New Delhi: Nepal Prime Minister K.P. Sharma Oli on Friday urged Indian businesses to invest in his country and participate in the Himalayan nation’s efforts to become a middle income country by the year 2030.
In New Delhi on his first trip abroad after taking over as prime minister in February at the head of a leftist coalition government, Oli listed infrastructure, tourism, power, agriculture and information technology as areas that hold opportunities for foreign investors. “Nepal has a strong government at the centre, and stable government means stability and continuity in policy regime," he said in remarks at an India-Nepal Business Forum meet organized by three prominent Indian industry chambers, including the Confederation of Indian Industry.
“This is a government by a prime minister whose only aim is to bring about visible changes in the living style of the people," Oli said, adding that the people of his country had voted him to power with the hope that he would bring stability and economic prosperity.
Oli’s leftist coalition was voted to power in a two phased poll last year. This is his second visit to India as prime minister since 2016. During his last visit, Oli was seen as being under pressure from India to amend a new constitution that was viewed as favouring Nepal’s upper hill classes, which constituted 49% of the population.
Ties with India were prickly as there was a perception in Nepal that India was backing protests against the constitution by the discontented 51% of the population—the Tharus, Janjatis and Madhesis—who were blocking key access roads from India to Nepal, used for transporting essentials such as fuel and medicines to the landlocked country.
Soon after his India visit in 2016, Oli was in China looking for fuel exports to offset the shortfall of energy supplies from India. In August 2016, he quit as prime minister amid mounting speculation in Nepal that India had played a role in the collapse of Oli’s fragile coalition government.
This time round, Oli’s visit to India comes on the back of a resounding electoral win—his coalition has a three-fourths majority in Nepal’s lower house. The leftist coalition has also done well in provincial polls.
In a recent interview to the South China Morning Post, Oli was quoted as saying that his government would cultivate ties both with India and China. Oli last month also welcomed Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, prime minister of India’s rival Pakistan, as his government’s first foreign visitor after taking office in February.
In his speech to Indian industry on Friday, Oli courted investments from India, explaining that the law and order situation in his country was improving and his administration had a zero tolerance approach towards corruption. Nepal “is safe for foreign investment", he said.
“Indian investors have invested across the globe, so why not to go to the next door Nepal?", he asked.
“Geographical proximity, easy access and cultural similarities are all there to make you feel good about Nepal. Seize the opportunity," Oli said.
Investors, he acknowledged, “always look for markets. Look at Nepal’s position. For us, market is not a problem, (but) production is a problem. Nepal is lying between two vibrant economic powers with huge population of the world—India and China. That assures you of a promising market of 2.5 billion people," he said.
This was coupled with the fact that Nepal enjoyed duty-free access to European markets, he added. “All sectors open for investment. We are eager to work together with business community of India. I would request you to come to Nepal and invest," he said.
“Nepal has attractive incentives to offer compared to other countries. We have reduced tariffs, simplified tax regimes," Oli said, adding that the country was in the process of establishing special economic zones in the cities bordering India with incentives like liberal labour laws.
“We have favourable fiscal environment. We have low tax slabs, no income tax on dividends and export earnings and tax holidays for certain industries," he added.