TOPICS : Role of aviation in new Nepal

Big ideas, if followed up with the right combination of hard work, can quickly produce real results. For the Nepali people, this process of changing everyday realities needs to begin with the idea that politics can be used as a tool to help bring positive change. This means, development issues must become a part of common political discourse.

Aviation is a promising high-tech sector that has the potential of steering the country from poverty to prosperity. At the moment, we need a technically viable as well as visionary international airport to boost our economy.

The gross economic activity triggered by one international airport such as TIA amounts to more than 30 billion rupees annually (assume 400,000 tourists spend $135 each, 700,000 international passengers spend an average of $500 for air ticket, 450,000 domestic passengers spend an average of NRs 4,000 each). If only 10 per cent is received by the country in terms of taxes, 3 billion rupees net is pumped into the national income. The income generated from the multiplier effects of this activity must add at least 50 per cent to the national income.

If tiny TIA can have such an overall impact on Nepal’s economy, imagine what the impact of a full-fledged international airport catering to some 10 million tourists a year would be on the economy the country. Minimum estimates reveal that this would be in the order of about 10 billion US dollars of total activity and at least a billion dollars of net revenue annually.

A Kathmandu-Tarai Expressway and a New International Airport (NIA) at the other end of the Tarai is what we need to usher in prosperity characteristics of the current high-tech and high-income era of the modern world. A new international airport, among others, requires an investment of two billion dollars, at least one billion in the first phase as well as an investment of 800 million for a Tarai-Kathmandu Expressway

A study of NIA was carried out in 1997. Studies have been carried out since 1970 for a Kathmandu-Hetauda High Speed Road. Presently, a North-South Fast Track Connector Road Study under Asian Development Bank Technical Assistance Programme is going on. An investment of 15 billion rupees for a two-lane conventional DOR road and an investment of about 40 billion rupees for a four-lane freeway with longer tunnel (4 km) would be our choice regime.

The inclusion of Nijgadh International Airport in the 2007 budget speech and technical assistance for the high speed road to the Tarai are very encouraging signals from the political leadership. Visionary projects generally do not fall within the investment criteria of the donor agencies. Too much reliance on them will constrict the standards and prolong the time for completion. Full ownership of the vision and long-term decision making must be made and the private sector players that buy the vision must be made primary partners with full backing of the government whatever political party the leadership might belong to.