‘Donation collection has to be based on mutual cooperation’

‘Donation collection has to be based on mutual cooperation’ Bhawani Rana

The entire nation is currently in the grip of the upcoming provincial and parliamentary elections slated for November 26 and December 7. The private sector of the country is optimistic that the elections will lead to political stability and hasten development activities at the local level. Moreover, the private sector believes that the economic agenda will get priority from the government and the political parties after the elections. Sujan Dhungana of The Himalayan Times spoke to Bhawani Rana, president of the Federation of Nepalese Chambers of Commerce and Industry, and Hari Bhakta Sharma, president of the Confederation of Nepalese Industries, to discuss on the pre-election business vibes in the country and possible post-election impact on the domestic business environment. Excerpts:

The country is about to hold the provincial and parliamentary elections. How excited is the private sector?

The private sector is always excited during any election as it is through elections that policies are framed and political stability is achieved. The entire business community in the country is at present waiting for the successful completion of the provincial and parliamentary elections like the local elections that were held a few months back. The private sector believes that elections help pave a roadmap for the development process in any country. Nepal has always suffered from political and policy instability in the past which are also the impeding forces for economic growth of the country. No country can progress unless there is a stable government. We believe that a stable government that will be formed after the provincial and parliamentary elections will lead the country towards economic and social development. The private sector expects all pending development works across the country to accelerate after the elections. FNCCI hopes the upcoming elections are conducted in a peaceful manner.

A number of business people are in the fray for upcoming elections. Why are business people so keen on becoming a member of the Parliament?

A majority of business people are highly regarded in the areas where they have been operating their businesses. Similarly, a number of industrialists are affiliated with different political parties. They have good network and connection with the people in the area where they have been doing business which is why political parties have given them tickets for the upcoming elections. FNCCI believes a larger number of business people and industrialists should compete in the elections and reach a position from where they can make policy decisions. As business people know a lot about the existing difficulties of doing business in the country, they can address economic issues more easily once they become a member of the parliament. Politics and business are interrelated. Those business people who are competing in the upcoming elections will be able to sort out economic issues comparatively more easily from the parliament. In a nutshell, private sector representation in the parliament will support economic growth of the country.

It is believed that industrialists are being harassed to make donations by different political parties. How true is this?

I think donations that are collected before any election is a positive thing. It is a trend in every country that political parties and their candidates for elections seek donations from businesses during election time and the private sector does not hesitate to provide financial support to political parties during such times. Political parties and business people are interrelated to each other and seek support from each other during times of need. However, donation collection should not be forceful and mandatory. It should be collected in a systematic manner and has to be based on mutual cooperation between political parties and businesses. Business people should be allowed to make contributions as per their capacity and will. I believe that political parties and their sister wings have not pressurised domestic businesses for donation for the upcoming election.

But it has been learnt that some industrialists have scheduled foreign trips in recent days to escape from the hassles of donation. Is this true?

I do not think so. It might be true that some business people are abroad at present. However, it does not mean that they are trying to run away from the elections and donations. I believe that it is a time when all businesses, government and political parties should work together to make the upcoming election successful. In fact, the private sector is happy that the election is being held as scheduled. It is an opportunity for us all to vote for the candidate who is capable and deserving to lead the nation. At a time when the entire nation is in a cheerful mood due to the upcoming election, the private sector also wants to support the election technically and financially rather than running away from it.

‘It is better to legalise donation collection’Hari Bhakta Sharma

How optimistic is the country’s private sector with the upcoming provincial and parliamentary elections?

Undoubtedly, domestic businesses are cheering the upcoming elections. We should understand that businesses in the country foster along with the prosperity of the nation. The upcoming election is a step towards local level development and CNI is optimistic that development agendas will get high priority from the local, provincial and central government in the coming days. Most importantly, Nepal has suffered for long from instability — unstable government, and instability in policies and development projects. The successful completion of the provincial and parliamentary elections is expected to usher in a stable government for at least a few years and stability in the government will automatically ensure stability in development projects and plans and policies of the state. The

private sector is happy that all political parties have placed economic development of the country as a major agenda in their election manifesto. Now political parties should emphasise on the effective implementation of their plans and projects highlighted in the election manifesto. CNI and the entire private sector is always optimistic to work together with the government and political parties in the development process.

What do you have to say on the candidacy filed by different business people in the upcoming provincial and parliamentary elections?

It is good that some business people, especially from the construction sector, are vying in the upcoming elections. However, private sector representation in the election is still very low. Both provincial and central parliament should have encouraging representation from the private sector. This will ensure that private sector expertise in the parliament and lawmakers from the private sector can comparatively make more effective decisions to improve the business environment of the country as they know more about the actual ‘doing business’ problems. Similarly, when there are more lawmakers from the private sector then it will contribute to strengthening the relationship between the government and the private sector.

To what extent are businesses troubled by the donation call from political parties?

The private sector is not against donations during any election. However, it has to be collected systematically. The way political parties and their wings have been collecting donations at present is not apt. In fact, the private sector is reeling under immense pressure for donations in recent days and business people are trying to escape this problem in different ways. The unsystematic way of collecting donations has even compelled some business people to go abroad during the election. Had there been a proper way of collecting funds from the private sector, business people would happily contribute to the political parties. CNI believes that there is an urgent need to introduce a system to properly channelise collection of donations during the election period. I believe that one way to channelise the donations during elections is by allowing industrialists to issue donation via cheque in a bid to ensure accountability. Similarly, the other way of systematising it can be by forming a basket fund for the parties during elections. Interested businesses could contribute to fund and government can disburse fund to the political parties through an effective mechanism during the elections.