2022: mandates, migrants and malaiseA year plagued by disasters and political crises, but also hope for the future
Nepalis had much to look forward to in 2022. The pandemic had abated, tourism was picking up, and the second series of elections under the federal system were set to take place.
Barely two months into the year, Russia invaded Ukraine and the war hit Nepal’s struggling economy hard. A steep rise in the petroleum import bill further depleted state coffers, and widened the trade gap. Political disarray led to ministerial mis-steps and delayed government response.
Local elections in May consolidated the coalition, but the strong showing of the independents in federal elections shook the established parties. However, the leaders have ignored the national mood and in a repeat of 2017, Nepal’s Communist parties have joined forces to form another coalition government, this time of seven parties with Pushpa Kamal Dahal as the Prime Minister for the third time.
Nepali politics continues to be defined by a coalition governments devoid of ideology and incapable of solving urgent problems like creating jobs, curbing pollution, or addressing the climate crisis.
A recap of the year that was through the 12 front pages of Nepali Times in 2022:
Pollution and exploitation
Nepali Times’ first issue for 2022 carried an image of brick kilns spewing smoke. That, combined with vehicular emissions and open burning meant that Kathmandu residents were breathing the dirtiest air in the world, reducing their lifespans by 4 years.
Garbage piled up on the streets of the capital even as the rivers and mountains were ravaged by illegal quarries and sand mining. As the country plunged headlong from a Covid pandemic into a dengue epidemic.
The year saw worsening impact of the climate crisis, with heat waves and weather extremes. Himalayan glaciers continued to melt, and two-thirds of what remains will be gone during this century. COP27 in Egypt agreed on a Loss and Damage Fund, but failed to agree on a more ambitious emission target.
But Nepal’s leaders cannot blame global warming for everything -- many of our problems predate the climate crisis. More than to save the planet, Nepal must reduce petroleum imports to save its economy from collapse.
Nepali Times continued its coverage of the hopes and sorrows of Nepali migrant workers overseas, and added its voice to calls for compensation for the abuse and deaths of workers building World Cup infrastructure in Qatar. Remittances have started picking up again after the Covid slowdown, propping up the economy. It is not just workers who are leaving, as our investigation last week showed, students are leaving in droves with many of them taking this path to emigration.
The local election in May and federal and provincial polls in November indicated that while the established parties are still dominant, many Nepalis are fed up with them. Rapper-engineer Balen Shah became mayor of Kathmandu, while young professionals were elected to the federal parliament. While traditional politicians will try to trip up the new entrants every step of the way, their very presence in legislative positions provides a glimmer of hope that democracy may finally deliver.