Nepali Times
From The Nepali Press
The mafia has a stranglehold over business

How do you assess the economic situation of the country?
It is not very good. Industrialists do not feel confident enough to invest here. There is a mafia-like group that wants to make fast money through any means. The country's economy is in the hands of this group; industrialists and the business community in general have no say about the nation's economy. Unless the industrialists and business community are allowed a certain amount of freedom there will be no improvement in the economy.
Currently, a vast portion of the business community's earnings slips away to the government in the form of revenue and bank interest, and the rest goes to pay wages. If you follow the trends of the last three months, you will that all the industries are running up losses. The performance of the share markets and the reports of the FNCCI suggest that the economic scenario of the country is bleak.

How do you suggest the industrial sector in the country be improved?
First of all, political interference in the industrial sector must end. Currently, politics and industry are infringing on each other's territory. Politicians try to use business to serve their interests, and the business community tries to influence politicians. The business community is taking far too much interest in politics. Secondly, I think that we are the victims of a misconception. We have developed a habit of contacting New Delhi for whatever occurs. In the case of China, talking to Tibet can solve problems-we don't need to rush to Beijing.
When Sher Bahadur Deuba visited China, I was part of the business delegation. Beijing said that since Tibet is our neighbour, we should talk to Tibet if problems in trade occur, and that only policy problems should be referred to Beijing. They told us that if the trade agreement reflects the interests of people on both sides of the border, no trade problems would arise. On the contrary, New Delhi has never displayed this courtesy. I believe if India adopts a similar policy, many trade problems will be solved-whether issues of customs or the expanding market for our products. UP and Bihar are our main concern, but we sign agreements with New Delhi. Our neighbours, Bihar and Uttar Pradesh, then decline to comply and as a result the Nepali business community is made to suffer.
I believe that Nepal should first take the UP and Bihar governments into confidence. If we manage to expand our market to the 400 million people along the Nepal-India border, our industry and business will boom. New Delhi's concern is only external affairs, defence and other policy issues. As far as commerce is concerned, we should review our policy of approaching the UP or Bihar governments.
It was once claimed that political instability is costing Nepali commerce heavily. Now, we have political stability but business and commerce have failed to grow. Times have changed. In the last 10-15 years there have been political changes. There is crisis of confidence in the political and commerce sectors-corruption is rampant, underhand dealings are the norm. As a result the non-commercial sector has become very influential in industry. A non-industrial group was granted the Upper Karnali licence and a luggage loader at RNAC has become its promoter. In this situation how do you expect economic growth?

You have claimed that the business community is losing and that politicians have gained control over money. Can you explain?
It is not my claim alone. Whether it is the issue of shares or the Nepali Congress convention, millions of rupees are diverted. Leaders who could hardly garner 100 votes chartered a plane or reserved tens of vehicles. Where do you think the money came from? It is simply a show of wealth acquired by unjustifiable means. As I mentioned before, politicians have become businessmen. There is no room for genuine businessmen. If people in power interfere with the commercial sector, the powerless businessmen cannot survive competition. Those who have mafia connections can open an LC today and deliver consignments by the evening. The next day, they are ready for more business. It is only these people who can survive in business today.

It is rumoured that the Marwari community has been targeted in Kathmandu.
No, this is not the case. Of course, windowpanes were shattered during the riots. Processions were taken out under the banner of the NC, CPN-UML and the Nine Left groups. But what we should understand is that small groups that tailed the genuine processions were responsible for the vandalism. The Marwari community has become synonymous with wealth, and when the poor are hungry, the rich are often targeted.
So instead of interpreting the incident as a communal outburst, the poor should be given employment. The government did nothing to protect the Marwari community for three days. During the Panchayat regime, when the Jansewa Cinema was burnt, King Mahendra personally visited the site and suspended the Zonal Chief Bishnu Mani Acharya. This time around the government remained tight-lipped and reluctant. It is natural for the Marwari community to feel insecure in such a situation.

Do you provide the Maoists with donations?
I have never been forced to donate to the Maoists for reasons unknown. Four years ago, Baburam Bhattarai called and said he would ask for help when needed. But he has not approached me since.

When are you planning to start mobile phone services?
How can we begin providing services when the government keeps playing games? The government provided us with the licence to begin mobile phone service and then restrained us. How can a responsible government let an employee file a writ against the licence after the concerned ministry had already issued the licence? If the employee filed the writ of his own accord, the government could have taken action against the individual. The government has played dirty regarding the mobile phone licence.

(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)