‘Diversify trade, intensify diplomatic engagement’

- Post Report, Kathmandu

Nov 25, 2015-

Former policymakers and experts have stressed on the need for urgent efforts to expand and intensify diplomatic engagement and diversify trade relationships with countries to mitigate the risks of over dependency on a single country.

Amid ongoing socio-economic crisis caused by an unofficial trade embargo imposed of India, they said Nepal needs to extend its connectivity with the north as a long-term strategy so that such a situation does not repeat. The India-imposed embargo, for more than two months now, has shattered the economy with the government predicting a negative growth rate of 0.9 percent for this fiscal year. “Nepal needs to diversify its trade relations with other countries to meet the energy and food needs,” said former National Planning Commission Vice Chairman Shankar Prasad Sharma at a programme on “Learning from Economic Crisis: Impact and Lessons” organized by Nepal Economic Forum here on Tuesday.

“The impact of becoming fully dependent on a single country has become clear and visible. The trade embargo and unrest in the Tarai region has shattered the country’s already fragile economy.”

Sharma, who also served as Nepal’s Ambassador to the US, said the government should be more sensitive with diplomatic dealings with India to address the current crisis. “We have to be more responsible while having diplomatic dealings,” he said. He said the country’s economy has so far withstood the crisis, thanks to remittance inflow, agriculture production and access to essentials through the shadow economy or black-market. “Nepal should find a political solution to end the crisis and step up its diplomatic engagements.”

Former Commerce Secretary Purushottam Ojha said the government should appeal to international agencies like United Nations, World Trade Organization and South Asia Association for Regional Cooperation to end the ongoing humanitarian crisis caused by the blockade. He said exports and imports fell by 26 percent and 24 percent, respectively, within a month after India imposed the blockade. He underscored the need for increasing connectivity with China as a long-term strategy. “If it is successfully done, it would strategically position Nepal as a trade route connecting China with South Asian countries.” He also said Nepal needed to increase investment in agriculture to become self reliant in food.

Former Nepalese Young Entrepreneurs Forum (NYEF) President Ajay Pradhananga said small and medium enterprises have been hit massively due to the crisis. “Around 2,200 industries have been shut down. It shows time has come to review if Nepal can sustain industries or not.”

Bhola Paswan, a freelance journalist from Saptari, said the agriculture sector has suffered disastrous impact of the crisis that has hit farm and farmers’ income. “Output is certain to dip sharply this year, which might cause a shortage of food and other essentials,” Paswan said, adding people in villages were sustaining on remittance.

Published: 25-11-2015 09:16

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