THE ISSUE

According to the September 2019 briefing Document for the World Bank Board, there were more than 164 million documented international migrant workers in 2018 of whom 68 million were women. Over the years, money sent back home by these migrant workers have been benefiting receiving countries via investments, trade, and transfer of skills and technology. In 2019, remittance flows to low and middle-income countries (LMICs) are projected to reach UD$ 550 billion which is more than three times the total development aid flow to these LMICs.

Remittances have been benefiting migrant workers’ countries of origin in numerous ways. In one of his TED Talks, in 2014, Economist Dilip Ratna has highlighted some of the most crucial aspects of remittance. Moreover, the UN DESA has identified some key facts on why remittances matter for the global economy. Similarly, on the occasion of the International Day of Family Remittance, IFAD has highlighted ten ways in which remittances have been transforming the global economy in meaningful ways. Furthermore, the World Economic Forum notes that remittances are crucial for many of the LMICs and discusses the cases of India and the Philippines. In 2018, remittances accounted for almost three percent and ten percent of GDPs for India and the Philippines respectively.

OUR OBSERVATIONS

For our analysis, we have taken into account remittance inflows data (only) to South and Southeast Asian economies plus China. We have used the World Bank data for our analysis and analyzed data for the years 2000, 2005, 2010, 2015, and 2016 – 2019. Except for Nepal, where remittance inflows for the year 2019 are projected to account for about thirty percent of country’s GDP, no other economies in South and Southeast Asia plus China have a double-digit figure for remittances as the share of GDP for 2019.

Data Source: World Bank (2019)

South Asia

With some exceptions for a few years, overall, remittance inflows to South Asian economies are on an increasing trend. For Afghanistan, we don’t have data for the years 2000 and 2005. In 2010, the economy received a total of US$ 346 million in remittance. For 2018, this remittance inflow figures have increased by about three times and Afghanistan received US$ 920 million in remittances. However, in 2019, remittance flows to this South Asian economy has been projected to decline by about US$ 36 million. On the other hand, Bangladesh had received about US$ 2 billion in remittances in 2000. With a slight decline in 2016, the country had received more than US$ 15 billion in remittances in 2018 and this figure is projected to increase by US$ 2 billion and become more than US$ 17.5 billion in 2019.

From the available data, it seems Bangladesh and Maldives receive small amount of remittances. Though there has not been a substantial increase in the latter’s remittance inflows between 2000 and 2018, the former has improved a lot in terms of the amount of remittances it receives each year. For Bhutan there are no data for the years 2000 and 2005 and in 2010, the country had received about US$ 8 million in remittances. By 2018, this figure has increased by more than seven times and reached about US$ 58 million. For 2019, Bhutan is expected to further improve in this area. On the other hand, Maldives had received about US$ 2 million in remittances in 2000, same as in 2005, and the country had witnessed an inflow of US$ 3 million remittances into the economy. For the years 2016-2018, it had received US$ 4 million each year and is projected to remain constant for 2019.

In the case of South Asia, India has been the largest recipient of remittances for all years considered for this analysis. In 2000, it had received a total of about US$ 13 billion in remittances. The economy saw a decline in the figure in 2016 but it continues to improve the remittance inflows in recent years. In 2018, India had received more than US$ 78 billion in remittances – more than six times the amount it had received in 2000.

Nepal is the only economy in South Asia that has witnessed remittance inflows by more than  eighty times between 2000 and 2018. In 2000, Nepal had received about US$ 112 million in remittance and this figure rose to more than US$ 8 billion in 2018. In 2019, Nepal’s remittance receipts are projected to improve further and become more than US$ 8.6 billion.

Pakistan, on the other hand, have increased the remittance receipts by more than twenty times between 2000 and 2018, i.e., in 2000, the economy had received more than US$ 1 billion in remittance and it has become more than US$ 21 billion in 2018. In 2019, the receipts are projected to further improve and reach almost US$ 22 billion. Finally, Sri Lanka too has been receiving more remittances in recent years. In 2000, it had received a little more than US$ 1 billion in remittances and this amount became more than US$ 7 billion in 2018. In 2019, the amount is projected to increase further and add more than US$ 200 million than the previous year.

Southeast Asia

Brunei and Singapore primarily serve as the key destinations for international migrant workers. As a result, these two economies in Southeast Asia serve as the remittance outflows hubs.

In Southeast Asia; Indonesia, Myanmar, the Philippines, and Vietnam have improved a lot in terms of remittances recipient countries. Between 2000 and 2018, these economies have observed considerable rise in the amount of money that they receive as remittances. For example, Indonesia received about US$ 1 billion remittances in 2000 and in 2018 this amount has become more than US$ 11 billion, an increase by more than eleven times. Similarly, Myanmar had received only US$ 342 million remittances in 2000 and by 2018 it has increased by more than 28 times and reached about US$ 3 billion. For the Philippines, between 2000 and 2018, remittance inflows have increased by almost five times, i.e., remittance inflows increased to about US$ 34 billion in 2018 from about US$ 7 billion in 2000. For Vietnam, between 2000 and 2018, the amount has increased by more than twelve times. In 2000, it had received more than US$ 1.3 billion and in 2018 the amount became US$ 16 billion.

Like Nepal (one of the two landlocked economies in the region) in the case of South Asia, Lao PDR (also a landlocked economy) is the most benefited economy in terms of remittance recipient economy between 2000 and 2018. In 2000, the country had received just US$ 1 million in remittance but it 2018 the amount has become US$ 239 million, i.e., an increase by about 239 times.

Cambodia, Malaysia and Thailand have also seen an upward trend in remittance inflows during 2000 – 2018 period. While Cambodia saw growth in amount by more than eleven times – an increase from US$ 121 million in 2000 to about US$ 1.5 billion in 2018, Malaysia has seen an increase in remittance inflows by about five times between 2000 and 2018 – from about US$ 342 million in 2000 to about US$ 1.7 billion in 2018. Similarly, Thailand has increased the inflows amount by more than four times – an increase from about US$ 1.7 billion in 2000 to about US$ 7.5 billion in 2018.

In 2019, except for Thailand, other seven Southeast Asian economies are projected to further improve remittance inflows into their economies.

China

Like Nepal and Lao PDR, China Mainland is also one of the few economies in the region to increase remittance inflows by a large margin. Between 2000 and 2018, the Mainland has witnessed a growth in remittance inflows by more than 88 times. In 2000, it had received about US$ 758 million but this amount became about US$ 67.5 billion in 2018. However, the trends for Hong Kong SAR and Macao SAR are not encouraging.

For Hong Kong, the growth in amount has been minimal between 2000 and 2018, i.e., a growth by just about three times. However, for Macao, though the amount  for 2019 are projected to improve, this Chinese Special Administrative Region has seen declining inflows trend between 2000 and 2018, i.e.m decline from about US$ 53 million in 2005 to just US$ 25 million in 2018.

Note: For the current dataviz, we have taken into consideration remittance inflows into analyzed economies only.

SESSION FOCUS AREA – VISIT NEPAL 2020 AND NEPAL’S TOURISM PROSPECTS

SYNOPSIS

The Government of Nepal, with support from the country’s travel and tour sector stakeholders, has been working to make “Visit Nepal 2020” (VNY2020) a success. The VNY2020 is one of the most ambitious tourism initiatives that Nepal has planned in recent times after running similar campaigns in 1998 and 2011. The VNY2020 aims to bring at least 2 million foreign visitors into the country in 2020. With less than two months left before the formal commencement of the campaign, NIPoRe is hosting the inaugural session of the institute’s occasional and semi-formal networking event – Coffee Sessions – to discuss about the campaign and related issues. The event also aims to gather the views of local professionals while also hearing views and experiences of foreign travelers.

SPEAKERS

Mr. Mani Raj Lamichhane

Mani is the Director of Nepal Tourism Board (NTB) and works as the Head of the Research, Planning and Monitoring Department. He is involved in tourism since 1998 and have worked in various private sector tourism organisations under different categories until 2008. He joined NTB as a Manager and there he looked after Tourism Products Development Unit until 2018.  when I got promoted as Director and headed NTB Provincial Office at Pokhara for a year. Beside these responsibilities, he is also a life member of Tourist Guide Association and is also a founding member of Human Resource Society Nepal.

In addition, he is a part-time faculty of management and tourism at some academic institutions in Kathmandu, Nepal. Furthermore, he also does modelling and in the past, he has appeared in various TVCs of different brands including CG Cements, Maizan Oil, Dabur Vatika Shampoo, and Yamaha among others.

Mr. Nicholas Tan

Nicholas works for Qantas Australia as a People, Strategic Insights and Research Manager. An inquisitive and big picture thinker from young, his interest in protecting the great outdoors and aptitude for numbers led him to public policy and economics. Since then, he has been applying these tools and adding others, to better understand how society interacts within economies, community groups and as individuals. His goal is to work with government, the business community and the community at large to inspire and drive change that improves economic, social and environmental outcomes.

His focus on improving outcomes for society has provided me extensive experience in macroeconomics, innovation, people & culture, finance, economic development, trade and microeconomic reform, within the broader context of natural resource management and social policy. These experiences have been earned at institutions that value accountability and the skills to understand complexity quickly, accurately, and to communicate meaning and insights clearly. At these organisations, he has built strong relationships with the business community, government and local community, both in Australia and overseas.

He has an MPP from Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, National University of Singapore. Earlier he attended the University of Sydney for an undergraduate course in Economics, with special focus on Resource Economics.

Mr. Yee Htet

Yee works as a Project Coordinator at the International Trade Centre (ITC) in Myanmar. He leads a tourism project on strategic and operational activities, focusing on establishing local partnerships and ensuring daily operations in. He works closely with various issue-based international consultants to ensure achievement of project activities on community-based tourism, institutional strengthening, product development, and marketing and branding.

Prior to ITC, he served in both Local and international non-governmental organizations in Thailand and in Myanmar to support community development in conflict-affected areas.

He holds an MPP from Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, National University of Singapore and a B.A. in Philosophy, Politics, & Economics from Rangsit University in Thailand.

MODERATOR

Ms. Barsha Dharel Dixit

Barsha is a development professional with over 9 years of experience in programme design, management, monitoring and evaluation, with special focus on Gender Equality and Social Inclusion (GESI) mainstreaming into development programmes and policy priorities. With excellent leadership and strategic thinking skills, she is the youngest Nepalese woman to lead an international non-governmental organization (INGO) in Nepal.

Her works and overall vision for the country’s development sector has been covered by various national and international media outlets, including the BBC World Service, IBM Times and Nepal Television among others. She has published over 50 articles on pressing development issues at various national dailies and journals.

A Master of Science (MSc.) from London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE) in Gender, Media and Culture, she is currently engaged in end-term evaluation of a project working on combating gender discrimination in far-west region. An individual with high academic distinction, Barsha has been awarded with the various accolades and honors.

SESSION OBJECTIVES

  • To highlight what Nepal can learn from tourism initiatives in Australia and Myanmar
  • How guests from Australia and Myanmar view their travel experiences in Nepal so far

WHAT NEXT?

  • NIPoRe will prepare a session proceeding and share it with the Nepal Tourism Board (NTB) and the VNY2020 Secretariat

SESSION LOGISTICS

Date: 01 December, 2019

Venue: Kyubis Kitchen, Sanepa Height

Time: 15:00 – 16:30 Nepal Standard Time (NST)

REGISTRATION*

RSVP by 17:00 NST (30 November, 2019)

via Call/Text (9801193334) or Email: events[at]niporeglobal[dot]com

*Note: We are able to accommodate only 15 professionals for the session. We will confirm registration on a first come, first served basis. To respect time and also all efforts of our colleagues at NIPoRe and Kyubis Kitchen, the registrants, if do not show up for the session, will not be allowed to sit in 2 subsequent sessions.

PARTNERS

Title Sponsor

 

 

Venue Partner

THE ISSUE

Alexa Internet, a subsidiary of the US tech giant Amazon, analyzes web traffic data and ranks about thirty million global web pages. The ranking data are available for global web traffic, country specific web traffic and category-wise online traffic. As per Alexa’s recent ranking for Nepal, the country’s top ten popular online portals comes from five sectors namely search engines, video platforms, news and media portals, social media, and encyclopedia.

NEPAL’S 10 POPULAR WEBSITES

Following the global trends; Google (.com), YouTube (.com), and Facebook (.com) rank in the first, second, and fifth places respectively. In Nepal, unlike Wikipedia (.org) ranking in the tenth position in the global ranking, it ranks in the ninth position instead. Rest of the ranking positions belong to country’s local online portals. And all these six websites represent Nepal’s news and media platforms. In summary, while Google (.com) dominates Nepal’s major share of search queries, Facebook (.com) does the same thing when it comes to the social media platforms, and Wikipedia (.org) rules online encyclopedia market.

OUR OBSERVATIONS

The most recent MIS Report from Nepal Telecommunications Authority (NTA) indicate Nepal’s current internet penetration rate reaching more than 67.23 percent. That means, Nepal continues to create more opportunities for the Government of Nepal authorities and the local and global techpreneurs to harness available internet and technologies to design appropriate goods and services.

Performance of Global Platforms in Nepal

From available data from Google Trends for the past twelve months, we clearly saw local internet users using Google (.com) platform to search for contents related to video games, cricket, weather, and some of the public services. Similarly, the available data for YouTube search results indicates internet users in Nepal using the platform mainly to watch movies and music videos. In regards to social media platforms, one estimate (for September 2018) shows about ten million Nepali Facebook users, which is about 32.6 percent of the country’s entire population. The same estimate also highlights that more Nepali males (61.3%) are on Facebook than the Nepali females (38.9%) and Nepalis in the age group of 18 – 34 years are the most active Facebook users. From these details, we infer that most of the Nepali Facebook users comprise of college/university students and young Nepali professionals who use the platform to connect with their families and friends and also for keeping them updated with the most recent news and updates. For Wikipedia, a considerable share of Nepal’s connected population benefits from it.

Performance of Local Platforms

All the six local platforms that rank in the list of top ten popular portals in the country comes from news and media platforms. On top of that, all of them are Nepali language news and media portals and, considerably, do not have long history of their existence. English section of these platforms do not rank well in the ranking. In addition, all of them are involved in online publishing only. From these observations, we acknowledge that it is common for Nepali language platforms to perform better when 44.64 and 32.77 percentages of Nepalis use Nepali as their first and second language respectively. In regards to the country’s print media platforms, though they have played significant roles in Nepal’s socio-economic and political transformations, they have slowly been losing their markets in the market. We can definitely say that if they do not evolve with the local users’ changing preferences, they might stand at the verge of collapse one day.

In the light of growing local internet users and booming of online platforms for various other purposes – most commonly in the areas of e-commerce and online job search, there platforms still lag behind in terms of generating online traffic. So, for them, massive investments in advertisements and in making users aware of their platforms (and related) activities are a must.

Users’ Trends for Platforms

Google (.com) being a search engine in itself, it gets only 0.50 percentage of web traffic from alternative search results. On the other hand, Wikipedia (.org) and YouTube (.com) get major share of their traffic from online search engines (71.70% and 16.90% respectively). For rest of the platforms, the figures stand below ten percent, i.e., the users directly open homepages of these platforms.

In regards to the average time spent on a daily basis, only Facebook (.com), Khabarhub (.com), Google (.com) and YouTube (.com) figures are in double-digits and rank in declining order in this aspect. However, when it comes to daily page views per visitor for these ten platforms, only Google (.com) contains data in double-digits followed by Facebook (.com) in second place with only 7:92 and YouTube (.com) in third place with 6:4- page views. This figure for all local portals and Wikipedia have values less than 5.

Note: Alexa Internet, Inc. calculates rank from a combination of data for daily users and page views on ranked online platforms over a period of three month. The data used in this data visualization and analysis are correct as of November 22, 2019 (11:45AM Nepal Standard Time)

THE ISSUE

It has become a commonplace phenomenon for the governments around the world to borrow money from outside to support their activities. When they borrow the external money, the governments are liable to pay back the borrowed amount as per the terms and conditions agreed with the lenders. This thus borrowed money is called as the government debt (or public debt or national debt or sovereign debt). Depending upon from whom the states borrow money, the debt can be classified as either internal debt (lenders are within the respective country) or external debt (lenders are located outside of an economy). In addition, considering repayment plans, debt is further classified into three categories namely short-term (repayment due date within one year or less time), mid-term (repayment due date vary between 1-10 years), and long-term (repayment due date remains more than 10 years). In general, the governments become liable to debt by issuing their respective government bonds and bills.

STATUS OF THE GLOBAL DEBT

As per the IMF’s 2019 estimates, in nominal terms, the global debt has exceeded US$ 184 trillion – equivalent of more than 225 percent of global GDP in year 2017. This means, global debt per capita now stands at more than US$ 86,000. Of the US$ 184 trillion global debt towards the end of 2017, about ⅔ is private debt and rest is government debt. As per the IMF’s Global Debt Database, the total global government debt has hit a record high US$ 69.3 trillion. The United States, China and Japan alone account for more than half of global debt now. IMF has also found that, since 1950, the private debt has skyrocketed and rose by more than three times. Overall, for 2017, IMF has classified 190 global economies into three categories – Advanced, emerging market and low-income developing – depending upon those economies’ debt profiles. Overall, there was a decline in public debt and marginal increase in public debt in advanced economies. Similarly, emerging market economies continued to borrow money from the public and private sectors. Finally, low-income developing countries saw a rise in public debt.

STATUS OF GOVERNMENT DEBT (South Asia, Southeast Asia and China)

Our analysis, using the recent IMF data, shows an overall a healthy status of economies in South Asia, Southeast Asia and China.

In South Asia, Afghanistan – though had a very high-risk level of government debt to GDP ratio in 2005 – has improved a lot and continues to remain the healthiest economy in terms of debt to GDP ratio in recent years. Nepal, on the other had – after having low-risk debt to GDP ratio for three subsequent years between 2015 and  2017, has entered into a moderate-risk level since 2018. The debt to GDP ratio is on the rise since then and the projected figure for 2024 also shows a substantial jump in the ratio. Similarly, Bhutan (one of the two South Asian land-locked nations) is in the very high-risk level of the debt to GDP ratio as the economy’s ratio has been above 100 percent since 2016. However, the projected figure for 2024 shows Bhutan coming down to high-risk level. While Bangladesh has been in moderate-risk level over years India and Sri Lanka, on the other hand, still remain in the lower quantile of high-risk level. Maldives and Pakistan, on the other hand, have remained in moderate-risk levels for long but these economies have entered into high-risk levels since 2018 and 2016 respectively.

Across Southeast Asia, Brunei Darussalam remains the healthiest economy in terms of debt to GDP ratio while Singapore stands in the very high-risk level. Rest of the economies in this part of the world remains in moderate-risk zone. Myanmar, once possessed very high-risk level of debt to GDP ratio in 2005, has improved a lot in terms of handling government debt and the current ratio lies below 40 percent.

In China, the Mainland China used to have low-risk level of debt to GDP ratio earlier. In 2005, the ratio was only 26.1 percent. However, after the Global Financial crisis, the ratio is on the rise. China Mainland, after remaining in the moderate-risk levels for almost one decade, has now entered into the high-risk level. Hong Kong SAR, however, possess very healthy debt to GDP ratio, which now stands at 0 percent. In the case of Taiwan, the economy continues to  have a moderate-risk level of debt to GDP ratio and the projections for year 2024 indicate the economy would bounce back to a healthy ratio after 5 years.

In concluding remarks, we acknowledge that analysis of single component of these economies’ economic health does not represent complete pictures of these countries economic status. Thus, in coming days, we will be working on other key aspects of public finance issues from these countries to make our analysis more inclusive.

Synopsis

Research works are crucial parts of undergraduate and graduate students, both in Nepal and at abroad. Though the Nepali universities have significant portions of research components into their research course curriculums, there exists major gap between the classroom teaching and the real-life practices. To fill this gap, the Nepal Institute for Policy Research (NIPoRe) has been partnering with the Ensemble for Bachelors (EnB) to train students on necessary theoretical as well as practical aspects of different components of academic and professional research.

Mentor

Ms. Udisha Saklani is a PhD researcher at the University of Cambridge and the recipient of the Margaret Anstree Centre for Global Studies Scholarship at Newnham College, Cambridge. Her project focuses on India’s renewable energy investments in Nepal and Bhutan in the context of climate change mitigation and economic development in the Himalayas.

Udisha has over 7 years of policy research experience in water and energy governance. She has worked with institutions such as the Institute of Water Policy, Singapore and the UNDP India office.

Some of her past research includes:

  • Water infrastructure and public-private partnerships
  • The political economy of sanitation and water delivery
  • Shared rivers and inter-state/international water cooperation

She has a Master’s Degree in Public Policy from the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, National University of Singapore and a BA (Honours) degree in Mathematics from St.Stephen’s College, University of Delhi. Her work has been published on national and global news platforms such as The Times of India, Policy Forum, Business Times, The Strait Times, The Diplomat, The Conversation and East Asia Forum.

Date, Time and Venue

November 24 – 25, 2019

Time: 11:00 AM – 02:00 PM

Venue: Presidential Business School, New Baneshwor, Kathmandu, Nepal

About the Organizers

Ensemble for Bachelors (EnB): EnB is a Nepali social enterprise that acts as a governing body of student groups from across the country. The networks consist of more than 25,000 students currently pursuing undergraduate studies in management (BBA, BBM and BIM). In general EnB strives to provide complete solutions for students pursuing undergraduate studies in management by supplementing their learning through short courses and trainings on case study, research (methodology and communication). In addition, EnB has also created a platform through which it supports students in seeking internships and applying for employment opportunities.

Nepal Institute for Policy Research (NIPoRe): NIPoRe is an independent and non-partisan think-tank based in Kathmandu, Nepal. It aims to generate evidence-based debates among citizens and critical actors of development in both the public and private sectors on contemporary policy issues. Our team members represent the diversity of academic disciplines, professional backgrounds, and geography. We adopt a multi-disciplinary approach in our analysis of policies and research, supported by researchers trained at universities and professional environments (from) across the globe.

For all the Heads of the States around the world, it is a commonplace phenomenon to travel around countries across the continents either for State Visits or Official Visits or attending major meetings. And Nepal’s incumbent Prime Minister, Mr. KP Sharma Oli, is not an exception. In fact, these trips not only help the leaders to make their all possible efforts to have their regional and global influence in highly globalized modern world but also to build better relations with respective countries’ diaspora across the globe through formal and informal gatherings.

In the case of Mr. Oli, who has been serving his second prime ministership since 15th February 2018, he has made foreign trips to ten countries (as of November 04, 2019). In addition to China and India, Nepal’s immediate neighbors, PM Oli has also travelled to four of the world’s major economies – France, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, and the United States of America. In addition, he and his delegation have also travelled to new and rising economies – Azerbaijan, Cambodia, Costa Rica, and Vietnam. 

PM KP SHARMA OLI’S FOREIGN TRIPS

Below, we highlight PM Oli’s all foreign trips as the 41st Prime Minister of Nepal. We have discounted PM Oli’s two trips to Singapore (made during August – September, 2019) in this data visualizations as those visits were meant for his personal health check-ups only. 

2019

Azerbaijan (October)

Nepali Prime Minister and his 21-member Nepali delegation travelled to Baku, Azerbaijan and attended the 18th Summit of Heads of State and Government of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) that ran for October 25-26, 2019. Nepal is one of the founding members of NAM and the principles of non-alignment form core strategy of Nepal’s foreign policy practices. While in Baku, PM Oli addressed the leaders of Summit on “Upholding the Bandung Principles to Ensure Concerted and Adequate Response to the Challenges of Contemporary World” topic.

France (June)

In June, PM Oli and his Nepali delegation went to Paris, France for an Official Visit. During the 3-day Visit (June 12-15) to the Republic, PM Oli attended a programme organized by the Federation of National Chambers of Industries and Commerce of France (MEDEF) at the Federation’s Headquarters. In addition, he also attended few gatherings organized by the Embassy of Nepal in Paris and also by France-Nepal Friendship Society. PM Oli also took his France Visit occasion to make an official announcement of Visit Nepal Year 2020 in the French Republic.

United Kingdom (June)

The Nepali Prime Minister and his official delegation made an Official Trip to Oxford and London in the United Kingdom. During the 3-day long trip (June 10-12), PM Oli addressed at the Oxford Union on ‘Peace, Democracy and Development’. While in London, the Nepali leader also held meetings with the then British Prime Minister, Theresa May, and a key member of the British Royal Family, Prince Harry. In addition, PM Oli also addressed a group of professionals representing the All Party Parliamentary Group for Nepal (APPG) and the British Group on Inter-Parliamentary Union (BGIPU). The Nepali delegation also held formal meetings with officials from the Confederation of British Industry (CBI), Non-Resident Nepalis, and the British Gurkhas. Towards the end of the Trip, a Joint UK-Nepal Communique was released by the Foreign Ministers of both the nations.

Switzerland (June)

To attend the Centenary International Labor Conference, PM Oli and a high-level official Nepali delegation travelled to Geneva, Switzerland. During his stay in Geneva (June June 09-10), PM Oli addressed the Conference participants. In addition, Mr. Oli also met Nepali community and Friends of Nepal in Geneva.

India (May)

At the invitation of his Indian counterpart Mr. Narendra Modi, the Nepali Prime Minister travelled to India for an official visit. During the visit (May 30-31), PM Oli attended the oath-taking ceremony of Mr. Modi, who was reelected as the Prime Minister of India from country’s 17th Loksabha Elections.

Cambodia (May)

The Nepali Prime Minister and an official delegation visited Cambodia for an official visit. During the 3-day visit (May 13-15), besides holding talks with the key Cambodian leaders, PM Oli and his Cambodian counterpart witnessed the signing of an agreement for Nepal-Cambodia trade and economic cooperation. In addition, the visit also made it possible for the Nepal Chamber of Commerce and Cambodia Chamber of Commerce to sign  a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU). During the visit, PM Oli also addressed the participants of Nepal – Cambodia Business Forum. While in Phnom Penh, PM Oli and his delegation also met with representatives from Non-Resident Nepali Association (NRNA) Cambodia Chapter. The major accomplishments of this visit and future plans in this regard were later highlighted in a joint-statement.

Vietnam (May)

At the invitation of the Prime Minister of Vietnam, Mr. Nguyen Xuan Phuc, Nepali leader and his delegation travelled to Vietnam for a 5-day official visit. During the trip, PM Oli and his team visited few historical and touristic places in the country including Ha Long Bay, one of Vietnam’s UNESCO World Heritage Sites and released a English-Vietnamese translated book “Nepal: Peace is at Hand” to share Nepal’s experiences with the Vietnamese readers. In addition, the Nepali delegation also held a meeting with the representatives of Vietnam Chamber of Commerce and Industry (VCCI). During the trip, PM Oli addressed a gathering at the Ho Chi Minh National Academy of Politics. In addition, he also addressed the participants of Vietnam – Nepal Business Forum in Hanoi. Furthermore, PM Oli also attended and made an address at an event organized to mark the 16th UN Day of Vesar (Buddha’s Birthday) in Ha Nam Province. A joint-statement was also released on the occasion of PM Oli’s official visit to the Socialist Republic of Vietnam.

Switzerland (January)

In January 2019, Nepali Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli became the first sitting leader of the Himalayan nation to attend and speak at an annual meeting of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. During his visit, PM Oli attended two sessions at the 49th Annual Meeting of the World Economic Forum (WEF) as a panelist, namely Strategic Outlook on South Asia and Shaping the Future of Democracy. Besides regular WEF events, PM Oli also met with the representatives from Non-Resident Nepali Association (NRNA) Switzerland Chapter, Swiss-Nepalese Society. While on his way to Kathmandu, PM Oli also visited Innovation and Entrepreneurship Centre at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH Zurich).

2018

Costa Rica (September – October)

At the invitation of the President of the Republic of Costa Rica, Mr. Carlos Alvarado Quesada, the Nepali Prime Minister and his official delegation travelled to San José, the capital city of the Latin American nation. Mr. Oli became the first sitting Nepali Prime Minister to visit Costa Rica. Besides regular political and diplomatic meetings and also visiting a few places in the country, Mr. Oli also addressed a gathering at the University for Peace (UPEACE), the University later awarded Nepali Prime Minister with the Honorary Doctorate.

United States of America (September)

To attend the 73rd Session of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA), leading the Nepali delegation, Mr. KP Sharma Oli visited the United States of America. While in New York, PM Oli addressed the 73rd Session of UNGA, made remarks at the High-Level Event on Action for Peacekeeping (A4P), and delivered a public lecture on “Peace, Democracy and Development” at the Asia Society.

China (June)

More than two months after his State Visit to country’s immediate southern neighbor, PM Oli and his delegation travelled to China, Nepal’s immediate northern neighbor, for a 6-day long Official Visit (June 19-24). PM Oli made this trip at the invitation of Chinese Premier Li Keqiang.

During this visit, PM Oli made series of high-level political and diplomatic meetings. In addition, Mr. Oli also witnessed the signing of an agreement for cooperation between Nepal Electricity Authority (NEA) and the State Grid Corporation of China for undertaking a feasibility study of Nepal-China cross-border power grid interconnection project across the Kerung-Rasuwagadhi-Galchhi-Ratmate transmission line (400 kV). Moreover, representatives from Nepali business and tourism communities also signed eight Memoranda of Understanding (MoUs) in the areas of hydropower generation, manufacturing, river training, and agriculture. The overall accomplishments of the visit and future course of actions in this regard were highlighted in a joint-statement between Nepal and the People’s Republic of China.

During the trip, PM Oli addressed a reception organized by the Embassy of Nepal in Beijing. In addition, the Nepali leader also inaugurated and addressed at the 2018 Nepal-China Business Forum. To enable Beijing-based Nepali diplomatic mission’s outreach among Chinese audiences, PM Oli also launched the official WeChat account of the Embassy of Nepal in Beijing.

India (April)

PM Oli made his first foreign trip to India after he assumed his second prime ministership responsibilities. At the invitation of his Indian counterpart, Mr. Narendra Modi, PM Oli and his Nepali delegation travelled to  India on a State Visit during April 06-08, 2018.

During this trip, PM Oli and PM Modi inaugurated the Integrated Check Post at Birgunj (Nepal) with an aim to further boost cross-border trade and movement of people across Nepal-India border. The Nepal-India border is one of the oldest open borders in the world and remains one of the modern world’s very few such borders that witnesses flow of thousands of people on a single day.

This visit also witnessed the release of four joint-statements, one on the Nepali Prime Minister’s State Visit and three others on Nepal and India’s three key areas of interest. Three such statements were made, one each on, India-Nepal Statement on New Partnership in Agriculture, Expanding Rail Linkages: Connecting Raxaul in India to Kathmandu in Nepal, and New Connectivity between India and Nepal through Inland Waterways.

THE ISSUE

The World Bank Group has published the 17th edition of the institution’s flagship Doing Business Report earlier this month. The Doing Business Report 2020 ranks 190 world economies on the basis of their performance in 294 business regulatory reforms categorized under 12 distinct areas of business activities between May 2018 and May 2019. Overall, 115 economies implemented desired business regulatory reforms to make local business environments more conducive for business activities. Moreover, the top ten economies to make most progress in this year’s report include Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Togo, Bahrain, Tajikistan, Pakistan, Kuwait, China, India, and Nigeria.

OUR OBSERVATIONS

Nepal

Nepal, sandwiched between two of the world’s largest economies – China and India, has made a major shift this year and has been ranked in the 94th position, a jump in 16 position from last year’s report. This is the fourth time that Nepal has been ranked in Doing Business Report in the list of top 100 countries to do business category. Earlier, It was ranked in 55th, 100th and 99th positions in 2006, 2007 and 2016 reports respectively.

The four key factors that improved Nepal’s position this year include – i) Making it easier to deal with the construction permits by reducing fees for building permits and improving the online e-submissions platform, ii) Getting credit became easier as the Government of Nepal made it easy to access credit information by expanding credit bureau’s coverage, iii) Boosting trade across borders by reducing the time and cost to export and the time to import by opening the Integrated Check Post Birgunj at the Nepal–India border, and iv) Making it easy to enforce contracts by adopting a new code of civil procedure that introduces time standards for key court events.

However, despite the major jump in the 2020 Report, Nepal was not considered as one of the key improved nations as, during this period, the country made starting a business process more difficult, first by forcing the company representative him/herself to visit concerned government authority in-person from employee registration for social security purposes. In addition, the country also increased the property transfer registration fee that ultimately made doing business in Nepal more expensive and less convenient.

SAARC Region

There are no SAARC member countries ranked in the list of top 50 countries to do business in this year’s report. The last time a SAARC member country ranked in this category was in 2006 when Maldives was ranked in 31st position. But four of the eight SAARC member countries – Bhutan, India, Nepal and Sri Lanka – are ranked in the top 100 global economies to do business this year.

In 2020 Report, India and Pakistan made it to the list of top 10 most improved global economies in terms of ease of doing business and rank in 77th and 108th positions respectively. While India made cross-border trade easier by reducing time and costs needed for trades across border and required documentation works, Pakistan made property registration works easier and faster and also land administration system more transparent.

Though five of the eight SAARC member countries saw improvements this year – Bangladesh, India, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka, but only India, Nepal and Pakistan saw major shifts. Rest three member countries namely Afghanistan, Maldives and Bhutan saw decline in their rankings.

ASEAN Region

Overall, the ease of doing business in ASEAN Region has improved this year. This year, four of the ten ASEAN member countries saw improvements in their rankings – Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines and Thailand. On the contrary, three member countries saw a decline in their rankings – Brunei, Cambodia and Vietnam. The rankings for three member countries – Indonesia, Lao PDR and Singapore – saw no changes.

Three of the ASAEN member countries have been performing very well since the inaugural issue of the Doing Business report. Since 2004 report itself, Singapore has been ranked as one of the best countries to do business and has consistently been ranked in the top positions. Similarly, Malaysia and Thailand have consistently been ranked within the range of top 50 global economies to do business.

China

In terms of ease of doing business, China (Mainland China) has improved a lot over the last decade. Though Hong Kong SAR and Taiwan had always been ranked as two of the most business lucrative places, Mainland China has consistently been improving its position in the rankings. Last year, it was the first time that Mainland China was ranked in the list of top 50 world economies to do business. Continuing the tradition, making a jump by 15 position, China ranks in the 31st position in the 2020 Report.

POTENTIAL IMPLICATIONS

Findings in the annual Doing Business Reports are crucial for governments, policy makers and investors worldwide. The annual reports give the concerned local, regional and global stakeholders an overall idea of a country’s business environment and related regulation procedures. Thus, these reports can affect the amount of business and investment activities that can happen in a particular country each year. In terms of investments, position of an economy in the Doing Business Index can affect the foreign direct investment (FDI) flow to that country.

However, these reports do not incorporate major issues that are crucial for success or failure of a business; for example macroeconomic stability, statuses the financial system, labour force quality, size of the market, business security, and most importantly incidences of bribery and corruption. Thus, it is not necessary that the rankings in the annual reports do get fully translated into actual business and investment activities.

ORIGIN OF DOING BUSINESS REPORTS/ INDEX

The World Bank Group, through institution’s 2002 launched Doing Business Project, has been conducting research and publishing annual Doing Business Reports since 2003. The credit for commencement of the idea of Doing Business Project can be attributed to a February 2002 QJE paper by Simeon Djankov, key architect of Doing Business Index, and three other economists.

THE ISSUE

Starting from the very first day of the current Fiscal Year (2019/20), the Government of Nepal made it mandatory for all salaried employees, public and private sectors. In the following months, there has been a surge in the number of registered taxpayers in Nepal. As per the second Economic Bulletin of the Ministry of Finance, as of September 17 (end of the month of Bhadra in Nepal’s Bikram Sambat calendar), there were a total of 2,762,135 registered permanent account numbers (PAN). Of the total registered PAN; 1,256,099 belong to business PAN (BPAN); 1,504,233 belong to personal PAN (PPAN) and 1,803 belong to withholder PAN (WPAN) category. In addition, there are 232,120 and 88,341 registered value added tax (VAT) and excise accounts.

Between August 18 and September 17, 2019 alone; the Inland Revenue Department (IRD) of the Government of Nepal registered new 42,511; 257,383; and 699 BPAN, PPAN and WPAN respectively. These new registrants account for more than three percent, seventeen percent and thirty-eight percent of total BPAN, PPAN and WPAN registered with the IRD. Similarly, this period saw 7,314 (more than three percent of total VAT accounts) and 5,713 (more than six percent of total excise accounts) new VAT and excise registrants.

WHAT THIS MEANS?

  1. Larger public revenue base,
  2. Increased size of Nepal’s formal economy, and
  3. Helping Government of Nepal and key stakeholders to track country’s major growth sectors and their statues over the period.

This year’s World Economic Forum’s Global Competitiveness Report ranks Nepal in 108th position (out of 141 ranked world economies). Though improved by one position as compared to the 2018 analysis, Nepal is still the second least competitive economy in South Asia. This year as well, Nepal’s performance across 12 Competitiveness Index Pillars is below average as the economy performed poorly in 7 Pillars and struggled to do better in 1 Pillar. The former Pillars include Institutions, ICT Adoption, Skills, Product Market, Labour Market, Market Size, and Innovation Capability and the latter Pillar include Business Dynamism. This year, for Nepal, country’s performance has improved for only 4 Pillars and they include Infrastructure, Macroeconomic Stability, Health, and Financial System.

Between 2010/11 and 2019, in the race for becoming the most competitive economy in South Asia, Nepal and Pakistan have been the major winners while India and Sri Lanka the biggest losers. Bangladesh has been a minor winner as the country’s competitiveness improved by only 2 positions during this period.

Chinese President Xi Jinping travelled to Nepal for a two-day state visit between October 12 and 13 this year. He became the first Chinese president to visit Nepal since December 1996 when Jiang Zemin visited the Himalayan nation. President Xi’s rare visit to Nepal this year indicates that China – the second largest world economy and one of the major global players in world politics – have Nepal in its foreign policy priority. During his visit, a list of instruments was signed. Later on, Nepal’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs had released the Joint-Statement between Nepal and the People’s Republic of China.

After taking responsibility as the President of the People’s Republic of China, President Xi has had made a series of state visits to countries in South and South East Asia indicating China’s interests in pursuing country’s major foreign policy priorities across countries in South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) and Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) regions.

Here, based on information from XINHUANET, we highlight few interesting facts about President Xi’s state visits to SAARC and ASEAN member countries.

9 and 11 Months: Between March 2013 and October 2019, President Xi Jinping has travelled to ASEAN and SAARC member countries for a state visit, on average, every 9 and 11 months respectively.

Minus 1: ASEAN and SAARC have welcomed President Xi for state visits to their members countries for 9 and 7 occasions respectively (Number of associations’ member countries minus 1 times).

2 and 1: There are only 2 countries – 1 country each in each region – that have hosted President Xi twice for state visits.

4 and 2: Only 4 countries in these regions – 2 countries each in each region – are yet to welcome the incumbent Chinese leader for a state visit.