It must be gods own country!

Recently, I visited Nepal for a week on an official tour. My experiences and exposures while in Nepal were quite insightful. All these events inspired few inferences based on comparison of the two Himalayan sister countries.

Nepal and Bhutan have many things in common and mountains were the first things. They still have greens all around; I mean the outskirts of Kathmandu. Beautiful network of river-systems was similar to ours. Almost the entire landscape is also dotted by historical monuments and Buddhist/hindu pilgrimage places flooded with visitors.

Near Chumigjangchup;Nepal
However I also observed many differences as well. They have not yet tapped the hydropower potential but they are home to a lot of hippie tourists. On the roads they have swarms of maruti 800 cars and lots of two wheelers honking and negotiating the right of their ways. Street vendors sell cigarettes and people smoke it at their will. Street children beg money and use it to sniff dendrite openly on the pathways. They scrapped their monarchy and palace is turned into a museum. My god! This must be gods own country!

Bhutan on the other hand is moving through a time of great change but with discipline, law and order. Let us see where we stand in relation to Nepal. As in the words of one of my colleagues “poor tourists” is quite a sore to the sight. It has something to do with the way the Nepalese want to milk the tourism cash-cow. Nepal has a liberal tourism policy which encouraged an influx of so called hippie tourists. In the hope of making money in the short run, they lost the long vision. 

The hippies brought in many ugly gifts besides dollars. Among others outwardly the hippie cultures like tattoo, drugs and out-of-order style of dressing. May be in my opinion the dollar income is outweighed by the implicit cost of cultural transgression. On the contrary we are poised to become a high-end tourist destination by imposing $250 per day per tourist meaning we welcome elites who can appreciate our commitment towards environment, culture and the way we want to develop. Our approach towards tourism sector is unique and in my view it is quite right.

However, I am quite skeptical when it comes to our own policy of raising taxes on vehicle imports. Will we not flood our streets with cheap trash cars with the current stand on tax? Will the implicit cost of cheap cars not outweigh the benefits of tax revenue and mitigation of carbon footprint? We know that the taxes are raised to deter the import of motor vehicles in order to reduce carbon emission ease traffic congestion but that is not the only end it might lead us to, it might lead to an increase in the import of cheaper cars in the absence of regulations as to the type of car being imported. 

 In the case of Nepal, Mustang is assembled in their soil so they want to promote home brand, that they tax as high as 230% to discourage imports, but on the other hand we do not have anything to call a home brand when it comes to vehicles. Are we really getting what we desired? If not, it is time to review our vehicle tax policy.

Nepal has a very huge hydro-power potential in the region but it is yet to tap in. As of now (2012) Kathmandu city faces severe power outage. They are blacked-out for almost 20 odd hours a day and sustain on inverters. On this front we are way ahead with almost quarter of our potential being tapped. By 2013 ideally Bhutan will be 100% electrified and we anticipate inflow of billions of rupees from the sale of surplus in few years. 

When Bhutan is an example of peaceful transition to democracy in the world, Nepal is struggling with a caretaker-government. In the absence of a good leadership, common people really suffer.
In the final analysis, in my own sincere opinion, it is all because of a presence and absence of good governance and leadership. In many ways Bhutan has endeavored to be different in our region. The way in which we prioritize our current needs and visualize our future, speaks volumes of where we want to be in decade’s time. 

It is time we appreciate and praise our great leaders because not having them is costly in this day and age. Take stock of how we have benefitted because of their hard work and vision. I sing this song of my gratitude for all our great kings and leaders (prime ministers) especially being able to diplomatically manage to reap the best out of this regional fraternity which is both intricate and dangerous.

 In my view success of a country now will not only be judged by its ability to manage its internal affairs but also   the ability of its leaders to manage the diplomatic relations and trans-boundary resources. Now we have got to get out of the box not just to criticise the government but also to consolidate and support the leaders to get to where we wanted to go!
This is Bhutan now and as a citizen you can reasonably expect to exercise your rights, get justice and avail opportunities commensurate to your credentials. Say we have ousted our leaders and you can imagine the type of life we might have and where our reasonable expectations might vanish into. 

You will not feel this sense of gratefulness that I feel right now, If you don’t visit Nepal once but when you are there don’t ask as to how the monarchy got scrapped you will get confused because the story has got different versions. He.. he..!        


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