‘I want to make the next one decade a golden decade in terms of economic growth’

The election for the new executive committee of the Federation of Nepalese Chambers of Commerce and Industry is just around the corner. The amended statute of the FNCCI has introduced a provision to directly elect the incumbent senior vice-president to the top post of the organisation. Thus this year the election for the post of senior vice-president holds great significance. Shekhar Golchha and Kishore Pradhan, the two candidates vying for the post of senior vice-president, have formed their respective panels and are in a heated race. In fact, the election fever has gripped the entire private sector. Sujan Dhungana of The Himalayan Times spoke to Golchha and Pradhan about their preparations for the election, their priorities and strengths. Excerpts:

‘I want to make the next one decade a golden decade in terms of economic growth’ - Shekhar Golchha, Vice-president, FNCCI

How ready are you to face the FNCCI election?

My team is ready to face the challenge. I am quite encouraged with the continuous support that my team is providing me. During the course of the FNCCI election, I have visited different districts where I have had the opportunity to be closely acquainted with different challenges being faced by members from commodity sector and the district and municipal chambers. As I myself represent the associates, I am up to date with the challenges being faced by associate members of FNCCI. In a nutshell, I am fully satisfied with the preparations of my panel to face the election. I am sure that I will win the election with majority votes.

As a competitor to the post of senior vice-president of FNCCI, what are theadvantages that you hold as compared to your opponent?

Kishore Pradhan is my senior and I have a lot of respect for him. However, FNCCI today needs change and I believe that I meet and fulfil all the expectations of that change in FNCCI. This is because I am young and I have a lot of good new ideas to reform the organisation. Leadership at FNCCI should be able to bring about change and I believe that being a youth I can usher in that change. The next factor is my track record. I have spent more than two decades in the chamber movement. Through this association I have learnt about all the challenges that the private sector is facing in the country. Similarly, I have duly fulfilled all my responsibilities at FNCCI so far. The latest responsibility given to me is as the chairman of Employers’ Council in FNCCI and I believe I have performed as per expectations. It was a difficult task to develop a draft of the Labour Act incorporating all the aspirations of the private sector from different districts. But I was able to accomplish it. The current draft of the Labour Act is more labour friendly and goes a long way in securing the social security of the workers. The Cabinet Bill Committee has already passed the draft of Labour Act and it is likely to be endorsed by the Parliament soon. Another reason why I feel I should win is due to my family background. It was my late father, Hulas Golchha, who drafted the first statute of FNCCI and devotedly worked for the betterment of private sector. Today, I am representing a company that is generating employment opportunity for more than 17,000 Nepali people. My organisation is also one of the major business houses in the country. This is why I believe that I am best suited for the post of senior vice-president of FNCCI as compared to my opponent.

The private sector is often against politics but the FNCCI election has never been free of politics. Why is it so?

FNCCI should be free from politics and all current politics targeting the FNCCI election should end after the election. Election itself is a democratic process and it is not wrong. There has to be election. I believe more in ‘election politics’ than ‘consensus politics’. It is due to election that we get the opportunity to meet and know each other. However, in Nepal we have a trend where the winner gets excited quickly and feels superior and the loser starts developing a feeling of vengeance after the election. This culture has to end. There has to be politics during the election but it needs to end after the results have been declared and we should all move ahead with one objective. All of us irrespective of whom we

supported should join hands to achieve the objectives of the decades-long chamber movement — the advocacy of industries and businesses.

The president-elect of FNCCI is openly supporting your panel, which has been criticised by your opponents. How can you ensure that the new executive committee of FNCCI will function in a unified manner after the election?

The FNCCI statute was amended so as to provide the future president a three-year grooming period while

fulfilling the responsibilities as senior vice-president. Electing the president directly means that he/she can have less experience to lead FNCCI and know less about the actual problems of the private sector. So this is a matured experience being implemented at FNCCI this year.

What will be your agenda at FNCCI if you do win the race to the post of senior vice-president?

My first priority will undoubtedly be to make the tenure of Bhawani Rana successful by working as per her vision. Besides this, I have a plan to make the next one decade the golden decade of Nepal in terms of economic development and we will certainly see economic development in the next one decade like we have never seen before. This is because Nepal has developed a lot of horizons of development with immense opportunities. Development activities are taking place across the country. All these developments are driven by the private sector and remittance inflow. It is due to the growing remittance in the country that the government is able to collect more revenue than targeted. Nepal today is not in budget deficit. We have over Rs 200 billion as treasury surplus. Earlier, we had to depend on foreign assistance for development. But today we are able to drive development ourselves. Thus, I believe that the current average economic growth of three to four per cent will certainly reach eight per cent in the next decade. And for such a pace of economic growth in the country, FNCCI needs capable leadership which I believe I am. We need a capable leadership in FNCCI because he will be representing the voice of almost half a million businesses in country.

‘I will focus on protecting the rights of the private sector’ - Kishore Pradhan, Vice-president, FNCCI

We are in the eleventh-hour of the FNCCI election. How has your preparation been?

The FNCCI election for me is an assessment regarding who is the best and I am ready to face the challenge. I believe that the potential voters for the election will prove it through their votes soon. The entire team that has been supporting me is ready to face the election. I am confident that my team and I individually will receive support from the voters. However, my opponents have been making claims that their victory is guaranteed, which we will be clear about

after the votes are counted. There are many examples across the world of claims being made by contestants of surely winning the election but who eventually lose the race. This will happen in the FNCCI election this year. Winning and losing is a democratic process. But no one can win merely by spending money, spreading rumours and threats. I will break the pride of my opponents.

But your opponent, Shekhar Golchha, is backed by the president-elect and the incumbent president. Don’t you think this is an advantage for the Golchha panel?

Certainly not. It is not that their support can change the game. I have a strong position in all the three sectors — commodity, associates and district and municipal chambers. FNCCI members from all the three sectors have given me their commitment to support me. However, the manner in which the incumbent president and president-elect are openly supporting the other panel during the election is against the code of conduct and ethics of FNCCI election. Moreover, it is distressing that the chairman of the Disciplinary Committee of FNCCI has breached the disciplinary code of election by promoting the Golchha panel openly at a public programme. I have filed a case against these activities at the FNCCI election commission. But I am also certain that the FNCCI election commission will not rule in my favour. All the three — incumbent president, president-elect and the chairman of Disciplinary Committee — are misusing their power and position. My opponents are busy purchasing votes and I am busy disseminating love and love is a powerful tool. I believe that time is powerful and despite all such attempts against me, time will favour me ultimately.

The statute was amended to make the election process of FNCCI free from politics but based on what you are saying there seems to be a lot of politics involved this year too. What is your take on this?

It is true to some extent. I am of the view that there should not be unhealthy politics. However, such politics can be seen this time too, which is against the election code. I was surprised to learn that my opponents did not allow some of my team members to enter a hotel in the Capital where FNCCI delegates from outside the Valley are staying. Such things are unwanted aspects of the current FNCCI election. However, I feel that no matter who wins the election such politics should end once the polling process is over to ensure that the new leadership at FNCCI can perform better. Despite Bhawani Rana supporting my opponent, I assure that my team will provide her the required support during her term as the president of FNCCI to continue the legacy of the organisation.

What will be your priority if your team wins the election?

Primarily, I will focus on protecting the rights of industrialists and the entire private sector. Enhancing the legacy of FNCCI and making it a financially sound organisation will be some of my other objectives. Another area where I will focus is on reforming the organisational structure and secretariat of FNCCI. We will also try to increase the confidence of the private sector to invest in the country. Similarly, I will also work to increase the capacity of all FNCCI members and to increase the participation of the private players in agriculture sector and reduce imports.