Last week I was in the tropical Hawaiian Islands with my family, for a winter getaway. The kinds of infrastructure development they have done really inspired me to write this quick note. Hawaii is America’s 50th state and is definitely the number #1 tourist destination for Americans and others visiting America. I could easily believe that after I saw its white sand beaches and amazing culture. What’s more is that there is the inviting Pacific right outside your front door. The people who live in Hawaii really rely on tourists and a lot of jobs there are tourist service related. This is because the state’s number one industry is tourism and the second is military related as it has 14 different military bases. Comparing Hawaii to the other tropical islands like Fiji, Mauritius, and many others, I can positively say that none of them have accomplished what Hawaii has. I think this is because of the visionary moves set by the democratically elected government. That’s why it is said that “American democracy is not good – but it’s the best in the world we have so far.” These leaders know how to set vision and move forward without worrying about little things. Leaders must trust others to get the little things done and launch the BIG visionary things to set the tone of the nation in the right direction.
I can see Nepal being what I call a “landlocked Hawaii”, particularly for our neighbors China and India. This will be possible only if we make the right changes and move forward with the right vision and goal though. When this particular thought came to me, I happened to think of, what are in my opinion, the top three visionary moves that we can set for a new and improved Nepal. If we succeed with these visions, it will result in a Nepal that attracts tourists and helps us prosper. I apologize for anecdotal listing as I did not have time to do any research and did not want to do any either. I wanted this to be of my own. I guessed I had enough know-how of my country. This is what I thought of:
1. Make Cities nice and clean – Tourism is one of our best hopes and it will remain so for the long run. Tourists always first arrive in the city and the first impression is something they are bound to remember. They get their last impressions from cities too as they depart to other locations from our cities. When the first and the last impressions are unsatisfactory, no matter how much we boast of our beautiful mountains and Himalayas, we can’t attract more tourists if our cities remain the way they are now. We must clean them to make them inviting. The first few tactical moves to get the cleaning campaign started would be to:
- Strictly enforce commercial and residential zoning: we need to do this to save our cities from appearing as slumps rather than cities.
- Privatize public area cleaning jobs – let’s not depend upon city employed cleaners. They have not been able to do the job to the level that a private company might do.
- Create and enforce strict traffic control and penalize violators.
- Promote an e-City concept so as to make law enforcements (related but not limited to city tax defaulters, traffic violators, illegal building, city crimes, and etc.) effective and fair.
- Control vehicle ownership so that the city does not become a dump-yard of cheap vehicles from India, China and Korea.
- Spend heavily on city schooling (K-12).
- Take care of the homeless and get rid of the slums before they become like slums in Mumbai.
- Clean rivers (if there are any) flowing though the cities.
- Create Public Parks and public hang-out areas.
- Plan a beautiful golf resort in the suburbs as the world’s baby boomers are taking golf as one of their must do retirement activities.
2. Build Highways – We should simply build them without worrying about any return. Building highways for a nation is just like buying a house for a family. The value of houses is always going up. A family which invests in housing can’t go wrong. Similarly, a nation which builds highways can never go wrong. No matter how many we build, they can never be enough. This will help us create jobs because we can employ millions of poor Nepalese people during the construction and promote internal commerce and tourism after construction. Only through our highways can we show our external tourists our hidden treasures like the Rara Lake and Everest Base Camp. Very few in the world have the time and energy to trek to those areas. When it comes to making money, we have to think of the rich people who do not want to hike and walk, but still want to see our fascinating sights. Those few environmentalists and philanthropists who prefer to walk can’t help us get there. We should build so many highways that the world should wonder how we managed to accomplish such a feat. People want to come to our country to see the success – not the poverty. If poverty attracted tourism, why would so many tourists go to Hawaii and not Africa? Let us not dream of making money by showing our bare feet and hungry faces.
3. Build a lot of schools, colleges and universities –This move can never hurt either. We can never go wrong investing on education. This is a no-brainer. We do not need expatriate coming to our county and telling us what to do on education. Let us just build more colleges and schools than we think of. It will pay off. More institutions like the Institute of Engineering and Teaching Hospital should be built to let poor talented Nepalese get free education. Those engineers and doctors can go anywhere in the world and earn their living and send money to Nepal, or work in the country itself. In the past, the countries which invested in public education have never regretted.
If our politicians focus on these three things for the next 10 years, they can help the nation in a big way. If we do not know where to invest and what to do, we must do one of these three things and we will not regret as a nation. Investment on other basic need related things must be made as democratically elected government will have certain responsibility that they can’t get away without providing things like drinking water, basic healthcare and food. If we keep on investing all we have on these day-to-day needs, we can never prosper as a nation. We have to run our nation just like a family head run his/her kitchen. A smart family head controls what is cooked in the kitchen and invests some of his/her incomes on important stuffs like buying house, land and sending kids to a good school. On the other hand, a mediocre family head focuses on day-to-day needs and never worries about the future and all what is earned is consumed right in the kitchen.
A visionary move can’t be pushed forward if a leader is distracted to little things like student elections, little bribe in a tax office, and a small crime in a city center. These things happen everyday in a primitive democracy like ours and they can’t be controlled unless leaders focus on the big picture and drive the economy like a bus driver drives a bus. Remember while there a lot of side talks and even little side fights going on inside the bus, the bus driver drives the bus as if nothing is going on because the driver has a limited time to reach the destination. Similarly, a democratically elected leader does not have a lifetime in the office – it is four to five years at the maximum and a lot needs to be done within that limited time. While trusting their subordinates to do day to day things (just like the bus driver trusts his helper, KANCHHA), leaders must focus on the BIG picture.
Bloggers – as all of you want to see great and successful Nepal, please comment and suggest.