Growing imports make mockery of ‘self-reliant economy’

May 4, 2017 09:26 AM Raju Adhikari

JHAPA, May 4: ‘Self-reliant economy’ features prominently in election manifestos of major political parties for the local level election.

But the promise seems unrealistic as the country imports huge amount of products from other countries. The country is dependent on other countries even for vegetables, cereals and other agricultural products. Growing imports of watermelon and cucumber in recent years suggests that the country still has a long way to go before making its economy self-reliant.

The country imported 11.5 million kilograms of watermelon over the first nine months of the Fiscal Year 2016/17 through Mechi Customs Office. Though the office does not maintain record of cucumber imported from other countries, customs officials say import of cucumber is increasing with every passing month.

Experts say economy cannot be made self-reliant by encouraging imports of products which can be easily produced here. “Political parties talked a lot about making our economy self-reliant at the height of Indian blockade last year. Self-reliant economy features prominently in their election manifestos. But nothing has been done to reduce imports,” Dharma Nanda Khanal, an associate professor at Dhulabari Campus, said, adding that unrealistic promises made by the political parties won’t help. 

He also added that political parties have not kept economic development in priority. “Not only watermelon and cucumber, the country also has been importing huge quantities of rice, buckwheat and wheat, among other crops. We cannot become self-reliant if we do not reduce import of products that can be produced in Nepal,” he added.

Import of bottled fruit juice is also increasing at an alarming rate. The country has imported fruit juice worth Rs 30 million from India and Bangladesh through Mechi Customs Office in the first nine months of the current fiscal year, according to Bimal Adhikari, information officer at the Mechi Custom Office. “Import through other border point has also increased significantly.”

Though import is rising, export of fruit drinks is very low compared to import. Nepal exported Real Fruit Juice worth Rs 35,850 to Bangladesh through the customs office in the first nine months of the current fiscal year. “We import products worth millions of rupees, but our export is worth some thousand rupees,” Khanal said. He also urged the government to conduct different programs for encouraging farmers to increase productivity.
Nepal had imported fruit drinks worth Rs 51.07 million from Bangladesh and India in the last fiscal year. 

According to Bhim Prasad Adhikari, chief of Mechi Custom Office, the office collected Rs 5.4 billion in revenue till mid-May, higher than the target of Rs 5.1 billion set by the government.

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