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Editorial: Nepal’s investment climate myths

Editorial: Nepal’s investment climate myths

On April 28 and 29, Nepal is hosting the 3rd Nepal Investment Summit with the aim of attracting foreign investment for the country's major infrastructure projects. For a long time, there has been a widespread perception among the international community that Nepal presents numerous policy and bureaucratic hurdles for investment. However, this perception is only partially accurate, and there are many misunderstandings about Nepal's investment climate.

While the decade-long insurgency, followed by a prolonged transition period and ongoing political instability, undoubtedly created an unfavorable environment for international investors, these factors alone do not fully explain the lack of foreign direct investment in Nepal. One of the main arguments put forth by the diplomatic community is the lack of policy consistency in the country. However, if we look at the past 10 years, with the exception of a few development projects, there has been relative policy consistency in the country. When it comes to attracting foreign direct investment, there are no major policy disagreements among the major political parties. For instance, the government has issued ordinances to amend nine laws in line with the demands of international investors, and there is no disagreement among the major political parties on this matter. Regardless of whether the government is led by communist or other parties, all are seeking international investment, and there is no disagreement on this front.

Another argument often raised is the lack of political stability in Nepal. While it is true that there has been instability in the past, there has been a degree of political stability following the promulgation of a new constitution in 2015, as elections for all three tiers of government are now held every five years. There are no hostile political parties or groups actively obstructing or discouraging foreign direct investment in Nepal. Concerns raised by the international community, such as tightened labor laws or difficulties in exiting the market, have been substantially eased over the past few years. While issues of corruption and bureaucratic red tape still exist to some extent, there has been progress in addressing these challenges. It is also true that some foreign companies have taken undue advantage of Nepal's poor governance systems. Despite these challenges, Nepal remains an ideal destination for international investors due to its strategic location bordering the large markets of India and China, its youthful population and other factors. 

While Nepal may not achieve full political stability within the next 5-10 years, the current political situation does not pose any significant threats to the international investors.. There is an all-party consensus regarding the investment summit, with no prominent opposition voices raised against it. Therefore, international investors should not be overly influenced by narratives claiming an inappropriate environment for investments in Nepal. At the same time, the diplomatic community should be cautious about misleading their respective investors through flawed briefings about the political situation in Nepal. Despite some occasional street protests, Nepal has largely remained a peaceful country since signing the Comprehensive Peace Agreement in 2006.