Money and Banking
Nepal's first commercial bank, the Nepal Bank Limited, was established in 1937. The government owned 51 percent of the shares in the bank and controlled its operations to a large extent. Nepal Bank Limited was headquartered in Kathmandu and had branches in other parts of the country.
There were other government banking institutions. Rastriya Banijya Bank (National Commercial Bank), a state-owned commercial bank, was established in 1966. The Land Reform Savings Corporation was established in 1966 to deal with finances related to land reforms.
There were two other specialized financial institutions. Nepal Industrial Development Corporation, a state-owned development finance organization headquartered in Kathmandu, was established in 1959 with United States assistance to offer financial and technical assistance to private industry. Although the government invested in the corporation, representatives from the private business sector also sat on the board of directors. The Co-operative Bank, which became the Agricultural Development Bank in 1967, was the main source of financing for small agribusinesses and cooperatives. Almost 75 percent of the bank was state-owned; 21 percent was owned by the Nepal Rastra Bank, and 5 percent by cooperatives and private individuals. The Agricultural Development Bank also served as the government's implementing agency for small farmers' group development projects assisted by the Asian Development Bank and financed by the United Nations Development Programme. The Ministry of Finance reported in 1990 that the Agricultural Development Bank, which is vested with the leading role in agricultural loan investment, had granted loans to only 9 percent of the total number of farming families since 1965.
Since the 1960s, both commercial and specialized banks have expanded. More businesses and households had better access to the credit market although the credit market had not expanded.
In the mid-1980s, three foreign commercial banks opened branches in Nepal. The Nepal Arab Bank was co-owned by the Emirates Bank International Limited (Dubai), the Nepalese government, and the Nepalese public. The Nepal Indosuez Bank was jointly owned by the French Banque Indosuez, Rastriya Banijya Bank, Rastriya Beema Sansthan (National Insurance Corporation), and the Nepalese public. Nepal Grindlays Bank was co-owned by a British firm called Grindlays Bank, local financial interests, and the Nepalese public.
Nepal Rastra Bank was created in 1956 as the central bank. Its function was to supervise commercial banks and to guide the basic monetary policy of the nation. Its major aims were to regulate the issue of paper money; secure countrywide circulation of Nepalese currency and achieve stability in its exchange rates; mobilize capital for economic development and for trade and industry growth; develop the banking system in the country, thereby ensuring the existence of banking facilities; and maintain the economic interests of the general public. Nepal Rastra Bank also was to oversee foreign exchange rates and foreign exchange reserves.
Prior to the establishment of Nepal Rastra Bank, Kathmandu had little control over its foreign currency holdings. Indian rupees were the prevalent medium of exchange in most parts of the country. Nepalese currency was used mostly in the Kathmandu Valley and the surrounding hill areas. The existence of a dual currency system made it hard for the government to know the status of Indian currency holdings in Nepal. The exchange rates between Indian and Nepalese rupees were determined in the marketplace. Between 1932 and 1955, the value of 100 Indian rupees varied between Rs71 and Rs177. The government entered the currency market with a form of fixed exchange rate between the two currencies in 1958. An act passed in 1960 sought to regulate foreign exchange transactions. Beginning in the 1960s, the government made special efforts to use Nepalese currency inside the country as a medium of exchange.
It was only after the signing of the 1960 Trade and Transit Treaty with India that Nepal had full access to foreign currencies other than the Indian rupee. Prior to the treaty, all foreign exchange earnings went to the Central Bank of India, and all foreign currency needs were provided by the Indian government. After 1960 Nepal had full access to all foreign currency transactions and directly controlled its exports and imports with countries other than India.
As a result of the treaty, the government had to separate Indian currency (convertible currency because of free convertibility) from other currencies (nonconvertible currency because it was directly controlled by Nepal Rastra Bank). In 1991 government statistics still separated trade with India from trade with other countries. Tables showing international reserves listed convertible and nonconvertible foreign exchange reserves separately.
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