Nepal's New, Political Landscape A Boon For Investors

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By Samantha Tan Chiew Tieng

KUALA LUMPUR, Aug 10 (Bernama) -- The new and stable political landscape in Nepal after its election last year is a boon, offering foreign investors including Malaysians a positive environment to start exploring and seizing business opportunities in the country particularly in the hydropower, hospitality and services sector.

Stating this, Nepal's Charge d’Affaires in Malaysia, Kumar Raj Kharel said his country was ever-ready to welcome foreign investors in view of a stable government in place that expects to accelerate its economic transformation.

He said the invitation was also opened to Malaysian public to visit Nepal and explore themselves the country's culture, people and diversity.

"It is time to explore Nepal. We went through a long political transition that lasted for almost decades, and now the political differences are settled. So the focus is on economic transformation," he told Bernama in an interview recently.

As for businesses, he said they stood to reap various advantages if they enter the market early amidst the vast opportunities in the hydropower, hospitality and services sector including education, medical, sciences and traditional medicine.

Nepal's elections in December 2017 saw a formation of a federal government by a single party with a two-third majority support in the parliament. It was deemed a turning point for Nepa's economic prosperity and gave hope to its citizens to build a better life with job opportunities.

For the first time since the 1990 political changes, an elected government in Nepal could be expected to serve out its full five-year term. This is expected to give the administration the time to focus, reform and implement policies that will bring more developments and create employment.

On Nepal-Malaysia bilateral relations, he said the potential to enhance ties was great, considering both countries' deep Asian values, cultural similarities, and historical linkages with the Gurkhas’ contribution during the First Emergency of Malaysia from 1948 to 1960 in Malaysia.

Nepali Gurkha soldiers were involved in the upkeep of security and stability of Malaysia during this period, with many said to have lost their lives during that period, he added.

On tourism, Kumar Raj said the number of tourists from both countries was growing fast with 15,000 Malaysians visiting Nepal annually, and 50,000 Nepalese coming to Malaysia.

Malaysia is considered a popular tourist destination for Nepalese with great connectivity. There are five airlines operating daily between Kathmandu (Nepal's capital) and Kuala Lumpur.

In terms of trade, Kumar Raj said Nepal despite being a landlocked country, it had limitations, but there was also huge potential for investors as it was looking at clean energy production and hydropower.

"There is huge potential in Nepal. In terms of policy, our legal framework is liberal and friendly for investors. The only thing is practical aspect, you need to find a reliable partner in Nepal," he explained.

He added that the potential sectors in Nepal have been overshadowed by the labour aspect as if the relations between Nepal and Malaysia is solely on labour.

There are currently few Malaysian players in Nepal including the homegrown convenience superstore KK Super Mart, Malaysian telecommunications conglomerate Axiata Group being a top private player, while some are engaged in the hospitality industry.

Meanwhile bilateral trade between the two countries stood at US$88 million in 2017. Nepal exports vegetable products, handicrafts, garments and apparels to Malaysia, while machineries and vehicles parts, vegetable oils, electrical equipments and electronic appliances, furniture and parts, plastic and other chemical products are imported.

"The bilateral trade is heavily in favour of Malaysia. But then we have remittance flowing to Nepal, which is an important aspect of our economy. We are relying quite heavily on remittance for our income but there is potential in trade," said Kumar Raj.

He said Malaysia was also popular among Nepali students for higher education with many pursuing their studies at private universities here.

Being sandwiched between two giant neighbours, China and India, Nepal also enjoys a strategic location, he said, adding that the country still had a lot of development to carry out in the areas of infrastructures, medicine, traditional medicine and manufacturing.

Tourism remains a major earner for the country, offering visitors its fascinating natural attractions including its scenic mountain views and cultural sites. It is also home to the highest mountain in the world, Mount Everest.