IT’S heartening to know that Nepal has become self-reliant in the production of clinker, a key raw material for the production of cement that is essential for all kinds of construction works. Until a few years ago, cement industries in Nepal had been spending a large amount of money to import clinker from India to produce cement; according to an estimate it amounted to as much as Rs. 65 billion. But with growing production of clinker within the country, the import volume shrank to Rs. 35 billion in the last fiscal year. As per a news report published in this daily, there was a complete halt in its import in the first three months of the current fiscal year, and the money saved thus can be used to import other essential items. Nepal always held a good potential in the production of clinker as there is plenty of limestone available in the Chure area. However, until a decade ago most cement industries in the private sector relied on imported clinker for their operation. But over time they seem to have realised that it is more cost effective to produce the raw material internally rather than to depend on Indian import. So many of them have invested money for its production and are now producing enough clinker for all the cement industries in the country. At the same time, Nepal has also become self-reliant in the production of cement as it endeavours to develop critical infrastructure to usher in development and prosperity in the country. Meanwhile, the figures released by the Customs Department the other day show that Nepal’s import has gone down in the first three months of the current fiscal year while the exports have increased. The Department said that the total imports into the country shrank by 10.34 per cent to Rs. 334 billion, down from Rs. 373 billion in the corresponding period a year ago. In contrast, exports grew by 14.41 per cent to Rs. 27.16 billion from Rs. 23.74 billion resulting in reduction of trade deficit by 12.02 per cent thanks to government policies to reduce import and increase export. The Finance Ministry had last year constituted a task force to identity the products that would reduce imports and increase exports to contain ever widening trade deficit. As per the report of the task force, the government had either put a ban on the import caffeinated drinks and plastic products and increased customs tariff on some luxury items, cement and related items to limit their imports. The government even imposed 15 per cent tariffs on the imports of books which has been a subject of criticism from the general public. Besides, the government enforced quarantine on the import of livestock and fowls resulting in drastic fall in their import from India. The increasing trend in export and reduction in trade deficit bodes well for the economy, but the main challenge is to maintain this trajectory throughout the year. Trade deficit may recur once the process of construction and import of machinery for the installation of industries gain momentum after December. So the government needs to give continuity to the policies that will expand industrialisation and augment export further. Another measure would be to discourage the import of petroleum products by promoting the use of alternative energy.