Investment Year campaign will start from 2012/13: Pant
The government is preparing to celebrate Investment Year 2012-13 to ease supply constraints by boosting production within the country. Investor year has been announced at a time when the country is facing slowdown in industrial production and shrinking share of export in Gross Domestic Product (GDP) due to excessive load shedding, frequent labor unrest and lack of political consensus on economic issues. Radesh Pant is the newly-appointed Chief Executive Officer of the Investment Board (IB) - the government´s focal agency that coordinates all government activities as a one-window unit to promote investment in the country. In an interview with Prabhakar Ghimire of Republica, Pant stressed on political commitment to promote domestic and foreign direct investment in the country. Excerpts:
The government has announced to kick off Investment Year from 2012. However, there is still confusion as to when the investment year actually starts and what its duration will be. Can we have an official word from you on this?
Yes, there is a confusion over when the investment year will begin and for how long the promotion campaign will continue. Some officials are saying the investment year is a two-year campaign involving 2012 and 2013. But this information is not correct. The campaign will start from the fiscal year 2012/13 for one year only.
You have recently been appointed as the CEO of IB. What will be the IB´s role in the campaign?
Last Thursday, IB got its full shape with the induction of additional four members. This takes the number of board members to 12. Our next step is to strengthen our secretariat with additional human resources and logistics. The Cabinet has given some mandate to launch promotional programs within the country and abroad. We are also reviewing existing policies so as to create a more conducive environment for foreign as well as domestic investors. We are trying to establish IB as an agency that provides one-widow service in a simplified manner to the investors not only during the campaign year but also during the years that follow.
So, what are the IB´s strategies to promote investments in Nepal?
As a part of our investment promotion program, we are identifying viable projects. We have also identified some key sectors of priority such as hydropower, infrastructure, agriculture, tourism, education and export-oriented industries. We will lay focus on projects in these identified areas. IB is also serving as the secretariat of the directorate of 42-member National Directory Committee of Nepal Investment Year led by Prime Minister Dr. Baburam Bhattarai.
What are the promotional programs for the campaign year?
As assigned by the government, we are launching internal and external promotional programs. Under the internal program, we will identify priority projects, organize Investors Forum - a conference of local and foreign investors - and sensitize the issues relating to private investment opportunities, among others.
Similarly, under the external programs, we have planned to launch different promotional campaigns in major countries of potential investors such as China, India, USA and European countries and promote investment opportunities in Nepal. We will also simultaneously promote the image of Nepal as an ideal destination for investment and tourism in the world.
Keeping in view the role of Nepali missions abroad, we will mobilize them to disseminate information about investment opportunities, investment process, and the scale of possible returns to investors. Success stories of joint venture projects in Nepal, among others, will also be highlighted by the missions concerned.
Do you see any possibility of duplication of promotional work undertaken by the Ministry of Industry (MoI) and IB?
No. Though the Ministry of Industry is also preparing to hold different programs for Nepal Investment Year, all programs will be implemented through IB, which is also under Investment Year National Advisory Committee headed by the prime minister.
What are the bottlenecks and remedy for more investments in Nepal?
Definitely, we are facing problems in luring investments to Nepal. Complicated process for a business firm to enter and exit, politicization from the very selection of projects without considering the potential benefit to the nation, politicization of industrial workforce, perennial power-shortage and lack of infrastructure are the major problems. It is a crucial time for us to lure more FDI to Nepal. However, we can overcome these problems if we forge political consensus for investment promotion. If we have conducive political environment, labor problems could be easily resolved. So far as the power-shortage is concerned, we can use diesel to generate power and import electricity from India as stopgap measures
The setting up of the Investment Board is purely a waste of tax-payers´ money. It´s activities in wooing investment will be a non-starter. I come to this simple conclusion because when there is shortage of power, lack of potable water, poor transport and communication infrastructures, non-availability of fuel, growing labour unrest, rampant corruption at all levels of government, which stupid fool, foreign or domestic is going to invest in our god-forsaken country? And for what? So l