About Nepal » Economy
The GDP growth rate it Nepal has averaged 4.8% per year during the past decade. This is lower than the 6% targeted in the Ninth Five Year Plan (1997-2002) but higher than the 4.5% recorded during the 1980s. In 2001, the growth rate was 4.8% but declined to 0.8% in 2002 owing to the sharp decline in exports and tourist arrivals following the global economic slowdown. This was further exacerbated by the events of 11 September 2001 in the United States and heightened Maoist insurgency in Nepal. The Asian Development Bank expects the rate to rebound to 5% in 2003 if a variety of not improbable conditions are satisfied: political unrest in Nepal ends, the global economic slowdown is modest, the Indian economy grows at about 5-6%, and the weather in Nepal and neighbouring areas remains favourable.
Nepal has been changing very slowly from being an agriculture economy to one that has an increasing share of other sectors such as energy, industry, construction, transport and communication in its GDP.
Despite the problems of the insurgency, dwindling tourist arrivals and a slowdown in other business activities, macroeconomic fundamentals have remained healthy in Nepal. Inflation measured by the consumer price index was 3.6% as of mid March 2002 according to the Central Bank's regular survey. Though this rate is much higher than the 1.4% recorded in the same period the previous year, it is well below the ceiling of 5% set for 2002.
1 Trade and Investment
The Government has taken a variety of initiatives to reduce its intervention in the economy and to encourage exports. Trade liberalization, foreign exchange and banking-sector deregulation, and privatisation have been the major planks of economic liberalization. Nepal's average import-tariff rates are the lowest in the South Asian region (the slabs are 5%, 10%, 15%, 25% and 40%; for vehicles the tariff is 130%.). The Nepali Rupee is fully convertible on the current account. Convertibility on the capital account is under consideration.
As a result of these policies, Nepal's foreign trade is growing significantly. The growth rate in exports has been higher than the growth rate in imports, thus containing the trade deficit at a level under $ 820 million, which is less than 20% of the nominal GDP at factor cost in 2001. This ratio was as high as 25% in 1997.
Nepal's major export market is its Southern neighbour, India, a market of over one billion people. In 1998-1999, exports to India accounted for about 31% of total exports; in 2000-2001 the figure had jumped to 44%. The export potential of the Indian market is thus obvious. Other major export destinations for Nepali goods are the United States and Europe. Efforts are also being made to increase exports to Tibet, the Autonomous Region of China that borders Nepal. An agreement was signed in June 2002 to make the Chinese Yuan convertible in Nepal, which will allow payments to be made in Yuan.
Nepal's main exports have been hand-knotted woollen carpets, ready-made garments and pashmina goods.
1.2 Foreign Direct Investment
Nepal has been receiving foreign direct investment, but the amount has been insignificant when compared with that received by other developing countries, including South Asian ones. But the list of foreign investors includes such renowned companies as British American Tobacco (BAT), Unilever, Coca-Cola, Standard Chartered and Hyatt. Nonetheless, most foreign investors in Nepal are individuals.
India is the major source of FDI in Nepal so far (About 40%), followed by the United States, China, the British Virgin Islands, Norway, Japan, the Republic of Korea, Canada and Hong Kong (China) in terms of the amount of approved FDI. In November 2001, 272 of the approved projects were operational, 49 were under construction and 179 were approved but not operational.
The major area of FDI has been manufacturing, followed by services and, in, particular, tourism. More specifically, FDI is concentrated in manufacturing products for export to India (e.g. vegetable fat, soap, toothpaste, Ayurvedic preparations) and overseas (ready-made garments). This is followed by hotels. More recently there has been significant FDI in hydropower, taking advantage of the further policy liberalization in this sector.
1.3 Areas of opportunity
Nepal is endowed with and exceptional variety of agriculture terrains by its range of altitudes, rainfall patterns and other natural diversity, the high Himalayan mountains, the hill and ridges through which flow some 6,000 rivers and rivulets sites of the Hindus and the Buddhists are among the natural and cultural resources that can attract both tourists and investors.
Agriculture and agro-processing, tourism and hydropower generation are the major priority areas for development in Nepal. Additional opportunities may also be found in IT-related services, health services, pharmaceuticals and light manufacturing. Abundant reserves of limestone and a number of other minerals in various parts of the Country offer prospects for the cement and other mineral-based industries as well.
2 Agriculture and Agribusiness
2.1 Agriculture and related industries
Nepal produces paddy, wheat, maize and barley as the main food crops and mustard and rapeseed as the major oilseeds, Niger seed, which is great demand in the international market for birdfeed, is emerging as an export-oriented crop. Potato sugar cane, lentils, tobacco and jute are the major cash crops. In recent years, the market oriented production of vegetables and fruits has grown, thus changing the subsistence pattern of agriculture, although gradually. Also increasing in importance are tea, coffee, meat, milk, eggs, fish, vegetable seeds, silk and Soya production.
Sheep farming, which is one of the major sources of income for people in the mountainous region, is increasing in importance in view of the need to import large volumes of raw wool for the carpet industry. However, recent findings have shown a declining trend in the sheep population, reflection a shift away from the consumption of mutton in favour of other meat. Such as chicken and buffalo (Nepal Agriculture Sector Performance Review, Final Report, March 2002, Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperatives, Nepal and Asian Development Bank).
Other major current agricultural products of Nepal are sunflower, sesame and groundnut in oilseeds; asparagus, French beans, green peas, snow peas, chick peas, pigeon peas, black gram and grass peas, okra, lettuce, onion, garlic, ginger, cauliflower, broccoli, cabbage, sweet peppers, mushrooms and tomatoes in vegetables; and roses, carnations, orchids, chrysanthemums and ornamental plants in floriculture. Apple, pear, walnut, peach, plum, apricot, persimmon, pomegranate and almond are the major winter fruits, while mango, banana, guava, papaya, jackfruit, pineapple, lychee and coconut are the major summer fruits, in addition to citrus, which includes orange, sweet orange, lime and lemon.
2.2 Tea and Coffee
Nepal products two types of tea: orthodox tea in the hills (4,583 ha) from Chinese clones and CTC tea in the plains (4478 ha) from Assamese-variety plants "Orthodox" and "CTC" refer to two different types of tea-processing methods. Orthodox tea is leaf tea, has a good aroma and gives mild liquor. It is the premium variety. CTC is 'curled leaf' tea and gives strong liquor without much aroma. It is a mass consumption item. The distinction is, however, in the processing of the green leaves, not in the leaves themselves or in the locations in which they are grown.
Statistics show that the export of tea from Nepal is still insignificant in quantity. Tea export was nearly 81,000 kg in 1999-2000 and only 69,000 in 2000-2001 (provisional data), according to the Trade Promotion Centre of Nepal. Tea industry sources say that this is perhaps because most of the Nepali production goes to India in green form, not only from individual farmers but also from large plantations and it is mostly unaccounted for in customs records. In India, it is mixed with Indian tea to improve its quality before being exported overseas.
The comparative advantage of Nepal in tea thus lies in the youth of the plants and in the long period of rainfall that Nepal (particularly the eastern part) receives. Increasing the cultivation of Darjeeling tea (India's most famous tea) is now said to be difficult for ecological reasons. This offers and opportunity for Nepal, since the same quality of Darjeeling tea can be produced in Nepal. The eastern hills and plains adjoining the Darjeeling district have long been the major growers of tea in Nepal, although tea plantation has now also expanded to the central and Western hills, wherever the duration of rainfall is sufficiently long.
The National Tea Policy announced in the year 2000 has provided some policy guidelines to boost this sector with the extremely ambitious aims of reaching a total plantation area of 40, 875 hectares by 2005 (currently just over 9,000 ha) and 46 million kg of annual tea exports by 2010. The policy also provides for long-term leases on State land for tea cultivation (for as long as 50 years).
The Agro Enterprise Centre within the Federation of Nepalese Chambers of Commerce & Industry (FNCCI) lists 11 tea estates that grow orthodox tea and 18 that grow CTC tea. The Lawrie Group of Britain has invested in Gorkha Lawrie Pvt. Ltd to produce CTC tea in Nepal in a joint venture with the Soaltee group.
Germany, Japan and Hong Kong (China) have been the main importers of Nepali orthodox tea.
Coffee is a newly identified export product of Nepal as compared with tea. The major coffee growing areas include the Gulmi District in the Western Development Region where a sapling brought from Buarma was first planted about 40 years ago. Now coffee plantations have expanded also to the Palpa and Arghakhanchi districts that adjoin Gulmi and to the Kavrepalanchok district near Kathmandu. Altogether, coffee is now being grown in 25 districts. Japan and the Netherlands have been the main importers of coffee from Nepal. One major problem of the tea and coffee industries has to do with finance. Tough there is a national policy to provide long-term credit to this industry, banks have not yet been able to adjust their corporate policies to suit its needs. The second problem is the poor marketing of Nepali tea and coffee abroad. Thus FDI in tea and coffee will find opportunities in processing, marketing and also in cultivation if it comes with finance, quality control technology or a marketing network. Himalayan Goodricke (P) Ltd. (HGPL) and Gorkha Lawrie (P) Ltd. (GLPL) are two foreign-invested enterprises in the tea business. The United Kingdom's Goodricke Lawrie Group owns 44% of the authorized capital of NRs 76.33 million in HGPL and 49% of the authorized capital of NRs 139.50 million in GLPL.
Floriculture has been gradually developing as a business in Nepal in recent years, though exports in regular and organized manner have not yet stared. In addition to various other flowers, Nepal is known for some exotic species of orchids. The diverse agro-climatic conditions of Nepal offer good prospects for the production of a wide variety of flowers and flowering seeds for export. The workforce suitable to this industry is easily available. For a successful export operation, there needs to be a direct air link to northern Europe, the traditional market for flowers. The airport would also need a proper storage area for such goods. These activities (the provision of a direct airlink and storage facilities) present themselves as areas of investment in their own right. Thru far, there has been no significant FDI in this field.
2.4 Leather goods
Semi-processed and processed leather (sometimes referred to as "tanned skins" and sometimes as "hides and skins" in the official records) had been two of the major overseas export items from Nepal in the past. In the early 1990s, their share in the Country's total exports was 4%, but it is now down to less than 1%. However, the value of their exports had reached over NRs 600 million (over $8 million) in 2001.
The raw materials for this industry available in Nepal are water buffalo hides and goat skins. As a Hindu Country, Nepal has banned cow slaughter and bovine hides are available only from animals that die naturally or accidentally. However, there are prospects also of the use of yak hides.
There are over a dozen tanneries in Nepal producing wet blue, crust and finished leather. The plants are relatively modern but need upgrading to suit specialized needs. General labour for this industry is easily available in Nepal. Specialized labour, for example tanners, may have to be imported. (There are also some Nepali tanners working in foreign Countries).
The international leather market is highly volatile (as is reflected in the sudden upsurge in hide exports in 2000-2001) with the demand for leather growing very fast during economic booms and going down equally fast during slowdowns. Buyers come to Nepal for leather only when nearby supply sources (for example, Africa for European buyers) are exhausted, since freight costs from Nepal are high. Producing leather goods with Nepali leather for the export market may thus offer and opportunity.
Though Nepal does not have any specialized traditional skills in this industry that can constitute a comparative advantage, the availability of raw material does offer an opportunity. The production of high-fashion leather goods is perhaps not feasible in Nepal, but the production of items such as worker's gloves and soldiers' and workers' shoes is certainly feasible.
2.5 Livestock and dairy processing
Dairy farming is an integral part of Nepali agriculture. According to a recent study of the agricultural sector of Nepal carried out by ANZDEC, a research institute in New Zealand, livestock accounts for nearly 29 percent of the agriculture GDP of Nepal and comes second only to foodgrains, which account for 34%. Water buffaloes and cows are the main animals reared for milk. Bullocks are used for traction only, while male buffaloes are used also for meat. Yaks are also used for meat. Other livestock reared in Nepal includes goats, sheep, pigs, chickens and ducks.
With some 6.8 million heads as their total population, cattle are the primary livestock in Nepal. Some 780,000 of them are milking cows. Perhaps even more important are the buffaloes in the Nepali village economy, as they are used for all three purposes: traction, milk and meat. Their population is estimated at around 3.3 million heads with some 830,000 heads of milking buffaloes. The number of sheep and goats is estimated at 880,000 and 5.8 million heads respectively. The number of pigs is estimated at around 7,00,000. Of the 16 million chickens, about 4.8 million are laying hens.
3.1 Infrastructure and utilities
The past decade was a period of rapid expansion in road and telecommunication facilities in Nepal. In hydropower generation, Nepal experienced rapid expansion towards the end of the last Century which ahs continued since. However, the Country's potential of nearly 44,000 MW is very far from being realized. In addition to the nearly 528 MW of hydropower generated from various public and private plants, the State-owned Nepal Electricity Authority generates and sells about 57 MW of power from thermal or multi-fuel plants, all of which to less than 1.5% of what is economically feasible. According to one estimate, some manufacturing establishments have a captive generation capacity of about 11,645,000 kwh (approximately 1.3 MW) from diesel generators. The Country also exchanges power with India, importing it into towns bordering India and exporting in bulk to India from some large plants. Though the period of frequent power cuts is over, now that the 144 MW Kali Gandaki project has been completed and has stared supplying electricity to the central power grid, Nepal still doesn't have sufficient capacity to meet its future domestic demand.
A number of additional projects have been commissioned since 2001 by offering incentives for private sector investment. The build-operate-transfer (BOT) principle has been followed and tax rates for Companies that generate or distribute electricity are lower than those for most others: 20% as against 25%.
Nepal's telephone density at present is 13.5 fixed lines per 1,000 persons. But the radio is much higher (nearly 140 per 1,000) in the urban centres as compared with just over 1 line per 1,000 in rural areas. In the Kathmandu valley, the ratio is 210 per 1,000. The approach paper to the Tenth Five Year Plan targets an overall teledensity of 40 lines per 1,000.
Telecommunications are still a government monopoly but are being gradually liberalized. Cellular mobile phone services are available in the major cities from the Nepal telecommunication Corporation (NTC), but almost all of 20,000 international donors for extending mobile phone services to eastern rural Nepal are in the planning stage. One private-sector operator is licensed to operate mobile services throughout the Country. Its services are expected to be available by 2003.
A project is in the pipeline for an optical-fibre cable connection 81 centres of the Terai region along the East-West Highway as well as Kathmandu. The Indian Government is helping meet the estimated cost of $17 million for this project. Teledensity is already the highest in these areas.
Nepal's telecommunication charges used to be higher than in other South Asia Countries for international calls. The NTC is now rationalizing its price structure, reducing the charges for international calls and raising them for domestic calls. It completed one round of rationalization in June 2002.
3.3 Water, sewerage and health services
Drinking-water supply has been a focus of the Government's development strategy, but the Kathmandu valley is still suffering from drinking-water scarcity. Work is progressing on the ambitious Melamchi project, supported by the Asian development Bank among others, to divert a river into the valley and augment the water supply there. However, it is not expected to be completed before 2007.
In health services, the Government has put in place a system allowing the private sector to run general and teaching hospitals and specialized nursing homes. As a result, several Indian medical colleges have set up teaching hospitals in Nepal.
3.4 Road transport
Progress has been rapid since 1990 in the expansion of the road network in Nepal, though it is still inadequate. The targets of the Ninth Plan for the construction of agricultural roads went mostly unrealised because of the failure to allocate adequate funds for this purpose in the annual budgets. The Government has just set up a Road Maintenance Fund.
The road density in Nepal is nearly 11 km per 100 sq. km. The ratio in the Terai is 27:100, while it is 8:100 in the hills and 2:100 in the mountain sixty-five of the Country's 75 districts have been linked to the road network. The Tenth Plan (2002-2007) envisages connecting all districts the national network.
3.5 Air transport
Nepal has only one international airport, located in Kathmandu. A feasibility study is under way on a second international airport outside Kathmandu, possibly at Bhairahawa, which adjoins Lumbini, the birthplace of the Buddha. The Country has a fair number (44) of domestic airfields. This is important because, in a mountainous Country, air transport is the only available means of modern transport is the only available means of modern transport to reach remote areas, where many of the tourism destinations are located and which are the source of valuable herbs and minerals.
Four airports (Nepalgunj, Bhairahawa, Pokhara and Biratnagar) are categorized as hub-airports and have concrete runways. Of the six classified as tourist traffic airports, three (all situated in the mountains region) have recently acquired concrete runways and the rest are in the process of doing so. Five additional airports are under construction, all in the hills and mountains. There are also 120 helipads certified by the Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal (CAAN).
The civil aviation sector in Nepal has been liberalized and nearly 30 Companies, including the State owned Royal Nepal Airlines Corporation (RNAC), are licensed to operate domestic air services. Only about 19 of these are actually providing services. Some of the private airlines are on the verge of closing down, but this is considered normal in the consolidation stage of such an industry.
The RNAC, the privately owned Necon Air and nearly a dozen foreign airlines operate regular flights into Nepal, connection to a number of Indian cities and to Hong Kong (China), Dubai, Osaka, Shanghai, Lhasa, Dhaka, Karachi and London. Major airlines flying into Nepal include Thai Airways, Qatar Airways, Austrian Air, Indian Airlines, Gulf Air, Pakistan International Airlines and China South West Airlines.
Nepal currently has bilateral air service agreements with 31 Countries.
3.6 Railways and Waterways
The railway is virtually non-existent in Nepal, except for a 52-km stretch that links the Indian city of Jayanagar with the Nepali pilgrimage city of Janakpur. The plan is to extend it further to the East-West Highway and then to have a railway along this nearly 1,000-km highway. The railway connection between Raxaul in India and the dry port of Birganj in Nepal is still not operating for lack of a suitable agreement with India, although negotiations are is progress.
Since Nepal is a mountains Country, its rivers are mostly unsuitable for passenger and cargo transport, although certain stretches of the major rivers are feasible for operating jet barges for cargo as well as passenger transport. The development of these river stretches for transport is a possible alternative to the costly road transport to Kolkata port, (1,150 km from Kathmandu), which is virtually the only seaport used by Nepal so far. But the waterways agreement needed for this purpose with India is yet to be finalized.
The incoming and outgoing cargo of Nepal is handled by agents stationed in Kolkata, with whom Nepali business have long-standing relations. Besides Kolkata, the Indian port of Haldia near Kolkata and Kandha near Mumbai can also be used under the transit treaty between India and Nepal. While Haldia is being used for certain types of cargo such as chemicals and petroleum, Kandla is not, because of its distance from the Nepal border.
Also accessible since 1997 is the Mongla port in Bangladesh, which is gradually being brought into use by Nepali business. However, infrastructure along the route needs upgrading. Nepal and Bangladesh are working together to upgrade it.
Three "dry ports" (as inland container depots are also called) in Nepal facilitate international trade. Two of them (one in Biratnagar and the other in Bhairahawa) are already in use, while the one in Birgunj (which is the biggest) is awaiting a railway treaty with India for its operationalization. For exporters and importers, the dry ports serve as virtual seaports. The wait for the bill of lading, which can be as long as two weeks from the dispatch of goods from a factory in Nepal, is shortened as it can be received on delivering the cargo to the shipping company's office in the dry port. It also facilities speedy negotiation of export documents with a bank. When importing goods, the importer does not need to go to Kolkata to receive the consignment, since it is delivered at the dry port by the shipping company.
3.7 Other agricultural products
Other agricultural products offering good business prospects include farming and processing of silk, fruit, mushrooms, honey, spices, asparagus and cherries, to name but a few in which commercial experimentation is going on with encouraging results. The Agro Enterprise Centre (AEC) can provide further information about business prospects in these areas. The National Agricultural Research Council (NARC)is another source of information, particularly about the technical aspects. The prospects are mainly in the processing and marketing of these products as FDI is not allowed in some of the related businesses (such as bee-keeping).
The country has the capacity to generate nearly 83,000 MW of hydro-electricity, of which about 44,000 MW is thought to be economically feasible. At present, only 528 MW (less than 1.5%of the feasible capacity)is being generated of which about 100 MW is from independent power developers.
As India, particularly in its northern parts bordering Nepal, is facing perpetual power shortages, there are good prospects for power exports from Nepal to these areas. One obstacle here has been the non-ratification of an India -Nepal agreement on power trade, signed in 1996, by the Nepali parliament. (Parliamentary ratification is not required in India.) The reason would appear to be concerns over the sharing of spin-off benefits of major hydropower projects in Nepal. The issue may be resolved over the next year or two, given the recent improvements in diplomatic relations between the two countries. The power trade agreement serves as the basis on which private-sector firms in the two countries can enter into power-purchase agreements.
The power sector in India is currently in the process of restructuring. An Australian company, Snowy Mountain Engineering Corporation (SMEC), the developer of the 750 MW West Seti Project), is negotiating a power purchase agreement with India's recently established Power Trading Corporation (PTC).Once an agreement is reached, it will open up many opportunities for investing in export-oriented power projects in Nepal.
There will be a significant market for domestic consumption as well if industrial expansion continues. Moreover, Government policy also allows captive generation by an energy-intensive industry which can then sell surplus power to the locality near it or to the national grid. Selling surplus power to a distant buyer within the country using the national grid is also possible against the payment of a fee to the Nepal Electricity Authority, which owns the national grid.
Taking advantage of the new policy of welcoming private foreign investment in this sector, two joint- venture companies have already been generating and selling hydropower on a build-operate-transfer (BOT) basis. The Panda Energy Corporation of the United States has invested in the 36 MW Upper Bhote Koshi project in a joint venture with the Soaltee Group of Nepal, while Norway 's Statkraft has invested in the 60 MW Khimti project.
Of the 528 MW of hydropower being generated in Nepal at present, 113 MW is from private-sector independent power producers (IPP). IPPs are also developing six other projects for a combined capacity of 15 MW. Of the remaining 415 MW, 395 MW is produced by some large power plants owned by the Nepal Electricity Authority (NEA) and the rest by small power plants (some of which are owned by the NEA and some by private operators and local communities).
As the distribution of electricity is still the monopoly of the State-owned Nepal Electricity Authority (NEA), FDI can come only in generation. Investors need to finalize a power-purchase agreement with the NEA.
Tourism plays a very important role in the economy of Nepal. Employing some 600,000 people, t is the second largest sector of employment after agriculture. It is also a prominent foreign-exchange earner, contributing NRs 11,717 million ($156 million, at $1 =75)or the equivalent of 21%of the total value of merchandise exports in 2000-01(Economic Survey,2001-02,Ministry of Finance, Nepal)or 3 %of the country 's GDP. Crowne Plaza, Hyatt, Radisson and Taj are some of the international hotels chains present in Nepal in joint ventures (financial and/or technical -managerial) with Nepali investors.
As a tourist destination, Nepal is well known, though not as well known as it ought to be. The major attractions are the Himalayan ranges: 8 of the world's 10 highest peaks exceeding 8,000 meters including Mount Everest, the top of the world. The number of peaks above 6,000 meters exceeds 200.The cultural and biological diversity is another tourist attraction.
The country's elevation ranges from 100 meters to 8,848 meters above sea level in an aerial distance of 50 kilometres. It has nearly 70 spoken languages within a geographical area of 147,181 sq.m. The number of bird species in Nepal is larger than in Europe and Africa combined. The Kali Gandaki gorge is the deepest gorge in the world. It is a country in which two great religions, Hinduism and Buddhism, are blended together and there has been no religious conflict in its long history.
These features suggest some of the potential in cultural tourism, nature tourism (or eco-tourism), health tourism, adventure tourism and convention tourism. Tourism products targeted at Buddhists and Hindus from around the world (including those in India, China, South-East Asia, the Republic of Korea and Japan) can be developed with a focus on Lumbini, the birthplace of the Buddha.
Tourism in Nepal has hitherto been concentrated in the Kathmandu valley, Pokhara and Chitwan. New areas can be developed in other parts of the country by setting up resorts that can be destinations on their own, such as the national parks and wild-life reserves.
Some entrepreneurs are also planning to develop educational tourism by setting up educational institutes targeted at international students. Yet others are thinking of health tourism, under which specialty hospitals will be set up in scenic locations with a wholesome climate and accompanying relatives or friends of patients coming to such hospitals will have holidaying opportunities.
Nearly 500,000 tourists visited Nepal in 1999. This number has declined drastically in subsequent years for several reasons, including the global economic slowdown, the after effects of the events of 11 September 2001 and the publicity associated with the palace shootings of June 2001.
Most tourists visiting Nepal are young adventurers (between 25 and 44 years in age).Packages and facilities targeted at older tourists are lacking, and therefore offer an opportunity for specialized investment in this sector.
The major tourist-originating market for Nepal has traditionally been India ,which accounted for some 18%of the total arrivals in 2001 and 20% in 2000.This is a foundation that can be built on, for Indian tourists are among the highest spenders in Nepal and they are especially likely to visit in the summer months when non-Indian arrivals decline. The average spending of tourists in Nepal in 1997 was $35 per day and has now reached $38 per day according to recent studies.
The latest development in this area is the status granted to Nepal by China as one of the outbound destinations for Chinese tourists. The necessary arrangements to facilitate the flow of Chinese tourists into Nepal have been finalized by the two Governments. A total of 78 Nepali and 68 Chinese travel agencies are authorized to handle Chinese tourists and these numbers are to increase further. The Chinese yuan has been made convertible with the Nepali rupee and a representative office of China's tourism authority has been established in Nepal. A similar Nepali office will be opened in China in the near future. Various private and public institutions have started running language courses to meet the need for Chinese-language guides and interpreters.
Training schools for the hospitality industry, amusement parks, golf courses, cable-car complexes and resorts in non-traditional destinations such as the mid-western, far-western and eastern development regions are among the opportunities for foreign investment. The emergence of China as a source of tourists has opened up opportunities for speciality restaurants as well. Nepal's neutral diplomatic status in the world, particularly in relation to the countries within the region (China, India and Pakistan), may offer business opportunities in sporting complexes (sports training centers and stadiums for international events).This diplomatic neutrality also offers opportunities for convention tourism (meetings, incentive travel and exhibitions).
Similarly, an opportunity exists for setting up the international airport planned for outside the Kathmandu valley. The possible site is Bhairahawa, near Lumbini, the birthplace of the Buddha. An airport located anywhere in the Terai can serve also as a preferred alternative airport for people wishing to visit Bihar or Uttar Pradesh in India. The Government has included the airport in the list of infrastructure projects that can be licensed to the private sector under BOT and BOOT arrangements.
In this context, it needs to be noted that a number of tourism-related activities are barred to foreign investment. It is unclear how damaging these restrictions are to the potential of the tourism industry in Nepal. Restrictions intended to protect the livelihoods of individuals and families in the remoter regions are clearly reasonable, if they are indeed needed. Others are less so. International tour operators, for instance, could be a substantial force for growth. The Government is aware of the issues involved and may adopt a less restrictive policy in the near future.
The Nepal Tourism Board (NTB), a public -private partnership organization set up especially for the purpose of promoting Nepal as a tourism destination, I s the relevant authority for further information in this field. The Hotel Association of Nepal (HAN),the Nepal Association of Travel Agents (NATA)and the Nepal Association of Tour
Operators (NATO) are private-sector associations that can also be contacted for further information.
6 Information Technology (IT)
The basic telecom infrastructure in Nepal is very good by South Asian standards (which are not exigent),although technical and managerial capabilities in Nepal have not been able to keep it working efficiently.Digital exchanges have been set up even in remote areas,with the assistance of multilateral agencies.The infrastructure has all the capabilities required to run any form of technology application that needs telephony interface.Now I the planning stage is an optical-fibre network along the east-west highway with assistance from the Government of India.
The most common concern of potential foreign investors in the Nepali information technology (IT) and telecom sector has been the lack of skilled manpower. The surprising reality is that about 4,000 IT workers are trained every year in Kathmandu alone, according to industry sources. This number is attributed to the presence of training institutes which include such brands as Informatics, NIIT, STG, SSi, Pentasoft and APTECH, operating through branches or franchises. The Government's Employment Promotion Council has also started a program in cooperation with the private sector to train 8,500 semi-skilled and skilled, and 500 highly-skilled, IT workers. In addition, four universities in Nepal offer bachelor's degree courses in IT. Their total annual intake of students is above 3,000 persons, according to data collected by the Computer Association of Nepal.