Rebuilding Nepal : Trade & investment opportunities in Nepal

Rebuilding Nepal : Trade & Investment Opportunities in Nepal

Seminar organized by the Embassy of Nepal in India

Mumbai, July 9, 2015

Speech by Binod K. Chaudhary

President, Chaudhary Group, Nepal

 

Your Excellency Nepalese Ambassador to India Mr. Deep Kumar Upadhyay, “, members of FICCI, “, dignitaries in the dais, friends from the media, respected ladies and gentlemen.

I feel honored to be invited today to speak before you. It is my great pleasure to share my thoughts on the topic of rebuilding Nepal, in a collective effort of helping Nepal rise anew after the recent natural disaster.

I would like to thank you, Mr. Ambassador and your team here, for giving me this opportunity.

When the devastating earthquake struck my beloved country on April 25 this year, our all-time friend India, under Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s unparalleled leadership, was the first to come up with a complete relief package. Nepal was in a state of shock and our own government was at a loss immediately after the quake. It was at this neediest hour that India sent its rescue teams to Nepal under Operation Maitri. That was just within six hours of the quake. The relief efforts by India redefined our ageless friendship. We thank Prime Minister Modi and the entire Indian government for this support.

Now, with the initial chaos and confusion over, Nepal is trying to stand up again. Friends and well-wishers from all across the world have joined hands to help the country recover from the tragedy and move on. Our focus in now on rebuilding this beautiful Himalayan nation and propelling it toward new heights of prosperity. I believe our discussions today and hereafter will guide our actions and resources toward that end.

Talking about earthquake, we think of Mr. Modi and Gujarat. It was because of Mr. Modi’s exemplary leadership that Gujarat was able to recover, stand up again, rebuild itself, and enter a new era of development after it was flattened in a 7.7-magnitute earthquake in 2001. Within two years of that calamity, Gujarat was already a thriving and vibrant state under Modi’s craftsmanship. It is taken as a model of recovery and rebuilding across the world. There is a lot we can learn from the Gujarat model of rebuilding. And what an opportune time for Nepal!

When we had a 7.8-magnitude earthquake in Nepal, who would better understand and feel the urgency of action than Mr. Modi? No wonder that he immediately ordered Operation Maitri into action. And no wonder that India pledged an assistance of 100 billion rupees to rebuild Nepal in a recent donor conclave in Kathmandu, of which 25 billion rupees will be provided as grants. This is an outstanding support indeed. Thank you India, and thank you Prime Minister Modi.

The friendly relationship between India and Nepal is as long and as rich as the histories of the two nations. Nepal’s trade and economic relations with India have always been crucial for our country. Of course, there is no comparison between the economy of Nepal and that of India, which is accelerating at a pace that will make the country a global economic powerhouse in near future. Our trade deficit with India is ever widening. Nepal’s exports to India are 8 times less than its imports from India. This could be a distressing statistics for Nepal. But it could also be a great opportunity for the Indian investors.

Today we have gathered here to discuss rebuilding Nepal from the perspective of trade and investment. As a representative of the private sector, I would like to make some suggestions to the governments of Nepal and India and the Indian business community.

To the Nepali government, I would like to request to create an environment favorable for foreign investors in order attract them to Nepal. That needs, fore and foremost, political stability, security, infrastructure, and friendly policies.

To the Indian government, my request would be to ensure reciprocal business relations. It can help by creating favorable environment for export of Nepali products to the Indian market. We, the private sector, wish to operate in a free and fair environment where both the governments work in tandem to promote and open-heartedly welcome our investments — both in India and Nepal. I would like to request both the Nepali and Indian governments to develop policies so that we get opportunity to freely invest in both the countries.

To the Indian investors, I would like to say that there is enormous prospect of working in Nepal. I can tell you, this is the right time to invest in mega projects in Nepal, especially when we are talking about helping Nepal rebuild.

Because of its strategic geographical placement, Nepal could be an ideal location for the Indian private sector to base their businesses. From Nepal, they can tap into the markets of the two most populous countries of the world at once  India and China. Apart from that, there is always a local Nepali market. If you have any doubts about the returns to investment from Nepal, I would like you to look at the success stories of Ncell, Dabur and Unilever that are doing wonders with comparatively little investment in Nepal.

There are great opportunities in the hydropower sector. GMR and Sutlej have already entered Nepal’s hydroelectric projects. We have a potential of developing about 83,000 megawatts of hydroelectricity in Nepal, which is yet to be explored fully. There are prospects of building International airports in Nijgadh and Pokhara. Other sites can also be explored. We are talking about developing fast-track roads joining the national capital Kathmandu to the southern plains. There is also a great prospect of constructing an east-west railway line along the southern length of Nepal, as well as north-south highways facilitating Indo-China trade.

We are talking about rebuilding Nepal. It is a fact that we cannot be dependent on foreign grants forever. We need to become self-reliant. One great opportunity for Nepal lies in the tourism sector. Working together, India and Nepal can develop this region as a global tourist destination. Cooperation in the tourism sector can open up totally new avenues.

Imagine , people visiting Nepal to climb Mount Everest take a cable car from the base camp to descend to the Mahabharat hills, from where they take a bus ride to Nepal’s Terai enjoying the breathtaking views of the hills all the while. From the Terai, they catch a direct express train to Taj Mahal. Who wouldn’t like to come to such a trip? Imagine , people visiting Bodhgaya make a Buddhist circuit in India in a bullet train and reach Nepal’s Lumbini, from where they take a helicopter flight to the great Boudhanath Stupa in Kathmandu, and trek to the northern Himalayan monasteries of Mustang.

These are just two examples. Many unimagined opportunities await us. We only need to explore. In order to realize our potential in the tourism sector, both the Indian and Nepali governments should play their roles in facilitating the entry of the private sector into collaborative ventures, whereas the private sector should take the right initiatives.

Embarking on the journey of tourism will add new chapters to Nepal-India friendship. It is a sector that can bolster the economies of both the countries. For a small country like Nepal, the economic returns of tourism could be phenomenal. It can make the rebuilding efforts of Nepal self-reliant and sustainable.

Apart from tourism, there are prospects in many other sectors. For instance, Nepal’s banks are doing great job these days. If allowed to enter into the Indian market and if provided a level playing field, then I am sure they will excel here as well. There is great scope for the manufacturing industry and agriculture. We need a great number of earthquake-friendly infrastructures in Nepal : hospitals, roads, buildings, bridges, and so on. Hospitality sector also has great prospects. The opportunities are simply limitless.

Ladies and gentlemen, I would like to reiterate the fact that there is opportunity in crisis. We say every dark cloud has a silver lining. While Nepal and its friends are working their best to rebuild the nation, the business opportunities are boundless. Let us invest in Nepal now. We may not have this opportunity five years later. Investment in Nepal at this critical moment will be instrumental in consolidating the eternal bond of friendship between the peoples of the two countries.

Thank you.

July 9, 2015