It’s getting better
- Nepal may not become a developed country soon, but many things have improved
Oct 25, 2017-The Independent newspaper of the UK has named Nepal as one of the riskiest countries for investors, apparently because of natural disasters and unstable politics. However, there are optimistic vibes too which need to be analysed. Nepal has climbed eight places in the global happiness index from the 107th position to the 99th position.
Similarly, the Nepal Investment Summit held in March at Kathmandu succeeded in getting foreign investment pledges totalling $13.51 billion. Although the actual investment may be lower, this level of commitment has to be appreciated.
Regular electricity supply is the next impressive thing that has happened in the country. There is no more load-shedding lasting more than 18 hours per day and today, Nepalis have access to electricity all the time. Apart from benefitting individual households, different industries have obtained fresh blood for survival through this bold initiative, resulting in the growth of domestic production and employment opportunities. Besides discussions over the possible reopening of Biratnagar Jute Mill to the actual reopening of Nepal Drugs Limited, a number of domestic industries have restarted production. Similarly, the number of youths flying abroad for work has decreased from more than 1,500 per day to 1,000, indicating that youths have decided to remain in Nepal. When compared to the surge in departures immediately after the earthquake, when 37,962 migrant workers left between mid-May and mid-June 2016, the number is a lot lower. Moreover, the industry minister declared last month that employment generation would be prioritised as the first item on the agenda so that youths will not have to fly abroad for the sake of jobs.
The most important indicator of a country’s prosperity is its economic growth rate. Nepal’s economic growth rate is the greatest reason for any Nepali to stay in the country in the name of career or opportunity. The World Bank has calculated Nepal’s economic growth rate at 7.5 percent, which is not just impressive but outstanding! Likewise, inflation has dropped sharply to a historical low of 2.9 percent. The rate had been high as 11.1 percent in the previous year. Inflation generally falls because of increased productivity and better technology. Observing the capital market, the Nepse index usually would be expected to hover around 1,200 points, but it has reached as high as 1,700 points. The completion of local elections, which happened after a break of 20 years, is another impressive achievement. The number of metropolitan and sub-metropolitan cities has increased. Incidences of bandas seem to be drastically low.
Not built in a day
There are positive and negative sides to every story, and how we observe and realise the facts is more important. If indicators like happiness, investment, economic growth rate, inflation rate, migrant worker departures, load-shedding hours and the Nepse index are to be regarded as signs of improvement, any layman can see that there has been improvement in Nepal. Today, every major political party has named economic development as the first item on its agenda. Regardless of whether they are realistic or not, at least discourses and discussions over the economic agenda have been initiated, and this aspect has to be welcomed and appreciated.
From signing the One Belt One Road Initiative to handing over the Tarai expressway project to the Nepal Army, or from the construction of the Postal Highway to the pace of earthquake reconstruction, there is ample space to observe optimistic views. It is agreed that there are a number of aspects which could create pessimism. There is lack of parking space in major areas of Kathmandu, and major cities are filled with dust and dirt. But it is important to realise that things are happening, and today there is free parking all along New Road. There is dust and dirt in the air over Kathmandu, but this is so because this is what one sees when development activities are taking place. As soon as the dust settles, there will be beautiful and broader roads, and there will be Melamchi water everywhere. Like silence before a storm, there has to be sound before silence too. Rome was not built in a day either.
It is true that there is still a lot of brain drain occurring, but it is equally important to understand that there is a trend towards brain gain—returnees with gained knowledge and experience—occurring in countries like India and China. This is the result of economic development in these countries. Currently in Nepal, the signs of improvement are certainly impressive, and this will not only retain youths in the country but also encourage them to pursue personal development, resulting in overall development. The major challenge, however, is to maintain the momentum of improvement. The promised investment pledges from the summit will enter Nepal only when there is a favourable environment, and only when investors find it favourable to invest here. Similarly, it is still a challenge to maintain the inflation rate and economic growth rate. But, sooner or later, it can be expected that the economy will start showing positive signs. Nepal may not turn into another Japan in the next couple of years, but its present status is likely to improve. Only if we expect the best, the best will come to us.
- Regmi is a business development analyst at the National Incubation and Research Centre (NIRC) and lecturer at Kathford International College
Published: 25-10-2017 08:02