Four missed deadlines: The fact that the Constituent Assembly has missed four deadlines (28 May 2010, 28 May 2011, 31 August 2011 and 30 November 2011) to come up with an acceptable constitution does not give out a signal that we have our internal housekeeping in order. The fifth deadline to get the constitution in shape is on 30 May. By most accounts, that's going to be missed too.
In that case, as per a Supreme Court decision, the present CA would be dissolved and fresh elections would be held, and further uncertainties would grip our political future. All these actions would push back the task of writing the constitution by a few more years. As a result, we are going to lose several years trying to do basic housekeeping while our elected representatives refuse to grow up and understand the costs of time and uncertainty they have imposed on the rest of Nepal.
When even after several extensions, our elected leaders remain unable to engage in the give-and-take of democratic politics to put together the rules of governance, that's a signal to investors that our ways of working are unpredictable.
Uncompromising labour unions: Early this week, the management of Unilever Nepal asked the government for permission to go for a 'lock out'. It said it had no choice. The agitating workers (goaded, it turns out, by union leaders who are close to the PM's party) had put up a list of demands which the company said were 'ambitious, irrelevant and illegal', especially when the company claimed that it had followed all the applicable labour laws and paid the workers well.
Only last year, under similar circumstances, a Maoist trade union succeeded in shutting down Surya Nepal's garment factory that was employing about 600 women. In the meantime, though the PM has issued a directive to open the Unilever factory, it remains shut, losing Rs 4 million a day, and grinding work to a halt at several feeder factories too.
What's an investor to make of this? You can follow all the laws you want. But that's no insurance against Nepal's politically-affiliated labour unions, who do not even listen to the prime minister.
Confiscated land: The recent quarrel between the Maoists and other parties over the former's plans to allow land grabbers to turn pieces of occupied land into private property should alarm investors. When a major political party does not appear to believe in respecting the right to private property, and instead, tries to threaten and intimidate the opposition to get its way, most investors would want to spend neither time nor money hoping that the party would see the light and change. The signal that comes out of the mere act of trying to make illegal land legal is that there is no respect for contracts, land titles, and private ownership.
Given that other countries in Asia and Africa have geared up their Investment Boards and pro-private sector policies, attracting investments to Nepal is already a difficult task. This is evidenced by the sorry state of our basic infrastructure (electricity, water, roads). The least that the Bhattarai government could do is give out consistently positive signals to investors instead of saying one thing in public and then acting the other way.