Samriddhi Foundation in collaboration with Society of Journalists of Nepal (SEJON), with an initiative to improve the investment climate of Nepal organized an interactive program titled, ‘A Discourse on Integration of Economic Legislations’ on the 5th of December at Hotel Himalaya. While numerous programs concerning improvement of laws pertaining to investment have been held in the past, a program which sought to initiate a dialogue with regards to consolidation of relevant laws and the formation of specific codes as is practiced in Continental Legal system was the first of its kind. The program was attended by members of Government Institutions particularly, Ministry of Finance, Ministry of Law Justice and Parliamentary Affairs, Nepal Law Commission, members of private institutions and business houses, Journalists, like-minded think tanks, founders of innovative startups, economists, and members from SEJON.
The program began with a presentation by Mr. Kul Prasad Pandey in the capacity of Researcher of Samriddhi Foundation gave a brief introduction about the context of the discussion citing international examples, areas in which Nepal is lacking and reasons thereof with regards to its ranking in the Doing Business report, the idea of consolidation of act, harmonization of legislations and minimising duplication of government entities and subsequent regulations.
As opposed to Mr. Pandey, Mr. Phanindra Gautam of Ministry of Law Justice and Parliamentary Affairs stated that integrated laws might not be the solution. The problems in Nepal arise out of the structural problems that exists and also due to the working culture. He opined that categorization of legislation could be to a certain extent be feasible but it alone would not be enough to ensure better investment climate. An approach to integration of interrelated laws, consistency with international standards and coordination among relevant departments is also needed in order to create an environment where organizations flourish.
Following the presentations, the program moved into a panel discussion. The panel consisted of Mr. Uday Raj Sapkota, Mr. Rameshwor Khanal, Mr. Niranjan Shrestha, Mr. Anjan Kumar Dahal and Mr. Bhim Prasad Gautam.
In response to Mr. Bhim Prasad Gautam’s question as to whether Consolidation of law was needed in Nepal, Rameshwor Khanal stated that Nepal is not a country that is overregulated however, it is a country where archaic and outdated laws exist. He went on to state that laws must be changed as per the changing times, some areas that could have been simplified are till date complex in nature. He was of the belief that instead of consolidation of laws, improvements in existing laws were needed and use of information technology by relevant government institutions was a prerequisite for facilitation of investments.
Mr. Anjan Kumar Dahal explained how laws come into existence and how differences between policies and law and between policies themselves are profound in Nepal. He called for standardization of law and consistency between interrelated laws.
Chairman of Laxmi Group Mr. Niranjan Shrestha cited several examples of outdated laws and the reality of their enforcement in Nepal. Speaking on the topic of regulations Mr. Dahal stated that while government institutions take the approach of regulation, a better business environment could only come from facilitation. In facilitating businesses, laws must be amended with in line with the changes taking place.
Mr. Uday Raj Sapkota in the capacity of Joint Secretary of Ministry of Finance talked about the recent changes being made to the existing customs act and preliminary study being undertaken to form a Uniform Tax Code. He went on to share his experiences accumulated through years of government service in different ministries and departments. Just as Mr. Phanindra Gautam, he also believed that changes in the structural arrangements of government institutions could better induce the investment climate in Nepal.
Following a brief Q&A session, Chief Guest Mr. Madhav Paudel, Chairman of Nepal Law Commission ended the program thanking the organizers and the participants while stressing about the need for such a dialogue in Nepal and also the necessity of future dialogues pertaining to the same topic. He also commended the approach taken by the Ministry of Finance to form a Uniform Tax Code and future plans to amend only annexes of relevant legislation through the yearly Finance act and not other provisions.