HIMALAYAN NEWS SERVICE
KATHMANDU: US will help Nepal strengthen fiscal and trade policies. The US Agency for International Development (USAID) through Nepal Economic, Agriculture and Trade (NEAT) project will encourage competitiveness and exports, enhance food security and increase access to financial services, said US ambassador Scott H DeLisi at the launch of the NEAT programme here in the Valley today.
Development assistance alone cannot improve lives of Nepalis, DeLisi said, lauding the private sector’s role. The private sector can transform the economy and create opportunities for youth not the international donors, he said.
NEAT will invest $30 million to foster a conducive business environment for private sector-led growth, encourage competitiveness and exports in selected agriculture and non-agriculture commodities or services, initially targetting lentils, ginger, orthodox tea and vegetables, said NEAT’s chief Phil Broughton.
The programme will help improve trade and fiscal policies and practices to facilitate trade and increase revenues without distorting the economy, he said, adding that the programme will also strengthen microfinance policy and institutions to increase access of women, poor and disadvantaged to financial services.
Broughton also emphasised on the need to create Credit Information Bureau (CIB) for microfinance institutions to check multiple lending that has been observed recently as over-lending can create systemic problems in the microfinance sector.
The two-and-a-half years NEAT programme also targets to work in selected districts in the Mid-West and Far-West regions.
Working with a broad range of partners including government agencies, business associations, farmers’ cooperatives, microfinance institutions, NGOs and local research institutions, the programme is expected to impact millions of lives in the rural areas of the country, he added.
Similarly, taking part in the panel discussion Laxmi Bank CEO Suman Joshi said that marriage of technology and microfinance can help expand reach of financial access to rural youths and reverse the trend of increasing informal economy.
Capacity building of bureaucracy, professional trade unions, and policy stability can help propel economic growth, he said, making a pitch for reforms in the capital market to attract Foreign Institutional Investors (FII) as without foreign direct investment, the country cannot invest in huge infrastructure projects.
“The national savings is too low to fund big projects leaving no alternatives to attract foreign direct investment,” he added.