Building cultural centres
- A prospering society is never judged by money alone
Aug 29, 2017-A month ago when the Embassy of the Republic of Korea organised a beautiful evening of music, they had some of the best contemporary talent in Korea perform at a hotel—they had no other options for a venue. I kept wondering why we Nepalis still do not have a good venue for performances, even though decades have gone by since we built the last one. I kept wondering over the fact that we now have thousands of billionaires in terms of Nepali rupees, yet we have still not seen an investment for the cause of building a proper cultural centre.
Learn from others
In Bhutan, the 9th edition of the Mountain Echoes has just concluded, and the
main venue is the hall at the Royal University of Bhutan. The hall is a very simple structure that can house a good number of people and is very functional. In Rwanda, the convention centre built at a cost of $400 million has established the nation as the conference hub of East Africa, bringing in captive business for the many five star hotels that have been built in the past couple of years.
For Kathmandu and Pokhara, at this moment, having a good conference centre would perhaps be useful to provide business to the mushrooming hotels, as Nepal still has greater competitive and comparative advantages in the mid-segment of the South Asian conference market. If land for banquet halls can be leased to people with political connections, then why should the government not consider the use of the land at Chobar or other places. Perhaps the interest of global leaders in this area could be aroused and they would be amenable to come and build in Nepal based on commercial terms. In such a case, we could perhaps attract highly competent international companies from Singapore and the like, instead of making the same mistake of using local firms in the name of nationalism. We have constructed new structures to make our airports look like bus stations, whereas the world over, countries are starting to make their bus stations resemble airports—and offer similar services as well. After the construction of an ugly welcome arch at the international airport in Kathmandu, another equally ugly piece of construction is in the works that will take away the acres of open space in the Narayanhiti palace grounds. Currently, construction works are modelled for the benefit of people who are connected to political forces, and they are always limited to the imagination of political masters. Post local elections we have seen small ugly shops and eateries mushroom in open public spaces. Perhaps aesthetics and appreciation of our own heritage should be taught as a subject in our schools; by doing so, maybe the prevalent mind-set could be tackled with relatively less difficulty.
In a world where companies that produce the biggest components of garbage through packaged food lecture on corporate social responsibility, it is difficult to push companies to think of their larger responsibilities. However, proper cultural centres that can provide a platform for good musical programs, theatre, art exhibitions and cultural performances have been built through either state/corporate patronage or contributions by wealthy individuals all over the world. In Nepal, corporate or individual giving is negligible despite the increase in the number of individuals with wealth. Quick research into the number of people regarding the value of their investments in shares in banks and financial institutions would prove surprising, with a list of over a thousand people whose investments are over Rs1 billion. Now in a country with so many rupee billionaires, why is it difficult to raise money to build a nice cultural centre? Why is it that people who are willing to spend millions on events that are held in the name of religion and culture are not willing to spend money on contributing to build a world class cultural centre? With the advent of a digital finance platform, crowd sourcing of funds may be easier. There is hope that a group of young Nepalis will begin the crusade in this social entrepreneurship venture.
Published: 29-08-2017 07:28