Outrage in Iraq

Rakesh Wadhwa
The Himalayan Times, 6 Sept, 2004

The twelve Nepalese murdered in Iraq are our modern day heroes. They went to Baghdad to work and send money home to their families. It is this money that keeps the Nepalese economy afloat.

We can only salute their bravery.

They knew it was risky. They knew that they were going to a dangerous place, and that there was always a chance that they might not come back to their loved ones. Still they went. It is the courage of people like these twelve that sustains Nepal in these extraordinarily difficult times.

Let us remember that the economy is surviving because of remittances. The US$ 100 million which the 8,00,000 Nepalese working in 19 countries send to Nepal allows us to buy our necessities – fuel for our vehicles; liquefied cooking gas for our homes; medicines for those who are sick; and cars, buses & trucks to provide us with transportation.

Take away this inflow of money and the economy would be pushed into the stone age. We should take this opportunity to express our gratitude for these heroic men and women who go to foreign lands. In trying to improve their and their families' lives, they improve the lives of all of us who stay on in Nepal.

The nation rightfully mourns the tragedy at Baghdad. Our hearts and prayers go out to the families who have lost their loved ones. No one can forget the horror evoked by the images on the internet, TV, and newspapers.

Who can but not grieve with Ramesh Khadka's mother who fainted when she heard of her son's death in Iraq, or, cry with Prakash Adhikari the father of one of the twelve hostages who collapsed on hearing the news of his son's murder. However, this grief must translate into something more.

It is indeed time to be with and comfort the families of those who paid the ultimate price. It is time to assure them that their worldly needs will be taken care of by a grateful nation. But more than that it is time to unitedly assure the families in shock that their sacrifice will not be in vain.

How can we do that?

It won't be by destroying the property of manpower agencies. They merely fulfill the yearning of Nepal's young striving for a better life for themselves and their families.

It won't be by burning and destroying property of muslim businessmen in Kathmandu. They are as much a part of Nepal as anyone else is, and, they are as much outraged by the atrocity in Iraq as the most patriotic of us are.

It won't be by venting anger against foreign companies, of whatever nationality they might be, for most of the world is united in its condemnation of what has happened.

We can honour those who have fallen by forging a new economic agenda for Nepal. This must be an agenda which takes Nepal on the path to prosperity. An agenda which guarantees an opportunity for every Nepali to progress, to earn a decent living, so that when citizens of this great nation go abroad they do so by choice and not because of necessity.

How long can we have the best, the brightest, the most hardworking, the ones with the most initiative, the bravest and the most daring amongst us leave this country and work for the betterment of other nations. Let us give them the opportunity right over here; in Nepal. Our young deserve nothing less.

The path to growth, wealth and prosperity lies in embracing economic freedom. It is only free market policies which can take Nepal away from the brink of being labeled a failed state to a one where every Nepali is proud of his country's economic might. For this we need to clear the obstacles created by the heavy hand of a visionless bureaucracy.

Let the people be free of extortionate taxation, controls on movement of foreign exchange, tyranny of import licensing and of petty customs officials who block free movement of goods, and corrupt government officials. Then and only then will the young of this land not have to seek opportunity elsewhere. They will find it right over here in their own land.

(The writer an economist and a proponent of free markets contributes to leading international dailies. Contact e-mail: everest@mos.com.np)