Cash-strapped Nepal bans car imports, cuts working week | Business

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KATHMANDU, Nepal (AP) — Nepal on Wednesday banned imports of cars, alcohol, tobacco and other luxury items and shortened its working week to help retain its dwindling foreign exchange supply.

A notice published in the official gazette indicates that only emergency vehicles can be imported. No imports of any type of alcohol or tobacco products, large engine motorcycles and cell phones costing more than $600 will be permitted.

The ban, in effect until the end of the fiscal year in mid-July, also prohibits imports of toys, playing cards and diamonds.

Without these drastic measures, the currency reserves needed to import almost everything will only last a few more months, officials said.

Nepal’s main sources of foreign exchange are tourism, remittances from foreign workers and foreign aid.

Hundreds of thousands of foreign tourists usually visit the Himalayan country each year, but visitor numbers have plunged during the coronavirus pandemic.

Rising oil prices have added pressure on Nepal’s foreign reserves. So to save fuel, Information Minister Gyanendra Karki announced on Wednesday that the government would reduce the working week from five and a half days to five.

However, the crisis is already easing, he said, as tourists resume their visits and more Nepalese go to work abroad, sending their earnings home.

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