Nepal | May 25, 2020

EDITORIAL: A test case

The Himalayan Times
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If we can make this SEZ successful, the other economic zones will also get a big boost by strengthening the national economy significantly

It is often said that there is no proper environment for investment in the industrial sector in Nepal. There is a considerable degree of truth in the statement, as there are several factors that tend to discourage potential investment.

But that does not constitute the whole truth. Nepalis are willing to investment as the public offerings of shares by financial institutions and other companies are often oversubscribed. Take the example of the Special Economic Zone (SEZ) created in Bhairahawa with the objective of setting up export-oriented industries there.

The SEZ has a total of 69 plots to be leased and all of them have already been booked by domestic investors.

Eight new companies have proposed setting up industries there using 25 plots that were vacant; already 14 domestic companies have received approval for setting up plants there, whereas approval for companies wanting to set up breweries have not been give permission, so far.

The applying companies have sought to set up a variety of units, including water bottling, polymer, beverage, metal processing, electric products and noodles.

And prominent business houses are among the investors interested in the SEZ. The encouraging response from prospective investors came especially after the Legislature-Parliament passed the SEZ law which provides various facilities and incentives for investors operating in the SEZ.

Foreign investors’ interest in SEZ has also been reported, as officials say they are receiving more queries from Nepali as well as foreigners. Things should therefore be speeded up to make the SEZ functional without unnecessary delay. The country has several industrial estates.

But the Special Economic Zone in Bhairahawa is the first of its kind in Nepal, with its focus on producing exportable goods.

As the country’s imports have exceed its exports several times for a number of years, making the country’s economy vulnerable, the concept of setting up special economic zones in the country is the need of the hour and their importance in building a country’s national economy and boosting its exports has been demonstrated by the experiences of several underdeveloped or developing countries.

In Nepal things do not often tend to move fast enough to realize any plan or programme on time.

If we are to develop and expand the concept of SEZ to other parts of the country successfully, we should learn to expedite the work.

For example, the government should not delay in introducing SEZ Guidelines, without which the special economic zone cannot function, and also start implementing the SEZ Act to boost investor confidence as well as to make the SEZ bear fruit soon.

Indeed, the government has provided attractive incentives for industries with the SEZ, including rental charge rebate and duty-free import of raw materials.

There is also a natural obligation placed on these industries – to export at least 75 per cent of their output. The government plans to expand the concept of SEZ to fourteen different locations across the country.

Therefore, being the first of them, the Bhairahawa SEZ has become a test case.

If we can make this SEZ successful, the other economic zones will also get a big boost, thus strengthening the national economy significantly.

Lead poisoning

It is estimated that around 853,000 people die every year from lead poisoning. When exposed to lead many people are affected by various diseases, including serious ailments.

It can cause heart disease, cancer, impotency in men and high blood pressure. These could prove to be fatal. In a research in Nepal blood samples showed that 65 per cent of them showed some lead content. These samples were taken from Dharan and Kathmandu.

It also found some lead content in 90 per cent of the children in Lalitpur and Bhaktapur.

It is high time to raise awareness to avoid exposure to lead as far as possible as the threat of lead poisoning is real as it can be lethal.

Lead is found in paints and most of the manufacturers of paints in the country do not mention the amount of lead in their paint buckets. The law bars the use of paints with more than 90 PPM of lead content.

Efforts should be made to bring it down to zero level for at stake is the health and even lives of humans. Not doing so would invite danger to the health of people.

A version of this article appears in print on October 27, 2016 of The Himalayan Times.

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