“Everyone has someone in the family abroad. Why would they buy phones from us when they can get iPhones from the US?” complained Angelina Magar, a local electronics shop owner in my locality. Angelina is one of many such shop owners whose business has seen slow, painful decline in the last few years due to rapid emigration of Nepalese youth.
“Ahile Canada ma sajilo chha re (Its easy to go to Canada now)” is what I hear these days. A few years ago, it was Australia. Before that, the United States.
These destinations are for those who have somehow managed to get a decent education in Kathmandu, the capital. For most other Nepalese, the only places they can dream of going is to the Gulf, to work as carpenters, plumbers, masons and personal help. Most of rural Nepal is now full of women, children and old people waiting for the men to send money to make ends meet. The lifestyles of some have improved, there’s no doubt about that, but a remittance based economy is always a recipe for disaster.
Let’s talk about the haves first, the people whose parents can afford the initial 5-20 lakh rupees it takes to go abroad for an education. Each year, thousands of Nepalese youth flood to developed countries around the world because of the lack of quality higher education in Nepal(the quality till grade 12 is surprisingly good). And there’s always talk of a country that has made its visa process a bit easier and another that has made the process tougher.
Consider this thought, imagine if on a particular year, all the countries make the visa process tough. No country is hiring. For no fault of their own, an entire generation of students born on a particular year have to suffer. Consider the plight of the students of the next batch who have to now compete with the previous year’s students for the same universities, for the same opportunities.
Consider if the world goes into a recession again, the number of available scholarships go down. Consider if the Nepali currency suffers a depreciation like Russia’s ruble. When you are dependent on the willingness of other countries to accept your people, you’re always going to play a dice game. The ladders are great, but the snakes are waiting to get ya.
I am not against going abroad, most people think that I am when I talk about this stuff. In fact, if the thought of completing my masters occurs to me, I’ll probably go packing too. But not without knowing that 3 people will have to leave the country because of me.
Let me put in some more context. During my college life, during an alumni talk, one of our esteemed alumni said in an emotional tone, “Why are you running after MNCs? If people from the best colleges in the country, those in which the government has invested millions upon millions of rupees don’t have the confidence to form companies around innovative ideas, who will give jobs to the students of private colleges?” Again, he did not mean to imply that students should reject offers from Google, Amazon or Facebook. The problem is when EVERYBODY goes for the secure, salary-based career.
The same problem shows itself in a different form in Nepal. The fact that very few educated people are staying back and fighting it out here, creating companies, finding innovative solutions to pressing problems means that there are lesser and lesser jobs for the uneducated. After all, most people stand on the shoulders of giants and sadly, there are no giants left.
Do I think Nepal can recover from this sad situation? Sure it can. Not all the news is bad. Thousands of investors have shown interest in investing in Nepal in the recent years. The Nepali diaspora has the potential to be a huge source of investment for the country. Everyone is waiting for a stable government and a constitution so that they the money they invest doesn’t go to waste.
If the ease of doing business gets better in Nepal, with the talent that we have in store, I think we can fly high.
Do you think Nepal can make it? Drop in your comments in the section below.