It has become evident over the years that urbanization is inevitable and while it considered as a transitional process, the change that a country witnesses during the process is actually transformative. As a country moves along the journey of transformation, it finds new ways of defining transformation. Transformation, for me personally, is ‘growth’; growth means ‘development’, and development is synonymous with ‘prosperity’. In this regard, the figures released by the London-based Legatum Institute’s 2019 Prosperity Index, in November 2019, showed that Nepal has risen in its prosperity rankings and stood at 115th position out of 167 countries[i]. Their analysis set me thinking about how prosperity is actually forming and changing across the country.
The Legatum Prosperity Index measures countries based on 12 indicators of prosperity under inclusive societies (safety and security, personal freedom, governance, and social capital), open economies (investment environment, enterprise conditions, market access and infrastructure, and economic quality) and empowered people (living conditions, health, education, and natural environment). Based on the indicators and the analysis, Nepal climbed 13 places since 2009 (128th) to reach at the 115th position in the overall prosperity rankings in 2019.[ii]
Specifically, Nepal has witnessed huge improvements in all of the four indicators under inclusive societies. Elucidating this, Nepal improved its status from 158th position to 78th position in safety and security, from 81st to 67th position in personal freedom, 106th to 104th position in governance and 102nd to 91st position in social capital. Although improvements in these indicators have been reported, visible effects are yet to be witnessed in the country. With the current acts and several pieces of legislation such as the Media Council Bill, Information Technology Bill and the Mass Communications Bill which consist of numerous loosely defined measures that curb the freedom of speech and expression on vague grounds such as including that it may ‘annoy’ or ‘trouble’ someone, further improvements in prosperity can become questionable. Further, although digital connectivity is increasing to wider parts of the country, with such provisions that control online and social media activity, and carry fines or prison sentences under unclear definitions of the provisions, the effects that it can have on the rankings can be damaging.
Moreover, despite having progressed in the economic quality as well as market access and infrastructure, the overall openness of the economy has deteriorated 13 positions and trails in 130th position. The well-being of the citizens, their health and education have been given needed attention over the years, which has resulted in the improvements in these indicators as well.
However, having said that, other grounds such as the investment climate of Nepal, inter-agency coordination, providing the space and resources to growing startups and their young and vibrant entrepreneurs are yet to be prioritized and monitored by the government. Slight improvements through the Investment Summits, a new Foreign Investment and Technology Transfer Act (FITTA), regular electricity supply and greater political and policy stability have been able to expand private investments[iii] but these are not yet enough to reverse the numbers. Along the same lines, lack of constant monitoring and timely action has had a significant impact on the downturns.
Undoubtedly, Nepal is still wedged by these problems and lags behind its global and Asian peers when it comes to providing proper living conditions and a natural environment for its population of millions. Nonetheless, Nepalese people are coping with the issues. But, there is a dire need to iron out these issues and bring in effective action-oriented reforms to achieve economic and social progress. Only when such steps are taken in all of the fronts can Nepal rise above its peers and improve in its prosperity rankings further.
[ii] “Nepal: Prosperity score 49.5 (115th)”, Legatum Institute. Retrieved from- https://prosperitysite.s3-accelerate.amazonaws.com/3915/7408/4296/Nepal_2019_PIcountryprofile.pdf
[iii] “Nepal Development Update: Envisioning a future data ecosystem in federal Nepal”, The World Bank, 12 December 2019. Retrieved from- http://documents.worldbank.org/curated/en/485591576101383264/pdf/Nepal-Development-Update-Envisioning-a-Future-Data-Ecosystem-in-Federal-Nepal.pdf
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