Mutual attraction

Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala, in his inaugural address, on Monday, to the three-day third Global NRN (Non-resident Nepali) Conference 2007, has pledged support to the issues raised by NRNs. He urged them to invest in projects that will benefit a large section of society, promising to introduce the rules and regulations to operate the NRN Act in consultation with them. NRNs want a review of the law because they think it is incomplete and speedy formulation of the rules and regulations to make possible the registration of NRNs Association in Nepal. According to Upendra Mahato, president of the NRNs Association — International Coordination Council, non-resident Nepalis have invested about $300 million in health, education, hydropower, banking, IT and other sectors. The conference, which is to elect a new leadership of the NRNs Association and announce its policy for the next period, draws together 500 representatives from about 40 countries. The timing has also been appropriate for their Dashain reunions in Nepal.

As the government follows a liberal economic policy, all the more so under WTO obligations, greater foreign competition is to arrive in various sectors within Nepal. Besides, the government is making the laws and regulations increasingly attractive for foreign direct investment. In this context, a strong case can be made for creating the right conditions for luring investment from non-resident Nepalis and people of Nepali origin (PNOs). NRNs, though they are now foreign nationals, have their roots in Nepal.

Therefore, there is some merit in the view that some special treatment should be given to them for putting their money, expertise and international exposure into business ventures in Nepal. But there is no denying that the bottom line of any private investment, whether it is from locals, NRNs or foreigners, is profit. In most cases, it is also true that most NRNs are

seeking influence and prestige in the country they left years ago for greener pastures abroad. But also often undeniable is the presence of a desire in NRNs and PNOs to contribute in some ways to Nepal’s betterment.

It is a good thing that top leaders representing the entire political spectrum appear to favour creating even better conditions for NRN investment. In putting this consensual opinion into practice, speedy action is necessary. However, on certain issues, decisions should be taken only after thoroughly weighing their possible negative and positive implications for the country. One is the question of dual citizenship, which some countries permit. But the government should look at the question entirely from the Nepali angle. With dual

citizenship comes the question of the right to vote, as some have already called for it, and then the right to run for public office and contest elections. Another crucial question that the demand for dual citizenship raises is whether it should be granted only to those who can bring in hard currency to run some commercial or industrial ventures, or also to those who are not so well endowed. Discrimination would look feeble on moral grounds.