At present, the major constraints to growth of industrial sector in Nepal seems to be poor appropriability of returns to investment and power crisis. Poor property rights and contract enforcements caused by the extralegal bullying behavior of the politically indoctrinated and militant youth wings and unions are falling heavy on the already ailing industrial sector. Meanwhile, more than 12 hours of power cuts has brought industrial activities to a grinding halt. Due to power crisis, productivity in the industrial sector has decreased by 50%. So the bust factors for the industrial sector at present in the Nepali economy are poor appropriability and load-shedding. That is the main point of my latest opinion piece.
…Broadly speaking, at present two problems – low private appropriability of returns to investment and load shedding – bedevil the industrial sector in particular and the economy in general. The first one is the direct result of the ruling party’s inability to discipline its militant youth wing (YCL) and trade union that are headstrong in waging an all out war against the private sector under the pretext of labor rights and better working conditions. The second problem is engendered by the previous government’s visionless energy policies and withdrawal of investment in hydropower due to senseless sabotage of projects by the Maoists during their rebellion. Despite earning high returns on investment, as indicated by the eagerness of new firms to secure contracts, one wonders why private investment is still low in the potentially lucrative hydropower sector.
…All these are issues related to lack of property rights and contract enforcement, which have fuelled uncertainty over retaining profit and return to investment. Illegal occupation of industrial districts and manufacturing plants by politically motivated, militant youth wings is an encroachment on private property rights. Furthermore, incessant pressure (often threats to life and property) on the business sector to permanently hire temporary staff is a mockery of contract enforcement mechanism in the economy. The unjustified demand for increasing wages at a time when the industrial sector is going bust is beyond sound economic reasoning. Worse, some lawmakers are encouraging the extralegal acts of the militant youth wings and trade unions by eulogizing their terror campaign as a war against the oppressive and exploitative bourgeois class, a wrong-headed belief hinged on the outdated Marxist philosophies.
…On top of the poor appropriability problem stays the load-shedding issue. Power outage, which is expected to exceed 15 hours daily from next month, is severely crippling the industrial and service sectors. Businesspersons complain that power outage in every six hours is negatively affecting efficiency and productivity of the industrial sector. Already, productivity has slowed down by 50%. More worrisome is the fact that several small and medium-size enterprises (SMEs) are going out of business. These SMEs not only produce final goods but also supply intermediate goods to big firms. A sudden halt in this process means that the industrial sector will soon be in short supply of intermediate goods which would then affect final industrial output. It is impossible for the private sector to increase wages and hire staff permanently at a time when both production and demand are declining and profits are razor thin. These factors will not only decrease domestic investment but also scare away foreign investment, a sign already visible in the economy. Already, several domestic jute mills, local FM radio stations, cyber business, paper factories, and tourism sector are going bust.
Read the full opinion piece here.
Oh, did I mention that I wrote this piece while in Amtrak train ride from NY to my college! For some reason, I love writing (and thinking) while traveling!!