International Monetary Fund. Asia and Pacific Dept
This paper presents Nepal’s Request for Disbursement Under the Rapid Credit Facility (RCF). The coronavirus disease 2019 pandemic is having a severe impact on Nepal’s economy. During recent months, remittances have fallen considerably, tourist arrivals collapsed, and domestic activity has taken a hit amid social distancing measures. The authorities are taking proactive, well-targeted measures to address the human and economic impact of the pandemic, while preserving macroeconomic stability. Such measures include increasing health spending, strengthening social assistance to protect the most vulnerable, and providing bank liquidity and credit support. Additional assistance from development partners, beyond what had already been committed before the outbreak of the pandemic, is needed to close the remaining balance of payments gap and ease the fiscal situation. The authorities’ commitment to high standards of transparency and governance in the management of financial assistance is welcome. The IMF staff assesses that Nepal meets the RCF eligibility requirements and supports the request. Public debt is at low risk of distress and there is adequate capacity to repay the Fund. The IMF disbursement is expected to play a catalytic role in securing additional financing from Nepal’s development partners.
Major political developments have taken place in Nepal since the Executive Board concluded the Article IV Consultation in January 2006. The Koirala government is keen on early resumption of the IMF-supported program to help maintain macroeconomic stability. The international community has welcomed the peace process and has extended financial aid. Progress on structural reforms was slow owing to political uncertainties, an unsettled security environment, and inertia in policy implementation. The authorities outlined an economic program for 2006/07 consistent with Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper (PRSP)/Poverty Reduction and Growth Facility (PRGF) objectives.
Over the past several years, Nepal has pursued a prudent fiscal policy, which has resulted in a significant reduction of public debt as a percentage of GDP. This paper reexamines the fiscal stance in Nepal in light of recent developments. The optimal level of the fiscal deficit is constrained by the need to achieve and sustain a debt-to-GDP ratio with an acceptable level of vulnerability to distress. The debt sustainability analyses (DSA) framework focuses on the net present value (NPV) of external public and publicly guaranteed debt, though public debt is also analyzed.
This 2005 Article IV Consultation highlights that Nepal’s economic growth has been affected by the political turmoil and conflict, although inflation has remained moderate, and international reserves are adequate. Real GDP growth averaged 2 percent during 2000/01–2004/05, compared with the 1990s when growth in agricultural productivity and significant trade liberalization contributed to average real GDP growth of 5 percent. Inflation has remained in the low single digits, although it rose to 7¾ percent in mid-October 2005. The overall and domestically financed deficits remained limited in 2004/05.
This paper discusses key findings of the Fourth Review Under the Poverty Reduction and Growth Facility (PRGF) for Nepal. The PRGF-supported program is broadly on track. All quantitative performance criteria for the fourth review were met. A number of structural performance criteria and benchmarks have been implemented, albeit with delays. For those that have not been completed, substantial progress has been made. With this, the authorities have requested waivers for four structural performance criteria and completion of the fourth review, as well as modification of performance criteria for the fifth review.
Limited progress has been made in addressing Nepal’s structural weaknesses in tax administration and public financial management. Macroeconomic performance under the recent Poverty Reduction and Growth Facility (PRGF)-supported program has been stable. The outlook for 2007–08 remains stable. Although the macroeconomic performance has been stable, progress on structural reforms has been held back by the fragile political circumstances. Public enterprises and the Nepal Oil Corporation, in particular, pursue quasi-fiscal activities involving significant subsidies. Nepal’s growth prospects depend most importantly on a peaceful political transition.
After years of macroeconomic stability, the global crisis is having a substantial, albeit somewhat delayed, impact on Nepal’s economy and exposing its structural weaknesses. Although the Nepalese rupee appears modestly overvalued, maintaining the peg should remain a key near-term policy objective. Risks in the financial sector are coming to a head and need to be addressed urgently. The Nepal Rastra Bank (NRB)’s recent directives are welcome, but enforcement is crucial to their effectiveness. Bank licensing policy needs to be tightened, banking sector consolidation incentivized, and state-controlled bank reform tackled.
International Monetary Fund. Asia and Pacific Dept
KEY ISSUES Context: Successful elections for a new Constituent Assembly and formation of a new government have stabilized the political situation. Macroeconomic situation and outlook: Nepal’s macroeconomic situation remains broadly favorable. Growth is projected to recover in 2013/14 owing to good monsoons, robust growth in services, and increased public spending. Inflation is moderating, in line with developments in India. High remittance inflows are supporting a strong external position, as well as high reserve money growth. Risks to the outlook are slightly tilted to the downside, involving slower-than-expected growth in countries hosting Nepali workers and domestic financial sector risks. Medium term prospects: While remittances are expected to continue to support the external position, the outlook for growth depends on improving the environment for private investment. This requires a decisive boost in public capital spending, and structural reforms in key areas. Financial sector: Despite progress, significant vulnerabilities remain. The recent assessment under the FSAP, Nepal’s first, raised concerns about asset quality and interconnectedness, as well as financial sector infrastructure—including the legal framework—and supervision and crisis preparedness. At the same time, a largely unsupervised cooperatives sector is growing rapidly. Key policy recommendations: Monetary policy should aim at controlling the volatility and level of excess reserves in the financial system, implying a modest tightening of monetary conditions. The exchange rate peg to the Indian rupee provides a useful nominal anchor for the economy, and the real exchange rate is broadly in line with fundamentals. Capital spending needs to be boosted to provide key infrastructure, and reforms implemented to support private investment, which will help generate sustained economic growth and employment opportunities. In the financial sector, further reforms to bolster regulation and supervision, and improve financial infrastructure are needed to reduce risk and increase access to finance.
Nepal is a post-conflict state seeking to formalize democracy in a challenging environment. Significant headway toward a new state has been made since the 2006 peace accord. Progress on a range of technical issues (including public financial management, monetary policy, and financial sector supervision) has also been achieved. However, the failure of the constituent assembly to meet an end-May 2012 deadline to ratify a new constitution is a serious setback, and a major impediment to macroeconomic management and prospects for growth. The subsequent dismissal of the constituent assembly in June 2012 has left day-to-day operations in the hands of a caretaker government. New elections are notionally slated for April 2013, but will require fractured political parties to agree on an interim consensus government. In the meantime, key articles of legislation (such as the government budget) have been delayed. More broadly, the lack of a consensus government and functioning parliament appear to be dampening investment (foreign and domestic), keeping potential donor support at bay, and undermining prospects for sensitive financial sector and state enterprise reforms.
The staff report for the Fifth Review Under the Three-Year Arrangement Under the Poverty Reduction and Growth Facility (PGRF) highlights Nepal’s economic outcomes and macroeconomic policies. Financing needs and logistics of the peace process pose continuing challenges. Macroeconomic stability remains intact, but the speed of structural reform implementation has been slow. Macroeconomic policies remain anchored and the authorities are aware of the need for further structural reforms. Financial sector reforms can help improve intermediation and financial stability.