Nepali Times
Economic Sense


A notice posted in newspapers by the Federation of Nepalese Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FNCCI) a week ago caught the eye of this Beed. The preferred modes of address in these times are accusations and entreaties. The FNCCI tends to overuse the latter. In this advert, the organisation was pleading for harmony in the business fraternity very much along the lines of their earlier pleas on bandhs and other occasions when national economic interests were being affected.

This time, it requested readers to keep their cool about the forthcoming elections to the FNCCI's apex body. Right now, businesspeople are as busy as politicians, and doing much the same thing-they are all aiming for power, spreading the word about themselves, begging for votes, making alliances, doling out favours-in short, politicking every opportunity they get. It strikes those of us watching bemused from the sidelines that this is some sort of contest we were never told about, this urgent effort to show us that if politicians can do their particular brand of business, businesspeople, no lesser mortals, can equally engage in politics. Your columnist believes this is one of the more egregious ironies of Nepal. (See also "Running for president", #44)

The FNCCI offers amusement not just in the form of individuals lobbying hard for themselves, but also in the debate that flares up every two years with the FNCCI elections about whether the Federation is the right modeof representation of the
businesscommunity. Particularly fraught is the issue of diversity-whether all forms of business are represented fairly and adequately. The conception of a new organisation, the Confederation of Nepali Industries (CNI) this FNCCI election year, is perceived as the result of real frustration-the industries and people involved say they are tired of their grievances being ignored. During elections in the last there have been meetings for consensus candidates and unanimous nominations, but all these noble intentions are forgotten after the election is over-until the next poll.

Perhaps the thing to do now is reevaluate the FNCCI, not to get rid of it, but ask whether some radical reengineering might not make it more effective. The rules relating to representation should be looked at, as should the fact that the district chambers dominate electioneering in not perhaps the best manner. Who should run the organisation-a busy executive committee or a strong secretariat? Do the people on the various FNCCI committees really have the time to meet and solve problems?
Some believe they spend more time keeping track of the various groups they are members of. Is getting into hobnobbing with the politicians, people in the government and the rather limited cocktail circuit in the capital? The organisation needs a stronger secretariat with more powers that can provide continuity without elected bodies affecting their functioning. It needs more people who understand business and strong management practitioners and professionals who can help the business community work out long-term strategy.

Times have changed. We talk about globalisation and ask the government to think about privatisation and liberalisation. But perhaps first the business community should set its own house in order, in keeping with changing the situation, concerns and needs of business.

The Beed is not pointing fingers at individuals or groups of individuals, but urging the captains of business and industry to look at the FNCCI beyond the election. The organisation has the foundation and stature of an apex body, but in theory only. We need vision.

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(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)