Tuesday, 28 September, 2021

Materialising ‘Make In Nepal’ Campaign

Uttam Maharjan

The new government under Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba has pledged itself to go ahead with ‘Make in Nepal’ campaign. The drive was launched by the Confederation of Nepalese Industries (CNI) in March and an agreement was made between the government and the CNI in June to implement the campaign. The CNI has since started to implement the campaign.
‘Make in Nepal’ campaign aims at bringing into operation as many as 1,000 industries and creating 150,000 industrial jobs every year. Its other goals include increasing the annual export volume to USD 4.6 billion in five years and increasing industrial contributions to the GDP to 22 per cent by 2025 and to 26 per cent by 2030, the year by when Nepal intends to become a middle-income nation.

The targets of the ‘Make in Nepal’ campaign are to increase domestic production, encourage the use of domestic products, promote import substitution by gradually slashing imports and, more importantly, make Nepal a trade hub. Its other targets include creating job opportunities in the country itself, discouraging indigenous investors from investing in foreign countries and attracting foreign investments to the country. Through the campaign, the youth can be provided with skill enhancement training and jobs and their potential can be utilised in the country itself. There are many Nepali migrants working in various foreign countries for lack of job opportunities in the country. Provision of jobs in the country itself will stop the exodus of the people for foreign employment.
Nepal’s economy is based on imports. The budget is partially supported by the revenue generated through customs duties. As imports preponderate over exports to a greater extent, the country always has a trade deficit. This has affected the national economy. The time has come for the country to reverse this trend.
Nepal is an agrarian country, with over 65 per cent of the people engaged in agricultural and associated activities. In the past, the percentage was over 90. Over time, the people have switched over to other occupations. Owing to a nonchalant attitude of the successive governments towards the agricultural sector, the country has failed to reap benefits from the sector. On the one hand, the youths in rural areas have migrated to urban centres or abroad for jobs leaving the arable land barren, while on the other the existing land has been haphazardly fragmented for housing purposes. As a result, the country, once an exporter of agricultural products like rice, has to import them.
Agriculture and industry should be taken as the backbone of the economy. Development of the agricultural sector will provide raw materials for industrial production. Now, most of the raw materials are imported from foreign countries for the operation of industries. If agricultural production and productivity can be enhanced, we may be self-sufficient in the raw materials generated from agricultural products.
The success of the ‘Make in Nepal’ campaign depends on the concerted efforts of the CNI, the government and other stakeholders. The campaign will not only enhance domestic production but also create demand for domestic products and establish the country as a trade hub by promoting the brand of Nepali products in the international arena. For this, the competitiveness of the products should be maintained by enhancing their quality so that competitive edge can be enjoyed.
The government should make a policy of using domestic products rather than foreign products to the extent possible, at least in government offices. Even vehicles can be assembled in the country itself through technology imported from foreign countries. The vehicles so assembled in the country can be used by at least government offices. The government spends a huge amount of money on the purchase of vehicles every year. There is news that government offices go for new vehicles rather than have the existing vehicles repaired and maintained. For a poor country like ours, the policy of frugality should be adopted. Extravagant spending is of no good. The Public Procurement Act can also be amended to accommodate clauses relating to the use of domestic products.
Industries cannot work well without the government's help. The government should, therefore, create an environment conductive to industrial development. The government should provide various facilities for industries so as to accelerate industrialisation in the country. Local governments can also play a big role in industrial development in their areas. Further, rules for establishing industries should be short-circuited so that there will not be any bureaucratic hassles and red tape. This will encourage entrepreneurs to set up industries in the country.

Industrial zones
Various industrial zones have been established in Nepal. Such zones can also support the ‘Make in Nepal’ campaign. These zones need to be managed and operated effectively. The goal of the government should be to develop an autarky to meet the goal of Happy Nepali, Prosperous Nepal, a goal set by the Oli government. It is not necessary that the present government shed the prosperity goal set by the erstwhile government. The success of the goal will make every Nepali happy.
The success of the ‘Make in Nepal’ campaign will transform the economy, accelerating agricultural and industrial development. It will create job opportunities and solve the problem of unemployment to a great extent. It will help alleviate poverty and raise the standard of living of marginalised and poor people. It will help reduce, or eliminate, the trade deficit through import substitution and strengthen the export base. So the campaign should be made sustainable. For this, the government, the private sector including entrepreneurs and industrialists and other stakeholders should work in tandem to make the campaign a success.

(Former banker, Maharjan has been regularly writing on contemporary issues for this daily since 2000. uttam.maharjan1964@gmail.com)