SURAJ VAIDYA is the newly elected president of FNCCI. He spoke with Terence Lee of THT Perspectives on his plans and priorities as the head honcho at Nepal’s apex business federation. Excerpts:
As the newly elected president of FNCCI, what are your immediate priorities and plans?
My first priority is to heal the division created by the elections and to bring everyone onboard the same platform to work together
for greater unity in the business community. My second priority would be to press for the new budget, which will be announced soon and to get the government’s attention towards more development incentives. My third priority would be to work on the energy policy which is coming out now and by the same token to work with the trade unions, which is now a major concern for all of us. We have to find
amicable ways to resolve the present issue. The energy issue, on the other hand is a major concern for the whole country.
What is the biggest hindrance in the power issue and how do you think we can get over it?
Quite frankly, the biggest hindrance in the power issue is that it is not profitable.
It’s not worth the risk of investment as the policy stands today. Over 80 per cent is financial cost and the cost of finance is extremely high in Nepal. The taxes levied on the construction part are still very high and the power trade agreement tariff has not been increased for a very long time. As an investor, it is certainly not a very attractive area to invest in. We think that the only way to overcome this crisis in four years is to create a more profitable environment for the business community and anyway eventually the project is handed over to the government after 30 years and that becomes the government’s property. Therefore there must be more incentive for attracting investment in this area. The labour issue is a major challenge to the entire business community.
Can it be resolved? What is at the root of this problem?
Actually it’s more of political differences between the trade unions. I don’t think there is much disagreement on the terms
and understanding of the contracts that we have signed with the three major trade unions. There are some formalities that the present negotiations are asking to change but these are unacceptable to us and I think if we can agree on a middle path that provides a win-win situation on both sides and getting their consensus on this from the three major trade unions who have been partners
on this and then working with smaller trade unions would be the way to resolve this issue.
With the new team at FNCCI what changes can we expect? How do you plan to break from the past?
Now what you will see is in the style of management. The style of management will change and there will be a lot of leadership displayed and taken by the different committees and by the different vice presidents who will be responsible and accountable for the actions that they take within FNCCI. We are also working on improving the secretariat research and development wing which is critical for FNCCI at this stage. We are looking at branding FNCCI more as a name and I think that it needs to come out stronger that we care for our members. Membership driven programmes will now get priority and these are some of the changes that you will see at FNCCI immediately.
What are the biggest problems facing industry and commerce today? Will you be working with other chambers to tackle these issues?
The political leadership must understand that the economy must come in as a core area for national development which even today is not a priority for a lot of them. Parliamentarians need to understand that policy needs to be attractive in terms of getting the country moving and getting us out of the problems we have had in the past. They have to look for sustainable peace and that can only come from sustainable economic development. To be able to get the political leadership working with our ideas and understanding the importance of an economic agenda would be a major challenge. As far as other chambers are concerned we are more than open to working together with them on building bridges for common agenda. Eventually we are all talking the same thing in different ways and FNCCI’s line of thought is to increase
unity among the business community in Nepal. We have worked with the other chambers in terms of the trade union dispute at the moment and I think there has been cooperation and the outcome has been quite good for all of us. Now we are working on the budget and we will emphasise on issues that are at hand and we are talking on the same line so we will be able to achieve what is required.