Ivo Hlavac is the deputy minister of Environment and director of the Directorate of Technical Protection of the Environment. Hlavac is leading a high-level Czech delegation comprising of top government officials and private sector representatives that held discussions with top government officials on strengthening bilateral relations and exploring investment potential in hydropower, alternative energy, water management and education. He spoke with Terence Lee of THT Perspectives about the purpose and achievements from this visit. Excerpts:
What was on the agenda for your visit and what has been achieved?
This is our first visit to Nepal and we are accompanied by 10 Czech companies who represent Czech businesses, and three universities. The main purpose of this visit was to send a clear signal about our interest to enhance governmental and business cooperation. At the political level, I’m very happy that today Nepal is stable and the peace process is on track. We are confident that a full implemenntation of the political agreement will be reached. We met seven key ministers from the government of Nepal and we discussed with them the necessity to make Nepal stable and transparent to encourage foreign investment and to create and prepare credible investment protection mechanisms which are necessary for every country that would like to attract foreign investment.
With Nepal preparing to celebrate the Investment Year in 2012, what areas do you see feasible for Czech investment in Nepal?
During our meetings we discussed some particular useful issues concerning projects that the Czech side can bring to Nepal in terms of hydro power projects, water management, sanitary issues, sewage and bio-gas plants et cetera. We also discussed with the mayor of Kathmandu the possibility of investing in some projects concerning waste management in Kathmandu which is
a serious and key issue. Of course, the Czech Republic is also well known for other products including very good cars because of our strong industrial traditions. We have our strength in high tech heavy industries and steel and metal. Our energy sector is also very robust and full of possibilities in terms of renewable energy like hydro as well as nuclear and we are interested to invest in such projects all around the world.
What is the one concrete development that has come from this visit?
If I was to summarise the purpose of this visit, I would underline and emphasise one thing. During our meeting with the Finance Minister of Nepal, we discussed and agreed to prepare a bilateral economic commission at the governmental and also at the business level. We would like to see this dream come true and next year izmir escort we hope that we can arrange for a meeting of this commission or body, which will be useful for businesses to have
detailed and better information about Nepal. Of course political relations are also necessary and must be enhanced. I must also say we are very happy that after some time of uncertainty and instability we could now visit Nepal that is stable and politically transparent.
The current bilateral trade between our two countries is around four million euros only. How do you think this can be improved?
The existing bilateral trade is far too low and does not address the potential we have or can have. We have all the right signals for enhancing trade with Nepal and there are people like Vishnu Kumar Agarwal as the Honorary Consul of the Czech Republic here in Nepal, and so I am highly optimistic. For example, he represents Skoda and promotes trade between our two countries. We are very happy with this relationship and there are many other Czech brands that can be brought to Nepal and there are certainly a lot more opportunities that we can explore.
How feasible is it for Czech investment to enter Nepal within the next year or so?
To put it bluntly, feasibility of making business and investment immediately looks possible in terms of hydro and waste management. I’m not speaking about some huge massive robust projects and investment, but micro and medium level projects can start soon and they can work and we can follow up and build on these. Also as the Minister of Environment, I would also like to emphasise on the point that any development in any country must also be coupled with concern for the environment. With industrial development, there is environment degradation so it is necessary to search for new and green technologies that can help the country and make money.
How would you describe the present investment climate in Nepal? Would Czech businesses be confident with this climate?
I guess this trip was a kick off for us. We checked the waters and temperature, if I may say so, and put it in that way. Of course, we see there are still a lot of things that need to be done here to create an environment for investment and trade and free market. Things must be more transparent, more open, understandable and attractive at the international level. But again and again I say that I believe the crucial step has been taken and the other smaller steps will follow.
What do you see as the next step to this visit?
We would like to prepare a joint statement between ministries and we will do our best to return by the third quarter of next year with a ministerial delegation led by the Minister
of Environment and maybe the Minister of Industry and Trade. For that we would like to see preparations and conditions for this high-level meeting followed by the signing of real particular business contracts and business opportunities. I believe the next step will be the high level meeting and visit of ministers of both countries and this will open the way for co-operation and dreams to come true.