Driving a nation in transition for over two decades, a population that is young and restless, the common man looking for answers, a medium that is louder than ever, corruption touching every nerve of the economic mechanism, a failing economy and volatile politics, stands a man who must answer every question, meet every doubt, counter every dissent and move forward. Standing at the helm of the nation is Prime Minister K P Sharma Oli.
Loved and loathed in equal measure, the Prime Minister must fight fragility in health, economics and politics. He is launching nationwide programmes and policies that are met with approval and discontent, is called by some an authoritarian, censored for his socialist principles, and must prove that he is here to stay.
But unscathed, Oli is also recognised as a powerhouse of change…a man who could steer the country to better days; a nationalist with no personal ambition; a leader who demands hard work and effective implementation; a voice that carries wit and weight; a PM who holds the collective attention of 29.3 million Nepalis; and a man who wants to be remembered for his ability to chart a new development course for Nepal.
Business 360 talks to the Prime Minister of Nepal, KP Sharma Oli about his early life, national economy and leadership. Conversation with the Editor, Charu Chadha:
How do you view your political journey?
What began in a remote village of Nepal, the political journey of my life has reached Singha Durbar, the seat of executive power. I was born to a humble family of farmers. In this half a century long political journey, there is a confluence of experiences ranging from living life underground, imprisonment and participation in different political movements.
Currently, I have this opportunity to lead and steer the government of robust mandate having the support of three-fourths of the Parliament. Members of my own party alone constitute two third majority.
Having lived through difficult moments of detention, torture and imprisonment, and having seen calluses on my soles and the palms of my hand, my life’s journey has definitely been interesting. In moments of quiet reflection, life seems like a colourful garden, a seven-coloured rainbow or a painting. This journey has had tempest, silence, sunshine and downpour.
What inspires you to do what you do each day?
Governance means people’s security and welfare, not control and exploitation. The dictum ‘might is right’ is not appropriate. Truth is more powerful than power. Therefore, standing by truth and dauntlessness against power has been my principle.
“Sarve bhavantu, sukhinah sarve santu niramayah (May all be happy, may all be free from illness)” I read this in scriptures and understood its meaning. How ‘joy of all and welfare of all’ is possible? I inferred that this is possible only through the establishment of a prosperous, just and egalitarian society. I then had the chance to read the UN Charter and one of its messages was that belief in supremacy by birth is hypocrisy. This prompted me to think about clan-based monarchical rule of that time.
How people turned poor in this bountiful world? In no way I could believe that people could be poor due to mistakes of a previous life or the will of god. I was curious to know why then is there imbalance and inequality in society. This quest for equality has inspired me to do what I am doing today.
Where did you get your political influence from? What aspects of the Communist ideology inspire you?
My aim is to achieve total transformation of society. Regular and minor changes can be done through other pursuits as well, but total transformation is possible only through politics. And that is why I was perhaps drawn to it. I have always been involved in politics. Marxism’s ‘social justice and equity’ particularly inspired me.
You have stated in an interview that your grandmother was the strongest influence in your life? Could you tell us more about the relationship you shared with her?
I was orphaned at the age of three. My grandmother raised me. She was the embodiment of integrity and purity filled with kindness and humanity. She taught me to stand by truth and be dauntlessness against power. She did not like it if I lied. She was full of wisdom despite never having received any formal education. She cared for me immensely and was always protective.
Maybe I did not get coddled like children in elite families, but whatever love I received was definitely more than what children born during my time could get. So much so, when my grandmother had to go about her work, she would leave a Himalayan sheepdog on guard to take care of me. We used to call the dog Bhote. When I grew a little, the dog would allow me to play in the front-yard but not allow me near the tree, worried probably that I would climb up the tree and fall down. Bhote controlled me sitting near the tree. She barked if anyone touched me. When the dog died, I was deeply shocked and I cried for days. After that I have never owned a dog.
Do you ever recall the days you spent imprisoned? How did the four years of solitary confinement impact you?
Life in prison was my compulsion; it was not a choice. Torture and imprisonment are compulsion. False and baseless allegations aside, my ideas, goals and activities did not warrant torture. It was unjust.
Following imprisonment, I had two options before me: to live or to die. I could not back down from my mission, ideals and pledges. That meant I could not die. I endured every torture and never lost hope. Life in prison was a bitter and unpleasant experience; there was torture and beating, and I was further enfeebled by illness. Death came near many times but I always chose to live.
What does freedom mean to you?
By freedom, I understand civilised, humane and social freedom. Human freedom is more uplifting, it’s more than simply crossing walls or untangling bondages. A human being is a civilised, conscious, self-disciplined and self-controlled creature. It took thousands of years to develop human relations to the level of family and society. This has set family and society into a system. Since childhood, human beings learn self-discipline through this system and arrangement. Human beings are recognised as social beings since social ties bind them. These ties do not bind other animals. Humans get tied in codes of honesty, morality, sociability, religion, duties and pledges. Such bonds are not denial of freedom, but instead manifestation of civilisation and assurance of social accord.
Moreover, autonomy and freedom originate in the same rights which ensure equal human dignity and multidimensional security, acquiring equal rights and equal opportunities. From such equality, human freedom starts and then encompasses broadly defined behaviour towards achieving absolute human rights. In other words, none would undermine or seize others’ rights in any way, under any name and pretext.
I am not talking about hollow freedom devoid of fulfilment of biological, human and just needs. Freedom is hypocrisy amidst wants and deprivation. I, therefore, define actual freedom as total freedom combined of these three elements. I am working for the same.
Your wife has been an integral part of your journey in both private and public life. Can you tell us about her?
I immersed myself in politics in 1968 as a full-time party worker even before completing high school. In 1969 I left home. Since then, the situation was such that I could not have the love and intimacy of family. The support and affection of colleagues and shelter providers is different from that of family. Be it while working as a full-time party worker, living underground, while in prison, the love and camaraderie of colleagues and aides continued. Nonetheless, for a man like me brought up in a greatly harmonious, close and immensely familial environment, that different environment away from family affection and closeness was not easy.
But the path I had chosen compelled me to prepare myself for any kind of eventuality. In 1987, I came out of long imprisonment. And in 1988 Radhika Shakya and I got married. After that, I received deep and sublime love and support from my wife typical of Nepali family culture. I continued to receive unfailing companionship and cooperation in my joys and sorrow, ease and hardships.
My nature of neither dreading adversity nor overly celebrating fine moments perfectly matches with Radhika’s nature. I have received support and company and more than that, care. She has no complains about my ideals, goals and work; but she worries about me over working, the lack of rest and irregular meals. She does that for me to work effectively.
What is your biggest fear?
I learned to be fearless from my grandmother. When I was in difficult situations, I would prepare for worse. I would prepare myself mentally to face adversity. I was prepared to endure unimaginable levels of torture, and such preparation rendered the actual torture ineffectual.
I am a man dedicated to a goal and have pledged not to do evil under any circumstances. On the path I have chosen, I am prepared to see success and failure. I do not fear such things and they do not deter me from my purpose.
As a tiny creature in a tiny moment of time within an infinite continuum, dwelling on a tiny planet within an infinite universe, I do not harbour any illusion of steering the infinite universe myself. Instead, I abide by the duty to perform the best I can in my given position and in my time. I do not fear death and except death, is there anything to fear?
What is your economic vision for Nepal?
Nepal stands today at an important juncture of history. A long and torturous political transition is over and with this, the country has embarked towards political stability. The Constitution has been promulgated incorporating the diverse aspirations of 28 million Nepali people. The process of state restructuring has been accomplished as desired by the people. Fresh elections have been successfully held and governments have been formed at all levels with strong mandates. The first and foremost prerequisite in the country’s development process, the political stability, has thus been achieved.
We are fully aware that political stability and political institutions can sustain only where there is a solid economic foundation. Our focus is, therefore, on economic development. We have set a long term vision towards this end and strategy has been devised to materialise it. Our aim is to meet the criteria for graduating the country from the Least Developed Country status in the next few years and to reach the middle-income country status by 2030. We have pronounced in this year’s annual Policy and Programme that close to double digit economic growth rate will be achieved in this fiscal year, and a double-digit growth rate within five years. Per capita income of Nepali people will be doubled in five years. Opportunities will be provided to all Nepalis to participate, contribute and benefit from economic development. Our Policy and Programme has also underlined that structure of the economy will be transformed to make it more productive, employment generating, self-reliant and export oriented.
Our vision of “Prosperous Nepal, Happy Nepali” is fully aligned with the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals.
[su_pullquote align=”right”]As a tiny creature in a tiny moment of time within an infinite continuum, dwelling on a tiny planet within an infinite universe, I do not harbour any illusion of steering the infinite universe myself. Instead, I abide by the duty to perform the best I can in my given position and in my time. I do not fear death and except death, is there anything to fear?[/su_pullquote]
Realisation of this development vision will require massive investment, both from public and private sectors in infrastructure, industries, R&D and human resource development. And to attract investment, including FDI, appropriate enabling environment needs to be created. We are undertaking required reform measures for this. We have clearly identified our priority areas that include infrastructure, water resources, industries, tourism and agriculture. We seek to mobilise investments from public, private and cooperative sectors in these areas. Foreign investment and resources from the development partners will also be mobilised. Non-Resident Nepalis will be encouraged to utilise their knowledge, skills and capital in Nepal.
What do you believe are the challenges and opportunities of economic diplomacy with the world’s two largest growing economies as our neighbours?
Nepal enjoys good relations with both of its immediate neighbours. Nepal sees the rise of India and China as a huge opportunity. As they develop, their people’s income level goes up and so does the ability of their investors. Increased purchasing power of almost three billion people in our neighbourhood provides a greater market opportunity for our products. The only question is whether we can have the capacity to produce in the required scale or not. Likewise, as the big economies in the neighbourhood expand rapidly, investors there are likely to try new investment destinations and we have an opportunity to make the next door neighbour their preferred choice. Rise of people’s income also means the possibility of growth in tourism industry. This fact is testified by the growing number of Nepal-bound tourists from India and China.
The key challenge on our part is whether we can maintain our pace in order to take the optimum benefits from growth in neighbourhood. We are aware that if we cannot catch up, we will be left behind. As I said, there is a huge market on both sides, but can we develop our productive sector to a desirable level? Can our private sector be strong and competitive enough? Can we, as government, provide the required enabling environment? How we tackle these challenges will, in fact, determine to what extent we will be able to reap benefits from the rapidly growing neighbourhood.
Remittance makes up 32% of GDP and remains the biggest source for the national economy. Where do you think the governments failed in creating opportunities for the youth over the years?
It is true that a big chunk of our youthful population is outside the country, mostly in various countries in the Middle East. Their work is tough, they miss home, they miss family. Had they been able to find jobs at home or have an enterprise, they would have contributed to the country’s economy in a more significant way. Dependence on remittance does not guarantee a country’s long-term economic sustainability. One cannot predict vicissitudes of job markets in destination countries. Also, most of the remittance income goes for household consumption, not in productive sectors.
We are aware that we can only be a proud nation if we are able to give our youth decent jobs at home; only then we can create a sustainable economic base.
A workforce of nearly half a million enters into the job market every year in the country while less than a fifth gets employment. It is not easy to point out one particular reason why we could not expand our economic base in the past and create adequate jobs. However, undoubtedly, on top of the causal factors comes the question of political stability. Political environment determines many things at the end of the day. The advent of democracy in 1990s was an opportune time to start the process of socio-economic transformation. That could not happen. The country then had to reel under the decade-long armed conflict followed by a prolonged political transition of one more decade. During the conflict, the pace of development was reversed and it could not gain momentum during the period of transition and uncertainty. We lost almost three decades.
Now is the time to start the long march to prosperity. And to steer this process, people have overwhelmingly voted us to power. As the leader elected to navigate this process, I am fully committed to do what people want from us.
We talk about bringing in FDI but have moved down in the World Bank Ease of Doing Business Index. How is your government addressing investment insecurities?
We are just in the first year of the current government and reform cannot happen overnight. It might take time to see the positive impacts of the measures we are undertaking and we have planned to undertake. There are several other reports that have acclaimed Nepal’s sincere efforts in taking measures of economic reform including measures that would help in creating investment-friendly atmosphere in the country. When it comes to opening up for international trade and investment, Nepal is, in fact, far ahead of many other countries in the region.
You all know that foreign investors are allowed 100% ownership of a company in almost all sectors and repatriation of capital and profits to the investor’s home country in foreign currency is allowed. Investment security is fully ensured. Arbitration and dispute resolution is done by an independent judiciary. Various bilateral investment protection and double tax avoidance arrangements are in place and more such agreements are being negotiated. Our law accords equal treatment to foreign investment companies and law prohibits any expropriation of privately owned companies. Various incentives have also been provided to investors including tax incentives, VAT, customs duty incentive, concession and benefits. We facilitate land acquisition process for big investment and one window service is provided.
Reform is a continuous process. As we move on, we remain firmly committed to undertaking further reforms to establish Nepal as a destination of choice for investors.
Recently the World Bank has acknowledged our concern over the methodology used while preparing Doing Business Report. I have been informed by the Finance Minister that the World Bank is prepared to review the matter. A technical mission from the World Bank will visit Nepal soon to share and discuss the methodology used to determine rankings in the Doing Business Report.
29% of the population still lives below the poverty line. You have had a hard life as a growing child. If you could effect change immediately, what steps would you take?
Studies and reports have presented varying figures on size of population below poverty line and this may depend on the baseline of calculation. Question about figures aside, truth is that extreme poverty is the stark reality we are facing.
I have seen what economic hardship means and how difficult it means to be poor; not to have food and shelter for yourself and your children, not to have a warm blanket in chilling winter, not to be able to send children to school and above all, to live in despair of the feeling that misery will never end and better days will never come!
People have voted us to power because they trusted that we are the possible change makers. They voted us because they trusted our words that prosperity and better days are possible in our generation, in our time. Economic prosperity is, therefore, the topmost priority of my government.
To this end, the Government aims to bring about total transformation in the area of development policy, strategy, working policy, law, institution, manpower, and resources. We are focused on timely completion of development projects. A Think Tank of experts has been constituted to regularly recommend the Government through study and research on development, construction, security, foreign relations and good governance among others.
We have already initiated programmes that directly affect the most downtrodden people. When I first became the country’s Prime Minister in 2016, one of the announcements I made, for example, was about the replacements of tuins with safe and secure suspension bridges. If you have travelled to remote hills of Nepal, you may have seen the thin wire bridges on which people, including women and children, cling to in order to cross a river. Tuin is not simply a poor structure. In Nepal, a photograph of tuin crossing speaks volumes about destitution, hardship, insecurity, and deprivation. Addressing such hardships of people is my priority and progress is being made.
We have said in our Policy and Programme that we cannot consider Nepal to have developed or moved forward if people from any part of our territory, community or profession lags behind. We cannot consider all Nepalis well-fed if a single Nepali remains hungry. Ordinary Nepali citizens will be at the centre of every activity of this government. Equal opportunity, rights, security and dignity will be guaranteed to all citizens.
Do you believe in the eventual success of the federal structure that has been created?
We all have to keep in mind that federal, democratic, republican system of governance is the core component of our constitutional arrangement as stipulated in the very preamble of the supreme law of the land. And this is the Constitution made for the first time in Nepal’s history by an assembly of the representatives directly elected by people and fully representing the diverse character of Nepali society. The Constitution we have is thus the manifesto of the aspirations of all Nepali people and one of such aspirations was about state restructuring.
The federal structure has been adopted with the logic that such system of governance is better suited to country full of diversity like Nepal and that a government closer to the people could better advance the process of inclusive development.
With successful elections and subsequent formation of governments at all three levels, the foundation of federal structure has now been created. Governments at provincial and local levels are already operational and so are the provincial and local assemblies. All seven provinces have been announced and are implementing their respective policies and programmes. Province and local level legislation process has also started. It might take time to gain speed but things have started to move.
In their own right, all three levels – centre, province and local – have full authority. All organs, entities, structures, and institutions of the state are determined to empower the people, and to build a prosperous and modern Nepal from their respective fields. The Federal Government will pay attention to the development of provinces and local levels, to empower them, and to enhance their effectiveness and dignity.
However, the federal system is a new practice for Nepal. Initially, there might be confusion and bottlenecks, which are natural in every new practice. These will definitely be sorted out based on lessons learned so that machineries from the centre to local level function smoothly and flawlessly. We all have to be mindful of the fact that whatever we do doesn’t undermine sovereignty, political independence and territorial integrity of the country which forms the core of our national interest.
[su_pullquote align=”right”]For us, development interest is of foremost importance. I have said on many occasions that in selecting projects we will be solely guided by our national interest. The so-called issue of debt trap is misplaced in our context.[/su_pullquote]
There are 21 national pride projects being given national priority, but none of them are mega, modern or technologically advanced to bring real change in the national economy… Your thoughts.
The national pride projects are completely aligned with Nepal’s development needs and priorities. The list of the projects include areas like water resourses including hydropower, irrigation and drinking water supply; infrastructure including rail, road and airports; culture and tourism; and quite importantly, environment conservation.
The benchmark of what constitutes mega projects may depend on the size of economy and the magnitude of impacts the particular projects may have on it. For us, these are important projects, the realisation of which has potential to generate huge amount of value addition in multiple sectors. The projects are strategic too. Kathmandu-Terai Fast Track is, for example, going to be the first expressway of Nepal providing enhanced physical connectivity between the country’s capital and the rest of its geography. This will dramatically reduce travel time and freight cost, improve vital supply, and contribute to industrialisation. The North-South road corridors, likewise, are essential component of Nepal’s long term ambition to be the economic hub between the two giant economies in the neighbourhood.
Developmental transformation of Nepal is not possible without properly tapping Nepal’s abundant water resource. The national pride projects include reservoir projects which are essential to ensure round the year energy sufficiency in Nepal. Irrigation projects are critical to transform the agriculture sector, which is the backbone of our economy particularly rural economy.
In short, the national pride projects, once realised, can be game changers in Nepal’s development journey. We understand that in the past progress could not be satisfactory for different regions. But this will change as we are now more focused on results.
How do you view the implication of changes in the taxation system, labour laws, etc. on business?
Our overarching focus is on creating a more business and investment-friendly environment in the country, and boosting the overall economy. To that end, we are taking measures to simplify tax system and make it transparent and predictable. Also, our tax system is devised so as to incentivise investment in priority sectors and export oriented industry. While protecting, promoting and incentivising investment, the responsibility of protecting and promoting welfare of workers also befalls the state. Our labour law is rooted in the effort to strike a balance between the two obligations. And this is not contradictory if we see it in the long term perspective. Workers’ welfare will have positive impact on their productivity and purchasing power, which will instead contribute to the overall strength of economy. Assurance of minimum benefits to workers also contributes to better industrial relations, of which the investors are the ultimate beneficiaries.
It is worthy to mention here that the current labour law is an outcome of years of exercise mutually accepted by both stakeholders – the employer organisations and the trade unions. Our labour legislations have successfully addressed both the concerns – the flexibility of the market and the protection of working people. While the labour law has sufficiently ensured market flexibility, the Contributory Social Security Act, on the other hand, has ensured workers social security.
We have pronounced through our Policy and Programme that private sector will be engaged and encouraged as a significant player of the national economy. An investment friendly environment, conducive labour relations, and protection of investment and profit will be ensured. All kinds of syndicates and cartels will be strictly prohibited. Fair competition will be ensured. We have already taken visible measures in this direction.
The Belt and Road Initiative is being seen as a debt strategy. It covers 65 countries, 4.4 billion people and over a third of the world’s GDP. What are your thoughts on the BRI which is among China’s key foreign policies and tool of geo-economic influence which many believe to be a threat to democracy?
BRI is an important initiative launched by President Xi Jinping with the aim of promoting connectivity and cooperation among the countries in the region and beyond. He has outlined a vision of community of shared destiny. We believe that BRI should be beneficial to participating countries.
You all are aware that Nepal’s development needs are immense. And this cannot take place without investment in vital infrastructure and productive sectors. Connectivity, both internal as well as with neighbouing countries and beyond, remains as the core prerequisite of economic prosperity. Here, our neighbours can help us a lot. They have both resources and capacity to help Nepal achieve its development goals. What we need is to develop a framework of partnership to promote collaboration and cooperation for mutual benefit.
Cross-border connectivity is our top priority. With India, we are working on a number of cross-border connectivity projects that include upgradation of border connecting roads, cross border railways, integrated check posts, transmission lines and air routes. With China, we have discussed developing a multidimensional trans-Himalayan connectivity network. Our two countries are working seriously to establish cross-border railway connectivity, roads connection and cross-border transmission lines. Once realised, these projects will herald a new era of connectivity in neighbourhood, opening up vast opportunities for trade, investment, tourism and people-to-people relations. For us, development interest is of foremost importance. I have said on many occasions that in selecting projects, we will be solely guided by our national interest. The so-called issue of debt trap is misplaced in our context.
What technologies, innovations and policies give you hope for the progress of the national economy?
The most fundamental prerequisite for country’s economic progress is governance. How strong and well-functioning are country’s institutions and how robust is rule of law determines how rapidly progress can be made. In fact, the relation between governance and prosperity is mutually reinforcing and the question of which first is often intricate. Without getting entangled with this intricacy of an academic question, my government is focused on improving governance measures with a firm conviction that such measures serve as a foundation and provide enabling environment for other economic actors to contribute. Strong governance and strong institutions enable smooth functioning of market. We will go for those technologies that are suitable to our condition and needs. Nepal’s abundant hydropower resources offer a good prospect for the development of clean and green technologies, which would immensely contribute to environmental sustainability.
What are your expectations from the Visit Nepal Year 2020?
Tourism is not only a major economic sector of Nepal but also an area with immense potentiality. Our country is exceptionally gifted with nature and cultural treasure. Many of our beautiful spots are yet to be explored and accessed. Even without adequate infrastructure and sophistication, our places have already featured in the top list of various travel related evaluators. While others may have to build spots to engage tourists, we have such spots in large number naturally built. What we lack is adequate infrastructure, facility and due publicity.
And here lies the prime significance of Visit Nepal Year 2020. With enhanced publicity, we aim to host 2 million tourists in 2020 which is roughly double of this year’s number. But more important than the number is the message we want to disseminate to every corner of the world through Visit Nepal Year publicity: that Nepal is the prized destination for travelers as well as investors who want to do profitable business in the travel and tourism industry. This will be an occasion for us to expand the tourism industry to remote corners of the country through destination development programmes. The ultimate objective is to see a greater share of tourism industry in Nepal’s GDP as this is the sector wherein Nepal has unmatched advantage.
What can the common man aspire for today towards a better life?
The most striking beauty of the inclusive, people-centred political system we have created in Nepal is that a person of a humble background like me can rise to the helm of the country’s leadership. And a common person can best understand and have immense empathy for the needs and aspirations of fellow citizens.
Ours are the typical needs of individuals having suffered the pangs of underdevelopment for years, and striving to free themselves from the chains of deprivation. Our dreams are not sophisticated. These are the dreams of freedom from hardship of life, dreams of good food, decent clothes and safe homes, dreams of the state where one should not be worried about healthcare and children’s education, dreams of the state where hardworking people get jobs and entrepreneurial minds get proper environment. As the leader of the 28 million people with these humble dreams, every step of mine is directed to making these dreams come true!
What do you believe to be the most important quality in a leader?
It is not that one particular quality that makes up a perfect leader. A leader is a confluence of multiple attributes. A leader is a pathfinder, a trouble shooter, a team mobiliser, a mass appealer, a unifier and more. S/he is a person of vision and has not only the ability to communicate his vision but also commitment and unswerving will to guide the entire machinery towards the realisation of the vision.
Honesty is the most important attribute of a leader. A good leader is hardworking, honest and true to his words. S/he is a person of integrity and has the willpower to lead by example. A true leader is not intimidated by challenges, and can ignite hope in his/her people even in desperate situation.
[su_pullquote align=”right”]For a leader born out of struggle and hardship, no crisis is intimidating, no adversity is frightening, and no challenge is insurmountable. I work with the firm conviction that every crisis has a way out.[/su_pullquote]
How do you measure success?
I believe honesty is the secret of success. Different people have different success marker depending on where they are, where they want to be, and what they want to achieve.
For me, as the country’s leader, my success would be measured by the positive impact I am able to generate in the lives of people. It can be measured by whether I am able to show hope even in the most difficult situation, whether I am able to instil confidence that better days are coming. As a leader, I was able to do that and therefore, people voted for our party in overwhelming numbers. Through our election manifesto, we made a number of promises: promises of better days; promises of prosperity; promises of a more dignified nation. Our success now will be judged by how much we will be able to achieve under the given circumstances, by how sincerely we make effort to realise the vision we shared.
How important is integrity among the people you work with?
A true leader is someone who is able to lead by example. If a leader cannot do this, s/he loses moral strength and authority and s/he ultimately fails. I am fully mindful of this essential attribute of a leader and have set a high degree of integrity standard in my team as well.
Do you believe in the youth?
Youths are the strength of any society and source of energy. They are the innovators, creators and dreamers. For a country like Nepal, where the population of youth is dominant, the agenda of development and empowerment of youths becomes all the more important. Our country is in the prime stage of realising the demographic dividend and channeling it towards socio-economic transformation of the country. Youth are the driving force in every walk of life including politics. Being fully cognizant of the importance of youths in leadership position, our party machinery has created an enabling platform for the proper grooming of youths. If you see our party leadership, it is a combination of the energy of young leaders and the experience of senior generations.
28 years ago, I established the Democratic National Youth Federation (DNYF) and served as its founding president. The DNYF has won the hearts and minds of the young generation and is still very popular.
Among the many Finance Ministers that Nepal has had, whom do you think did his job right?
Let me begin with ‘Three Questions’:
What is the most important time – the present one;
Who is the most important person – the one who is with you; and
Which job is the most important job– the one you are performing now.
It is not appropriate to single out people as everyone must have done the best they could based on the orientation of the government of the day, ideology as well as the prevailing circumstances. Whenever our party was in government and held the important portfolio of finance ministry, we sent people knowledgeable of the country’s realities and known as good performers. They understood the country’s situation and its needs and tried to address these through the most judicious allocation of available recourses. I can say people we sent to lead the finance ministry were generally popular and did their work successfully.
What is your leadership style?
You should have let others comment rather than ask me to speak about myself. Still, if you insist, I would say that I follow a consultative approach of leadership. As party president, we take decision on issues at various levels of party machinery depending on the gravity of the issue. As the Prime Minister of the country, I have a competent team of advisers whom I consult when necessary. I have my cabinet colleagues who are equally competent in their respective portfolios. For the first time in our governance history, a think tank body has been constituted to advise the government on various policy issues. As I have said earlier, my way is to lead by example. Prior to the election, when detractors sensed the level of popular support that our party was set to command, they tried to associate me with authoritarianism. People did not pay heed to these false allegations. They did not believe that a leader who fought decades for people’s rights and empowerment would turn into an authoritarian. Time has proved that people were right and detractors were wrong. I am committed, hardworking and sincere and so expect similar attributes in my team members.
How do you face challenges, opposition and crisis?
Hardship and struggle are not new to my life. During the Panchayat dictatorship, I fought against it and faced the most torturous imprisonment for 14 years, including four years of solitary confinement. Even after dictatorship was abolished, our struggle continued; the struggle to empower people, struggle against corruption and bad governance, struggle for peace and stability, struggle to protect sovereignty, territorial integrity and dignity of the country. So for a leader born out of such struggle and hardship, no crisis is intimidating, no adversity is frightening, and no challenge is insurmountable. I work with the firm conviction that every crisis has a way out. The only thing is that as a leader, you need to have an unwavering conviction in yourself and your people.
Is the current leadership trend – likes of Trump, Putin, Modi, Xi and yourself– a signal that maybe democracy as we know it has shifted. Your thoughts.
It is not appropriate for me to comment on other leaders, that too the leaders of our friendly countries around the world. They are all popular and respectable leaders in their respective countries. Neither can I compare myself with them as we all are different people.
If the question is about me, I am a democratically elected Prime Minister and have a robust mandate to steer the country’s development process. I am fully committed to do what people elected me for. I am a freedom fighter who spent most of my life in the struggle for Nepali people’s freedom. I am a thorough patriot for whom the country’s interest comes first and foremost.
Hyatt Regency Kathmandu