nepal infrastructure summit 2017 concludes

Private sector urged to partner with govt for infra development

February 21, 2017 11:28 AM Republica

KATHMANDU, Feb 21: Minister for Energy Janardan Sharma has said that the government machinery should shed its dillydallying working style citing policy and procedure, while the private sector should give up its ‘profit-only’ mindset for infrastructure development.

Speaking at a plenary session of the two-day ‘Nepal Infrastructure Summit 2017’ in Kathmandu on Monday, Sharma admitted that the red tape has been unnecessarily delaying many infrastructure projects for years. 

“It took 17 years to complete an electricity transmission line project. There are some hydropower projects which have been stuck in the ministry for as much as seven years to get approval. This will take some more years for study and many-many years for completion,” Minister Sharma, vowing to expedite energy-related infrastructure projects which, according to him, heals the economy which has been battered by acute power shortage, political transitions and other factors. 

He also took exception to the ‘profit-only’ mentality of some private sector players. “Some private sector actors only think about profit. Of course, profit is what private sector should have in their mind. But there should be some responsibility toward society and the country,” he said, urging the private sector to make investment in infrastructure projects instead of other projects which provide quick returns.

While concerns are being raised from various quarters that market for hydropower has not been explored yet, Sharma said that his ministry’s main focus was on utilizing power within the country. He also said that the resource should not be a problem in developing infrastructure. “We can encourage fellow countrymen to invest in infrastructure projects. Also, the resource is not a problem in today’s world,” he added, calling for private sector’s commitment for moving as a partner of building infrastructure.

The two-day summit, which was organized by Confederation of Nepalese Industries (CNI) in partnership with the government and other organizations, concluded on Monday. The summit that brought together nearly 500 participants, including government officials, CEOs, private sector leaders, foreign investors and experts, discussed wide range of issues ranging from private public partnership model of infrastructure development, value proposition, financing of green and resilient infrastructure, sharing of successful PPP models, role of private sectors in addressing the infrastructure gap and foreign direct investment. 

Concluding that the lack of basic infrastructure has been a major obstacle in the country’s growth ambition, ministers, experts, former bureaucrats, representative of development partner and other stakeholders have agreed that the private sector should be ‘an indispensable partner’ for the government to develop infrastructure in the country. 

One of the key speakers on Monday to highlight the private sector’s role in the development of infrastructure was former Minister for Finance Ram Sharan Mahat who said that there was no other alternative to tapping private investment in building infrastructures. “Quality infrastructures should be developed in the country to build our competitiveness in the world market. The involvement of the private sector can help in ensuring efficiency and quality standards,” Mahat, who is also a central committee leader of Nepali Congress, said. 

Anil Shah, president of Nepal Bankers Association, said that the banking industry is not in a position to bankroll mega infrastructure projects that need long-term financing commitment. “Do not rely entirely on banks for infrastructure development. We should have foreign direct investment, private sector’s resources as well as other financing options to finance such big projects,” Shah, who is also the CEO of Mega Bank Ltd, said, reasoning that banks in Nepal have short-term maturity deposits.  

He also said that the private sector should think about a long-term gain while investing in infrastructure projects rather than short-term profit mentality.

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