Radhesh Pant is the CEO of Invest Board Nepal, which deals with big-ticket foreign direct investment. Ahead of the China visit of Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli, who is also the chairman of the Board, Onlinekhabar talked to Pant about the Board’s preparations for the visit. Translated excerpts:
Which of the IBN projects are on the agenda of Prime Minister Oli’s visit to China?
There are three major projects that we are planning to place on the agenda. The focus would be on West Seti, and two private investments in cement plants in Nepal. The projects are being negotiated, and we hope that the talks will conclude ahead of the visit.
You must understand that negotiations are not time-bound, and they are rightly so. We do not want to do things in haste saying that we must reach an agreement before the Prime Minister’s visit.
Will there be an interaction with the private sector in China?
Yes, the Prime Minister will interact with the private sector in China. We hope that top CEOs and executives will come to meet the Prime Minister, and the Prime Minister will assure them that Nepal is ready to welcome Chinese investment.
IBN will also make presentations. Our presentations will focus on prospective areas of investment in Nepal in the areas of energy, tourism, infrastructure, health, agriculture, ICT, and mining.
China has a big market, and the marker is expanding in areas which were previously inaccessible. Development is now reaching regions like Tibet because development in rest of China is going to get saturated. Nepal can benefit a lot from this. I say that in today’s world, there is no option but to integrate with the neighbours. We must understand that the more the economic gap between neighbouring countries widens, more problems and challenges come to the surface.
There are reports that the government may sign a bilateral investment protection agreement (BIPPA) with China. If that happens, what will be the benefits?
The signing of BIPPA will send a positive message. But that alone is not sufficient to attract investment. The primary reason we are not getting enough FDI is that the government has not been able to effectively communicate its commitment, and implement commitments it made in the past. Those two issues are also important.
Do you have any particular project to present to the investors?
This time, our presentation will be on potential areas of investment. We have been saying that the government should invest more in preparing DPRs. When DPRs are ready, we can invite bids, and choose the best bid. Take, for example, Upper Karnali and Arun, we got the benefits we got because we went for bidding.
Can you put a figure on how much investment the Chinese are going to commit to during the PM’s visit?
The Board deals with large-scale projects, and large-scale projects take lot of time. So, it would be difficult to exactly quote a figure.
How have you evaluated the Prime Minister’s visit to India?
Well, I think it was fruitful. For the first time, top CEOs came to meet the Prime Minister. They responded positively. They know that now that the constitution has been promulgated, Nepal has become an attractive destination for investment. The Prime Minister will convey the same to the Chinese investors.