Lost Opportunities: Nepal’s Industrial Development

“Geld regiert die Welt” – money makes the world rolls on. But we are not sure how many of our administrators aware of the meaning of this German phrase when we see the pathetic situation of our native land Nepal, economic condition of majority of its people and indifferent concern of our administrators, including both politicians in power and the bureaucrats. This pathetic situation of the country, reminds us a recent note made by a Marwari scholar – the Marwaris contribute 82% of its expenditure to its social field, where as the “The (Nepal) Government budget is so small that it is spent in the administrative and other heads.” – at a seminar organized by Language Preservation and Promotion Center, Nepal and Heidelberg University, South Asia Institute, Kathmandu on 09-10 February 2009.

The Marwari scholar must be correct of what he indicates us – foreigners contribute more to Nepal’s socio-economic development and the Government spends its budget to the benefit of the parties in power and the bureaucrats of this least developing country. In Nepal, money stops – mostly in pockets of the powerful – or rolls on only among the selected ones, not among sons of the soil. Of many stories reported and yet to report, following is a story of a son of soil being rejected his contribution to Nepal’s industrial development despite he is a well-known businessman both at home and abroad.

A Story of Harvard Educated Industrialist

Everest Bank Chairman B. K. Shrestha

B. K. Shrestha, a Harvard educated industrialist rose from his career chart that included Nepal Industrial Development Corporation (NIDC) and India’s TATA group to become the Chairman of Everest Bank Ltd., is now settled down in India, says that many job opportunities for the people are lost in Nepal mostly for the indifference concern of the Nepal Governments.

As one of the most concerned men of his native land’s economic development, Shrestha has submitted 12 proposals to the Nepal Government in the past twenty years. He proposed to set up a refinery in Nepal as our land-locked country, is “dependant on roads for transportation. Fifty percent of the foreign exchange we spend on fuel import goes to the government of India through the purchase of furnace oil.” But the proposal submitted to Surya Bahadur Thapa Government was left intact as the then Prime Minister had “viewed that India would not take this very positively, meaning that it would be better if we remained dependent on India.”

His proposal as a major shareholder to a big project on Magnetite was another blow to job opportunities in Nepal. He then proposed to put up a polyester factory in Nepal as the textile is the biggest import item for Nepal. “The use of man-made fiber is now over 80 percent. Natural fibers like cotton, wool and silk are not used to large extent these days. And if that is happening around the world it will happen here in Nepal as well.” He proposed to “go in the direction of man-made fiber instead of natural fiber. The polyester proposal is very versatile with great potential. The polyester can be used singly as well as by blending it with silk, cotton or wool.” His plan to make the yarn in Nepal itself can still be lying with the Department of Industry despite his partners are from India’s major Industrialists like Birla and TATAs.

Gas, Shrestha says, under the earth in the Kathmandu valley is plentiful. We invest “huge sums of money in buying gas. The gas can be pumped, impurities removed and then filled into cylinders or bottles. A factory to manufacture the cylinder can also be put up.” His proposal asking for 25 percent shareholding and the rest to be left to the public sector and the government to invest was not accepted simply because “the gas is the nation’s property.”

In agriculture sector, Shrestha proposed to invest Rs. 10 million in Sugar as there was a considerable prospect for Sugar in Kailali and Kanchanpur against Birgunj area was no good for business and even Morang area because the sucrose, the main raw material for producing sugar from sugarcane, is not produced enough compared to Kailai and Kanchanpur, which can produce 11 percent. But his request to the Government to protect the investment he was to make in millions went to deaf ears.

Leather was another project he had wished to invest by introducing class system in buses. He was with the idea if “a very comfortable way of transport was provided, people flying by air would travel by bus since the cost would come down.” Shrestha also proposed “to construct a terminal in Bharatpur or Simra to carry passengers to the airports there from where it is only a half hour’s flight to Kathmandu. But again the government did nothing but sit on that proposal. It is not concerned at all about the time and money put in to make the proposal.”

B. K. Shrestha is also the chairman of the biggest homeopathic medicine unit in the whole of Asia located in India. His proposal to manufacture medicines to export to India rather than import medicines from India and to purchase Royal Drugs or acquire it on lease or agreement, the Government of Nepal simply kept silent. He is also a successful in distillery with Khodey, a big industrialist group based in Bangalore and also in leather processing business abroad.

All his plans to do business and open industries to provide jobs for Nepalese people are yet to be accepted by a sensible Government. But he is still happy with how his staff managing his business in banking sector, the Everest Bank in Nepal. The Newah wishes B. K. Shrestha all the best to succeed his genuine desire to help develop his native land, Nepal despite we are yet to have a full Government. Let’s keep our finger crossed that there will be a sensible Government sooner to consider the worthy proposals of Chairman B. K.!

The article was developed from sources provided to us by Rahena Wester including an interview published in Business Age (Inner-view, Vol. 3 – 4, March-April, 2001) – The Newah

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