Nepal market rebounds as Maoists pledge economic revolution

April 20th, 2008 - 12:29 pm ICT by admin  

By Sudeshna Sarkar
Kathmandu, April 20 (IANS) After suffering heavy jitters last week following the stunning victory of the former Maoist guerrillas in the first national election after nine years, Nepal’s stock market has recovered as the reconciliatory rebels pledged to promote a pro-industry, capitalist economy. After shedding 26 points Tuesday, when the stock market re-opened after a nine-day holiday for the constituent assembly election, Nepal Stock Exchange (Nepse) however began to regain confidence as the top Maoist leaders started meeting members of the business community to allay investors’ fears.

As business closed for the week Friday, Nepse had registered a miraculous gain of 14.59 points despite shedding another 11.43 points Wednesday.

The week also saw a record turnover of NRS 326 million with share prices rising again after a dip.

Except for development banks, whose share value continued to drop, commercial banks, the key players on the exchange, saw their index rise by 23.65 points to reach 728.39. Finance companies and hydropower companies as well as insurance firms also began to show a rise in share prices.

Baburam Bhattarai, the deputy chief of the Maoists, highlighted the economic policy his party would pursue when it led the new government, with the focus on ending poverty and unemployment and enhancing self-sufficiency.

In a late-night interview on a private television station Saturday, Bhattarai, who won with a thumping majority from Gorkha district in western Nepal, appeared confident and unflappable, unlike in the past when he became strident under criticism.

“Our party has no plans to confiscate private property,” Bhattarai said, marking a change in the philosophy of an armed party that had in the past said it would seize the excess land of capitalists and aristocracy and distribute it among the landless in a revolutionary land reformation measure.

“We promise full security to private ownership, property and investment.”

The architect-turned-revolutionary said the new vision for a “new, affluent and developed” Nepal included transforming the current agro-based economy into an industrial one.

“We envision a pro-industry, capitalist economy with more investment in tourism, hydropower, medicinal herb-based industries and agro-based industries,” Bhattarai said.

He said the government led by his party would encourage private investment in productive sectors so that more jobs were created while discouraging investment in non-productive sectors.

He also tried to allay fears of labour militancy under a Maoist government.

“The government will bring together labourers and owners and the tripartite negotiations will come up with a new labour act,” he said.

Bhattarai also toned down the revolutionary land reform measures trumpeted by the Maoists during their 10-year “People’s War”.

“In the past, we had a 10 bigha land ceiling,” he said. “However, it will be revised. We propose the formation of a commission to come up with recommendations, which would be implemented after national consensus.”

However, there is one sector in which Maoists will train their guns on private companies.

They will push for the state takeover of private educational institutions till high school.

“It is the government’s responsibility to provide equal education to everybody,” he said. “Differences in the quality of education widen the divide between the rich and poor and create strife.”

The Maoists are advocating a scientific educational system to be implemented by the state which will take over all schools till the 12th standard from private investors in lieu of paying them compensation.

In the past, the Maoists’ “people’s education” had been radical, teaching primary school students a new “national anthem” and giving them a crash course in revolutionary principles.

However, despite reservations about some of their policies, Nepalis have chosen to vote overwhelmingly for them, signalling the desire for new vision and policies.

“It is a huge responsibility,” Bhattarai admitted. “We will try to serve the people, who made us win.

“But the victory will not go to our heads. We know they will throw us out if we don’t deliver.”

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