Rendezvous with FNCCI President Pashupati Murarka


Pashupati Murarka, a 50-year-old businessman, was unanimously selected as the new president of the Federation of Nepalese Chambers of Commerce and Industry — largest private sector umbrella body of the country — on July 3. In his 14-year-long contribution to the chamber movement, Murarka has served FNCCI in various capacities and is now leading FNCCI as its 17th president. He was also elected as the senior vice president in the last election in the Pradeep Jung Pandey-led executive committee. After Pandey’s arrest on a 30-year old corruption charge on March 18 this year, the post of the president remained vacant and a special general meeting was called on Friday to elect the new chief. A prominent business person of the country, Murarka has business interests in cement, rod and paint industries. He is also involved in the trading business and financial sector. After being elected as the new FNCCI chief, Murarka informed that his first priority would be to lobby for a ‘two-pillar’ economy (public and private) as the fundamental economic principle in the new constitution — the first draft of the constitution has incorporated ‘three-pillar’ economy (public, private and co-operatives). He added that he will do his best to expedite the endorsement of the economic and financial Bills from the parliament and help create an investment friendly environment. Pushpa Raj Acharya of The Himalayan Times caught up with Murarka to know more about the FNCCI election and his future plans as

the chief of the Federation. Excerpts:

It is quite a rare feat to be unanimously selected as the president of FNCCI. Could you share how that was possible?

After then president Pradeep Jung Pandey’s arrest on a three-decade-old corruption charge, there was strong lobbying at the FNCCI to select the president unanimously. Most members were of the opinion that this would put an end to all the rifts within the Federation that were caused by the unhealthy competition witnessed in some of the previous elections. However, there was debate on who would actually lead the organisation. Our past presidents also played a crucial role in hammering out a consensus between Bhaskar Raj Rajkarnikar, Bhawani Rana and myself. All three of us had filed our candidacy for the post of president. Though all three of us had filed our nominations we were still having a dialogue at that time. And three days prior to the election date, Bhaskar Raj Rajkarnikar agreed to withdraw his candidacy for consensus after rigorous talks with my supporters. Actually, he paved the way for consensus because he was my senior too. Then after, as a senior vice president it was my natural claim for the post of president. We were also able to convince Bhawani Rana to forge consensus and she was willing to be the senior vice president after my promotion to the post of president. I would not like to take all the credit for the consensus. It was a collective effort of everybody within FNCCI — past presidents, executive committee members, supporters and well-wishers. I think this unanimous selection of the president has been able to disseminate the message of a united private sector.

It is said that there have been divisions created not only because of the teams formed during elections but alsodue to the intervention ofpast presidents. Reportedly, some of them are involvedin the day-to-day functioning of FNCCI. What do you have to say?

This is not a big issue. The FNCCI statute has given all the authority to the leadership and its executive committee. In the past, we’ve witnessed such problems because the leadership gave the space for it to happen. But I don’t want to get involved in a blame game. Now, we have to move forward for the larger benefit of the whole private sector. I have a capable team in my executive committee and they are all cooperative. We will be able to take FNCCI to even greater heights in the coming days.

What will be your main priorities as the chief of the largest private sector umbrella body?

We will first sit with the government to have discussions regarding the budget as the budget submission day is close by. At present, we are passing through an unconventional situation due to the devastating earthquake that has wreaked havoc on the social and economical fabric of our country. In such a scenario, I feel that the government needs to seriously consider the role of the private sector while drafting the budget. We also can and are willing to be a part of the reconstruction drive of the government. The government should inject seed money for small and medium enterprises (SMEs) that were damaged during the earthquake and there needs to be some policy interventions for bigger businesses for their recovery. We have already requested the government not to levy new taxes. Likewise, the government should prioritise the procurement of local raw materials for reconstruction works so that domestic industries can generate cash flow and also employment. From the early days, we have been requesting the government for lower taxes on raw materials to revive the industrial sector. Apart from that, FNCCI will lobby for a ‘two-pillar’ (public and private) economy as the fundamental economic principle in the new constitution. The first draft of the new constitution has incorporated ‘three-pillar’ economy — public, private and co-operatives — as the fundamental principle. The lawmakers should understand that the co-operative sector is also a part of the private sector. If we pull out the co-operative sector as another pillar of the economy and the government accords it special priority and extends grants then it will gradually create an uneven playing field.

As president of the FNCCI, what would you say are the major hindrances in the country’s development process?

The foremost thing I would say is the government’s inefficiency in spending the development budget. Besides that what I would like to mention is we have just emerged from the decade-long conflict that had ruined the investment climate in the country. And as we were gradually overcoming that problem and moving towards our economic goals the earthquake of April 25 struck with devastating consequences. Despite all these problems, we can move forward on a higher growth trajectory if the government and private sector deal with the issues that are hindering development head-on. There are various problems that have been stopping our businesses from being competitive at the international level. If the government removes administrative hassles that alone would make the private sector more competitive. Regarding the industrial sector

especially, the government should not focus only on revenue because industries are job creators. If the government considers certain issues, industrial goods here also can be competitive with the products of India, China and other third countries. The state needs to understand our problems like labour issues, administrative hassles, high taxes on raw materials and low supply of electricity and do something substantial about them. I am confident that if the government seriously looks into these issues and acts accordingly it won’t be very long before we create a favourable investment environment and have a thriving economy.