Still, there are people like Naren Banstola who use the post out of official compulsion. “The government still uses the post to mail official letters,” he explains while waiting at the counter one recent morning, “So, as a government employee I have to send and receive official documents through the post.”
Another customer, Yusef Basnet, says he uses the postal system because it is more affordable, but makes a copy of every letter he mails in case the delivery is delayed or the document is lost.
Postmaster Bhattarai admits: “Much of the problem is because customers do not know that we have EMS for urgent mail or that we provide a money order service.” The irony of this admission is lost on the Chief Postmaster — he is the one person who has the power to ensure that customers do know.
Nepal Post has never broken even, and its annual loss in 2017 was Rs2.4 billion. Staff retention and low morale are problems – most employees feel the postal service will not survive. There is also the problem of insufficient budget. Bhattarai shrugs: “Every time we try to do something innovative, we face a problem of funds. If something is not done, there won’t be post offices anymore.”
At the Postal Services Department, director Upadhyaya is equally despondent: “The government itself does not see a future in the postal service, and is reluctant to invest in it.”
One way to sustain the postal service would be to commercialise it so it can compete with private providers. A Ministry of Information task force recommended a slimmer bureaucracy, more autonomy from the government, and transformation of Nepal Post into a corporation.
Explains Bhattarai: “The era of writing letters is now gone forever. But the postal service still has potential to use e-commerce for a courier service.”
The proposed Postal Act, which is currently in the federal Parliament, includes suggestions of the task force for incorporation and market expansion, while also restructuring Nepal Post to fit the current federal model of the country.
Director Upadhyaya is optimistic: “If passed, the Act would save Nepal Post.”
Meanwhile, the post office has tried to address public concerns about unreliability by starting a tracking system for domestic and international mail that would inform customers about the exact whereabouts of their mail. It is also seeking to reach all 753 local levels with its mobile postal service.