Ramesh Prasad Koirala, Nepal’s ambassador to Qatar, is a Professor of Economics. Before assuming charge as envoy on May 9, last year, he had served in several high profile positions back home in Kathmandu.
He has worked at Labour Bank, Foreign Investment Promotion Advisory Committee, Ministry of Industry, National Labour Advisory Committee, Ministry of Labour and Employment, Foreign Employment Promotion Board, Nepal-Japan Chamber of Commerce and Industry, and Nepal-Japan Citizen Society.
The ambassador has penned two important books, including SAARC: Nepal’s Role in Collective Utilization of its Water Resources (1990) as well as co-authoring An Introduction of Nepalese Economics (2006). He has contributed to many periodicals and journals as well.
Community caught up with Prof Ramesh Prasad Koirala to talk about Nepal-Qatar relations and related issues.
You have been in Qatar for a while now. What is your impression of the vast Nepali community here?
We all know that Nepalis are the second largest community in Qatar. There are more than 400,000 Nepalis working in different jobs based on their competence and experience. They have been praised by the Qatari authorities, including at the highest level, as being intelligent, hardworking and honest. This makes me proud as an ambassador.
Nepali community has a very close relationship with Qatari citizens on a people-to-people level. A number of Nepali organisations have been working in close co-ordination with the Ministry of Interior and other authorities to organise welfare activities relating to labour, including the blood donation programme. They have also been closely working with the Traffic Police Department, Qatar Red Crescent Society and others. The community activities and programmes have contributed to enhancing the people-to-people contact. The Nepali Football Team (NFT) takes part in the Asian Community Tournament organised by the Qatar Football Association (QFA). Our players have also taken part in volleyball tournaments organised at the government level. These are some of the activities that depict a good relationship between our community and the Qatari government. The community is also busy in philanthropic work across Nepal — like providing ambulances, supporting street and orphaned children, building school libraries etc. I am proud of the Nepali community working in Qatar.
What progress has been made during your tenure for the larger welfare of Nepali migrant workers?
I have focused on three things:
(a) addressing migrant labour issues,
(b) economic development, and (c) diplomacy.
I have found that the Qatari government is always willing to address and minimise migrant labour problems. It has eased the process of salary disbursement and regularly inspects dietary supplies, work environment and accommodation facilities. For the welfare of Nepali community, the embassy hosts ‘Hearing and Sharing Programme’ in which resident Nepalis come and share what they have in mind and we respond favourably.
Nepal and Qatar have already completed four decades of diplomatic relations. What is your assessment of the bilaterals?
Since the establishment of diplomatic ties in 1977, Nepal and Qatar have had very cordial relations. To further strengthen these, we plan to organise different programmes on economic development, cultural exchange and business promotion. We are also looking towards investing in sectors like agriculture, education and hydropower in Nepal. Doha Bank has already established its representative office in Nepal. More recently, the two countries have been willing to diversify the relationship.
Nepali workers are on the labour side of the Qatar’s economy. There is labour surplus in Nepal and its corresponding need in Qatar. How does Qatar, in your view, value and take care of this asset?
Currently, a large number of Nepalis are working as migrant labourers in the Gulf region and more than 400,000 of those are employed and have contributed to the development of Qatar in multiple sectors such as construction, production, services, technology etc. Qatar has one of the highest per capita incomes in the world, and is providing jobs to tens of thousands of Nepalis.
Remittance is a predominant source of Nepal’s economy. There is a rapid rise in migration of workers to the Gulf region, Qatar in particular. We can attract Qatari investors to Nepal and cooperate as well as utilise remittance in Nepal with appropriate policies and programmes.
There is always talk on the prospects of Qatari investment in Nepal — for example, in hydropower. Is there a possibility of concrete investment — something comparable to China or India investing in infrastructure — in Nepal in sectors like hydropower, tourism and agriculture?
Qatar has friendly relations with Nepal and its neighbours, China and India included. Both these countries support Qatari investment in Nepal. Nepal can be a great tourist destination for Qataris. They frequent the country during summer. Nepal exports cardamom to Qatar, but indirectly through India. Qataris prefer green tea and coffee from Nepal. Hopefully, they will be drinking Himalayan mineral water from Nepal in the future.
There are indeed shared challenges between Doha and Kathmandu in areas of energy and environmental priorities and infrastructure development. Nepal needs a stable government and political leadership with a vision to develop and implement infrastructure projects. Nepal has 6,000 rivers and rivulets, and, can practically generate 44GW of hydro energy. Currently, we have produced just 3 percent of the total capacity.
Another untapped resource is tourism. The world’s premier travel magazines suggest Nepal as one of the best tourist destinations in the world. In this context, we have high potential in hospitality and infrastructure development sectors. High-end agriculture is also another prospective sector in Nepal. We can grow high quality organic vegetables, fruits, spices, tea and coffee. I hope the two countries will work towards tapping such potentials for mutual benefit.
What would be your advice to the Nepali community, which is contributing to both the countries?
I urge all Nepalis working in the State of Qatar to follow the existing rules and regulations of their host country. We need to respect the laws of the country where we stay. I suggest all workers acquire skills that would further contribute to their earning. The Embassy of Nepal is always ready to help them wherever they require assistance; they are welcome to the embassy, or meet me, to this end. I must also urge them to eat healthy and keep their surroundings clean.
How do you look at Qatar in terms of development and taking the bilaterals forward?
Under the leadership of His Highness the Amir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani, Qatar is developing at a rocket pace. Doha is becoming the financial hub of the world. Qatar is also diversifying its economy from gasoline to other sectors. The country has also demonstrated economic endurance, diversity and resilience.
As stated earlier, I have been working towards diversifying our relations in various sectors; like people-to-people contact, trade, tourism and investment, including strengthening the embassy, providing easy, quick and client-oriented service delivery.
I have also engaged with HE Dr Issa Saad al-Jafali al-Nuaimi, Minister of Administrative Development, Labour and Social Affairs, many times and talked about bringing skilled and professional workers from Nepal. We will make the movement of workers easier in the coming days.
Finally, I wish to congratulate Qatar for the golden opportunity to host the 2022 FIFA World Cup. We are ready to assist Qatar during the tournament in different capacities.
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