The Covid-19 pandemic has affected the whole world in terms of development velocity, economic standing and human lives. Yet, it seems the crisis is here to stay longer and affect us deeper than what we were ready to accept. Therefore, the world communities are compelled to rethink. After this pandemic has started to broaden, it carries on economic and social infections farther than the morbidity and mortality itself. Especially, economic activities have been restrained to enforce physical distancing.
A United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) report titled The Covid-19 Shock to Developing Countries pleaded the governments to adopt whatever it takes to stop economic contractions becoming a recession or worse, a prolonged depression and to protect the poorest. The United Nation Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called for a large-scale, coordinated, comprehensive and multilateral response based on solidarity and shared responsibility. He also floated a proposal for a double-digit percentage of global GDP investment, massively increasing resources to developing countries by augmenting IMF capacity including through Special Drawing Right’s issuance.
Developing countries including Nepal face big economic challenges. These include instability in market prices, troubles in the tourism industry, and weakening foreign exchange income and reservation. Nepal could face a remittance crisis due to these epidemic-related concerns in major labour-import markets. It is believed that the labour-importing countries will start to send back workers to their own countries, the non-skilled ones in the first phase. Nepal’s major migrant workers are unskilled and either they have to depend on menial works or return home. In this situation, it is very necessary to engage these people in possible tangible and productive activities which benefit the country as well as individual families.
Nepal’s economic dependence on its neighbours is very high. Now, in this situation, Nepal has to start rethinking and revising necessary policies to convert challenges into opportunities to resist the problems and regulate the economy. It is important to encourage entrepreneurs to be makers rather than traders. They must work to meet domestic demands first. The current crisis has given a big lesson globally that sustainability should be a key component of economic recovery.
Nepal must consider and give priority to the following areas as a support to boost up the country’s socio-economy status of the nation. First of all, the government and related agencies need to step up their role and provide facilities like flexible and comfortable schemes to the private sector. There need to be stringent actions from the government and non-government sectors in providing support programmes such as training, required technology, and research activities in related fields. It is equally important for the concerned organisations to ensure regularity of social marketing to inform and show the impact of the ongoing activities.
Here are some ways through which Nepal can look into its economic recovery:
Large portions of local communities as well as the returning migrant workers can be engaged in integrated farming development activities including herbal medicinal and aromatic plants, fauna/flora exploration, fruits and timber tree plantation etc. Now, the time has come to encourage and support them in organic farming to provide healthy, nutrient and quality food. A proper plan is also essential to ensure people can receive good prices for their products. Various schemes on organic production and marketing will provide people to have a quick financial return. Now, many economists are emphasising on creating a regenerative economy, which is sustainable in nature. It is safe to say that investing in greener economics is going to be a big part of recovery efforts. Whether it is cleaner energy or greener cities, sustainability is going to be a necessary part of building a better future.
The country should train people to impart technical knowledge, especially on digital expertise and IT. Such types of training will help youth who are interested to go aboard for better jobs or may be able to create a job culture within Nepal with international collaboration opportunities.
Nepal has a high potential for tourism. Foremost, tourists come for adventure, and they have always enjoyed the country’s nature. Many tourists love spending time while trekking to rural areas. With this regard, we must develop and endorse additional trekking routes and new mountain climbing areas. Additional trekking sites and routes may help tourists to stay longer, which, in a long run, will help boost rural socio-economic conditions and foreign currency income.
Production of academia
Now, Nepal needs to prioritise developing creative minds via institutions that emphasise on scientific research, academic knowledge, constructive thinking, and brainstorming activities. It will help the country actively participate in national and international intellectual communities.
Although it could take time, Nepal has a huge potential in the promotion and distribution of homemade and handmade handicraft. Nepal needs to focus on small-scale cottage industries as they can prove beneficial if the country could tap the international market and customers, who are interested in manually developed ornaments, traditional arts and artefacts.
The mentioned areas are only a few options that can assist Nepal’s economic growth in standard and sustainable terms. To face the possibility of huge economic disruption, several governments are offering support to large, small and medium-sized entrepreneurs and families. All of these can help, but it is not going to be enough if it does not start imagining a new corridor to recovery. Nepal needs to start working on investment and necessary support in new areas of growth, which includes ensuring that grassroots level communities and small and medium-sized entrepreneurs continue to exist and are functional when their economies restart.
Let us discuss.
Aryal is associated with Research and Development Institute Nepal (R-DIN).