The more settled I get in Nepal the harder it is for me to find things to write about it, as nothing seems all that different to me. So just like back home, conversation and thought about the country turns to the events and politics that the country engages in. In this area it is quite difficult to say anything positive about Nepal, and so I have put off writing about it. For instance I really wanted to write something about Nepal Tourism Year 2011, but as I started writing about it, I found that the entire piece was cynical and disparaging. Indeed it is hard to look at what has been done for this and come up with a single good thing to say, and what makes it worse is that the general population seems to have high expectations of it.
Sure people should come to Nepal, it's a great destination, it has the best trekking on the planet, it's temples, people and culture are something that can be spellbinding, and places like Chitwan offer some of the best jungle safari's in the world. For all these reasons and more people should come to Nepal, and more tourists could certainly help the economy here, but that really isn't the issue. The issue is that Nepal declared 2011 tourism year, and then proceeded to create no new incentives to come here, did not reduce the archaic paperwork or ease the terrible visa process, they actually upped the fees for tourists at places like Bhaktapur and infrastructure throughout the country continues to get worse instead of better. There were no new trekking routes opened, no permit requirements eased on some of the more interesting trails, etc. At the airport the visa lines are still terribly long, but there is a nice shiny newly painted gate as you leave the airport that declares "Welcome to Nepal". Sigh.
The wiser part of me thinks that this was all NTY 2011 was ever meant to be and most of the money was used as an excuse to funnel money into the hands of connected advertisers, and as an excuse for some ministers to go on foreign trips to talk about why people should come to Nepal. It could also be argued though that part of the lack of focus could be that Nepal hasn't had a government for over six months now. That's right, with over 17 or so attempts to elect a Prime Minister there still isn't one and no government has been formed. While there is in my opinion a lack in leadership among politicians in my own country, Nepal is lacking in even people who can pretend to have the skills. There is no incentive for these people to govern, and even less for them to come up with a constitution, which for the second year in a row looks to be a hopeless prospect when the deadline comes due in May. No, the complete lack of any sense of civic duty among the political class and a sense that positions of power are more about a social position that endears you to those above and below you as opposed to it being a position that represents the population and that you are to work for your country as a whole is lost on public officials here. Part of it has to do with social traditions and cultural underpinnings, but if Democracy and Republicanism is to mean anything here it is something that will have to be overcome.
Meanwhile the country as a whole seems to stand still, and very little seems to get done. Unlike the powers to the north and south Nepal seems mired in a complete lack of forward momentum, in fact what is currently done doesn't even seem to maintain what they already have. Roads deteriorate, load shedding becomes worse instead of better, water levels in the Kathmandu valley slowly drop year after year. These are all large problems that are in need of solutions, and while I would hope that when the government wouldn't act that portions of the private sector might rise up to confront these problems this has not been the case either. Sure at least private companies supply drinking water and tankers to fill cisterns, the wealthy can buy inverters and generators, and off road vehicles for the roads, but even these temporary solutions are interfered with. Last year they banned the import of inverters for a time to reduce the strain on the electric grid, vehicles are taxed at an absurd 200% and reports on the drinking water that occasionally come out paint a picture of a supply where as much as 35% has contaminants.
I'm sure there is a silver lining to any predicament that a people find themselves in. But it's hard to look at Nepal in its current position and be too envious. It's still a fine place to visit, and even live as an outsider, but long term you have to wonder where it is headed. The complete lack of any sense of urgency to make anything better is somewhat puzzling, and despite the plethora of well meaning aid agencies and NGOs a nation does not rise up based on charity, it has to come from its own determination, and its won drive to succeed with real and sustained financial incentives. Companies like Harilo.com are adding sustainable profit based solutions and supplying not just vanity and entertainment items, but also allowing doctors and ambulance services order special equipment, allowing other businesses to get things that allow them to branch into new services or provide better products, and supplying computers for all types of people at reduced prices for better quality products. There is plenty that entrepreneurs could do to make the country better, even if the environment here can be at times very difficult to do business.
So despite my want to write about something positive in regard to what is going on here, circumstances here sometimes make that difficult. Daily life is quite pleasant, but there is little of interest to write about. Runs out to Boudha are still quite nice, the afternoon sun is nice and warm, especially compared to the sub zero (in Fahrenheit no less) temperatures back home. It's been good to catch up with friends and I'm always happy to talk with people in my neighborhood. So life in Nepal seems to go on smoothly and for the most part pleasantly, but if one was to focus on its politics and promotions there really isn't much to be said that doesn't pose a challenge to the people of Nepal.