Ten Commandments: A Fast-Track Approach to Sustaining Nepal Economy

Madan Kumar Dahal

Senior Economist, Nepal

General Setting: Nepalese economy is passing through the downswing phase circumscribed by poverty and stagnation with a diminutive growth rate confined to 3.5 percent, which is entirely attributed to foreign assistance as high as 65 percent of total capital expenditures envisaged in the budget for FY 2011/12 (Budget Speech, 2011/12). The economy is conspicuously trailing behind other member countries of the SAARC region with respect to selected macroeconomic indicators in recent years and, most unfortunately, listed as one of the poorest countries in the world. Nepalese economy is predominantly a high-cost economy disadvantageously placed for expanding international trade with no direct access to sea and limited transit facilities. The ultra-poor and poor have no access to resources to buy two meals for sustenance and lack capacity to manage for shelter and clothes to live in dignity. The prices of daily consumption goods, medicines, textiles, fertilizer, petroleum products and tariff on electricity, telecommunications, and transport services have increased exorbitantly over the years.  The economy is characterized by growing dependence especially with India with alarmingly widening trade deficits, which is estimated to be around 25 percent of GDP. Although agriculture is the biggest sector with its contribution to GDP as high as 32 percent, it is still a subsistence sector encapsulated by low labor productivity.  The manufacturing sector is fragile with declining share below 6 percent of GDP due to poor industrial relations, limited export potential, and poor infrastructure with high extent of load shedding resulting to closure of several manufacturing units located at industrial corridors in terai (Dahal, 2011). This is further engulfed by prolonged transition, unclaimed status of constitution making and peace process, lack of investment-friendly environment especially to attract FDI, sinking public enterprises, dwindling financial sector with relatively low M2/GDP ratio, and volatile stock exchange with rapidly falling NEPSE Index. Despite several economic potentials instrumental in sustaining a big push to the economy, growing inefficiency, decelerating competitiveness, rampant corruption, and poor governance have remained detrimental factors to make a quantum jump in the economic front.

Current Status of the Economy: The latest data exhibit that inflation is still hovering around at a moderately higher rate primarily due to continuous price rise in India. The recently published WTO Report envisaged that Nepal’s GDP leveled at Rs. 1,346 billion; GNI per capita remained conspicuously low to US$ 642; extent of total consumption surpassed by 94 percent of GDP with negligible extent of national savings/GDP ratio; Tax Effort Ratio (TER) marked 15. 3 percent of GDP; and trade deficit swelled-up to Rs. 330 billion during FY 2010/11 (WTO, 2011). The ratio of exports to total trade declined to 14 percent, while the share of imports went up as high as 86 percent (NRB, 2012); contribution of remittances through foreign employment considerably increased to 23 percent of GDP; share of foreign exchange earnings from tourism sector declined to 2.4 percent of GDP in FY 2010/11; quantum of cumulative FDI stagnated at Rs. 58 billion as of mid-March 2010 (Economic Survey, 2011). Around 74 percent of total population still derives their livelihood directly from agriculture and population below poverty line perceptibly declined to 25.16 percent (NLSS, 2010). However, the studies of Oxford University Research Team sponsored by UNDP employing Multidimensional Poverty Index (MPI) has revealed that extent of poverty is as high as 65 percent in Nepal (OPHI/UNDP, 2011). This is a grim reality that majority of the people are living in abject poverty under wretched economic condition with barter system especially in remote hills and mountains of the Western and Far Western regions of Nepal.

Critical Constraints: IMF recently warned that global economy would likely to witness a more severe and dangerous economic meltdown in 2012 and afterwards as compared to 2008 and that of 1930s and the forecast also refer to the rise of Asian economies during the period (IMF, 2011). Amidst two sharply contrast scenarios Nepal’s economic status is extremely vulnerable and unpredictable, and development is conditioned to peace and stability in the country. The respective governments in the past and to-day absolutely failed to generate trickle-down effects and maximize the benefits from neighborhood economies with phenomenal economic success of China and incredible growth sustained by India in recent years.

Investment is not a critical constraint to growth in Nepal, for investment/GDP ratio is found to be as high as 30 percent of GDP in FY 2010/11, unfortunately, with sluggish growth rate conditioned to foreign aid (ADB, 2009; Economic Survey, 2010/11). This is indicative of extremely poor efficiency of investment to growth, the ICOR being as high as 8:1. The most notorious critical constraints to growth are comprised of:

(a) poor infrastructure with terribly high extent of load shedding as  high as 14 hours in a day that plunged the entire nation into darkness for the last few years;

(b) empty water-tape with no single drop supplied to a majority households in capital and elsewhere for a long period;

(c) frequent disruption in the supply and critical shortage of petroleum products including cooking gas attributed to non-payment of huge outstanding due to Indian Oil Corporation (IOC);

(d) unhealthy industrial relations between the trade unions and private sector leading to closure of several manufacturing units both indigenous and foreign located at industrial corridors in;

(e) misappropriation of huge fund to the tune of Rs. 92 billion by most of the state-owned enterprises (SOEs) such as Nepal Oil corporation (NOC), Nepal Electricity Authority (NEA), Nepal Airlines (NA) and National Trading Ltd (NTL) to name a few received through transfer payments, subsidies and loans from treasury. These SOEs with monopoly market have incurred into heavy losses and suffers from over-manning and political entrenchment;

(f) declining volume of traditional exports such as carpet, garments, handicrafts and pashmina with comparative advantages and competitive edges to India and overseas;

(f) poor segment of society is hard hit by stagflation due to rising ‘imported’ inflation and lack of employment opportunities at home; and

(g) both private and government investments in agriculture are extremely low estimated to be less than 5 percent of GDP (Budget Speech, FY 2011/12).  

Although investment is not a constraint to growth, unfortunately, FDI and indigenous investments in potential areas such as hydropower and tourism are trapped into vagaries of prolonged transition and lack of security to investment.  Nepalese economy is, therefore, likely to capsize with rapidly deteriorating political situations resulting to collapse of Constituent Assembly (CA) with great failure in constitution making and accomplishing peace process within given timeframe set by the Supreme Court that will expire on May 28, 2012. In addition, the latest report of International Anti-corruption Watchdog, Transparency International 2011, Failed State Index 2011, and the report of the Auditor General of Nepal provide adequate evidence that Nepal is not only the most corrupt country in South Asia but also moving towards a failure State due to alarmingly increased lawlessness and impunity over the years.

The current economic situation is more vulnerable than what is expected to create adverse impact by global economic meltdown likely to occur in 2012 and afterwards. This is most unfortunate that Nepalese governments in the past and to-day are terribly engaged in managing the crisis with little emphasis and priority to resolving existing economic crisis. It is growing inefficiency and decelerating competitiveness, mounting corruption, and extremely poor governance are three crucial factors detrimental to economic progress in Nepal. The existing dismal situation is attributed more to political and less economic factors comprising prolonged transition, non-existence of elected representatives at local levels, extremely politicized bureaucracy, under-spending of capital expenditures, lack of corporate governance in financial institutions, and poor governance at both government and the private sector to effectively provide services to the people.

Ten Commandments: A Fast-track Approach to Sustaining the Economy

Nepal’s economic development is an intractable proposition tantamount to traveling on the Silk Road and, therefore, economy urgently requires to introducing fire-brigade approach to deal with sustaining macro-economic stability and improving fiscal discipline and governance (Dahal, 2012). When the house is set ablaze, the priority would be to urgently call fire-brigade to extinguish fire. The plan to build a ‘fire and earthquake proof’ house with modern comfort and better quality could be considered at a later stage. Assuming limitations of existing coalition government particularly of its short-lived nature with a series of ugly reputations, it is imperative to reordering of priorities and, accordingly, formulating plans, programs and strategy to bring back the economy at normalcy and move towards a take-off. This requires scrapping of all existing policies, plans and programs to be substituted by emergency plan and budget and, subsequently, implementing an action plan designed for a short span with strong commitments to ensuring substantial results to each household hard hit by stagflation and deprivation. A long term strategy, thereafter, could be devised through developing consensus among political parties with the emergence of a national government likely to originate soon. Since the fast-track approach is pre-requisite to bring back the economy at normalcy, the following Ten Commandments have been recommended for implementation to forthcoming national government likely to be in existence soon.   

Ten Commandments

  • Negotiate trading of additional at least 200 MW electricity from India including arrangements for required transmission lines connecting national grid, in addition to 80 MW currently available against payments, which would immediately help reducing load-shedding to some extent in Nepal during the short-run. The proposal for thermal plants is rejected for obvious reason that it is not cost-effective and there is hidden ill-motive of the political power-block to yield a huge kickback in partnership with private sector that totally jeopardized the prospects for hydropower development in Nepal. The proposal for increasing electricity tariff to reduce load shedding is even more ridiculous. As of mid-term evaluation of the budget for current FY 2011/12 the status of Mahakali hydropower project (6,500 capacity) agreement held in1995 with India is unknown, and the progress of Budhi Gandaki (600 MW), Upper Tamakoshi (456 MW), Rahughat, Kulekhani III, Chameliya, and Upper Trishuli 3A is at snail’s speed, and feasibility study of Tamakoshi V, and agreement with Employees’ Provident Fund for mobilizing loan to Bhotekoshi hydro-project are all long-run projects that require guarantee of market in India for exporting electricity in excess of domestic consumption estimated to be around 1,000 MW for during the period 2010/11-2012/13 (NPC: TYIP, 2010).
  • Improve supply of petroleum products including cooking gas by urgently clearing huge outstanding amount to IOC, and liberalize imports of petro-products by inviting private sector at home and also multi-nationals to participate and break monopoly of NOC ensuring a competitive price with quality products.
  • Modulate with continuation of appropriate subsidy policies on fertilizer, petro-products, interest on agriculture loan taken by small farmers at par with what India is providing to protect the interest of weaker segments of society by improving public distribution system. No subsidy should be avail to upper strata of society especially for commerce and industry groups at the cost of poor.    
  • Improve industrial relations by reviewing tripartite agreements with reference to minimum wages, ‘no work no pay’ system, contribution to social security, decent work including the context of protecting remuneration and ensuring security to workers aspiring for foreign employment through mobilizing Nepalese mission abroad.
  • Control ‘imported’ inflation by improving supply of consumption goods and intermediate articles through imports during the short-run, and by increasing productivity of both food and cash crops in the long-run.
  • Reform public enterprises within the target set for a year or two maximum by developing an appropriate national policy to speed up the process of privatization with the induction of various alternative models such as; (a) Company Ltd., (b) PPP (c) Collaboration with foreign companies, and (d) liquidation.
  • Effectively deal with the problem of under-spending of capital expenditures through improving governance at both national and local levels especially by holding local elections due for an extremely long period.
  • Combat rampant corruption originating from internal revenue mobilization, foreign aid, NGOs and INGOs, political parties, private sector, financial institutions, bureaucracy, police, army, and judiciary including all segments of society at first through black-listing, social boycott, seizure of passport, freezing of bank accounts etc and, subsequently, by organizing a separate trial on economic offences through the special court at a later stage.
  • Attract more FDI and indigenous investments on a greater quantum on priority areas such as hydropower, tourism, biodiversity, agriculture, and exports with comparative advantages and competitive edges by mobilizing private sector through effective implementation of Special Economic Zone (SEZ) and dry ports, and also by strengthening economic corridors and propagating “Zero Tariff Regime” with neighborhood economies, regional partners, EU, US, Japan and Scandinavian countries.
  •  Increase productivity of agriculture by increasing investment in agriculture at both private as well as government sector.

Conclusion: The story of economic development is often very poignant and decelerating in Nepal. Democracy or any other system where corruption is protected, honesty penalized, and scholars and intellectuals are humiliated, and where founding father of the nation is atrociously disgraced will not endure for long. With the emergence of forthcoming national government and soon after its existence it is essential to constitute a high level but powerful “Economic Commission”  at par with the Cabinet rank to be assigned primarily to undertake specific twin objectives. These are: firstly, to formulate the “White Paper” on the current status and master-bottlenecks facing Nepalese economy and immediately apprise the common people within a month and, secondly, devise a “Road Map” within a year employing the doctrine of “interdependence” in conformity with the spirit of globalization and liberalization to attain double digit growth with substantial poverty reduction ensuring tremendous affluence in society at par with middle economies by 2025. The Commission should also explore strategic option to heighten economic ties with both India and China and also with development partners at large to especially expedite mutually beneficial mega projects to create win-win effects to both sides. Nepal’s trade with India is as high as 67 percent and dependency is growing alarmingly and, therefore, it also necessary to workout as to how trade deficits with India would be drastically reduced by promoting exports through reviewing existing Nepal-India Trade Treaty in favor of Nepal and determine the exchange rate of Nepali currency at par with the value of Indian currency. In addition, it is also important to urgently start with “meritocracy” in all spheres of life comprising social, cultural, economic and political as well and also develop and implement reservation policy for all weaker sections of the society. This would certainly help improving efficiency and governance and reducing the state of corruption.

Despite numerous structural constraints, there are ample opportunities that Nepal could tremendously gear up the economy by stimulating its major foundations comprising hydro-power, tourism, biodiversity and remittances through foreign employment in cooperation with the private sector. The development strategy for a burgeoning economy like Nepal must be directed towards gradually “shifting from aid to trade; from dependence to interdependence; from a poor to good governance; from conflict to consensus, and from a dismal to improved performance” (Dahal, 2010) to ensure a secured and safe destiny for approximately 30 million population eagerly awaiting to enjoy optimistically blissful days in not too distant future. A vibrant economy with robust economic growth is antidote to extreme poverty, corruption and underdevelopment.

Professor Dahal is a Senior Economist & Chairman, Mega Bank Nepal Ltd. He is available for academic and professional deliberations on economic issues through e-mail: madandahal.prof@gmail.com

Post your Comment here

TERMS OF USE:The views, opinions and comments posted are your, and are not endorsed by this website. You shall be solely responsible for the comment posted here. The website reserves the right to delete, reject, or otherwise remove any views, opinions and comments posted or part thereof. You shall ensure that the comment is not inflammatory, abusive, derogatory, defamatory &/or obscene, or contain pornographic matter and/or does not constitute hate mail, or violate privacy of any persons) or breach confidentiality or otherwise is illegal, immoral or contrary to public policy. Nor should it contain anything infringing copyright &/or intellectual property rights of any person(s).


  •         
  •          





  •  
I agree

Comments

  • Posted on - 2012-04-27    by     Dr. R K Shah
  • Nepalese Economy is suffering from low economy growth rate, trade deficit, dependency on foreign assistance, rapidly falling NEPSE Index, rampant corruption, poor governance, etc. This article highlights dreadful economic situation of the country. Poverty, unemployment, political instability, black money, social crimes, and worst socio-economic factors, etc. are the common economic issues in the country. It is very critical aspect of the Nepalese Economy. This article also represents empty water tape, shortage of petroleum products, unhealthy industrial relations, declining exports, load-shedding electricity, traditional agricultural-oriented society, agro-based economy, import dominance economy, etc. which clarifies the worse economy situation of the country. The main statement of this article is that Ten Commandments are a fast track approach to sustaining Nepalese economy. If the government could have the capacity to control the Ten Commandments in the country, the socio-economic situation of the country will improve and promote the economy of the country. Ten Commandments are as follows: • Electricity • Petroleum products and cooking gas • Agriculture subsidy • Industrial relationship • Supply of consumption goods • Reform public enterprises • Proper utilization of capital budget • Combat rampant corruption • Attract FDI • Increase productivity of agriculture Besides these, other determining factors are also play the important role to promote the Nepalese economy. For example, herbs, forests and forest products, fruits and flowers, tourism, irrigation, stones, manpower, handicrafts and handicrafts products, leather and leather products, rural microfinance, etc. The author should have also requested to include those factors in his article to promote the Nepalese economy. If Nepal could solve the Ten Issues of Nepalese Economy, it will promote the economy growth rate of the country neither the country will face the problem of debt trap in near future. Debt trap will degrade the sound economy of Nepal.
  • Posted on - 2012-04-26    by     Dr. R K Shah
  • Nepalese Economy is suffering from low economy growth rate, trade deficit, dependency on foreign assistance, rapidly falling NEPSE Index, rampant corruption, poor governance, etc. This article highlights dreadful economic situation of the country. Poverty, unemployment, political instability, black money, social crimes, and worst socio-economic factors, etc. are the common economic issues in the country. It is very critical aspect of the Nepalese Economy. This article also represents empty water tape, shortage of petroleum products, unhealthy industrial relations, declining exports, load-shedding electricity, traditional agricultural-oriented society, agro-based economy, import dominance economy, etc. which clarifies the worse economy situation of the country. The main statement of this article is that Ten Commandments are a fast track approach to sustaining Nepalese economy. If the government could have the capacity to control the Ten Commandments in the country, the socio-economic situation of the country will improve and promote the economy of the country. Ten Commandments are as follows: • Electricity • Petroleum products and cooking gas • Agriculture subsidy • Industrial relationship • Supply of consumption goods • Reform public enterprises • Proper utilization of capital budget • Combat rampant corruption • Attract FDI • Increase productivity of agriculture Besides these, other determining factors are also play the important role to promote the Nepalese economy. For example, herbs, forests and forest products, fruits and flowers, tourism, irrigation, stones, manpower, handicrafts and handicrafts products, leather and leather products, rural microfinance, etc. The author should have also requested to include those factors in his article to promote the Nepalese economy. If Nepal could solve the Ten Issues of Nepalese Economy, it will promote the economy growth rate of the country neither the country will face the problem of debt trap in near future. Debt trap will degrade the sound economy of Nepal.
  • Posted on - 2012-04-26    by     Ramesh Khadka
  • This article is very relevant to the context of Nepal because Nepal is going to federal state in near future. So, Nepal should find out its potentiality.
  • Posted on - 2012-03-28    by     Balaram paudel , Birat nagar
  • The article “Ten commandments …” has not only made clear analysis of deteriorating situation of Nepalese economy but also has offered practical guidelines for its improvement. I feel, it should be a vision paper for the Nepalese economy and request to planners and policy makers to go through the paper, catch the essence and implement it to improve the performance of Nepalese economy. The paper has identified major constraints however remained unobserved to unsettled land dispute. I appreciate the paper and would like to congratulate Prof. Dahal for the contribution he has made to the development of Nepalese economy
  • Posted on - 2012-03-20    by     y b thapa
  • Prof. Dr. Madan Kumar Dahal, as an entrepreneur and economist, has portrayed the pathology of Nepalese economy well, and indicated the direction of roadmap. The latter needs to be more specific in terms of accountability structure bearing in mind a quote by Paul Samuelson in his ‘Economics’ from Karl Marx: “The Philosophers have explained the world in various ways, the point however is to change it.” So when it comes to Prof. Dhahal’s diagnostics and road map with 10-coomandemnts, let me clarify/ supplement the following to narrow down the focus in the order of priority with a one year time horizon: 1. Civil societies, academia, researchers and professionals clarify to the people about the political economy of the reigning Law makers and Ministers, and set a campaign for the re-election of Constituent Assembly in the post-Jestha 14 situation. Being on the defensive, there is a slip chance the CA members may promulgate the constitution. 2. The Civil Society, Election Commission, and Council of Ministers declare within a month the intent to hold election of local governments (DDC, Municipality, and VDCs) in the current fiscal year. This will re-orient the accountability of nearly 0.1 million employees at the grass-roots level to the community, and ‘aam aadmi’. 3. The PM Dr Bhattarai complete the re-constitution of the National Planning Commission (NPC) within a month, entrust it with more executive powers down to district levels, and have an interface meetings with the FNCCI/CNI on managing the economy within 1.5 months. 4. All the cabinet, FNCCI and Civil Society make it clear to the entrepreneurs and people the scarcity of resources such as energy should not co-exist with its under-pricing. So increase the financial prices (inclusive of normal profits) of electricity, oil, gas, and fertilizers NOW; this is prerequisite to liberalize the energy sector, and import electricity from India, Bhutan within three months. 5. The Government and all autonomous agencies need to give a face lift to the institutions, utilities, universities, and infrastructures. I hope that the above would go well with the readers and statesman to refresh our sick society. Mr. Y B Thapa, a former member NPC, is now research student under the guidance of Prof. Dr. Dahal and Prof. Dr. Govind Nepal in the Central Department of Economics, TU; write at yb_thapa@ntc.net.np
  • Posted on - 2012-03-16    by     Hem Raj Lamichhane
  • Dear Sir, I went through the article. I found it more informative and analytic. I don't have much comments on it. I just would like to request that the local governments (DDCs, VDCs and municipalities) have been playing pivotal role in human as well as economic development from the very grass root level. So it would be better to add some contribution of local governments of Nepal for sustainable economic development.
  • Posted on - 2012-03-14    by     Mohan Lohani
  • Dear Prof.Dahal, Your ten commandments remind any reader of Christ's ten commandments in the Bible which set the tone for spiritual and moral salvation and emancipation of both christians and non-christians on earth.Your ten commandments ,if implemented honestly and effectively, are a good and healthy recipe for economic development of this country.I quote the first sentence of your Conclusion which is reproduced below: Conclusion: The story of economic development is often very poignant and decelerating in Nepal. Democracy or any other system where corruption is protected, honesty penalized, and scholars and intellectuals are humiliated, and where founding father of the nation is atrociously disgraced will not endure for long The above sentence from your conclusion sums up the grim reality of where this country is heading for.I like the expression "fire brigade approach" prescribed by you in the article.The country can no longer afford to be loud on rhetoric and short on action.Experts like you who know about the ills of our economy and also the cure for these ills are ignored and not consulted.This is the saddest part of the story which is mentioned by you. With warm regards, Mohan Lohani 89vn7n
  • Posted on - 2012-03-12    by     Sapan Dev
  • I read this article with great interest and hope that the policy makers including the PM Dr. Baburam Bhattarai and derive lessons for how to accelerate Nepal's economic development.
  • Posted on - 2012-02-25    by     Naveen Adhiari
  • nice article sir..i am always your fan for your positive words..
  • Posted on - 2012-02-24    by     Ram Sharma
  • your words and selection of words seem to much fantastic! yet there is nothing substantial on content! i admit you have power to decieve one by face and words!! i too read dictionary many times before i made a conclusion!! yet, find nothing!! the time of need is vision, not abstruse sentence!!