Sunday, January 21, 2018

Nepal ‘partly free’ country

Nepal is a 'partly free' country according to the 2018 world freedom index published by Freedom House.
Nepal has slightly improved its ranking and got the score of 55 out of 100. It had scored 52 in 2017. Freedom House rates a country on the basis of Freedom Rating, Political Rights, and Civil liberties. Nepal has scored 3.5, out of 7 in the Freedom Rating, whereas it scored 3 out of 7 in Political Rights and 4 out of 7 in Civil liberties. According to the freedom index, score 1 is the freest, whereas, 7 is the least free country.
Freedom House acknowledges the uptrend is due to 'to the first national, regional, and local elections held under a new constitution, with high voter turnout despite some reports of violence'.
Among South Asian nations, only India remains free with the score of 77, out of 100. Sri Lanka, Bhutan, and Nepal share the same score and ranking, whereas Bangladesh scores 45 out of 100. But Pakistan scores 43 out of 100 and Afghanistan scores 26 out of 100, which are not free country. China – the least free country – scores 14 out of 100.
South Asian countries have a big task ahead to improve its Freedom Index in the year 2018.
However, Nepal received an upward trend arrow due to the first national, regional, and local elections held under a new constitution, with high voter turnout despite some reports of violence.

Friday, January 12, 2018

ADB operations reach $28.9 billion

Asian Development Bank (ADB) operations—comprising approvals of loans and grants, technical assistance (TA), and cofinancing—reached $28.9 billion in 2017 in its continued efforts to help meet Asia and the Pacific’s development needs, according to preliminary figures released today.
Approvals of loans and grants from ADB’s own resources reached a record $19.1 billion, representing a 9 per cent increase from the $17.5 billion seen in 2016. This puts ADB well on its way to meet its $20 billion target by 2020. Of the total, non-sovereign (primarily private sector) operations accounted for $3.2 billion, a 26 per cent increase from $2.5 billion in 2016. TA, meanwhile, increased by about 22 per cent to $205 million from $169 million in the previous year.
Commitments (the amount of loans and grants signed)—ADB’s new performance measure—reached $20.1 billion. This is a significant increase from $13.3 billion in 2016, reflecting the signing of large projects approved in 2016 and 2017.
“The strong figures for ADB operations in the past year were supported by the successful merger of ADB’s concessional Asian Development Fund (ADF) lending operations with the Ordinary Capital Resources balance sheet—which took effect at the start of 2017,” ADB President Takehiko Nakao said. “This will allow us to deliver a much higher level of assistance to our developing member countries for years to come without seeking a capital increase.”
A highlight of ADB’s operational figures for 2017 is climate financing, which reached a record $4.5 billion (comprising mitigation $3.6 billion and adaptation $0.9 billion), a 21% increase from 2016. This puts ADB in a good position to achieve its $6 billion climate financing target by 2020.
Cofinancing approvals declined to $9.5 billion in 2017 from the $13.9 billion recorded in 2016, partly due to the delay of large expected cofinanced projects. Disbursements were $11.7 billion in 2017, compared to $12.7 billion in 2016. This is because of lower approvals, and hence disbursements, of policy-based lending and counter-cyclical support facility, among other factors.
“Disbursements are essential to make a difference on the ground. Cofinancing and catalyzation is a much-discussed strategy in the international community to realize the Sustainable Development Goals,” said Mr. Nakao. “ADB will come up with additional concrete measures to increase disbursements and cofinancing, building on the new procurement policy approved in April 2017 and ongoing efforts to leverage resources.”
Among ADB’s other operational highlights were projects that combine finance with innovative approaches to development, including satellite data and remote sensing to improve irrigation in Indonesia and Pakistan, pilot testing of climate-smart agriculture practices in Bangladesh, and supporting social welfare reforms in Mongolia to promote human development.
An innovative $100 million TA loan to the Philippines, approved in October 2017, will help the government prepare and deliver infrastructure projects under its Build Build Build program. 
On the funding side, ADB offered new and innovative thematic products such as the health bond and gender bond. This is on top of increased efforts to raise local currency funding to meet the growing demand for nonsovereign local currency loans. ADB’s Indonesian rupiah bond in December was the first bond issued from a multilateral development bank of which Indonesia is a shareholder.
ADB launched three high-impact publications in 2017. Meeting Asia’s Infrastructure Needs estimated Asia and the Pacific’s annual infrastructure needs at $1.7 trillion per year until 2030. A Region at Risk: The Human Dimensions of Climate Change in Asia and the Pacific put forward scenarios of the devastating effects of climate change. The ADB history book, Banking on the Future of Asia and the Pacific focused on the region’s economic development, the evolution of the international development agenda, and the story of ADB over 50 years.
To scale up the bank’s operations with quality, the ADB Board approved the 2018 budget totaling $672.3 million, an increase of 3.9 per cent over 2017, comprising 2.2 per cent  price growth and 1.7 per cent volume growth. This budget supports the ongoing investments in IT reforms and organisational resilience. ADB continues to make its utmost efforts at staff optimization and efficiency measures.
A key priority for ADB in 2018 is to finalise its new corporate strategy, Strategy 2030. ADB’s 51st Annual Meeting of its Board of Governors will be held in Manila again in May after 6 years. Strategy 2030, the impact of technological change and globalization on jobs, aging and longevity dividends, role of women entrepreneurs, and private sector participation in infrastructure development will be among the topics discussed. ADB expects more than 3,000 participants to attend the meeting.
ADB, based in Manila, is dedicated to reducing poverty in Asia and the Pacific through inclusive economic growth, environmentally sustainable growth, and regional integration. Established in 1966, it is owned by 67 members, 48 from the region.

Nepal ends India's Internet monopoly

The commercial operation of Nepal-China optical fiber link has begun from today, ending India's monopoly in cyber connectivity network.
The landlocked Nepal was totally dependent on India for access to the worldwide web through connections at Biratnagar, Bhairahawa and Birgunj, for which it pays a substantial sum as fees and royalties but Nepal Telecom (NT) and China Telecom Global today launched their services giving Nepal an option.
The information and communication minister Mohan Bahadur Basnet and Chinese ambassador Yu Hong inaugurated the new optical fibre link during a ceremony in Kathmandu.
The telecom companies had finished the laying of optical fibre cables between Kerung in China and Rasuwagadi in Nepal, about 50 km north of Kathmandu before the launching of the connectivity. A successful test of the link was conducted last week before it became operational on Friday.
"It will give Nepal an alternative to India for cyber connectivity and ensure uninterrupted connections," Pratibha Vaidya, Nepal Telecom spokesperson said, adding that Nepali consumers can now look forward to a reliable service. He noted that infrastructure had also been created to extend the Chinese railway network to Nepal.
Ambassador Yu, on the occasion, said China is the second largest investor in Nepal and also send many tourists to the country.
Nepal Telecom (NT), the government-owned telecom service provider, has now acquired bandwidth from China Telecom Global Limited, with its head office in Hong Kong. NT signed an agreement with the Chinese company in December 2016 to acquire bandwidth.
Nepal’s has a 25-GBPS link with India while the Chinese link is 1.5 GBPS. "The cost of internet services will remain the same," she said, adding that Nepal has been connected with China at only one point now, which will be increased in the future.
According to a report from Nepal Telecommunications Authority (NTA), more than 61 percent of Nepal population of more than 26 million is connected to the internet, mostly through mobile devices.

Sunday, December 31, 2017

Sebon asks hydel firms to issue IPO only after declaring financial details

The capital market regulator has directed the hydropower companies to provide information about their financial status before issuing their initial public offering (IPO) to help people make informed decision.
Securities Board of Nepal (Sebon) directive comes at a time when the hydropower companies are preparing to issue their public offerings. "Some 16 hydropower companies are planning to issue IPOs," according ot the regulator. "The trend of even the hydropower companies which are not financially sound issuing their IPOs has increased by keeping the people in the dark." 
The regulator has also instructed – also to make the IPO issuance process systematised, transparent and simple – the companies to give information regarding the duration the investments made in the projects will start giving returns and the bases. It has asked the hydropower companies to provide clear information regarding the per megawatt (MW) cost, the remaining term of the power production license and the period the investment would be refunded, according to Sebon director Niraj Giri. "They also have to disclose information on net assets per share and the per share income as per their audited financial statement," he said, adding that the companies which are into operation for three years have to give the complete details for all the previous years, whereas the companies not completing three years operation also have to provide details of the period they have been into operation. "Te hydropower companies also have to give clear information about their audit reports."
The hydropower companies have to issue 10 per cent shares to the project affected locals and 15 per cent shares to the general public as it is mandatory.
The Independent Power Producers' Association of Nepal (IPPAN) has welcomed the regulator's move.
The banks and financial institutions (BFIs) dominated share market has currently 17 hydropower companies that are registered with the Nepal Stock Exchange (Nepse). But only a few of them are in profit, according to the first quarterly report. 

Nepal features on British travel agents’ best holiday destination list

Nepal is featured on British travel agents’ best holiday destination list for 2018.
The Association of British Travel Agents' has published a list of 12 best holiday destinations for 2018. "The destinations picked from around the world are expected to be in high demand among Britishers next year," according to the report.
Those named best destinations on the list besides Nepal are Argentina, Arizona, British Columbia, Germany, Malta, Montenegro, New Zealand, Rwanda, St Lucia, Sweden and Turkey.
“The locations were picked for several key reasons including unique travel experience, something special is happening in 2018," it reads, adding that there is easy accessibility for British tourists or the destination is s a well-known with hidden gems.
Meanwhile, the report predicts that vacations will remain a spending priority from British citizens in the new year despite the weakening pound and wider economic issues over the past year.

Monday, November 13, 2017

Sebon warns against market manipulation

Securities Board of Nepal (Sebon) has directed the merchant bankers and share brokers not to disseminate sensitive information that could manipulate the movement of secondary market.
After receiving numerous grievances from the investors, the capital market regulator issuing a directive today said that share market seems to have been manipulated due to dissemination of sensitive information by the broker companies and merchant bankers. "In recent days, we have received many complaints about the market movement being swayed due to release of sensitive information,” said joint spokesperson for Sebon Niranjaya Ghimire. "The brokerage firms and merchant bankers are engaging in market manipulation through media and other platforms."
The regulator has also directed merchant bankers and share brokerage firms not to make any comments on the price of individual company or sub-index.
The Sebon has also warned to take strict action against the brokerage firms found to be disseminating information based on speculations related to individual company or sub-index.
Nepal Investors’ Forum Working Committee members yesterday had met Nepal Stock Exchange (Nepse) officials and chairman of Sebon to discuss the market.

South Asia Economic Summit from tomorrow

Nepal is hosting a three-day regional economic summit to strengthen economic integration in the South Asia and sub-region.
The tenth South Asia Economic Summit (SAESX) – with the theme Deepening Economic Integration for Inclusive and Sustainable Development in South Asia – will start tomorrow. It will be attended by more than 200 delegates, including ministers, members of Parliament, planners, senior government officials and leading think tanks and researchers from South Asian countries to discuss on inclusive and sustainable development, according to a press note from the National Planning Commission (NPC).
The main theme of the summit will be strengthening economic integration in the sub-region for attaining inclusive and sustainable development, it added.
National Planning Commission and Commerce Ministry in collaboration with South Asia Watch on Trade, Economics and Environment (SAWTEE) is organising the summit that consists of 18 sessions in which a wide range of issues, including regional trade potentials, cooperation on power trade, collaboration for reducing disaster impacts, intellectual property relating to herbs, employment generation, trade facilitation, collaborate on climate change, international labour migration will be discussed.
South Asia Economic Summit is a civil society initiative – almost a track 2 initiative – of the South Asian think-tanks and is organised in different countries of South Asia. Five South Asian think-tanks including South Asia Watch on Trade, Economics and Environment (SAWTEE), Nepal, Centre for Policy Dialogue (CPD) Bangladesh, Research and Information System for Developing Countries (RIS) India, Sustainable Development Policy Institute (SDPI) Pakistan and Institute of Policy Studies of Sri Lanka (IPS) Sri Lanka take turns to organise the annual event in one of the SAARC countries.
Established in 2008 the regional economic platform has also initiated debate and discussions on various issues relating to South Asian development challenges and succeeded in developing itself as an effective medium of regional integration and economic collaboration in less than a decade, said vice chair of NPC Swornim Wagley.
The main objective of the summit is to help the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) process on economic development.
Wagle said the conference would help to develop consensus among the participating countries on the main agendas and challenges of development issues as the South Asian region is known as the least integrated region of the world due to lack of connectivity. Intra-regional trade and investment among South Asian countries is just around five per cent of the total trade and investment of South Asian countries with the countries beyond the region.