Shared Progress (समुन्नति): By The Office of Swarnim Wagle.

Dear friends,

This new year, 2024, I am pleased to announce the launch of my newsletter, a platform to keep my well-wishers worldwide informed about the latest developments in Nepal, my engagements in political-economy at home and abroad, and our shared vision for sustainable progress. While some of you may already catch glimpses of my updates on social media, the information can sometimes be scattered and overwhelming. To streamline worthwhile content, I will curate an overview with convenient links, enabling you to delve deeper. I invite you to join me on this enriching journey to stay connected, which I hope will be mutually fulfilling.  

What you can expect from this newsletter: 

  • Authentic posts written in my natural voice

  • My thoughts on the economy and politics, including technology, legislation, NRN issues, and matters impacting Nepal and the Nepali diaspora

  • Analytical perspectives on regional and global events and mega-trends

  • Periodic book reviews and commentaries, and enjoyable content tailored for those with interests in Nepal

  • Insights from my travels 

This newsletter will serve as a platform for reviewing my engagements and articulating opinions on topics that interest me. Initially, I will write once a month, but this will become more frequent. I plan to introduce exclusive content for subscribers. 

My convictions

In this inaugural issue, I want to highlight my core vision for progress, which I have also helped craft for the Rastriya Swatantra Party, of which I am vice-chair and member of parliament. Our collective pursuit is for the equitable progress of all Nepalis within a socially just liberal economy.

I seek to help build an inclusive society that guarantees fundamental rights within a fully democratic republic that is based on the rule of law. I believe in creating a flourishing, enterprise-friendly, investment-compliant, competitive social market economy built around a strong regulatory architecture that expands national income, creates jobs, augments social capital, and balances ecological imperatives, including climate change.

A pro-business perspective is crucial to expand the economic pie, especially for the historically marginalized segments of society. This approach not only aligns with the moral necessity of working towards equality of opportunity but is also pragmatic. Allowing issues of exclusion to fester poses the risk of socio-political instability, jeopardizing the primary objective of wealth generation. Experiments in federal governance will be harder to sustain without a vibrant economy driven by a risk-taking, dynamic private sector that competes on an even playing field.  

Nepal's enduring challenge is economic stagnation trapped in a vicious circle of entrenched corruption and systemic ineptitude paired with low investment and poor returns. Costly political cycles in a sluggish economy incentivize rent-seeking, which obstructs efforts to trigger and sustain economic growth. While I am not advocating regime change, I strongly believe in overhauling the system by revamping prevailing incentive structures in politics, bureaucracy, and the private sector. Deep reforms in public and private institutions are necessary to align incentives for growth on the bedrock of good governance.

As a long-term advocate of the paradigm of Human Development, I acknowledge the limits and perils of gross domestic product (GDP) as a measure of well-being but accept that growing the economy sustainably is necessary to enhance people's ability “to lead fulfilling lives they have reason to choose and value”, to paraphrase Amartya Sen. Development must be about nurturing people’s full potential by investing in capabilities; instead of being passive recipients, they should be the shapers of our shared destiny. Our goal must be to expand choices by exercising reasoned agency.    

I take pride in the social and political progress Nepal has made in recent decades. We stand out in South Asia for being the most open, plural, and free. Economically, however, we remain a laggard. To transform structurally within a generation, we must aim for a minimum of 7 percent annual growth, doubling real GDP every decade. While the West accomplished this at a slower pace over 200 years after the Industrial Revolution, our path can be informed and inspired by the recent success of many of our Asian peers. Even if we can replicate only half of their achievements, we can expect substantial progress within the next two decades when our demographic favorability is expected to wane as Nepal switches from an aging society to an aged one and climate risks intensify. To complement an inclusive growth process, we need to get other fundamentals in order too, from fiscal and external imbalances to misallocation of credit and concessional development finance. 

The structure of our economy in recent decades has been shaped by a profound dependence on remittances which, relative to the size of the economy, is the largest in the world for a fairly populous country. This has contributed to the Dutch disease, rendering production uncompetitive, ballooning imports, and misallocating scarce capital into speculative ventures.

A better future beckons

Digitalization, decarbonization and the death of distance present great new opportunities. Clean energy-fed reindustrialization, long-stay tourism and high-value agriculture will aid these forces. While our remote, landlocked location possibly helped safeguard our sovereignty, it was historically an economic handicap, which can be negated in the 21st century as we shift away from shipping-dependent industries towards production that is relatively weight-less. If well-connected, our location between two of the world's most populous and rapidly advancing economies can be a significant advantage. What we need is to rapidly develop our digital, physical and social infrastructures, and signal to investors that we are open and ready for business.

Credit: Reddit and Big Think

Elevating millions out of poverty is the noblest of pursuits. We have made substantial progress in absolute terms, evident in improvements across a swathe of social indicators. In relative terms, however, there is a crisis of pace and quality; we have fallen considerably behind nations that were comparable merely three decades ago. We must now catch up. With determination and the will to reform, we can -- and will -- make our beloved Nepal a source of pride for us and our posterity. 

Recent rapid readings of interest 

  • Why Political Leaders are so unpopular now (FT)

  • Putin knows he made a mistake (FT)

  • Three trillion hundi and cryptocurrency transactions (Nagarik

  • San Francisco Tried to Build a $1.7M Toilet, it’s Still Not Done (NY Times)

  • Investing in America and Economic Strategy (Twitter)

  • P2P lending and CrowdFunding (Online Khabar)

  • Nepali NRN Citizenship and visa (BBC)

Here are some recent interviews that I have shared on other social platforms, be sure to check them out:

  • With journalist Jyoti Malhotra (India): Why Nepal is hungry for change? (YouTube)

  • With entrepreneur and thinker Murtaza Jarrerjee (Sri Lanka) on myself, Nepal and the world (YouTube)

  • With podcaster Sisan Baniya (Nepal)  (YouTube)

  • At Brown University (USA): The Twin Challenge of Development Catch-Up and Democratic Consolidation (YouTube)

Upcoming topics

  1. NRN Citizenship Issues 

  2. The Coming Digitalization Wave in Nepal

I hope you are as excited about this newsletter as I am. Please feel free to share your thoughts and suggestions on what issues you would like me to think and write about. Your inputs will be immensely valuable to me. 

Warm regards,