Strike while it’s hot

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    • Outcomes of the Nepal Business Conclave show that time is ripe for Nepal to pursue its economic development agenda

    APR 09 –

    Business-ConclaveThe recently concluded first-of-its-kind Nepal Business Conclave 2014 saw the formal signing of six different agreements to bring in crucial resources to the country in the form of foreign investments. The organisers—the Government of Nepal and the Federation of Nepalese Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FNCCI)—expect the tourism and industrial sectors particularly to get a boost from this investment. The conclave, inaugurated by PM Sushil Koirala, was the culmination of the Nepal Economic Summit, which was held a few months ago. One key outcome of the Nepal Economic Summit was the development of a Nepal Investment Profile document, consisting of 53 projects collectively worth $2 billion for development partnerships at the Nepal Business Conclave.

    This conclave and the development of concrete actions to begin with can be seen as the first milestone towards pursuing economic development in partnership among the government, the FNCCI and the business community. The Conclave provided clear choices and challenges to Nepal’s principal development stakeholders viz, political parties, the government and the private sector, national and international development agencies/organisations and the critical mass of development intelligentsia as all being responsible for putting Nepal on the right economic development trajectory.

    The Malaysian example

    The keynote speech to the Conclave, delivered by former Malaysian prime minister Mahathir Mohamad has definitely helped boost the morale of the Nepali participants to pursue national development with renewed commitment, vigour and unity. Mahathir is credited with leading Malaysia to where it stands today through a 23-year rapid development path. In his speech, Mahathir had highlighted how Malaysia (whose current population is close to Nepal), once a socio-economically and politically complicated state with a highly divided and restive population of 40-plus ethnicities, races and tribes was able to transform into a politically, socially and economically stable state. Few other countries in South East and South Asia can now rival Malaysia. Malaysia’s determination to be categorised as a developed country by 2020, therefore, should not come as a surprise.

    A video presentation of the development of the planned city of Putrajaya as a highly modern administrative capital with state-of-the-art amenities and facilities for high profile business complexes, residences and hotels/resorts was very impressive. It was sad to note that despite having some of the world’s grandest natural and cultural endowments, Nepal attracts less than one million tourists, compared to a whopping 10 million to Malaysia. The country has complemented its natural beauty by offering many artificial destinations to visitors. Putrajaya has constructed 600 hectares of artificial lakes for recreation, sports and other activities, all to promote tourism.

    Where Nepal stands

    From the Nepal side, the presentation of the tourism sector was mediocre, with no facts, figures or analysis of Nepal as the go-to choice for potential investment in tourism from the global business community. It was sad to note that agriculture, a key pillar for economic development, was paid no attention to in the Conclave as there was no presentation on partnership promotion in agriculture. However, the hydropower and infrastructure sectors were integrated and made for an interesting discussion in the Conclave.

    The outcomes of the Conclave, therefore, must act as a wake-up call to all stalwarts and stakeholders to get cracking on putting the nation on a fast track to economic development. The implementation of even a few simple recommendations from the Chinese and Malaysian papers could put us on the right track to developing our tourism, industrial and administration sectors. The Conclave sent a clear message to the political parties that they are there for the people and not themselves. They must focus on the people and their development now. Political coalitions should be formed before elections and not the other way round so that continuous dialogue for assimilation can be pursued while also limiting parties to a number that the Nepal’s economy and people can support.

    A renewed focus

    Employment opportunities must be generated while also developing, upgrading and harnessing medium and highly skilled labour. These steps are necessary to reverse the serious labour migration trend. Focus and commitment to the energy sector is also weak. Perhaps Nepal could also pursue the development of nuclear and other forms of energy to offset its heavy reliance on hydropower, which is prone to the severe ravages of nature, especially floods, landslides and earthquakes. Similarly, agriculture, tourism and the entire private sector need an immediate critical review. A change of guard on development boards needs to be enforced to bring in new leadership, new perspectives and new mandates.

    The time is also ripe for shifting the administrative capital away from Kathmandu. For future generations and the global community, Kathmandu should be promoted and retained only as a tourist destination. This would also help better the development moral value chain. Reengineering or redesigning of the moral value chain for objective development is a must at the national and international levels. Nepal’s information technology sector is quite robust and thus, needs more investment and support. However, IT initiatives should be aimed at alleviating poverty through innovative means and not just producing wealthy individuals.

    All of these goals are necessary to be pursued so that the Nepal can one day have a Putrajaya of its own.

    By JITENDRA RANA, Rana is an economist and engineer 

    Source : eKantipur