Kathmandu, March 29
The government’s flagship Nepal Investment Summit kicked off in Kathmandu today calling on foreign investors to inject money in the country to help it achieve its prosperity goals.
The inaugural ceremony of the two-day event saw the government explaining reforms that have been made over the years to attract foreign investment, which is crucial to bridge huge infrastructure gap and generate jobs in other sectors to transform Nepal into a middle-income country.
“Nepal offers attractive packages to investors in terms of taxation, import duties and export facilitation. It also offers low labour cost which investors primarily look for,” Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli told the inaugural session of the event attended by over 1,000 participants, including around 600 participants from 40 countries.
The country has enacted legislations that are investor-friendly and amended key laws to improve the business climate, the PM said. The government has also simplified business registration, land acquisition and environmental impact assessment processes, he said, adding, “Every sector from hydropower to agriculture and tourism to manufacturing is highly profitable, but their potential is yet to be tapped.”
Oli, who has below average track record on punctuality, arrived at the venue on time today. He also did not make tongue-in-cheek remarks as in the past. His message was firm: “Nepal today has a government which is not just stable but also has a clear vision for inclusive development through government-private sector partnership.”
“Thus, Nepal today is ready for investment. Feel secure and grab the opportunity. The government and the entire country will facilitate both domestic and foreign investment,” said the PM.
Finance Minister Yuba Raj Khatiwada reinforced PM’s calls for greater foreign investment stating, “Favourable policies, stable politics and the country’s strategic location are what really make Nepal a suitable business destination.”
Nepal has held two investment summits in the past, first in 1992 and the second in 2017. In the summit held in 2017, investment commitment of $13.5 billion was made by foreign investors. But the country didn’t even receive a small fraction of that amount.
In the third edition of the summit, 77 projects worth $31.9 billion have been put up for grabs. The government, without elaborating, has said some crucial memorandums of understanding will be sealed with around a dozen foreign investors tomorrow.
Foreign investment is crucial for Nepal to expand its export base and address the problem of ballooning trade deficit, said former finance minister and Nepali Congress leader Ram Sharan Mahat. “Nepal will not meet its growth and development targets without foreign investment,” he said.
“Nepal should look for responsible investors who do not prioritise short-term profit,” said U Thaung Tun, union minister for investment and foreign economic relations of Myanmar, urging the government to “focus on agriculture sector to boost the economy”.
Hartwig Schafer, vice-president of the World Bank for South Asia, and Shixin Chen, vice-president of the Asian Development Bank, praised the government for giving high priority to introduction of business-friendly regulations and improvement of business climate.
A version of this article appears in print on March 30, 2019 of The Himalayan Times.