Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Youth or pawn?

As I chat with foreign friends these days, I seem to hear one question over and over:  How are Nepali youth doing? As Nepal has a very high youth population (60 percent of Nepal’s population is believed to be below 25 years old) the concerns posed by this question unmask Nepal’s Achilles Heel.

Job and income insecurity remains as pervasive in Nepal as it was a decade ago, and, as a result, migration remains the only saving grace for the nation’s youth. Therein lies a growing risk. If the global recession trickles in yet again, and if foreign job opportunities fade, Nepal could be headed for serious trouble. Limited growth, a lackluster job market and rising food prices all over the world offer good reasons to worry about such a possibility.

It is true that migration creates efficiency gains when workers move to where they are more productive. But these days more and more Nepali youth are beginning to see Nepal not as a victim of the global system but as an emerging market capable of profiting from the free flow of trade in the global economy. It is high time that foreigners begin to see Nepal that way too.

Nepal still needs help but the rich world must stop asking, “What can we do about Nepal?” and ask “How do we respond to those Nepali industries that are making real progress?”  The best help that the US and Europe do for Nepal is not to spoon out charity but to allow Westerners to buy the products that Nepal is capable of producing competitively. At present the rich world continues not only to obstruct such imports but to distort Nepali markets by using them as a dumping ground.

Nepal, however, doesn’t shed its stereotypes easily. The catch phrase ‘Youth of Nepal’ signifies a moral force for the sake of the nation. But as always, reality is a bit grimmer in Nepal. Nepali youths never were and are still not encouraged to give direction to the country. That was the job and still is the job of the senior leaders.

Nepali youth are a pawn in the political power game led by out-dated leaders rather than chief strategists. For example, though 137 out of 601 total CA members are below 35 years old, in reality, they have not been able to speak on behalf of Nepal’s youth due to the political party whips that have so far kept them from crossing party lines.

While the youth must undertake nation building tasks, the state must also integrate youth into the country’s policies and programmes and mitigate the loss of human resources snared by the ropes of the youth migration.

Nepali youth need to be made more responsible and answerable. There is no doubt that Nepali youths can break through economic and social barriers and shape Nepal’s future on a global scale, but they must take charge—the sooner, the better.
source:Bhuwan Thapaliya, The Kathmandu Post, 24 feb 2011