It seems the finance minister is obsessed with meeting the revenue target of Rs 940 billion this fiscal rather than addressing the concerns of the business community and creating investment-friendly climateAfter a stable government came at the centre with two-thirds majority almost one year ago, the business community and investors had hoped for a better investment climate in the country. Conventional wisdom had it, for a long time, that Nepal failed to attract foreign direct investment (FDI) in the productive and income generating sectors due mainly political instability. The business community and investors also had high hopes on technocrat-turned Finance Minister Yubaraj Khatiwada because of his widely perceived expertise on the country’s economic condition and ways of bringing it back on right track. The recently released macroeconomic statistics of Nepal Rastra Bank (NRB) show shocking facts that FDI in the country has gone down by more than half in the first four months compared to the same period last year. NRB statistics say FDI stood only at Rs 4.95 billion in the review period whereas the country had received Rs 10.17 billion in terms of FDI during the same period last year even though preparations were being made for the general and local elections. Economists and business community have squarely blamed the finance minister and the industry minister for what has gone wrong in the economic sector. Political stability may be a determining factor to attract domestic investment and FDI but this is not the only condition that can win the trust and confidence of investors. Other factors also play a great role. The government should have been able to convert the “policy and political stability” into winning “trust” of the investors. The government’s failure to win trust and confidence of investors is the main reason behind the falling FDI in major areas that may generate employment opportunities within the country. The Finance Minister’s uncalled-for public statement that development works could not be carried out due to “land ownership provision” guaranteed by the constitution and Industry Minister Matrika Prasad Yadav’s repeated threats of putting businessmen behind bars for their “malpractices” have done additional damage. “Fear factor” is what the experts have described as the main reason behind non-investment in the productive sectors. It is not that the investors are reluctant to put money because of the communist government. Its attitude of taking the country’s economy under its grip is the main obstacle for investment. It does not work when the government maintains an attitude of clipping wings of business people and expecting them to fly high. It seems the finance minister is obsessed with meeting the revenue target of Rs. 940 billion this fiscal rather than addressing the concerns of the business community and creating investment-friendly climate. Another factor leading to FDI shortfall can be attributed to non-implementation of the country’s “sovereign credit rating” by independent rating agencies such as Moody’s, Standard & Poor’s and Fitch Group, all US-based agencies renowned for credit rating. Credit rating helps a country determine the risk of doing business. No FDI will come to Nepal unless the government identifies existing drawbacks in its policies and legal framework and plugs the loopholes. At this juncture, the government may only be advised to do a serious introspection to find the fault lines in the fiscal policy, if any, and come up with corrective measures. The sooner, the better.
Unsafe abortions Between 1990 and 2015, Nepal made a tremendous achievement in reducing maternal mortality rate (MMR) — from 901 deaths per 100,000 live births to 258. This success was attributed to various factors. And one of the factors that played a crucial role in reducing MMR was a new law in 2002 that legalised abortion without exception for 12 weeks. But reports say many women still opt for unsafe abortions, due to which their lives are at risk. According to a study by the Centre for Research on Environment Health and Population Activities in 2017, around 58 per cent of abortions were illegal and carried out by untrained health workers. In most of the cases, women opt for unsafe abortions for the lack of awareness about the abortion laws. Some face severe health complications due to unsafe abortion which they choose while trying to keep things secret due to stigma. The government should run campaigns to make women aware of abortion laws and their reproductive rights.