Analysis

“The Road to Prosperity”: A resource-rich and useful book

Keshav Bhattarai

keshav-bhattarai

Reviewer Bhattarai

“This is not a scholarly research paper but an idea of a paper.” (Author’s Prologue) It’s a collection of various articles published in Kantipur, Nagarik, Annapurna Post, Naya Patrika, and Nawayug.  Probably because of the non-scholarly nature, except for Tables 3 (p 191) and 4 (p 192) none of the tables, main text, and figures have references though the book is very rich in statistical facts, which would have served as an excellent source for researchers of various levels had it included appropriate references.

On the road to prosperity, the author takes 2015’s mega earthquakes both as challenges and opportunities (p. 30) to make Nepal self-sustained, and improve the infrastructure capable of sustaining mega seismic waves, and puts maximum emphasis on opening the trading gate with the north to make Nepal a “land link.” The author views the trade links from Rasuwagadhi to Kathmandu will reduce the trade distance by 35 days that are needed to ferry goods from Kolkata to Kathmandu (p. 277). The author equates Rasuwagadhi-Kerung to Kolkata port and ignores the inland transportation distance within China as cost barriers arguing railway transportation is cheaper (p. 277).

The author is aware of the resource misuses in Haiti where despite spending Rs.14 trillion (sic) to rebuild earthquake-damaged buildings and rehab earthquakes victims, 80 percent of the grant amount was used for salaries and benefits of NGOs’ employees (30-31) and the country still remains in disarray. In his prescriptive, suggestive and narrative explanations, he urges Nepali planners to learn from Japan tsunami of 2011, Gujarat earthquakes of 2001, and Pakistan earthquakes of 2005 (p.31).

Giving various examples, the author emphasises on sustainable urban land use plan (p.32) and states that more clarity is needed on the land use policy passed by the Council of Ministers on 17 April 2009 (p.38).  He expresses displeasure over the permission given to construct various buildings in the seismically sensitive Kathmandu Valley despite the fact that there is only 0.4 percent of open space against the recommended 10-12 percent empty land for any urban areas (p.38).  Emphasis is given on the development of integrated housing system with all facilities (p. 42) for sustainable planning (p. 44) and proper zoning of commercial and residential areas (p. 45) with a strong record of properties titles to empower the poor (pp. 192, 194).

The author questions theoretical models adapted in Nepal’s development. He disagrees with the views by Dr RS Mahat and Achyut Wagle. It’s a rare practice in academic writings to quote someone at personal level with the level of their academic degrees.  He succinctly dissects Harry Truman theory of communist containment (p. 53), Adam Smith (1776) economic theory (p. 54), Karl Marx’s (1867) views on how capitalism creates an environment of class struggle (p. 54), the reasons for global recession and theories of self-sufficiency (p. 55), the 1980s structural reform (p. 62) and political freedom ending social discrimination and establishment of equality (p.55), end of cold war and the beginning of neo-classical school for open market (p. 59), right-based development in the 1990s (p.55), how Amartya Sen’s  economic model influenced Muhbubul Haq, Paul Streeten, and France Stewart in the World Bank and how equality helps to increase productivity, empowerment and sustainability (p.60).

The author also makes attempts to integrate some of the theoretical models in Nepal’s development (pp. 60-63) and discusses about the poverty alleviation attempts while critically reviewing neoliberal economic policies (p.61) and tries to incorporate theories established by various economists such as Adam Smith, Milton Friedman, Friedrich Hayek (p. 61), John M Keynes (p. 62), and John Williamson (p. 63) and critically reviews the influential roles of the World Bank in privatisation (p.63). The author sees weak governance as one of the causes of failure of neo-liberalism in South Africa (p. 63) and very enthusiastically supports the role played by Park Chung Hee of South Korea (p. 87), Deng Xiaoping of China (p. 68), Lee Kwan Yew of Singapore (p. 63), and Joseph Broz Tito of Yugoslavia (pp. 90-91).

He justifies socialism as the most stable model of economic development and gives example of China’s economic growth even at the time of recessions. He argues that location, size of a country and its population has nothing to do with development (pp. 91-93) and quotes Morichi’s (Professor from Japan) vision from his speech in Nepal’s parliament (p.93).

The author also is concerned with 1,500 people leaving the country for jobs each day or 500,000 people each year and also admits that it is not possible to stop brain drain (p. 41) in the present context, and satirically blames the previous government for privatisation and closing of industries (pp. 182, 183, 184). The author analyses the demography and states that working age population is 57 percent between the ages of 15-59 years (p. 39); however, the same fact is stated differently in different pages (pp. 68; 191). The author criticizes previous government for not having the industrial zeal in Nepal (pp. 183, 184, 185, 187) that has compelled many working age people to leave the country leading to the loss in agricultural productions in the countryside (pp. 177, 178, 179, 180, 181).

Serious concerns are expressed for not modernising the agriculture. The author says that we have never modernised our agriculture. He seems to favour Russian model of agriculture (p. 65). Because of the failure of modernising the agriculture for the past 25 years, Nepal has failed to break the wall of inequality (p. 68). He also talks about the “haves” and “have nots” (p. 69) and prescribes Marxist approaches to empower poverty-stricken people with land ownership (p. 69).

It is very appealing to notice that the author accepts the reality saying “we sell big dreams but fail to do what we are expected to do” (p. 75) and compares China’s development with 18,000 km of high speed railway (p. 75) within a short time, and questions why Nepal is planning to tout railway line via Tamsariya-Khaireni-Muglin route (p. 76) while the rail can perform well even up to 4 degree inclination. He also questions why it is necessary to have both fast track and Kathmandu-Hetauda tunnel roads (p. 76), and presents fuel consumption statistics to justify why fast track between Nijgadh and Kathmandu is needed and how it is possible to recover the cost of fast track construction with the savings of fuel overtime while reducing the vehicular emission by 80,000 metric tons a year (p. 170).

However, he satirically hints the previous government on the possible levy that vehicles plying over this fast track would be paying in excess (pp. 170, 171, 172, 173, 174). He compares Nepal’s situation with Japan and South Korea in terms the production of cement and job creation (p. 79) and criticises the previous government for failing to operate cement industries in various parts of the country and provide employment to many (p. 187). The author seems to have been influenced by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s model of finalising development projects within 15 days from the start (p. 75-76).

The author is against centralising power in Singh Durbar (Kathmandu) (p. 95). He emphasises the role of right man in right place and criticises the previous government for harbouring cadres in various positions (p. 79) irrespective of their merits. He gives examples of Modi who brought a professor from Columbia University as advisor in designing various development models in India. He applauds how Modi’s model has been successful in improving India’s economy and creating employment opportunities (p. 79).

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He also admires King Mahendra for tapping the experts for the right jobs and cites names of various individuals (p. 87) and criticises previous government for not following such models. He expresses displeasure over the reports prepared by consultants that have no direct association with country’s physiography and socioeconomic conditions (p. 80). He indirectly blames the previous government for not creating appropriate opportunities for Nepali graduates to work within the country (pp. 119, 206) but contradicts himself by stating, “We never produced needed manpower in Nepal” (p. 41).

The authors sees the predecessor government as feudal and imperial and indirectly indicates why the Maoist raised arms against the government (p. 85) and also talks about the limitations of BIPPA (p. 86). He appreciates China’s growth model and emphasises on the strong leadership for economic growth and overall development like in China, South Korea, Singapore, and former Yugoslavia. He raises questions why people would not agitate when there is no balanced development in the country, the Tarai will rise up, hill people pahadi will agitate, and many communities will protest against the roles played by the previous governments (pp. 258, 261, 262). He emphasises how erstwhile CPN-UML has changed the concept of urban centric development of the previous government with the beginning of “Make your village yourself” (p. 184).

He emphasises on quality education and need for technical manpower to harness Nepal’s hydropower, which technically is estimated to have 3,000 MW capacity (sic) (p. 194). While emphasising on quality education, he accentuates the roles of entrepreneurship (p. 234) and appreciates China’s role in entrepreneurship with 13,000 technology related enterprises (p. 235). He opines that Nepal will benefit from such models.

Overall, the attempts made in this book are appreciable. This publication can serve as a good source of research at various levels, and even as a textbook for development studies, if references are attached to various facts presented in the book. However, one may question if this book is written to solely justify the Communist ideology as the only panacea for country’s overall self-sustainable development. It is very pleasant to know that the author who is also an influential minister in the current cabinet is aware of the possible misuse of funds by NGOS, where over 41,000 NGOs, mostly leaned toward governing leftist party, are active in various areas including the reconstruction and rehabilitation of earthquake victims.

More appealing is the fact that the author is aware of the impact of selling great dreams and doing less. Following expressions truly bothers readers that this book is written to falsify others and presenting them as pseudo patriots and emphasising that only the Communist-led government is patriotic and can change the face of the country. In academics, the following expressions are considered biased that give plenty of room to doubt about the validity of the scholarship.

For example, “some friendly countries” wanted to show their dominating presence “rather than providing relief…“(P. 27) when the country was in pain from earthquakes in 2015, and some parties consider “India is everything for them to ascend to power” (pp. 27, 28). India did impose blockade while the country was suffering from the earthquakes and killed Nepali sentiments. There is no doubt about that. But it would be better to clarify which country and what parties are unpatriotic.

“The students of ANNFSU alone built more than 400 temporary houses where teaching and learning were possible” (p.26). I wonder why the contributions of Shesh Ghale, Dhurmus Suntali and other political parties are undermined.  Modi invited professor from Columbia University as advisor to change the face of India, I wonder why the same party to which the author belongs considers Nepali experts working in various countries as “former Nepali”. “The NFSU movement should learn from the election process of Jawaharlal Nehru University, which is a hub of leftwing think tanks.”

It raises the concerns whether this book is merely written to promote the Communist ideology in Nepal rather than development and the true motives of the author is suspect.

It raises the concerns whether this book is merely written to promote the Communist ideology in Nepal rather than development and the true motives of the author is suspect. “China’s current relationship with the rest of the world is guided not only by ideology (??) but by development” (p. 286). I wonder how many countries in the world have followed Chinese political ideology. Also, concerning is the appreciation of failed Russian agricultural models where “Sovkhoz” and “Kolokoz” failed miserably despite assassination of the peasant economy’s champion Alexander Chayanov by Joseph Stalin. However, some fairness is seen on author’s expression for applauding the role played by Deng Xiaoping with an analogy of cat killing mice to modernise China after the failure of Mao’s commune based farming and in modernising education. The author has clearly stated that Nepal is not buying the North Korean and Cuban models of development.

At a very young age, the author has contributed tremendously for development zeal in Nepal and it is worth appreciating. I look forward to read a revised edition.

Dr Pitamber Sharma, a well-known scholar, planner, geographer, and economist, has written six pages long Forward highlighting the importance of the contents. Dr Sharma even identifies the political affiliation of the author giving pre-signal to readers which direction the book goes.

The Road to Prosperity (pp. 295)

Author: Rabindra Adhikari

ISBN 978-9937-665-43-8

The author is Professor of Geography at the University of Central Missouri, US.

Published on 23 July 2018

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