In a recent gathering in Kathmandu, a very interesting subject was raised, Foreign Investment in Nepal. The subject itself was catchy, interesting, and has been considered a critical need of the nation. The office dealing with this important issue is The Foreign Investment Division under The Ministry of Industries, Commerce & Supplies. It is a shambles there, there are so may pending heaps of files it looks like Trillions of Foreign Currency investment would enter Nepal if all the interested parties invested. Among the chaos, the officers there have little time to get even the gist of the content of the applications with their busy tea ceremony, meetings and chatting. In my experience, having visited there a few times, it seems that sometimes the right hand does not even have a clue what the left hand is doing. I accept that there may be some very competent officers here, and the recent figures do show a small 3.46% increase, but in general the impression of this Division is not encouraging. How much better could it be with an efficient department dealing with these important issues.
Government policy and intentions appear to be very positive towards Foreign Investment, which is commendable and aspiring. However, lack of proper implementation makes a big difference. Paper and more papers are the requirement there. If you have a very thick file and a desire to compromise, your chances of obtaining government clearance are high. If you have the correct paperwork and good intention as per their requirements, but your file and compromising nature is thin then you are not convincing to the concerned officer. Your application may remain unapproved for months unless negotiated. People are queuing up there sometimes for up to two years and the officers are enjoying the crowd. Seemingly happy with the queue, as if more investments are entering Nepal. More genuine investors may be discouraged by the situation or denied recommendation and the applicant who has a thick file and compromising nature (need?) is cleared spontaneously.
Going through the handbook of Foreign Investment in Nepal it looks like the department will offer every assistance in facilitating investors. But the reality is different, work is not accelerated, it is delayed and made confusing and the investors are kept waiting. What a shame, what will the International Investors think? What type of message we are spreading about Nepal? They are here to invest, often their own hard earned funds, in a country they believe will offer them a good environment and support. They should not be subject to miscellaneous hassles and delays when they have a genuine will and interest to invest here. Of course we should have the skills to weed out the dishonest or corrupt investors but this should be easy for well-trained officers. We sign all kinds of pacts; international treaties, conventions and agreements but still retain the old adamant working styles. We first welcome people then we start confusing them, “come tomorrow” is the key facilitation technique, and by such means we delay and harass them. This type of double standard is not going to help this country. Correct and competent verification, monitoring, honesty and a business like attitude is essential and it must be implemented in practice not is just mere words.
I have experienced one officer spending time in pointing out punctuation and spacing issues in an application. That officer did not appear to have the good intention of that investor in mind and therefore Nepal lost an honest investor. If we need Foreign Investment the infrastructure should be there, officers on duty with taxpayer’s money must be honest, diligent, efficient, informative and cooperative. Their job is not to confuse people and negotiate with the investors. The size of the file is irrelevant, facts; figures and intentions meeting the requirements are the key issues here and must be understood by both parties. Government Officer’s haphazard, irrelevant, and out dated working practices must stop. Nit picking and delaying the process for whatever purpose does not encourage investment into Nepal. A paper country will be like a paper tiger, no substance. We must rectify these things. Let us be a real tiger, otherwise people will call Nepal just; A PAPER COUNTRY.