ASEAN, BRICS AND NEPAL


By Mohan Krishna Shrestha–

In any country, after the political stability, next most important work is to bring a revolution in the economic development. A country is considered to be developed and prosperous only after the attainment of the overall economic development and the equitable distribution of the fruits of such efforts to the people. In the lack of such situation, we find many countries in instability and tension filled situation. Moreover, such countries have internal fights and even more wars too. It is, therefore, imperative that there is no alternative for fast paced economic development and judicious distribution system.

Time is changing. It is said that the 21st century belongs to the Asia and Pacific region. If we ponder for a moment, it seems so. Seeing the stupendous economic development achieved by the South East Asian nations, experts have said like this. All the ten member countries of the ASEAN have been marching steadily in the path of fast economic development. I have visited all ten member countries of ASEAN. Everywhere development, progress and prosperity can be seen. While living in Paris, I used to meet Cambodian Ambassador Uch Kiman. He is old man with more than 70 years of age, yet serving in Paris as Cambodia’s Ambassador since last 12 years. He told me once, Excellency, we brought Foreign Direct Investment upto 8 billion dollars in 2013.  This comes to  about 900 billion rupees. He further said we can bring more billions dollar. Cambodia is slightly bigger in area than Nepal while population is less than that of Nepal. There was a civil war for 30 years in the country and the country rose after the permanent settlement of the political problems. Ambassador of Laos Khouantana Phalivong also told me that Laos is now marching ahead in the fast paced economic development and changing the country entirely.  People used to ridicule Laos as sleeping nation before. No one can stop the changes being brought by the time.

Now, we need not to talk about Vietnam. They fought with America for years. They also faced carpet bombing. But after having achieved peace and stability, they are progressing so fast that the world is startled. I sometimes exchange mails with my friend Ngyen Qang Khai, Vietnam’s former Ambassador to United Arab Emirates and he once told me that Vietnam is poised become the number one country for the export of rice. Their exports of the crustaceans had crossed 7 billion dollars. Similarly, Myanmar, after the settlement of its internal political problems is marching ahead in the path of economic development. She might become yet another economic tiger. Investors from USA, Japan, Korea, Hong Kong, Thailand, and Britain are coming in hordes for investment opportunities in the country. It is true that due to political problems, the country lagged far behind in economic development despite enormous and varied natural resources in the past. Thre is no need to talk about Malaysia and Singapore. These countries can be compared with any developed country of the west. Singaporean Prime Minister is the civil servant who gets the highest salary in the world. Similarly, Brunei and the Philippines are also developing very fast in their own ways.

Since 1980s, the wave of liberalization, privatization and financial restructuring began in various countries. Due to these reasons, economic activities intensified and the country’s financial health became robust. The horizons of the economic development got much widened since the unshackling of the government’s interferences.

In today’s world, it is, indeed, very good that each and every country tries to advance its economic interests and activities. Despite this, some countries who hold same wave length and policies, have been effortful to advance their economic interest through the making of an organizational set up. In Latin America, there is Mercosur (Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay, Uruguay and Venezuela) has been active although lately its activities have been suspended for the time being. NAFTA is yet another organization composed of USA, Canada and Mexico. In wider terms, Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) is comprised of 21 countries (Australia, Brunei Darussalam, Canada, Chile, China, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Japan, South Korea, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, Peru, the Philippines, Russian Federation, Singapore, Chinese Taipei, Thailand, USA and Vietnam)

Group – 8 (G 8) is composed of Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russian Federation, UK and USA. It is, therefore dubbed as rich man’s club.  Similarly Group of 20 (G-20 (Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, Japan, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Italy, Mexico, Russian, South Africa, South Korea, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, UK, EU and  USA)  is  also in  existence. G-20 is a mix-up of developed and developing countries. It, therefore, provides a platform for dialogues and negotiations in the pursuits of economic development. These organizational set ups are efforts in their own ways to advance the economic interests of their respective countries to achieve the prosperity. In our region, South Asian Free Trade Area is in existence although not that effective so far.

 

The word BRICS was coined by Mr. James O Neal of Goldman Sachs in 2001. Brazil, Russian Federation, India and China as members have huge geographical areas, population and enormous natural resources and it was formally established in 2006. The main objectives BRICS are equality, promotion of democratic values and multi-lateral world. South Africa joined BRICS on 24 December 2010 making it BRICS. Its future remains bright due to its wide objectives of enhancing mutual cooperation and solidarity.

Experts have said that BRICS would emerge as a very powerful organization by 2050 with India and China majoring in manufacturing and service sectors and Brazil, Russia and South Africa as exporters of the raw materials. As the economic activities are gradually shifting from Atlantic to the Asian Pacific region, its importance seems more than assured in coming days. With China as a member whose export – import trade reaches 4 trillion dollars a year, it has been extending support to enhancement of the economic activities in many countries.

The first summit of BRICS was held in Yekaterinburg of Russian Federation in 2009 and its last summit was held in Goa of India last year. Such summits have been held alternately among member countries and it is being attended by the Head of the State or Prime Minister. The main objective of BRICS is to widen the horizon of the economic activities through fast paced economic development.

The total geographical area of the BRICS countries comes about 37 percent of the world. Total population comes to about 3 billion which comes around 42 percent of the world. A total gross domestic product of BRICS countries comes to about 16 trillion and it is expected to reach to the staggering 50 trillion by 2050. Russia has the highest per capita income among five member countries up to 24,000 dollars. With enormous natural resources, Russia has been re-emerging as a powerful economic nation in the world lately. Rest four member countries have also enormous natural resources. BRICS is advancing to achieve its objectives through mutual discussions, cooperation and effective coordination. A bank has been established with a capital of 50 billion dollars and it has been financing appropriate projects in the member countries.

BRICS and Nepal Relations

It is a matter of happiness that Nepal has friendly diplomatic  relations with all member states of BRICS. More, relations with India, China and Russia are old. Although relations with Brazil and South Africa are relative new, yet our residential diplomatic missions have been opened in these countries also with our Ambassadors posted. We must think how should we proceed with these huge countries with enormous potentiality in coming days. A step in right direction was that Nepal was also invited as an Observer at the Goa summit last year. Such type of wisdom is found to invite countries as Dialogue Partners in other regional organizations also.

It seems inevitable that Nepal should enunciate policies to seek markets for her exportable produces, to invite foreign direct investment as well as to promote employment opportunities. Moreover, these countries provide an enormous potentiality for tourists. Given Nepal’s unique features and prestige, there exist enough opportunities to welcome myriad number of tourists from all these 5 member countries of BRICS. India and China are our traditional donor countries also. Brazil has vast experience and knowledge in the development of hydropower development. Itaipau Dam lying between Brazil and Paraguay produces 12,600MW of electricity. It is one of the biggest hydropower development projects of the world. Russian Federation is re-emerging as a politically and economically powerful nation following the demise of former Soviet Union. Similarly, South Africa is a powerhouse in African continent with enormous natural resources.

Although the process of industrialization has not cached up so fast in Nepal, but private sector has been instrumental in producing many products using local raw materials. They have been producing goods for domestic use as well as for exports. Due to the pleasant weather,  many of our agricultural produces have good  quality and attracting attention from importers of the world.

For example, we can take organic tea and coffee. These produces have been getting good markets in many countries. Let us forget about thousands of other products for the moment. If we can promote organic tea and coffee in a systematic and professional way, it can accrue a lot of benefit to our country and people. As such produces are being consumed in daily basis; their access to market to such a huge population would be very beneficial for our country in the long run. For this, the Government needs to formulate appropriate policies for promotion with the joint efforts of our Embassies and private sector. Our businessmen must participate in the trade fairs being organized in many countries and we can also solicit ideas and cooperation from commodity based organizations in this regard.

(Shrestha is a career diplomat who served as the Nepalese Former Ambassador to France and Permanent Delegate to UNESCO)

 

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