Nepal has banned imports of cars, alcohol, tobacco and other luxury items and shortened its work week to help conserve its dwindling supply of foreign exchange, reports South China Morning Post.
A notice published in the Government Gazette said only emergency vehicles may be imported. No imports of any type of alcohol or tobacco products, large-engine motorcycles and mobile phones worth more than USD 600 will be allowed. The ban, which will last until the end of the fiscal year in mid-July, also forbids imports of toys, playing cards, diamonds and other “non-essential” goods.
Without such drastic measures, the foreign currency reserves needed to import almost everything would last only a few more months, officials 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 the Himalayan country every year, but during the coronavirus pandemic the number of visitors plunged.
Rising prices for oil have increased the pressure on Nepal’s foreign reserves, the report said. To save fuel, Information Minister Gyanendra Karki announced that the government would shorten the work week from five-and-a-half days to five.
However, the crisis is already easing, he said, as tourists resume visits and more Nepalese go overseas to work, sending their earnings home.
The ban on imports of non-essential goods is aimed at pre-empting the situation now faced by regional neighbour Sri Lanka, which is enduring its worst economic crisis in decades after running out of foreign currency to pay for imports.