Despite being rich in natural resources, Nepal has been unable to grow its economy and distribute national wealth to its citizens by tapping them. Agriculture and industry are two vital sectors whose growth is essential for the overall development of the nation. These sectors can make strides when they are backed by required investment, competent human resources and sophisticated technology. In the absence of far-sighted economic vision, the twin-pillar of economy has stagnated over the years. The state-led initiative is the key to bring about economic revolution. First and foremost, the government should offer incentives - be it for industrial or agriculture sector.
Similarly, the agriculture sector needs basic facilities - irrigation, fertilisers, modern tools and technology, workers and guarantee of profitable prices of the agro-products. But these fundamental requirements have been fallen short, resulting in mass unemployment and exodus of Nepalis in search of better jobs in foreign lands. The country’s half of the young workforce is outside the country. Remittance, sent by them, has provided a lifeline to the national economy. Remittances now contribute about 26 per cent of GDP, making our economy dependent on remittances.
The households, who receive remittances from their bread-earners from abroad, spend the hard-earned bucks on non-essential consumer items. If the money is invested in productive sector, it would have helped create new jobs and boosted self-reliance. The growing trend of going abroad for job has led to the acute shortage of labourers in the agriculture sector. Today the lower- and middle-class people find it extremely difficult to pursue agriculture owing to the shortage of workers. On the positive side, remittances have played an important role in reducing poverty in the country. As per the available data, poverty has been reduced from 42 per cent to 25.2 per cent.
Therefore, foreign employment is now a critical component of economy. The government is not in a position to tell the promising youths not to go abroad where they are compelled to work in difficult conditions. During the COVID-19 pandemic, hundreds of thousands of Nepalis migrant workers were rescued from different nations. They were laid off as the companies were shut down in the wake of prolonged lockdown. But the risk of first wave of coronavirus has dwindled and international flights have resumed, with economy in the labour destination nations showing a sign of bounce-back. So, the government has issued work permit for many Nepalis interested to go abroad for employment. But, their efforts have hit a snag after Nepali embassies in destination countries have not verified demand letter with the new surge of COVID-19 infection.
According to the news report of the online version of this daily, apart from Qatar, the demand letter from other Gulf countries has not been verified yet. Some Gulf and other countries have suspended international air and land routes, citing the virus risk. Those aspiring to go to Qatar, for instance, have to follow the rule of 14-day quarantine at their own expense. This is indeed a hard option for Nepalis going there. The process of sending new Nepali workers to Malaysia, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates for employment has been in standstill. Similarly, it is difficult to get the demand letters from the European nations which are facing the second wave of COVID-19. This has put plans for foreign jobs in limbo.