Thursday, June 14, 2012

FDI, approved industries and employment in Nepal, 1989/90-2010/11

Here is a chart that shows total FDI inflows to Nepal, number of industries/firms and employment generation. Also, it shows the share of investment and employment of top ten FDI origin countries, and India’s agriculture investment share in total Indian FDI inflows.

Total FDI inflows from approved industries in 2010/11 was Rs 10.05 billion and approved industries/firms were 209 (total employment target was 10,887). Of this India’s share in foreign investment was 69.72 percent and share in total employment was 30.07 percent. Meanwhile, China’s share in foreign investment was 11.81 percent and share in total employment was 28.16 percent.

The total FDI approved in agriculture was Rs 367.12 million with employment target of 1337. The highest FDI approved was in manufacturing at Rs 6.134 billion, followed by tourism at Rs 1.184 billion. Of total Indian investment, share in agriculture was 1.55 percent in 2010/11, 81.73 percent in 2008/09 and 21.49 percent in 2007/08.

In the figure above, you can clearly see the surge in FDI immediately after liberalization of the economy in the early 1990s. It declined for the next two years and then increased for two years. The onset of Maoist insurgency and its gradual intensification led to decline in FDI up until 200/01, which it increased and then the total FDI inflows have been erratic up until 2004/05. Both FDI and employment generation are in upward trend since then. That said, the dent in 2008/09 might be because of the impact of global financial and economic crises.

If you are wondering about how Nepal stands wrt FDI inflows to regional nations, then the figures look disappointing. FDI inflows to Nepal in 2010 was just $38.99 million. In contrast, India’s was $24.64 billion. The latest (2011/12) FDI inflows to India  was a record FDI of $46.8 billion.

So, what are the main constraints to FDI inflows to Nepal? Some of them are:

  • Political instability/strikes
  • Lack of appropriability of returns to investment
  • Militant trade unions
  • Inadequate supply of infrastructure (power and road network)
  • Policy inconsistency
  • Increasing cost of doing business

For solutions, read this. (The hope is that the newly formed Nepal Investment Board will encourage investors to come to Nepal. Btw, does anyone have any idea about NIB’s website?)

  • Political stability (if it can be achieved!)
  • Taming labor militancy and smoothening industrial relations
  • Policy consistency on key issues related to investment regime and sectoral support
  • End of syndicates, which foster uncompetitive practices and charge high fares
  • Credit at low interest rate to key sectors where we enjoy comparative advantage consistent with our land, labor and capital resource endowment
  • Emergency measures to supply power for at least two shifts in manufacturing plants
  • Fast track endorsement of investment plans and lowering cost of doing business in Nepal
  • Enactment of SEZ bill
  • Industrial security

[Update 2012-07-06: FDI from approved industries has been updated.]

Will flat cash incentives for exports work in Nepal?

The FNCCI, following a strong lobby by GAN, has asked the government to extend at least two percent cash incentives to all exports, irrespective of value addition and destination. Currently, the government offers two percent of total export revenue as cash incentive if there is 30-50 percent value addition, three percent for 50-80 percent value addition and four percent for over 80 percent value addition.

The main purpose of cash incentives scheme is to increase exports and reduce trade deficit. Just by giving cash incentives won’t achieve this because the cash incentives received by exporters will hardly be reflected on the price of final exported items. Cash incentives are given after goods are exported and they do not necessarily boost price competitiveness. As of now it is a misplaced export incentive with too much bureaucratic hassles to claim cash (plus incongruous with other policies’ emphasis on domestic value addition together with employment generation).

Quick comments:

  • Cash incentives won’t be directly reflected on the price of final exported items. Hence, it won’t directly boost price competitiveness. It might just compensate the lost revenue due to high cost of production arising from exogenous factors to the firm/sector in question (e.g. load-shedding and cost of diesel, strikes, bandha).
  • Conditioning cash incentives on value addition is one hook for not letting the scheme be inefficient. It should be further linked to employment generation as well, i.e. offer such incentives to those strategic sectors that have both high value addition and high employment generation. See this presentation for more on this.
  • Cash incentives or other export promotion measures should be designed keeping in mind the factors/determinants that boost competitiveness of manufacturing sector: government forces (education policies, energy policies, economic, trade, labor, financial and tax policies, science and technology policies, manufacturing and infrastructure policies); capabilities (innovation, technology, process, infrastructure); market forces (demographic, macroeconoimc environment); and resources (human, materials, energy, financial).
  • Fundamentally, export incentive packages that increase productive capacity and address binding constraints to exports growth work more often than simply doling out cash based on certain value addition criterion. The same amount of money can be used to construct roads up to manufacturing plants or to provide credit and concessional loans to emerging entrepreneurs or to subsidize insurance premium during transportation of goods to the nearest port in India or to construct the much needed special economic zones. These measures will help enhance our exports and add to productive capacities more than the cash incentives.
  • Cash incentives as of now is unlikely to alter Nepal’s export destinations and composition of export basket.
  • Competitiveness of Nepali export items is going down. The main reasons are: lack of adequate supply of infrastructure, political instability/strikes, labor problems, lack of innovation by private sector, and government’s inability to implement key reforms enshrined in major policy documents. The state of trade facilitation in Nepal is pathetic, ranking 124 out of 132 countries. Nepal has the fifth worst logistics efficiency in the world. Supply-side constrains have eroded competitiveness to a great extent. Cash incentives for exports won’t directly address these problems. If these issues are resolved (by both government and private sector), then you won’t need cash incentives to boost competitiveness  (if it can!) and exports and to reduce trade deficit.