Nepal Can Be Rich

In a 2001 comparison of 174 countries (click here, or see table below), Nepal ranked 150th in per capita income, a universal indicator of material wealth and living standards, since money enables people to buy at least the basic living needs for themselves and their families: food, drink, shelter, clothing, medicines, and health care. Why is Nepal this poor compared to other countries?

To answer these questions, it is necessary to review the direct cause of higher incomes and then review the subsidiary causes of living standards; that is, the geographies, cultures, economies and polities under which the people of the listed countries live.

In that way, some generalizations can be drawn that will be useful to country leaders and their contenders. In doing so, we recognize that we make a significant value-judgment: acquiring material wealth is “good,” and not doing so is “bad.” This statement acknowledges the values of leaders in countries who eschew th is value, who prefer to spend the studies and labors of their people in the pursuit of spiritual wealth, who consider material wealth a necessary evil that must be tolerated only to the extent of sustaining life and no more.

Note, too, that we are talking here about relative wealth and poverty, i.e., the wealth of the rich countries versus the poverty of the poor countries. There will always be an increase in absolute wealth, in varying amounts by poor countries, because some wealth will inevitably spill over from the rich countries to the poor ones via trade, industrial globalization (the transfer of businesses from rich to poor countries) and repatriated income from nationals working in foreign lands.

However, a continuing state of relative poverty in a nation leads inevitably to revolution, or emigration, or both, or to absorption by other countries.

The Nepali poverty is the result of reliance on an agriculture as a source of food by the poor, Maoists violence that prohibited keeping exportable wheat, the “cash crop,” in Nepal and prohibiting the import of agriculture surpluses to support the Nepali landowners.

Although the problem appears throughout South Asia, the reliance of the Nepali poor exclusively on rice as a staple made them particularly susceptible to poverty. This agricultural product grown by Nepali farmers provides more calories per acre than any other staple. Therefore, it is not surprising that it was and is cultivated throughout the world. Nepal used and exported rice to other countries to obtain foreign currencies for international trade. Government policy was to favor city dwellers over the peasants. Thus, Nepali poverty occurred while bringing millions to Nepal to seek a better life.

Productive and prosperous transformation in the development process can become viable only through permanent economic development. The essentiality of today, is to ensure the solidarity of national development, with economic re-strengthening. Is it going to guarantee sustainable peace? Will there be earnest effort in harnessing cooperation from all respective sectors?

Active economic reforms are always needed for leading the social movement because a strong economy is the foundation of democratic development and creation of an equitable nation. In any time of conflict, it is the economy that plays the lead role in bringing about a tangible and lasting solution to the economic crisis facing the nation and the people.

The economic reformers in Nepal should rally for bigger social transformation and to bring about social reforms. If we work together we can help bring about drastic changes because the role of the economy has largely confined. Economic reformists in Nepal must be trained in the skills they will need to organize action, including public speaking, managing people, preparing effective appeals for support, fundraising, and identifying and neutralizing informants and infiltrators.

We can promote the economy through participation in programs that develop a consensus around eco-development issues. To contribute to the definition of a permanent economic policy through action, ideas and research aimed at the construction of a society based on policies of social justice and sustainable, humane development are needed.

Economic development, whether in personal, group, or international relations requires a variety of capacities for self-transcendence: transcendence of one’s own interests and perspectives for the sake of understanding the interests and perspectives of the other side, which calls for the virtue of empathy; transcendence of one’s pride and defensiveness.

We cannot forget how the violence targeted against the local infrastructure community forestry projects, small hydro plants, bridges, telephone stations, and office buildings. The closure of educational institutions, businesses and cession of ordinary life in the country in response to their frequent calls for “bandh” helped only to make the lives of ordinary people more difficult.

However, economic reforms means that you not only set your objectives, you also understand why those are your objectives. It is a humanistic approach to negotiation that utilizes the strategies and tactical tools of successful reforms to achieve optimal results. Strengthening independent economic programs also can contribute to stability by broadening participation and enhancing prospects for democratic accountability and economic responsiveness. Economy-building can be organized by extternal actors such as NGOs, regional or international organizations and government.

We must remember, the direct causes of per capita income and living standard increases are the tools, machines, materials, power sources, medicines, physicians, and manufacturing and commercial practices that are transformed into consumable goods and services comprising basic living standards that are summarized in per capita income statistics.

Technologies affect living standards in three ways:

(1) They create goods and service that people want, but don’t have. Automobiles, telephones, most medicines and medical care did not exist at an earlier time.

(2) They improve the quality of goods and services that people already have. Medicines, foods, clothing, medical care are improved compared to those available in former times.

(3) They increase the availability of goods and services to more people by reducing the effort, waste, and cost to produce them. Food, clothing, housing, medicines and medical care became cheaper while their quality improved since earlier times.

Technologies and associated incomes devoted to preventing people from killing and stealing from each other, i.e., judiciaries, prisons, police and military personal and institutions, restrict their being used to raise incomes and basic living standards, so however necessary they are in a world of aggression and acquisition, they are counterproductive to raising incomes.

They are “necessary evils.” Therefore, a poor country must import technology that produces more and better goods and services for its own people and for producing goods and services for trade with foreigners. This acquisition of technology requires large amounts of money (“capital”), which cannot be accumulated at home because that requires technology.

It’s a vicious cycle: technology depends on capital, which depends on technology, etc. Karl Marx acknowledged this cycle in his discussion of “M-C-M” (money-capital (= technology)-money). Thus, an initial loan or grant of “seed money” is required by poor countries from rich countries. Such loans, as we have seen from World Bank, IMF, and WTO efforts, do not necessarily make poor countries rich. There is a complex interplay of technology, geography, culture, economy and polity, that produce unknown, uneven effects, thus preventing guaranteed success of capital and technology inputs. These are discussed below.

In contrast, those regions located in watered plains are the richest. Scanning the U.N. list from top to bottom, the only rich country that has too many mountains and too few navigable waterways is Switzerland. However, its geographical disadvantage is offset by its geographical location at former trade routes between rich countries that allowed it to accumulate sufficient capital and technology to “move mountains” (or, at least penetrate them with tunnels and cross the intervening valleys with bridges) and prosper.

The use of technologies depends not only on geography, but also on culture. Nations that have no basic schools will forever be dependent on the largesse of the wealthy nations. In contrast, look at the lower half of the countries (87-174). With a few exceptions, like China (102), Philippines (104), Indonesia (114) and India (115), and the S. American countries, the educational systems are abysmally antiquated. Therefore, even if these countries had adequate technologies, which they don’t, they would not even be able to adequately maintain imported technologies because of their poorly educated technicians.

With regard to religious practices, again from a materialistic viewpoint, the rich countries have long ago made the pursuit of religious values subservient to those of wealth acquisition. Their schools provide education consistent with that end. On the other hand, those countries that prefer to spend time and education on religion matters cannot expect to enjoy high per capita incomes unless they are among the fortunate few that sit above precious petroleum, gold or diamonds required by the rich countries. But what happens when those riches are exhausted?

Finally, in countries where allegiances are to tribes and clans rather than to all the people of the country, where these groups fight each other for wealth instead of the cooperating for it, money and technology will be used to fight and kill rather than raise living standards.

Subsistence economies, like those of the nations’ aborigines, resulted in their subjugation and doom by people with more advanced economies that featured the division of labor, technologies, and trade, i.e., capitalist economies. It is clear that a country with an unfavorable geography, or culture, or economy or polity is severely handicapped to use sufficient technological advances that increase the wealth and living standards of its people.

Geography cannot be changed, but a country’s leaders can slowly change its culture, economy and polity, and enjoy greater relative wealth. If it cannot change, then it is likely to remain poor, despite the enthusiastic and sanguine projections of its leaders, planners and would-be leaders. Countries with a combination of unfavorable geographies, cultures, economies and polities that do not change are doomed to remain relatively poor and, like beggars, will continue to depend on the altruism and largesse of the rich.

2001 U.N. Table(1):

Rank Country Per Capita Income

(PP US $)

1 Luxembourg 53,780

2 United States 34,320

3 Ireland 32,410

4 Iceland 29,990

5 Norway 29,620

6 Denmark 29,000

7 Switzerland 28,100

8 Netherlands 27,190

9 Canada 27,130

10 Austria 26,730

11 Belgium 25,520

12 Australia 25,370

13 Germany 25,350

14 Japan 25,130

15 Hong Kong 24,850

16 Italy 24,670

17 Finland 24,430

18 Sweden 24,180

19 Great Britain 24,160

20 France 23,990

21 Singapore 22,680

22 Cyprus 21,190

23 United Arab Emirates 20,530

24 Spain 20,150

25 Qatar 19,844

26 Israel 19,790

27 Brunei Darussalam 19,210

28 New Zealand 19,160

29 Kuwait 18,700

30 Portugal 18,150

31 Greece 17,440

32 Slovenia 17,130

33 Seychelles 17,030

34 Bahamas 16,270

35 Bahrain 16,060

36 Barbados 15,560

37 Korea, Rep. of 15,090

38 Equatorial Guinea 15,073

39 Czech Republic 14,720

40 Saudi Arabia 13,330

41 Malta 13,160

42 Hungary 12,340

43 Oman 12,040

44 Slovakia 11,960

45 Argentina 11,320

46 Saint Kitts and Nevis 11,300

47 South Africa 11,290

48 Estonia 10,170

49 Antigua and Barbuda 10,170

50 Mauritius 9,860

51 Costa Rica 9,460

52 Poland 9,450

53 Chile 9,190

54 Croatia 9,170

55 Trinidad and Tobago 9,100

56 Malaysia 8,750

57 Lithuania 8,470

58 Mexico 8,430

59 Uruguay 8,400

60 Botswana 7,820

61 Latvia 7,730

62 Belarus 7,620

63 Libya 7,570

64 Brazil 7,360

65 Namibia 7,120

66 Russian Federation 7,100

67 Colombia 7,040

68 Dominican Republic 7,020

69 Bulgaria 6,890

70 Grenada 6,740

71 Kazakhstan 6,500

72 Thailand 6,400

73 Tunisia 6,390

74 Samoa (Western) 6,180

75 Macedonia 6,110

76 Algeria 6,090

77 Iran 6,000

78 Gabon 5,990

79 Bosnia & Herzegovina 5,970

80 Turkey 5,890

81 Romania 5,830

82 Panama 5,750

83 Belize 5,690

84 Venezuela 5,670

85 Cape Verde 5,570

86 Dominica 5,520

87 St. Vincent & Gren. 5,330

88 Saint Lucia 5,260

89 El Salvador 5,260

90 Cuba 5,259

91 Paraguay 5,210

92 Fiji 4,850

93 Maldives 4,798

94 Guyana 4,690

95 Suriname 4,599

96 Peru 4,570

97 Guatemala 4,400

98 Ukraine 4,350

99 Swaziland 4,330

100 Turkmenistan 4,320

101 Lebanon 4,170

102 China 4,020

103 Jordan 3,870

104 Philippines 3,840

105 Jamaica 3,720

106 Albania 3,680

107 Morocco 3,600

108 Egypt 3,520

109 Syria 3,280

110 Ecuador 3,280

111 Vanuatu 3,190

112 Sri Lanka 3,180

113 Azerbaijan 3,090

114 Indonesia 2,940

115 India 2,840

116 Honduras 2,830

117 Kyrgyzstan 2,750

118 Armenia 2,650

119 Papua New Guinea 2,570

120 Georgia 2,560

121 Uzbekistan 2,460

122 Nicaragua 2,450

123 Lesotho 2,420

124 Djibouti 2,370

125 Bolivia 2,300

126 Zimbabwe 2,280

127 Ghana 2,250

128 Moldova 2,150

129 Viet Nam 2,070

130 Gambia 2,050

131 Angola 2,040

132 Mauritania 1,990

133 Sudan 1,970

134 Guinea 1,960

135 Solomon Islands 1,910

136 Pakistan 1,890

137 Comoros 1,870

138 Cambodia 1,860

139 Haiti 1,860

140 Bhutan 1,833

141 Mongolia 1,740

142 Cameroon 1,680

143 Togo 1,650

144 Laos 1,620

145 Bangladesh 1,610

146 Senegal 1,500

147 Uganda 1,490

148 C�te d’Ivoire 1,490

149 S�o Tom� & Principe 1,317

150 Nepal 1,310

151 Central African Republic 1,300

152 Rwanda 1,250

153 Tajikistan 1,170

154 Mozambique 1,140

155 Burkina Faso 1,120

156 Chad 1,070

157 Eritrea 1,030

158 Myanmar 1,027

159 Kenya 980

160 Benin 980

161 Congo 970

162 Guinea-Bissau 970

163 Niger 890

164 Nigeria 850

165 Madagascar 830

166 Mali 810

167 Ethiopia 810

168 Yemen 790

169 Zambia 780

170 Burundi 690

171 Congo, Dem. Rep. of 680

172 Malawi 570

173 Tanzania, U. Rep. of 520

174 Sierra Leone 470

Kamala Sarup
Nepali journalist and Story Writer Kamala Sarup is an editor for She specialises in in-depth reporting and writing on Peace, Anti War, Women, Terrorism, Democracy, and Development.