The Nepali private sector has recently started a campaign to reform the entire gamut of business laws. Some laws need to be amalgamated with others, while some must be repealed outright. Some others need to be revised massively or marginally. And there are some other laws that need to be prepared anew, as we don’t have such laws though they exist in other countries. Though the campaign still has to gather momentum, a beginning has been made. And the initiation deserves praise also because it has been timed perfectly right. However, it is advisable to broaden the scope by enlisting wider social participation in this campaign.
The timing of the initiation is right because the new parliament being elected will gather in about a month or two from now after the ongoing general elections are completed. And the business community will be ready with their agenda to put in front of the new law makers urging them to take it up immediately. The period till then should be used wisely to formulate concrete suggestions to the new MPs.
But if the business community limits itself to only those few laws that are known as ‘business laws’, chances are high that the new MPs will ignore it. They would say that this campaign is guided by the petty business interests of the businessmen. Therefore, it is advisable to broaden the scope of the campaign to include other laws. At first glance, the other laws may not be of immediate concern to the business community. But upon deeper analysis, they too have business implications.
For example, take the social practices law that limits the expenses in family events such as weddings. This law is not implemented in practice as it is not implementable. And it is harming the businesses that organise such events for their clients.
Another example is that of laws related to the political parties, elections etc. As these laws exempt the political parties from any taxes, a big loophole is created that is fostering corruption. Such laws too harm or inhibit the growth of healthy business practices.
If the business community also includes these laws in this campaign, it will attract wider social participation, which will further help its success.
Therefore, this campaign should not only limit itself to direct business laws related to black marketeering, employee bonus, anti-dumping and the like. The private sector’s initiative is silent on the issues regarding the weaknesses in the existing contract law which has been overshadowed for a long time. In fact, the contract law should be the main governing law, not only on business matters, but also on many other matters, such as lease, consumer protection, insurance etc.
Another point worth suggesting is that the focus of the campaign should be on the consumers, jobs creation and the general economy, not merely on the ease of doing business. For example, instead of just calling for the scrapping of the anti-black marketeering law and jail sentences for certain offences, the business community should show clearly how the proposed changes will benefit the consumers or the general public. The underlying objective of the anti-black marketeering law is to protect the consumers, so the campaign should show how the existing law is not actually protecting the consumers and also how the proposed changes will instead actually protect the consumers.
The campaign needs to go in greater depth and develop lobbying papers with the help of expert lawyers and respectable civil society leaders. As was seen in the recent interaction organised by the Confederation of Nepalese Industries (CNI) and Media Society Nepal (MSN) on this issue, many people regarded as experts were in favour of keeping discretionary powers in the hands of the bureaucrats. This is perhaps the mindset of the majority of other such prominent people as well. Such a mindset needs to be changed, and for that purpose, the lobbying papers may help.