Nepal’s Maiden Participation In WEF

Uttam Maharjan

It is a matter of gratification and glory that Nepal was invited to the 49th annual meeting of the World Economic Forum (WEF) held in Davos, Switzerland from January 22 to 25. This shows that the world community has recognised the country, although one of the least developed countries (LDCs), as it has come a long way in transforming its landscape, which was made possible by the conclusion of the peace process, declaration of the country as a republic consequent upon the abolition of the monarchy, holding of elections to three-tier governments and establishment of a strong majority government. Now the long-festering transition period has come to an end and political instability, which used to plague the country in the past, has also been done away with. This has made it possible for the country to march ahead on the path to social, economic and political transformations with the sacrosanct goal of prosperity at the centre. All these factors must have driven the world community to invite the country to the WEF annual meeting.

Nepal could also avail itself of the opportunity to express to the world community at the annual meeting what - and how - it has been able to achieve and what it has been doing to bring about remarkable progress in the life of the people through rapid development. The peace process, which was consummated way back in 2006, could be a model that can be emulated by countries around the world. However, the delivery of transitional justice, which should have been made six months from the inking of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA), has yet to be completed. Efforts are being made to deliver transitional justice at its entirety by giving justice to conflict victims.
The WEF, which was called the European Management Forum till 1987, was established as a non-profit organisation in 1971. It gained formal status in January 2015 under the Swiss-Host State Act. It is an international institution of public-private partnership with thousands of political leaders, business leaders, civil society members, economists, journalists and even celebrities coming together at the annual meetings to kick around burning issues and try to sort them out. Although the WEF seems to dwell on economic issues only, its scope has expanded to cover political, social and even ecological issues. That is why even political, social and environmental issues are openly discussed at the annual meetings.
The primary objective of the WEF is to ameliorate the world affairs through the brainstorming of political, business, civil society, academic and other leaders to come up with appropriate global and regional agendas regarding improving the business environment, which falls under the economic agenda. The theme of the annual meeting this time was Globalisation 4.0: Shaping a Global Architecture in the Age of the Fourth Industrial Revolution. Globalisation 4.0 refers to the fourth industrial revolution. As stated above, it also takes upon itself political, social and environmental issues, including climate change - the burning environmental issue holding the limelight nowadays.
At the annual meeting, Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli urged the world community to invest in Nepal as an investment-friendly environment has been created as a result of political stability ensured by the installation of a stable government under his premiership. However, it is an irony that investment commitments have plummeted this fiscal year vis-à-vis last year. During the first six months of this fiscal year, investment commitments recorded Rs. 10 billion to Rs. 14 billion recorded during the first six months of last fiscal year. The Doing Business Report published by the World Bank also shows that the investment environment in the country is sagging. The WEF platform thus proved to be a boon for the government to boost foreign investments in the country, which is a sine qua non for infrastructure development. Further, the country will have to graduate to the status of developing country by 2022, for which rapid development supported by robust economic growth is essential. The country is also hosting a donors’ conference in March, which will also contribute to wooing foreign investments in the country.
Besides apprising the world community of rosy developments taking place in Nepal at the annual meeting, Prime Minister Oli also accentuated regional cooperation and collaboration through regional bodies like the SAARC, BIMSTEC and ASEAN. Through the BIMSTEC, the country has been connected to Thailand and Myanmar. The Prime Minister rightly made a case for developing trade relations with the ASEAN. In fact, in this globalised world trade relations should be developed with all other regional bodies to the extent possible. Trade is an important tool for developing any country and may hold potential for steering clear of aid and debt. The Prime Minister also aptly batted for the need for adopting a rule-based trading system and multilateralism to boost trade around the world.
Nepal is a least developed country as well as a land-locked country. It has to depend on its neighbouring and other countries for its international trade. There are a plethora of problems being faced by other least developed countries as well. Developed countries should help such countries in their efforts at development through trade, aid or some other means. Prime Minister Oli befittingly drew the attention of developed countries to the plight of least developed countries so that their concerns and interests are duly addressed and they can come out of the morass of underdevelopment and poverty.

Although Nepal participated in the WEF annual meeting for the first time in the 48-year long history of the international institution, Prime Minister Oli could get across to the world community the pertinent points relating to Nepal like a march towards economic development, political stability, rule of law, good governance, equity, justice and free press. On the international front, he did well to emphasise trade, regional cooperation, inter-regional cooperation and collaboration, the need on the part of developed countries to address the concerns and interests of poor countries and so on. Viewed thus, the country’s maiden participation in the WEF annual meeting must be reckoned as fruitful. It may be hoped that the country will present itself in a stronger way in the WEF annual meetings in the future.
(Former banker, Maharjan has been regularly writing on contemporary issues for this daily since 2000)

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