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कालाबजारीया कि उद्यमी ?

– अब्यय न्यौपाने, अशेष श्रेष्ठ, दिनेश कार्की

नेपाल अहिले पेट्रोलियम पदार्थको चरम अभावबाट गुज्रिरहेको छ । नेपालको एकमात्र पेट्रोलियम पदार्थको आपूर्तिकर्ता नेपाल आयल निगमले भारतको “अघोषित नाकाबन्दी” तथा मधेश आन्दोलनका कारणले गर्दा बजारको माग अनुसार सोको आपूर्ति गर्न नसकेकाले देशको अर्थतन्त्रलाई ठुलो धक्का पुग्न गएको र आम नेपाली जनताको जीवन दिनानुदिन कष्टकर बन्दै गएको सबैमा अवगत नै छ । यस्तो अवस्थामा सबैले देशको आर्थिक लगायत अन्य सम्पूर्ण क्रियाकलापनै ठप्प हुने अनुमान गरेको भएता पनि निकै अचम्म लाग्दो तरिकाले सारा मानिसहरु आ–आफ्नो दिनचर्यामा लागिपरेका छन्, आफ्नो गन्तव्यमा पुगिरहेका छन् । “त्यसो भए यी प्रयोजनका निमित्त मानिसहरुसँग पेट्रोल र डिजल चाहिँ कहाँबाट आइरहेको छ त?” भनी तपाई–हाम्रो दिमागमा प्रश्न आउनु तसर्थ स्वाभाविक नै हो । यसको जवाफ “कालो बजार”को संज्ञा दिईएको व्यापार र “तस्कर” कहलिएका व्यापारीहरु नै हुन् । त्यसैले पनि उप–प्रधानमन्त्रीले कलोबजारीयाका कारणले गर्दा नै इन्धनको चरम अभाव हुन नपाएको भन्ने खालको वक्तव्य दिनु त्यति आश्चर्यजनक कुरो भएन ।

कानुनी रूपमा हेर्ने हो भने प्रचलित कानुन विपरित व्यापार व्यवसाय गर्नुलाई कालो बजारी भनिन्छ । त्यसो भए कानुनी दायरामा नरही व्यवसाय संचालन गर्नु पर्ने बाध्यताको किन जन्म हुन्छ त ? साधारणतया जब कानुनी दायरा बाहिर रहेर भन्दा भित्र रहेर व्यवसाय गर्दा महँगो र झन्झटिलो हुन जान्छ, तब “कालोबजारी”को जन्म हुन्छ ।

कानुनी बाटो महंगो हुने कारण कानुनी प्रावधानहरु नै हुन् । जस्तै, कुनै पनि नयाँ कम्पनी सुरुवात गर्दा व्यवसयीलाई आफ्नो व्यवसाय दर्ता गर्ने प्रकृयामै धेरै समय र पैसा खर्च लाग्छ र करको महसुल पनि उच्च छ भने उसले सकेसम्म साना व्यवसायहरु दर्ता नै नगरी चलाउन थाल्छ । नेपालमा अनौपचारिक अर्थतन्त्र फस्टाउनुको एक मुख्य कारण पनि यही हो । जब कुनै क्षेत्रमा सरकारी बाधा–अड्चनले गर्दा नयाँ व्यवसयीहरु प्रवेश गर्न सक्दैनन्, त्यहाँ गैर कानुनी रुपमा व्यापार हुने प्रवृत्तिको विकास हुँदै जान्छ । नेपालमा अनौपचारिक रुपमा पेट्रोलियम पदार्थको आपूर्तिको कहानी पनि यही नै हो । एक पटक कानुनी रुपमा एकाधिकार सम्पन्न सरकारी आपूर्तिकर्ता तय गरिसके पछि सोको अप्रभावकारिताका कारण बाजारमा माग बढ्न जाँदा बढ्दो माग र यस सँगै जोडिएर आउने उच्च प्रतिफलको सम्भावना देखेर त्यसको परिपूर्ति गर्न खोज्ने साना पेट्रोलियम आपूर्तिकर्ता स्वभाविक रुपमा नै सबै कालाबजारीया हुनेनै भए ।

कालोबजारबाट उपलब्ध हुन आउने सामानहरुमा मानिसले साधारणतया व्यक्त गर्ने प्रमुख गुनासो भनेको “कालाबजारीयाहरुले उच्च मूल्य लिए।” भन्ने हो र यसको दोष हामी सम्पूर्ण रुपमा कालाबजारीयाहरु माथी नै थोपर्ने गर्छाैं । यद्यपि यसको लुप्त तर मुख्य दोषी कालाबजारीया नभई उद्यमीलाई कालाबजारीया बन्न बाध्य पार्ने एकाधिकारमुखी नियमनहरु नै हुन् । सरकारी संस्थानले एकाधिकार कायम गरेपछि उक्त वस्तुको अन्य सबै आपूर्ति गैरकानुनी हुने भए । यसरी गैरकानुनी भएपछि स्थापित व्यवस्था छलेर व्यापार गर्न व्यापारीले जोखिम उठाउनुपर्ने हुन्छ । उदाहरणको लागि, गैर कानुनी कहलिने कुनै पनि काम गर्दा विद्यमान कानुन बमोजिम सो व्यापारी प्रहरीको फन्दामा पर्न जाने खतरा ठूलो हुन्छ । समाजबाटै पनि उसले ठूलो आलोचना/अपहेलना भोग्न पर्ने जस्ता सम्भावनाहरु हुन्छन् । यी सबैका बावजुद सो व्यवसाय गर्ने हो भने उसलाई कमसेकम यति आमदानी चाहिन्छ जसले उसको कानुनको कारवाहीमा फस्ने, सामाजिक आलोचनाको भागिदार बन्न पर्ने ईत्यादि जोखिम/अवस्थाको क्षतिपूर्ती समेत होस् । तर व्यवसायी नै भएको नाताले उसले यो सारा लागत आफैले कदापि उठाउँदैन । उसले यो लागत अन्ततः वस्तु वा सेवाको खरिदकर्तामा नै स्थानान्तरित गरिरहेको हुन्छ । बैंकहरुले पनि धेरै जोखिम व्यहोर्न पर्ने प्रकृतिका ऋणहरुमा अन्य भन्दा उच्चतम ब्याज दर तोक्ने कारण यस्तै हो । जति धेरै जोखिम, त्यति नै धेरै मूल्य । यो पछिल्लो उदाहरणको फरक यति हो कि बैंकले ऋण दिँदा उसले विद्यमान कानुन मिचिरहेको छैन तर जोखिम धेरै उठाईरहेको छ । यही “रिस्क प्रिमियमले” गर्दा मूल्य उच्च हुने हुन्छ । फर्केर पेट्रोल व्यवसायीको कुरा गर्दै गर्दा यदि नियम कानुन सहज भएको भए यसरी कानुनको दायरा भन्दा बाहिर रहेर व्यवसाय गर्नु पर्ने बाध्यता हुने थिएन र “रिस्क प्रिमियम” पनि जोड्नु पर्ने थिएन ।

अर्को गुनासो भनेको गुणस्तरको सन्दर्भमा हो । गुणस्तरको प्रत्याभूति महत्वपूर्ण विषय हो तर सरकारले मात्रै कुनै पनि कुराको गुणस्तरको प्रत्याभूति दिन सक्छ भन्ने सोच मित्था हो । सरकारी निरीक्षण हुँदाहुदै पनि मिसावटयुक्त इन्धन सरकारी लाइसेन्सप्राप्त पम्पहरुले बेचिरहेको कुरा सर्वविदितै छ । सरकारी निगरानी भन्दा पनि बजार समन्वय मार्फत नै गुणस्तरको निगरानी स्वतः हुन पनि सक्छ । जब इन्धन व्यापार–व्यवसाय प्रतिस्पर्धात्मक हुन्छ, उपभोक्ताहरु मिसावटयुक्त इन्धन बेचबिखन गर्ने ब्यवसयी सँग किन्दैनन् र यस्ता ब्यवसायिहरु क्रमशः पाखा लाग्दै जान्छन् । यसै प्रकृयाबाट जो व्यवसायीहरु उपभोक्तको माग अनुसारको गुणस्तरयुक्त इन्धन आपूर्ती गर्छन्, ती व्यवसायीहरु बजारमा टिक्छन् र बजार स्वस्फूर्त रुपमा चलिरहन्छ । यसरी उपभोक्ता आँफैले गुणस्तर र मूल्यको निगरानी गर्छन् र व्यापारीले माग अनुसारको गुणस्तर उपलब्ध गराउँछन् । तीन चार जना फरक फरक व्यवसायीसँग पेट्राल खरिद गरिसके पछि जसले उच्चतम गुणस्तरको पेट्रोल दिएको थियो उसैकोमा फर्केर उसँग मात्र पेट्रोल खरिद गर्न थाल्नेहरुको उदाहरण पाउनको लागि हामीले आफ्नै साथीभाईहरु भन्दा अन्य व्यक्तिहरुको मा धाई रहने पर्ने आवस्यकता आज छैन ।

यसैगरी हामीले कालोबजारलाई कानुनी रुपमा मात्र नभएर आर्थिक सामाजिक पाटोबाट पनि हेर्न जरुरी हुन्छ । अहिलेको अवस्थामा पेट्रोलियम पदार्थको व्यापारलाई कानुनी रुपमा अवैध भन्न मिले पनि कालोबजारकै माध्यमबाट नागरिक, कलकरखाना लगायत अरु अत्यावश्यक क्षेत्रमा इन्धनको आपूर्ति भएको छ । चिकित्सकहरु समयमै अस्पताल पुगेका छन्, शिक्षकहरु स्कुल-कलेज पुगेका छन् । कालोबजारकै साहयताले धेरै मानिसहरुले आफ्नो कर्तव्य निर्वाह गर्न सफल भएका छन्।

अहिले इन्धन ब्यापारको क्षेत्रमा अवसर देखेरै मानिसहरु यो अवसरबाट फाइदा लिनको लागि यसमा लागिपरेका छन् । यसमा उनीहरुको संलग्नताको कारणले गर्दा समाजलाई नै टेवा पुगेको छ । यस्तो अवस्थामा कालोबजारीको उपमा दिइएको यस आर्थिक गतिविधि अपराध हो कि उद्यमशीलता? नेपाल सरकार र यसको एकाधिकार सम्पन्न संस्थान नेपाल आयल निगमले झन्डै ४ महिना बितिसक्दा पनि इन्धनको सहज आपूर्ति गर्न नसकेको अवस्थामा कालोबजारीयाको उद्यमशिलताले देशमा इन्धनको माग केही हदसम्म पुरा भइरहेको छ । त्यसैले अहिलेको परीस्थितिमा कालोबजारी नियन्त्रणभन्दा यसलाई कालोबजारको घेरामा पस्न बाध्य नपारी कसरी वैधानिक व्यवसायको सीमाभित्र राख्न सकिन्छ भनेर हेर्नु उचित होला । विगत चार महिनाले इन्धन आपूर्ति गर्न सरकारैमात्र सबल छ वा आवश्यक छ भन्ने धारणालाई त गलत साबित नै गरिसक्यो । यस्तो अवस्थामा यस्तो अत्यावश्यक वस्तु आपूर्ति गर्ने आर्थिक गतिविधिलाई गैरकानूनी बनाइराख्नुको कुनै औचित्य छैन । बरु उद्यमशिलतालाई प्रवद्र्धन गर्दै इन्धनको सहज आपूर्ति कसरी गर्न सकिन्छ भन्ने कुरालाई प्राथमिकता दिनुपर्छ । यसका लागि प्रतिबन्धात्मक सरकारी सन्धि तथा नीतिलाई हटाई, इन्धन आपूर्ति खुल्ला भएको घोषणा गरी प्रवेश बाधा हटाएर उदार ढंगले प्रतिस्पर्धात्मक तथा सुरक्षित रुपमा इन्धन व्यापारलाई अगाडी बढाउनुपर्छ । यसो गर्नाले कालोबजारले निम्त्याउने महँगाई तथा मिसावटका समस्या स्वतः सम्बोधन भई सहज आपूर्तिको वातावरण सुनिश्ति गर्न मद्दत पुग्नेछ ।

 

Dinesh Karki

About Dinesh Karki

Dinesh Karki is an independent researcher. He has Economics degree from Xi'an Jiaotong-Liverpool University, Suzhou, China.

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Caught in Transmission Issues

Evacuation of electricity has become a bigger problem than power generation in Nepal due to absence of transmission lines. Nepal Electricity Authority (NEA) has a practical monopoly over construction of transmission lines; but it has been constantly confronted with a number of problems, leading to its inability to complete the targeted transmission line projects. Among all, acquiring land is the major one. Several alignments namely Thankot-Bhaktapur, Khimti-Dhalkebar, Hetauda-Bharatpur-Bardhaghat, Kusum-Hapure, Singati-Lamosanghu, Dumre-Damauli have not been completed for many years and a large number of projects have not gone into construction due to uncertainty in transmission line construction. Infrastructure sector like roads have alternatives such as railways, waterways, airways, but transmission lines have no substitutes. Therefore, if we want to see an end to the electricity problem in Nepal, we have no option but developing transmission system urgently.

RIGHT OF WAY

Acquiring land for Right of Way (RoW), constructing towers, and delay in securing timely clearance from forest department as well as security agencies, are some of the major challenges for developing transmission system. There is a field-level difficulty in acquiring private land for developing transmission system as people tend to feel that they are being unfairly treated by being forced to bear the cost for the benefit of other people. This perception of unfairness is the major source of dissatisfaction and social disruption. It is difficult for people to give up land for constructing any infrastructure because it separates them from their ancestral ties. Furthermore, the presence of a transmission line reduces the commercial value of the land to almost nil as it can’t be put for any alternative commercial use. As a result, people opt for not cooperating when it comes to this specific infrastructural development.

LOCAL INVOLVEMENT

The level of non-cooperation of local residents can be minimized by involving them in planning of transmission line projects from the very beginning. Authorized personnel do not involve the locals in the planning process in order to reduce the possibility of political opposition and cost of land acquisition. However, if the locals are involved from the very beginning of the planning process, they can support such development initiatives by suggesting workable alternatives. In a democratic society like ours, decisions should be taken after adequate discussion and interaction among the individuals and groups. A collaborative effort among all stakeholders can solve this issue. Furthermore, landowners, developers and technical people associated with planning and design could discuss in greater detail for creating better and more aesthetically pleasing communities which adds additional value to society in the end.

PROFITEERING PROBLEMS

During the development of transmission line in Nepal, while locals are not involved in the planning process, some informed people/insiders buy the land on low cost and later on, bargain with NEA and other responsible utilities for higher compensation. Such transactions are observed in many strategic locations where transmission line projects are being executed. Similar infiltration is suspected in Sinduli where the transmission system, consisting of only six towers, is incomplete. This sort of activities can be avoided if information is shared with the locals more effectively. Moreover, when participatory approach is followed, local residents will not feel ignored. It causes delay in planning process that often lead to increase in cost in the development stage, however, return will be far more than expenditures.

MARKET PRICES

Additionally, for the smooth construction of transmission related infrastructure, NEA should think of different ways to minimize the degree to which people feel unfairly treated. A market price based monetary compensation of land might reduce the feeling of having suffered a net loss from an unfair practice. The land owners, whose properties have to be acquired for building transmission system, are ready to provide their land if they get market value of their fixed assets. Similarly, if the affected people get some benefits from the project under benefit sharing mechanism, their dissatisfaction will be further reduced and may even turn out to be supportive of the development activities.

POWER DEVELOPMENT

Agriculture and Water Resource Committee (AWRC), the Parliamentary committee has identified that construction of transmission systems is a real bottleneck in development of power sector in Nepal. Therefore, the members of the committee have formed a subcommittee to conduct the detailed study on it and solve the critical constraints of energy sector. Acquiring land from the private owner for Right of Way (RoW) and constructing transmission towers are the major challenges and these cannot be resolved without providing marked based compensation to the affected land owners and including them in the planning process from the initial phase. Without such serious and timely reforms in the transmission system, the country’s problem in power sector cannot be solved and the shortage of power will lead to a greater loss of production of goods and services which also has serious implications on the country’s socio-economic stability. Therefore, reforms in transmission sector are essential not only for attaining a fast pace of economic growth by bringing efficiency in our economy but also for protecting our socio-political rights.

(This article was originally published in The Himalayan Times on 7th December, 2014. You can read it by clicking following link :

http://epaper.thehimalayantimes.com/Details.aspx?id=3921&boxid=158602890 )

Pramod Rijal

About Pramod Rijal

Pramod Rijal is a Research Associate at Samriddhi, The Prosperity Foundation. He is also a lecturer of Economics at Mega National and Unique College of Management and has contributed a number of articles in various national dailies.

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Taxi Troubles

taxi troublesIf there’s something that has been common across the urban streets of the world, it would sure have to be taxi troubles. From the joyous streets of New York to the bustling Melbourne corners to the chaotically maddening streets of Kathmandu—taxis have grabbed headlines many a times.

Like governments elsewhere around the world, the government of Nepal took it upon itself to correct the marketplace imperfection that would have been caused if private players were allowed to take over the taxi industry sans the much needed regulation. And hence, in May 2000 A.D., the government banned registration of new taxis in Kathmandu Valley. Prior to the halt, about 8,000 taxis were registered to run in Bagmati zone and this amounted to about 80% of the total taxis in the country. According to the most recent data from the Taxi Unit, Bureau of Standards and Meterology, 4,834 of these ply on the valley roads and these are over 15 years old. With quite a percentage of them being out of order and the existent ones being run down and battered over the decade, the halt on registration raises some serious issues.

For starters, the idea of restricting entry means that the interests of rent-seeking taxi industry incumbents were valued over taxi customers. Restricted entry meant that the cost of licenses went up (quite unnaturally) and few held those licenses for their own benefits in the shadows of this artificial shortage. Also, over the last decade, the population of the valley has gone up at unprecedented rates—people from all walks of life have been drawn to this epicenter of dreams, opportunities and possibilities. But with this growth, the number of taxis has only fallen down—the ones that remain are a witness to the wear and tear that comes over time of repeated usage. These reasons combined have led the customers to pay higher prices for services that do not meet the quality standards as they are left with no other choice—after all, an over paid ride in a battered taxi is better than having to walk back home after a long day at work.

Instead of letting the market forces be at play, the already regulated industry is further scrutinized by the government’s price control mechanisms. The government has a ready-made rationale behind it—taxis have been charging exorbitant rates from passengers and there have also been reports of tampering with the meters. So, on July 16th 2013, the government raised the fare by 15.6 percent. The meter starts from NRs. 14; the fare has been raised to NRs. 37 per kilometer from NRs. 32. In earlier years too government has been raising the taxi fares according to the rate of inflation, increasing fuel prices and changing wage rates for the drivers.

While the government tries to justify the regulation citing reasons as private players monopolizing the market and public safety, it is easy to understand how competitive taxi markets and unfettered entry and fares for taxi providers would mean lower fares, higher level of services to the customers and possibly service innovations. If nothing else, this would mean entrepreneurial opportunities for many interested. Because of their flexible services like 24 hour-a-day availability and capacity to provide door-to- door service taxis have become an added element of a modern-urban lifestyle and the regulations have not only restricted the much needed competition but have also killed whatever little incentive they might have had to innovate and provide better services at much cheaper rates.

 

Anita Krishnan

About Anita Krishnan

Krishnan holds dual degrees--in law and sociology. Currently, she works as a Research Associate at Samriddhi, The Prosperity Foundation.

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Multiple Buyers in Nepalese Electricity Market

Multiple-Choices-Nepal-Electricity-Authority

The perennial problem of load shedding in Nepal will never be resolved unless we get over temporary fix mindset and start considering longer term solution. The answer lies in constructing storage type projects and expansion of cross border electricity trade with India.

The large reservoir based projects provide a suitable alternative by generating sufficient amount of electricity even during the dry season.

What makes this proposition even more viable is, that there is a complementary demand-supply relationship between the two countries regarding the use of electricity. An average Indian household in the neighboring states of West Bengal, UP and Bihar demands more electricity during the summer season when the use of electrical appliances like refrigerator, cooler and air conditioners is at its maximum. Ideally, this is the time when the generation capacity of the project would be peaking due to increased volume of water in the snow fed rivers of Nepal.
But besides power generation, Nepal also faces serious challenge in terms of efficient transmission and distribution of power. Nepal Electricity Authority (NEA), which is a monopoly buyer in Nepali electricity market also has sole control over its transmission and distribution system. Often NEA is blamed for prioritizing construction of transmission lines in projects where it is involved while ignoring projects built by private sector without its involvement. It is also blamed of spiking up Power Purchasing Agreement (PPA) for such projects. Thus, an unfair playing field is created in the market which discourages national and international private developers.

Sadly, despite all the unfair advantages NEA has an operating loss of over eight billion rupees annually due to inefficient management, overstaffing, institutional corruption, over politicization and misuse of resources. For all the reasons mentioned here, it has not been able to strike a PPA deal with majority of private developers who are now running out of patience.

To cut the argument short, Nepal’s electricity market needs multiple buyers because the state owned NEA run by employees instead of entrepreneurs simply lacks strong motive to earn profit. Additionally, a salaried bureaucrat sitting at the top of a public institution does not have incentive to take unpopular decisions because these organizations are regulated by departments and ministries which have the final authority over the use and abuse of its resource.
Nevertheless, the private developers are still willing to invest in large storage type projects if they are provided higher rate in Power Purchasing Agreement (PPA) and if the government is willing to bring effective resettlement and land acquisition policy. This is possible when there are multiple buyers in electricity market who are compelled to provide higher price to sustain their market in the long run. Multiple buyers in Nepali electricity market will attract more private investments, increase efficiency of human resource, enhance technical growth and improve customer satisfaction as different parties compete to win their market share. It also promotes innovation and lowers the costs of production by taking risks on new ideas which have greater public value.

Nepal has seen positive changes in telecommunications after restructuring of Nepal Telecommunication Authority and opening market in this sector for other players. Today, price of various telecommunication products and customer services has become more competitive in every respect. Similar changes are seen in education, health, media, banking and entertainment sector after the end of government monopoly and arrival of domestic and foreign private players.

However, privatization is not without challenges in a developing market like ours. And in hydropower sector which has limited number of players given the size and level of investment required, the risk of price cartelling and syndication instead of competitive market pricing is unusually high. When that happens, the strategy of deregulation could easily backfire, taking monopoly out of state’s hand only to give it back to a bunch of crony capitalists hungry for unlimited profit.

Therefore, the government must play it smart and open up Nepali electricity market to multiple buyers, but with proper policies that helps us harness and access this resource at an affordable price. The mantra should be to make profit but the intent must be to provide public service as well because quality electricity is not just a product anymore, it is also a right.

Pramod Rijal

About Pramod Rijal

Pramod Rijal is a Research Associate at Samriddhi, The Prosperity Foundation. He is also a lecturer of Economics at Mega National and Unique College of Management and has contributed a number of articles in various national dailies.

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