By Laxman Kafle
Kathmandu, Feb. 2: Business leaders have said that they have, of late, witnessed encouraging changes in opinion and behaviour of Finance Minister Dr. Yuba Raj Khatiwada towards the private sector.
They said that Dr. Khatiwada, who was rigid in his opinions in the early days of his appointment as Finance Minister, has now started listening to their voices and grievances.
Increasing interactions with the private sector representatives and patiently listening to them has been reflected in behavioural change of the Finance Minister towards the business community.
However, the business community still suspects whether the Finance Minister has really changed vis-à-vis the private sector or it is just a strategy to implement the various policies and laws that he introduced to bring the private sector on board.
Over the last two years, Khatiwada has taken up several initiatives to formulate new policies and amend existing ones to make them investment-friendly and formalise the informal sectors of the economy.
Based on his knowledge on national economy and major loopholes in the economic system, he aggressively prepared legal foundations to make the private sector accountable and transparent.
Changes in provisions such as Value Added Tax (VAT), Permanent Account Number (PAN), introduction of Vehicle and Consignment Tracking System (VCTS), Social Security Fund (SSF) and other legal provisions are some of the important works done by Finance Minister Khatiwada.
Recently, FM Khatiwada said that he was engaged in consultations with the private sector in different programmes.
"I got opportunities to participate in various programmes of the private sector and hear their grievances. I feel that they fear the government policies. But there is no need to fear the policies and legal provisions as they are adopted to facilitate trade and attract investment," he said.
He said that all the regulations and policies would ultimately support to make the country prosperous by achieving a higher economic growth.
“The legal procedures adopted by the government are meant to take action against the wrongdoers. So, the entrepreneurs who are working honestly need not worry," he said.
Likewise, he asked the businessmen to do business with confidence citing that Nepal's economy was moving on the right tract.
Minister Khatiwada has also taken initiatives to address the problems of interest rates as per the demands of business entrepreneurs. For this, he held a meeting with the Bankers’ Association and directed the
bankers to offer fixed interest rates for long-term investments.
Although the government had introduced these provisions with a good intention, business leaders have said that they were facing a lot of difficulties in implementation of these initiatives.
Satish Kumar More, president of Confederation of Nepalese Industries (CNI), said that Minister Khatiwada was taking the grievances of the private sector seriously and had created rays of hopes among the business entrepreneurs.
Many programmes held in the last two-three weeks created platforms to intensify the interactions between the Finance Minister and the private sector, he said.
"Definitely, confidential environment has not been created in the country even after the formation of a stable government. But the Finance Minister, of late, has taken the private sector into confidence with regular interactions with them," he said.
The private sector will not go against the government and its policy as the objective of the private sector and the government is same -- to create business-friendly environment and make the country prosperous, he added.
More said that this was the right time and situation to focus on creating jobs and pushing the nation towards industrialisation. “The government should take the private sector into confidence by addressing the problems.” This time, the budget has not focused only on revenue collection but also on industrialisation, he said.
Senior vice-president of the Federation of Nepalese Chambers of Commerce and Industry Shekhar Golchha said that more interactions were being held with FM Khatiwada in the recent days.
The investment of the private sector in the industrial sector is low even after the government introduced new policies, he said. In this context, it is imperative to encourage the private sector to hold interactions with FM Khatiwada and this is happening as expected.
"We appreciate Khatiwada’s initiative to coordinate with the business leaders to create a business-friendly climate in the country," he said.
FM Khatiwada has expertise and good knowledge on national economy, he said, adding that the genuine demand of the private sector must be addressed while introducing legal procedures to attract both domestic and foreign investment.
"There is no option but to coordinate with the private sector for the country's development. Investment will not come if businessmen have poor confidence. We really feel that now FM Khatiwada is willing to boost private sector's confidence," he said.
Rajendra Malla, senior vice-president of Nepal Chamber of Commerce, said that the attitude of the Finance Minister to listen to the voices of business leaders was encouraging.
"Khatiwada did not entertain the voices of the private sector in the past. But now, we feel that he has realised that the demands of the private sector are genuine and they should be addressed," he said.
From the beginning, businessmen are saying that anti-money laundering policies were discouraging the businessmen to run businesses and they were asking the authorities to give a chance to the businessmen to disclose their properties before implementing the anti-money laundering law.
"When people disclose their properties, it will be easier to investigate into their assets and take action on charge of tax evasion," he said.
Bhuvan Kumar Dahal, President of Nepal Bankers' Association, said that Finance Minister Khatiwada has taken initiatives to maintain transparency in all business transactions which was a positive step."He said that he was ready to provide all necessary support to the businesses, but every business should come under the tax net and be involved in tax evasion. We, the bankers, are encouraged with the positive initiatives of the Minister," he said.
Taking initiative to address the problems of the private sector, he is actively interacting with the business leaders, including Bankers Association over the problems, which is encouraging for the businessmen, he said, adding that this would help create a business-friendly environment in the country.