Monday, May 7, 2018

30 million children at the age of 5-14 are currently left out of school

South Asia is currently home to more than 10 million out-of-school children, who should be able to attend primary level and 20 million out-of-school children at secondary level. 
"While impressive strides have been made in achieving universal primary education, we have a learning crisis in South Asia with only about half of primary-aged children receiving education with minimum learning standards," according to regional director for UNICEF South Asia Jean Gough.
"We need much greater investment and increased quality education for girls and boys alike, if we hope to see the next generation reach their full potential," Gough said, adding that many countries in South Asia though have prioritised education and have achieved commendable gains in getting children into school, significant challenges remain.
Only 69 per cent of children have access to early childhood education and only a quarter of young people leave school with the secondary skills they need. The growing skills gap will stunt economic growth, with far-reaching social and political repercussions.  Unless urgent action is taken, the region will fall short of meeting the Education Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 4 on education and learning for millions of children and youth by 2030.
Facing an urgent need to tackle the learning crisis across South Asia, education ministers, senior officials from finance and planning, international education experts, development partners and civil society are gathering in Kathmandu this week to discuss what can be done to accelerate progress towards giving all children the opportunity to go to school and receive a quality education.
Co-hosted by United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the International Commission on Financing Global Education Opportunity (the Education Commission), the three-day high level conference will include participants from Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka.
"The Education Commission is proud to co-host this important gathering of countries in South Asia to share experiences of education reform and learn together about new ways to tackle the shared challenge," UN special envoy for Global Education and Education Commission’s chair Gordon Brown, said, adding that it’s time to make education a priority and it’s encouraging to see leaders committing to champion education through increased investment and reform. "It is possible to get all young people in school and learning within a generation. Let’s work together to make this a reality."
In 2016, the Education Commission launched The Learning Generation: Investing in education for a changing world report with an action plan for the largest expansion of educational opportunity in history. Drawing on new research from more than 300 partners in 105 countries, the report highlights an ever-worsening learning crisis that, if left unaddressed, will leave half of the world’s 1.6 billion children and youth out of school or failing to learn by 2030.
UNICEF is joining hands with the Commission and working with governments and partners to accelerate progress in education and increase financing for the sector giving priority to those children most at risk of being excluded from learning.
“There is no better path to stronger economies – more peaceful countries – than investment in every child’s right to an education,” said executive director of UNICEF Henrietta H Fore, on the occasion.

Government prepares to sack NT MD Rajbhandari and NTA chair Jha

The government has sought clarification from managing director of Nepal Telecom (NT), Kamini Rajbhandari, in a move to sack her.
Though the clarification has been sought doubting her managerial efficiency and blaming her for falling competitiveness of the telecom service provider in domestic sector, the government is planning to sack her, according to a high level source at the Ministry of Information and Communications.
The cabinet meeting today has decided to seek clarification from Rajbhandari, who is the first managing director in the history of Nepal Telecom to be selected from free competition. She still has almost 3 years to complete her tenure.
The source at the Ministry claimed that the efficiency of Nepal Telecom’s management has been deteriorating in recent times, compelling the government to seek clarification from the telecom service provider's top management.
Though the source also claimed that the Ministry will take necessary decisions only after analysing the clarification by Rajbhandari, clarification is sought to sack her.   
However, Rajbhandari said that she is yet to receive a letter from the government seeking her clarification.
The majority government led by Prime Minister K P Oli has also asked Nepal Telecommunications Authority (NTA) – the regulatory authority of the telecom service providers – chair Digamber Jha not to take any decision in a clear indication that he could also be sacked.
But the frequent changes in the regulatory authority on the basis of political ideology will create anarchy in the market impacting the consumers due to weak regulator. 

Sunday, May 6, 2018

Agreement ends transport cartels

Ministry of Physical Infrastructure and Transport and transport entrepreneurs agreed to end the cartel and operate under Company Act in the transport sector after marathon rounds of discussions.
In a meeting held at the Ministry in Kathamndu tonight, transport minister Raghubir Mahaseth, transport secretary and director general of the Department of Transport Management discussed with the agitating transport entrepreneurs to end the cartel. After the five-point agreement, the transport entrepreneurs have also expressed their commitment to support the government initiatives to end the transport cartel by officially withdrawing all kinds of protest programmes. The two sides have also reached an agreement to form a taskforce to make the transport sector more effective and transparent.
The two sides agreed to end all form of cartel in public transportation, to allow individuals with only one public transport to provide services, form a probe committee as per the mandamus issued by the Supreme Court, form a committee incorporating ministers and concerned agencies for consultation, and withdraw from all forms of protests.
Both the parties are going to organise a joint press conference tomorrow to announce the details of agreement reached between the government and transport entrepreneurs.
Late evening, the government has also released 106 transport entrepreneurs including Federation of Nepalese National Transport Entrepreneurs (FNNTE) president Yogendra Nath Karmacharya, senior vice president Bijay Bahadur Swar, general secretary Punya Prasad Sitaula (Saroj), deputy general secretary Basanta Bhandari, treasurer Kiran Kumar Khadka and in-charge of Province 3 Dharma Raj Rimal, who were arrested by the police for not operating their vehicles on Friday.
The transport entrepreneurs – on Friday – had halted public vehicles across the country to force the government to withdraw from its decisions of implementing the new regulation that has directed all the transporters to register their transport committees as a company.
Currently, most of the public vehicles operate under the committees and are blamed for evading tax.
However, the government struck as home minister Ram Bahadur Thapa directed to arrest transport entrepreneurs, cancel route permits and freez their bank accounts. The central bank – after the Home Ministry's request – froze 245 bank accounts of transport entrepreneurs and their committees in the afternoon.

Central bank freezes bank accounts of 245 transport committees

Two days after the government's decision to freeze bank accounts of the agitating transport entrepreneurs committees, the central bank froze their accounts today.
The central bank spokesperson Narayan Prasad Paudel confirmed that the Nepal Rastra Bank (NRB) today has directed to all banks and financial institutions (BFIs) to freeze the bank accounts of 245 such committees of transport operators.
"We have already instructed to stop making payments from the bank accounts of these committees but today we have issued official circular," he said, adding that the banks will now freeze their accounts.
The central bank – after correspondence from the Finance Ministry – has directed BFIs to freeze the accounts of transport committees defying the government, though they have more than two months time – by the beginning of next fiscal yaer – to convert the transport committees into companies.
The transport committees, which were operating as cartels, had started agitation against a government move to implement the new Transport Regulation. The regulation has not recognised their transport committees which are blamed for practicing cartel and asked them to register under Company Act.
Though, the government can seize the money in the bank accounts of the organisations, whose registrations have been scrapped, according to the law, it is said to be against the individual right to property. 
The Home Ministry along with Transport Ministry – on Friday – had decided to freeze bank accounts of transport committees after they halted the service across the country.

Saturday, May 5, 2018

ADB to pursue prosperous, inclusive, resilient, sustainable region

Strategy 2030 – the new long-term strategy of the Asian Development Bank (ADB) to be released this year – will renew ADB’s strong commitment to eradicate extreme poverty in Asia and the Pacific and expand the bank’s vision to achieve a prosperous, inclusive, resilient, and sustainable region, ADB president Takehiko Nakao said in his opening address at the 51st Annual Meeting of ADB’s Board of Governors.
With the theme of 'Linking People and Economies for Inclusive Growth,' this year’s Annual Meeting was attended by over 4,000 delegates from member governments, academics, business leaders, and civil society representatives.
In this opening address, Nakao appreciated the strong support of the Philippines as ADB’s host country since 1966 and thanked the government and its people for the excellent arrangements and warm hospitality. He highlighted Strategy 2030 which is in the consultation process, ADB’s achievements in 2017, continued solid growth of Asian economies, and impacts of new technologies on jobs.
In his remarks, Nakao said Strategy 2030 will address existing and emerging challenges. “There is still persistent poverty,” Nakao said, adding that the multilateral lending institute must address rising inequality, growing environmental pressures, and rapid urbanisation. "Aging in some countries and an increasing youth population in others present opportunities as well as challenges."
Strategy 2030 will be aligned with the international agenda, including the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the Paris Agreement on climate change.
The Strategy 2030 will have 10 priorities; tackle remaining poverty and increasing inequalities in Asia and the Pacific; accelerate progress in gender equality; scale up support to combat climate change, build climate and disaster resilience, and enhance environmental sustainability; build livable cities that are competitive, green, resilient, and inclusive; promote rural development and food security; strengthen governance; foster regional cooperation and integration; mobilise private sector resources to meet the region’s huge development financing needs; further strengthen ADB’s role as a provider and facilitator of knowledge; and pursue a stronger, better, and faster ADB.
"We will continue to use our financial resources efficiently and creatively," Nakao said, adding that the bank will invest in workforce, promote diversity including gender balance, and ensure a respectful workplace. "We will expand our presence on the ground. We will dramatically modernise business processes to speed up our services to clients."
“A One ADB approach will break down silos and bring together expertise across ADB,” he added.
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. In 2017, ADB operations totaled $32.2 billion, including $11.9 billion in cofinancing.

Thursday, May 3, 2018

ADB's private sector operations commitments reach $2.3 billion

Asian Development Bank (ADB) private sector operations over the past year reached $2.3 billion, growing the bank’s overall portfolio of private sector operations by 17 per cent to $10.9 billion, according to ADB Private Sector Operations Department’s (PSOD) Development Effectiveness Report 2017.
The 27 new private sector operations committed in 2017 accounted for 13.4 per cent of overall signed regular ordinary capital resources financing. Last year’s commitments were complemented by $5.9 billion in cofinancing, representing 50 per cent of all cofinancing mobilised by ADB, according to the report that was released in Manila, Philippines at the 51st annual meeting of ADB's Board of Governors.
“ADB is firmly committed to partnering with the private sector to help improve infrastructure, expand access to finance, and achieve the Paris Agreement on climate change and the Sustainable Development Goals,” said ADB vice president for Private Sector and Cofinancing Operations Diwakar Gupta. "PSOD will continue to ambitiously work to expand its private sector operations from 13.4 per cent to 20 per cent of total commitments by 2020, including by working in new frontier markets and sectors and increasing support for high-level technologies to improve development impact."
ADB private sector transactions committed in 2017 are expected to create 17,000 new jobs in Asia and the Pacific, while generating more than $492 million in government revenues and enabling the procurement of $2.2 billion of goods and services from local firms. Private sector commitments last year are also projected to improve infrastructure access and services, helping treat 750 million cubic meters of wastewater every year and generating around 7,755 gigawatt (GW) hours of electricity; enough to power 870,000 households.
Private sector operations support for financial inclusion in 2017 will result in over 11.8 million individuals and small businesses in the region having better access to finance. Among these, 90 per cent are expected to be women or enterprises owned by women. Agribusiness projects committed last year will help more than 2,800 farming households, while over 400,000 farmers and rural households are expected to benefit from improved financial services.
Active private sector operations have already contributed to the region’s economy, providing employment for an additional 133,850 people and training 308,000 beneficiaries, mostly in financial literacy. ADB’s private sector clients have also achieved carbon emissions reductions of 4.1 million tons annually.
The figures in the report are based on ADB’s new performance measure of “commitments,” or the amount of loans, grants, and investments signed in a given year. This indicator was introduced in 2017 to promote project readiness at approval stage, expedite post-approval steps, and get closer to project disbursement, by placing more emphasis on when the projects are signed, rather than when they are approved by ADB’s Board of Directors.
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. In 2017, ADB operations totaled $32.2 billion, including $11.9 billion in cofinancing.

Budget to safeguard domestic production

The government is planning to promote local industry by introducing 'import restriction mechanism' in the budget for the next fiscal year 2018-19.
Addressing a pre-budget interaction organised by the Federation of Nepalese Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FNCCI) today revenue secretary Shishir Kumar Dhungana said that the government would impose tariff and non-tariff measures like quantitative restriction on the imports of goods that are affecting domestic products. "We are introducing import rationalisation mechanism through the budget,” he added.
The government will – according to the Constitution – announce budget for the next fiscal year on May 29.
"The budget will also review the export incentives,” Dhungana said, adding that the exports incentives could not help increase exports. "The budget is planning income tax refund instead of export incentives."
Despite export incentives, the exports have not seen encouraging growth, he added.
The government at present provides up to 4 per cent of cash incentives in export items based on the value addition to these products. "The budget could implement the provision of providing cash incentives based on the income tax paid by the exporters,” Dhungana informed.
According to the Finance Ministry, a number of firms have been billing woolen carpet for export at just Rs 25 per square metre while yarsagumba export price is a mere Rs 5,000 per kg. The revenue administration has been blaming traders for avoiding payment of income tax as ato Dhungana, the government this year has collected only Rs150 million from the export sector.
However, the private sector asked the government to implement multiple VAT system, increase the rate of cash incentives on exportable goods, revise the reference price system at customs points and also revise the import duty on import of raw materials. The current duty has also been discouraging the industries in the country and encouraging imports of the finished goods as the duty on raw materials is higher than the finished goods.
Dhungana, on the occasion, also showed serious concern – as always – for under invoicing also.
President of Yarn Manufacturer’s Association Pawan Golyan, on the occasion, said that a large volume of substandard yarn is being imported through under invoicing. "In addition, such goods are getting up to 35 per cent exemption in customs duty whereas the raw materials used for making yarn get only up to five per cent of the exemption,” he added.