Nepal to form task force to tackle trade deficit

Kathmandu, March 3: Desperate to cut down its ballooning trade deficit, the Nepal government plans to set up a high-level task force to handle the issue within a couple of months, an official said Monday.

Officials in Nepal’s Office of the Prime Minister and Council of Ministers (OPMCM) said the task force will suggest and introduce measures to constrain imports and promote export of local goods so as to eventually cut down the trade deficit, Xinhua reported.

Recent government figures show that Nepal’s trade deficit expanded to Nepali Rs.290 billion ($2.90 billion) during the first half of the current fiscal.

According to the finance minister, the country imported goods worth Nepali Rs.335 billion ($3.35 billion) while exporting goods worth Nepali Rs.45 billion ($450 million) during the period.

“After holding extensive discussions with stakeholders, OPMCM came to the conclusion that there should be a high-level task force having higher power so as to recommend measures for bringing down the soaring trade deficit,” Krishna Hari Baskota, secretary in the OPMCM, told Xinhua over phone.

He said the OPMCM has over the last weekend directed the ministry of commerce and supplies to begin work towards forming such a task force.

The task force will be conceptualised in such a way that it will have representatives from ministries like commerce and supplies, industry, agriculture, energy, labour, finance and law, among others.

“The recommendations made by the task force will be unquestioned and the government agency concerned will be liable to implement the recommendations,” Baskota said.

The OPMCM has directed the ministries concerned to set up the high level task force at a time when the commerce and supplies ministry, which is in charge of imports and exports, has been revising the list of 19 items identified by the government in 2010 as having higher export potential.

Baskota said if the government failed to introduce such a task force, the country would have to suffer around Nepali Rs.600 billion ($6 billion) trade deficit by the end of the current fiscal.