Nepal: Epicenter of Social Entrepreneurship

Look at this image: why these apartments all sliced up?  Why are there so many crazy telephone wires?
The reasons behind this, and other strange sites around Kathmandu is due to infrastructure mismanagement and the strange interaction between people and laws.  For example, in order to gain citizenship, people in Kathmandu have to own their own property and so each generation chops up and owns a different level or section of the family’s structure.

Applying for and coming here initially, I did not understand the extent to which the program theme, “Nepal: Social Entrepreneurship in the Himalayas” was so relevantly placed.  Social projects and NGOs saturate the Kathmandu valley, and this past weeks we have explored the reasons why.
Nepal is not so much a poor country (there has always been a great deal of wealth here as the trade route between India and China) as a poorly managed country.  The primary cause of Nepal’s “underdevelopment” has been their political instability of the past decades: monarchical coups, changes in republic and democracy, a royal massacre, a maoist insurgency, prime minister after prime minister throughout the 90s.  Even the past weeks the assembly failed at its 6th and 7th attempts to elect a prime minister to draft the new constitution which is already two years overdue.  Nepal is incredibly diverse, having criss-crossing religions, various castes, over 100 different ethnicities, and hundred of languages (all figures which increase every year of data collection.)  Thus within the assembly of representatives is a dog-fight of different peoples competing and vetoing different  causes.   Interestingly, many Nepali will tell you that part of this disharmony, especially in comparison to their Indian neighbors, is because they were never colonized and didn’t undergo the process of uniting as one people against and outsider.  So it is very hard for there to be any sense of “Nepaliness” because everyone here is identifying with something external.

Thus, the various management practices we take for granted such as garbage collection, clean water, constant power, paved roads, and sidewalks are lacking or falling apart in Kathmandu because there is no government!  To supplement this lack, hundreds of INGOs and thousands of local NGOs have moved in to begin projects.  In some ways, it is great that so many organizations doing good with with great people have moved in.  But in other ways, many of these organizations were created with the sole motivation of making their own profit and do little to support the causes they claim because of the level of bureaucracy within the NGO system.  In any case, it makes for an interesting critique and look at the world of development.

More insights to come,

Clayton

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