KATHMANDU, March 29: Country's private sector will have something to cheer about if a proposal of the Ministry of Home Affairs to slash public holidays is endorsed by the cabinet, business leaders have said.
They say that the reduction in public holidays will increase productivity as well as make businesses more efficient.
“We welcome the proposal and we think it should be endorsed to boost productivity which is eroding due to too many public holidays,” said Pashupati Murarka, a former president of Federation of Nepalese Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FNCCI).
Most of the business enterprises have their own operation calendar. They give fewer public holidays compared to the government calendar. The government calendar has 37 public holidays in 2074 BS. There are also unexpected holiday announcements which erode productivity of the private furthermore.
If endorsed, public holidays will reduce from the next year, 2075 BS, which starts from mid-April.
“Though business enterprises have their own operational calendar, we have been seeing different hurdles and delays because government services are shut down even if ours remain open,” added Murarka.
Public holidays before or after the weekend is something that private sector do not want to see, according to business leaders. “It affects our operations. For importers and exports, this are already difficult because of two holidays - Saturdays in Nepal and Sundays in India and other countries which trade with Nepal,” they said.
Though there is no official figure of loss inflicted on businesses due to public holidays, Samriddhi - an independent policy think tank - estimates such loss at Rs 1.8 billion per day.
“We have not counted loss in monetary terms. But we know loss due to a single public could be more than a billion rupees,” added Murarka.
The productivity of Nepali workforce is very low, as experts have been saying that there is no proper assessment of 8-hour work. “I believe average effective working hours in Nepal is about three to four hours. This means productivity is already low even on working days,” Manish Jha, managing director of Facts Research and Analytics -- a private research company - said. “Records of few past years show Nepal has around 50 public holidays per year including unexpected holiday announcements by the government. Also there is banda (shutdown) which chokes the economy further.”
Political parties announce public holidays as demanded by different ethnic groups and religious minorities without considering losses that such holidays can cause to our economy.
Former PM Sher Bahadur Deuba gave an additional public holiday for Chhat, a festival of people of southern plains, earlier this year. The decision was clearly aimed at impressing voters of the southern belt ahead of the election. Other governments had also done similar things in the past.
The government has proposed to scrap Republic Day, Civil Servant Day, National Unity Day, Martyr Day, Democracy Day and Loktantra Day from the list of public holidays. Likewise, Dashain holiday is also being trimmed, as the government has proposed to not give public holidays on Ghatasthapana, Dwadashi (the second day after main Dashain day and Kojagrath Poornima.
The other festivals in the list include Ram Nawami, Krishna Asthami, Janai Poornima, Rishi Panchami, New Year, Lhosar, and Chhat, among others. But the proposal has already drawn flaks from different communities and ethnic groups.