Doesn’t look goodNepal’s negative brand value cannot be removed until we correct our systemic flaws
The craze for creating brands has been emerging boldly in the contemporary business milieu. A brand creates a powerful, distinct and tenable identity of the object. The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) with its constituent the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) had devised a branding strategy with the theme ‘India Shinning’ to contest the national election of 2004. The slogan ‘India Shinning’ was conceived to highlight the success of the Indian economy, and a sumptuous and flashy advertising blitz was launched featuring happy faces of contented and well-fed middle class Indians.
The BJP-led NDA government spent an estimated $20 million putting its ‘India Shining’ advertisements on all TV channels in all major Indian languages to showcase its achievements. ‘India Shinning’ was a massive advertising campaign; however, it had no product to sell and thus failed to hit the target. The brand image, perception and brand reality did not match, so the entire exercise crash-landed in a fiasco. The BJP had to face an astounding defeat at the polls. Its allies did not notice that the country is deemed strong when the trust it commands from its own people is strong enough to keep political stability.
One and only remedy
In Nepal, the previous UML-led government met a similar fate with its much hyped and trumpeted nationalism without public delivery. Extreme nationalism worked for the party and its cadres; however, it was a hollow slogan amid the then topsy-turvy situation. Nepal at this juncture imbibes myriad negative brand values. For instance, instability in the political spectrum, constitutional conundrum, Madhes problems, fragile coalition interest, eroding image of our national parties, recurring natural disasters, bus and airplane accidents, insecurity and other safety concerns, non-delivery of essential items, broken links in the global value chain and so forth. The list is endless. The only positive brand value the nation possesses at present is the promulgation of the much awaited constitution and relative lull in bandas, strikes and picketing.
The negative brand value that we possess will not be removed immediately until we correct our political record and systemic flaws, some emanating from a fragmented leadership and some from the outcome of the situation. As long as politics remains at the epicentre of the source of anomalies in the bureaucracy, political parties and other sectors, the country will sink deeper into malfunction. In order to keep the coalition culture stable, concerted efforts should be put in addressing the anomalies inherent in the constitutional provisions.
Many had the notion that the newly promulgated constitution would invite stability and correct all our political glitches dating from the insurgency era. However, the entire dream of the Nepali people has been shattered. Changes in government or the leadership of national political parties, though becoming frequent, have led to ineffectual governance. This has spread despondency among the public, bred malpractices in institutions and shakiness in the donor community. Thus, a constitutional amendment is the one and only remedy to gain the support and ownership of all the disgruntled groups, and this should not be delayed under any pretext.
Erosion of national strength
The prevailing practice exercised under the new constitution and the dogmatism inherent among our political kingpins towards the Westminster system, which has proved to be a total failure in Nepal, has repeatedly shattered our hopes and aspirations. Hence, a more pragmatic system which will ensure stability has to be unearthed soon. A home-grown model aimed at stability can be a topic of discussion for the presently dormant House of Representatives in order to keep it busy till the end of its term. It is certain that the permanent negative brand value that we carry on our heads will never allow us to prosper despite of our strategic location between two economic powerhouses. These world powers have diametrically opposite systems of governance. However, they evolve with the power of stability.
Our neighbours have become sick and tired of dealing with frequently changing coalition governments in Nepal. Treaties and agreements signed during periods of crisis lose their gravity soon after the next government is installed. As a result, successive governments spend more time conducting confidence building measures than delivering service. The piecemeal approach of dealing with problems and patchwork strategy of grappling with the situation have depleted our national strength. On top of that, the much awaited constitution has not provisioned any room for a majority government. This means we will have to fight against world powers with a fractured mandate and willpower even in the future, leaving rare avenues for pragmatic diplomacy.
Words of wisdom
The lack of a system, firm policy and commitment among the leaders has thrown our democracy into peril. Democracy without the foundation of a system rarely survives, and Nepal is becoming a victim of its demagogic leaders and the constitution made by them. The democracy that we all have understood should remain as a creator of opportunities and not a curator. The immense water resources should be harnessed to provide opportunities for locals and foreigners to take advantage at throwaway prices. Lush green mountains and diverse flora and fauna will then be turned into tourist attractions.
The chances of creating export oriented industries will rise with economies of scale. With a high volume of commodity exports and massive imports of tourists, our foreign currency reserves will swell. Local business entrepreneurs will enhance their capacity for world business, and the government at this juncture need only concentrate on creating conducive mega infrastructures. Then much can be done to strengthen our banking and financial institutions which means their real assets and stock prices will increase. When Nepalis become financially strong, Nepal automatically becomes strong. It is pertinent to conclude by quoting German professor Nossrat Peseschkian, “If you want something you never had, then do something you never did.”
Baral was a foreign relations advisor to late prime minister Girija Prasad Koirala