Nepali Times
Strictly Business
Princely returns?



If newspaper reports are any guide, the recent visit of Saudi Prince Al-Waleed bin Talal could have been titled Prince in Wonderland. Caught unawares by the multi-billionaire in their midst, unsure about what to ask of him, government ministers ended up falling over themselves to request everything from opening a training centre for migrant Nepali workers in Riyadh to investing in the usual mainstays of heritage sites, tourism and airlines.

The Prince's late-night stroll, which he used to quiz shopkeepers, made headlines for how the police forces had a hard time keeping up with his treadmill-honed steps. In the end, it turned out that merely being in Nepal was a good enough investment for the Prince. In return for his first-ever three-day private visit, he was promised this country's highest medal for foreigners.

Now that the commotion of the visit has died down, it's time to ask: just what should Nepal do when investors show interest? More precisely, how should Nepal market itself as an investment destinations to investors with deep pockets?

Start with who we have: There are already a number of foreign investors in Nepal. Most of them readily admit that they are here not so much to grow their business at scale, but to earn a livelihood so that they can live in this country, which they have come to have affection for.

Still, talk to any one of them, and the list of business-related grievances ‚Ä" unclear tax procedures, nightmares at customs offices, corruption in the bureaucracy, political interference, weak legal enforcement, big disagreements with local partners over minor issues etc ‚Ä" just gets longer and longer.

Given the problems faced by existing investors, it's prudent for the government to start finding solutions, which can then be publicised to attract the attention of more investors. The idea of going out of our way to find newer investors when the ones we already have are unhappy and may start packing their bags does not make sense.

Create an autonomous national investment board: Nepal can be an attractive destination for big-size investment deals, but not anytime in the near future. Much work needs to be done first. Investment opportunities‚Ä" hydropower, tourism, infrastructure, etc‚Ä" need to be researched, analysed, vetted, marketed and sold.

These sets of operational activities are best done by trained and experienced professionals. Politicians and bureaucrats can help by lowering regulatory burdens, simplifying 'doing business' procedures, and insisting that investments create jobs locally.

As such, the first step towards eventually making Nepal an attractive investment destination is to create an autonomous national investment board, accountable to a broad base of shareholders, including the government. Such a board needs to be led, at least at the start, by Nepali and foreign professionals with relevant global investment management experiences in New York, London, Mumbai and elsewhere. Such professionals bring credibility, competence, contacts and energy ‚Ä" all necessary ingredients to get the board up and running.

Prepare for a long road ahead: Potential is exciting. It fires up the imagination. But the very thought of engaging in brutal hard work over many years to turn that potential into something of value can dampen enthusiasm.

We easily get caught up with euphoria over Nepal's unending potential. But we do not realise that the potential can only be realised through painstaking, glamour-less drudgery that must go on for years and years before the rest of the world takes notice of Nepal as an investment destination.

The Prince may invest in Nepal when he's ready. Until then, our ideas and activities should be channeled along this line: what can we do soon to make Nepal ready for the Prince and other investors?

Roll the dice

1. Uj
I agree! And one more thing. When ever serious propsoals for transformation of country are discussed (like in this article), I would advise more readers to voice their opinions. 

2. jange
Is the authour seriously suggesting to others that they should invest in Nepal? At a time when even the Maoists are investing their looted money outside the country.

3. limehouse
@ UJ, 

Serious discussion is not happening on this article because this article has got good ideas but it is as boring as watching a paint dry. Writers need a bit of wit too, not just English proficiency. Having read that, the village-idiots at the Ministries should create Nepal Investment Board and make Ashutosh its CEO. No honestly, this guy has some good ideas and he can lead. 

4. kalakar

I take it that you are not a painter and have never painted anything. I am a painter. Watching paint dry is the most exciting thing I do everyday. It helps me focus. It helps me plan my next paint-drying project. It helps me decide what colours to use in my next painting. Your comment that my kind of work is boring is deeply insulting to what my father-in-lawand I do for living i.e., paint, and watch it slowly and steadily dry with just the right amount of taapkram.

5. Gheo Chaku Naran
At a time when even the  Maoists are investing their booty money in Casino at Goa, the Goldfinger Casino; who is going to invest  in the land called Nepal?
Who is going to botnyse over the mother's grave?

6. kabulekanchho

Actually what encouraged me is the sight of modern clothed wife of this merchant prince from rich but medieval desert kingdom. Instead of thinking about investing and bringing in an economic miracle in the Himalayan Wonderland (that's a tall order in present day Nepal, no matter what our daydreamers are thinking!), he and his seemingly modern wife should work towards civilize/modernize the medieval society that is Saudi Arabia! Saudi society is known all over the world as a place where women are not allowed to drive, prosecuted if they stepped out of home without a male member of family, domestic helps are systematically abused and tortured, foreign workers are sentenced to death just because they are infidel and poor etc.. Nepal could be economically and politically bankrupt, Mr. Al Waleed, it is still centuries ahead of Saudi Arabia in social progress! I am also amazed by the public posturing of our newly converted republican leaders. They had no agenda no preparation; they simply started prostrating in front of this √Į¬Ņ¬Ĺsahuji prince√Į¬Ņ¬Ĺ as if he would cause dollars to rain from sky!!

7. Lalitdarshan Pant
In this article writer  wants to share his opinion, ideas, views that how we can boost our country to reach the acme.Here i have used a word "We", which has a great meaning in itself.And i believe  that is the only way to make our country prosperous, peace.and even more beautiful. The main problem with Nepalese people like us is we always criticize each other as it has been done in the comment of this article.Instead of  encouraging  ourself, Some likes to say., you said this, that.,Which is completely stupidity what I want to say.This is the time..We really can...change our country.Just we need to disseminate the positive thinking in all Nepalese..And where about the investment, it is just comes to hear in news and to read in news paper but its our unfortunate that we have never tasted it . Because even half of it is not used properly. And where all the investment goes.All of us knows it Clearly and it is Obvious Thank you.

8. Sagar
Our leaders cannot think beyond an inch from their nose. So its day dreaming to think they will have the foresight to think about good governance and rule of law. We cannot seem to make them think long-term or change their ways. You can take a horse to the water, but you cannot make him drink. That's what our leaders are like. And unless they start acting and really getting stuff done soon, we have a long-wait coming.

(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)