Yes, the word ‘mess” can best describe the environment in which the businesses are in right now. The dictionary defines a ‘mess’ as a situation that is very complicated or difficult to deal with, or a condition which is disordered, untidy, offensive, or unpleasant.
Since the Covid-19 pandemic took its grip on the Nepali economy, many sectors have suffered and some of them even closed down. But at the same time, some sectors are growing by leaps and bounds while some are managing to stay afloat somehow.
This is not new knowledge. It is just a summary of the situation. But it clearly shows the state of confusion still prevailing in the economy. And this has made it difficult for businesses to plan.
Though the pandemic has hammered economies the world over, Nepal’s case is different because of the unpredictable behaviour of the government in managing the situation. While the businesses in other countries where the vaccination drive has already covered a large portion of the population are poised to revive soon, in Nepal it is still not clear how long it will take for us to get out of this long dark tunnel.
However, this does not mean a completely gloomy picture. In fact, businesses in Nepal have always been functioning in a messy environment. So much so that our business community is experienced in dealing with such a situation. Therefore, it is not out of place to expect the Nepali business community to show similar grit and knack to get through the present problems as it had shown in the previous almost similar crises.
Understanding the nature of the current mess would help. Clearly, it has two parts: One is related to the Covid-19 pandemic which needs global cooperation to clear. The other one seems purely Nepali in character and, thus, it can be cleared by Nepalis only, which includes the businesses themselves as well as the government and the various sections of the society.
Nepal is not benefiting from the ongoing global cooperation in fighting the ongoing pandemic as have many other similar countries. It may be easy to blame the rich countries for not donating the vaccines to Nepal as much as they are donating to some others, but as has been clear by now, the real reason for this shortfall is the mess that was created within Nepal by the government and the political leadership. Businesses did not create this mess, but some businesspersons tried to complicate it further for their own benefits.
The pandemic related mess will be cleared after a significant portion of the population gets vaccinated. It is important for the business sector to help in this effort. After a critical number of the population gets vaccinated, the government could then hand over further vaccinations to the private sector. Public health experts are also talking about the need for booster doses of vaccination. That too may be handed over to the private sector. But can the Nepali private sector be trusted? Due to some cases of bad publicity that some businesses got during this period since the Covid-19 pandemic started, if the government tries to give further public health related business to the private sector, there may be some public protests. Therefore, the private sector has a challenge to improve its image. For this, they should start working right now.
The rest of the mess is not totally unknown to the Nepali private sector. They have been managing that so far and can do so also in the future. Because, there is plenty of predictability also within this disorder and the knack is already there in the business community to handle it. This may cause some additional costs that the businesses in other countries may not need to bear. Thus, it may leave the Nepali businesses still uncompetitive internationally. However, the first concern now is that of survival so that when the situation normalises a bit, for example after the first round of vaccinations is over, the businesses can bounce back and start competing effectively even internationally.