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International Monetary Fund. Asia and Pacific Dept

KEY ISSUES Context: Nepal has been trapped in a low-investment, low-growth equilibrium. The authorities' aim is to graduate from least-developed country status within 7 years. Macroeconomic situation and outlook: The earthquakes in April and May have held back growth. Together with the recent unrest and disruptions to trade routes, they also pushed up inflation. Growth is expected to gradually rebound as economic activity recovers and reconstruction gains momentum. High remittance inflows are supporting a strong external position, as well as high broad money growth. The outlook is subject to considerable downside risk, involving continued political and economic instability and slower-than-expected growth of government capital spending. Medium-term prospects: While remittances are expected to continue to support the external position, the outlook for growth depends importantly on the authorities' reform efforts. Experience in other fragile states shows that natural disasters can have permanent effects on potential growth. This underscores the importance of a decisive boost to public capital spending and reforms to strengthen the business climate. Key policy recommendations: Fiscal policy needs to support post-earthquake reconstruction and medium-term growth through higher public investment. Stronger public financial management (PFM) will be key to the swift and efficient implementation of higher capital spending. Along with efforts to improve the business climate, this should support private investment needed to generate sustained higher economic growth and employment opportunities. The exchange rate peg to the Indian rupee provides a useful nominal anchor to the economy, and the real exchange rate is broadly in line with fundamentals. Money growth should be contained to a level consistent with supporting the peg. The monetary operations framework needs to be strengthened to put the central bank in a position to better control the growth of broad money in the face of strong inflows of remittances and aid. Financial sector reforms should continue to focus on bolstering regulation and supervision, and improving financial infrastructure, to reduce risk and increase access to finance.