Looking at the various efforts that are being made to initiate a prudent and viable economic diplomacy strategy, I have decided to pen down few thoughts regarding the various issues and also encompassing some of the issues that require future thinking and planning in order to achieve our desired objectives.

It is important to do an honest introspection and the attempt to do so is to provoke the thinking process and stimulate discussions and not to criticize anyone currently involved in this exercise or earlier. I must reiterate that the time is right and I see a renewed sense of urgency and commitment in everybody. Now let me raise the issues one by one as follows:

Define the scope/objective of this initiative:

Promoting investments, both inward as well as outward (out ward because times have changed and wealth creation is the key issue. Locations are becoming less important. Had not Chinese businessmen gone out worldwide many years ago and generated wealth, today China would not have been able to attract over 30 billion of foreign investment, majority being from Chinese business. Non-Resident Nepalese are beginning to play important role worldwide in economic activities and the resident Nepalese companies need to be also promoted to go and benefit from the opportunities that exist worldwide using their expertise.

Promote Exports Promote Tourism:

Bring in together Nepalese or non-Nepalese who are resourceful but are friends of Nepal in various countries to develop a strong promotional lobbying arm.

 

What are the available resources and tools:

Role of Embassies: Embassies require changing their mindset, because more outgoing, develop relation with key business organizations and true friend of Nepal which are influential in spheres of life ( generally it has been seen that the networking of our Embassies with local influential communities is limited). The Embassies should function as the contact point for private sector/private sector organizations to establish contacts to do follow up, to demonstrate full support of the Government in their endeavors. Most of the times Embassies are reluctant or not able to line up appointments, even appointments with key businessmen or political/civil service personalities. These things do not require budgets but they require commitment, a change in mindset and becoming more outward looking and marketing driven. The roles of the Economic/Commercial Counselors are becoming less effective because of (i) their ability to reach to people at the right level and (ii) limited resources at their command. This can only be down at the level of Ambassadors. Even from the bigger countries, Ambassadors are the ones who are taking all necessary initiatives. So much so they accompany the individual businessmen, forget about the delegation, wherever necessary to promote businesses.

Honorary Consul Generals: Ensure that the Honorary Consul Generals are selected based on their clout, ability to influence both the Government and Private Sector and willingness to give time to support our national priorities and objectives. Most of the Consul Generals have been found to be either misfit or not willing to allocate time. (The Sanghai example was like music to ears but I can assure you it is a rare one).

What else could be done?

Develop small but effective groups to promote our agendas, comprising of influential Nepalese as well as locals from different walks of life. They should not be psycho fans of people attached to the Embassies or to some important people in Nepal.

Appoint some limited but very effective Roaming Ambassadors who can travel on their won expense and stimulate these organs as stated here-above to drive our priorities.

Develop a focal point either at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs or Ministry of Industry/Commerce or even on of the business organizations whoever is prepared and capable of providing the resources to become a focal point in Nepal. This point should assimilate scattered information, promotional documents, statistics, date, etc. and come out with short term, long term plans and country/product specific, bring in resources personnel including entrepreneurs, economize other related agencies to put a cohesive show when undertaking a program outside or receiving potential investors inside. This focal point should become proactive and all such organizations should contribute rather than 10 organizations trying to do bits of everything without any concrete outcome. Just merely providing the information on web page or having promotional documents in various offices is not going to help. The world is highly competitive when it comes to investment. We must be able to reach out to people and draw their attention and that too at the right level in the right country for the right product/activity.

Instead of trying to do programs everywhere, be selective. Select countries as well as products and activities. Indentify sponsors for such projects/products or such activities at home. Then develop programs with full participation of such sponsors who will undertake eventually the business act. Assign specific organizations dealing with specific nature of business or type of companies. Assign to come out with their priorities based on countries and products and activities and then involve them for undertaking such promotional activities.

These days, after the end of the cold war, ideological groupings and the start of the market globalization process, every segment of the international relations is economic driven. To be effective diplomats, which is the demand of the time, our ambassadors should be familiar and well versed with the global economic and business scenarios. Therefore, perhaps the time has come to think about appointing ambassadors from the business community to potentially important trading countries from Nepal’s perspective.