By A Staff Reporter,Kathmandu, Mar 24: Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Physical Infrastructure and Transport Narayan Kaji Shrestha has said that the country immediately needed to increase productivity, capacity of capital expenditure and reduce trade deficit to lead it on the path of prosperity.
"Increasing production and productivity and substituting imports should be our priority, if we wish to usher the country into the prosperity," he said while addressing the 9th Annual Meeting of the Nepal-Italy Chamber of Commerce and Industry (NICCI) in the capital on Thursday.
DPM Shrestha informed that the government was working on a plan to reduce trade deficit with export promotion and import substitution and pledged government support to the private sector for the same. He also maintained that the government had begun consultations with the stakeholders to moderate the bank interest rates which have been the issue of contention among the businesses, banks, central bank and government.
DPM Shrestha said that the relations between Nepal and Italy should be expanded to the citizen level and tourism relations should also be maintained.
"Nepal is witnessing an annual loss of more than 2 billion in trade with Italy and initiatives should be taken to reduce that loss. Tea, coffee and agricultural products produced here have great potential for export," he said.
Stating that Italy is a reliable business partner of Nepal, DPM Shrestha also said that since Italian tourists have a lot of spending power, the country should be able to attract them.
Speaking at the event, Rajendra Malla, president of Nepal Chamber of Commerce, said that there is a need to establish an Italian mission in Nepal.
"Even though business and diplomatic relations have been started for a long time, there is no Italian embassy in Nepal. The government should take initiatives to further strengthen the relationship between Nepal and Italy," he said.
Acting Chairman of the NICCI Dhruba Kumar Shrestha praised Italy for its contribution in reconstruction of the cultural, physical, and historical heritage of Nepal. He suggested that both the countries should establish their missions in the other nation in order to intensify economic diplomacy. "Italian citizens like to come to Nepal but the connectivity is expensive," said Shrestha.
According to him, tourists from Italy have been decreased by a two-thirds after COVID-19 pandemic. Before COVID-19, more than 15,000 tourists from Italy had visited Nepal but in 2022, the number was only 5,239.
Former President of Nepal Chamber of Commerce, Rajesh Kazi Shrestha, suggested the government to immediately implement the suggestions given by the private sector to save the economy from further deteriorating.
Consular relations between Nepal and Italy have been established for almost six and a half decades ago on August 31, 1959.
On the occasion, NICCI facilitated people and organisations that made significant contributions to Nepal-Italy relations. Rajesh Kazi Shrestha received a special honour while Vinod Sagatani received recognition as the best importer of Italian goods, and Raju Shrestha as the best exporter of Nepali goods to Italy.