Nepal is a rent-seeking society; the recent announcement of a public holiday on November 2nd by the Nepali Government on the occasion of the Indian President, Pranab Mukherjee, visiting the country is perhaps the strongest testimony to it. What’s more? The government plans to announce one more public holiday when the Chinese President Xi Jinping visits Nepal.
Moreover, it does not stop there. Unlike other countries, Nepal has public holidays for various ludicrous reasons; for instance on days of Solar Eclipse. Another example is when the elections of the Civil Servant’s Trade Union was held on a working day by declaring a government holiday. Why could they not have the elections on a Saturday? The number of public holidays has been on the rise especially since the declaration of Nepal as a federal democratic republic. The fact that there were 36 public holidays in FY 2015/16 alone excluding Saturdays, one of the highest in the world, is a proof of the fact that Nepal has become holiday obsessed.
It is not just the government; there is a societal acceptance of holidays. People love holidays; even the private sector. They express dismay when public holidays fall on Saturdays and they are deprived of extra leisure. This is because our society is not productivity oriented. People in Nepal want more leisure time and would love to be paid for doing absolutely nothing. This has now become a cultural issue which promotes holiday obsession. This however exacerbates the already low-productivity problem of the Nepali economy.
Holidays are sort of an anti-thesis to entrepreneurship. During public holidays, important institutions like bank, government and administrative offices are closed. This adds to the delay in a culture where deadlines and problems of the consumers are of secondary importance. Even though the entrepreneurial sector wants to get things done, their work gets stagnated. In a country where cost of doing business is already very high, this is an additional cost to the economy.
In addition, basic back of the envelope GDP per day calculation suggests that taking even the minimal of numbers, one public holiday amounts to loss of millions of rupees. For an economy to generate growth it is important that productivity increase and holidays reduce. A policy framework is definitely a need of the hour.