One thing that gets the sharks in gobarment all excited about SAARC Summits is that they can award contracts bypassing and underpassing due process to erect arches heartily welcoming guests to The Country of Marx, Lenin, Mao and Buddha, patch potholes in the middle of rush hour, and paint sidewalk railings in driving rain. The contractors make a killing, and grabberment officials laugh all the way to the ATM.
The same is happening this week with the Bifsteak Summit when HOGs (heads of government) hugged each other after descending on us like a ton of bricks. And what a windfall it has been for our national economy. Complete income figures are still being tallied, but Nepal’s Multi-dimensional Poverty Index is estimated to have grown by 0.75 percentiles just on the wealth that has been created by sub-contractors who worked night and day, rain or shine, through hell or high water, to put up corrugated tin fencing around Tin Coonay, adorning it with artistic depictions of the national flower, the knational knife and various endangered wildlife hunted to near extinction. Pity, because if it hadn’t been for the fence visitors could have caught a glimpse of Nepal’s own Bermuda Triangle.
The Mandala has been decorated at night with flashing outdoor fairy lighting, which means the City Fathers have finally given a green light to declare it a red light district in honour of the visiting dignitaries.
But there was a fly in the oinkment: HOGs didn’t have a venue for their Bifsteak Retreat. There was a strong lobby from certain financiers to have it in Gokarna Forest Resort (Motto: “It is a jungle out here.”)
However, given the state of the road, and since the Thai leader is reportedly prone to carsickness, the PMO proposed to fly everyone out on the Army’s MI-17. But despite the proven warhorses being flown by Nepal’s battle-hardened pilots, HOGs all took a rain check, and beat a hasty retreat to Soaltee’s spa where they are taking a collective soak even as we speak.
This was really bad news for people living on Sankhu side because they thought that their road would be finally fixed. Now, it looks like they will have to wait 12 more years for the next SAARC Summit for the potholes to be repaired.
The important take-away from all this is that Nepal’s economic diplomacy henceforth should concentrate on hosting more international conferences in Nepal (Motto: ‘We Have the Sherpas for Your Summit’) and spread the venues around the country so that all municipalities get a chance to be equally spruced up. Here are some possibilities: