It has long been a platitude to hear that development is lagging behind due to the absence of democracy or socialism, or even communism. This is nothing but a fallacious argument, at least in our case. The principal cause of underdevelopment in our country is the absence of work ethic, especially among those involved in the works of the public domain. Many nations have prospered because a sincere sense of work ethic guides their leadership; their workers are dedicated to the assigned tasks; their general people apply the principles and values of work ethic in life. China, Japan, and Nordic countries are obvious examples of development and prosperity propelled by work ethic.
Work ethic is a term that denotes a set of principles and values concentrated on the importance of work manifested by the desire to work and the determination not to derail from the assigned responsibility. This urge to work comes from the inner heart as a triggering force that rouses people to work to improve private or public life. This set of ethical standards is marked by honesty, punctuality, reliability, dedication, productivity, cooperation, and self-discipline in people who are set to work.
As we all know, people work mainly for two reasons. They like work urged by the desire to work because no one can remain idle. They also work driven by necessity because they cannot earn their livelihood without work. While the first is a cultural trait, the second is economic. In recent years, however, the work culture in Nepal has turned the other way, so to speak. Instead of working with a sense of responsibility, officials in the public domain, in particular, allegedly work with the motif of personal gain. Working for the public interest has almost disappeared.
Surprisingly, we do not hesitate to blame one system or the other for this unfortunate situation. Blaming the autocratic system for our underdevelopment sounds pleasant, but to no avail. We still mistakenly think we will prosper once we have the right system in place. The existing context indicates quite the contrary. We have not flourished after the restoration of democracy as the reformists promised in 1990. Nor have we advanced after establishing the republic in 2008, as the revolutionists hypothesised. Can we prosper if we establish communism, as Marx would put it? The dogmatic communists would vehemently claim so. But it is not likely to happen if work culture does not exist in that system either.
We could have already transformed our country if we had worked ethically. In essence, we are driven by the false consciousness that the ideologues construct without our knowing. The absence of a work ethic is thus to blame, not this or that political system. Work ethic is a moral value like any other political or religious creed. Despite having a religious undertone, the Protestant Work Ethic tremendously changed European countries. The American dream was a drive to work in independent America, which quickly developed after the Declaration of Independence. It is assumed that China is developing as much guided by Confucian Work Ethic as it is doing by the sense of socialism. India is also growing because a sense of independence has driven its people after the colonial power returned from that land.
It thus suggests that every nation needs a national drive, whether spiritual or political, to inspire its people to work. But regrettably, Nepal is lacking work culture because no national drive encourages us to work like in developed countries. We have not been serious about building a national character where work ethic must be at the core. Nostalgically put, despite being unpopular, there was rather a national character during the autocratic feudal system where workers used to work lest they might be sacked from the job. But after the restoration of democracy, people have experienced full freedom, which has often been misused, being its byproduct, in several domains.
The work culture has not evolved, chiefly because the leading class people have failed to build a national character with a work ethic despite their repeated promises. Due to its lack, even competent people are reluctant to work sincerely, let alone incapable and dishonest ones. There are at least two obvious reasons for lacking a work ethic in our country. Of the two, one is the loss of patriotic sentiment that we once rather had. Among the working people, youths are the biggest population who want to leave their motherland and go to foreign countries, apparently never to return. Instead of working in their motherland, they fly to foreign countries where they work hard only for survival.
Rule of law
Shouldn't we wonder why they work happily in the new land, whereas they were reluctant to work while they were in their homeland? The youths are not to blame for this. Could they not work well in their homeland if they had a congenial environment at home? What is lacking is a work-friendly national environment for making the youths stay. Its lack is the very essence of our problem. The malpractice of democracy is another cause of the absence of work ethic in this country. No matter how loudly the leaders shout that they are revolutionary, their practices are contrary. Most regretfully, even the revolutionists have not been working for the public good, not to mention conservatives who like to maintain the status quo.
Nothing more is essential than strictly implementing the rule of law where the wicked are punished and the virtuous are rewarded. More than three decades have elapsed without inflexible vision, targeted mission, and common national goals for development and prosperity except sporadic mentions in their documents. This is a most deplorable condition. Unless we correct these social evils, we cannot expect positive changes. We do not need any creeds to swallow without nutrition. Instead, we need a decent work ethic that inspires us to work for our country's rapid development and prosperity, which would make people happy.
(The author is the chairman of Molung Foundation. email@example.com)