Nepal milestone towards increased stability

Nepal passed a modest milestone today in its attempts to improve stability . The four top political parties named Supreme Court Chief Justice Khilraj Regmi as head of an interim government. The main goal of Regmi will be to hold elections by June 21 for a new parliament empowered to adopt a constitution (ABC News).

However, we are not overly optimistic. Smaller political parties led violent riots in opposition to Regmi, it is unclear whether elections will actually be held, and even if elections are held, it is unlikely they will lead to a constitution. The last parliament elected for the purpose of deciding on a constitution — in 2008 — was unable to agree on one during its four-year tenure. Nothing fundamental has changed in Nepalese politics to suggest that a constitutional breakthrough will occur in the near future.

Microfinance Report by the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU)

The Economist Intelligence Unit produced an insightful and detailed report on global microfinance in 2012, available at http://www.eiu.com/Handlers/WhitepaperHandler.ashx?fi=EIU_MICROFINANCE_2012_WEB_1.pdf&mode=wp&campaignid=microscope2012.

Bangladesh, Philippines, and Nepal are covered, among many other countries. Philippines takes 4th place in overall microfinance business environment rankings. Bangladesh takes 41st place, and Nepal 44th. EIU ranked a total of only 55 countries, so Bangladesh and Nepal are near the bottom. Rates to borrowers are high. In Bangladesh a 27% rate cap decreases the quantity of loans available (inflation of 7-12% in 2012), and in Nepal, government subsidies have kept rates at a comparatively low 18-24% (inflation of 7-9% in 2012). In the Philippines, there are only 1 million micro-finance borrowers of 77 million total population (http://www.census.gov.ph/content/philippines-population-expected-reach-100-million-filipinos-14-years).

Given the high interest rates and limited penetration of microfinance, it is unlikely in its current manifestation to have a large effect on development or stability in Nepal, Bangladesh, or the Philippines.

Political Gridlock in Nepal

Politics in Nepal have been gridlocked between Maoists and centrists since 2008. Fresh setbacks to appointment of an interim prime minister (http://www.nytimes.com/2013/02/20/world/asia/nepal-agreement-may-break-deadlock-over-leadership.html?_r=0) does not augur well for political stability in the near future.