"As an institute, we believe that prosperity is possible, and all it takes is sound ideas. That is the message we want to translate into economic policy in Nepal."
Arpita Nepal’s interest in her country’s economic health is demonstrated through her considerable experience advocating for individual freedoms. Nepal, a Fulbright scholar from, coincidentally, Nepal, is earning her master’s degree in economics at George Mason University, while staying involved in a Nepal-based non-profit organization, “Samriddhi, The Prosperity Foundation,” dedicated to individual freedom, economic prosperity and entrepreneurship.
Arpita Nepal co-founded the organization in 2008 to strengthen Nepali citizens’ independence following the 2006 democracy movement, which saw the country dissolve its monarchy system in favor of an election-based, constitution-abiding governing body. Concerned about the rejuvenated citizenry’s ability to create and maintain a rich economic climate, she decided to bring other conversations to the forefront. With a bachelor’s degree in business administration from Kathmandu University and a master’s degree in economics from Tribhuvan University (both in Nepal), she had the knowledge to do so.
“Everyone was discussing politics, not economics, so we wanted to bring economics to the forefront of discussion,” she said. “Those are the issues that affect poor countries like ours.”
Samriddhi adopts a three-tiered approach to advancing its mission:
- economic education and training targeting undergraduate and graduate students in Nepal
- research and publications
- public outreach, including campaigns, advocacy programs and meetings with policy makers
In October 2011, the Atlas Economic Research Foundation honored Samriddhi with the Templeton Freedom Award for a special achievement by a young institute. Samriddhi took home the Templeton Award for a campaign called “Gari Khana Deu,” which the Atlas website translates as “let me earn a living.” Arpita Nepal – referring to this campaign as “Livable Nepal” – said this campaign calls for the end to impunity and establishment of rule of law, the security of life and property from threats such as extortion and party-based crime, and the freedom to pursue any profession, an important mission considering journalists and businesspeople are targeted due to their influence and wealth, respectively.
“By promoting individual freedom, we hope to achieve more in Nepal,” Arpita Nepal said. “Generally, we believe in the rule of law, individual freedom with responsibility, limited government and a free market. Individuals should be able to make decisions without fear and should be able to pursue professions without any negative consequences.”
The campaign has reached an astounding coalition of 200,000 individuals and organizations, who have signed on in support. Furthermore, the campaign itself is making a difference in everyday Nepali life. According to Atlas, both media and politicians in Nepal discuss the campaign on a regular basis.
“This campaign is bigger than just the one organization,” Arpita Nepal said. “This is the people’s campaign. It has gained a lot of popular support in Nepal and it is actually creating a conversation on how we can make sure our demands are met.”
While Livable Nepal is a huge undertaking, it is not Samriddhi’s only project. The organization is host to both a school of entrepreneurship and economics and a school of public policy. Combined, these two schools have graduated more than 400 students in two years, at least 30 of whom have gone on to start their own businesses.
Working with the Federation of the Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Nepal, Samriddhi will focus on economic growth at least until 2013, after which it may decide to shift its attention to other projects.
Arpita Nepal’s work is not done. Despite growing the organization from one with a handful of unpaid volunteers to a full-time staff of 18 with its own office in Nepal, she insists that her best work lies ahead of her.
“I’m a very passion-driven person, and I believe in the idea that the institute stands for,” she said. “I believe in freedom that comes with responsibility. As an institute, we believe that prosperity is possible, and all it takes is sound ideas. That is the message we want to translate into economic policy in Nepal.”
She added, “My interest is in helping Nepal grow.”