Program Director of Finnpartnership Birgit Nevala (Khabarhub)
Nepal and Finland entered into the diplomatic ties on September 21, 1974. Finland has already invested in many areas in Nepal including energy, forestry, and water resources and is now looking for other areas such as renewable energy and agriculture for investment in the days ahead. Finland has put Nepal in its portfolio as one of the OAD receiving countries, thereby enabling it to export its goods such as special handcrafts, items of clothing and woolen goods to Finland. Against this backdrop, Kulchand Phombo from Khabarhub talked to Birgit Nevala, the program director of Finnpartnership, on various issues ranging from Finnish investment to areas of investment to exports of Nepali products during her recent visit to Nepal. Excerpts:
What are the key areas Finnpartnership wants to invest in Nepal?
We are here to partly find it out for the part of the investment. Importantly, we are interested to import Nepali products such as handcrafts, tea, garments, and wood products from Nepal to Finland. There are some new types of construction projects, advanced mobile construction projects which are already operating here in Nepal. Besides, there is a special bond between Finland and Nepal since we cover all the ODA receiving countries. We have been friends for long and want to promote business out of this relationship and we want to do long-term business in the days ahead. There is a people-to-people relation between Nepal and Finland since diplomatic relation was established in 2074. There are already 25 Finnish NGOs operating in Nepal.
How do you create an environment to enable Nepal to export its products to Finland?
We have instruments, already. We have financial instruments also. When we know that it is a sustainable business and it creates development here locally, we will use these instruments to start a business exporting goods from Nepal to Finland. There is also the other way round that some companies come and join us to do a joint venture. That is the type of business that we assure of partnership. We will not promote exports from Finland to Nepal. Quite the opposite way.
Goods manufactured here in Nepal may be of low quality and may not reach the European standard. How can they get the Finnish market?
You can buy so much stuff around the world which looks exactly the same everywhere. There is uniqueness, exactly. We have already imported special garments and handcrafts and tea products manufactured in Nepal as they hold social and cultural importance.
Are there any specific areas in Nepal where Finland wants to invest?
There are no specific areas, yet. We are here to explore more. Finn Fund is our mother organization. It is a development investor. They have already invested here in energy, forestry and water resources and we are looking for other areas including renewable energy and agriculture.
Do you think the Nepali environment is suitable for your business, given the current political environment of Nepal?
If it were perfect, we would not exist at all, laughs……. .! Because we are exactly for a little bit hard and more difficult environment. We spend our Finn Fund and instruments only in ODA receiving countries. Nepal and Somalia are in our portfolio. Somalia has more difficult circumstances compared to that of Nepal. So Nepal, in that sense, is much easier.
What do you expect from the Nepal government to enhance your business?
If Nepal creates healthy companies, I believe, that it can be a reliable partner for Finnish businesses. So, the healthy private sector is key to have this kind of partnership with Finland’s private sector.
How do you feel Nepal’s environment for FDI?
Our funding instrument goes only through Finnish partners. So, in that sense, they need to do the feasibility study and convince us, when we give the funding, that this is sustainable and will create good development impacts. We will only take a decision then. But Finnish partners have already invested here in Nepal. I think they have been doing quite well. And, now we have a new type of construction project here. I hope it goes quite well and proceeds because this is a new type of model coming from Finland, more light construction technology that endures for example earthquake and so on. However, they are free to do their own way; we only facilitate and support.