royal Family do so much for the country in terms of bringing in revenue.

    I find it hard to believe how many of you seem to think this is a minor thing. I am American, but if I were you, living in a country that is the poorest in south asia and one of the poorest in the WORLD, I would be ASHAMED THAT MY KING TAKES A SALARY OF US FIVE MILLION DOLLARS EACH YEAR (yes, I repeat, ONE DOLLAR = 72 rupees approx. you do the math)…i WOULD BE ASHAMED NOT PROUD TO HAVE THIS KING AS A CERMONIAL KING OR AS ANY KIND OF KING-PERIOD.

  26. Hi shadow, I more or less agree with you. However I would like to point out that the USD 200,000.00 that Bush earns is his personal salary. The money for the White House upkeep and the President’s official tours and functions is much, much more than that. For example the Queen of England receives a total of GBP 60 million (approx) annually for all her family and their functions, official and personal.

    I think 60 crores annually for the King and all the palace functions is still way too much though, especially considering we are such a poor country.

  27. read the awesome article about westerners view on Nepal and the peoples revolution titled “Nepal: now that’s what I call democratisation”

  28. But Kirat, our President does not pay for African safaris and weddings, personal expenditures, out of our tax payers money!! We don’t subsidize a lavish lifestyle for him. Even his texas ranch in Crawford is owned privaetly by him. of course, expenses like the huge security for the ranch are paid by our government. But your king also adds on perks like african safaris, weddings, and other ridiculous expenses that have absolutely nothing to do with running a country, ceremonial or otherwise! in addition, all of the queen’s palaces are open to the public. They earn income off of those to help maintain them. Do you see the King opening Narayanhitiy to the people, so they can see how he really lives? Why should you be paying for his own personal expenses? What does he do in exchange? He was only given the throne by the genetic toss of the dice. and, well if ou are talking genetics, they are so inbred in that family, it is no surprise they are all a bunch of mentally ill loonies! that’s what marrying cousins does to you over the centuries!!

    Sorry, but you aren’t convincing me. This King is not worth what he is paid. He is taking you guys for a ride, a very expensive one at that.If our President paid for his own personal african safari out of our tax payers pockets, he would be in huge trouble. Congress would hold him accountable.

  29. Oh, and your taxpayers financed the purchase, not just of the Kings jaguars and bentleys and rolls royces, which of course he so needed considering your roads are so good for driving those fast cars(even our president doesn’t own cars like that), Paras bought a harley, which in America can go for up to $40,000 OR MORE (us dollars)…and to get it shipped to nepal, well…you guys financed Paras’s Harley! i suggest if you see him with his entourage riding it around Kathmandu, run him over!! He had no problems doing that to others, including that famous musician he killed…now he can kill on his Harley, and he will look good in the matching leather jacket with the Harley logo that he bought off your impoverished people’s expense! most of nepal cannot even put RICE On their table once a day, and these idiots are makingj fools of all of you. Charles Taylor of Liberia finally was caught. When will you finally make this King pay up for robbing you Nepali people blind?

  30. UWB, you SOB you have not even moderated me put completely deleted all my comments, and are not accespting any from me. SOB.

  31. This is scoop under the alphabet s:

    UWB you censoring, one track, opportunistic, lying bastards.

  32. Great article Ram Kumar Shrestha. and as a libertarian, it espouses totally what I believe. POwer is in the hands of the PEOPLE. Hari Sharma, our nepali libertarian, where are you now? http://www.libertarianparty.org you guys might learn something from those of us who espouse free market libertarian ideals!! especially as you have high hopes for a new government. What is a government but a huge badly mismanaged corporation? they loot the tax payers coffers. PRivate enterprise and the power of the people can do it far mor effectively. Remember that when you think a “government” will solve all your problems. That’s why you should learn about libertarians.

  33. Bottom line is “Raja abhaya ni des chalcha” (politically speaking) and in current economical condition we can’t afford him (Financially)and he has no moral ground anymore.

  34. Congratulations!
    Please, Dear people, not more monarchy.

    I love this site, keep up the great work!
    Greetings from Mexico.

  35. shadowrati:
    I also more or less agree with what you are saying. However, I also blame the political leaders for approving such lavish budgets in the past. Unfortunetly our political leaders were also busy looting the country so that couldn’t really say anything to the King.

  36. absolutely right. that is why it is imperative you not let these crooks (reading politicans and the king) go too far. checks and balances. they were let off relatively scot free in the past. you cannot allow this to happen again.
    one reason why i wonder no fresh blood is coming into the parties (aside from the fact that Girija is the most experienced) is that they are not willing to give up the lucrative money they made robbing the public coffers blind!! Don’t forget that when it comes election time…use your vote to make your voices heard. i also highly suggest term limitations, as we have in the usa…we can’t relelect a president 3, 4 times as you can in nepal…or congress or senate either. we can however, vote them out of office.

  37. WE CANNOT TRUST KING GYNENDRA period .
    he killed nepali people
    His son killed his brother and whole family
    we shouldnot forget that what happened in the palace
    how it is possible that one side of the family survived and whole another side of the family killed
    It is the paras who killed king Birendra family

  38. Never forget the dark day of Nepal history that Paras killed the king Birendra family
    He did not killed his own mother and wife
    but killed king Birendra family
    King gynendra and paras is Killer
    we need republic Nepal
    Ganendra should keep doing his tobacco business

  39. EDITOR..PLS DO NOT CENSOR THIS AS YOU HAVE BEEN DOING…
    Americans and other powerful western nations ..giving advice to us how to manage our economy..their advice..’our President is better than yuour King’ ….All PRESIDENTS and KINGS and PRIME MINISTERS are alike….Whichever comes into power does the same…WE the PUBLIC have to make them all accountable…REMOVE THEM PERIODICALLY and CHECK HOW MUCH WEALTH THEY have accumulated…CORRUPT POLITICIANS need some CHECK and CONTROL SUCH AS JUDICIARY and RNA

  40. WE ALSO NEED TO TAKE AWAY ALL ARMS FROM that VIOLENT MAN who has chosen such a VIOLENT NAME “PRACHANDA”

    THERE can never be democracy if there are any arms with the MAOBADI…

  41. what makes you think, shanti, that the RNA isn’t corrupt?

    What we need is educated people in the government, first and foremost.

  42. RNA dont need to be INTELLECTUALS nor is HONESTY the Preserve of the educated…..Are corrupt Presidents, Kings, Prime Ministers and other Politicians corrupt because they are Uneducated?…Shall we presume people become honest because of being able to read and write….. WE HAVE TO WATCH OUT ALWAYS..TODAY this KING is called bad..Tomorrow when we see the others waiting to replace him without any check WE might THINK OF THIS KING as a SAINT…

  43. MAHESH pls do not LINK MONARCHY to ECONOMICS…
    The issue is about POLITICS….the economy of our country will not improve just because some PRESIDENT rather than a KING is the occupant of the Narainhitti palace…..you and I will continue to live in our same old houses!!!

  44. Shadowriti,
    YOU ARE TALKING AS IF US PRESIDENTS LIVE POORLY….This is LAUGHABLE…We better avoid diluting the arguments against the KG by such contrived logic…
    WE NEED both the KING(after he is tamed) and POLITICIANS to KEEP a WATCH over each other..
    They are no saints…

  45. Shanti, almost all US presidents came into office with their own personal wealth. They earn an income that is fair for a country the size of 280 million people. $200,000 a year. Yes, plus expenses. I never said they live shabbily! but in a country where people are starving (no one in the USA is starving, we have the highest standard of living in the world), it is unconscionable, even evil, I would say, for a king to use the money from the country’s own coffers to buy luxury automobiles (in a country where most people don’t even have roads!) and harley davidsons. my point is, if our president wants to buy luxury items for his own personal use, HE HAS TO PAY FOR THEM OUT OF HIS POCKET. And he makes only $200,000 a year. So a $40,000 Harley or a $100,000 Jaguar is a lot of money! now Bush is wealthy. But he earned it! He owned an oil company, a major league baseball team and other enterprises. All of our presidents have come to office with their own wealth! we don’t begrudge them living any kind of life they choose. BUT ON THEIR OWN MONEY!

  46. shadowrati
    I don’t want to get personal but I have been reading your past comments and sadly you are turning into another Vandeveer here. Stating same thing again and again. Yes we understand your disappointment of keeping the king, but I still don’t understand how it could have been done otherwise? You can’t compare USA to Nepal, and please giveup the habit of saying “we do this thing in US, you should do so”. It is not a democratic practise that somebody shouldn’t able to run for the office after 2 terms. Everybody should be allowed to run for the office , and at the same time should be allowed to vote, which sadly doesn’t happen in YOUR country.

    And to rephrase you, there are people in US who are starving and no US does not have the highest standard of living in the world. ONE OF THE HIGHEST .

  47. I don’t know what you are talking about. We do vote, and we vote our leaders out of office. As for stating, we do this in the usa, well, I am an American, and that is how we do things in the usa. and the usa is the world’s greatest democracy, and the country with the highest standard of living in the world. I hope those of you living in poverty in nepal would want to emulate that success.

    I do apologize, however, for becoming another D Michael Vanderveer. Thank god someone else feels the same way about that windbag!\

    yes, the USA does have the highest standard of living in the world, higher than any other european nation. and, no, there are no starving people in the USA. Starving? have you been to the usa and seen the obesity? are you kidding?

  48. as for my being “dissapointed” that the monarch is still on his throneI i am not dissapointed. It is not my King. I am surprised that in one day you went from despair to rejoicing and all of a sudden seem to forgive your king for what he has done. I find that odd. I also think it is just a fact, and you will see this down the road, that the maoists will not give up until they have their people’s republic. And a monarchy in this day and age is an anachrnoism and for times past. but then again, nepal seems to be stuck in the dark ages, always sniping at India as India surges ahead in development. It is you guys who are getting behind (and no wonder all those “young bloods” are not around to lead the country. they have all left for better opportunities in the USA, where being a waiter, as Melissa said, confers a higher standard of living and a decent one).

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