By Robin Sitoula*
This is a crisis like no other.
At a time when even the most advanced cities in the world barely held up against the pandemic and came to a screeching halt, Nepal could opt for nothing but to adapt to extreme social distancing measures itself.
Today marks the 44th day of the lockdown and what started as a necessary step to flatten the curve has ended up garnering a lot of public debate. While some of the discourses elucidate poor stand of the government in building exit strategies to reopen the economy, others are related to infuriation on increased authoritarian stance of the government.
The economic mayhem is inevitable. Inflation in Nepal has already escalated to 6.82% and the GDP growth is projected to hover around 2.27%. With all sectors experiencing meltdown, the people are exasperated at the lethargic response of the government in introducing measures to cushion the turmoil. However, considering surging unemployment with plummeting revenue from the service and remittance sector, sustainability of the economic relief package is questionable; and debt financing, risky.
The only measure that can prevent hunger and starvation is to restart economic activities. Our team at Samriddhi has constantly been exercising their thought on whether the cost of uniform lockdown that jeopardizes the livelihood of people farther away from affected areas is justifiable and has come up with ideas to open and revitalize the economy whilst keeping the virus in check.
Larger things are at stake in Nepal.
The Covid-19 lockdown has offered a convenient pretext for the government to consolidate power and curtail freedom. While the entire population anticipates concentrated effort from the government to contain the pandemic, our federal administration is caught up in foul play for the sake of capturing state power. That, along with violations of supreme court order and alleged corruption has repeatedly attacked democratic values and constitutional spirit of Nepal.
Also, the removal of news and interviews, arrests and media assaults concerning criticisms to political representatives obstinately points to the government revolting against freedom of expression.
Bearing these developments in mind, Samriddhi now more than ever, is prepared to work towards sensitizing the society on the fundamental ideals of democracy. Despite working from home, our team is heavily engaged in informing ideas regarding the likelihood of illegitimate and arbitrary expansion of power and infringement of civil liberties.
Lastly, THERE IS light at the end of the tunnel, but until then, let’s be vigilant and safeguard both ourselves and our rights from this pandemic!
Robin Sitoula is a start-up enthusiast, a business strategist and a coach. He has established business and not-for profit ventures in Nepal and has advised quite a few beyond Nepal. He is the founder and executive director of Samriddhi Foundation, a think-tank focused on market oriented economic policy reform in Nepal (www.samriddhi.org). In the past two decades, he has initiated and institutionalized a number of programs, non-profit ventures and profit oriented companies that promote entrepreneurial ecosystem in Nepal. His business expertise include Strategy, start up, talent search and capacity building, business system & management structure development, and governance. Towards the non-profit side, his expertise include designing and implementing grassroots campaigns, local fundraising, organization management, leadership development, fostering start-ups, and strategic orientation. He holds graduate degrees in Investments & Financial Management (MBA) and Political Science (MA) from Tribhuwan University in Nepal.