Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Q) Has democracy been helpful to reduce poverty in Nepal, How?

It is not only defining poverty which is contested, the way that poverty is measured is also problematic. There were times, when poverty was measured based on income, but the situation is changing. Sen (2006) argument, “poverty must be seen as the deprivation of basic capabilities rather than merely as lowness of income” (p.87) depicts the changing scenario. By, deprivation of basic capabilities, Sen means, deprivation from social and political opportunities and options. Poverty, present days, is generally measured in two ways viz. International Poverty Line and Living Standards Measurement Survey Methodology (LSMS); both methodologies are suggested by World Bank.

For democracy, in case of Nepal, time after 1990 is taken as democratic period while before 1990 is taken as non-democratic period. Though, 10 years after 1951 was also a democratic period, this will not be taken into consideration in this answer.

Now, to compare the poverty in democratic and non-democratic period, data of 1995/96 representing democratic period and data of 1984/85 representing non-democratic period has been taken, in a table.

S.N

Village Area

Terai

Hill

Mountain

Nepal

1

1984/85

34.5

52.7

44.1

43.1

2

1995/96

37.3

52.7

62.4

46.6

S.N

Urban Area

Terai

Hill

Mountain

Nepal

1

1984/85

24.1

14.5

-

19.2

2

1995/96

-

14.5

-

17.8

S.N

Nepal

Terai

Hill

Mountain

Nepal

1

1984/85

34.5

50.0

44.1

41.4

2

1995/96

36.7

50.0

62.6

44.6

Table: Population under Poverty Line in % [Sorce: WB, 1999] (Adhikari, 2006, p.63)

The data shows, despite democracy in the period from 1990-1996, the poverty has actually increased from 41.4% to 44.6%. There can be various reasons for the increase in poverty. First, may be because the democracy was not institutionalized by 1996. Second, may be because of corruption by the so-called champions of democracy. Third, may be because of unequal access of citizens to power and resources.

There can be other reasons as well. But, the data further verifies Sen’s argument on how democracy works? According to Sen (2006), “democracy does not serve as an automatic remedy of ailments as quinine works to remedy malaria; the opportunity it opens up has to be positively grabbed in order to achieve the desired effect” (p.155).

Also, the decrease in poverty of Urban Areas of Nepal proves that development is positively related with access to power and resources.

References

Sen, A. (2006). Development as Freedom. New Delhi: Oxford University Press.

Adhikari, J. (2006). Nepalma garibiko isthiti: etihansik bibechana. In B. Gautam, J. Adhikari, and P. Basnet (Eds.), Nepalma garibiko bahas (pp. 49-67). Kathmandu: Martin Chautari.

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