Thursday, August 8, 2019

Gold sets historic record of Rs 70,000 per tola

The precious yellow metal price – that has been rising since the last few weeks – set a new record of Rs 70,000 per tola (11.664 grams) in the domestic market today, as it continued to rise on the sixth consecutive day today.
The price of gold surged by Rs 500 per tola today to reach Rs 70,000 per tola – for the first time in Nepal – confirmed Federation of Nepal Gold and Silver Dealers’ Association (Fenegosida). “The gold price has increased by Rs 4,500 a tola in the last three weeks.”
The hike in gold price in the domestic market is mainly due to rise in the price of the precious metal in the global market. The trade dispute between the United States and China, along with increased tariffs by the US on Chinese goods resulted in investors flocking to gold, which is considered a safe investment, pushing the gold price is expected to rise further. “Government decision to hike import tax on gold has also made gold dearer in the domestic market,” the bullion traders said, adding that the government – through the budget for fiscal 2019-20 – had increased the import duty on gold by Rs 800 per 10 grams. “Thr gold importers now have to pay import tax worth Rs 5,000 per 10 grams, against Rs 4,200 per 10 grams earlier.”
Due to continuious surge in the price, the daily demand of raw gold in the domestic market has gone down to less than 10 kg from the normal market demanded of almost 30 kg of raw gold daily, according to the federation. “Due to falling demand, the commercial banks have also stopped importing gold temporarily.”
According to Nepal Bankers’ Association (NBA), commercial banks have almost 560 kg gold in stock.
With gold prices following a high trajectory, the bullion traders said the value could reach up to Rs75,000 per tola. On Wednesday, gold soared over 2 per cent to break the $1,500 barrier for the first time in over six years.
Similarly, the price of silver has also increased by Rs 15 to reach Rs 825 per tola.

Wednesday, August 7, 2019

Ministry forms task force to study NAC status

The Ministry of Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation (MoCTCA) has formed a task force to study the present status of national flag carrier.
The task force will study Nepal Airlines Corporation (NAC) current status, determine problems affecting it, and recommend a way forward, according to a press note issued by the the minsirty here today.
The five-member task force led by former secretary Sushil Ghimire includes accounting expert Pramod Karna, management expert Dim Prakash Poudel, Captain Sudhir Shamsher Rai, and joint secretary Buddhi Sagar Lamichhane, tourism minister Yogesh Bhattarai, said.
“The task force has been established to study various aspects of NAC in order to determine problems plaguing the company and to figure out ways of improvement in its functioning,” it reads, adding that it is expected to present a proposal with tangible solutions within a period of one month along with a work-plan to implement the suggested solutions. “It is necessary to increase the business capacity of the corporation and bring immediate as well as long term improvement to internal management.”
The financial bankrupt national flag carreier has suffered due to red tape and government interventions.
“Nepal Airlines will look forward to operating regular flights to different international destinations in China and South Korea,” the minister said, adding that the Nijgadh International Airport’s foundation stone will also be laid within this fiscal year.

Tuesday, August 6, 2019

LPG price comes down by Rs 25 per cylinder

Nepal Oil Corporation (NOC) has adjusted the price of petroleum products effective from today.
The state petrol monopoly has slashed the price of liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) by Rs 25 per cylinder, bringing the price down to Rs 1,375 per cylinder, whereas it has increased the price of petrol by Re 1, and diesel and kerosene by 50 paisa per liter, respectively.
According to the spokesperson of the NOC Birendra Goit, petrol, diesel and kerosene will now cost Rs 109, Rs 97 and Rs 97 per liter, respectively. “The new prices came into effect from today itself,” he said, adding that the price has been revised according to the automated pricing system. “The NOC receives price of list of products from Indian Oil Corporation (IOC) every fortnight, and revises the price in the domestic market too.”
The IOC sends price rate on 1st and 16th of every Gregorian month.
The NOC has kept the price of aviation turbine fuel (ATF) unchanged, Goit added.

Gold price looks up, again

The price of gold – continuing setting a new record in the domestic market – increased by Rs 200 today to be traded at Rs 68,000 per tola (11.664 gram) to set a new record high.
According to the Federation of Nepal Gold and Silver Dealers’ Association (Fenegosida), the hike in price also slowed down trade of precious yellow metal before the festive seasons. “
The price of gold yesterday had reached to Rs 67,800 increased by Rs 1500 in a day. “However, the price of silver has remained unchanged at Rs 795 today,” the association said, adding that American Federal Reserve has lowered the interest rate for the first time in years pushing the price in the international market up. 

Monday, August 5, 2019

Confusion due to lapses in procedure: Minister

Reiterating the ministry’s commitment to global trade regime’s rules and regulations and that the misalignments was a result of lapses in procedure but not of intent, industry minister Matrika Yadav today said that it has, though, created an avalanche of awareness.
Addressing an interaction programme organised Ministry of Industry, Commerce and Supplies (MoICS) and South Asia Watch on Trade and Economics and Environment (SAWTEE) to discuss Sanitary and Phytosanitary (SPS)-related international laws and practices which could impact agriculture trade, Yadav pointed out that despite the initial turmoil created by recent policy change by the government and its retraction, it has also created an avalanche of awareness. He also stressed the need to create awareness amongst the stakeholders regarding the issues related to World Trade Organisation (WTO) and other regional and bilateral agreements.
Considering the recent decision by the government to make pesticides residue mandatory for the fruits and vegetables imports and eventual withdrawal of the decision within 18 days and ensuing public reaction, the programme aimed at unknotting the issue. The main objective of the programme was to create awareness on SPS issues in agriculture trade and discuss measures that Nepal should undertake in moving forward.
On the occasion, industry secretary Kedar Bahadur Adhikari stressed the need to build legal, institutional and other mechanisms to regulate import as well export. He said that human resource is not a problem with the government but managing them properly is an issue. “We have reached a stage where all the basic framework have been set up and hence are in a state to leap frog and make rapid progress,” he said.
Likewise, chairman of SAWTEE Dr Posh Raj Pandey, on the occasion, stressed the need to build related institutions and coordination amongst the relevant government institutions. He said that being a party to international agreements we have to be mindful of both the rights and duties and, hence, this programme is to discuss the optimal way to protect plant, animal and human life while honouring the international, regional and bilateral agreements. He further added that we need to make an attempt to discuss this issue with relevant stakeholders to build consensus for the way forward.
Presenting a paper on ‘SPS measures in Nepal’s agricultural trade’, research director of SAWTEE Dr Paras Kharel highlighted the high degree of import dependency on India for agricultural and food products, indicating that any disruptions at the borders will have severe implications.
Calling attention to the ‘letter’ – allegedly sent by Indian Embassy in Kathmandu in response to Nepal’s policy change with regard to fruits and vegetables imports – he pointed out that it only talked about phytosanitary certificate, which, in reality, does not concern pesticides residue tests. His paper further delineated current sanitary and phytosanitary constraints such as lack of legislations, institutional inadequacies, human resources constraints, and most importantly, extremely poor state of testing facilities. Adoption of international standards for commodities that currently do not have standards, upgradation of laboratories, accreditation over the most important parameters and, ultimately, the mutual recognition agreements with the major trading partners, were pointed out as the likely way forward.
Emphasising the need to protect the consumers from pesticides residue risks, chief at the Plant Quarantine and Pest Management Centre (PQPMC) Dr Dilli Ram Sharma pointed out the lapses made by government while implementing the policy, particularly, the failure to notify the policy change in advance, six months being the legally binding international norms. He also mentioned that pesticides test on each consignment of perishable items is not infeasible but also unprecedented globally and, hence, procedures like screening, certifications, risk-based sampling must be adopted to ensure that trade continues as usual and consumer health is not compromised. He also informed that agriculture ministry and its other bodies is rapidly moving ahead with necessary changes and the upcoming meeting between National Plant Protection Organisations of India and Nepal will be taking crucial decisions on August 16 in addressing these issues bilaterally. 
Likewise, chairman of Forum for Consumer Protection Jyoti Baniya pointed out the lack of proper legislative framework as a key constraint, for example, Nepal has not promulgated new laws to replace the outdated Food Act and Import Export Act. Nepal is yet to come up with the much-needed Accreditation Act.
Joint secretary at the ministry Madhu Kumar Marasini pointed out the need to undertake more such consultations for strengthening out sanitary and phytosanitary regime so that consumer health interest are preserved and trade disruptions are avoided.
Similarly managing director at the Agriculture Enterprise Centre (AEC) under Federation of Nepalese Chambers of Commerce and Industries (FNCCI) Dinesh Parajuli pointed out the need to enhance awareness among farmers regarding use of pesticides, as well as, improving capacity of Nepali laboratories and human resource.
Other participants of the programme included officials from concerned department under MoALD, representatives from farmers’ associations, consumer and human rights activists, representatives from media, among others. They pointed out the need for equipped laboratories, internationally-recognised accreditation of laboratories, paving the way for mutual recognition agreements, and effective coordination between government agencies and other stakeholders.

Central bank sets age limit for CEOs, directors of BFIs

The central bank has set an age bar for chief executive officers (CEOs) and board of directors (BoD) of banks and financial institutions (BFIs).
Nepal Rastra Bank (NRB) – issuing a circular – has barred BFIs from appointing or reappointing CEOs, who are above 65 years of age. According to the new rule, the chief executive officer will not be allowed to continue to work in any bank or financial institution after crossing the age of 69.
Likewise, the central bank has set 70 years age limit for board of directors, though the banks and financial institutions have reservation over the central bank decision. The board director will not be allowed to continue in the same capacity after crossing the age of 75, the circular reads.
The circular has, however, not made it clear whether the age bar will affect those who have already got the appointment. The central bank will, however, decided about enforcement of age bar for those who have already got appointment later before the new rule came into force.
Likewise, the central bank has also issued a new circular on the basis of Monetary Policy for the fiscal year 2019-20. The new circular has directed commercial banks to lower their average interest rates spread below 4.4 per cent by mid-July next year. The maximum difference between the average interest rates on loans and deposits was capped at 4.5 per cent earlier. However, commercial banks that go for merger and acquisition (M&A) and start joint operation by mid-July next year will get a relaxation on the deadline for meeting the interest rates spread cap.
The central bank has also barred banks from charging more than two percentage points in premium on their base rate as interest rates on loans of up to Rs 1.5 million on agricultural, entrepreneurial and business promotion. As per Monetary Policy, the central bank has also directed commercial banks to issue debentures/corporate bonds amounting to 25 per cent of their paid-up capital by end of the fiscal year. The BFIs failing to abide by the new requirement will face actions like a ban on the expansion of their branches and no refinance facility, according to the central bank.
The circular has also lowered the maximum limit that a BFI can collect deposits from a single institutional investor. A BFI, at present, will not be allowed to mobilise more than 10 per cent of deposits from a firm, company or organised institution, down from earlier ceiling of 15 per cent. While reducing the general refinance rate for bank loans to small and medium enterprises, it has also lowered the maximum interest rates that BFIs can charge from them. Under the new arrangement, the central bank will provide refinance facility for loans up to Rs 1 million to BFIs at 3 per cent. The banks are not allowed to charge more than 7 per cent interest rates for loans floated under refinance facility. Earlier, such refinance rate was 5 per cent while the ceiling on lending rate was 10 per cent.
Likewise, the central bank has also allowed BFIs to float loans against the collateral of arable land even without road access. The central bank has made it mandatory for BFIs to provide decision about such loans within seven days with clear reasons.

NATTA urges TIA to operate round-the-clock

The Nepal Association of Tour and Travel Agents (NATTA) today urged the government to operate the Tribhuvan International Airport (TIA) with its full capacity.
A NATTA office-bearer team meeting minister for Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation Yogesh Kumar Bhattarai at Singha Durbar today – has urged him for the operation of TIA round-the-clock to manage the existing air traffic pressure at the only international airport of the country.
The team also urged the minister to carry out the reform activities immediately to reduce the situation of keeping aircraft on hold in the sky for long due to the increasing pressure of air traffic and to make flights on time. The NATTA, on the occasion, also submitted a 12-point demand along with the existing problem of the tourism sector and suggestions to minister Bhattarai.
The TIA was brought into operation for 21 hours daily from May 26, 2018. However, it was operated for 14 hours daily for two months to carry out the repair and maintenance of the airport, but has now come into operation for 21 hours after repair and maintenance.
TIA general manager Raj Kumar Chhetri, on the occasion, said that TIA reform activities have been accelerated to run it with full capacity. Similarly, NATTA chair CN Pandey urged bodies concerned to make all services of TIA, the only international airport of the country, smooth and effective.