NIS 2024 provides an opportunity to promote Nepal as a promising investment destination in the global landscape

The government is hosting Nepal Investment Summit 2024 on April 28-29 as a flagship event to pursue private investments including Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) with the theme of ‘Emerging Nepal’. High-level dignitaries from friendly nations, especially the major FDI source countries, investors, development partners, lenders including Development Finance Institutions (DFIs), diplomatic community, experts, think tanks, national and foreign media, among others will be participating in the summit.

Showcasing projects and favourable laws/policies along with the government’s commitment as well as various knowledge products, B2B, B2G and G2B meetings, networking is expected to be the major attraction of the summit. Multiple precursors are being organised in the country and abroad to sensitise potential investors about the upcoming summit. The HRM Nepal caught up with Sushil Bhatta, Chief Executive Officer of Investment Board Nepal and Coordinator of the Nepal Investment Summit 2024 Secretariat, to obtain more insights on the upcoming summit and major milestones achieved by the country in the investment landscape. Excerpts:

Q. Could you please elaborate on the preparations for Nepal Investment Summit 2024?
A. Plans to organise the Nepal Investment Summit were announced during the fiscal budget 2023/24. Subsequently, the meeting of the Council of Ministers held on November 9, 2023 decided to convene the summit in April 2024. The Cabinet established the necessary mechanisms for organising the Nepal Investment Summit 2024, which serves as the national flagship event for promoting investment. The Steering Committee, led by the Honorable Minister for Finance and operating under the direct guidance of the Right Honourable Prime Minister, oversees the process. Additionally, the Implementation Committee, chaired by the Chief Secretary, reviews and endorses business proposals put forth by the Nepal Investment Summit secretariat and the Technical Committee. The Technical Committee, coordinated by the Secretary of the Ministry of Industry, Commerce, and Supplies (MoICS), compiled a list of projects from various agencies to be showcased at the summit. These projects underwent screening at different levels by both the Implementation Committee and Steering Committee.

Under the convenorship of the Secretary of the Office of the Prime Minister and Council of Ministers, a task force has already submitted a report recommending amendments to numerous laws and regulations to facilitate investment. Additionally, the Ministry of Industry, Commerce, and Supplies (MoICS) has been instructed to prepare the Nepal Law Amendment Bill for Investment Facilitation. Meanwhile, the secretariat is working on promotional materials and knowledge products for the summit. These include promotional videos, an investment guide, sectoral investment opportunities across nine different verticals, project profiles, flyers, event brochures, a website, a logo and enhancements to digital platforms such as the one-stop service centre.

Q. Why do you think is the summit important for both Nepal and investors from across the globe?
A. The Investment Summit serves as an effective platform for investment promotion. It is specifically tailored for the private sector, including foreign investors and the Nepali diaspora abroad. Participants can access information on investment policies, procedures, sectoral opportunities and various projects. Globally, investment promotion agencies employ diverse methods and tools to engage potential investors, such as investor meetings, seminars, roadshows, project market sounding and investment expos. The Nepal Investment Summit, a national event hosted by the Government of Nepal, underscores the commitment to foster an investment-friendly climate, streamline procedures and overcome obstacles.

Q. What are the major attractions of the summit?
A. Primarily, Nepal Investment Summit 2024 will bring together potential global investors, policymakers, experts and development finance institutions to help them explore investment opportunities in Nepal and forge partnerships with local businesses. This will provide a networking opportunity for investors with the policymakers, lenders, Nepal’s private sector, and foreign investors from various countries. Participants will have an opportunity to explore potential investment areas, more specifically, projects, and forge partnerships with local businesses to move forward. Rt. Hon’ble Prime Minister has consented to meet and interact with investors. Besides, there will be various thematic sessions through which participants will have the opportunity to understand the policy provisions to invest in Nepal. They will also get a chance to listen to the existing investors in Nepal. Nepal Investment Summit will be a well-orchestrated event. There are various events like B2B, B2G and G2B meetings on the sidelines of the summit. Most importantly, those visiting Nepal for the first time will get the opportunity to have a look around the vicinity of the ancient city of Kathmandu, view snowcapped majestic Himalayas, and experience the unique topography, climate, culture and cuisines. Nepal has the experience of hosting investment summits in the past and based on the experience of those summits we are doing our best to make the NIS 2024 more effective. We hope the investors participating in the summit will gain some insights.

Q. Could you please tell us about the major projects that will be showcased in the summit?
A. We are showcasing various projects under different sectors. The summit will also be a platform to celebrate the success of existing investors in Nepal as well as listen to their feedback for further improvements. It will present sectoral opportunities in various sectors including energy, tourism, ICT, agro-processing, manufacturing, health, education, transportation, mines and minerals, and urban development along with various knowledge products. The Technical Committee is working on 133 projects to showcase them at the summit and the private sector will showcase a few projects for B2B arrangements. We will showcase a few projects for Expressions of Interest (EoI) and Requests for Proposal (RfPs), and investors can lodge their interest to invest in the projects by abiding by our requirements of the project procurement. Projects will be listed under different categories such as PDA/PIA signing state, solicitation (EoI call) stage, market sounding and ideation stage, private investment (ownership) projects. We also have received projects from the private sector and local levels as well. We are preparing to sign agreements (Project Development Agreement/Project Investment Agreement) and memorandums of understanding of a few projects during the summit.

Q. The government has invited globally renowned businesspeople as well as various dignitaries from foreign countries. Could you tell us about those personalities?
A. Along with the finalisation of NIS 2024 logo and theme, invitations were sent out to foreign delegates. I too have participated physically and virtually in pre-investment seminars organised by Nepal diplomatic missions in various countries. We have invited potential investors and also a few dignitaries to participate in the Nepal Investment Summit 2024. High-level dignitaries from various countries will participate and address the summit, along with speakers, high-ranking representatives from development partners – both multilateral development banks (MDBs) and bilateral development partners – as well as the relevant agencies of the United Nations and development finance institutions. We are receiving confirmation of the invitees. Further, potential and existing foreign investors in Nepal, diplomatic community, investors from Nepali diaspora, private sector representatives, banks and financial institutions, experts and think-tanks, intellectuals and media are being invited to participate in the summit. The two-day summit will have 10 sessions, more than 50 speakers and is expected to host around 1,000 participants. In addition, investors aspiring to participate in the summit can register online through the website of the summit,

Q. Could you please share about the expected policy and legal improvements?
A. As I mentioned earlier, the Public Private Partnership and Investment Act, 2019 will be amended for the sustainability and institutional strengthening of the Office of the Investment Board, Nepal. Further, various provisions of a dozen other acts and regulations will be amended to address the investment bottlenecks and facilitate foreign as well as domestic private investment including Industrial Enterprises Act, 2020; Foreign Investment and Technology Transfer Act, 2019; Special Economic Zone Authority Act, 2019; Forest Act, 2019; National Park and Wildlife Protection Act, 1973; Land Act, 1964; Land Acquisition Act, 1977; Environment Protection Act, 2019; Electronic Transaction Act, 2008; Civil Aviation Authority Act, 1996; Foreign Investment and Technology Transfer Rules, 2021 and Forests Regulations, 2022. Amendments to the laws/regulations have been proposed in consultation with the private sector. The private sector umbrella organisations – Federation of Nepalese Chambers of Commerce and Industry, Confederation of Nepalese Industries and Nepal Chamber of Commerce – are representing as members in all the governing mechanisms of the summit and as co-organisers of the summit will be actively involved in the summit to make it an overwhelming success.

Q. You assumed office as CEO of Investment Board Nepal following the enactment of Public-Private Partnership and Investment Act, 2019 and Public-Private Partnership and Investment Regulation, 2020. Could you briefly tell us about your experience of IBN being governed by these laws and why the proposed amendments are required?
A. The Public-Private Partnership and Investment Act, 2019 and Regulations (2020) have streamlined PPP investments in Nepal. The law has mandated the IBN to function as the national PPP agency and investment promotion agency. However, the law has not envisioned permanency and sustainability of the Office of the Investment Board, Nepal. The board is temporary in nature as human resources are managed by the government and consultants are hired under the development assistance. Considering the nature of this institution, it requires permanent staff, who I often refer to as ‘investment cadres’. Currently, we are facilitating projects worth Rs 525 billion under different sectors. This is why the institution requires staff with expertise in multiple disciplines. Over the years, the numbers of projects and the volume of investments have been increasing. In this regard, integrating functionalities of the institution with its permanency is crucial. Against this backdrop, the 55th Board meeting formed a committee under my convenorship and we have submitted a report to the Board suggesting needful revisions to ensure sustainability of the Office of the Investment Board, Nepal. The recently held 57th Board meeting has acknowledged and endorsed that and given instructions to implement the recommendations. Amendment of the PPPIA, 2019 should be considered as an effort to enhance the investment climate and enable PPP culture in the country.

Q. There has always been a huge gap in investment commitments and realisation. What would you like to say on this?
A. We are confident that the investment commitments received from serious and capable potential investors will be realised. While talking about commitments, we have to look into how it was lodged. Was it lodged following a certain level of engagement with at least a study of the projects, was the interest lodged in solicited projects or unsolicited ones or was it through direct negotiation like all three ways of project procurement as allowed by the PPPIA, 2019 and PPPIR, 2020. We have started approving investments following the evaluation of Detailed Project Report (DPR) or Detailed Feasibility Study Report (DFSR) submitted by the developers. On the other hand, investments pledged in projects that are already aligned with the result-based framework of the Investment Board Nepal will be reaslised in due course. We cannot expect prompt realisation. A large chunk of the investment that has been approved by IBN has been realised in the construction phase and a smaller portion has been realised during the operation phase and also during the study phase initially. Investment realisation in a long gestation period, like hydropower could take time as the investor/developer mobilise the amount in the construction regime. That is why we have to change the narrative of a huge gap, we should understand the seriousness of the commitment and investment realisation process. If we see the projects streamlined in the result-based framework, a total of Rs 137.86 billion foreign investment in 11 projects with total cost of Rs 915.8 billion has been realised.

Q. What message would you like to convey to foreign investors and Nepali diaspora?
A. Nepal Investment Summit 2024 is an opportune moment for investors to explore and invest in Nepal. Foreign investors in Nepal are making sizeable profits and they are happy with their investment decisions as the Government of Nepal has been providing optimum protection and security to private investment, providing effective handholding to them during the entire business cycle and facilitating them in profit repatriation. I would like to invite serious, potential and capable investors from across the world to explore investment opportunities in Nepal and enjoy the vicinity of ancient city of Kathmandu and majestic snowcapped Himalayas in the land of Mt. Everest and birthplace of Lord Buddha. I must say, NIS 2024 provides an opportunity to promote Nepal as a promising investment destination in the global landscape.

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