“I have plans to make a Chinatown here in Kathmandu, or in Pokhara, with restaurants and entertainment centers,” the smiling Chinese businessman replied to the young female reporter, in reply to her question about his plans for investing in Nepal following the Nepal Investment Summit held recently.
Elaborating further, he said, “I believe that Chinese small and medium scale business people will come in the thousands…thousands…if they feel at home here! In this, being able to eat food they are used to is important, and they can meet and learn from other Chinese people’s experiences.”
Nearing the end of the interview, he requested, “Can I add something? I see so many motorcycles here; I think having electric bicycles is a very good idea. They come at one tenth the price of a motorcycle, and they are relatively pollution-free.” He had been to Pokhara, and declared that the electric bicycle would do very well there, since the valley was quite flat. As for Kathmandu, he figured that the cycles would need more powerful motors. My thought was, what if he goes to the Terai—flatland everywhere!
He pointed out, “You know, the delivery part is often the most expensive part of business, and electric cycles would be really handy in this. We use them a lot in China.” He was especially interested in Pokhara as a site for developing a Chinatown, because “the international airport will be in operation maybe in two years’ time, and there will be many more tourists.”
It was all in all a very nice interview, especially coming from someone who was also described as a BRI (Belt and Road Initiative) expert. BRI, as everyone knows, is the brainchild of the Chinese president, and creating ripples everywhere. About this, he said, “BRI will enable us to make many friends, and will also be very good for business for all concerned.” If I am not mistaken, the proposed Lhasa-Kerung-Kathmandu train link is part of the ambitious global initiative.
As said before, a nice interview, but at the end of it all, what stuck in my mind like a broken record were the words…”small and medium scale business people will come in the thousands…thousands…” I have heard rumblings from Nepali business people in Thamel about how the Chinese are taking over some businesses, and I also hear that Lakeside in Pokhara is also rapidly turning red. So, the ‘thousands’ part of the interview sounded quite ominous to me.
But, of course, we do need heavy investment if we are ever to get out of the present state of affairs, and that’s why the international summit was organized. To show everybody that all’s well in the country, even if the government is made of two communist parties, a state of affairs that most business folk look upon with suspicion and distrust. Funnily enough, a news item floated around the same time as the summit was about a diehard communist leader’s suggestion to the government honchos that they change the name of Nepal Communist Party to Social Democratic Party!
Well, anything for a good cause, is what I say, and certainly, if we can create lakhs and lakhs of employment here at home, lakhs and lakhs of our comrades toiling in the hot deserts of the Mid-East and the factories of Korea and Malaysia can all come back to be with their families again. So, even if the outsiders come in their thousands to do business here, they’re welcome if lakhs and lakhs of employment are indeed created as a result.