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Unfortunate Truth

Issue of July 17, 2020

Unfortunate Truth

Siddhi B. Ranjitkar


The seven o’clock Radio Nepal morning news on July 16, 2020 stated that in response to the media report that the prime minister had 55 million dollars in the Swiss Bank, the office of the prime minister denied Prime Minister Oli having any account in the Swiss Bank, and depositing any amount in it. It is fine. Probably, the office of prime minister might be correct; and we hope that the prime minister in fact has no money deposited in any foreign banks.


Most probably, common folks also would believe in the statement of the office of prime minister, as Prime Minister Oli had repeatedly said that he would not allow anybody involve in irregularities in his administration even though he refrained from taking actions against a former communication and information technology minister for negotiating with a local agent for commission on purchasing a security printing press. In fact, Prime Minister Oli doubted about the credibility of the audio that revealed how the former minister had bargained with the agent for the commission.


The prime minister could take legal or administrative actions or both against the reporters or agency reporting such apparently bogus news that would highly tarnish the political image of Prime Minster Oli that had strived for keeping his image as clean as possible. Legally, Oli could sue the reporter and the agency for attempting to damage his political career publishing the sham news so claiming for the compensation in millions of dollars. Administratively, he could order the local administrative officer to bring the reporter and the agency to justice for falsely reporting the news about the prime minister having so much of money in the Swiss Bank.


Prime Minister Oli did not opt for any one of the possible ways of taking strong actions against obviously the culprits for reporting and publishing apparently the fake news, and demanding or seeking the compensation for the damage they had done to his political career, and for keeping his political image as clean as possible or both means he has left room for anybody to conclude that he might have really such a large amount of money in the foreign bank.


Concerning the curiosity of from where Oli might have garnered so much of money, again folks could derive the conclusive results from the ongoing massive irregularities in the Oli administration. For example, the local media reported quoting the Auditor General’s report recently submitted to the president that the Oli administration had avoided the Public Procurement Act splitting the large projects into pieces for giving in contract at least for NPR 72 billion in the fiscal year 2018 (2075/76). The Oli administration declared that it had spent NPR 10 billion for coping with the coronavirus pandemic but it did not disclose the account. So, some youths took this issue to the streets demanding the transparency of the expenditure. The Oli administration also collected NPR 2 billion from the local donors for the coronavirus but where the money had gone not known, yet. This is only a tip of iceberg, as the budget has the hundreds of loopholes including subsidies on agriculture and fertilizers and on others programs, too for anybody to make money as much as possible.


Some experts and economists believe that at least from NPR 200 billion to NPR 1,000 billion go to the foreign banks for safely depositing in the names of the Nepalese politicians every year. Some development experts questioned how Nepal could complete the large and mega development projects as scheduled when such a huge amount of money allocated to the development projects went abroad.


Not only the Nepalese leaders had stashed away the money in the foreign banks but also they had invested the large amount of money in the large airlines company, large business houses, and companies through the proxy shareholders, as the local media casually reported, and the rumors and gossips went among the Nepalese folks. Such allegations of the politicians hiding the money in foreign banks or investing in the large companies through the proxy shareholders were probably supported by the actions of the Oli administration. For example, the Oli administration had renewed the contract on the Gokarna Resort to the private company even though the previous contract was to expire only after five years. Prime Minister Oli took the plane of the private company to fly to China instead of using the state-owned National Airlines Corporation. These are only two simple examples widely discussed in the media.


What I had been hearing from the friends and colleagues and reading the media reports since the Panchayat period that the folks in power at all levels of the political system had their bank accounts in Switzerland, Singapore, Hong Kong, and in the Indian banks depending on their capacity of accumulating the money even though the Nepalese laws did not permit any Nepalis to hold any bank accounts in any foreign countries.


Surely, the top leaders might have a large amount of money they needed to keep safely for a rainy day. So reportedly, they outsourced the money and parked in the Swiss Bank, as they felt that it was safe for them to have their hard earned money deposited in the bank. Certainly, they could not keep the money in Nepal, as it would be impossible to keep away the money from the eyes and ears of the public in general and the reporters in particular.


Those folks having large amounts of money but not sufficient to deposit in the Swiss Bank, opted for going to Singapore and finding a suitable bank to deposit their money. It was comparatively safe place to deposit the money but not as safe as Switzerland. Some others chose Hong Kong banks for the same purposes. Currently, it might not be so safe as had been in the past.


Finally, the folks having a large amount of money but not sufficient to take troubles to take it to Singapore or Hong Kong obviously went to India, and deposited their so meticulously earned money in one of the safe Indian banks. Probably, they could not convert the Nepalese currency into foreign for depositing it in the countries other than India. That might be another reason for taking their money to India.


From these statements anybody could guess how a large amount of money converted into the foreign currencies had been flown out of the country, as the folks could not keep their money earned not directly but indirectly and probably bypassing the State laws in the country for fear of exposing how they amassed the so much of wealth; so, they were compelled to deposit such large amount of money in the foreign banks going against the then prevailing laws even if the money was supposed to be used for the development purposes in Nepal.


Probably, the practice of taking money from Nepal and depositing it in foreign banks has continued even today. Nepalese politicians need such a large amount of money for running for various offices during the elections. So, politicians might be sincere in their hearts and minds but the elections must have made them shady and fraudulent. Some politicians even directly expressed their opinions that sincere politicians could hardly reach the pinnacle of power even if they reached they could not stay long there. What an unfortunate truth has been for Nepal.


July 17, 2020

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