EDITORIAL: SEZ for export

The SEZ law has already been enacted and foreign firms have also shown

interest in investing in SEZ after the passage of this law

The Government seeks to better regulate the importing firms through the recent approval of the Export Import Code Implementation Guidelines, which the Customs Department is set to enforce beginning January 26.

The introduction of this ExIm code would raise the paid-up capital requirement of the importing firms to Rs. two million and introduce the mandatory bank guarantee of one million rupees for imports of over Rs. 25,000 per consignment from India and third countries.

The need for better regulation of the importing firms cannot be overemphasized, as the number of such firms is put at 30,000. But there is disagreement among the stakeholders over whether the new policy will do the import sector good or not.

The large number of importing firms is no surprise as imports constitute the lion’s share of the total foreign trade of Nepal. As Nepal has not many things to export, the number of exporting firms, naturally, falls far below the number of the importing firms.

The ever-widening trade gap of the country has led to serious concern for the Nepali economy as a whole, as so far it has been largely kept afloat by the remittance money. And the country can depend on the remittance money as a permanent source of hard currency at its own risk.

Foreign remittances constitute a significant portion of the country’s gross domestic product, and they largely pay for the country’s import bills, which in turn generate huge customs revenue for the government. With such trends holding strong for many years, it has been overdue to give the country’s export sector a big boost.

In this context, the idea of Special Economic Zone (SEZ) will act as a positive factor; and this idea has already been implemented with success in several emerging economies such as China.

The SEZ, which was inaugurated in Bhairahawa in 2014, and is expected to start operating soon. One such SEZ is also to be established in each of the six other Pradeshes as well.

This would contribute to a balanced development of the industrial sector in all the Pradeshes.

The SEZ law has already been enacted and in the Bhairahawa SEZ foreign firms have also shown interest in investing after the enactment of the SEZ law. The government should make no further delay in bringing out the SEZ Guidelines for the construction and operation of the SEZ.

The SEZ concept is an enlargement of the concept of the industrial estates which had been introduced in the country several decades ago, with the main difference that the SEZ is wholly export-oriented.

The government provides a lot of incentives to the industrial units set up in the SEZ but 75 of the products of each such unit must be exported.

Now the government has come up with the locations for the SEZ to be set up in the other Pradeshes (Biratnagar for Pradesh No. 1, Simara for No. 2, Panchkhal for No. 3, Gorkha for No. 4, Jumla for No. 6, and Dhangadi for No. 7).

The feasibility study of the construction of the six other SEZs has already been done, and this is to be tabled in the Cabinet for approval soon. This should also receive serious attention.

App for passports

The Department of Passport has launched a mobile application with an aim of easing the application process to obtain passports. Anyone who wants to apply for passports can use the mobile application without any hassle and paper work.

It will not only save the application time but also help ease the passport personalization process. But this service is currently available in passport application centres where the live enrollment system has already been introduced.

It means this service will be available at DoP in Kathmandu, New York, Washington, the Middle East and Malaysia where a large number of Nepalis are living or working.

The service seekers can download the mobile app “Nepal Passport” in their cell phone and fill the passport application form before submitting it to the passport personalization system of the DoP.

Once it is submitted the system automatically generates a bar code to the concerned applicants who can then contact the DoP or other live entorllment centres along with the bar code for further processing.

But the applicants have to produce a recommendation letter from the concerned District Administration Office to obtain it.

It is a welcome move that the DoP has started using advanced technology for service seekers.