Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli on Sunday rolled out the red carpet to all aspirant investors saying that Nepal has an immense possibility for investment and that it can offer both secure opportunities and profit.
While delivering the inaugural speech at the Kantipur Conclave, the Kantipur Media Group’s flagship global event, Oli said that business opportunities in Nepal are backed by unique strategic and locational advantages, with two of the world’s largest markets and fastest growing economies being close to it.
The prime minister also hailed “Kantipur Conclave: Unleashing Nepal’s Potential” as timely and relevant as Nepal is set to host the Investment Summit 2019 in March-end.
“I am confident that this Conclave will provide a useful platform to share innovative ideas and views on harnessing Nepal’s development potential,” he said.
With just a month to go for the second international investment summit, there have been concerns from the donors and development partners who are still wary of the investment climate in Nepal, largely due to corruption, lack of reform measures and failure to cut the cumbersome red tape.
“The government has put in place a robust regulatory framework and promulgated enabling policies in a range of specific sectors of the economy,” he said. “We are actively pursuing administrative reforms and strengthening of institutions. A one-stop-centre for services will be provided to the investors.”
The Oli administration came to office last year after the first elections held under Nepal’s new constitution and it is the strongest one the country has ever seen in the past two-and-a-half decades.
His government has put prosperity high on its agenda. It, however, has faced criticism for not taking the private sector into confidence and for failing to do the desired work to woo foreign investors.
Oli, however, tried to dispel concerns. “There should not be any confusion about our future course of development. Our vision is clear, our commitment is steadfast and our action is result-oriented,” he said. “If you have been waiting for the most appropriate time for investing in Nepal, now is the time. After a protracted phase of political transition, Nepal today enjoys a peaceful, democratic and stable political order,” said Oli. He claimed that business-friendly policies and laws have either already been enacted or are in the process of finalisation.
Various government agencies are working to finalise some of the new laws and amending some existing laws and policies ahead of the summit. Some new laws have already been sent to the Cabinet for its nod ahead of the investment summit to create a positive investment scenario.
Oli also made some distinct promises at the Conclave saying that the government would allow
foreign investors 100 percent ownership of a company in almost all sectors, with the facility of repatriating capital and profits to the investor’s home country.
“There is no obstacle to repatriating capital. The treatment for foreign investors is on par with domestic entrepreneurs, along with the guarantee of non-nationalisation of industries,” he said. “There are several bilateral treaty arrangements for the promotion and protection of investment and for the avoidance of double taxation.”
On the concerns of infrastructure, the prime minister said: “The government is committed to providing required infrastructure to encourage investors to invest in productive sectors so that the industries do not face any infrastructure bottlenecks after they start operation.”
Allaying concerns of investors and major development partners regarding corruption, multiple windows for seeking permission and approval, and frequent transfers of the officials, among others, the prime minister said: “We are committed to fighting corruption at all levels and providing good governance, and ensuring the rule of law across the entire spectrum of governance structures in the country.”
The prime minister agreed that the bigger challenge is ensuring the system of governance.
“The government is deploying its resources and concentrating its undivided attention on instituting a system of governance that will help deliver the public goods that the state must provide, as well as regulate the market as a fair and impartial regulator. In every economic sector, we are committed to eliminating cartel and syndicate once and for all and ensuring free and fair competition,” he said.
The prime minister also laid emphasis on development of science and technology and the important role the youth can play in meeting Nepal’s development goals.
“Employment generation and job creation is not possible without the development of science and technology and its proper application. Investment in health and education is important to develop qualified human resources which could, in turn, drive the process of development in science and technology,” he said.
“Apart from our natural resources and fertile land, the first is of course our demography, which is one of the most precious resources that we possess,” he added. “We are an ancient country with a young population, and the youth of our nation are in a position to bring positive change that can alter the social and economic landscape of our country. Our youth will spearhead the socio-economic transformation of the country by taking the lead in adopting new technologies in agriculture, industry and services sectors of the economy.”
As Nepal strives to graduate from the status of a least development country by 2022 and aims to become a middle-income country by 2030, what all it will need is fund.
To meet these targets, the economic growth should not be less than seven percent annually as well as at least $15 billion needs to be injected into various developmental and infrastructure projects at least for a decade—which is more than double compared to the current expenditure.
In this regard, the prime minister said the macroeconomic condition of Nepal’s economy is relatively stable which is conducive to long-term investments and economic growth.
“Labour laws are flexible and supportive of healthy industrial relations as well as of economic growth and efficiency,” he added. “Special Economic Zones are being set up at several locations, where investors can take the benefit of further incentives and regulatory flexibility. The energy supply situation has improved significantly, and road, railway and aviation infrastructure are under rapid expansion.”
Reiterating his commitment to welcoming investors with open arms, the prime minister said: “The government of Nepal is always open to constructive advice and committed to bringing any positive ideas into operation. In order to facilitate the dialogue with business community, we have already established a business advisory council.”
Dozens of speakers and panelists from diverse background are participating in the two-day Kantipur Conclave.