The banking system in Nepal is a dynamic landscape marked by various financial institutions and ongoing developments.
In this article, we’ll delve into key aspects, including the number of banks, government initiatives, the role of Nepal Rastra Bank (NRB), public debt, international loans, and changes in the system.
Number of Banks and Financial Institutions
As of mid-July 2023, Nepal boasts a financial landscape comprising 20 commercial banks, 17 development banks, 17 finance companies, and 57 microfinance institutions. However, this multitude is expected to decrease due to mergers and acquisitions, aligning with the central bank’s initiative to induce significant mergers among commercial banks. By the end of Ashad, 2080 BS, the number has already decreased to 112, signaling a strategic shift in the industry.
Government Initiatives and Foreign Investment
The Nepali government actively encourages Asian banks to invest, especially in sectors like hydropower, presenting ample opportunities. The commitment to creating an investment-friendly environment has attracted foreign direct investment, with international financial institutions expressing interest in mega hydropower projects in Nepal.
This inclusive approach extends to foreign investment, either as joint ventures with Nepalese investors or as wholly foreign-owned enterprises. The government has reserved only a few sectors for national entrepreneurs, emphasizing local enterprise promotion and safeguarding indigenous skills and expertise.
Role of Nepal Rastra Bank
At the helm of Nepal’s banking affairs is the Nepal Rastra Bank (NRB), serving as the central bank.
Empowered by the Bank and Financial Institutions Act (BAFIA) of 2017, the NRB regulates and supervises the banking sector, determining interest rates, foreign exchange controls, and overseeing operations of financial institutions. The NRB’s overarching objective is to transform into a “modern, dynamic, credible, and effective Central Bank”, as outlined in its annual monetary policy.
Public Debt and International Loans
Nepal’s public debt has been on the rise, reaching Rs2,340.60 billion, equivalent to 43.49 percent of the country’s GDP. Foreign loans at concessional terms continue to contribute to this debt, with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) approving a disbursement of about $51.3 million under the Extended Credit Facility (ECF) arrangement. While such loans can stimulate economic growth, prudent management is crucial to avoid potential pitfalls.
Changes and Developments in the Banking System
The introduction of merger by-laws has triggered a gradual decline in the number of banks and financial institutions in Nepal. The central bank’s initiative to induce significant mergers among commercial banks further reinforces this trend. Governed by the Bank and Financial Institutions Act (BAFIA) of 2017, the NRB plays a pivotal role in shaping commercial lending, issuing guidelines on interest rates and areas of investment. This strategic focus is outlined in the Bank’s annual monetary policy, aligning with the vision of becoming a modern and effective Central Bank.
Major Challenges Faced by the Banking Sector in Nepal
Navigating the dynamic landscape, the banking sector in Nepal grapples with several challenges that warrant attention:
- Shortage of Money: Recent market trends have seen a shortage of money, impacting deposit bases and hindering loan disbursement and money circulation.
- Real Estate and Speculation Loans: Loans predominantly directed towards real estate and speculation purposes face challenges amid downturns in these sectors.
- Contraction in Loan Disbursement: Significant decreases in loans to the private sector, as reported by the Nepal Rastra Bank, pose challenges in loan disbursement.
- Low Level of Financial Literacy: A major obstacle is the low financial literacy among the population, impacting deposit and loan activities and hindering sector growth.
- High Levels of Non-Performing Loans: The banking sector faces hurdles related to high non-performing loans, weak risk management practices, and limited access to financial services in rural areas, limiting economic growth.
- Shadow Banking: The presence of shadow banking poses a risk to Nepal’s financial system, prompting efforts by the NRB to mitigate associated challenges.
- Regulatory and Governance Issues: Effective regulation and governance remain pivotal, ensuring stability and trust within the financial system.
These challenges underscore the importance of collaborative efforts by the government, regulatory bodies, and financial institutions to address liquidity concerns, enhance financial literacy, and ensure compliance for sustained growth and stability in Nepal’s banking sector.
Current State of Private Sector Credit in Nepal
Despite facing challenges, the private sector in Nepal enjoys access to a substantial amount of credit from the banking sector. According to the World Bank, domestic credit to the private sector (% of GDP) in Nepal stood at 95.29% in 2022. However, recent hurdles include a contraction in loan disbursement and elevated non-performing loans, both attributed to a shortage of money in the market.
While the World Bank data reflects consistently high monetary sector credit to the private sector (% GDP), the challenges of reduced loan disbursement and non-performing loans necessitate focused attention from the banking sector in Nepal. Addressing these challenges is crucial to foster financial stability, inclusivity, and sustainable growth.
Nepal GDP 2023
Nepal’s economic landscape is poised for growth. In 2022, the estimated GDP was $120 billion international dollars in real PPP terms. The IMF projects a robust 4.4% growth in real GDP for 2023. The Asian Development Bank (ADB) anticipates a 4.3% growth in FY2024, with services expected to lead the expansion, countered by challenges in agriculture due to weather-related factors.
Despite this positive trajectory, fiscal challenges persist. The estimated fiscal deficit for FY2024 is 2.4% of GDP, considerably lower than the 6.1% in FY2023. However, meeting ambitious revenue targets is crucial to avoid a substantial increase in the actual deficit. Ensuring sustainable growth demands careful fiscal management and strategic economic policies.
In conclusion, Nepal is on a growth trajectory, but fiscal challenges necessitate vigilant economic governance for continued development.
Nepal Economy Ranking in the World
As of 2023, Nepal’s prosperity index ranking is 110th, with an estimated GDP of $202 billion, surpassing official estimates by 66%. In the 2023 Index, Nepal’s economic freedom ranks 142nd, reflecting an economic freedom score of 51.4. Classified as a low-income country by the World Bank, Nepal faces challenges in economic freedom, corruption, and a cumbersome business approval process.
Nepal’s GDP per capita was $4,725 in 2022, with a growth rate of 5.613% and an inflation rate of 4.088% in 2021. While economic challenges persist, improvements in personal freedom, notably freedom of speech and assembly, indicate positive shifts in the country’s socio-economic landscape.
In summary, Nepal grapples with economic challenges but exhibits potential for improvement, especially in addressing issues related to economic freedom and business processes.