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June 2016 Cover Story

Published on: 2016-06-20 13:29:41     2950 times read    0  Comments
<strong>LEGIS-LATER?</strong> <br />BILLS STUCK IN PARLIAMENT<br/> MAKING NEPAL AN ECO<span style="color:red;">NO</span>MY.

The country needs some new economic laws and amend some existing redundant ones to kickstart the stagnant economy. Nevertheless, more than five dozen Bills related to some 30 core laws pending in the legislature parliament at present. This shows the indifference and gross negligence of the lawmakers and the government regarding the economic wellbeing of the country.  

--By Sanjeev Sharma

With the country facing a severe economic recession due to last year’s devastating earthquake and Terai stir, Nepal is in need of all kinds of initiatives from the government including the policy support to end the current economic malaise. Nevertheless, the government and the policymakers who have a duty to step up in order to uplift the economy are showing indifference when it comes to introducing new legislations and amending existing laws that can be pivotal to transforming the country economically. Some five dozen industry, businesses and economy related bills are gathering dust in the legislature parliament at present. Among them are the drafts of 30 core Bills waiting for reformulation or amendment as soon 
as possible. 

The lack of appropriate policies, among other impediments, has been long blamed for various obstacles the Nepali private sector has faced over the years. “Investors seek suitable policies to ensure investment security. The absence of the appropriate policy support and legal framework is holding back investments,” says KP Pandey, Director at the Federation of Nepalese Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FNCCI). “This has caused a decline in the industrial productivity which is directly affecting exports, employment generation and infrastructure development.”  

Redundant Laws 
The absence of proper legislations has translated into trouble for all sectors of the economy. The problems have arisen as legislation formulated decades ago is governing the economy at present. 

The Black Marketing and Other Social Offences Act, 2032 BS, for instance, has become a centre of criticism from the business community. The law was formulated 40 years ago when the country was practicing a closed economy. However, with the country embracing the open market policies after the restoration of democracy in 1990 AD, the law largely became irrelevant.  “More and more economic activities are being carried out through the private companies. The Act clearly goes against this spirit. By limiting the profit to maximum 20 percent, how do you expect private investments to flourish,” questions Surendrabir Malakar, former President of Nepal Chamber of Commerce (NCC). According to him, profit, price, sales and other elements in business flow according to the direction of the market. The redundancy of the law is the reason for the uncontrolled black-marketing of essential items and profiteering in the market. 

The Trademark, Design and Patent Act, 2022, is another obsolete legislation, provisions of which are said to be contributing to the increasing theft and duplication of trademarks of foreign companies in recent years. The list goes on with some of the Acts in urgent need of amendment or reformulation being the Public Procurement Act, 2063, Foreign Exchange (Regulation) Act, 2019, and Value Added Tax Act, 2052. 

Similarly, the Export Import Control Act, 2013 BS is another legislation governing the international trade mechanism in Nepal at present causing various problems to the exporters and importers. 

Why Are the Amendments Necessary? 
Laws need timely reforms. A legislation introduced at one point in time becomes redundant at another time. Policy reform is necessary to ensure the smooth operation of any system by addressing problems that are likely to arise over time.  “Things have changed a lot over the past few decades. From export to import, the way we run our businesses and the way the market functions have changed significantly. So have our economic needs,” opines Malakar.  Sushil Kumar Pant, Senior Advocate at the law firm Jurist and Company agrees with Malakar’s views. “A reformative approach is necessary to fulfil our international obligations as we are a member of the WTO, to keep up with the pace of dynamism in society, and to support the businesses in an open economic atmosphere,” says Pant who is also a former Attorney General. 

Nepal over the years has signed various important international conventions and treaties. Nonetheless, when it comes to formulating laws and policies the country always lags behind. Nepal’s long inability to amend or reformulate laws in accordance with the Paris Convention for the Protection of Industrial Property and the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) are some of the examples. After becoming a signatory of the Paris Convention in 2001 and TRIPS in 2004, Nepal has not been able to formulate laws and policies in line with the essential global deals till date. This inability has led to the rising number of infringement cases of industrial and intellectual property in Nepal in recent years. 

Reform of policies is also necessary to make sure that the existing legal provisions do not create obstacles in the growth of businesses. “Timely reform in the existing laws is important to ensure that the laws themselves will not become barriers forcing the private sector to conduct its activities in a contracted manner,” says Pant. Besides these reasons, the reformulation and amendment of pending Bills is also necessary to make the laws compatible with the new constitution of the country. 

Amendments in existing laws are also necessary to make the legislations clear free of ambiguities. In Nepal, provisions of different laws and regulations conflict with each other inhibiting the economic development of the country. “Over the years, we have experienced that there are various conflicting provisions among different existing acts and bills,” mentions Vishma Raj Angdembe, Chairman of the Industry, Commerce and Consumer Welfare Committee of the Legislature Parliament. “Forestry related provisions, for example, sprung up to contradict industry related provisions when we start to look over the issues.”

Impact on Trade and Investment
The lack of predictability in the laws and policies in Nepal has been considered as a major impediment in order to foster investment.  “All policies, Acts, rules and regulations are required to be predictable. The laws and rules need to facilitate industry and trade reducing the cost of doing business, bring transparency in the system and to ensure a smooth procedural mechanism,” mentions FNCCI Director Pandey, adding, “Investors’ confidence can increase only if these issues are addressed.”

Nepal has registered substantive FDI commitments across various sectors in recent years; but the amount received by the country is very less compared to the investment pledges. This clearly indicates that foreign investors are hesitant to invest in Nepal due to the absence of proper policies despite numerous lucrative opportunities available to them. “Our legal infrastructure is at fault. Without proper policies, it will be very difficult for us to attract foreign investors,” views Malakar.

The lack of appropriate laws is also hampering the export potential of the country. Absence of Accreditation Act can be taken as an example which is severely obstructing the export of Nepali items such as juice, honey and coffee to India and Europe where a test certification is mandatory for the foreign products to enter the market. 

Causes of the Policy Reformation Delay
Some laws have been in parliament for reformulation or amendment for decades. The draft of the Antidumping and Countervailing Act, for instance, has not been able to see the light of day for 15 years. Various factors are contributing to the prolonged delay to reformulate or amend the outdated existing laws. Nevertheless, experts as well as lawmakers agree that the continuation of political instability is playing a key role in obstructing policy reformation. “I think that the continuing political instability has played a key role regarding this issue,” says Angdembe. Angdembe who has been supporting the voices of the Nepali business community to pass the Acts and Bills stuck at parliament also points to the lack of political will and the indifference of the political leadership towards the economic issues as another reason for the delay.  

Similarly, the personal interest of some lawmakers is regarded as another reason.  The long deadlock in the amendment process of the Banks and Financial Institutions Act (BAFIA), 2063 BS is an example of this.  The BAFIA Bill which had earlier incorporated the central bank’s suggestion to cap the tenure of the CEO and chairman of banks and financial institutions, has been endorsed by the parliamentary Finance Committee with the provision of a two-term limit for the CEO but no such limit on the chairman. It is said that the Bill is thus revised by the parliamentary committee due to some influential lawmakers who have their interests in BFIs. 

Likewise, the delay in introducing the Bill of new Labour Act can also give insight into how the interests of politicos are obstructing the law making process. The proposed Act which is currently at the Ministry of Labour and Employment has not been able to enter parliament as it is said that the labour minister does not want to send the draft to the legislature. Even the former minister did not want to send it ahead. Despite having been agreed upon by the Employers’ Council and labour representatives, the proposed legislation is not getting cabinet level endorsement due to the unknown intention of the minister, sources say. As per the process, the concerned ministers need to present the drafts of the Bills to the cabinet for approval before they are presented to parliament for endorsement.

The unethical act of the lawmakers in drafting the laws is also getting flak from various quarters. “These problems have primarily arisen due to dubious political practices. Those who have spent large amounts of money to become MPs from particular political parties are most likely to act on behalf of their vested interests,” says advocate Pant.  He challenges such MPs to resign from their posts in their respective companies before taking part in the parliamentary committee level discussions. Lawmakers themselves are denouncing such acts of other fellow policymakers.  “Being a sovereign institution elected by the people, the legislature-parliament must ensure a fair law making process,” says Angdembe.   

Private Sector’s Efforts 
Regardless of various shortcomings, the Nepali private sector is actively lobbying to end the current impasse regarding the enactment of the Bills as laws. “We are actively lobbying with the parliamentary committees regarding the business and economic Bills presented before them,” informs FNCCI Director Pandey. “We have suggested the lawmakers across various forums to come up with at least 12-15 pending Acts to establish the significance of the proposed Nepal investment year which the government plans to announce,” he adds. 

Experts suggest the private sector to start the practice of professional lobbying to achieve effective results in the legislation making process. “If we look at practices in other countries, issues in the parliament need to be lobbied by related agencies comprising of professionals such as management consultants, financial consultants, lawyers and entrepreneurs,” says Pant. 

The Way Out
It is the duty of parliament to enact appropriate laws to foster the economy of the country. Nepal has recently been through one of the hardest times in its history. Policymakers need to show their concern towards policy in order to end the economic sluggishness. “Lawmakers need to be more proactive and vigilant in terms of their economic vision and action,” opines former NCC President Malakar. He proposes a fast-track approach to progress the pending Bills in parliament.  “Unless the government and lawmakers fast-track the process, it is really going to take a long time to restructure the laws according to the new constitution,” he says. 

"Nepali economy cannot make structural leaps unless the pending bills are passed”

 

Surendrabir Malakar, Former President, Nepal Chamber of CommerceSurendrabir Malakar
Former President, Nepal Chamber of Commerce

More than 30 core business and industries related Bills are stuck in the legislature-parliament currently. How do you think the stalemate in enacting the Bills as laws is hindering the private sector?
The growth of the private sector has been badly affected after events following last year’s devastating earthquake. We need all the support including policy initiatives to get back on our feet. Nevertheless, some important Bills have been in parliament for nearly a decade. This is a gross negligence towards the country’s economic development. 

Unfortunately, only a very few lawmakers have the sense to understand that our economy won't grow without proper policies. It is the job of parliament to pass appropriate economic Bills on time. We need effective laws to create a favourable business and industrial environment. We simply are unable to understand the factors hindering the progress of pending Bills in parliament. Unless the Bills are passed, our economy cannot make any structural leaps. 

How is the sluggishness in policy reform hindering the FDI inflow?
Without proper policies, it will be very difficult for us to attract foreign investors. Our legal infrastructure is at fault. There are equally other problems such as trade union issues and electricity shortages.  Trade Unions need to be completely detached from the political parties. We have allowed politics to enter the workplace for too long. Now politics needs to return to where it belongs – the election, parliament and the government. 

Amending older laws is another key issue in the present context. Why are the amendments necessary? 
Things have changed a lot over the past few decades. From export to import, the way we run our businesses and the way the market functions have changed significantly. So have our economic needs. However, many existing laws that were formed decades earlier are still in practice. 

All laws are formulated according to particular economic and social contexts. Many economic laws were formulated during the first wave of privatization in the 90s. To address issues across various sectors which are likely to come over time, regular updates in laws are necessary. Similarly, formulating new laws is equally important to address the contemporary demands of businesses and industries. 

What laws do you think need to be amended? And why?
The Public Procurement Act has become a major bottleneck to do business in today's economy because it provides incentives for corrupt practices as well as limits the growth of domestic companies. It is neither market friendly or helpful for economic growth. We can never have quality infrastructures with this act as it only focuses on low bidding. I think that by only using low bidding as the tool, we can never construct good quality infrastructures and they will never be completed on time. The fact of suspending this Act during the post-quake reconstruction also clearly hints to the level of its failure. 

Similarly, our tax related laws only target the formal economy. They are completely blind towards the informal economy which is huge in our country. Instead of broadening the tax base, our tax laws focus narrowly only on raising taxes from those who are already in the tax net. In the VAT system, for example, the largest problem resides in the Customs Regulation and Customs Tariff. As customs duty is ridiculously high and there is a limitation on the declaration of prices, the VAT system has systemic problems. 

It has created a never ending game of challenges for non-genuine Bills which will continue unless the customs tariff is restructured. Once the VAT Bill comes in authentic shape, tax revenue will also increase. We need an overhaul in the revenue system which is solely directed to meet the revenue targets by chasing VAT returns but do not focuses on timely scientific reforms. 

There are also various issues regarding the Black-Marketing Act. Formulated in 2008 B.S, the law is more than 60 years old. This is just an example of how we are running a competitive economy with such an ancient act. More and more economic activities are being carried out through the private companies. The Black Marketing Act clearly goes against this spirit. By limiting the profit to 20 percent or less, how do you expect private investments to flourish? Profit, price, sales and other elements in business flow according to the direction of the market. How can the government control basic components through legal measures in an open economy?

There are also problems with the level of stocks maintained by various levels of business chains. Usually, governments make a comprehensive market act sufficiently open for private businesses to compete for such measures. Globally, government intervention is limited and very clearly defined. Here, we have ambiguous laws with a very wide scope for the government to intervene in market affairs. 

What factors might have caused the laws to get stuck for such a long time?
It is our dysfunctional politics. Our lawmakers are focused too much on their political agenda. Party leaders have aired big bright hopes, but everything in credit. When it comes to delivering, they fail. Similar is the case with the pending Bills. We have been seeing lawmakers making excuses when the time comes to pass the laws and implement legal reforms. 

What role are private sector organisations playing in this regard?
Private sector bodies such as FNCCI, NCC, CNI, FNCSI and other related associations are part of the civil society. We have constantly been advocating for the rights and interests of the business community. We have made a number of delegations to the government and lawmakers regarding the pending Bills. We have briefed every new Prime Minister and Finance Minister alongside government authorities about our issues, concerns and problems. We seek partnership with the government. 

What role do you expect the lawmakers to play to pass the Bills from the legislature-parliament?
A lot of homework has been done. The concerned ministries as well as lawmakers have discussed the laws with us and other stakeholders. However, no matter how positive the discussions were, the end results have never been that good. Our suggestions were not fully incorporated into the drafts of the laws as promised.  On top of that, the Bills were never enacted as laws. Now, they are even outdated and need a fresh round of talks and discussions before they are passed. 

Lawmakers need to be more proactive and vigilant in terms of their economic vision and action. So far there have been disappointments for us. They can claim that they have delivered a constitution, which was a priority, and those economic laws were sidelined because of that. But their responsibility has become even more pronounced. They need to rework the economic policies in line with the constitution. So they have piled up more work for themselves. Surely, they can't run away from their responsibilities. They need to be more serious and mature. So far we have only seen childish behaviour from the lawmakers. I think they need to really fast-track the economic acts now. Unless the government and lawmakers fast-track the process, it is really going to take a long time to restructure the laws according to the new constitution. 

 

"Pending bills are not the priority of parliament”

 

Sushil Kumar Pant, Senior Advocate, Jurist and CompanySushil Kumar Pant
Senior Advocate, Jurist and Company

Some 30 important business related core Bills have been stuck in the legislature-parliament for a long time. What factors might have caused the Bills to get stuck?
It is a pitiful situation that the pending Bills are not a priority for the legislature-parliament. This clearly shows the parliament’s indifference towards the major economic issues that need to be resolved as soon as possible. Unfortunately, our leaders and lawmakers have been prioritising their own interests. Similarly, it is an irony that only a handful of our lawmakers know the details of various legal provisions and depths of the prevailing issues. Many parliamentarians did not even have proper knowledge about economic issues, let alone the importance of related laws. 

Some MPs are opposing provisions in the Bills. Is it right for the MPs create a deadlock when passing such important Bills?
This is very wrong for the legislature-parliament members to block Bills in order to serve their petty interests. It is unfortunate that some MPs are lobbying on issues which directly benefit them.  These types of acts will not only jeopardize the efforts to further strengthen the business sectors but also undermine the parliamentary system. These problems have primarily arisen due to dubious political practices. Those who have spent large amounts of money to become MPs from particular political parties are most likely to act on behalf of their vested interests. If such MPs have even an iota of morality left, they should have resigned from their posts in their respective companies before taking part in the parliamentary committee level discussions.  

We do not have constitutional and legal provisions to reduce competing interests. We have to manage such issues on moral grounds. It is a worldwide practice for industrialists and businessmen to represent their sectors in legislative bodies. Nevertheless, in other countries they clearly distinguish their roles.  When businesspersons become lawmakers, it is also their duty to ensure a fair lawmaking process. 

How can we form a consensus to end the deadlock?
If we look at practices in other countries, issues in the parliament need to be lobbied by related agencies comprising of professionals such as management consultants, financial consultants, lawyers and entrepreneurs.  We do not have such agencies in Nepal.  I also suggest private sector organisations like FNCCI and CNI to step ahead with concrete suggestions rather than just demanding amendments to the laws. They should forward their suggestions in a package prepared by experts.   

Why is it important to introduce new economic laws and revise and reformulate older ones?
Many laws have become redundant in the present context. To remove those redundancies and make them workable, amendments and revisions are necessary. Meanwhile, the absence of proper laws can also foster unethical and illegal practices. The Act Restricting Investment Abroad, 2021 (1964 AD) is one such example. Even though the Act restricts Nepalis from investing abroad, money is increasingly flowing out from Nepal in recent years through the backdoor. Similarly, many Nepalis are investing abroad claiming that the investments made are from the money they have earned in other countries. Even though the money earned abroad does not fall into the tax bracket, the Foreign Exchange (Regulation) Act, 2019 which has extraterritorial jurisdiction clearly states that the Act is applicable to all Nepalis in Nepal as well as to those living abroad. A reformative approach is necessary to fulfill our international obligations as we are a member of the WTO, to keep up with the pace of dynamism in society, and to support the businesses in an open economic atmosphere. Timely reform in the existing laws is also important to ensure that the laws themselves will not become barriers forcing the private sector to conduct its activities in a contracted manner. 

What Bills do you think should be on parliament’s priority list?
All pending Bills are important to ensure the healthy growth of the respective sectors and overall economic development of the country. Nevertheless, Bills such as the Companies Act, Industrial Enterprises Act, Foreign Investment and Technology Transfer Act (FITTA), Foreign Exchange Act, Tax Act, Investment Board Act, Labour Act and BOOT Act should be placed on the utmost priority list. Enacting these Bills as laws can positively impact the country’s economic environment, thus encouraging foreign investors to enter Nepal.  

Which laws need to be amended to attract FDIs? 
The Labour Act should be amended to attract foreign investors in the first hand. The out of control trade unions have caused much damage to the industrial and business sectors over the years. Solving labour related problems is a prerequisite to attract foreign direct investments. Similarly, the FITTA should be amended to ensure foreign investors get proper treatment in relation to security, repatriation of investments, law and order, etc.

Nepal is seen as being unable to formulate laws and policies regarding the major international conventions to which the country is a signatory. Why is that so?
Our government is quick enough to become a signatory of any international treaty. But when time comes to formulate policies, we always lag behind. One example is the Paris Convention for the Protection of Industrial Property which Nepal signed in 2001. However, we have not been able to form policies in line with such an important treaty. This has led to a sharp rise in the infringements of trademarks of foreign companies in the recent years. It clearly shows that our government officials and lawmakers either do not know the importance of these international treaties or are totally ignoring the significance of the conventions signed by the country. Similarly, the dishonesty prevailing in the bureaucratic and political levels to continue corrupt practices also hinders the formulation of policies to implement such important international conventions signed by the country.

 

"Our interests are basically for better investment and business environment”​

 

KP Pandey, Director, FNCCIKP Pandey, Director, FNCCI

How crucial are the Bills that are pending at the legislature parliament?
Investors seek suitable policies to ensure investment security. The absence of the appropriate policy support and legal framework is holding back investments. This has caused a decline in the industrial productivity which is directly affecting exports, employment generation and infrastructure development. The demand and supply drives are unlikely to rise without the increase in production. Due to this, Nepal has not been able to explore markets for its products. The lack of proper policies is thus slowing down the already impaired economy. 

All policies, Acts, rules and regulations are required to be predictable. The laws and rules need to facilitate industry and trade reducing the cost of doing business, bring transparency in the system and ensure a smooth procedural mechanism. Investors’ confidence can only increase if these issues are addressed. 

You are coordinating the efforts of FNCCI to pass the pending Bills. How do you view the prolonged delay?
Political instability is the main reason. Political parties are so focused on their own political interests that they lack clarity on pertinent economic issues.  Secondly, our politicos have not understood that economic development can bring stability to the country. As per the process, the concerned ministers need to present the drafts of the Bills to the cabinet for approval before they are presented to the parliament for endorsement. Political will is needed for the parliament’s endorsement. 

Some major business and economic Bills such as the BAFIA are stuck due to the interests of some parliament members. How do you view the role of MPs regarding this issue?
The question again points to political will. All MPs are political personalities whether directly elected or appointed through proportional representation. It is important for the political parties to identify and stop protecting such people who are using policies that fall within the grey area to serve their interests. 

How is FNCCI engaging in dialogue with the government and lawmakers in this regard?
We are actively lobbying with the parliamentary committees regarding the business and economic Bills presented before them. FNCCI has been continuously stressing on the need for the Bills to ensure a better business and investment climate. We recently urged the finance minister and concerned officials to facilitate the pending Bills while presenting our suggestions for the budget of FY 2016/17. Similarly, we have been actively lobbying across various forums on the Bills with concerned ministries as well. The Bills are needed to be compatible with the new constitution. The policy reformation is also necessary to make the Nepal Investment Year a success which the government plans to announce. We have suggested the lawmakers across various forums to approve at least 12-15 pending Acts to establish the significance of the proposed government initiative. Enacting important Bills related to industry, business and economy will certainly send positive messages to domestic as well as foreign investors.  With the legal infrastructure in place, investments will flourish in the country.  FNCCI has continuously requested the governments and lawmakers over the years to amend some crucial and highly essential Bills and formulate new laws.

How effective has the lobbying been?
Many Bills have entered parliament as drafts due to our continuous efforts. While the end results have not been achieved, some Bills have gained momentum in respective parliamentary panels. Nevertheless, some Bills have not moved anywhere like the Labour Act which is stuck in the labour ministry despite having been agreed upon by both the Employer’s Council and labour representatives. We have been continuously asking the labour minister to progress the Bill.  

How can the business community manage lobbying more effectively to address its demands particularly in future legislations?
There is an eminent need for professional lobby groups that can raise the concerns and interests of the private sector especially in the legislation making process. The groups are also important to validate the lobbying of the business community. Obviously, people will think that industrialists and businessmen are lobbying on behalf of their personal interests if only FNCCI and other business associations are involved. If we can form lobby groups of independent professionals and experts, such concerns can be significantly lowered. Similarly, the lobbying can also become more effective. 

Many old laws have become redundant in the present context. What are the suggestions of FNCCI regarding the revision and amendment of such laws?
 Many existing economic and business laws were formed during 2020-2023 BS. These Acts were introduced to address various issues in the context of that era. The business and economic environment has significantly changed since then. Most of the laws formulated in that time have become obsolete. To make them workable, timely revision is required. We have suggested the government and lawmakers to amend some major laws including the Black Marketing Act, Foreign Exchange (Regulation) Act, Act Restricting Investment Abroad, 2021, Patent, Design and Trademark Act and Foreign Investment and Technology Transfer Act (FITTA). Many provisions in these Acts have become unnecessary in the present context contradicting with provisions of other laws. Foreign Exchange Act is one such example under which any Nepali is subjected to legal action if caught even with a single US dollar or other foreign currency. Nevertheless, Nepalis are allowed to open bank accounts in foreign currencies. Similarly, the Export Import (Control) Act, 2013 B.S. governs the export and import procedures. At present, the law is unable to address various export and import issues and many problems have emerged from the Act itself. 

We need to update these Acts as per our international obligations. The rules and regulations of international trade have been developed and well defined mostly after the establishment of the World Trade Organisation (WTO). As a WTO member, we need to translate our international commitments into laws.  

What is FNCCI seeking from the Bills that are being amended?
Our interests are basically for better investment and a better business environment.  We are not asking anything more than the basic facilities required to invest and run the businesses. Though the gradual reduction of the corporate tax rate is also one of our demands, we have kept our focus low on tax related issues. We are centered much on procedural parts. The amendment of the Companies Act, for instance, has been one of our major concerns. Revision of the law is necessary as it will streamline the entry and exit of investors from a single window reducing the cost of doing business. Today we need to submit the same document across many government offices regarding the registration and closure of companies.

Laws alone cannot ensure a better business climate. What is required beside the laws?
No matter how good the laws are in practice, remedy system is also important to foster investment. Investors seek quick remedy processes in the courts in case any dispute arises.  Foreign investors basically are concerned over the process and time period of the dispute settlements. We have lobbied for mechanisms such as alternate dispute resolution (ADR), mediation, arbitration and the formation of a commercial court to ease dispute settlements. Similarly, we have also requested the Supreme Court to issue directives so that commercial cases can be settled by the commercial bench rather than the appellate court. 

 

"Continued political instability has been the key factor for the bills pending”

 

Vishma Raj Angdembe, Chairman, Industry, Commerce and Consumer Welfare Committee Legislature ParliamentVishma Raj Angdembe
Chairman, Industry, Commerce and Consumer Welfare Committee
Legislature Parliament

Many important Bills related to economic laws are pending in parliament with the parliamentary panels seen unable to start discussions on issues regarding the amendment and formulation of laws. How is the Industry, Commerce and Consumer Welfare Committee dealing with this issue?
Currently, more than five dozen Bills related to industries, businesses and economy are in the parliament. Concerned ministries have introduced Bills in the legislature-parliament to address various economic issues. We have requested the Speaker of the legislature-parliament to forward the industry and commerce related pending Bills to our committee as soon as possible if the Bill is related to our field. The Bills arrive in the committee after being discussed in the legislature parliament. 

I hope that the parliamentary proceedings regarding the amendment of the existing laws and formulation of new Acts will begin soon. As we are to implement the federal system, we need to act fast. Many economic laws require amending in accordance with the federal system.  It is also important that the Bills be endorsed by the full house of the parliament to support the revival of the country’s economy ravaged by last year’s devastating earthquake and the border blockade. 

What is the progress on the Industrial Enterprises Act and Special Economic Zone Act which fall under the purview of your committee?
 Due to our efforts, the Bills have been presented to the parliament. Nevertheless, the Bills have been there for a long time. We have asked the Speaker to forward the Bills to us as soon as possible. When these Bills arrive in our committee, we will immediately initiate discussions inviting the stakeholders. 

Why are the Bills pending? Some important Bills and their drafts have been in parliament for about 15 years. Why are these Bills not a priority for parliament?
It is very unfortunate that Bills with high industrial, business and economic significance are stuck in parliament. While the reasons for particular Bills vary, there are concerns regarding the issue as many think that the drafts have not progressed due to the vested interests of the people at the policy making levels. 

I think that the continuing political instability has played a key role regarding this issue. The lack of political will and the indifference of our leadership towards the economic issues might be another reason for this.  

I do not see any other reason to halt the progress of Bills in parliament. After years long stagnation, now we need to achieve speedy economic growth. Our economic development has significantly lagged behind. 

Some MPs are seen actively lobbying to incorporate their interests in some of the Bills. Is it right for the MPs to be involved in such acts?
To hold the overall economic development of the country hostage to serve someone’s vested interest is a crime. Such misdeeds should be exposed in order to control these activities. Being a sovereign institution elected by the people, the legislature-parliament must ensure a fair law making process.  

Similarly, the government also has a greater role to play to resolve this issue. The executive body should step ahead when such deadlock emerges. 

Apart from procedural delays, many existing laws have conflicting provisions which are obstructing the progress of Bills. How can this be resolved? 
Over the years, we have experienced that there are various conflicting provisions among different existing Acts. Forestry related provisions, for example, sprung up to contradict industry related provisions when we started to look at the issues. Similarly, many other provisions of prevailing Acts severely entangle with each other, thus seriously hindering the progress of amending and formulating laws. We are planning to include all stakeholders of the respective policies to participate in our discussions so that the Acts can be formulated or amended with a higher level of clarity.


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