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Business Beckons Democracy

Do you want to be the unquestioning subject who does what he is told or the thinking executive who questions, innovates and executes?

Winston Churchill had the gift of often coming up with prophetic statements. Many would still tend to agree with his following statement more than ever: “No one pretends that democracy is perfect or all-wise. Indeed, it has been said that democracy is the worst form of government except all those other forms that have been tried from time to time.”

Point to be noted, dear readers, is that there is little original about the British statesman’s assertion as he admits himself that what he was saying had been a long-held belief. But in absence of a better workable model of governance, democracy continues to rule the roost even now. This is despite its vulnerability to make way for autocracy, mobocracy, anarchy and even veiled monarchy.

The hideous side of democracy is very much in evidence in Nepal these days. We are helplessly watching an unfortunate political drama. At best, we can point at the world’s most powerful democracy across the oceans where a president called Donald Trump, having lost in a free and fair election, is demitting office crying and screaming. Aren’t we better, we could claim? But does that make democracy in Nepal any less wounded or hypocritical?

The trouble is we view democracy as a bouquet of rights. Duties needed to keep democracy blooming do not occur high in our priorities. This mentality is all pervasive in Nepal. Political parties, whether in power or in opposition, electorate, executive, media or other institutions are driven by the same mindset. No surprise then that the outcome too is not very different! May be some are able to top up their coffers and line their pockets for some time but even the patience of the Nepali people is not infinite. The wrongdoers fall by the way side when voters realise their folly.

Business in Nepal has for long been driven by relationships and connections. Merit and honesty are not viewed as the best attributes in young managers. Loyalty to individuals at the top is invariably valued way above commitment to corporate governance and fair compliance requirements.

But why do we regularly fail to live up to democratic ideals? Democracy did not dawn upon Nepal as the outcome of a long-drawn evolution. Instead, a bloody revolution ushered in a very tentative form of democracy in the country. We have not always been democratic at heart. In fact, we simply wanted a dispensation better than the ones in play till then. Our understanding of democracy was and still is only skin deep. The democratic ethos has not made its way to our hearts because it is not an outcome of a long-drawn evolution. For the quintessential Nepali, democracy is all about rights and privileges; duties do not figure in our scheme of things. We still believe in give-and-take kind of transactional behaviour from top to bottom. Nepal ranks 113 out of 180 countries according to the 2019 Corruption Perceptions Index reported by Transparency International. We have failed to provide the right soil for democracy to strike roots.

Business in Nepal too cannot escape blame in this context. Business barons, top executives, mid-level managers and beginners need to understand that only democracy can provide commerce an even and level playing field. How will entrepreneurship grow and bolster the nation’s economy without adopting fair and challenging business practices? The change will be painful.
Business in Nepal has for long been driven by relationships and connections. Merit and honesty are not viewed as the best attributes in young managers. Loyalty to individuals at the top is invariably valued way above commitment to corporate governance and fair compliance requirements.

Therefore, those heralding change in the deeply entrenched system are bound to face stiff opposition from old timers. This is not typical of Nepalese business. We have been seeing this in all domains of our society. But we also come across those who have defied the system and carved a way for themselves. This is the rule of life. That is why what is happening today is way ahead of what used to be the case during our grandparents’ time.  Change keeps on occurring howsoever slow it may seem in a lifetime.

So, do you want to float with the flow or are keen to create a new current with a new velocity for yourself with like-minded pioneers? Do you want to be the unquestioning subject who does what he is told or the thinking executive who questions, innovates and executes? The latter mind-set will stand you in good stead whether you work in a business company or run your own enterprise, however big or small it may be.

Basant Chaudhary is a Poet, Writer, The Chairman of BLC and Basant Chaudhary Foundation. ([email protected])

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