The 7th NewBiz Business Conclave and Awards was organised in Kathmandu on December 12. The event featured distribution of awards in eight categories and a discussion on ways to deal with the economic and business challenges facing Nepal in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic and the Russia-Ukraine war.
New Business Age Pvt Ltd has been organising the Business Conclave and Awards annually since 2013 as an initiative to recognize and honour the best-performing companies. The seventh edition of the event, held on December 12 in Kathmandu, drew a large and enthusiastic turnout of top government officials, corporate leaders, policymakers, and economists, among others.
Inaugurating the programme, the then Minister for Finance Janardan Sharma stated that the slow economic growth and shortage of liquidity that Nepal's economy has recently faced are due to the lack of implementation of economic and business policies introduced by the government. He strongly objected to characterising Nepal's economic challenges as a ‘crisis’. "There were comments that Nepal was going down the line of crisis like in Sri Lanka. That was wrong. We cannot call it a crisis. These are challenges that can be treated," he said. "It's about the lack of institutional and legal capacity. If we address these issues, many of the challenges we are facing would be resolved," he added. Minister Sharma also pointed out that Nepal cannot do or produce everything. "We should focus on certain areas where we have competitive advantages, such as hydropower and IT," he said.
Speaking at the event as a keynote speaker, Dr Nagesh Kumar, Director of the Institute for Studies in Industrial Development (ISID), India, highlighted that rising inequalities between and within economies have emerged as a major global challenge. He noted that there is a widening of income inequalities within countries due to the failure of economic growth to ‘lift all the boats’.
“Some data show that Nepal has managed very well in addressing the widening inequality. Its social protection system is very good. It has not yet faced a disturbing trend of rising inequality and the rest of the world can learn from Nepal," he added.
He also said that the recent COVID-19 pandemic has exposed gaps in public health infrastructure, social protection, provision of basic services, vaccination, and in the global economy. Also speaking at the programme, Shekhar Golchha, President of the Federation of Nepalese Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FNCCI), stated that the private sector, which has coped with numerous challenges in the past, including conflict, power outages, blockades, and earthquakes, is now facing internal challenges such as liquidity shortages.
"We have emerged from all those crises, including the political turmoils that took a toll on the economy. We are confident we can also overcome the current internal challenge if we work together,” he added.
Vishnu Agarwal, President of the Confederation of Nepalese Industries (CNI), stated that the contribution of the manufacturing sector to the GDP has been falling in the past two decades. "We have to focus on industrialization to increase employment opportunities, boost foreign exchange reserves, and accelerate the economic growth of the country," he said.
"There are some initiatives introduced by the government to promote industrialization. However, there has been no satisfactory progress in the implementation of those measures."
HONOURING BEST COMPANIES
Shivam Cements has been adjudged as the best managed company of 2022.
The publicly listed cement manufacturing company was honoured with the title of the “Best Managed Company 2022”.
Similarly, Standard Chartered Bank Nepal Ltd (SCBNL) received the award of the “Best Managed Commercial Bank 2022”. Standard Chartered Bank Nepal is the only international bank currently operating in Nepal.
Towards development bank category, it was Shine Resunga Development Bank which bagged the “Best Development Bank 2022” award.
ICFC Finance Ltd won the award of the “Best Managed Finance Company”.
Similarly, National Life Insurance Company Ltd received the title of the “Best Managed Life Insurance Company”, while Shikhar Insurance Company Ltd was named the “Best Managed Non-Life Insurance Company 2022”.
It was Chhimek Laghubitta Bittiya Sanstha Ltd which clinched the title of the “Best Managed Microfinance Company 2022”.
The companies and individuals so recognized were selected by a jury after a detailed research process.
According to the organisers, each award category had an independent jury that shortlisted possible companies and individuals and discussed various aspects with each other and outside experts and regulators before making the final selection.
During the ceremony, Himalaya Shumsher Rana was honoured with the "Lifetime Achievement in Business Award 2022."
According to the jury, Rana was honoured with the award for his outstanding contribution to the field of business and entrepreneurship in Nepal through his pioneering, innovating and visional roles in various fields including central banking, private sector commercial banking, insurance and manufacturing.
New Business Age has been organising the Business Conclave and Awards annually since 2013 with the aim of holding a discourse on crucial business and economic issues and honouring business excellence by recognizing the quality work done by individuals and organisations as well.
“They are being honoured for being our role models. We don't call them winners. Because there may be many more who deserve to be honoured. But we could not reach out to all of them because of our limited resources,” Madan Lamsal, Chairman and Editor-in-chief of New Business Age Group, said in the programme.
“We hope they will do more in the future. We look forward to their higher achievements and investments in social good and corporate social responsibility in the years to come.”
‘Prioritise Investment to Cope with Crises’
Prior to the award ceremony, a panel discussion on “Emerging Through the Crises” was organised where panelists comprising leaders from private sector, government and think tanks discussed resilience of Nepal’s business and economy to various crises including the decade-long Maoist insurgency, the 2015 earthquakes and trade blockade and the recent COVID-19 pandemic.
Economists, authorities and private sector leaders, who were in the panel, said that the priority should be on attracting investment as the country emerges through various crises including the most recent COVID-19 pandemic.
“All ministries of the government are working to increase the competitiveness for doing business and to attract private investments in collaboration with the private sector,” said Dr Toya Gyawali, Secretary at the Ministry of Industry Commerce and Supplies.
Speaking at the panel discussion, Dr Neelam Dhungana Timsina, Deputy Governor of the Nepal Rastra Bank, said that the central bank’s recent decision to raise policy rates and introduce expansionary monetary policy was aimed at addressing the rising inflation and ease the pressure on the external sector stability of the country. “The central bank and the government took expansionary fiscal and monetary policies to stop further deterioration or help revive the economy during the pandemic. These expansionary policies have worked in reviving the businesses shut or hit by the pandemic at that time,” she said.
She also defended the central bank’s move that has prompted the private sector to go into the street.
“Now, there is a need to check the high growth in credit expansion fuelled by the expansionary monetary policy. At the same time, there were some external factors including the Russia-Ukraine war that drove the prices in the market,” she added.
Similarly, Chandra Dhakal, Senior Vice President of the Federation of Nepalese Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FNCCI), said that businesses and the private sector have helped the government through taxes even during crises like insurgency and the 2015 earthquakes.
“Even during the crises or transition periods, the private sector opened industries and businesses, created jobs and paid taxes to the state even when we were told not to do so by the court,” said FNCCI Senior Vice President Dhakal. “Now, it's high time the government supported or encouraged the private sector.”
Amid concerns that Nepal’s graduation from the least developed country (LDC) status could have economic repercussions, Dr Posh Raj Pandey, Chair of SAWTEE, said that the graduation would not have a significant impact on the macroeconomic situation of the country.
“The graduation does mean that it would automatically solve the development challenges that we have long been facing. It would neither take us to a situation full of challenges,” he said. “We need a transition strategy that can maintain the development trajectory.”
The panel discussion was moderated by Dr. Kalpana Khanal, Sr. Research Fellow at Policy Research Institute.