We get around 3.5 billion US dollars from remittance. Compare this with only US $500 million or so of investment from foreigners. (about 1/7th). Yet we treat this group like third class humans.
“A Nepali returns from Arab for a month to finally meet his family after two long years, He arrives at our Tribhuvan International Airport at night, where he is first put on a long line of Nepali, interrogated by officials. The customs officer scans through his bags like a vulture looking for an excuse to exhort on the gifts bought for his family. Mentally drained, he finally comes out. The taxis outside are waiting for him. They demand, “Give us Rs 1500 to go to Gongabu (bus station).” This is more than what he spends on the bus ride from Kathmandu to his village. He sighs and pays up. After only 3 weeks with his family, he is forced to run to Kathmandu to get a new passport. He waits out in long lines, in heat, pollution and stench. On his way back to Arab, he is humiliated again at the airport. As he boards the plane, he breathes a sigh of relief. He won’t be back for another two years.”
Is this how you treat a community that invests 3.5 billion US dollars into the Nepali economy?
So how could we serve this group well, and make this a win-win?
Here’s a start.
• Lets start with the government - remove regulations. Demand insurance from manpower agencies so all Nepali who work abroad have insurance to protect them. At the foreign ministry, make a special fast track application process. Handle all their official works within half a day. Enable getting passport from districts easier.
• Make a special VIP line at our airport exclusively for them. Make them feel they are the reasons our country isn’t bankrupt. Show pre-departure videos on what life will be like outside Nepal, what their rights and responsibilities are. Teach them how to contact the nearest embassy or consulate.
• Work to change your officials habits to deal with them like they do with “kuhires.” Work with a private company with excellent customer service credentials to offer reliable, direct transportation from Kathmandu Airport to other major towns.
• Manpower companies, start providing cheap, affordable insurance for every worker you send abroad. Offer it in installments. You can surely make a profit by the volume.
• Social workers, connect their families with skills like sewing, knitting, running a small shop etc. Do recommend them on ways to protect the money sent home. Wasting it on a big LCD television in 14 hour electricity free Nepal is not ideal, is it?
• Entrepreneurs, interact more with this group. Understand through them, their families problems. Then build an opportunity to fix their common pain.
• For our financial institutions, prioritize their families. Advise them on investments and entrepreneurial opportunities through your institution. These are safe earners who send money back regularly – many of them probably through your bank. Maybe even offer high interest bond instruments for them to buy, that yields in 5 years. You have an enviable opportunity here.
• Look towards using their ideas in Nepali industries to improve efficiency, safety and quality. Remember these Nepali are building the next generation World Cup stadiums in Qatar by 2020.
Ultimately, this becomes a win-win for all.
“Imagine the same humiliated Nepali returning home in 2 years.
He walks out of the airport and goes through a fast-track service to process his paperwork. He is warmly thanked by this welcoming official, wishes him a happy stay with his family and is directed to a counter inside the airport to buy a ticket to go home to his town. He is escorted to a direct express bus outside the airport that is taking him and 50 others like him. He directly goes home without the hassles of Kathmandu and spends time with his family. To renew his passport, he goes to his local office and gets a new passport in 1 hour.
He is happy to be back home. With the money he was sending home and installment he was paying, he now has a better house, his wife runs a small store through a loan from the bank she went to get remittance money. With the savings this man was making with the bank, he now has a high interest bond that will yield high returns starting next year. With this money and his new-found skills in the Arab world, the man wonders whether he has to return back to the 50 degree heat in Arab. He wonders – with a good house, working wife, money in the bank and my new-found skills – maybe I can start a small factory here in Nepal! ”
Only when we learn to treat our own ($3.5 billion customer) with dignity, will the world will invest in Nepal. How we treat our remittance workers tells them how we treat other “investors”. If they don’t like what they see, they will invest their money somewhere where people respect “investors”.
Thank you to these friends, who inspired and helped me write this: Prasanna Dhungel, Ashutosh Tiwari, Sagar Onta, Bijaya Shiwakoti, Sanjib Subba, Bal Joshi.