Saturday, April 30, 2016

About Non-Resident Nepalis (NRNs)

[This piece is based on a recent interview of Dr. Sesh Ghale, President, Non-Resident Nepalis Association (NRNA) on Sagarmatha Television by prominent telejournalist, Mr. Jibram Bhandari.]

It was inspiring to listen to Dr. Ghale's quiet succinct answers to the probing questions posed by Jibramji. Dr. Ghale, one of the ten richest men in Australia, a Russia-trained engineer who started his working life in the Nepali government's Road Department, is in the process of building a 5-star hotel in Kathmandu. He stated frankly that most investors would have cut their losses and left after last year's earthquake, the Madhesi/India blockade and the general lack of investment incentives from the government. But he wants to give back something to his motherland, so he continued.

Excluding those in India, there are more than 4 million Nepalis working abroad, in Malaysia and the Middle East (Qatar, Dubai, Saudi Arabia, etc.). NRNA's membership is only 50,000 and efforts are being made to increase this. It was apparent that there are NRN associations in various countries who shy away from placing themselves under the NRNA umbrella. The remittance sent home by the workers in Malaysia and the Middle East account for 50% of Nepal's GDP. The government has yet to take the lead in assisting these workers, mostly menial labourers and security guards, with issues such as insurance and training. Dr. Ghale emphasized that this is the government's responsibility, not NRNA's. Far too many instances exist where there is a confrontational relationship between workers and the Nepali Embassies in their country of work.

To the question regarding what is the main bottle-neck to foreign/NRN investment, Dr. Ghale categorically said that a major disincentive is the bureaucracy. To another question asking his opinion on a common view that NRNs spend their productive years abroad and come home "to die" so why should they get any benefits, the answer was interesting. The vast majority of NRNs who retire here are quite well off and do not seek any local benefits. On the contrary, they can contribute expertise and even finances towards development. So any hostility towards them is quite misplaced.

Another issue covered was the young retirement age of civil/government servants in Nepal. In
Australia, it seems they work even up to 70 years of age as long as they are able and can contribute.

As regards post-earthquake rebuilding efforts, NRNA has allocated Rupees 4,20,00000/- (USD approx. 400,000) towards the construction of 1,000 houses in Laprak, near the epicenter of the quake, to make it a model village.

The issue of dual citizenship for NRNs was only briefly touched upon. If I heard correctly, NRNA is not pushing for this at this time. Nepal does not yet allow dual citizenship. A child usually takes on the citizenship of the father, whether Nepali or expatriate. This has forced many single women, whose foreign husband/partner have left them, to raise children without citizenship. On the other hand, I understand dual citizenship would create a flood of new citizens along the southern border with Nepali/Indian nationalities - a political quagmire. I wish the dual citizenship issue was dealt with more thoroughly in the interview.

On the whole I laud both interviewee and interviewer for an informative as well as inspirational, given Dr. Ghale's life story, interview.


Subodh Rana said...

Good that successful NRNs still think Nepal is a viable business proposition. Please read my earlier musings

Birat Simha said...

Very fascinating reading about the history of "lahureys" in your blog, Subodh dai. As pretty much a lahurey myself, having lived 35 years abroad studying and working with the UN, I feel strongly that NRNs have the potential to contribute a lot to the development of this country. I understand, currently, NRNs have all rights here except the right to vote. True?

Birat Simha said...

BTW, I like your definition of "true Lahureys" - the almost half a million labour manpower export to Malaysia and the Middle East.

Govind said...

The social and mental cost of migrant labor is one aspect that needs to be discussed.So many children grow up without one of their parent present and so many marriages destroyed and land repossessed by unscrupulous money lenders when salary of the workers is denied or delayed. The psychological problems they often have is a burden they and their family carry.For every one success story there are many tragedies that go unreported.

Birat Simha said...

The bottom-line solution, Govind, is to provide in-county employment to stem the outflow of labour. But is New Nepal up to the task?

Kurt Kreznar said...

Four million expatriates out of a total population of twenty-eight million, combined with an open border to the south? Wow. Toss in the challenging criteria defining citizenship along that border and you have to wonder what it will mean to be Nepalese in the future, both politically and culturally.

Hard to get your head around, at least for an outsider.

Birat Simha said...

Thank you for your perceptive comment, Kurt. You are right; we live a precarious life here in terms of sovereignty as well as development.

Subodh Rana said...

The Constitution grants dual citizenship to all Nepalese except citizenship of SAARC countries for obvious reasons. They have the right to abode and ownership, come and go without visa, invest, etc. but do not have the right to vote. This has got to be implemented in practice as quickly as possible. The "umbilical cord" needs to be strengthened.

Birat Simha said...

Great news about the new constitution and dual citizenship. Is this in effect though? Is your grandniece eligible?