- Obama takes aim at ‘corporate deserters’
- Dick’s Sporting Goods lays off 478 PGA golf pros
- Senators: Cease-fire must allow Israel to defend against rockets, tunnels
- Sierra Leone doctor fighting Ebola catches disease
- Iraq welcomes Russian fighter jets, helicopter gunships into ISIL fight
- John McCain laments: Obama’s ‘self-pity … is really kind of sad’
- GOP offer to fix VA gives $10 billion in emergency funds
- Paul Ryan offers to repair U.S. economic safety net with a single grant stream
- Kim Jong-un builds bond with Putin: $250M Russia-backed addition to key port opens
- Pope Francis meets Meriam Ibrahim, a Sudanese woman sentenced to death
Future of aid flow concerns Nepal
Question of the Day
Baburam Bhattarai, Nepal's new finance minister, can appreciate the irony.
Even as the onetime Maoist insurgent struggles to modernize the economy of his poor, landlocked Asian nation, the world's greatest champion of free markets and free enterprise is preparing a massive taxpayer bailout of its collapsing stock and credit markets.
"I think the U.S. is moving toward socialism and we are moving to capitalism," he joked in a luncheon interview with editors and reporters at The Washington Times this week.
Mr. Bhattarai, named finance minister in the communist-dominated government that took office in August, said Nepal's relative isolation from the global economy has been a blessing in disguise given the current world financial turmoil. More than two-thirds of Nepal's 29 million people work in agriculture and officials are still trying to rebuild the basics of the economy after a lengthy civil war that resulted in the abolition of the monarchy in April.
"The world economic crisis will affect everybody. Nobody is immune from this," said Mr. Bhattarai, in Washington for the annual meetings of the World Bank and International Monetary Fund.
But he added that the pain may be less for countries like Nepal.
"My own feeling is we are in a periphery economy. Our economy is mostly agricultural and non-monetary, so it is not as integrated with the world economy," he said.
In addition, India, which is by far Nepal's biggest trading partner, also appears to be relatively sheltered from the global economic unrest.
But Mr. Bhattarai said he is concerned that a possible global recession could mean a decline in financial assistance, both from international institutions like the IMF and from individual donors like the United States. The government is seeking nearly $400 million in donor aid to meet its budget plans, he told World Bank and IMF officials over the weekend.
"We have an agenda to develop our industrial economy that we are focusing on," he said. But he said the country wants to promote small enterprise and rural development, a mixed strategy he called "walking with two legs."
He added that Nepal, home to eight of the world's 10 highest mountains, including Mount Everest, is banking on a revival of tourism now that it has achieved political stability.
He noted that even during the worst of the fighting between the government and the Maoist insurgency, "there was not a single foreign national who was harmed."
The IMF last week forecast economic growth of 5.5 percent for Nepal in 2009, far below the double-digit growth rates of other Asian tigers in recent years, but above the estimated 3 percent to 4 percent growth for 2007 and 2008 as Nepal emerged from more than a decade of civil strife.
Mr. Bhattarai said the government's new budget has established six development priorities: agriculture, hydro- power, infrastructure, education, health and industry.
He acknowledged the government still had reservations about economic globalization and the danger that small, poor countries like Nepal could be dominated by large multinational companies.
"On this issue, we do have reservations, but we need investment, we need capital," he said. "So there has to be a balance."
Located between Asia's two booming superpowers, China and India, Mr. Bhattarai said Nepal was watching closely the strengthening of ties between Washington and New Delhi, including the just-approved U.S.-India civilian nuclear agreement. He said Katmandu has long looked to the United States to counter the pressure it receives from its giant neighbors.
"When the U.S. moves closer to India, it tends to be a bad thing for Nepal," he said. "India's policy [for the region] will be the U.S. policy, and the result will not be a balanced package."
About the Author
Raised in Northern Virginia, David R. Sands received an undergraduate degree from the University of Virginia and a master’s degree from the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University. He worked as a reporter for several Washington-area business publications before joining The Washington Times.
At The Times, Mr. Sands has covered numerous beats, including international trade, banking, politics ...
- SANDS: Cadets battle as D.C. summer chess scene heats up
- SANDS: Winners take three paths to the top at the 42nd World Chess Open
- SANDS: Ortiz Suarez wins D.C., Smirin wins the World
- SANDS: Fourth time a charm as Troff captures U.S. junior chess title
- SANDS: Campaigning and competing on Capitol Hill
Latest Blog Entries
Second- and third-stringers eye 2016 if front-runner stumbles
- 'We're coming for you, Barack Obama': Top U.S. official discloses threat from ISIL terrorists
- Obama orders Pentagon advisers to Ukraine
- NAPOLITANO: What if our democracy is a fraud?
- Hamas rejects Kerry's call for cease-fire; Fears grow others could join fight against Israel
- State Department indicates Nouri al-Maliki's days numbered as Iraq prime minister
- Inside China: Massive flight woes and a missile test
- Algerian plane diverted due to storms, second aircraft: 116 missing
- Evidence shows Russia firing artillery into Ukraine: Pentagon
- Obama family set to buy $4.25M desert home in California: report
- Norway expects imminent 'concrete threat' from ISIL terrorists 'within days'
Obama's biggest White House 'fails'
Celebrities turned politicians
Athletes turned actors
20 gadgets that changed the world
Fighting in Iraq