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Why Nepal is underdeveloped?

By PR Pradhan
pushpa-columnA group of senior journalists from Kathmandu, mostly editors, visited China’s two cities – Beijing and Kunming – at the invitation of the All China Journalists Association from 27 August to 2 September. Some of the journalists were visiting China for the first time, thus, they were very excited. However, some of them, including this scribe, had visited different parts of China several times and they were desperate from why Nepal, the next-door neighbour of China, is still underdeveloped!
The visiting journalists reached to the conclusion that due to the lack of visionary leadership and lack of commitment for nation building among our leaders, we are still an underdeveloped nation, whereas, having visionary, dedicated, committed leaderships in China, she is achieving tremendous progress in all sectors.
China is a huge country having a huge population. To manage such a huge nation is not a joke. China was an investment seeking country in the 80s and even in the 90s. Now, China has become the second largest economic giant in the globe and China has emerged as the second largest country in foreign investment. In interaction with the Chinese think-tanks and journalists both in Beijing and Kunming, they informed that China has invested 180 billion US dollars in foreign countries and she has allotted 15 billion US dollars for foreign investment under OBOR. They further informed that they are ready to invest in Nepal in any sector if Nepal comes with necessary homework. What the Chinese officials have understood is that Nepal still is confused in importing Chinese investment. After four years of introduction of BRI (Belt and Road Initiative) by President Xi Jinping and after more than one year of signing on ten important agreements by the then PM Oli led government, Nepal joined OBOR.
Our DPM and Foreign Minister Krishna Bahadur Mahara visited Beijing last week but it was no more than a courtesy visit, which is called a “goodwill visit”. After signing on the OBOR Initiative Nepal has done no homework on implementation of RBI. Mahara went to meet the Chinese leaders without homework. There are many areas of cooperation under RBI but the present leaderships in the government here have not been able to select the projects to be implemented under the OBOR. Of course, we are losing the opportunity for our infrastructural development even at a time when China is ready to invest on projects initiated by Nepal.
Some sections of intellectuals here have started to raise the issue that Nepal cannot bear the heavy load of interest on the Chinese investment. This question was raised by the Nepali journalists visiting China during interaction with the Chinese think-tanks. In response, the Chinese academicians had presented some examples that in some of the countries, China has constructed industrial zones to boost these countries’ economy through industrialization. Likewise, they had hinted that as labour cost in Nepal is cheap, Nepal can export goods to China.
To summarize, the Chinese academicians were hinting that first of all, Nepal should be clear on its vision. Once if trans-Himalayan Railway-line is constructed, Nepal can easily import goods from China but upon return of the Rail, Nepal should be able to send our products also from the rail. The other Chinese gesture was that there can be joint-ventures between the Chinese and Nepali private sectors. The reality is that as along with improvement in the economy, the per capita income of the Chinese individuals has also been increased and due to increased labour costs, the Chinese products are going to be more expensive. Therefore, through private sector partnership between the two nations, China wants to shift her manufacturing plants in the neighbouring countries where the labour cost is cheap. Understandably, the Chinese choice is now Bangladesh. Nevertheless, if Nepal will be able to maintain peaceful labour by discouraging highly politicized trade unions, Nepal can also be a venue for private sector joint-ventures. So far, first of all, we have to identify products which can be exported to China. They can be herbs, vegetables, livestock, assembling plant of Chinese mobiles, watches, among others. If we don’t carry out good homework to meet the Chinese needs to export our products, construction of the railway will be a big economic burden on us. Therefore, along with construction of trans-Himalayan railway, Nepal should develop base of the export items as well.
To sum up, we are just making superficial talks even in serious things. Until and unless we think about tomorrow, we can do nothing. Nepal will remain underdeveloped nation even if both the nations will make a big jump on economic sector.

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