Behind their facade of rugged cheerfulness and straight-backed self-respect, the people of Nepal are some of the poorest in the world. Their per capita income in 2016 averaged a mere US$ 750 p.a.,or about US$2 a day, way below the United Nations ‘poverty line.’
The Nepali economy is stagnating, leadership is self-serving and resources misdirected. Though foreign experts and aid abound, their effectiveness is muted.
Some improvements in child mortality and adult literacy have alleviated some symptoms, but ‘poverty’ remains the biggest problem and casts a giant shadow over Nepal’s spectacular beauty.
Poverty is at its most insidious in the rural areas. In an age of tourism and TV, it is little wonder the people are shifting to the major towns and cities.
Kathmandu (pop. 1 million) is the political, economic, cultural and spiritual capital of Nepal and it is the belief of any Nepali that if they want to get ahead that is where they must be.
Kathmandu, and its surrounding fertile Valley, is constantly growing as the ‘hill people’ flood in to find their fortune. Two million people now cram the Valley and its urban sprawls and help make Kathmandu a most polluted of cities.
Beggars and hawkers, tempo drivers and factory workers, a swirling mass of humanity using every kind of vehicle known to man, swarm through the capital, through its narrow, twisting, teeming alleys and streets, through a haze of smog.
Life is cheap and life is tough and abandoned children and children seeking salvation from rural deprivation are left to fend for themselves on the streets of one of the world’s poorest cities.
Nepal Facts (2016)
Population 29 million (Kathmandu 1 million)
GDP US$24 billion
GDP per head US$840
Religion: 81% Hindu, 9% Buddhist, 4% Muslim.
Industries: Agriculture, textiles, tourism.