With Nepal adopting a nation-wide lockdown to contain the spread of Covid-19, all schools within the country have been ordered to shut down and are likely to remain closed for an indefinite period of time.Continue reading
Tackling a social calamity is not like fighting a war which works best when a leader can use top-down power to order everyone to do what the leader wants — with no need for consultation. In contrast, what is needed for dealing with a social calamity is participatory governance and alert public discussion.Amartya Sen
The above statement holds equally true for the current circumstances facing Nepal.Continue reading
The ongoing Terai unrest and the Indian embargo have made doing business in Nepal difficult. Lack of fuel, medical supplies, raw materials and other imports have forced schools, industries, hydropower projects, and organizations to shut down. Nepal Oil Corporation (NOC), the sole supplier of petroleum products in Nepal has not been able to supply fuel; even at times when they have been, strict rationing policies follow.
Amidst all of this, the Council of Ministers has very recently taken a landmark decision, thereby temporarily allowing industries, diplomatic agencies, schools, hydropower projects, national and international non-government organizations and commercial banks to import fuel for sole consumption. This is a welcoming provision at a time when the sole petroleum products supplier NOC hasn’t been able to fulfill the country’s fuel demand. This decision is definitely a positive step. With this provision, different parties are now able to trade in the international market with a partner of their choice. More of similar policies will mean that Nepalese people will be able to exercise more economic freedom while the burden to the government also diminishes substantially.
Having said that, Nepal will have to scrutinize every single decision it makes along the way if we expect positive outcomes to follow. This very provision at hand, that of allowing a select few groups to import fuel from any supplier they can manage, lacks an important consideration and is thus incomplete. This provision could have been made more comprehensive.
Termed as a ‘good decision’ by Pashupati Murarka, this provision isn’t inclusive. The NOC wasn’t only responsible for supplying fuel to industries, schools, and organizations. What about the general public? Neither can these selected organizations (including the private sector) legally sell fuel, nor can the NOC meet the public’s demands. So whom should the general public depend on? The employers and workers in those select sectors might now have access to fuel, but what about the self employed? The farmers? And the list can go on!
Our economy is not only run by industries and hydropower projects. There are other players, too. Tourism sector, which includes hotels and restaurants, is not authorized to import fuel. How did the government miss out on such an important sector?
Logistics is an important issue to consider while importing fuel. The cost of logistics to every school, industry, and organization will be an added cost into their accounts. This might not be a major issue at the moment for these parties since getting petrol, anyhow, is their major concern. In the long run, however, the possibility of schools, industries, and organizations pooling together to import fuel to reduce transportation cost is pretty much likely; in other words, a body that imports fuel and sells it. If so, then why not allow this ‘future body’ to become a private petroleum trade company already, and reduce the logistical burden?
All in all, this provision is a testimony that the government and its enterprise – NOC – cannot meet the fuel demands of the country. Although, what it has done in response is very much welcome, it is still a discriminatory policy. For now, its next moves could be: one, to allow everybody to import petroleum product from any supplier they want; and two, to stop assuming this as a temporary solution and that the government will have complete control of the industry once the things come back to normalcy, rather to truly liberalized petroleum trade industry.