Sunday, November 8, 2015

Baltimore Sun Throwing Shade on Nepal

Cheers for the coverage of Nepal (Another Crisis Looms for Nepal, Balitmore Sun, 2nd November, 2015). With all due respect to the esteemed author, it seems more a weakly disguised plea for donations than a news piece about Nepal.

Nepal needs less foreign interference (from entities both near and far) not more. Perhaps commerce and business can be given a chance in lieu of indefinite aid which entrenches the wrong people and contributes to the country’s endless political and economic woes.

Aid has not only dis-empowered people but has damaged the country's ethos while endowing a privileged gang with unmerited entitlements. Decades of aid interference has left Nepal (and many other developing economies) without measurable progress on economic development and without reduction of poverty among other critical metrics.

Aid entrepreneurs tend to (knowingly and most often unknowingly) abet dysfunctional elements of society and that keeps the citizens oppressed and without an opportunity to pursue their own talents and dreams.

Regarding the earthquakes over five months ago, only a relative fraction of Nepal was severely affected then, and the worst hit areas have been and are receiving attention. Unfortunately, earthquake relief has become another political game. An unsatisfactory constitution was rushed through by a ruling establishment motivated by ‘aid’ funds dangled as a carrot—that is, foreign interference (despite good intentions) played an unsavory role, and it led to an eruption of protests backed by India and a supply crisis in urban areas of Nepal, most significantly Kathmandu…although the well-looked-after aid entrepreneurs are not likely to feel the pinch relative to most Nepali people.

Another bone of contention with this story, I don’t know of any “high altitude areas” requiring “delivery of urgently required supplies such as food and shelter materials” before being “cut off with the onset of winter”. In fact, I cannot think of any villages at all throughout Nepal that might be “impossible to access” unless an ungodly amount of snow fell.

Even then, if such villages do exist, and if there is some unexpected heavy snow early in winter that temporarily blocks trails to villages that implausibly do not have enough supplies to cover for a few days, then, in that extremely unlikely scenario, helicopters are the logical delivery means for urgent supplies until trails re-open within days.

Alarming stories and photos are damaging one of the largest and most hardworking industries of Nepal, tourism. The tourism industry can immediately benefit Nepal and the many people who rely on if for work rather than the very few who rely on the top-heavy donor industry (which tends to support only the wealthy ruling elite). Continued tales of disaster and crisis are turning tourists away unnecessarily. Most if not all of post-quake Nepal is open for tourism and has been for a long time. The people are ready and eager to receive visitors.

In my humble reckoning, it seems foreign interference is a cause of many of the difficult issues that Nepal faces including lack of preparedness for a natural disaster -- a result of a lack of development and progress for the foreseeable past in spite of nearly six decades of ‘aid’ and over 50,000 I/NGOs now operating in country…instead of a nation dazzling like Norway or Switzerland, it is wallowing in troubles...and that begs the question...what are tens of thousands of I/NGO’s doing in Nepal? Transparency is paramount, especially in dysfunctional systems...can these I/NGO's reveal their operations, pay scales and data regarding their activities?

All the while, most aid entrepreneurs enjoy a lifestyle in the upper crust of Nepali society (despite claims of hardship) and reside in luxuriant housing, often with servants, and revel in posh comforts not dreamed of by the majority of Nepalis. Most aid workers are enjoying high-living at the very top economic echelon of Nepal. Even more curious, most do not have local language and culture skills for the country that they are working in.…giant, red flags all around for those wishing to operate in a place that has for decades ranked in the bottom tiers of transparency and corruption indices.

Simply put, despite the best of intentions, aid agents tend to endow dysfunctional elements of society including the ruling establishment and a privileged gang with unmerited entitlements. That tends to prolong the very issues ‘aid’ aims to serve--severely hampering issues of development and progress--with fatal results for the disenfranchised population.

To these INGO’s, please cease and desist. Quitting Nepal might be the very best thing imaginable right now for the benefit of the honest, hardworking people of Nepal. Or, if you absolutely must do something, if you cannot resist traveling overseas to effect change in a faraway land, then only try to clean up governance and not abet and endow dysfunction directly and mostly indirectly. With a decent government, then the people of Nepal will be free to do for themselves what aid aims to do for them. Better yet, leave this beautiful and tender culture and its people alone. Focus on the home front and the (many) problems closer to your own homes. Cheers and good-speed. Come back soon as a tourist to enjoy the endless natural and cultural wonders of Nepal and help uplift the economy the right way.

As a side note, the Tharu ethnicity, mentioned in the Baltimore Sun story do not have “close ties with India”. Tharu are considered to be an indigenous, malaria resistant people of the jungle plains. They have a distinct culture, traditions and lifestyle and they identify very little with India. The Madhesi do tend to have ties to India but by no means “occupy the bottom rungs of Nepali society”. Many top political posts have been filled by Madhesi people including Ram Baran Yadav, president of Nepal from July 2008 to October 2015.
Delivering 'aid' to a developing economy is about as precarious as crossing the log bridge pictured above--better not to try. Photo by Alonzo Lyons

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