Of vital importance in the short and long term is that a common minimum understanding in politics must be shared between all concerned players. High-quality management and an entrepreneurship culture must be promoted and fully encouraged.
--By Madan Lamsal
The massive earthquake of April 25 and the subsequent aftershocks have left Nepal devastated not only in human terms but also economically. While the human damage is tragic in itself, the economic fallout is also a grave issue.
Besides the huge loss of lives and the consequent psychological impact and trauma, the earthquake has partially or totally damaged public and private buildings, infrastructures and historical and cultural monuments. Some villages in the hardest-hit districts have been completely wiped out.
Needless to say, there is now a need for rebuilding and reconstruction. The government has set up a Rs 200 billion rehabilitation fund, expecting most of the money to come from foreign aid. Buildings, roads, water supply and waste management systems damaged by the quake in cities and villages have to be rebuilt and restored. In order to effectively manage this, a number of measures have to be taken.
One of them is, stopping essential manpower from going abroad. Similarly, we have to seek financial help from the international community in the form of soft loans. Likewise, in as much as it is possible given the current situation, export opportunities should also be increased and new ways of advancing the traditional agriculture sector should also be looked into. This could include conducting research into the potential economic gains from crop diversification to added value processing of rural products and employing technological innovation.
The government, without delay, has to assess the damage, estimate the investment needed and devise projects for rehabilitation and reconstruction. It not only should invite domestic investment but also foreign investment (but only on our terms). Similarly, it should encourage the private sector to get involved in all development and reconstruction projects which will soon get underway.
The government must also monitor the situation and disseminate information on a regular basis to maintain transparency. Besides, proper coordination among various agencies – both public and private – such as NGOs/INGOs, community groups and international volunteer organizations must also be a top priority.
The government should focus mainly on four areas – reconstruction of infrastructures, agriculture (irrigation, seed supply and market facilitation), drinking water and food security (supply side management). The Nepal Rastra Bank and the Finance Ministry should devise policies to keep the inflation low, reduce bank interest rates and extend the moratorium on loan repayment. In the long run, the government can introduce life and general insurance cover for people living below the poverty line on a subsidized premium basis, as is the case in India.
Private Sector’s Role
The private sector has to play a really important role. It can lead projects in the areas where it has recognized expertise and participate in projects led by other agencies where it can add value. It can also ensure that issues over the availability of insurance and the resolution of claims do not hold back investment or slow the rebuilding process.
Similarly, the private sector, in association with trade unions, has to create sector-specific workforce plans which articulate the immediate, short- and long-term workforce needs of various sectors affected by the quake, identify what is required to accelerate their recovery, and thus provide the foundation for long-term economic growth. As part of the sector-specific workforce plan, the private sector can establish an Employment and Skills Hub, to help employers to fill job vacancies that support reconstruction works.
The national business chambers can establish sector advisory groups as a platform for sector-led planning, undertake research to understand sector constraints and help enablers to improve sector planning, set up and run a business capability development programme for owners/managers of start-ups with export potential.
The private sector can create a Skill Shortage List, a list which highlights occupations in shortage that are needed during the reconstruction period and train them. Similarly, it can design support schemes, local funding models and establish better connections between education and workplaces that better link students with business and more effectively encourage internships, apprenticeships, workplace training for youth or allow skill upgrades while working.
Likewise, it can establish a safe haven for new technology companies and in doing so prototype a new type of entrepreneur community, convene a City Image Group to produce a cohesive city image for use in the attraction and retention of people, visitors, businesses and investment. It should take a strategic approach to rebuild related procurement considering demands in the construction sector, housing, workforce, and supply chains, and cost escalation.
Finally, the private sector should propel investigate methods to improve workplace productivity and find ways to enable businesses to implement them effectively.
The media too has a definite role to play. A major focus should be on monitoring and reporting the overall economic progress post-quake and advocating for a better economy. The spotlight should fall on creating an air of positivity out of the current gloom- for example by covering stories on positive role models.
However, a number of challenges can come in the way of post-quake relief and reconstruction. One key disruption can come in the form of political instability and syndication. Nepal is not universally known for its political stability. Other factors that could interfere in the rebuilding process are the lack of manpower and investment constraints, let alone the interest shown by international players.
A planned and considered approach is needed for the overall roadmap for a better Nepal to succeed. Of vital importance in the short and long term is that a common minimum understanding in politics must be shared between all concerned players. High-quality management and an entrepreneurship culture must be promoted and fully encouraged along with first-rate innovations and quality.