| April 21, 2019

I want to see economic agenda in party policies

I want to see economic agenda in party policies
Rajendra Bajgain is not a new name in Nepali tourism sector. He runs Gurkha Encounters which operates trekking, mountaineering and many other tourism activities. The young entrepreneurs wants to bring 'development' agenda into political mainstream and push for economic development in the country. Republica's Rudra Pangeni recently talked with Bajgain to know about his business ventures and other issues. Excerpts:

Besides tourism and hospitality business, you are also engaged in politics. What is politics for an entrepreneur like you?

We cannot run business without correcting politics. We need a good political environment for businesses to flourish. Political system should be corrected first. Only then it honor development and investment. Only open market system and capitalism can bring businesses and investments into the country.

Nepali Congress, with which I am affiliated, has paid little attention to the important agenda of economic development. Our outdated laws cannot serve today's need for investments. A major shift in those laws that date back to as early as 1970s is the need of the hour. Outdated laws are preventing local investors and businesses to compete in the international market. Simple definition of 'open market' does not help as barriers in doing businesses and procedural hassles remain unchanged.

You have announced candidacy for the post of central committee member of Nepal Congress. What is your agenda?

Major thrust of political parties should be on development and attracting investments. Several political changes and movements in the past have done little or nothing in the country's socio-economic landscape. Therefore I want to raise development agenda in the central committee of Nepali Congress as it is the forum to design policies and programs. So far, agendas of central committee are limited to expansion of party organization and concerns of cadres, among others. BP Koirala had development agendas when he became Prime Minister in the late 1950s. Girija Prasad Koirala was only the NC leader who raised development agenda by saying that 'road comes first' which was necessary to connect markets with production centers. We have seen dearth of development agenda in the party thereafter. Now onwards, development works and job creation should be the priority of Nepali Congress.

How can you help in changing priorities of Nepali Congress?

For example, central committee should devise social welfare programs, like health insurance, where general public can find themselves. Political parties need businesspeople like me to effectively raise the agendas of attracting investments and economic developments. Workers should be allowed to form union but such union should not have any political affiliation. However, it will be difficult to make my voices heard. I will raise some agendas and hope that other youths in the party will take these important agendas and move forward. I don't mean to say that I should lead the agenda all the time. My point is that development agenda should be in the party policy regardless of who is in the leading position.

Youths aren't getting much space in your party. What do you say?

Youth should do politics not based on cadres, but on issues like common minimum programs that can appeal to public. My only intention is to get development agendas inserted and endorsed from the central committee. Others can carry my agenda. I am already established in business. But I want my agendas to be heard in the party.

I have brought as many as 10 billionaires to invest in Nepal. But I could not retain them as our investment climate is not friendly.

Your hotel in Bhairahawa is beginning your operation soon. What are your future plans in the hospitality sector?

A five-star hotel with 400 rooms is under construction in Bhairahawa. So far, 80 percent of work has been completed. A Hong Kong-based company is investing US$ 150 million in the project. I will operate a casino in the hotel though Happy World -- a subsidiary of Silver Heritage which runs The Millionaire's Club & Casino at Shangri-La Hotel, Lazimpat.

We have already bought land to build a hotel in Jhapa. Similarly, we are searching for suitable location to build a luxury five-star hotel in Kathmandu. My aim is to generate 6000 jobs within 2022. I believe tourism helps local economy by consuming crops, vegetables, poultry and dairy products. A foreign visitor in Nepal helps nine Nepalis, according to World Trade Organization.