Nepal Table of Contents

During the 1950s and 1960s, Kathmandu received aid commitments from Moscow and Beijing. During the 1960s, Soviet and Chinese aid also supported development of a few government-owned industries. Most of the industries established used agricultural products such as jute, sugar, and tea as raw materials. Other industries were dependent on various inputs imported from other countries, mainly India.

As a result of the 1989-90 trade dispute with India, many inputs were unavailable, causing lower capacity utilization in some industries. During the same period, Nepal also lost India as its traditional market for certain goods. Because of the lack of industrial materials, such as coal, furnace oil, machinery, and spare parts, there was a considerable adverse impact on industrial production.

Industry accounted for less than 20 percent of total GDP in the 1980s. Relatively small by international standards, most of the industries established in the 1950s and 1960s were developed with government protection. Traditional cottage industries, including basket-weaving as well as cotton fabric and edible oil production, comprised approximately 60 percent of industrial output; there also were efforts to develop cottage industries to produce furniture, soap, and textiles. The remainder of industrial output came from modern industries, such as jute mills, cigarette factories, and cement plants.


Among the modern industries were large manufacturing plants, including many public sector operations. The major manufacturing industries produced jute, sugar, cigarettes, beer, matches, shoes, chemicals, cement, and bricks. The garment and carpet industries, targeted at export production, have grown rapidly since the mid1980s whereas jute production has declined. Industrial estates were located in Patan (also called Lalitpur), Balaju, Hetauda, Pokhara, Dharan, Butawal, and Nepalganj. The government provided the land and buildings for the industrial estates, but the industries themselves were mostly privately owned.

The 1986-87 Nepal Standard Industrial Classification counted 2,054 manufacturing establishments of 10 or more persons from 51 major industry groups, employing about 125,000 workers. That same year the total output from these industries amounted to about Rs10 billion; value added was estimated at almost Rs3.6 billion. It was nearly Rs5.1 billion in FY 1989. By FY 1989, there were 2,334 such establishments recorded, employing about 141,000 persons.

Private Industry

The history of incorporated private firms in Nepal is short. The Nepal Companies Act of 1936 provided for the incorporation of industrial enterprises on joint stock principle with limited liability. The first such firm, Biratnagar Jute Mills, was a collaborative venture of Indian and Nepalese entrepreneurs. It was formed in 1936 with initial capital of 160,000 Indian rupees.

In response to shortages of some consumer goods during World War II (1939-45), fourteen private companies emerged in such diverse fields as mining, electrical generation, and paper and soap production. The initial capital invested in each of these industries was small. In 1942 two paper mills emerged as joint ventures of Nepalese and Indian entrepreneurs. Industrial growth gained momentum after 1945, although the end of World War II had reduced the scarcity of goods and caused many of these companies to incur losses.

Under the Nepal Companies Act, there was no provision for private limited companies. In 1951, however, a new act was implemented with provisions for private limited companies. This act encouraged the establishment of ninety-two new private joint stock companies between 1952 and 1964. Most of these companies were much smaller than existing companies. Under the provisions of the 1951 act, public disclosure of the activities of the firms was not required, whereas the 1936 act allowed substantial government intervention. The Industrial Enterprises Act of 1974 and its frequent amendments shifted the government's emphasis on growth from the public to the private sector. However, discrepancies between policy and practice were evident, and the public sector continued to be favored.

Public Companies

Public companies also had varied success. Between 1936 and 1939, twenty public companies were formed, of which three failed. Between 1945 and 1951, thirty-five public firms were incorporated, six of which went out of business. Between 1936 and 1963, fiftyfour firms were incorporated, but at the end of 1963 only thirtyfour remained in operation. The success of public companies continued to be erratic.


Because only a few minerals were available in small quantities for commercial utilization, the mineral industry's contribution to the economy was small. Most mineral commodities were used for domestic construction. The principal mineral agency was the Department of Mines and Geology. Geological surveys conducted in the past had indicated the possibility of major metallic and industrial mineral deposits, but a poor infrastructure and lack of a skilled work force inhibited further development of the mineral industry.

The most important mineral resources exploited were limestone for cement, clay, garnet, magnetite, and talc. Crude magnetite production declined from a high of approximately 63,200 tons in 1986 to approximately 28,000 tons in 1989; it was projected to decline further to 25,000 tons in 1990.

In 1990 mineral production decreased significantly, largely because of political unrest. Production of cement fell approximately 51 percent over 1989--from approximately 218,000 tons to about 107,200 tons. Production of clays for cement manufacture dropped from 7,206 tons to 824 tons. Lignite production decreased 19 percent, and talc production fell 73 percent. Ornamental marble production, however, increased in 1989--by 100 percent in cut marble and 1,560 percent in marble chips.

Nonetheless, the mining industry had the potential to become a more important part of the economy, as new mines were being planned or were being developed. Two cement plants already were in operation, and a third one was being planned. It was expected that with full production in the three plants, Nepal might become selfsufficient in cement. A magnetite mine and pressuring plant east of Kathmandu had completed its construction phase and began production of chalk powder (talcum powder) on a trial basis in 1990. A highgrade lead and zinc mine was being developed north of Kathmandu in the region of Ganesh Himal and was expected to become operational in the 1990s, although raising enough capital for the project was problematic. Production of agricultural lime in 1989 doubled that of the previous year, suggesting that progress was being made towards meeting requirements of the agricultural sector.

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Source: U.S. Library of Congress