'In the past decade, despite failed governance, Nepal’s child mortality rate fell 20% and the maternal mortality rate, though still very high, decreased dramatically. Female literacy has shot up. Imagine how much more progress we would have made if there had been a stable political climate and a more accountable government committed to basic needs. If there had been political will to push projects for power, irrigation and infrastructure we could have met domestic demand and created jobs so Nepalis wouldn’t have to migrate for work.

Let’s hope that in the next decade we will live in less interesting times. That our coverage will be less obsessed with the political quarrel of the day and celebrate the ability of individual Nepalis to overcome adversity. We hope that by 2020 we will have made up for lost time.’

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Towards 2030

Nepal in the 2020s, Sewa Bhattarai

How will Nepal develop in the next decade?, Sonia Awale

Those words were written in the New Year’s issue of this newspaper (#487) in January 2010. But they may well have been written this week. The optimism is gone. It has been another lost decade of squandered opportunities.

The most spectacular failure, and one that affects every sector of the state, has been in governance. Despite two elections, a new constitution and three tiers of elections under federalism, after which the ruling party commands a two-thirds majority, Nepal is still drifting aimlessly, without a coherent strategy for the future.

The progress the country has made is despite government, not because of it. Our athletes excelled at the South Asian Games not because of official support for training and equipment, but thanks to the determination and drive of the athletes. We are now headed towards self-sufficiency in hydropower despite every obstacle that national and local governments have thrown in the way of investors. Tourism is gearing itself up for 2020 because of Nepal’s strong brand equity, which has luckily not been dented by state fecklessness and slapdash promotion.

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Nepal in 2030, Sanghamitra Subba

A future written in the stars, Sanghamitra Subba

The past two years since elections have been the most disappointing. After surviving the triple whammy of an earthquake, Blockade and the tyranny of a corrupt anti-corruption czar in 2015-2016, the unified left swept the election. There was finally hope that a strong popular mandate would usher in an era of stability. Elections to local governments after nearly 20 years were supposed to ensure accountability from the grassroots up. Sadly, the same old faces are still in the saddle, making the same old mistakes, and politics is as centralised as ever.

Corrupt contractors with political protection go scot free despite failing to complete roads, bridges, airports or irrigation projects. A government that cannot complete a 5km section of road in the capital in five years has no right to go about pushing a new $6-billion airport. Bureaucrats delayed the Melamchi project, the upgrade of the Kathmandu airport and many other projects by scaring away investors with open extortion.

All of Nepal’s woes stem from lack of transparency and failure of governance at every level. The only way to clean it up will be the next federal and local elections in 2022. By that time we need electoral reform, introduce absentee bablloting, end impunity and force failed fogeys into retirement.

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Mt Everest is melting : Are you moved?,Marty Logan

But the reason Nepal always surprises us is that we make progress regardless of these impediments. Nepal is the only low-income country with low growth that has halved its poverty rate in the past 10 years. Despite natural and manmade disasters, the country took rapid strides in human development.

However, poor governance and economic policy have stalled progress, increased inequality, widened the trade deficit and forced more Nepalis to migrate overseas. Remittances helped reduce poverty, but they have not raised investment and farm productivity, or improved service delivery.

In the coming 2020-2030 decade, Nepal must get out of the low-growth and high-migration trap. Otherwise, having also to shoulder the burdens of climate change, the country will not graduate into middle income status.

And we will be writing an editorial in January 2030 lamenting another lost decade.

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