For the last three years, China has imposed an undeclared blockade at the transit points on the Nepal-China border citing the COVID-19 pandemic, which has caused economic hardships for Nepali traders and deaths by suicide.
Sudarshan Ghimire, 42-year-old, a small business person, and owner of a clothing shop in Ranjana Complex in Kathmandu, Nepal killed himself after he couldn’t pay off the loan to the bank as goods were stranded at the Nepal-China border.
Nepali traders highlight the problems they are facing due to the closure of the border while the country is going through an economic crisis.
“The closure of the Nepal-China border by the Chinese authorities for over a year has created enormous difficulties for the Nepalese. On the one hand, goods are stuck at the border and on the other hand, banks are not providing loans at low-interest rates. Also, the country is facing an economic crisis. The expenses are high to run a business. We have to pay our employees and also pay the rent regardless of whether goods have arrived or not. Due to all these problems, we have lost a friend. We have never faced a crisis to this extreme. We are still recovering from the COVID pandemic,” Dolma Tamang, businesswoman, a friend of Ghimire.
For the last three years, China has allowed only a few containers to cross the transit points on the Nepal-China border.
“It’s regrettable with what happened with Sudarshan Ghimire. He was a very polite and educated person. He was under financial pressure as his goods were stuck at Kerung, Tatopani border and he was not able to pay the loan. This case is just an example but there are almost 8000 traders who are facing similar problems,” Hari Prasad Pandey, Secretary General of Ranjana complex in Kathmandu and a business person told WION.
“The interest rate has increased from 8 per cent to 16 per cent and goods are stuck at the border for 6 months. There is a time to pay a loan but by that time the traders still do not receive their goods. Since COVID this has been a constant problem,” Pandey added.
Pandey said if the borders are closed for three months, small traders face mounting losses. “The traders bear 3 times more loss if borders are closed even for 3 months,” he said.
For three years, China has been closing down the border at intervals, resulting in losses of millions of rupees. Nepali traders are facing massive problems to run their businesses. After Nepal’s political leadership request, China opened the border on September 15.
The decision to open the borders came after the recent visit of the Chairperson of the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress of China, Li Zhanshu to Nepal.
Li held a series of political meetings including with Nepalese Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba, President Bidya Devi Bhandari, Foreign Minister Dr Narayan Khadka and other political leaders.
During the meetings, Nepal requested China to open the transit points and China assured that arrangements would be made soon so that imports and export can be done easily from both northern trading points.
“Since 2015 the trade has been affected between Nepal and China has not been smooth. The Tatopani border was closed for four years. Again in 2019, due to COVID, the transit points have not been functioning smoothly. This time Chinese Government closed down the border suddenly and unannounced for a month. Due to this containers were not allowed to cross the border. Currently, there are over 200 containers still at the border,” Ashok Shrestha, President of the Nepal Trans Himalayan Border Commerce Association shared with WION.
“But we are happy during the visit of the Chinese Speaker, deliberations were held and Nepal pressured China to open the border. Both transit points have resumed bringing relief to Nepalese traders,” he added.
At present more than 200 containers are stranded at the Kerung and Tatopani border points worth Rs 4 billion. Authorities have revealed that as traders have incurred a hefty loss they are importing Chinese goods from Indian ports, Kolkata to keep their business running.