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Did we forget economic embargo?

By Prajwal Shrestha
The weakness of the Nepali people is that very soon they forget the past. Last year, when we were very badly suffering from the devastating earthquake, we had to face yet another crisis due to the intentional economic embargo imposed by our “special friend” India. The Nepali people were unable to celebrate their biggest festival Dasain in a pleasant and joyful manner. The blockade was so inhuman that even lifesaving medicines were scarcity in the market. The blockade created economic loss worth trillions of rupees. Today, it seems, we have already forgotten the plight of the blockade. Besides last year’s blockade, in the past also, to fulfill her interests, India had imposed blockade on Nepal. But the Nepali rulers didn’t take lessons from the previous blockade, in result, we had to face yet another blockade last year. We cannot assure that in future, India will never impose blockade but we have no necessary preparation to face blockade.
The present day rulers never gave priority on making Nepal a self-reliant nation, instead, they always encouraged imports from India. In a recent report, it is stated that in the trade with India, Nepal has imported rice worth 22 billion rupees; five billion rupees worth fruits; three billion rupees worth livestock; one and a half billion rupees worth dairy products and 8 billion rupees worth vegetables.
The report states that in foreign trade, we have two thirds of trade with India alone and our total export to India is just 39 billion rupees whereas imports amount 483 billion rupees. In this regard, our trade deficit with India amounts 443 billion rupees. Five years ago, the trade deficit with India was recorded at 2.5 billion rupees only.  Even after the blockade for more than five months, the trade deficit has made a new record.
The items stated above which we are being imported from India were being exported from Nepal until 25 years ago, or say until the Panchayat regime was existed. How far have we become dependent to the foreign country during the “democratic” era, this is just an example. If the government encourages local people to produce such items within the country, still, we can be self-reliant on agro-products. For doing so, the policy makers have to study on the items that we are importing from foreign countries. After identifying the items, they should support or encourage to produce such items in the country. Research works have to be done and advanced equipment as well as fertilizers have to be managed by the government. In this way, we can become self-reliant in agro products.
Similarly, industrialization of the country is also necessary. The government should develop investment friendly environment for the local investors. Identifying the areas, foreign joint-ventures can also be attracted. Our water resources are identified as white gold, unfortunately, we have not been able to harness this natural gift in a proper manner. While developing hydropower development plan, the policymakers have to forget that we can also export our hydropower to the foreign countries. Secondly, we have to remember that foreign countries, specially India will not invest in the infrastructural areas in Nepal. We are aware that India has occupied almost all low-cost megha hydropower projects but India is delaying in construction of these projects. By taking lessons from the experiment of other underdeveloped countries that how they had developed hydropower projects, Nepal, by utilizing our own local resources, we have to construct our hydropower projects. Just recently, when our energy minister held a meeting with several local organs holding huge amount of money in stock, they expressed the commitment that hundreds of billion rupees they can invest in hydropower projects if the government will develop a policy for investment of the amount that they are holding. Energy minister Janardan Sharma seems to be encouraged from such commitment expressed by the local organs holding huge fund. The minister has assured them that he will introduce a policy through which the ways for investment of the huge amount of ideal fund can be possible.
Accordingly, minister Sharma is planning to impose additional tax on mobile and internet service to generate fund for investment in hydropower projects. This is also a positive gesture. Also, the previous government had introduced Rs 5 additional tax in consumption of each litre of the petro-products to generate fund for construction of the Budhigandaki hydropower project. This idea is also appreciable. Furthermore, this scribe suggest that instead of collecting fund through tax, if the amount paid by the consumers will be converted into shares, that will be a source of income for them when they will be spending retired life. The government should think on this side also.
There is no scarcity of fund for investment of profitable projects as application of the general public has been seen many folds higher than the floated shares by different hydropower and banking sectors. And if the government will give guarantee of profit, the general public will invest their savings in such projects. Furthermore, we can encourage our youths gone abroad for foreign employment to invest them in hydropower sector. Although generating hydropower is a costly projects, if the government and leaders express strong commitment, there is no scarcity of fund for investment. If our local investors produce electricity at low cost, the government can supply electricity to the industries at cheaper tariff. If the industries get electricity at cheap price, their products can compete in the global market. In this way, we will not only end trade deficit but also we will be able to dominate the international market by making surplus in our international trade.
Let’s not relay on the foreign investment; let’s generate funds within the country!

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