We have studied several pandemics within six thousand years of evidential inception of human civilization in the earth. The last one is what we have witnessed as Corona Virus in the beginning of twenty first century. Humans and animals of this earth were highly affected due to pandemics such as Plague of Athens, The Black Death, American Polio, Spanish Flu, SARS and recent Ebola Virus. These pandemics have left their own kind of impact to the world against the tide of human development and modernization. The virus originated from Wuhan, China and the spread to Europe, America and all over 215 countries however China, Italy, Spain, America, Brazil etc. being highly affected. Until now, as per World Health Organization (WHO), the total infection confirmed cases are 4,589,526 and confirmed deaths are 310,391. WHO declared global pandemic is assumed to have negative economic and psycho-social impacts upon people all over the world. In Nepal’s scenario ,the total confirmed cases are 427 and confirmed deaths are 2 where as 45 people are fully recovered from the disease. Nepal is in state of country wide lockdown for 58 days and the goods and services deemed very essential are only in operation with promising proper safety guidelines, leaving other sectors like education, trade, public transportation etc. shut down. This pandemic is believed to create powerful economic recession since economic depression of 1920 AD and thus we cannot deny the fact that this pandemic will jeopardize Nepalese economy for longer period of time. World Bank has projected the growth of Nepal’s GDP for FY 2020/21 to be contained within mere 1.5 to 2.8 percent which will be the least figure since earthquake of 2015 AD due to this global pandemic. This projection looks very realistic realizing the fact that closure of Five Star hotels for 6 months, stoppage of full fledge industrial operation, labor cut-off in international market, excessive governmental expenditure diversification to fight against Covid-19 etc.
The livelihood of people may be drastically hampered after normalcy of this situation and hence the role played by all tiers of government and strategy makers becomes critical. However, there are certain avenues where we can take corrective measures to uplift national economy which predominantly depends upon foreign assistance and loans. As of date, 4.5 million youths work in foreign countries, mainly Gulf countries. Nepal receives around 7 billion of its currency per month in the form of remittance as per Nepal Rastra Bank (NRB). This pandemic has created ravage in employment sector around the globe resulting direct impact on inward remittance of our country enough to disarray Nepalese economy. As per Foreign Employment Board (FEB), around four hundred thousand workers are likely to return Nepal citing loss of jobs and illegal visa status.
In past, many countries have been exemplary in bringing drastic reforms in economic sector utilizing crisis opportunities. Strong government and visionary lawmakers can combine and spread ray of hopes despite of challenging period. Agriculture, tourism, energy sector, civil construction etc. are potential sectors of Nepal. Technological reforms in traditional agricultural method is must to reduce investment cost thus producing relatively cheaper Agro-based products which can be helpful to substitute import of agricultural products. The returnees from foreign employment who possess technical knowledge which can be transferred to unemployed youths of Nepal. The experienced returnees from foreign employment and existing unemployed manpower together can be used to reap higher return in agriculture. Nowadays, the government is also promoting agriculture and youth entrepreneurship by extending subsidized loan up to NPR 1.5 million. Hence, by reforming traditional irrigation system, emphasizing cooperative and local bounded agriculture, reaping benefits of transportation, by online marketing and promotion, professional agriculture can be revolutionized. As per statistics of NRB, around NPR 400 billion is remitted to India by Indian nationals working in Nepal in different sectors like civil construction, green groceries retailers and wholesalers, trash recycle and management and many other under rated areas. This amount is tentatively equivalent to half of the annual remittance income of Nepal. And, hence to encourage Nepalese youths to work in these lucrative sectors, it is inevitable for government to address it in national economic policy.
Nepal is blessed to have immense tourism potentiality. The bases of Nepalese tourism are cultural and religious diversity, world heritage sites, mountaineering, trekking, wildlife reserves etc. Nepal is also declared as one of cheapest tourism countries of the world by different journals and travel blogs. Hence, tourist all over the world put Nepal into their bucket list. As per NRB, the contribution of tourism sector in GDP of Nepal is whopping ten percent which can even be increased in the days to come. Quoting report from Travel and Tourism Impact 2019, Nepalese tourism industry could provide jobs to around 1.35 million people directly and indirectly within 2029 AD however this projection may not be empirically matching after this uncertain Covid scenario. We can utilize untapped touristic resources to cool off negative impact of this pandemic upon employment sector however this is really challenging for federal and state government to act accordingly.
This pandemic can change the travelling taste of tourists. They may look for cheap destination, brief itinerary, select other option for seminar/workshops destination etc. Thus, to compensate the effect of pandemic, government and tourism entrepreneurs should jointly target new dimensions of tourism such as eco-tourism, cheap travel package, travel blogging and vlogging, spiritual tourism (Yoga, Meditation) etc.
Identifying next avenue, we can look at hydro and alternative energy. We can be self-dependent for energy demand throughout the country having potential 83 thousand MW. Although the demand of electricity is met during monsoon season, Nepal imports around five hundred MW electricity from India during winter season. Currently, the peak demand of energy of our country is 1,500 MW and same is projected to be 2,379 MW in 2022 AD and 4,280 MW in 2030 AD as per Nepal Electricity Authority (NEA). We can create significant number of jobs in rural areas by developing the source of relatively cheap renewable solar energy and wind energy and thus not depending on expensive electricity of India. The excess of energy can be sold to Bangladesh as per recent energy trade agreement.
Carbon trade can be another alternative source of business of Nepal in the days to come. The foreign ministry advises that 45% of total area of Nepal is covered by trees that absorb around 9 million tons of carbon from which we can earn around NPR 5 and half billion as per carbon credit scheme of United Nations (UN). The earning can be increased in near future by planting more trees through locality forest development concept and economic upliftment of targeted society.
It is very exciting to observe that Nepal has got wonderful opportunity to digitize national identity, government works, data and records, revenue collection etc. Technology can replace manual works that can save money and even ensures transparency in everything. It is possible to digitize every government office and digitally store useful data and information in order to maintain effectiveness and efficiency. There is very less chance of fraud by employee while collecting revenues in digital platform. Government should encourage every people to transact through banks in order to properly monitor economic and financial status of people and foster effective tax and revenue collection. In current pandemic scenario, people are encouraged to use digital banking and thus they are learning mandatorily as result of which the number of digital banking transaction has sky rocketed. We can capitalize this situation to educate people about importance and benefits of online and digital technology and develop economic and secure digital system for future purpose.
Lastly, at this uncertainty, the urge of time is to protect the lives of people primarily and then only recuperate economic rhythm by reforming business trends. Understanding strengths and weaknesses of own can be helpful in devising appropriate short term and long strategy. Nepal cannot run away from scientific and result oriented agriculture, tourism, energy production, banking access of every individuals to embrace economic development. We can just learn that how America flourished during the first decade after second world war and re-engineer new era for development and prosperity.