Nepal is a stunningly beautiful country with a rich cultural history. The natural and architectural wonders are truly breathtaking. The Nepalese people are gentle, dignified and respectful. Their traditional greeting says a lot about their nature: “Namaste” I bow to the god within you.
Understanding a little of the cultural and ethnic diversity, and appreciating Nepal’s development under the shadows of neighbouring giants India and China, enables one to see how the country has arrived at its current situation. Nepalese culture has evolved from a diversity of ethnic, tribal and social groups. From 1,000 BC scores of small kingdoms ruled the country. By 1482 there were three main kingdoms located in and around Kathmandu. In 2008 the monarchy was abolished and Nepal was declared a republic. The past 30 years has been a tumultuous time in Nepal’s history and stability is yet to be achieved.
Nepal is known as the Birthplace of Buddha (Siddharta Gautama 563 - 483 BC). In the late 11th century there was a massive increase in Hinduism due to increased contact with India. Nowadays 86% of the population are Hindu, 8% Buddhist and 3% Islam. In reality, everyday religious practices generally represent a melding of Buddhism and Hinduism – which makes for all the more festivals and celebrations!
The population of Nepal is approximately 30 million. Unemployment is at 46% and poverty at 38%. In 2008, 24.7% of the population lived below the poverty line. Nepal’s GDP is made up of approximately 35% agriculture, 49% services and 16% industry. Agriculture employs 76% of the workforce, services 18% and manufacturing or craft-based industry 6%.
Nepal’s workforce of about 18 million suffers from a severe shortage of skilled labour. Adult literacy is 49%. Of these 65% are male and 35% female. Historically, opportunities for women and girls including education and employment have been significantly resticted.
The highest mountains in the world are found in the Himalayan mountains of Nepal. The spectacular landscape and diverse, exotic cultures of Nepal represent considerable potential for tourism, but growth in the hospitality industry has been stifled by ongoing corruption and recent political events. The rate of unemployment and underemployment approaches half of the working-age population. Infrastructure is abysmal water drips out of the mountains, wind whistles through the valleys but neither is harnessed for power: yet Kathmandu suffers electricity lode-shedding (blackouts) on a daily basis. The roads are hazardous and garbage collection is a huge issue of concern.
In 2009 per-capita income was $US1200 p.a. placing Nepal between Haiti and Ethiopia on a country comparison scale. The distribution of wealth among the Nepalis is consistent with that in many developed and developing countries: the highest 10% of households control 39.1% of the national wealth and the lowest 10% control only 2.6%. Inflation was at 13.2% in September 2009.
The fertility rate in Nepal was at 3.7 births per woman in the early 2000s. Public expenditure on health was at 1.5 % of the GDP in 2004. Private expenditure on health was 4.1 % in 2004. In the early 2000s, there were 21 physicians per 100,000 people. Infant mortality was 56 per 1000 live births in 2005. Life expectancy is 65.5 years.
Besides having landlocked, rugged geography, few tangible natural resources and poor infrastructure, long-running civil and political unrest are also factors in stunting the economic growth. In truth, the cultural diversity of Nepal propagates its cultural and political division.