January 9, 2023 Sujeev Shakya

Things for Nepal to consider in 2023

We hope for better debates on all important issues, both in and outside the Parliament.

When you begin a fresh year, hopefully putting the pandemic behind you and transitioning to pre-pandemic normalcy, it is important to look at what lies ahead. It is also essential to have a sense of hope and positivity as the clock starts ticking. Here are 10 things to look out for in 2023.

We enter the year with the Russian invasion of Ukraine looking like becoming a long-drawn affair. Geo-politics is always led by the West; but this year, India and China will challenge this dominance. In the early days of the G20 leadership, India has already shown it wants to create a new order: Getting developing countries together or being very assertive. Prof Bibek Debroy, chair of the Economic Advisory Council of India, explained what the new India looks like in his keynote speech at the Nepal Economic Forum NEFMeet 2022. So it’s for Nepal to consider how it fits into the emerging world order. 

Global/regional economy

Every country in the world is facing some economic challenges as it recovers from the pandemic and bears the brunt of both the war in Ukraine and the cold war between China and the United States. Interestingly, India is one of the few countries that seems to show hope of growth, and we are right next door to it. This means lesser migration of Indian workers to Nepal and more Indian tourists. Stabilisation of oil prices is good for a landlocked country. Trade with China has resumed as the borders reopen. It should surely be better than 2022. 

Nepalis live in 180 countries; in the US, the population is close to half a million. Statistics from the United Kingdom, Canada and Australia show a sharp increase in the Nepali population in the last two decades. The UK is taking in seasonal workers, South Korea will start giving out 10-year work permits, and workers will start to go to Japan officially. If people have the means, the United Arab Emirates and Thailand are issuing long-term visas. It will be a year of migration, which means an increase in formal and informal remittances. 

We have already seen tourism bouncing back with vehicles bearing Indian licence plates dotting the highways. Bookings for the spring and fall seasons are looking good. Once the Chinese start to arrive, it will be a different story. More diaspora Nepalis are exploring the home country. Domestic tourism is at new highs because of religious tourism, travel for social functions and social media-driven travel. More hotels and eateries are coming up across the country, making travel more predictable. In-person events are coming back, and as a neutral venue in South Asia, it is only predictable that 2023 will see tourism bounce back stronger. 

Financial services, stock markets and investments took a hit during the pandemic. We will see a revival as liquidity eases with more international players joining in. Private equity will provide much-needed capital to match debt. Firms will seek professional help and corporatise. With banks and insurance companies being integrated into large monoliths, the focus will be on service and innovation for comparative advantage. Bigger balance sheets don’t mean greater profits.

We saw many firms perish during the pandemic. Many people who got away by using political clout and taking shortcuts have faced big problems; some are languishing in jail. Nepali firms will have to reform to take on international players and make forays outside Nepal. This will be a year of reform for many firms, especially family businesses that have been relying on the old ways to survive. We have seen many international consulting firms becoming active in Nepal, and are always happy when the size of the pie increases. 

One of the biggest beneficiaries of the pandemic has been firms involved in digital products and services as well as information, communication and technology (ICT). They have found new markets in and outside Nepal. This year should see many international firms setting up shop in Nepal, and many Nepali firms going global. Policy constraint remains a challenge in many areas, but entrepreneurship is all about survival and growth.

A lacklustre COP 27 marked the end of the UK trying to take leadership in global issues. Nepal can take a leadership position in areas relating to the world such as climate change. The Green Resilient Inclusive Development (GRID) Action Plan, has laid the foundation; now it is up to us to see how we can build on this. The Nepal Economic Forum will convene the Himalayan Future Forum in September this year to get non-state actors together and pick up where the Himalayan Consensus Summit left off. 

Political uncertainty

I write ad nauseam on how political uncertainty has become the only constant in Nepal in the past 73 years. Even 30 years of single-party Panchayat rule could not give political stability. Also, stability does not mean growth as we saw in Zimbabwe under Robert Gabriel Mugabe for 37 years! The political drama will continue in 2023 with a fragile coalition—the ruling one or any other that will be in power will walk a political tightrope.

We have fresh faces in Parliament who will question the status quo, this means stronger parliamentary committees and probably capable people getting political appointments. We hope to see better parliamentary debates on issues raised by parliamentarians inside and outside Parliament. This will surely pressurise the insular section of the sycophancy-oriented bureaucracy that has got away with non-performance so far. 

It will surely be interesting to review this list each quarter; and hopefully, by the end of 2023, we will have a good scorecard. 

Read the full article on The Kathmandu Post: https://tkpo.st/3Gk8BI4

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