Saturday, September 19, 2020

IOM assists 63 Nepali migrants with voluntary return from Cyprus

 The International Organisation for Migration (IOM) in Nepal and Cyprus, with support from the government of Republic of Cyprus, and in coordination with the government of Nepal, organised the voluntary return of 63 Nepali nationals. The migrants landed at the Tribhuvan International airport (TIA) today, according to a press note issued by the IOM in Kathmandu.

The mixed group of men and women were mainly students no longer able to pay college fees in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, it reads, adding that the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic on the national economy and human mobility as well as travel restrictions compelled many migrants to turn to IOM for daily subsistence and support to voluntarily return to their countries.

“We are glad to extend our support to Nepali migrants in need,” IOM Nepal Chief of Mission Lorena Lando said, adding that an IOM Nepal team was present at the airport to assist them through immigration in coordination with the country’s Covid-19 Crisis Management Centre (CCMC) and other relevant authorities.

Prior to their departure, all returnees were tested for Covid-19. On flight day, IOM Cyprus staff members assisted the migrants with all airport procedures and one-time cash assistance was given to each as a contribution to their initial expenses upon arrival and immediate needs, chiefly onward travel to their home communities, it adds.

Nepal government is ready to receive them and apply all necessary Covid-19 measures as applicable in the country. “Following the migrants’ registration with IOM to voluntarily return – and thanks to the cooperation with government authorities in Cyprus and Nepal – everyone was ready to help the stranded migrants to voluntarily return to their homes,” said head of Office for IOM Cyprus Natasa Xenophontos Koudouna.

During the flight, all passengers were required to wear masks and gloves. Upon arrival in Kathmandu, information material was distributed, explaining Covid-19 measures, reintegration support and how to contact IOM and the respective country offices. IOM Nepal claimed that it has been regularly assisting vulnerable Nepali migrants for their return and reintegration ever since IOM was established in the country in 2007.

Friday, September 18, 2020

ADB vows to be developing Asia's partner for recovery from Covid-19

 The Asian Development Bank (ADB) is committed to partnering with developing economies in Asia and the Pacific to achieve their recovery goals from the coronavirus disease (Covid-19) pandemic, president Masatsugu Asakawa said in an address to ADB’s Board of Governors today.

“ADB will continue to earn your trust as a steadfast partner during the uncertain times we still face in our region as we build for a strong and lasting recovery,” he said, adding, “Our work toward a sustainable, resilient, and inclusive recovery stands on a foundation of mutual trust formed over decades of cooperation with you, our members.”

He was speaking at the opening of the Business Session of the second part of ADB’s 53rd Annual Meeting of the Board of Governors, this year held in a virtual and abbreviated format due to the Covid-19 pandemic. 

ADB – in April – announced a $20 billion package to help its developing members address Covid-19. This included rapid emergency grants and technical assistance to help governments meet urgent medical needs; a new Covid-19 Pandemic Response Option (CPRO), which is supporting countercyclical expenditure programmes; and assistance for the private sector.

ADB has so far committed about $11.2 billion in financial and technical assistance to fight the pandemic. Working closely with development partners, ADB has also mobilised about $7.2 billion in cofinancing.

As the region moves forward toward recovery, Asakawa said ADB will build on its relationship with its members to support them in six key areas.

First, ADB will promote regional cooperation and integration to help members seize the opportunity that renewed globalization can offer in a post-pandemic new normal. “While there are some who suggest that recent border closures and travel restrictions are signs that globalisation has ground irreversibly to a halt, I do believe that globalization will return, but it will take a different shape,” Asakawa said, adding that ADB will work with developing members to secure more diversified value and supply chains, and to promote regional public goods for better collective prevention of disease outbreaks, mitigation of climate change impacts, and enhancement of the regional financial safety net.

Second, since Covid-19 has contributed to an increase in income inequality and absolute poverty, ADB will strengthen investments in health, education, and social protection, which will better ensure safety and opportunities for all, while building the human capital that economies need to thrive in the long term.

Third, ADB will accelerate its efforts to tackle climate change in order to reach the goals established in its long-term Strategy 2030—to reach $80 billion in cumulative climate investments and 75 per cent of the total number of committed operations by 2030.

Fourth, ADB will invest in information technology and data for health; education; financing for micro, small, and medium enterprises; and remote work—while also addressing both the digital divide and cyber security.

Fifth, ADB will help its members strengthen domestic resource mobilisation through international tax cooperation, since all key areas of development require that governments improve their capacity to mobilise financial resources while managing debt sustainability.

And last, ADB will support the efforts of its developing members to secure safe and effective vaccines, and to formulate strategies for equitable delivery. To accomplish this, ADB will continue to strengthen collaboration with the World Health Organisation (WHO); the World Bank (WB); GAVI, the Vaccine Alliance (VA); vaccine experts; and pharmaceutical companies.

Over two days of online annual meeting events, ministers from ADB members, development and industry experts, journalists, and nongovernment organisations have discussed a range of issues confronting Asia and the Pacific. Other events today included the CNBC Debate, Resetting Asia: Technology, Investment, and Sustainability; and the Governors’ Seminar on Developing Asia Beyond the Pandemic.

ADB is committed to achieving a prosperous, inclusive, resilient, and sustainable Asia and the Pacific, while sustaining its efforts to eradicate extreme poverty. Established in 1966, it is owned by 68 members, 49 from the region.

Thursday, September 17, 2020

World Bank’s $200 million support to strengthen financial sector

 The World Bank approved today a $200 million ‘Finance for Growth’ development policy credit to strengthen financial sector stability, diversify financial solutions, and increase access to financial services in support of Nepal’s Covid-19 resilience and recovery efforts.

“In this era of Covid-19, protecting people’s lives is the priority, but giving a boost to economic recovery is equally urgent,” World Bank country director for Maldives, Nepal and Sri Lanka Faris Hadad-Zervos Faris Hadad-Zervos said, adding that the project and World Bank support will pave the way for the financial sector and capital and insurance markets to strengthen resilience and more effectively contribute to Nepal’s Covid-19 recovery.

The ‘Finance for Growth’ operation will support enhanced supervision of risks confronting the banking and financial institutions, especially in the context of the pandemic’s impacts. The operation will also help build capital, insurance, venture capital and private equity and disaster risk financing markets through regulatory reforms. This will help open new investment opportunities for market actors and crowd-in private financing.

The other critical area of focus is to expand access to finance for households, women and firms through regulatory and other reforms that will attract additional inflows of international finance and mobilise digital services, credit infrastructure and literacy programmes. 

“The project supports the government’s significant reform agenda to enable the financial sector to better respond to the new socio-economic challenges arising from the Covid-19 pandemic,” Project Task Team Leader of the World Bank Peter Mousley said, adding that initiatives to extend access to digital financial services and attract private financing to complement the government’s fiscal resources to address disasters are two innovations that will significantly benefit households and women in Nepal.

Developing countries should invest $1.2 trillion to guarantee basic social protection

 Developing countries should invest approximately $1.2 trillion – on average 3.8 per cent of their GDP – to guarantee at least basic income security and access to essential health care for all in 2020 alone, according to a new ILO policy brief.

Since the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic the social protection financing gap has increased by approximately 30 per cent according to financing gaps in social protection: Global estimate and strategies for developing countries in light of the COVID-19 crisis and beyond. This is the result of the increased need for health-care services and income security for workers, who lost their jobs during the lockdown and the reduction of GDP caused by the crisis.

The situation is particularly dire in low-income countries, who would need to spend nearly 16 per cent of their GDP to close the gap – around $80 billion, the policy brief reads.

Regionally, the relative burden of closing the gap is particularly high in Central and Western Asia, Northern Africa and Sub-Saharan Africa, between 8 per cent and 9 per cent of their GDP. “Even before the Covid-19 crisis – the global community was failing to live up to the social protection legal and policy commitments it had made in the wake of the last global catastrophe – the 2008 financial crisis. “Closing the annual financing gap requires international resources based on global solidarity,” director of the ILO’s Social Protection Department Shahrashoub Razavi said.

Currently, only 45 per cent of the global population is effectively covered by at least one social protection benefit. The remaining population – more than 4 billion people – is completely unprotected. National and international measures to reduce the economic impact of the Covid-19 crisis have provided short-term financing assistance. Some countries have sought innovative sources to increase the fiscal space for extending social protection, like taxes on the trade of large tech companies, the unitary taxation of multinational companies, taxes on financial transactions or airline tickets. With austerity measures already emerging even with the crisis ongoing, these efforts are more pressing than ever, the study reads.

“Low-income countries must invest approximately $80 billion, nearly 16 per cent of their GDP, to guarantee at least basic income security and access to essential health care to all,” director of the ILO’s Social Protection Department Shahrashoub Razavi said, adding that domestic resources are not nearly enough. “Closing the annual financing gap requires international resources based on global solidarity.”

Mobilisation at the international level should complement national efforts, according to the ILO. International financial institutions and development cooperation agencies have already introduced several financial packages to help governments of developing countries tackle the various effects of the crisis but more resources are needed to close the financing gap, particularly in low-income countries.

Asia Pacific health and finance ministers commit to building stronger health systems

 Building on the learnings from the ongoing global Covid-19 pandemic, ministers of health and finance from Asia Pacific countries, including from the WHO South-East Asia Region have committed to build and finance resilient health systems with Universal Health Coverage at the centre of it.

"For every dollar invested in universal health coverage, the return is delivered many times over – first, due to increases in overall population health and well-being and the productivity, jobs and poverty-reduction they promote; and second, because when the quality and reach of health services improves, health systems become more resilient and can better mitigate or manage acute threats while maintaining essential health services’ said WHO South-East Asia Regional director Dr Poonam Khetrapal Singh.

Health and finance ministers from the Asia Pacific Region met at a virtual meeting organised by WHO, the Government of Japan and the Asian Development Bank (ADB) to discuss ways and means to accelerate universal health coverage (UHC) or health for all and mobilise financing for healthcare amidst and beyond the Covid-19 pandemic.

The WHO South-East Asia Region, which was represented by health and finance ministers from several Member countries, has been focusing on UHC as one of its flagship initiatives. The region has adopted two key ministerial declarations on building resilient health systems, the 2019 Delhi Declaration on Preparedness and last week the Region’s Declaration on Collective Response to Covid-19. Both these declarations commit to investing in preparedness and Regional solidarity to make health systems stronger amongst the 11 member countries.

“Across the WHO South-East Asia Region, across Asia and across the world, countries that have made sustained, long-term investments in UHC have health systems that are more resilient, and which have more effectively minimised the spread of Covid-19, maintained essential health services, and mitigated economic shock,” the regional director said.

Since the start of the pandemic almost nine months ago, countries in the region have demonstrated how strong health systems can effectively respond to global health emergencies. Bhutan, the Republic of Korea and Malaysia have provided free testing for Covid-19 and care, which resulted in timely diagnosis and treatment. Bhutan, strongly committed to UHC, has one of the world’s highest testing rates and as of September 17, is yet to report a Covid-19 death. Countries in the region with a strong primary health care infrastructure and human resources have been able to repurpose health workers and respond to the pandemic as well as ensuring continuity of essential health services. Sri Lanka with one of the highest numbers of health workers in Asia has reported only 13 deaths due to Covid to date.

“Countries that are committed to UHC have logistics and supply chains that are more secure, efficient and transparent, and can rapidly meet surge needs, for example by increasing testing capacity, procuring personal protective equipment, or maintaining access to essential medicines and medical products,” Dr Khetrapal Singh said, adding that they are also better able to rapidly roll-out key innovations. “Crucially, countries that are committed to UHC have successfully mobilised the whole-of-government, whole-of-society buy-in required to effectively respond to the pandemic.” Thailand, with a strong investment in public health over the years has managed to keep Covid-19 transmission rates low.

She made a strong plea for prioritising health in government budgets for the short and medium term, for improving investment in primary health care and a better targeting of resources for the poor and the vulnerable, and mobilising domestic revenues for health via pro-health taxes eg on tobacco, alcohol, sugar sweetened beverages.

Nepal makes progress in Human Capital Development

 Nepal has made some progress, though the Covid-19 pandemic threatens hard-won gains in health and education over the past decade, especially in the poorest countries, a new World Bank Group analysis finds. Investments in human capital – the knowledge, skills, and health that people accumulate over their lives – are key to unlocking a child’s potential and to improving economic growth in every country.

The World Bank Group’s 2020 Human Capital Index reveals that pre-pandemic, most countries have made steady progress in building human capital of children, with the biggest strides made in low-income countries.

In Nepal, a child born today will be 50 per cent as productive when she grows up as she would be if she enjoyed complete education and full health. This is higher than the average for South Asia region and higher than average for countries with similar level of income. This is largely due to an improvement in school enrollment and institutionalising the measurement of student learning, reads the analysis.

“Investment in human capital is just as important as investment in infrastructure, if not more, and brings returns in the form of a healthier and more productive workforce in the long run,” World Bank country director for Maldives, Nepal and Sri Lanka Faris Hadad-Zervos said, adding that there is a need for an accelerated push to focus on investing in human capital in the recovery and rebuilding phases after the pandemic. “This requires close collaborations among all three levels of the government in order to bring about large and sustainable changes.”

Due to the pandemic's impact, most children – more than 1 billion – have been out of school and could lose, on average, half a year of schooling, translating into considerable monetary losses in the future. Data also reveals significant disruptions to essential health services for women and children, with many children missing out on crucial vaccinations. The economic impact of the pandemic has been particularly deep for women and for the most disadvantaged families, leaving many vulnerable to food insecurity and poverty.

The 2020 Human Capital Index includes health and education data up to March 2020 for 174 countries covering 98 per cent of the world’s population, providing a pre-pandemic baseline on the health and education status of children.

Today, hard-won human capital gains in many countries are at risk. But countries can do more than just work to recover the lost ground, it reads, adding that to protect and extend earlier human capital gains, countries need to expand health service coverage and quality among marginalized communities, boost learning outcomes together with school enrollments, and support vulnerable families with social protection measures adapted to the scale of the Covid-19 crisis.

In Nepal, it is essential to invest more in the early years, with a focus on those children who have been left behind. This includes safeguarding access to nutritious, safe and affordable diets and providing opportunities for learning and stimulation especially for the poorest and most-affected households, the analysis reads. “Given the current high cost of medical care, resources can be refocused towards ensuring universal access to quality essential primary, emergency and referral health services.”

The World Bank Group is working closely with governments to develop long-term solutions to protect and invest in people during and after the pandemic. In Nepal, it is supporting the development of school safety and hygiene protocols while working with WASH teams to provide basic sanitization and hygiene supplies. The multilateral development partner is also helping strengthen government systems and expand coverage of social security allowances and civil registration to support vulnerable communities. The bank is also supporting the government to strengthen health systems and security and improve the health financing landscape of the country.

Monday, September 14, 2020

Manufacturing is the largest pay master

 Manufacturing sector is the largest pay master in the country, according to the National Economic Census 2018.

The first ever census – conducted by the Central Bureau of Statistics (CBS) – revealed that in terms of annual salary and wages payment ‘manufacturing’ such as tea factories and brick factories is the largest paying sector with Rs. 86 billion accounting for 20.3 per cent followed by ‘education’ such as schools, universities with Rs 68 billion (16.3 per cent) and ‘wholesale and retail trade; repair of motor vehicles and motorcycles’ as shops, supermarkets and department stores pay Rs 66 billion (15.6 per cent). “In Nepal, almost 80 per cent of the entities with paid employees were registered.”

The report on salaries and wages of persons engaged in the entities throughout Nepal – published by the CBS – also revealed that annual salaries and wages of ‘Registered’ entities were Rs 406 billion accounting for 96.4 per cent of the total. “On the other hand, those of ‘Not registered’ entities were 15 billion (3.5 per cent) only,” it reads, adding that the most of registered entities pay salaries and wages. 

The first ever National Economic Census 2018 was conducted with the technical support from Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA). The census covered all fixed and movable establishments that existed in Nepal at the reference date of the census operation that was April 14, 2018. According to the census data, there were 900,924 entities in Nepal where 3,115,112 persons were engaged. 

The economic census collected information on average monthly salaries and wages from the entities with paid employees. There were 219,303 entities with paid employees in Nepal and the number of paid employees stood at 1,709,101, the census data revealed, adding that the annual salaries and wages came out to be Rs 421 billion. 

Nepal had 36,172 entities with paid employees and female managers; and their annual salaries and wages accounted for 8.5 per cent of the total. Looking at the annual salaries and wages of entities with female managers by industry, ‘financial and insurance activities’ was the largest section with Rs 7.2 billion accounting for 20.1 per cent, followed by ‘education’ accounting Rs 6.8 billion (19.0 per cent), ‘wholesale and retail trade, repair of motor vehicles and motorcycles’ accounting 4.1 billion (11.5 per cent).

Looking at the annual salaries and wages by district, Kathmandu – the capital – was the largest district with Rs 141 billion accounting for 33.4 per cent followed by Lalitpur with Rs 32 billion (7.6 per cent), Morang Rs 21 billion (5.0 per cent), Rupandehi Rs 18.5 billion (4.38 per cent), Kaski Rs 18.3 billion (4.35 per cent). There is a huge differences between three districts in Kathmandu Valley and other districts across the country because many head offices and entities with paid employees are located in Kathmandu Valley, and their all financial statements are managed by head office.

Likewise, Rukum East was the smallest district with Rs 100 million accounting for 0.02 per cent followed by Manang Rs 103 million (0.02 per cent); and Rasuwa Rs 173 million (0.04 per cent) in terms of annual salary and wages payment.