Thursday, August 22, 2013

November Polls: Who Will Win?

English: Top leaders of Nepali Congress –spoke...
English: Top leaders of Nepali Congress –spokesperson Arjun Narsingh KC, vice presidents Prakash Man Singh and Ram Chandra Paudel and acting president Sushil Koirala—during the Central Working Committee meeting held at its central office in Sanepa, Lalitpur on Wednesday, September 15, 2010. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Jhalanath Khanal said during his New York trip that his party seemed to be leading in 100 of the 240 constituencies in Nepal. Sushil Koirala has claimed his party will win a two thirds majority on its own. Prachanda thinks his party will win an outright majority. The numbers don't add up. All three of them can not be right. Especially when all three have undergone vertical splits. And so all three are poised to do less well than they did in 2008.

The Terai is likely to end up with two provinces, a Madhesh in the East and a Tharuhat in the west with Chitwan in between going to one of the hill states. But the Nepali Congress is not for that. And it is no longer the in power by default party. So I see it doing less well this year than it did in 2008.

Makes me think the Madhesi parties might do better than is being predicted. Although a very, very hung parliament is a foregone conclusion.

Rajendra Mahto to me looks like is in a pretty good position. The leading Madhesi parties all are in a good position.

संघीय समाजवादीसँग उच्चस्तरीय समितिको वार्ता
गोलमेच बोलाउने सैद्धान्तिक सहमति
Smartphones cause rise in myopia: Surgeon
The UML’s response to our demands has been half-hearted
UCPN (Maoist) ‘gains ground’ in Madhes
Giri says no to medical check-up
Madhes parties for 10 provinces, parliament system of gov
Madhesi parties gear up poll preparations

Poll date not set in stone

Khobhari Raya joins TMDP-N
China and India 'water grab' dams put ecology of Himalayas in danger
Congress finds Dahal's strategy dubious
Madhesi students burn CDC report
Dishanirdesh with Puspa Kamal Dahal- August 8, 2013
असन्तुष्टलाई ल्याउन हदै लचिलो बनौं : कांग्रेस
एक्लिए राजकिशोर
Race for NRNA president heats up
Design for delimitation
Madhes parties reposing trust in hill community
Identity federalism, inclusion Madhes parties’ agenda
Madheshi parties gearing up for November polls
Badri Mandal to join Mahato-led SP
Raut new MPRF-N deputy chief
Ramanand Mandal joins SP
Madhesi parties not yet prepared for polls: Lal
Insensitive Bihar ministers: Who wants Nitish Kumar as PM?

Police steps up vigilance against JP Gupta for hobnobbing with armed outfits

Don't misread bid to unify Madhesi forces: TMDP
थारूलाई मधेशीबाट टाढा पार्ने काम गच्छदारले गरेका छन् : सञ्जयकुमार साह (नेता – सद्भावना पार्टी)
संजय साह सद्भावनामा प्रवेश

Sadbhavana seeks unification with TMPD
'Polls against nat'l interest' : Oli
MPRF-N leader shot at

SC vacates interim order against voter registration without citizenship cards

Mess in Maoists
Alliance with ex-king possible: Baidya
MPRF-D leader Shah quit party
HLPC positive towards our demands: Jha

Absolute anarchy
चुनावी उदासिनता
वरिष्ठ नेताको प्रस्ताव स्वीकारेको छैन : भट्टराई

संविधानसभासँगै स्थानीय चुनाव गरौं: एमाले
कस्तो छ एमालेको प्रारम्भिक चुनावी समीक्षा ?
Dishanirdesh with C.K Lal- July 18, 2013
एमाले पनि मधेस केन्द्रित अभियानमा
Armed Tarai outfits meet in Patna
Madhes parties won't be bedfellows with NC: Analysts
Bahun, Kshetri communities demand indigenous status
Dahal stands no chance in Madhes: Nidhi
Nepal: Dahal wants to prove Madhesi leaders inept, claims Nidhi
NC poll campaign in Saptari

Country can not develop by belittling historical roles of 'Khas/Kshetris'
Mahato announces not to hold ministerial posts in future
UML will forge alliance with small left parties, democratic forces: Khanal
Gachchhadar expresses reservations over SC order
Mao advised Nepal to strive for economic strength

Obama: Immigration Reform Will Miss August Deadline, Reiterates Need For Citizenship
Bill Gates invites us all to read Jared Diamond's The World Until Yesterday
Kingpin capture shows role of U.S.-trained Mexican marines

Dahal sends letter to Baidya for formal talks
Bhattarai to get ceremonial post of ‘senior Maoist leader’
Big four pledge to prepare draft of constitution within 6 months
'Don' Ganesh Lama sent to judicial custody

तमलोपा नेपाल र दुई सद्भावना एक हुँदै
मधेसका शीर्ष नेतामाथि भौतिक धम्की चेतावनी
Madhesi forces air their dirty linen in public

Solar System Has Trailing Tail, Just Like Comet
Madhesi leaders differ on election issues

Fireside with Upendra Yadav- July 8, 2013
विवाद टुंग्याउन दाहालका यस्ता चार विकल्प
CA polls, alliance with UCPN (M) Baidya’s agenda

Possibility of Madhesi parties' unification slim
Maoists, Madhesi against polls: Gautam
Dropbox aims to replace the hard drive altogether
Is cat poop dangerous?
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Tuesday, August 20, 2013

A 30 Year Gameplan For Nepal

Deng Xiaoping
Deng Xiaoping (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
(written for Vishwa Sandesh)

A 30 Year Gameplan For Nepal
By Paramendra Bhagat (

It is possible for Nepal to become a developed nation in less than 30 years from now. China started running hard around 1980 when the pragmatist Deng Xiaoping took over. A few years from now China will have become a bigger economy than America, adjusted for purchasing power. Nitish has been Chief Minister of Bihar for less than 10 years and Bihar has become unrecognizable. His formula is simple: basic law and order, basic infrastructure, a check on corruption from the top.

Secularism is an achievement. Ending the monarchy is an achievement. Democracy is an achievement. Federalism is an achievement. A constitution written by elected representatives is an achievement. But Nepal has become what Bihar used to be notorious for. The law and order situation is very weak. Both petty crime and organized crime have taken root in the country over the past few years. Once a constitution is in place and there are duly elected representatives at all levels of government the law and order situation should improve, but it will not happen on its own. The political will has to be there.

India is not growing as fast as it was growing only a few years back. China also has slowed down. But this slowdown is temporary. Nepal is lucky to be situated between India and China. All it has to do is get the basics right – basic law and order, basic infrastructure – and it will start moving ahead fast just for being sandwiched between India and China.

Hydro is the top sector. All the political leadership has to do is provide basic law and order and put in place the right policy framework that is super friendly to foreign direct investment (FDI). Once you get those right that will also work wonders for the tourism sector. Looks like all the government of Nepal has to do is provide law and order and then get the hell out of the way. Although there is plenty of potential for agriculture as well as industrialization, a country like Nepal should learn from the mistakes of the west and seek the benefits of organic farming and clean energy fueled smart industrialization. Smart industrialization is one where software is used every step of the way.

The Terai is the bread basket. It also houses the major industrial centers in the country. But the hills and mountains can grow food items that the Terai can not: apples and oranges come to mind, tea and coffee come to mind. With the right infrastructure Udaypur, Chitwan, and Surkhet could all be major industrial hubs. With good roads, electricity and broadband industrialization can be taken to remote hill and mountain locations.

But the biggest long term focus has to be on the service sector. Tourism, finance and software come to mind. And there you have to invest in people if you want to do well as a country. You invest in education, and you invest in health. There I really like what they did in Cuba. If Nepal could learn to emulate law and order from Bihar, and the utter friendliness to FDI from China, and make major strides on basic education and basic health like Cuba under Castro, or like Bihar under Nitish Kumar, double digit growth rates can be taken for granted.

If Prachanda is the next Prime Minister of Nepal (no matter who it is I foresee a coalition government in the country for a long, long time) I would hope he helps brings about the constitution in a hurry, works hard on basic law and order – put an end to the mafia raj – and pulls a double whammy of enacting a FDI-friendly policy framework while investing in human capital on a war footing. Do what they did in Kerala: give the country a 100% literacy rate. Only don’t repeat the business mistakes of Kerala. Or all your educated people will end up in Dubai.

We live in a global world. The first few waves of FDI that China started receiving after it started opening up in 1980 mostly came from the Chinese diaspora. There is a lesson for Nepal there. Offering dual citizenship to Non Resident Nepalis is a no brainer. Do it. Make it happen. That is one of the most FDI friendly moves the country can make. India is doing it, and they are glad they are doing it. Take a look and see it is working wonders.

At the high end you make it possible for companies to create wealth. Those companies pay taxes. With that money you invest in education and health and credit for everybody. You have to take care of that entire loop, and keep expanding the cake. Deng Xiaoping understood that. It is good to aspire to be rich, he said. He did not say, let’s hang the rich.

Manmohan Singh opened up India as Finance Minister around 1991. Only a few years back India was looking at near double digit growth rates. Nitish has done one better in Bihar. He has exceeded China’s growth rates. And Bihar is a poor, land locked, flood prone state. There is light at the end of the tunnel for Nepal.
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Feeling Intense About Nepal Hydro

Nepal topography. The green/yellow zones hold ...
Nepal topography. The green/yellow zones hold the Inner Terai valleys. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
(published in Vishwa Sandesh)

Feeling Intense About Nepal Hydro
By Paramendra Bhagat (

I harbor pretty intense feelings about Nepal hydro and hopefully I have been infecting some of the people around me.

Nepalis grew up being fed the potential of Nepal hydro. But if the country’s capacity is to produce 50,000 MW (some estimates put the capacity at 200,000 MW) then less than 1% has been produced so far, less than 500 MW. Most of what has been produced has been at the initiative of the government of Nepal with funding from entities like the World Bank, the Asian Development Bank and the like. But some small projects have made headway recently through efforts by private individuals in Nepal. That is commendable. There is some serious Chinese and Indian interest in the sector as well. China is especially to be watched. Some Chinese companies look like might swoop in and grab some really big projects.

And then there is the NRN effort. The NRNA is a non profit. It can not be making for profit moves. But it has incorporated a for profit company. That company I believe is investing in one small project in Nepal. That effort is commendable. But I can’t think of one Nepali in NYC who could put a million of his or her money into a project in Nepal when hydro projects routinely ask for tens of millions of dollars. Appealing to the patriotism of the global Nepali population has huge limitations.

My effort is in the hard core for profit sector, the shark eat shark world of global finance. This is early innings. From 500 MW to 50,000 MW might be two decades worth of work. I am going to start out by being the guy who raises money, but down the line my company is going to provide A to Z solutions. My multi-national corporation is also going to do construction work for the dams in Nepal. Fundraising is not going to be enough fun for too long.

And why stop at Nepal? There are hydro prospects in India, in Pakistan, in Brazil. Clean Energy is not limited to hydro. There is wind, there is solar. There are several continents to explore. But one step at a time.

One guy said, but why have not Binod Chaudhary or Upendra Mahato invested in Nepal hydro? Good question. Nepal hydro is a tough nut to crack. Whoever cracks up the Nepal hydro code is going to be bigger than Binod Chaudhary or Upendra Mahato. There is your answer.

My hydro team is going to be the top Nepal hydro team in New York City. I am smart, I am hard working, I am a super networker, I can penetrate Indian circles easily for being half Indian, I speak a few languages, I am no hydro philanthropist or hobbyist, as in I am not some full time lawyer, engineer, doctor, life insurance agent, peddler, business hawker, or whatever trying to wing hydro on the side during nights and weekends. Hydro for me is a serious career move. It is going to be getting full time like attention from me. It is between that and my software interests. If you are not going full time with it, it will be hard for you to compete with me. You might as well bring your projects to me for your small cut. Or you could languish like about 200 Nepalis in New York City who are each carrying PDFs of hydro projects in their email accounts. Those project PDFs are not wine. They don’t get better with time.

Funding necessarily has to be a package deal. Investors in NYC are capable of fully funding, but that’s not the point. If you have local private investors in Nepal and local and regional banks involved that builds trust. Imagine a scenario where a 10 MW project has an ask for $15 million. $7 gets raised in Nepal and the region. $8 gets raised in NYC. Of that $8 million, $1 million gets raised among Nepalis in the city. I can easily think of 20 Nepalis who could put in 50K each if they were interested, several could put much more. I really like the idea of raising 1,000 dollars each from about 100 Nepalis in the city.

But when none of the money has been raised, I ask the Nepal team to find me 10 Nepalis they might know in NYC who would be willing to put 1K each for shares worth 2K in the project. This is not about the money. 10K is not going to move the project. This is about social capital. Those ten people are going to help keep the communication between me and my local team and the Nepal team as smooth as possible. It is also a vote of confidence in Nepal’s hydro potential. As for that million to be raised from among Nepalis, I have been advised that has to be the very final step in the fundraising. Nepalis are going to come in, but not at the beginning. That makes sense. Can’t blame the local Nepalis for wanting to be the icing on the cake. After all, they have some claim to the country.

Investing is for those who have money to spare. If you are making below minimum wage in the shadow economy, chances are hydro projects are not of investment interests to you. That is understandable. Or even if you are making six figures but you have been living beyond your means, chances are you will yawn at the prospect of hydro projects.

And then there is sheer inertia in segments of the community. I went to meet someone. After some small talk I brought up the topic. I’d like to talk to you about Nepal hydro for a few minutes, I said. The guy paused for a few split seconds and said, “Please finish the tea and leave.”
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Monday, August 12, 2013

Indra Tamang

I read Indra Tamang's entire blog yesterday, like every single blog post, how about it? And I left a comment at the bottom of each post.

I called up a mutual friend to ask for Indra's number. In less than 15 minutes I was on the phone with Indra who gave me his email address over the phone. Within minutes his online world opened up for me. He had a blog, wow, and photo albums on Picasa. I went through all the pictures. Then I started reading his blog.

I was looking for his number because he popped up on my list of about a dozen Nepalis in the city to approach for my Nepal Hydro Seed Fund. But before you know I was reading up blog post after blog post of his. I was gripped. A pretty good picture of who he was a person and what his story had been going back decades emerged from the posts. I did take a break and went for a long walk in between. But by the time I was done it was two in the morning. I emailed him and our mutual friend to share the news: Hi, I just finished reading your entire blog.

He was nice enough to spend a few hours with me this morning. We had a wonderful conversation. He is a good Buddhist.

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Sunday, August 11, 2013

Investment Opportunities

Borderless Investments
Borderless Investments (Photo credit: mars_discovery_district)
(published in Vishwa Sandesh)

Investment Opportunities
By Paramendra Bhagat (

Your checking account gives you zero interest. The money is safe, but it is not growing. Your savings account famously gives you 1-2%. It is practically zero. Government issued bonds are safe but they also give returns in the 4% range only. That has been Madonna’s favorite thing to invest in. She did not need the money to grow, she knew she was going to make plenty of her own money; she just needed it to be safe.

If you invest in the American stock market in a sample basket of companies, say in a fund that is tied to the S&P 500 or the NASDAQ, in the short run you might lose or gain money. A few of your stocks might do spectacularly well, or might see a spectacular nosedive all the way to the company going down the tube and your losing all your money. But if you are not going to speculate daily, if you are not going to walk in and out every few years, if you are going to leave your investments for the long run of something like 10 or 20 years then you can expect an annual return of something like 10%. At that rate your money doubles every seven years. So 10,000 dollars will have become roughly 40,000 dollars in about two decades.

The mega recession of 2008 busted two major myths. The big one was that governments don’t go belly up, because people will always pay taxes. But country after country in Europe did go belly up. Another myth though a casualty of ups and downs in the housing market pretty regularly saw a major jolt was that real estate is a good investment because no matter what you will still have your house. Well, what if that house now has a value of half of what you paid for. Was that still a good investment?

The real estate sector in Nepal is a major hindrance to productive avenues of investment. People go abroad, do hard labor, they save, and they send money back to Nepal. Quite a lot of that money goes into real estate. People really like the idea of owning a house. It gives them a sense of belonging. There is this one small corner of the earth that they own. That brings solace. And since buying a house in Nepal is not like buying a house in America where you keep making rent like payments for 30 years, buying a house pretty much leaves you high and dry. Perhaps people feel once they have enough to eat, buying a house is next, and some day they might buy shares in companies. As the Nepali economy matures there will be more productive ways to invest than buying a piece of land and putting a house on top of it.

Things get wilder. A hydro project in Nepal might give an annual return of 30%. At that rate money doubles every two and a half years. So your 10,000 dollars will have become two and a half million in those same two decades. As in, a 30% growth rate is substantially more than the 10% growth rate.

I think it is a very good idea for Nepalis in New York City to invest in hydro projects in Nepal. You keep getting returns for 30 years at a handsome rate of 25-35%. I think that could mean a retirement scheme to many people.

My Nepal Hydro 20K Seed Fund
Virtual Mall

But not even 30% is wild enough. The first person who invested in Google put in 100,000 dollars. The two Google founders (they were PhD students at Stanford) were on to see a professor of theirs. A friend of the professor happened to be sitting there. He overheard the conversation. That sounds interesting, let me just write you a check, but I have to leave now, he said. That money became a billion and a half dollars in about eight years. At 10% money doubles in seven years. If the money went from being 100,000 dollars to 1,500,000,000 dollars in eight years, what kind of growth rate is that? You do the math. Looks to me like the money grew 15,000 times.

But then Google founders are rare people. It is hard for them to show up, and it is very hard to get to meet them at that early stage. And most people will not, do not recognize them at that early stage. I mean, Yahoo did not. Yahoo at the time was what Google is today. The Google guys wanted to sell their search engine to Yahoo and be done with it. Yahoo refused to buy. We already have a search engine of our own, they said.

If you have 100,000 dollars to invest, put 10% of that into a checking account, which is practically cash, and put 10% into something high risk and high reward like an early stage Google. Investing is a spectrum. You play partly safe, but partly you go wild with the money. But then some people go largely wild. When Larry Ellison, the founder of Oracle and my personal favorite character in tech, was worth 100 million dollars, he still borrowed money from the bank for his personal expenses, since he knew his ownership of Oracle would grow much, much faster than whatever the bank charged in interest, and he was so very right.

I think pretty much every Nepali in New York City has the option to invest at least a thousand dollars. You bring together 100 people and that is 100,000 dollars. That is not big money, but that is no chump change either. All should attempt financial literacy. Good investment ways come with some practice.

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