United under the umbrella of Non-Resident Nepalis Association (NRNA), the Nepali Diasporas have received almost everything required for them to come to invest in Nepal. But the amount of investment made by the non-resident Nepalis in country over the last decade is frustrating and dismal.
Except a few individuals, Upendra Mahato, Jeeba Lamichhane and Shesh Ghale, no other NRNA members have made significant investment in Nepal although there are many of their breed making loud statements. Although Devman Hirachan served as the president of the association for one term, he has not made any noticeable investment in Nepal.
Mahato, Lamichhane and Ghale are the products of former Soviet Union and now Russia. However, Ghale moved to Australia following completion of his student career. Till now, Mahato, Lamichhane and Ghale have matched their words with deeds by investing in Nepal.
After the completion of the era of Mahato, Lamichhane and Ghale, the leadership has gone to newly elected president Bhaban Bhatta, who has invested in tourism sector and media, represents Japan. The 8th world conference of the NRN elected Bhatta as president.
Bhatta’s BB Airways flew just for a few weeks in the Nepali sky. His company is planning to restart flights through an ageing 757 aircraft of Nepal Airlines, which BB Airways recently secured through international bidding.
With almost 2000 active members representing various countries around the world, Nepal government has been providing large sum of budget to NRNA’s annual jamboree.
By limiting itself to convening the annual jamboree and host its members to make an annual visit to their relatives during Nepal’s major festivals, the NRNA will lose its significance.
In an election contested neck to neck, Bhaban Bhatta defeated his nearest rival Jamuna Gurung. Bhatta received 1197 votes and Gurung received 584 votes. Giving brief remarks after the victory, Bhatta said the new era of NRNA would begin in his tenure and the unfulfilled agenda of the Association would also be materialized.
However, he did not clarify what the unfulfilled agenda of NRNA ae. Established on 11 October 2003 with the purpose of uniting and binding the Nepali Diasporas in an umbrella, NRNA has developed into a non-governmental global organization spread in 77 countries.
After the promulgation of Non-Resident Nepali Act 2064, the Government of Nepal has given a legal status to Nepali Diasporas. Given the enormous legal safeguards, the investment of NRNs should have been visible in Nepal’s economic development.
Unlike Chinese and Indian Diasporas, whose contribution in the economic development has played a very significant role in accelerating their economic growth, NRNs are far below those expectations in bringing foreign currency to Nepal, which is even less than that coming from Nepalis laborers working in the Gulf.
As in the past, Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba made the usual call on the Non-Resident Nepalis to invest in Nepal with confidence, as investment-friendly atmosphere was gradually becoming a reality in the country.
Deuba said the prevalent acts and regulations were reformed to ensure an investment-friendly climate and urged the NRNs to help realize prosperity of the country by making investments without any hesitation.
Similarly, President Bidya Devi Bhandari also urged the non-resident Nepali (NRN) community to partner in the development process of their motherland and become part of the country's journey toward prosperity.
Addressing the inaugural session of the 8th NRN Global Conference and Non-resident Nepali Association (NRNA) International General Assembly in the capital, President Bhandari said that it was the right time that the NRNs invested in Nepal.
According to a 2015 survey commissioned by NRNA and carried out by Society of Economic Journalists-Nepal (SEJON), NRNs have invested a total of Rs 29.85 billion in nine districts and their 67 business ventures have generated employment to 8,276 people.
Nepal needs investment in the infrastructure sector, but nearly three-fifths of NRNs' total investment in Nepal is in service sector. This also indicates that NRNA’s contribution to overall prosperity of Nepal is negligible.
Given their performance, many Nepalis are critical about the role and relevance of NRNA. Politically divided NRNA’s chapters around the world are also reportedly working as problem makers for Nepal’s missions abroad.
As almost fifteen years have passed, the time has come for NRNA to prove that it is relevant for Nepal and unity of Nepali Diaspora is in the broader interest of Nepal. Otherwise, the goodwill and influence it enjoyed in Nepal will gradually go away.
To break the legacy of Mahato, Lamichhane and Ghale as investors, newly elected president Bhatta will have to mobilize other Diasporas to come to invest in Nepal and be part of the economic prosperity of the country.
Nepal’s Diaspora in the Gulf and Malaysia, numbering between around two million, has e always been important to the country’s economy and its policy objective of alleviating poverty. The Gulf is Nepal’s main source of expat remittances. In 2015-2016, Nepali workers sent back $5 billion in valuable foreign exchange.
Cognizant to all this, newly elected Bhatta should be able to handle challenges in terms of doing business as well as handling his organization.