Sunday, September 04, 2011

‘Less Risky But Still Dangerous’

That’s how Nepal has been described in a survey of 198 states. Well, actually we share the category with the likes of Turkey, Mauritania, Morocco and Myanmar. While the Terrorism Risk Index – compiled by the British firm Maplecroft – ranks the world’s most dangerous countries, it also reflects the investment image there.
The first group on the list includes the 20 most dangerous countries, with Somalia at the top. Pakistan, Iraq and Afghanistan are among the other countries in the group. The two categories behind us are “moderately risky” and “safest” countries. In the region, we’re better off than Pakistan and India, but worse than Bangladesh and Sri Lanka (which, by the way, fares better than Britain). Globally, we outdo Russia and Israel.
Professor Bishwambher Pyakuryel, however, does not seem terribly impressed. “Nepal, though named less risky, has not been able to retain minimum growth and failed to attract any big multinational investment,” he said in a conversation with a leading daily. The prominent economist added that there is a systemic error in the country’s governance. “Without identifying the systemic error, it will be difficult for policy intervention.”
Experts insist that lack of internal capacity building, infrastructure bottlenecks, the energy crisis and militant labor unions, among other things, have hindered foreign direct investment. Yet according to published figures quoting the central bank, Nepal attracted FDI worth Rs 6.06 billion in the first 11 months of fiscal 2010/2011, compared to Rs 2.41 billion in the corresponding period the previous year.
With the country officially in peace – albeit a tenuous one – and foreign investment having more than doubled in a year, you might have expected to find Nepal in a different league. We may be the subject of intensifying Sino-Indian rivalry, but we are not as internationally isolated as Myanmar is. Nor do we have a religion-versus-secularism conflict at the state-level that is as searing as Turkey’s.
As our once-armed Maoists were poised to lead the government after their electoral success in August 2008, the military in Mauritania stage a coup against an elected government. Unlike Morocco, we tend to be in undisputed possession of the territory under our sovereign control. (Or at least an overwhelming part of it).
Now, Maila Baje recognizes that the risks are becoming ever more obvious. Even in our state of secular ecstasy, Christians are worried by the criminalization of proselytization. Deep down, homosexuals see the recent manifestations of our liberalism as the tolerance of a populace in transition. Civil society and their external enablers are so obsessed with addressing the impunities of the past that they are blinded to those of the present. (Maybe that’s their investment in the future.)
Yet look at it this way. Maybe we shouldn’t be worried by the systemic error in governance that Prof. Pyakuryel alerts us to.  Perhaps we shouldn’t be worried by our place on the Global Terrorism Index or its implications for our economy. With all our ills, FDI did – and can – grow because the Indians who do most of the investing themselves fare worse on the index than we do. And let’s not even talk about the indirect inflows that make unholy alliances and break existing unfaithful ones. The Chinese, on the other hand, don’t even need to make public what kind of money they deal in – direct or indirect – because they know no one’s going to believe them anyway. As for the rest of the crowd, they know the kind of security risk and danger affords.