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Tax, electricity and the state

Written by Richard Mallett on 10 April, 2014 : 11:02



Many Nepalese believe that electricity blackouts are akin to a tax on their livelihoods. So how should the state respond?

SLRC/ODI Researcher, Richard Mallett

I've been in Nepal since January helping out with the implementation of a household survey. Throughout February and March, we asked people in two districts - Jhapa, in the south-east of the country on the Indian border, and Tibetan-bordering Sindhupalchok to the north - about their livelihoods, the various taxes they pay, and their relationships with state governance. As part of this research, we've also been carrying out a number of more in-depth qualitative interviews.

When asked about the kinds of taxes that most affect their livelihoods on a day-to-day basis, one of the things that struck me about people's responses was the frequency with which electricity bills were mentioned. At first, I couldn't quite understand why this was coming up so much: that's not a tax, I thought, it's simply a payment made in exchange for a service. In my mind, I began to discount these responses, passing them off as information that missed the points we were trying to get at.

My assumptions were misplaced.

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Welcome to SLRC's blog.

This blog will feature reflections from our team of researchers on the practicalities of actually conducting research in conflict-affected situations. We will also be posting guest blogs written by key researchers and practioners working on livelihoods, basic services and social protection in conflict-affected situations.