“The political agenda dominated the national discourse and popular action in the last six decades of democratization of Nepal. Now is the time to evolve into the phase of economic agenda being on the top. The private sector of Nepal is the engine of growth, being efficient and cost-effective, and the government is to facilitate it through investment security, enabling laws like new Industrial Enterprise Act and Foreign Direct Investment Policy, et al.”
Thus spoke Shankar Koirala, Minister for Finance, Industries & Commerce, Government of Nepal, inaugurating the maiden edition of the NewBiz Business Conclave & Awards 2013, held in Hotel Soaltee Crowne Plaza on August 24.
Nothing could have captured the mood, the spirit and the essence of this Conclave better than this statement. The Conclave was dedicated to finding a roadmap to doubling the economic growth from current 3.6% growth of the GDP to 7%, and beyond.
In groups of three to five speakers, a large number of fore-ranking economists, thought-leaders, businessmen and invited guests from abroad focused on what may make the great Himalayan promise fulfilled and Nepal moving from the status of Least Developed Country to a Developing One within a decade by doubling its growth.
‘Yes! We Can!’ was the spirit. ‘Can Do’ was the motto. Even problems were noted as challenges to be tackled sooner or later. Indeed, for some time past now, in spite of several economic challenges, there has been a gradual amelioration of the situation too.
Decades of political unrest, bitter ideological conflict, a shaky frame-work of democracy, despondency among some sections of the people, and challenges to entrepreneurship and of infra-structure have surely brought in an air of hopelessness among some youths. And, there is a large number of educated or skilled youths who are leaving the country for greener pastures around the world. It is not a wonder that Nepal receives as remittance equivalent to nearly a quarter of its GDP.
Not withstanding the challenges, every Nepali at heart dreams for turning the nation of exquisite beauty into the Switzerland of Asia. Every educated Nepali rightly wants to reap the best economic advantages of being land-locked between two large and fast developing neighbours, India and China. And, today, most adult citizens of this nation are waiting for ensuing elections to be held in time and peacefully, and political parties agreeing on a common economic agenda to take the country into a prosperous future.
That was the spirit of the speakers in the Conclave (more details in later sections). Just a sampling of the views expressed in the Conclave:
“Last year service sector in Nepal grew by 6% and industry by 3% and hence it is not difficult to achieve 7% overall growth in a couple of years in Nepal. Industries here are running at half their capacity and just a better capacity utilization with a better labour situation and investments will double the growth.”
- Dr Yuba Raj Khatiwada
Governor, Nepal Rastra Bank
“Vocational education is on the rise in Nepal, which is encouraging. The small and medium industries sectors are surviving by sheer hard work rather than an enabling business environment, and they must be encouraged.”
- Rameshore Khanal
Former Finance Secretary
“There are ample opportunities to promote specific districts with specific business focal points, like Dhading can be the organic district in order to access and expand the market of vegetables which covers the one-third of the Kathmandu market….. Timely election being held, political class must rise to the occasion towards drawing a Common Minimum Economic Agenda, towards which we from Nepal Inc are working.”
President, Federation of Nepalese Chambers of Commerce & Industry
“It’s not just heritage and adventure, there are lot of scope in Nepal in terms of business and MICE tourism (Meeting, Incentive, Convention & Exhibition).”
- Amran Abdul Rahman
Director, Malaysia Tourism
“Nepal can take a cue from Vibrant Gujarat Summit and its success in the economy of Gujarat, and can similarly bring in big ticket investments for hydro-power, infrastructure, manufacturing, tourism, agri-business and mines.”
- Sukanti Ghosh
Managing Director (India), APCO Worldwide, USA
“Nepal has more than half a century of planned economic development attempt. To achieve this target, we have to mechanise agriculture, commercial herbs, vegetables and fruits.”
President, Chaudhary Group
Where do we go from here? Future is pregnant with possibilities indeed.
Let’s begin with the changing face of road network.
The Economic Survey of the Finance Ministry in 2013 says that more than 10,000 kms of roads are blacktopped, almost 6000 kms of road have been graveled, apart from nearly 8500 kms of earthen roads in Nepal. Except Humla and Dolpa, all other 73 districts have road access. The road connectivity with China has also added value to Nepal’s economic sector. With the government trying to make the road investment strategy clear and long-term, there is enhanced interest of the private sector too in investing herein. The Public-Private-People Partnership driven Kathmandu-Kulekhani-Hetauda tunnel road is the signature evidence of this positivism.
Coming to health and education, Nepal is on a positive direction to largely meet the Millennium Development Goals by 2015. Primary school enrolment has already crossed a whopping 95%, though at the secondary education level it is still one on three eligible children in education, in spite of some increase over the years. The latest infant mortality rate is at 9 per thousand live births, and maternal mortality rate has dropped to 229 per 100,000 live births, making the picture reasonably better than most South Asian neighbors. Significantly, nearly 4500 health institutions of various dimensions are providing health services to some 28 million people in this country. Nepal Living Standard Survey notes that one on four Nepalis today are below the poverty line, much better a situation than a decade or two ago.
Hydropower hopes have eluded the Himalayan nation for decades. Nepal’s vast water resources are said to be next only to Brazil. However, till date Nepal is producing only 600 Megawatts of electricity whereas the known sources of hydropower can produce above 80,000 Megawatts, and it is still counting. This one sector alone can change the face of this nation. There are some clear signs towards progress. Upper Tamakoshi project with 456 Megawatts is progressing fast based on eco-friendly run-of-the-river model. Six other projects totaling around 240 Megawatts are also in progress. However, this sector needs clear and effective long-term policies, investment friendly environment and political stability.
The Agriculture sector has also taken a boost with 41 projec vts running on first priority and nine projects kept in second priority by the government, as listed by the National Planning Commission. These projects include special agriculture production program, co-operative farming, micro irrigation, livestock health service, agricultural research program, and others. The per hectare productivity today is around Rs.160,000, of the land available for agriculture and only 20 % is irrigated, and the average income of agriculture laborer has crossed Rs.70,000 per annum. Not the best of situations, but still no one dies of hunger in Nepal.
In the manufacturing sector, the average growth rate per year over the last five years has been close to 2%. Production of food products, beverages, cigarettes, shoes, soaps, cement and plastic products have grown more than 3% per annum in this period. More than a thousand medium to large industries employing 300,000 of people function alongside more than a lac cottage and small industries with 600,000 people employed. Higher electricity and more and better roads can work miracles in this sector.
Finally, Tourism. It flourishes in tranquility. Civil war and political instability hitting tourism hard for some time in the past, Nepal is now witnessing positive signs with the total tourist arrivals in 2012 figuring 600,000 only by the air route! The average stay and spending per person per day are still low with less than 40 dollars a day spent by tourists. With 10 five star and 27 three and four star hotels, Nepal has a long way to go to tap the full potentials of tourism, which can be comparable to Malaysia or beyond.
Yes, there is a long way to go for this beautiful nation of hardworking, patriotic and industrious people from the Mountains, Hills and the Terai-Madhesh, a nation where women have a better position in the society than many other South Asian nations in general in spite of poverty, a nation where youths work and study together in cities to earn economic independence, a nation where hugely diverse people live, work and enjoy each other’s festivals together.
The Nation awaits visionary statesman-like leadership ahead and the collective will of many to make a difference in the comity of nations.
The historic NewBiz Business Conclave and Awards is just the right step towards this direction: bringing to the fore the national economic priorities, trying to create a national consensus towards Common Minimum Economic Agenda, bringing forth the voices of business leaders and economists, and creating role models from among Nepal Inc in a nation where most political parties at least officially shun business and profits.
Rightly did the NewBiz Chairman Madan Lamsal say at the onset of the awards ceremony, “It is said that our work is our love made visible. This is indeed our labour of love. It is a historic moment to come to this point where New Business Age and Aarthik Abhiyan, the nation’s leading business publications, salute the best performers in business who have been doing well in spite of economic challenges and political instability. And I congratulate each of the ten winners whom you will know in some moments from now one by one, in advance. We honor ourselves by honoring you. You have not done anything for awards, but for growth and development, to generate profits, employment, and welfare of a lot of people. You are our role models. A nation, yearning to grow, to be counted in the comity of nations, salute each of you for your extra ordinary achievement which will inspire the youth to dream and strive for more.”
Minister for Finance, Industries, Commerce and Supplies, Government of Nepal, Shankar Koirala along with Newbiz Chairman Madan Lamsal and other distinguished guests launched a book titled — Nepalko Arthik Briddhi Ek Margachitra (Sambriddha Nepal Abhiyan) during the Conclave & Award ceremony at Soaltee Crowne Plaza.
Invitees at registration desk of Newbiz Conclave & Awards-2013
Binod Chaudhary, President Chaudhary Group exchanging words with Professor Dinesh Chapagain and former finance minister Madhukar SJB Rana at Newbiz Conclave & Awards-2013.
Minister for Finance, Industries, Commerce and Supplies, Shankar Koirala along with Dr. Yuba Raj Khatiwada, Governor of Nepal Rastra Bank, Newbiz Chairman Madan Lamsal and moderator of the Conclave Achyut Wagle during the interactive session of the Conclave.