October 4, 2023 04:45 PM NPT
By: Arun Bam
KATHMANDU, Oct 4: "Even though we may not excel in positive aspects, Nepal has achieved a high position in the world in granting annual public holidays! And if we are not poor, who will be?” reads the first part of the post made by former Prime Minister Baburam Bhattarai on X (formerly Twitter) on Tuesday.
World Statistics, an organization that keeps global data, has published a list of 48 countries in the world with the highest number of public holidays. Nepal ranks first among these 48 countries with 35 days of public holidays throughout the year. Ex-Prime Minister Bhattarai made this comment while sharing the link of this public list on X. Bhattarai’s post further reads, “Let's be serious! Let's understand that no one can be rich sustainably without working! Small improvements can make a difference, no matter how many times!”
According to World Statistics, among the countries that give public holidays, Myanmar stands second with 32 public holidays a year, Iran third with 26 days, Sri Lanka fourth with 25 days and Bangladesh and Egypt fifth with 22 days each.
Among other South Asian countries, India ranks eighth with 21 days of public holidays, while Pakistan ranks 16th with 16 days.
The world's first and second largest economies, the United States and China respectively, have the same 11 public holidays throughout the year. Similarly, the rich countries of Asia have 16 days of public holidays in Japan and 14 days in South Korea. Mexico has the fewest public holidays throughout the year out of 48 countries.
The statistics from World Statistics exclude ‘weekly holidays’. In Nepal, the weekend is on Saturday. There have been 52 Saturdays in the year 2023. Other countries of the world have given weekly holidays at different times according to their own rules. Some countries adopt giving two days off a week.
Arbitrariness in holidays
World Statistics has taken data from the Ministry of Home Affairs that there are 35 days of public holidays in Nepal throughout the year. The home ministry had published the list of public, festive and speculative holidays in 2080 BS on March 15, 2023. It mentions that 52 Saturdays are automatic holidays (week holidays) and 35 days are public holidays. There are 27 festival holidays, 6 holidays to mark special days and 2 birth anniversary holidays.
If we add the number of public holidays allocated for the respective religion, culture, geographical area, class and place to the list of holidays issued by the Ministry of Home Affairs, it reaches 49 days. These include Gaijatra, Indrajatra, Ghodejatra in Kathmandu Valley, Gaura Parba in Far West Province, Siruwa Parba in Eastern Terai, Haritalika (Teej) and Jitiya Parba for women to Falgunanda Jayanti of Kirat, Mohammed Jayanti of Islam and Guru Nanak Jayanti of Sikhs.
Last year, the federal government had given a public holiday on ‘Janyuddha Diwas', which was not in the list of holidays. This year, on September 14, a public holiday has been given to mourn the death of the Chairman of the Constituent Assembly, Subash Chandra Nembang. Local governments also announce public holidays arbitrarily in their region.
While former Prime Minister Bhattarai expressed concerns about the implications of Nepal's "bad world record" for public holidays, stakeholders have been expressing concern on this issue for some time. Committees have been formed to organize public holidays. But former home secretary Govinda Kusum says that the government never wants to implement the committee's report.
“Around the year 2009, we formed a committee under my leadership and submitted a report. Instead, we proposed to give two days off in a week, as is the practice in the world, and to give a day off to the concerned community during the festival," he said. "We suggested that it would bring efficiency to public service delivery and production and also cut unnecessary expenses of state resources, but it was not implemented,” he added.
Stating that the political leadership's tendency to satisfy everyone is more responsible for this, he said, “They may have the greed to get support of everyone by including the sentiments of all communities, but it has an adverse effect on the economic health of the nation.”