KATHMANDU: Nepal’s foreign currency reserves needed to import essential items like medicines, oil products, and other items will run out in seven months if things do not improve, an official at Nepal Rasta Bank (NRB) said.
The central bank has increased interest rates, hoping it will discourage people from buying imports and help extend the foreign reserves, according to NRB Spokesperson Gunakar Bhatta. “We are concerned about the sustainability of our foreign exchange reserves,” Bhatta said.
But he said there already are signs that the situation is getting better with the slowing of the pandemic. More tourists have begun to arrive and increasing numbers of Nepalis are going abroad to earn foreign currency and send it back home, he said.
“Compared to previous years, the foreign exchange reserve level has come down, but we can manage it because the number of migrant workers that are going abroad has increased,” Bhatta said.
Nepal’s main sources of foreign currency are tourism, remittances from overseas workers and foreign aid.
Normally, hundreds of thousands of foreign tourists visit Nepal every year. However, the number declined sharply due to restrictions imposed during the coronavirus pandemic.
Tourists are trickling back, with hundreds of climbers already applying to climb the world’s highest peaks and thousands more trekking on mountain trails.
Nepal has few exports and imports almost everything from abroad. Motor vehicles and oil products account for one-fourth of the imports, Bhatta said.
The finance ministry said earlier this week that the government is working to reduce imports of gold and luxury goods, but did not provide details.