Nepal's economy is irrevocably tied to India. Nepal's geographical position and the scarcity of natural resources used in the production of industrial goods meant that its economy was subject to fluctuations resulting from changes in its relationship with India. Trade and transit rights affected the movement of goods and increased transportation costs, although Nepal also engaged in unrecorded border trade with India. Real economic growth averaged 4 percent annually in the 1980s, but the 1989 trade and transit dispute with India adversely affected economic progress, and economic growth declined to only 1.5 percent that year as the availability of imported raw materials for export industries was disrupted.
The Nepalese rupee was linked to the Indian rupee. Since the late 1960s, the universal currency has been Nepalese, although as of 1991 Indian currency still was used as convertible currency. During the trade and transit dispute of 1989, however, Kathmandu made convertibility of the Indian rupee more difficult.
Agricultural domination of the economy had not changed by 1991. What little industrial activity there was largely involved the processing of agricultural products. Since the 1960s, investment in the agricultural sector has not had a parallel effect in productivity per unit of land. Agricultural production continued to be influenced by weather conditions and the lack of arable land and has not always kept pace with population growth.
Nepal suffered from an underdeveloped infrastructure. This problem was exacerbated by a weak public investment program and ineffective administrative services. Economic development plans sought to improve the infrastructure but were implemented at the expense of investment in direct production and resulted in a slow growth rate. Further, economic growth did not keep pace with population growth. Largely dependent on agriculture, economic growth also was undermined by poor harvests. The growth of public expenditures during the first half of the 1980s doubled the current account deficit of the balance of payments and caused a serious decline in international reserves.
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