The five-day festival of lights, Tihar unravels social joy throughout the country. Majorly dedicated to Laxmi, the Goddess of Wealth, Nepalese all over partake in brightening up the streets by decorating their homes and place of business with lights, diyo and flower garlands. All lights are kept on and doors and windows left open, with a decorated path made to welcome the deity with the belief that she will bestow good fortune, wealth and prosperity in the coming year.
As we are approaching the year 2021, it is important for us all to pray and believe that the upcoming year will be better that the present. In the grasp of the CoronaVirus pandemic, the world is crumbling not only as a result of the deadly virus itself, but also due to the onset of a major economic crisis it has led on. Major stock markets are sinking, industries are closing down, and oil prices are dropping worldwide. The Nepali economy is likely to see huge impact primarily on the tourism industry, international trade and remittance inflow.
The global crisis urged by COVID-19, immediately obstructed Nepal in its tourism sector, starting with the ambitious Visit Nepal Year 2020 campaign succumbing to the global outbreak. Government was compelled to halt the issuance of Visitor Visas in early March 2020, which has effectively dropped tourist arrivals to zero in Nepal. Statistics have shown that the occupancy rate in the country’s hotel industry is plummeting severely.
The impact of the pandemic has not been limited just to the tourism sector but has also affected industrial and agricultural production after the Government of Nepal announced a nationwide lockdown in March. The demand for a multitude of products such as petrol, diesel and luxurious goods have declined, apart from basic and essential products. It has also abated the import of goods and services which has lowered external deficit, but unfavorably affecting revenue generation. Over and above that, the pandemic can also lead to shortages of consumable goods and raw materials if India is obligated to seal borders. Nepal relies heavily on the neighbor for many things including agricultural seeds, industrial raw materials, everyday consumable goods and medicines. On the other hand, the halt in production and manufacturing due to the lengthy lockdown period led to lesser exports as well.
The pandemic is an immense threat to remittance inflow too. In Nepal, remittances represent more than a quarter of the country’s economic output. The raging spread of the virus in foreign countries with high populations of migrant workers is likely to hit workers’ remittance. Many might experience job losses and lack of job opportunities due to travel restrictions. It will not only strike foreign employment, but also the cash-flow in the financial market, household economy and international trade. The Nepal Rastra Bank projected a slump of over 15 percent in remittances in the last fiscal year 2019-20 after the lockdown was enforced in March. The World Bank has also projected a downturn of 14 percent. However, for now like a ray of light piercing the darkness, the influx of remittance surprisingly went up by 23 percent against all odds, disproving forecasts that the income of Nepali migrant workers would crash. Nonetheless, there is still a threat of dip in the future because it is believed that the unexpected growth may simply be the result of the decrease in use of informal trade due to the lockdowns and restrictions helping more remittance move to formal channels. The sudden hike may also be due to the festive season when migrant workers all over send home money for their families to celebrate Dashain and Tihar.
The current circumstances appear as if the impact of this pandemic on economies will not be a temporary factor rather it will slowly bring changes in how a country further operates. One thing that has accelerated in this lockdown is the practice of the use of digitization. A larger number of people have started to use digitized methods to receive and make payments, and moreover has built confidence in the use of online shopping, ecommerce, digital payment and mobile wallets.
With the growth in the Fintech industry, the perception of the way that consumers purchase and pay has rapidly changed. Digital mobile wallets such as IME Pay have come to practice more than ever in terms of utility bill payment, mobile recharge, ecommerce transaction, sending and receiving money, receive remittance in your mobile wallet and many more. In fact, people have started being cautious by taking precaution, social distancing and avoiding physical stores and offices after the widespread increase of the virus in every district. These initial practices will eventually habitat the way how people will perceive using digitization in future as well. In time, consumers will have faith in using mobile wallets as a mode of payment without having to stay in a long line and traveling to government offices or banks even when things get normal in the near future. Online shopping, e-commerce services, digital payment and mobile wallet services have now become more active than ever to raise awareness especially during festival season to communicate the message to the general public regarding use of digital and mobile wallets in this pandemic situation.
Almost a whole year has passed with the shadow of the pandemic over our heads; we just safely celebrated Dashain and with Tihar already here too we must stay just as careful. Festivals in the current pandemic scenario are like a ray of sunshine on a gloomy day, for people to relax and enjoy both physically and mentally. However, we should all still be responsible and take necessary precautions mainly during the festivities. Just as we did for Dashain, here at IME Pay we are taking the initiative to encourage our users to celebrate a safe Tihar, especially on the day of Bhai Tika. Whether it may be for buying gifts or sending money for the occasion we encourage our users to do it digitally, maintaining distance to keep our loved ones safe.
Let’s pray long and hard this Laxmi Puja for her to bestow upon us good health, prosperity and a secure future, despite the hardships our country is facing now.