Monday, June 10, 2019

US Embassy to help restore Dzong monastery in Mustang

US ambassador Randy W Berry and Provincial Assembly member Mahendra Bahadur Thakali inaugurated the restoration of the 16th century Dzong Chode Shedup Choepel Ling Gompa – popularly known as Dzong monastery – at Dzong village in Mustang today.
The US embassy contributed $100,000 – through the Ambassadors Fund for Cultural Preservation (AFCP) – of the total $123,681 budget allocated for restoring and seismically strengthening the historic site, which was damaged during the 2015 earthquakes, according to a press release issued by the US Embassy in Kathmandu.
Dzong Gompa Management Committee will contribute the remaining $23,681, and Heritage and Environment Conservation Foundation Nepal will carry out the restoration work, which is expected to be completed by September 2020.
Through extensive consultations with the local community and DGMC, HECFN will seismically strengthen the structure while preserving the centuries old paintings inside the monastery, the press note reads, adding that the project will employ local artisans and provide on-site training to local youths to sustain maintenance of the monastery after the project is completed. “Our cultural preservation partnership with Nepal is a tangible symbol of our mutual friendship, and shows our respect for Nepal’s diverse and rich heritage,” said ambassador Berry in the statement. “This restoration will support local community efforts to protect these structures, and encourage future generations to continue caring for these unique, invaluable treasures of the Himalayan culture.”
AFCP is the only US government programme that provides direct grant support to preserve cultural heritage in developing countries. Since 2003, the US embassy has supported 24 other AFCP projects totalling $3.37 million in Nepal. AFCP projects in Nepal include the restoration of ancient Buddhist chhortens in Upper Mustang, the 11th century Rinchenling Monastery in Humla, MahaKal Bhairav temple in Kathmandu Durbar Square and the historic Gaddi Baithak palace in downtown Kathmandu recently.

India hands over Rs 1.6 billion for reconstruction

The Indian government today handed over Rs 1.6 billion to the Nepal government as reimbursement of part payment of the first and second tranches of reconstruction to 50,000 housing beneficiaries in Nuwakot and Gorkha districts.
Indian ambassador to Nepal Manjiv Singh Puri handed over a cheque to finance secretary Rajan Khanal in the presence of finance minister Dr Yubaraj Khatiwada at a programme organised in the capital. 
India has so far reimbursed a total of Rs 4.5 billion to Nepal, according to a press release issued by the Indian Embassy in Kathmandu. “The Indian government has partnered with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the United Nations Office for Project Services (UNOPS) for providing socio-technical facilitation to beneficiaries to ensure rebuilding of houses according to the Government of Nepal’s earthquake resilient norms.”
Khanal – after receiving the cheque – expressed appreciation towards the Government of India for India’s sustained and generous humanitarian support extended in post-earthquake reconstruction.
On the occasion, the Indian Ambassador expressed his gratitude to the Nepal Government for the partnership and assured that India will remain committed to the completion of Nepal’s earthquake reconstruction activity.
Earlier in February 2016, Nepal and India also signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) worth $100 million for the reconstruction of 50,000 private houses in the aforementioned districts.

Thursday, June 6, 2019

NBI gets OECD affiliation

National Banking Institute (NBI) has received the affiliation with the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD)/ International Network on Financial Education (INFE) membership, France.
With the international affiliation with OECD/ INFE, NBI looks forward to capitalise on the huge resource base of INFE with expertise and serve the community through Financial Education with its rich global networks it offers, it said in a press note.
OECD is an international organisation that works to build better policies for better lives with the goal to shape policies that foster prosperity, equality, opportunity and well-being for all. The organisation draws on almost 60 years of experience and insights to better prepare the world of tomorrow. Together with governments, policy makers and citizens, they work on establishing international norms and finding evidence-based solutions to a range of social, economic and environmental challenges.
Through the membership the delegates through NBI shall be invited to attend OECD financial education global events and specific dedicated session of OECD/INFE Technical Committee meetings as per determined by the Advisory Board, the press note reads, adding that the membership would allow NBI to be consulted systematically and in priority when a financial education document is issued by the OECD or the OECD/INFE for public consultation.
Since the inception of NBI, it has been in the forefront of Financial Education in Nepal. In addition it has been actively engaged in Financial Literacy throughout the country and has done many innovating work. Mobile learning App on Financial Literacy is one of our unique initiatives that have drawn huge attention both nationally as well as at the international front.

Wednesday, June 5, 2019

FCAN announces protest programmes against strict construction regulation

The Federation of Contractors’ Associations of Nepal (FCAN) is halting all construction works from July 17, if the government does not amend some of the provisions included in the recently passed Public Procurement Regulation (sixth amendment).
Organising a national convention of contractors from across the country in Kathmandu today, chairman of FCAN Ravi Singh also announced a series of protests programmes like returning the contract licence to the government and wearing black armband, until government hears them right.
The amended Public Procurement Regulation has a provision that states that a contract will not be extended for more than half of its original deadline to ensure that projects that are on the verge of completion would not be affected by the regulation, according to the government officials.
Likewise, the contractors have also protested other provisions of the amended regulation that restricts certain individuals from bidding projects. The provision states that any bidder – firm or individual – that faces a corruption case in court, according to the law, is barred from bidding for projects either as an individual or in the form of a joint venture unless the court gives a clean chit.
The contractors today also organised a rally in Kathmandu demanding changes in the regulation before a ‘special gathering’ that has agreed to protest and bring all the construction works to a standstill after July 17, if the government does not give them an ear.
Several development projects are facing time and cost overruns due to contractors’ ignorance and the government’s failure to clear the site and public protests, but the contractors have critisised the tough amendment that the government has introduced to force contractors to complete their work on time, with warning of contract termination.
Likewise, the government officials also said that the new provisions will be good for new projects, it could not be practical for the old ones, particularly those ones which are facing time overrun due to the failure of the government agencies themselves.
According to the government officials themselves, the provision of not extending the deadline – irrespective of who is responsible for the delay – could lead to the termination of many contracts.
According to a study by the Commission for Investigation of Abuse of Authority (CIAA), some 1,848 projects worth Rs 118 billion under seven ministries are incomplete and past their deadlines.
According to secretary at the Ministry of Physical Infrastructure and Transport Devendra Karki, “The provisions of the newly amended regulation is all right for the projects to be awarded in the future but the concern is about how to complete projects whose deadline has been extended beyond 50 per cent of original deadline due to genuine reasons like the government officials failing to clear site, public preventing the contractors to work and utility facilities not being cleared to start work.”
But there is also a risk that even projects that are over 90 per cent complete but have not completed as per deadline extension provision in new regulation would face contract termination as these projects will be delayed further for inviting fresh tender. “It will also increase the cost of the project because tender should be based on new price range,” said a higher government official.
The government officials and contractors both agree on the implementing this provision for the new projects. “The government should at least let the contractors finish the work they have started,” said the FCAN.
According to the amended regulation, the government agency should not call tender until the site is cleared, the budget is enough for providing compensation for acquired land and a report about Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) has been approved, which FCAN also opines is right.

Photos of snow leopard in Gaurishankar released on World Environment Day

Officials of the Gaurishankhar Conservation Area – on the occasion of World Environment Day today – have revealed photographs of a snow leopard, confirming the animal’s presence in the forests of Dolakha. Snow leopards are on the endangered species list of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).
The pictures were captured on a camera trap installed at Lapchi Valley in Bigu Rural Municipality-1, which is inside the Gaurishankar Conservation Area, on November 11, 2018. The images show a snow leopard in midwalk with his head and upper body in the frame.
“We had several cameras in operation for 200 hours straight in order to capture photographic evidence of the presence of snow leopards in the area,” Narayan Prasad Koju, who was involved in the research and investigation of snow leopards in Nepal, said, adding that they, however, don’t have a video footage available. “We used camera-trapping methodology to study snow leopards in the region.”
The infrared cameras were installed in 11 different places of Lapchi, at an altitude of 4,087 metres, from mid-September 2018 to mid-May 2019.
A conservation officer involved in the project Bishnu Pandey said that they are happy to share the photos with the public on World Environment Day. “Our cameras have also captured pictures of golden cat and 15 other species of mammals,” he said, “With photographic evidence, conservationists say the area can be declared as a snow leopard habitat, although the exact number of their population is not confirmed.”
However, pawprints, digging traces and faces of snow leopards in the conservation area point towards their number being around three to five at present, he added.
Nepal is one of the 12 countries where snow leopards are found. The estimated population of snow leopard is between 350 and 500 in Nepal. However, the country has not conducted any census of the animal.
Conservationists said that the number of snow leopard is declining due to habitat loss and increased poaching activities. Snow leopard, which lives around 5,000 to 6,000 metres above sea level, is considered a solitary animal.
According to WWF Nepal, snow leopard’s presence can be expected in eight protected areas of the country, Annapurna Conservation Area, Shey Phoksundo National Park, Kanchenjunga Conservation Area, Manaslu Conservation Area, Makalu Barun National Park, Dhorpatan Hunting Reserve, Sagarmatha National Park and Langtang National Park.

RSA revision to allow private Indian railway ferry good to Nepal

Nepal and India will revisit a decade-and-a-half-old Rail Service Agreement (RSA) that is expected to allow private Indian railways to ferry goods to Nepal.
The two-day bilateral meeting to start from tomorrow in New Delhi will discuss around a dozen of issues including RSA, as the decade old agreement could not address the issues related to bilateral trade on the current times.
The joint secretary-level talks between the two countries will also review transit pact that will allow Nepal to use Indian sea ports closer to major customs points of western and far-western Nepal –Bhairahawa, Nepalgunj and Dhangadi – for third-country trade. Ferrying Nepal-bound freight via inland waterways will also be included in the transit treaty, according to the Nepali officials visiting New Delhi to take part in the meeting. “The Delhi meeting will discuss the extension of the service of containerised and bulk cargo, ways of utilising the extension of the Janakpur-Jaynagar railway for transit and railway links both metre and broad gauge.
With the increase in trade and transit with third countries, Nepali traders have been demanding an extension of railway services in all the trading points across Nepal but the 2004 RSA includes only the railway transit facility from Kolkata to Birgunj. The traders have also been requesting to extend the bulk cargo facility to other important transit points between Nepal and India.
According to joint secretary at the Ministry of Industries, Commerce and Supplies, who is leading the Nepali side, Nawaraj Dhakal, “Nepal is compelled to bring all the commodities imported from third countries via Kolkata to Visakhapatnam Port through Birgunj in the absence of bulk cargo facilities in other transit points.”
Nepal and India – last year in Kathmandu during the BIMSTEC summit – also held talks about the signing of the Letter of Exchange (LoE) regarding bulk cargo during the BIMSTEC summit in Kathmandu but failed to do so in the last minute.
“The talks in Delhi tomorrow will also focus on permitting Indian private rail operators to transport Nepal-bound cargo from Visakhapatnam and Kolkata ports to Nepal,” he said, adding that the bilateral meeting will focus on opening of other integrated check points like Bhairahawa, Biratnagar, Nepalgunj and Janakpur and giving access to Nepali and Indian railway companies to transport Nepal-bound cargo.
“Nepali traders are paying more money to CONCOR, as it has monopoly in transporting cargo services to Nepal,” according to Nepali traders, who have also been demanding to extend this facility to other transit points because it is increasing the cost of raw materials and decline in the competitiveness of domestic products.
At present, state-owned CONCOR has the monopoly in transporting Nepal-bound cargo. “But Indian private railway companies have pledged to provide their service at around 25 per cent to 30 per cent cheaper rate compared to CONCOR, if given the opportunity,” according to the traders. The amendment of RSA will pave the way for operationalisation of private railways to ferry Nepal-bound cargo from Indian ports to respective Nepali inland clearance depots.
“There is also a possibility of discussion on the implementation of an Electronic Cargo Tracking (ECT) System, which is currently in a testing phase,” Dhakal said, adding that there may also be talks on extending this system to other transit points.
Nepal and India had signed the RSA in 2004, which is obsolete. Though an extensive evaluation of the agreement had come time and again, Nepal and India held only two meetings – in 2009 and 2012 – since the signing of the agreement, but they could not come out with any conclusion.
Apart from RSA, both the countries will also discuss on amending Trade Treaty and Transit Treaty between the two countries on a reciprocal basis.
The Indian side has however requested extension of Export Import (EXIM) code for Indian nationals trading with businesses in Nepal and expressed concerns over protection of intellectual property of Indian products. The Indian side has also requested Nepal to remove duties and related charges on import of agricultural commodities from India.

Community-managed forests reduce deforestation and poverty: Study

Nepal’s community-managed forestry, which has earned global praise for conserving forest and increasing the green cover, has also contributed in poverty reduction, a latest study revealed.
The study ‘Reductions in deforestation and poverty from decentralised forest management in Nepal’ conducted by a team of international ecologists, economists and political scientists – led by the University of Manchester – has shown that community forestry has contributed to a 37 per cent relative reduction in deforestation and a 4.3 per cent reduction in poverty.
Published in the Nature Sustainability journal last month, the study has produced further evidence proving how handing over forests to local communities not only helps in conservation but also in alleviating poverty in Nepal.
“We all know the important role of community-based forest management in forest conservation,” one of the co-authors of the study and executive director with the Forest Action Nepal, Birendra Kumar Karna said, “Through this study, we wanted to know its contribution in the reduction of deforestation and poverty in the country.”
The research findings concluded that between 2000 and 2012, simultaneous reduction in deforestation and poverty, deforestation was prevented on 1.7 hectares and 14 households were lifted out of poverty in one local unit.
“When the local communities were given the responsibility to manage the forest resources, they took the ownership,” Karna said, adding that such proximity in conserving the forest lead to deforestation. “When the deforestation was stopped, the forest wealth improved. It supported their cattle rearing, increased their access to forest produces ultimately supporting their livelihood.”
According to the study, in the mid-hill regions of Nepal, where forests are mostly managed by local communities, the benefits in the form of reduced deforestation and poverty were reported higher.
Likewise, areas with community forest management were 51 percent more likely to witness simultaneous reductions in deforestation and poverty, the study reported, adding that the benefits received in lower deforestation and poverty level were greater when areas dedicated to community forests were larger and existed for longer.
The study – claimed to be the biggest of its kind – compared changes in forest cover and poverty from 2000 to 2012 for sub-districts with or without community forest arrangements.
The researchers calculated the average impact of community forest management for the whole of the country using information from more than 18,000 community forests user groups which currently bring together nearly 300,000 families. These details were then combined with the poverty measures derived from the national census – 1.36 million households – and high-resolution forest cover change satellite image.
Lastly, as multiple drivers that could influence deforestation and poverty reduction, impacts of community forestry were separated from other potential socioeconomic and biophysical factors which could also affect forest cover and poverty outcomes.
“Our study demonstrates that community forest management has achieved a clear win-win for people and the environment across an entire country,” Johan Oldekop, the lead author from the University of Manchester, is quoted on the university website as saying. “Nepal proves that with secure rights to land, local communities can conserve resources and prevent environmental degradation.”
The decentralised form of forest management, in which the local communities are primarily responsible for day-to-day forest management decisions, started in the 1980s in the country.
Currently, a total of 22,266 community forest user groups are associated under the Federation of Community Forestry Users Nepal (FECOFUN) are conserving 2,236,270 hectares of forest in almost all the districts of the country.
“Nepal has adopted various models of forest conservation,” Karna said, adding that community forest management model is, however, the best one for its defined boundaries, rules and regulations and responsibilities among stakeholders. “If other countries can replicate Nepal’s success, community forest management could play an even greater role in achieving multiple Sustainable Development Goals.”

Tuesday, June 4, 2019

Nepal Airlines postpones flight service to Osaka

Nepal Airlines Corporation (NAC) has postponed its flight to Japan due to shortage of passengers till August. With the postponement of the flight, the restart of Nepal-Japan direct flight – after almost a decade – has been delayed for one more month.
Joint spokesperson for NAC Navaraj Koirala confirmed the postponement of the Kathmandu-Osaka flight for a month due to a lukewarm response to pre-booking. “Some of the passengers, who have bought the NAC ticket, will be referred to another airline,” he said, adding that the schedule of the Kathmandu-Osaka flight will remain unchanged. “NAC will operate Osaka flights three days a week, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays.”
The financially bankrupt NAC has fixed Rs 45,000 for one-way and Rs 77,000 for a round trip to Osaka. It takes around six-and-a-half hours to reach Osaka from Kathmandu. Operation of commercial flights to Osaka is expected to help NAC overcome its financial woes as it is expected to help generate revenue for NAC and contribute to the growth of Japanese tourists visiting Nepal.
The national flag carrier had opened ticket booking on the Kathmandu-Osaka route after receiving permission from Japan Civil Aviation Bureau (JCAB) to operate flights from Tribhuvan International Airport (TIA) to Osaka International Airport. The national flag carrier that used to fly twice a week on Kathmandu-Osaka route in between 1994 and 2007 had halted service due to lack of aircraft and human resources.

Civil Saving and Credit Cooperatives faces bank run

Civil Saving and Credit Cooperatives is facing a liquidity crunch after mass withdrawals by depositors. The Pokhara-based cooperatives today appealed other cooperatives to bail it out as it has faced bankruptcy due to mass withdrawal. The bank run in the cooperatives started after the media reports of its imminent collapse, the cooperatives said, organising a press meet, today.
Civil Saving and Credit Cooperative – operated by the Civil Group led by Ichchha Raj Tamang – today accepted that its cash flow had dried up. “We are not fully bankrupt but we are facing a liquidity problem due to mass withdrawal after multiple media reports,” said chairman of the Civil Group, who is also the founder of Civil Cooperative, Tamang.
Though Tamang – in the press meet – claimed that the cooperative has not violated government laws, the Civil Saving and Credit Cooperatives has lent huge amount to its operators, which is against the Cooperative Act 1992. The Act bars cooperatives from issuing more than 20 per cent of its loans to an individual borrower. Tamang, however, claimed that the cooperatives has started reforms by diversifying the business. “Civil Saving and Credit Cooperatives is now investing in hydropower, information technology and the hospitality business,” he said, refuting the charges that the cooperative had conducted financial dealings with Civil Bank, a commercial bank operated by the group.
The cooperative – which has also investment of Rs 140 million by the National Cooperative Bank – had overexposed itself in the real estate, hotel and hydropower sectors, which dried up its liquidity.
The Civil Group has investments in 21 different types of businesses. But the cooperative has exposed its investment in a single sector in Civil Homes – a housing company that is currently working on its ninth project in Godavari – that has sold more than 1,000 units of standalone houses and apartments. “The cooperatives has invested around 90 per cent of its deposits totalling to Rs 7.5 billion in the realty business operated by the group,” informed the sources in the cooperatives that according to them, the cooperatives has faced the liquidity problem also due to lack of good governance practice.
The cooperative department under the Kathmandu Metropolitan City has urged Civil Saving and Credit Cooperative to implement corrective measures in time or the department will be forced to take action against it. The department has also asked the cooperative to create a three-year plan to revise its portfolio management and launch other measures to avoid going into liquidation.
Recently, some of the cooperatives have been facing liquidity crunch – something like it happened a decade ago – and the government has declared some 11 cooperatives including Societal Saving and Credit Cooperative a ‘troubled institution’ due to unsound lending practices, exposure to the volatile real estate market and embezzlement by their promoters.
There have been some 130 crisis-ridden cooperatives misappropriating at around Rs 11 billion of people’s savings, according to report prepared by a commission headed by Gauri Bahadur Karki some five years ago. “Most of the crisis-ridden cooperatives, including Oriental Cooperative that alone embezzled around Rs 5.5 billion, landed in trouble because of their board members’ involvement in misappropriation, and huge exposure in the realty sector,” the report reads.

Monday, June 3, 2019

Petroleum pipeline nears completion

Construction of Motihari-Amlekhgunj fuel pipeline nears completion as 99 per cent of the pipe-laying process has been completed.
According to Nepal Oil Corporation (NOC), around 99 per cent of the installation of petroleum pipeline on the Motihari-Amlekhgunj has been completed. “The pipe laying process of 36.6-kilometre on Nepal side has been completed,” the fuel monopoly said, adding that Indian Oil Corporation (IOC) – which is the project developer – has already completed laying pipes along 32.7-km within the Indian territory. “Petroleum products from India will be imported to Nepal via the 78-km pipeline under the project, which is the first cross-border project in the entire South Asia.”
Though, the project is estimated to come into operation from mid-April, the launch date has been rescheduled for mid-July. A total of 25 Nepali technicians are currently in India to receive an eight-day training that IOC is providing to handle the project. “After the training of technicians concludes, the pipeline’s ownership will be handed over to Nepal.”
The project – with a total cost of over INR 2 billio – is expected to reduce the annual cost of importing petroleum products from India to Nepal by road by Rs 2 billion. NOC plans to further expand the petroleum pipeline up to Lothar in Chitwan, the fuel monopoly added.

Rs 50 million minimum threshold for FDI invites criticism

On one hand the government aims at increasing more foreign direct investment (FDI) and on the other, it has increased minimum threshold for FDI surprising the foreign investors.
The government has – two weeks ago – decided to revise the minimum threshold upward for FDI to Rs 50 million from Rs 5 million. With the increment of minimum threshold for FDI, the foreign investors could shy away from Nepal as the minimum threshold for FDI in other South Asian countries is much lesser than in Nepal. The private sector, has however, asked the government to increase minimum threshold to Rs 100 million.
Increasing the minimum threshold, the government has claimed that it aims at attracting large amounts of foreign capital to bridge the resource gap, and also safeguards small domestic industries.
The private sector, however, claimed that upward revision of minimum threshold to at least Rs 100 million will help support large-scale projects and also facilitate the import of modern technology. “A lower threshold, on the other hand, could affect local small industries,” it claimed, adding that a lower threshold means foreign investors will crowd in only in small businesses including restaurants, coffee shops and hotels but not in mega projects.
The foreign investors have been, however, surprised by Nepal’s move to increase the minimum threshold by 10 times. “It will discourage the foreign investment,” chief of the one of Nepal’s long term bilateral development partner said, adding that they have been expecting the Nepal government to make the foreign investment more easier especially after the Nepal Investment Summit 2019 – in March – where the government promised moon. “The Nepal government has failed to walk the talk as promised in the summit also because it has increased the negative list in the Foreign Investment and Transfer of Technology Act (FITTA) claiming to protect a number of domestic products.”
 The government is drafting a regulation for the FITTA (Amendment 2019) aiming at protecting a number of domestic products by prohibiting FDI in certain sectors including travel, mass communication, and farm products.
Likewise the draft of the regulation – which is in the final stages and be forwarded to the Cabinet for approval immediately – is also not going to attract the FDI, he said, adding that prior to Nepal Investment Summit in March, Nepal government had promised to bring the Acts and regulations to encourage the FDI. “Though private sector has been advocating for a higher threshold, some in the private sector still believe that the threshold should be minimal.”
The restrictive threshold will discourage the investors as they might find investing in other South Asian countries is much easier than in Nepal, according to chairman and CEO of Business Oxygen – Nepal’s first private equity fund – Siddhant Raj Pandey.
Calling the government’s decision ‘irrational’, Pandey said that the government should have – rather than focusing on the size of capital – prioritised on the import of innovative technology and efficient management.
The domestic private sector has been lately asking the government to be more restrictive rather than being competitive. Instead the private sector should have asked the government to make the business comparatively competitive by policy intervention in key issues including market operation, labour shortages in manufacturing and agriculture, small basket of goods with high comparative advantage, poor infrastructure, and bureaucratic hassles. “The private sector should also improve its efficiency and transparency in business operation,” Pandey added.

95.5 per cent of Nepalis have an electricity connection : Energy Progress Report

Electricity had reached some 95.5 per cent of Nepali populace as of 2017, according to the Energy Progress Report. “Only 1.3 million out of 29 million Nepalis remain to be connected to an electricity supply,” it reads, adding that in 2010, only 65 per cent of Nepali populace had an electricity connection. “Nepal is expected to achieve 100 per cent access to electricity within a few years, well ahead of the target year of 2030 set by Sustainable Development Goal 7 (SDG7).
Nepal’s access to electricity increased at an annual rate of 4.3 per cent, which is much higher than the global average of 0.8 per cent, according to the Energy Progress Report released last week by the five Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) stakeholders including International Energy Agency (IEA), International Renewable Energy Agency (IREA), United Nations Statistics Division (UNSD), World Bank (WB) and World Health Organisation (WHO).
The report further reads that the global electrification rate rose by 6 per cent to 89 per cent in 2017 from 83 per cent in 2010, falling short of the target rate required to reach universal access by 2030.
Over the review period, some 99 per cent of Nepal’s urban population enjoyed access to electricity and 95 per cent of rural people are currently connected with a mix of grid and off-grid systems. Universal access to clean cooking solutions will help to prevent some 3.8 million premature deaths each year, primarily among women and children, from exposure to household air pollution, the report adds.
Nepal ranks top among the set of access-deficit countries – including Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Fiji, Mongolia  -- which provide their populations with access to electricity from off-grid sources. “Around 11 per cent of Nepali population is reliant on mini-biogas, mini-hydropower plants, and solar mini-grids for energy consumption,” it reads.
Likewise, Nepal ranks third among the top 20 countries with the highest share of solar lighting progress with 15 per cent of the population obtaining power through solar grids. According the report, Nepal’s rural electrification schemes and increasing use of small solar panels for lighting in remote areas has contributed to the increased access to electricity. “The campaign to rid rural households of firewood and provide clean energy through mainly solar and small scale hydel plants by 2022 has been effectively meeting its annual targets,” said Ram Prasad Dhital, former executive director of the Alternative Energy Promotion Centre,” it adds.
However, energy minister Barsha Man Pun recently reiterated the government’s plan to provide access to energy to 100 percent of the population in the next five years. “In five years, we intend to provide access to 100 per cent of the population through a mix of grid, According to Nepal Electricity Authority (NEA), only eight districts – Bajura, Humla, Jumla, Kalikot, Mugu, Dolpa, Rukum (East) and Solukhumbu – remain to be connected to the national grid. Bajura, Rukum (East) and Solukhumbu will be connected to the national grid by the end of this fiscal year.
The Energy Progress Report also claimed that between 2018 and 2030, the annual average investment will need to reach approximately $55 billion to expand energy access, about $700 billion to increase renewable energy, and $600 billion to improve energy efficiency.

Sunday, June 2, 2019

Listed hotels post handsome profits

The listed hotels – though they are only three in number – have posted record profits in the third quarter on increased arrivals and occupancy, though the average daily expenditure of tourists has been on decline.
Among the three listed hotels on the Nepal Stock Exchange (Nepse), which have published their unaudited financial reports for the third quarter ending mid-April, Soaltee Hotel and Taragaon Regency Hotels posted profits, whereas Oriental Hotels witnessed decline in profit.
Soaltee Hotel – according to its unaudited third-quarter report – posted Rs 231 million net profit, some 52.35 per cent increase compared to the same period last fiscal year. During the same period last fiscal year, Soaltee Hotel had posted net profit of Rs 151.64 million.
Soaltee Hotel earned revenues totaling Rs 1.31 billion, up by 16.61 per cent year-on-year while its total expenses amounted to Rs 1.02 billion, up by 8.77 per cent only, according to the report of the hotel  that claimed that it had been marketing aggressively to increase its occupancy in the fourth quarter in the key source markets including India.
Likewise, profit of another share market listed hotel – Taragaon Regency Hotels – has jumped by 29.47 per cent before bonus and tax in the third-quarter, compared to the same period in the last fiscal year. According to the unaudited financial statement published by the hotel – mandatory under regulatory order – it has posted a net profit of Rs 356.57 million in the third quarter of the current fiscal year, whereas Taragaon Regency Hotels had posted a net profit of Rs 275.40 million in the third quarter of the last fiscal year.
Taragaon Regency Hotels’ revenues – according to the third quarter report – increased by 14.28 per cent year-on-year to Rs 1.04 billion, whereas revenues totalled Rs 915.7 million. Likewise, Taragaon Regency Hotels’ paid-up capital stood at Rs 1.88 billion including Rs 777 million in reserves, the report reads, adding that its revenue swelled due to a rise in tourist arrivals and effective marketing strategy. “It may face competition in the coming days with the proliferation of five-star hotels in Nepal prompted by an improving political and business environment.”
However, Oriental Hotels, which operates the five-star Radisson Hotel in Kathmandu, reported a net profit rise of 6.32 per cent in the third quarter of the current fiscal year, according to the hotel’s unaudited report of the third quarter. “Oriental Hotels posted a net profit of Rs 207.45 million after tax, up from Rs 195.11 million in the same period in the last fiscal year,” the report reads, adding that its revenue collection stood at Rs 876 million. “Oriental Hotels’ profit growth slowed in the third quarter due to an increase in expenses as it had renovated 40 of its rooms.”
The fourth hotel – Yak N Yeti – that was earlier listed at the Nepse is no more in the share market since last half decade.
Nepal has lately witnessed a large number of hotels due to increasing number of tourists, though the tourist spending has not been increasing. “It will be challenging, if tourist arrivals do not match the increasing number of hotels lately,” Oriental Hotels writes in its report.
Tourist arrivals crossed the one-million mark for the first time in 2018, with 1.17 million foreign visitors travelling into the country, but their spending has plummeted to a seven-year low to $44, according to Hotel Association Nepal (HAN). “The average spending was $54 per day in 2017, whereas in 2003 – during the Maoist insurgency – the per day tourist spending hit a record $79.1.”
Last year, Nepal received 1.17 million tourists and earned a record Rs 70 billion in foreign exchange,” according to the statistics of HAN. “The previous year, the country had welcomed 940,218 foreign visitors and earned Rs 65.8 billion.”
But the increase in tourist arrivals does not match earnings also due to low spending of the tourists. “A arge number of hotels have been selling their rooms at cheaper rates, and as a result, earnings had not increased despite arrivals crossing the one-million mark,” according to HAN.

Saturday, June 1, 2019

Nepal Telecom Authority to set up IT centres in 124 remote villages

The Nepal Telecommunications Authority is setting up IT service centres at 124 remote villages to provide integrated government services, in line with the government’s ambitious Digital Nepal Framework-2018 that envisions a ‘digital society’ with 90 per cent of the population having access to broadband services by 2020.
The Information Service Centre Formation and Management Work plan – prepared by the authority –plans to install four computers, printing machines and networking equipment and expand broadband facilities from those centres to wards, health centres and community schools.
The information centre project has been launched to combat digital exclusion in 124 rural municipalities, which has no access to telecommunications facilities as of date.
According to acting chairman of the Nepal Telecommunications Authority Purushottam Khanal, the regulator is starting a tender process for procurement of equipment within a month. The authority has estimated that it will take around Rs 90.52 million to procure equipment to establish those centres. “The authority plans to mobilise funds collected by levying telecom operators service charges amounting to 2 per cent of their gross income to execute the project,” he added. “Almost half of the shortlisted local levels are located in the western provinces of Karnali (26) and Sudurpashchim (28), in line with the by-laws which state that the authority must give special priority to rural communities without access to internet and with measurable presence of marginalised and economically backward denizens.

Friday, May 31, 2019

Asia-Pacific governments adopt regional actions to fulfil promise of leaving no one behind

Senior government representatives from across Asia and the Pacific today called for greater efforts to advance equality and empowerment for over four billion people across the region.
Over 800 delegates attended the 75th session of the United Nations (UN) Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) – held from May 27 to 31 in Bangkok – concluded with the adoption of nine resolutions aimed at strengthening regional cooperation and partnerships towards achieving the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
Addressing the closing ceremony, UN under-secretary-general and executive secretary of ESCAP Armida Alisjahbana said that the decisions reached by member states will help guide the work of the regional body. "The resolutions are firmly anchored in the 2030 agenda and provide solid foundations on which to build upon," she said, adding that many are aligned with the priorities and set out earlier this week are essential to achieving a transformed and resilient society in Asia and the Pacific. "To deliver against these priorities, and others set by the 2030 agenda, our ability to work effectively at the sub regional and regional level is critical."
The theme of this year’s week-long meeting highlighted the need for greater empowerment and inclusion of marginalised groups. A report released to coincide with the meeting highlighted that the region was not on track to meet any of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by 2030.
Despite significant increase in the availability of SDG indicators since 2017, data gaps remain for two thirds of the global SDG indicators. Endorsing the Declaration on Navigating Policy with Data to Leave No One Behind, member states recognised reliable and timely statistics as indispensable for evidence-based decision making, transparency, accountability and inclusive societies.
Innovation and use of new technologies for sustainable development and building community resilience also featured prominently among the resolutions passed. Delegates endorsed a call to advance science, technology and innovation, as well as implementation of the Asia-Pacific Plan of Action on Space Applications for Sustainable Development (2018 – 2030), and the Asia-Pacific Information Superhighway.
Member states, on the occasion, also agreed on the urgent need for regional cooperation to tackle air pollution challenges, and diversification of energy sources in this respect. Air pollution has increased considerably in recent years leading to a rise in premature deaths, threatening livelihoods and the sustainable development in the region, particularly in many cities with growing populations where air pollution is a major public health hazard.
Strengthening the development of national and local disaster risk reduction strategies was also underlined as a priority, through the Asia Regional Plan and Action Plan 2018-2020 for Implementation of the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction. The Commission further committed to strengthen the link between national, regional and global follow-up and review to the 2030 agenda, and to continue providing capacity building assistance to landlocked developing countries towards the smooth implementation of the six priorities of the Vienna Programme of Action.

Business icon Prabhakar Rana passes away

A pioneer of Nepali tourism industry Prabhakar SJB Rana passed away while undergoing treatment in New York yesterday. Rana, 84, was admitted to the hospital one year ago.
Starting his career in the hotel industry, Rana built an empire with his honesty and moral in business. Engaged in multiple business including tourism, trade, automobiles, and hydropower, Rana believed in earning credibility and transparency in his business rather than making profits because ‘that’s what makes businesses successful’, according to him.
The first generation of Nepali entrepreneurs, chairman Emeritus of Soaltee Crowne Plaza, Rana was not only recognised for his initiative to bring an international hotel chain to Nepal but also for promoting tourism through hotel.
Rana was the founding chairperson of Soaltee Crowne Plaza and later on the chairman emeritus of the five-star hotel, though Soaltee was founded in 1966 by late prince Himalaya Bikram Shah and late princess Princep Rajya Laxmi. Rana later converted the hotel to a public limited company in 1975. Soaltee Crowne Plaza is one of the three hotels listed in the Nepal Sock Exchange (Nepse).
Until recently he was working on Soaltee Westend Hotel in Nepalgunj expanding the Soaltee brand outside the Kathmandu Valley.
Starting from the hotel industry, Rana expanded his business to travel and trekking, automobiles, tea garden and hydropower projects. He is also the founder president of Hotel Association Nepal (HAN) and Pacific Asia Travel Association (PATA) Nepal chapter.
Issuing press notes, both HAN and PATA said Rana could solely be credited for introducing international standards in the hospitality sector of the country.
Rana established Sipradi Trading – the authorised dealer of Tata Motors in Nepal – in 1982. In 1986, he invested in Surya Nepal, a multinational undertaking in joint partnership with firms of India and UK. Likewise, He started Bhotekoshi Power Company (BPC) – the first privately funded, run-of-the-river (ROR) power project in Nepal – in 1996.
Besides, he has also invested in Himalayan Tea Garden and Amravati Travels.
Rana was both professionally and personally close with late kings Mahendra and Birendra and in recent times with former king Gyanendra. But he never misused the power as usually is seen. He kept his freidship and professionalism separate though he was business partner of forme king Gyanendra.
He is survived by a son Siddhartha and a daughter Maya. Siddhartha Rana is currently looking after the entire business operations. The final rites of Rana will be performed in New York tomorrow.

Wednesday, May 29, 2019

Government presents 1.53 trillion deficit budget

Finance Minister Dr Yuvaraj Khatiwada today presented Rs 1.53 trillion deficit budget – targeting to achieve 8.5 per cent economic growth, and containing inflation under six per cent – for the next fiscal year 2019-20 in the Federal Parliament.
Presenting the federal budget in the joint session of the House, Dr Khatiwada said that the government has increased the total budget size to Rs 1.53 trillion – some 17 per cent bigger – for next fiscal year from Rs 1.31 trillion in the current fiscal year. "The capital budget has also increased from Rs 313.99 billion to Rs 408.59 billion."
The government has earmarked Rs 408.59 billion (26.6 per cent) for capital expenditure and Rs 167.85 billion (11 per cent) for financing provision, he said, adding that the government will mobilise Rs 981.13 billion from revenue, Rs 57.99 billion from foreign grants, Rs 298.83 billion from foreign loan and Rs 195 billion from domestic borrowing.
Though, finance minister – presenting his second budget in the row – claimed that the government has planned to achieve 8.5 per cent economic growth on the base of infrastructure development, the capital budget – aimed at expediting the development activities – seems completely dependent on the foreign aid and grants, as he has allocated Rs 957.1 billion under recurrent expenditure and projected to mobilise Rs 981.13 billion in revenue. The projection of revenue could meet only the recurrent expenditure, if he is able to meet the target, but going by the current fiscal year’s trend, the government has failed to meet both the revenue mobilisation – because of disappointing mobilisation of VAT, customs, excise and income tax (both corporate and personal) and also spending target.
The government has, however, revised the tax structure claiming to make it more sustainable source generated through internal economic activities rather than existing import-based revenues.
But the minimum income tax threshold for individuals has been raised to Rs 400,000 per annum and Rs 450,000 for married couples – though they will have to pay 1 per cent social security tax – from Rs 350,000 for single and Rs 400,000 for married couples. It is expected to give some relief for the working class people.
With an ambitious economic growth target but few tangible bases, the budget has also focused on increasing cash-based social security allowances – as promised in the election manifesto – salary hike for the government employees – the regular process every 2 -year – and hefty amount for the parliamentarians – the most opposed dole out that is the wastage of public money – even after the election of local governments.
Bowing to the political pressure, finance minister allocated fund for Parliamentarians. But in the past parliamentarians were allocated budget as there was no local government for two decades but the budget allocation for them now will encourage gross financial indiscipline. The fund – named Local Infrastructure Development Partnership Programme – has been increased by 50 per cent – from Rs 40 million to Rs 60 million, he said, adding that the salaries of non-gazetted officers have also been hiked by 20 per cent and those of gazetted officers by 18 per cent. “The budget has earmarked Rs 64.50 billion for the social security scheme, under which the monthly allowance for the elderly has been increased by Rs 1,000 to Rs 3,000.”
The scheme is expected to benefit around 1.3 million people above the age of 70, he added. “Likewise, allowances for widows and single women have been increased to Rs 2,000 from Rs 1,000.”
The budget has also allocated Rs 220 million to provide air transport facilities for pregnant women and has further promised to provide access to clean drinking water to 92 percent of the population by the next fiscal year.
“Overall development is only possible through high economic growth and its equitable distribution,” Dr Khatiwada said, adding, “Our socialist goal is to fulfill the basic needs, such as employment, food security, basic health and education services, and clean drinking water, for all citizens.”
He said that the budget has also focused on social justice, increment in exports to reduce the trade deficit, and increase in general productivity, apart from completing incomplete projects. Khatiwada has also allocated budget for education, health, science and technology, agriculture, drinking water and hygiene, social security, employment tourism, industry, commerce and supplies, energy, transportation, urban development, presenting the rosy picture of the economy, which seems not in track.
“The budget expects hydroelectricity capacity to be double and manufacturing activities may improve on the back of a stable and adequate supply of electricity,” he said. “The budget has promised that 1,000 MW of electricity will be added to the national grid in the next fiscal year, along with a new, ambitious project to generate 3,500 MW of electricity from a combined 18 projects by raising funds from the public under the slogan ‘Nepal ko pani, Janta ko lagani’.” But the programme ‘Nepal ko pani, Janta ko lagani’ has been blamed to be a step to governtisation of private hydro power projects, according to the independent power producers.
The budget has also continued the Prime Minister’s Employment Programme with an allocation of Rs 5 billion. The budget also revitalised the old programme ‘Afno Gaun, Afai Banau’ – let’s build our villages ourselves – that was first introduced some 25 years ago in 1994 by the late leader Bharat Mohan Adhikari.
The budget has allocated the largest chunk to the education sector, which gets Rs 163.76 billion, followed by roads, infrastructure and railway transportation at Rs 163.52 billion as the budget for Upper Tamakoshi, Budhi Gandaki and Budi Ganga hydroelectric projects;  Rani-Jamara-Kulariya and Bheri Babai irrigation projects; Nijgadh, Bhairahawa and Pokhara international airports; Kathmandu-Tarai expressway; Postal and Mid-Hill highways; and the East-West Electric Railway Line have been allocated for their completion.
Dr Khatiwada has also allocated Rs 141 billion for post-earthquake reconstruction, Rs 83.49 billion for the energy sector, Rs 68.78 billion for health, Rs 40.73 billion for urban infrastructure and housing, Rs 34.80 billion for the agricultural sector, and Rs23.63 billion for irrigation.
The budget has allocated Rs 8 billion for the Prime Minister’s Agriculture Modernisation Project – started by the earlier Prime Minister Puspa Kamal Dahal ‘Prachanda’ – and increased state subsidies on chemical fertilisers by 50 per cent to Rs 9 billion. Similarly, he has allocated Rs 950 million for subsidies to encourage sugarcane farmers. The government has also announced the enforcement of anti-dumping tariffs for imports on agriculture products.
The budget has announced raising Re 1 from every litre of petrol and diesel as infrastructure tax to finance road projects. Currently, the government has been levying infrastructure tax of Rs 5 from each litre of fuel to fund to the construction of Budhigandaki Hydropower project. Around Rs 30 billion has been raised for the hydel project but remained largely unutilised, and the government has been in dilemma on who is going to construct the much-controversial Budhigandagi Hydropower project.

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

ILO assistant director general concludes her four-day mission to Kathmandu

ILO assistant director general and regional director for Asia and the Pacific Tomoko Nishimoto has wrapped up her four-day visit to Nepal today with a call to all constituents to ‘work beyond the normal’ to help realise social justice and decent work for all.
The visit was part of her commitment to reinforce relations with ILO constituents, comprising the government, and organisations of employers and workers, and to generate general public discourse on the ILO Centenary Initiative on the Future of Work.
Nishimoto paid a courtesy visit to Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli yesterday where she briefed the premier on the ILO's Centenary Initiatives on the Future of Work. On the occasion, Prime Minister Oli highlighted the reforms being made by Nepal, including increment on minimum wages, launching of contribution based social security scheme and labour legislations. He also appreciated the role of the ILO in promoting fundamental rights at work, equality and social justice.
Likewise, in her meeting with finance minister Dr Yuba Raj Khatiwada, she discussed the challenges and opportunities of Nepali labour market and translating provisions outlined in the contributory social security law for workers. She also shared the ILO initiative on the Future of Work, and made references to the experiences of ASEAN countries in this regard. Dr Khatiwada highlighted some of the key initiative taken by the ministry in support of application of minimum wage, contribution-based social security, labour rights, and strengthening of labour administration including inspection.
Also, the ILO assistant director general called on minister for Labour, Employment and Social Security Gokarna Bista and took stock of the developments in the labour administration of Nepal. Bista, on the occasion, spoke on the key priorities of the government including application of labour legislations, contribution-based social security scheme and creation of employment in the country. He also emphasised on the need of more ILO technical support as Nepal is passing through a very crucial stage of political transformation. Similarly, secretary at the Ministry Mahesh Prasad Dahal briefed Nishimoto about the initiatives of the ministry, the need to enhance capacity of labour administration towards protecting and promoting the rights of Nepali workers. He also said that the government is mulling to ratify some ILO conventions relevant to Nepal this year.
Similarly, Nishimoto held separate meetings with Federation of Nepalese Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FNCCI) president Bhawani Rana and prominent trade union leaders on contemporary issues related to labour, social and economic changes unfolding in the world of work and how growth could go alongside unionism. During her stay in Nepal, she also had separate discussions with representatives of a number of development partners in Nepal, including UN Resident Coordinator Valerie Julliand.

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Traffic jam on Mt Everest as climbers make a final summit push

The highest peak of the world has witnessed a traffic jam after more than 200 climbers are making a final push this morning and waiting at the final camp hoping to reach the top of the world by Wednesday morning as the season is expected to close by May 26.
According to a liaison officer at the Everest base camp Gyanendra Shrestha, climbers who have been camping at the 7,900-metre point of the mountain – popularly known as Camp IV – early this morning complained that they have been waiting more than two hours in queues on their way to the summit point.
Some 200 climbers – including high-altitude climbing guides – have headed from the South Col to the summit point early this morning after they found a second weather window to attempt to stand atop the roof of the world. But the traffic jam has created a long queue of climbers above Camp IV.
The increasing high number of climbers aiming to make it to the top on the same morning has however raised fears of overcrowding not only a traffic jam but accidents and deaths, though the officials claimed that huge number of climbers waiting to make a push at the final camp is nothing to worry about.
If all the waiting climbers successfully scale the highest peak on Wednesday, it would be the largest single-day ascent of Mt Everest. In 2012, some 264 climbers stood at the top of the world. That year, 179 climbers successfully reached the top, but not before causing what many referred to as a ‘traffic jam’ on the Hillary Step – a vertical rock with a sharp slope considered one of the most dangerous parts of the climb – due to a small weather window.
This season, the Mt Everest climbing season started on May 14, with a team of eight rope-fixing high-altitude climbers opening a climbing route. The first two-day weather window was closed on May 16 after over 150 world climbers made it to the summit.
According to the Department of Tourism, some 381 individuals have been permitted to climb the Mt Everest this spring. 

Nepal Krishi, Bayer BioScience to pilot hybrid paddy seeds project

Nepal Krishi Company and Bayer BioScience of India signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) to begin a pilot project to use two hybrid paddy seeds this summer which have the potential to double productivity.
The use of hybrid seeds by farmers to grow paddy is insignificant compared to 90 per cent for vegetable cultivation, they claimed.
Morang-based Nepal Krishi Company, which is working with farmers’ groups for commercial production of cereal crops, will be using Arize 6444 Gold and Arize Idea hybrids as per the agreement.
Likewise, managing director of Buddha Air Birendra Bahadur Basnet, who is also a board member of Nepal Krishi Company, said that he is amazed by the productivity when Arize 6444 Gold was tested in the field last year. “We will see the result, the actual cost of production and productivity, of the hybrid varieties after four months,” he said, adding that the paddy planting season in Nepal normally begins in June. “It’s not only using hybrid seeds but also bringing advanced paddy cultivation technology to Nepal.”
Nepal Krishi Company will be piloting these hybrid varieties on 70 bighas of land by distributing 100 kg of seeds to farmers. There will be a demonstration plot of 20 bighas – known as centre for excellence –  where paddy will be cultivated with the latest technology and tools, the company said.
According to business unit head of Bayer BioScience Surendra Prajapati, these hybrid seeds are free from ‘bacterial leaf blight’ disease that causes yield losses in the range of 20 per cent to 60 per cent annually.
The disease can afflict rice plants in any of the growing stages and cause visible wilting of the seedlings and yellowing and drying of the leaves. Nearly 33 rice seedlings of these varieties should be transplanted in a one square metre area. “They are stress tolerant as well,” he said.
Prajapati said that Arize 6444 Gold is India’s highest selling hybrid rice seed and 20,000 tonnes of this variety are sowed across Asia. The ideal harvest time is between 135 and 140 days after planting. “In Uttar Pradesh, the maximum productivity of this variety was recorded at 13.7 tonnes per hectare,” he said, adding that a multi-location testing of these two varieties was conducted before being registered by the Nepal Agricultural Research Council.
According to Prajapati, the productivity of Arize 6444 Gold was recorded at 8-tonne per hectare in Kapilvastu. Arize Idea is a short slender grain or fine rice having ‘excellent’ cooking quality, the company said. The ideal harvest time is between 125 and 130 days after planting, and it yields 20 per cent to 25 per cent more grain that other varieties.
Likewise, senior scientist and Nepal representative of the International Rice Research Institute Krishna Dev Joshi said that Nepal would benefit greatly if hybrid paddy seeds are produced in Nepal. “There are only a few hybrid seeds of paddy registered in Nepal, as a result, farmers are bringing them through the porous border with India,” he said, adding that as productivity is double, more and more farmers are being attracted towards hybrid varieties. “The government should promote the production of hybrids in Nepal to increase production in order to feed the growing population.”
Hybrids have a higher yielding ability of 15 per cent to 25 per cent compared to open pollinated varieties, according to the Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock Development. “For this reason, there is an increasing trend of using hybrids among farmers.” The first hybrid variety officially released in Nepal was maize (Gaurav) in 2004. However, it was not successful due to the non-synchronisation nature of inbred lines.
A hybrid variety of tomato (Srijana) was registered in 2010. Recently, hybrid maize and paddy seeds are also increasingly becoming popular among farmers in the Tarai and lower hills. Many of them are imported, the ministry said.
The government’s National Seed Vision 2013-25 has envisaged developing and promoting 40 hybrids – 20 vegetable hybrid seeds, 12 maize hybrids and eight paddy hybrids – by 2025 to meet the growing domestic demand and also as an import substitution measure. The private sector too is expected to develop and promote 20 hybrids, 10 vegetable, five maize and five paddy hybrids.

South Asia has made progress in education enrollment but quality remains a challenge

The South Asian countries, including Nepal, have made remarkable progress in increasing school enrollment. The number of out-of-school children at the primary level has decreased three times in two decades, from over 35.7 million in 1999 to 10.3 million in 2017. There has been significant improvement even at the lower secondary and secondary levels.
Reports of the UN agencies show girls outnumber boys in the school system in most of the countries in the region, including Nepal. If Nepal government’s data is anything to go by, the net enrollment rate for grade one is over 97 per cent in Nepal with less than 90,000 students remaining out of the school system. However, maintaining the quality as envisioned in Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 4.1 remains a challenge in the region.
According to education specialist at UNICEF Regional Office for South Asia Ivan Coursac, on current trends, only 34 per cent children of school going age will learn minimum secondary level skills in 2030. He said 27 per cent students will not even learn basic primary level by that time.
Different researches by the Education Review Office, under the Ministry of Education, show a drop in the learning achievement of the school level students. One of the recent reports made public last year shows the performance levels of eighth graders in Mathematics and Science has dropped considerably in 2017 compared to 2013.
The study, carried out among 46,266 grade eight students in 1,950 public and private schools in 26 districts, shows the students do not even grasp half of what they meant to learn in the particular grade. “Mobilising more and better domestic financing and increasing international financing for education could be a step towards improving the learning achievement,” said Coursac during his presentation on South Asia level workshop on SDG 4, which is related to inclusive and equitable quality education, in the capital today.
He said South Korea presents the perfect example to the world in improving the education system both in terms of access and quality. The country first invested hugely on pre-schools than gradually to elementary, middle and high schools. The Korean school level education, in terms of learning and access, is considered among the best in the world.
An educationist, who has long experience in working on education policy in Nepal and abroad, Min Bahadur Bista says though the progressive incremental approach – where the different levels of education is prioritised gradually – might not be relevant to ‘our country at this point’, however, Korea provides ample cases on how education education sector needs to be prioritised. “Korea made adequate investment realising human resource development, laying the foundation for country’s prosperity which we are yet to realise,” he added.

Kami Rita Sherpa sets another world-record

Veteran climber Kami Rita Sherpa has conquered the Mt Everest second time in a week – breaking his own record – this morning making it the 24th time on top of the world.
A liaison officer at the Mt Everest base camp Gyanendra Shrestha confirmed that the 49-year-old climber scaled Mt Everest for the 24th time becoming the only mountaineer in the world to hold the record. Earlier, Kami Rita scaled Mt Everest on May 15 for the 23rd time. But after a brief rest, he set off for the mountain on May 18 to repeat the feat.
Kami Rita from Thame village of Solukhumbu district successfully climbed Mt Everest at 6:38 am today morning from Nepal side breaking his past record for most summits on the roof of the world, Shrestha added.
Kami Rita – guiding the Indian Police team from the Seven Summit Treks expedition – has stood atop the roof of the world today morning, Shrestha said, adding that Kami Rita started his summit push from Camp IV on Monday night and reached the summit point on Tuesday morning.
Kami Rita, who is currently working as a senior climbing guide at Seven Summit Treks, has been saying that he wanted to climb Mt Everest for at least 25 times. He climbed Mt Everest for the first time on May 13, 1994.
In 2017, Kami Rita became only the third person to climb Mt Everest 21 times, equalising Apa Sherpa and Phurba Tashi Sherpa's summit record. He set a record for the most number of Mt Everest summits in 2018. Apa and Phurba Tashi have already announced their retirement from mountaineering. But 30-year-old Ngima is young enough to overtake Kami Rita's record.
Born in a remote Thame village in Solukhumbu, Kami Rita – initially a climbing guide – started out in life as a trekking boy at the age of 12 to help support the family.

Monday, May 20, 2019

Axiata moves to international arbitration against Nepal government

The tax dispute between Ncell and the government has entered into a formal process of international arbitration as Axiata and Ncell has formally registered a case against the government of Nepal –  over capital gains tax (CGT) levied by the tax authorities in Nepal – at the International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID).
According to a notice published on the ICSID website today, Axiata UK filed a request for arbitration before the ICSID – a body under the World Bank Group – three weeks ago as it was dissatisfied with the Nepal government’s decision to charge CGT worth Rs 39 billion. Axiata UK and Ncell filed the case at the ICSID on the basis of a bilateral investment treaty (BIT) signed between Nepal and the UK in 1993. The treaty talks about taking the investment-related dispute to the ICSID, based on a multilateral treaty. With the ICSID registering the case, the process of formation of a tribunal begins under the Bilateral Investment Treaty, though it is not yet clear that the BIT between Nepal and the UK is applicable to companies in Saint Kitts and Nevis and Malaysia or not as Nepal has not signed any BIT with those countries.
The Axiata – the new owner of Ncell – was dissatisfied with the tax evaluation on the purchase of an 80 per cent stake in Ncell, via Reynolds Holdings Limited which is based in Saint Kitts and Nevis in the Caribbean.
“Axiata has to send a proposal on the number of arbitrators within the next 10 days,” according to corporate lawyer Sementa Dahal. “The number of arbitrators may vary from one to three,” he said, adding that the government gets 20 days to respond to Axiata’s proposals. “Once there is agreement by both parties the arbitration proceedings will be initiated.”
Failure to agree means the case will go into default and ICSID shall mediate the process for appointment within the next 30 or 60 days from the date of registration of the arbitration case. The ICSID shall have three members for settling the matter. Likewise, Axiata UK and the government of Nepal shall appoint one arbitrator each and another will be chosen as agreed by both parties.
In case the parties fail to do so, the international arbitration body itself will form a tribunal within the next 30 to 90 days from the date of registration and go ahead with the arbitration proceedings. “Before the formal arbitration proceedings begin, both parties may also choose to conduct pre-hearings for an amicable settlement,” Dahal said, adding that it may take two to three years for a final verdict through arbitration though it’s hard to predict the timing of the final verdict.
A case filed by Ncell – the subsidiary of Axiata – is sub judice at the Supreme Court as they have lodged a petition at Supreme Court on April 22, which issued an interim order to the tax authorities to put the tax assessment issue on hold. Ncell has claimed that the CGT liability is only Rs 14 billion, not Rs 39 billion as fixed by the Large Tax Office (LTO), as interests and fines are not applicable as the tax was assessed recently. After the Supreme Court verdict in April, the LTO had assessed the tax and asked Ncell to pay a total of Rs 62 billion, including additional payables of Rs 39 billion.
Though, it’s not the first time that Nepal has been challenged in the international court, it is not yet clear how the government – that has been informed of the case filing by Axiata UK at ICSID – will respond to the matter. 
Given the complicated process, the legal battle between the tax authorities and Ncell and Axiata is set to prolong. With the new turn in the dispute, the government’s chance of getting windfall tax from Ncell and meeting the revenue target for the current fiscal year also seems far-fetched.

ILO calls for investment in people’s capabilities for a brighter future

With technological advances changing the nature of many jobs, and leading to the need for new skills, the International Labour Organisation (ILO) has pointed out the urgency to expedite the human –centred agenda for the future of work.
As part of marking its 100 years, ILO country office organised a special programme in Kathmandu  to share the key findings of the Global Commission Report, which calls for investing more in building people’s capabilities to enhance skills, reskills and upskills  for social justice and decent work. 
Minister for Labour, Employment and Social Security Gokarna Bista, on the occasion, said that  recommendations of the Global Commission Report on the 'Future of Work' have fittingly incorporated challenges that Nepal is facing in the labour market and expressed commitment to implemement the ILO Declaration on the future of work when it comes up.
“The government has embraced the plan to provide decent employment opportunities to all people as their constitutional right,” he said, adding that social contract will be the basis to ensure social justice to all workers. He also urged the ILO to start a global campaign to urge countries to pay equal wage for work of equal value, done abroad for migrant workers.
Secretary at the Ministry of Labour, Employment and Social Security Mahesh Prasad Dahal said that the government is making efforts to address skills mismatch in the labour market and stressed the need to address the challenges of youth population.     
Likewise, Federation of Nepalese Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FNCCI) president Bhawani Rana said that small and medium scaled enterprises should be promoted to ensure decent employment, especially to women. "FNCCI is ready to team up with the government to promote jobs at home,” she emphasised.
Nepal Trade Union Congress (NTUC) president Pushkar Sharma, on the occasion, said that effective implementation of social security schemes and newly agreed minimum wage will build trust between workers and employers.
Assistant Director General of the ILO and Regional Director for Asia and the Pacific, Tomoko Nishimoto said that the ILO is seriously considering, country by country in Asia how it can realize the concept of decent work, with much focus laid on challenges posed by climate change, shifting demographics and new technologies.
“The core issue concerning labour markets relates to the nature and portability of workforce skills and building an agile workforce for the future of work transformation,” she added.
Likewise, head of ILO Economic Analysis Unit Sara Elder presented the highlights of the report, whereas economists Dr Govind Nepal and Dr Swarnim Wagle commented on the report. They also suggested that its recommendation will be a good reference for the government, employers and workers to prepare strategies for implementation of the future of work. 

Private sector asks to lower corporate tax

The private sector has asked the government to reduce corporate income tax by five per cent, give 50 per cent waiver on tax levied by local governments on land and housing registration, especially for those meant for industry and hotel business. They also want excise duty scrapped on all merchandise, except tobacco and liquor.
During a meeting with the finance minister Dr Yuba raj Khatiwada – a week before the announcement of budget for fiscal year 2019-20 – today the private sector reminded the government that it has failed to fully implement past budgets. “In this context, the incumbent strong government should bring a budget that ensures implementable budgetary programmes and policies.”
“The country has historically failed to execute budgetary programmes and policies,” president of Federation of Nepalese Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FNCCI) Bhawani Rana said, adding that the budget for the next fiscal year should focus on it.
Submitting a joint recommendation – for the first time – to finance minister Khatiwada, the FNCCI, Confederation of Nepalese Industries (CNI) and Nepal Chamber of Commerce (NCC) urged for the measures to be adopted in banking, industrial, financial, tax administration, tourism and agriculture sectors to encourage business.
“The government should introduce effective project monitoring and policy implementation mechanism through the budget,” CNI president Satish Kumar More said, adding that the private sector expects policies and programmes that will accelerate business growth and overall development. “But it is crucial to focus on implementation.”
The private sector has also urged the government to simplify tax rules and ensure businesses do not face the problem of double taxation. Seeking policy intervention to stabilise bank interest rate, they asked the finance minister to focus on addressing the problem of credit crunch in the market. “The government should boost development expenditure and improve credit flow in the banking sector.”

Sunday, May 19, 2019

Nepal posts Rs 64.68 billion BoP deficit

The outflow of money from the country has surpassed inflows by Rs 64.68 billion as the value of imports exceeded Rs 1 trillion mark, which is over 31 per cent of the country’s gross domestic product (GDP), in the first nine months of fiscal 2018-19.
The macroeconomic report of the first nine months of the current fiscal released by the central bank today revealed that the balance of payment (BoP) remained at a deficit of Rs 64.68 billion compared to a deficit of Rs 14.6 billion in the same period of the last fiscal year. “In terms of US dollar, the overall BoP recorded a deficit of $568.3 million in the nine months compared to a deficit of $144.1 million in the same period of last fiscal year.”
Nepal’s import bill increased by 21.3 per cent to Rs 1,061.63 billion against increment in exports by 16.9 per cent in the first nine months of 2018-19 creating pressure on the overall BoP situation. As a result, the Nepal’s total trade deficit has widened by 21.6 per cent to Rs 991.81 billion, the central bank statics revealed.
Likewise, the current account has also registered a deficit of Rs 204.43 billion against a deficit of Rs 172.67 billion in the same period of the last fiscal year, the report reads, adding that consumer price inflation stood at 4.4 per cent in mid-April 2019 compared to 5.3 per cent a year ago. “Food and beverage inflation stood at 2.8 per cent in mid-April 2019 compared to 4.7 per cent a year ago, whereas the non-food and service inflation stood at 5.7 per cent in mid-April 2019 compared to 5.8 per cent a year ago.”

First food tourism conference launched

The World Food Travel Association – along with partners in Nepal – today announced the launch of the country’s first food tourism conference under the name FoodTreX Kathmandu. The FoodTreX brand was created by the World Food Travel Association (WFTA), as the umbrella brand name for the Association’s food and beverage travel trade events.
“Despite having an extensive food and drink culture, Nepal has not been able to tap the immense potential in gastronomic tourism,” the conference organiser and certified World Food Travel Association ambassador Suraj Pradhan said, adding, “With facts and figures to back them up, we strongly believe that food is the way to a tourist’s heart.”
FoodTreX Kathmandu Regional Food Travel Summit will take place on May 24-26 at the Park Village Hotel by KGH Group at Budhanilkantha in Kathmandu. Delegates will enjoy a three-day event full of food-loving activities, face-to-face networking opportunities and inspiration from some of the industry’s leaders, said the organisers, who have included Two Tables, the U-Turn Events and Social Tours.
“FoodTreX Kathmandu represents first formal step into Asia,” the WFTA’s founder and executive director Erik Wolf said, adding that the organiser is pleased to be working with Nepal ambassador Suraj Pradhan and his team to deliver an outstanding first food tourism event for Nepal.

Remittance inflow records growth

Nepal has received Rs 653.19 billion remittances sent by Nepali migrant workers from various countries across the world in the first nine months of the current fiscal year 2018-19.
Despite the the number of Nepalis leaving home for foreign employment is on the decline, the remittance receipt is 20.9 per cent more than the remittance Nepal received in the same period in the last fiscal year, according to the central bank, which has claimed that the receipt of remittance has significantly improved from mid July 2018 to mid April 2019. “The overall remittance growth rate was 5.6 per cent in the last fiscal year.”
However, the receipt of remittance in the US dollars that has also increased by 9.5 per cent in the current fiscal year is almost the same in the last fiscal year. 

Saturday, May 18, 2019

House panel recommends to prioritise budget

A House panel has recommended the government to prioritise industrial sectors that help generate employment in the budget for the nest fiscal year.
The Finance Committee of the Legislature Parliament – submitting a 12-point recommendation to the government for the budget of next fiscal year – suggested to focus on road connectivity, energy generation and construction of tourism infrastructure.
Likewise, the budget should maintain balance while delegating authority to local and provincial governments so that no work responsibility is duplicated, the recommendation reads adding that the budget should address issues related to modernising the agricultural sector, promoting new agricultural technologies and scientific researches for the development of the agricultural sector. “Besides, the government should complete the reconstruction and resettlement of earthquake victims without being biased towards any one particular area.”
The major target of next fiscal year’s budget should also concentrated on promoting exports and substitute imports, the panel recommended, adding, “Besides, the budget should be implemented in such a manner that it secures the fundamental rights of the people such as health, education, shelter and social security.”
The Finance Committee has been holding pre-budget discussions with stakeholders since mid-April. During the discussions, the full-committee meeting today has provided recommendations to the government related to public procurement law, budget management, development project management, agriculture, industry promotion, infrastructure development and revenue management.
The panel has also recommended distribution of grants and royalty, control on corruption and promotion of financial good governance along with smooth flow of services, generating jobs and labour management. “The budget should focus on development and improvement of local and provincial governments, data collection and management, market monitoring, education and research along with the health sector,” chairman of the committee Krishna Prasad Dahal said, adding that the House panel’s recommendation has already been submitted to Finance Minister Dr Yubaraj Khatiwada and the National Planning Commission.

India extends 30 million aid to Nepal to build educational institution

Nepal has received financial aid from India amounting Rs 30.20 million to construct an educational institute in the Udayapur district. The financial aid was extended today to inaugurate Shree Narad Adarsha Education in Chaudandigadhi Municipality of Udayapur district. The institute was inaugurated by former Urban Development Minister and Nepali Congress leader Narayan Khadha, in the presence of Indian deputy chief of Mission Ajay Kumar. It is a two-storied building and is affiliated to the Tribhuvan University (TU), according to a press note issued by the Indian Embassy in Kathmandu. Tribhuvan University is one of the oldest public universities in Kirtipur, Kathmandu, Nepal that was established in the year 1959.
With the new infrastructure in place, students from adjoining districts, including Bhojpur, Khotang, Sunsari and Saptari will also get access to higher education.
India extended financial help to Nepal due to its ongoing project for the Small Development Programme Scheme under the India-Nepal Economic Cooperation Programme. A Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) has already been signed between both the nations in September 2016 for the construction of the building.
India has helped Nepal's education institute to further extend its operations. Although the institute was established in the year 1971, it could only extend education till secondary level. The institute was upgraded later to a bigger campus in the year 2003. After 2003, it is now that Shree Narad Adarsha Education will add additional buildings to enhance the intake of the students. The current capacity of the institute is of 770 students. Candidates seeking admission in the institute can pursue 10+2 level education and can also enroll for the 3-year Bachelor's degree course.
Till date, 135 students have enrolled for the Bachelor of Education programme and about 70 per cent of these candidates are girls. The new infrastructure will see 12 new classrooms, separate toilets for boys and girls, furniture, library, and meeting hall.

Friday, May 17, 2019

FCAN objects to Public Procurement Regulations

Federation of Contractors’ Associations of Nepal (FCAN) has objected to some points of Public Procurement Regulations (Sixth Amendment)-2075, recently issued by the government.
The federation has objected to some clauses of the Regulation, saying it would displace domestic entrepreneurs as it has given priority to foreign entrepreneurs, according to a press release issued by FCAN.
The release issued by FCAN general secretary Roshan Dahal reads that the government lost the opportunity of formulating construction-friendly acts. “The government has issued the Regulations against the suggestions of the FCAN and is trying to finish the domestic contractors,” it reads, adding that the goal, of ‘Prosperous Nepal, Happy Nepali’, could not be achieved due to such Regulations. Dahal said that the FCAN would be compelled to protest against the Regulations.

Sunday, May 12, 2019

Chinese firm signs contract to build dry port in Timure

Nepal Intermodal Transport Development Board signed an agreement today with a Tibetan construction company to construct the dryport at Timure of Rasuwa district to help ease bilateral trade via land route with the northern neighbour. 
The inland container depot – to be constructed with Chinese aid – is expected to cost 124 million Yuan.
Deputy director of the board Harey Krishna Mishra and project manager of the Chinese company Yang Enlin signed the agreement to construct the project that is expected to be completed in the next 30 months. Under the agreement, the Chinese government appointed company will construct the dry port on five hectares of land in Timure Rural Development Committee. The government has already acquired the land to construct the structure, a parking yard with capacity to park 350 trucks and containers.
The Chinese company will also construct a five-storey administrative building in 5,000 sq m of land. The building will incorporate a fire fighting system, a quarantine office, a customs office, banks and post office. “The dry port will house two customs clearance chambers built in an area of 2,080 sq m and a 750 sq m parking yard, cargo warehouse and litigation warehouse,” according to Nepal Intermodal Transport Development Board.
According to a civil engineer of the NITDB Pramod Acharya, the board will only facilitate the construction process. “The Chinese construction company will build the dry port in two phases,” he said, adding that the design of the works to be completed in the first phase has already been approved by the Nepali and Chinese governments. “The design of the dry port was designed earlier on January 15 in Chinese city of Chengdu. The design of the project has been prepared by Architectural Reconnaissance and Design Institute of Tibet.”
Nepal and China, in April 2015, signed memorandum of understanding (MoU) to construct the dry port that will be at 2.5-km distance from the Nepal-China border. The Nepal Intermodal Transport Development Board, in association with the Architectural Reconnaissance and Design Institute of Tibet Autonomous Region, had finalised the design of the dry port in 2016.
The port will not only reduce overhead costs, promote competitive transport services and open opportunities to private sector operators through their involvement in management and operation of the dry port but will also help reduce the whopping trade deficit.
The dry port at Rasuwagadhi will be the second of its type that the northern neighbour has been constructing for Nepal as athe first one that has been under construction at Tatopani is almost at the final stage of completion.
The Rasuwagadhi customs point is not only an alternative gateway to China also due to damage of Arniko Highway – linking the Chinese border further east – because of devastating earthquake in 2015.

Government opens Simara GPZ for investment

The Special Economic Zone (SEZ) Authority Nepal has called for applications from interested parties to invest inside the Garment Processing Zone (GPZ) in Simara.
Publishing a notice, the SEZ Authority has asked firms to submit their applications within May 31 to set up their factories across 68 blocks inside the GPZ. It has also fixed rental fee of Rs 20 per square feet for investors to establish their factories inside the Simara GPZ.
According to executive director of SEZ Authority Nepal Chandika Bhatta, the authority will analyse the applications that it receives for Simara GPZ and soon award the blocks for investors to invest in.
The authority will provide necessary land to investors on lease for 30 years with the possibility of an extension, according to the notice of the SEZ Authority Nepal that is hopeful that all 68 blocks will be booked within the application submission deadline
Bhatta claimed that investors in the Simara GPZ will be assured of basic infrastructures including internal road, electricity and water supply, sewage system, weighing bridge, waste water treatment plant, petrol pump, banks and insurance service.
The government had came up with the concept of GPZ after the US extended zero tariff preference for 66 products, including apparels, into its market through the ‘Trade Facilitation and Trade Enforcement Act’ in February 2016. Construction of the GPZ is expected to bring down the production and export cost of garments, which is relatively higher compared to other nations in the South Asian region, apart from reducing the cost of production and exports. The GPZ is also expected to slash the high transport and shipment costs incurred by Nepali garment traders due to the country’s landlocked status, as the Simara GPZ is located near the country’s only rail-linked dry port in Birgunj.

Average daily capital spending drops to Rs 41 million

Despite the two-third majority stable government, the capital spending has dropped down. Though, this is the time for paying bills of large amounts – mostly submitted by the contractors against works done in February and March – the government has spent only Rs 41 million in an average in the last 11 days, according to Financial Comptroller General Office (FCGO).
Though, the contractors have been blaming the government for withholding their payment without any valid reason, the government has only spent Rs  458 million capital expenditure in the past 11 days, which is is against the trend, as government payments would speed up in the months from May to June, during the last trimester. Of the total capital expenditure of Rs 313 billion, capital spending hovers below 40 per cent till date, while only two months for the fiscal year to end.
Not only the capital spending, the government has not been able to spend recurrent expenses, which are meant for regular salaries and adminitsrtive works, too. The government has spent Rs 724 billion, according to the FCGO.
The government has not made payments against works at Gautam Buddha International Airport, different sections of Mid-Hill Highway and other road projects bringing the development works to a halt as the contractors are cash strapped at this moment," said former president of Federation of Contractors Association of Nepal (FCAN) Jayaram Lamichhane. “The government has to immediately pay an estimated Rs 72 billion to contractors and different parties related to development projects,” he said, adding that lack of payment has been affecting their work, while banks and financial institutions have been facing further liquidity crunch and shortage of lendable cash. “It seems the Finance Minister is not aware of this gloomy picture of project management.”
While releasing mid-term report of the budget for the current fiscal year in March, Finance Minister Dr Yubaraj Khatiwada had said that he could not do much toward making timely payments to contractors though he had been receiving several complaints on the matter.

Saturday, May 11, 2019

Gautam Buddha airport contractor stops work after not getting paid

The Gautam Buddha International Airport – that is expected to play a major role in the Visit Nepal 2020 campaign – construction has been halted again, albeit this time due to lack of budget. After the Ministry of Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation could not pay the Chinese contractor, Northwest Civil Aviation Airport Construction Company has halted construction work from today.
The contractor of Gautam Buddha International Airport in Bhairahawa – which has been facing endless delays since construction started in 2013 – has halted work complaining that it has not received its payment. According to Chinese contractor, the ministry still has to pay it around Rs 200 million.
As the CAAN has submitted documents to the ministry on April 19, the ministry was supposed to forward the details to the Asian Development Bank (ADB), the documents have however stuck at the ministry. Officials at the CAAN, thus blamed Tourism Ministry as according to them the ministry has ‘intentionally’ delayed payment – by not forwarding paperwork of the national pride project to the Finance Ministry – that was supposed to release payment of around Rs200 million to Northwest Civil Aviation Airport Construction Group.
According to a source at the Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal (CAAN) – the project executing agency – the delayed payment could cause the government more loss as the contractor would claim compensation, if the payment is not released within two weeks.
Though the contractor will also not restart work until payment is made, Tourism Ministry has blamed the CAAN for not acting in time to get additional funding. But the budget approved by the project financer Asian Development Bank (ADB) has already been spent, the Tourism Ministry has requested the Finance Ministry to arrange financing from another source. ADB holds 62.6 per cent share of investment to upgrade the Gautam Buddha International Airport. The project has sought Rs 100 million in additional financing. The CAAN has asked for more money only on May 3.
CAAN has awarded the Rs 6.22 billion airport upgradation contract to Northwest Civil Aviation Airport Construction Group in November 2013.
Of the total project cost, the ADB provided $58.50 million ($42.75 in loans and $15.75 million in grants) and the OPEC Fund for International Development provided a $15 million loan. The CAAN was supposed to bear the rest of the cost as counterpart funding.
The airport was initially slated to be ready in December 2017. The shortage of fuel and building material due to the months-long Tarai banda in 2015 delayed the upgradation work by six months, and its operation deadline was pushed back to June 2018. Around 300 workers are currently working on this project on a daily salary basis. In such a situation the contractor will be compelled to halt work, if it does not receive the budget on time.
Earlier too, a dispute over payment between the Chinese contractor and the Nepali sub-contractor, Northwest Infra Nepal, stalled work for more than six months. The project deadline has been extended many times after the initial extension. After the first phase of upgradation, the airport’s handling capacity will increase to 760,000 passengers annually and become Nepal’s second international airport. It will serve as an alternative to Kathmandu’s Tribhuvan International Airport (TIA) during the emergencies.

Thursday, May 9, 2019

Ncell managing director Suren J Amarasekera steps down

Weeks after Ncell’s tax dispute reached the Supreme Court and also the International Centre for the Settlement of the Investment Disputes in Singapore, the managing director of the Ncell Suren J Amarasekera has resigned from his post.
Amarasekera notified Ncell this week that he was stepping down from his post citing personal and family reasons, according to a source at the telecom company. “Friday will be his last day in the office as according to him,” he added.
Before joining Ncell in Kathmandu, Amarasekera had worked as the strategic project's director for Axiata Group Berhad’s corporate headquarters in Malaysia, focusing on key group initiatives across its South Asian operations in Bangladesh, Nepal, Sri Lanka and Pakistan.
Amarasekera was appointed the managing director of the telecom service provider in July 2017, a year after Ncell’s majority ownership was bought by Malaysia-based Axiata Group Berhad from TeliaSonera.
Ncell moved to Supreme Court and also International Centre for the Settlement of the Investment Disputes in Singapore after the Large Taxpayers Office asked it to pay Rs 39.06 billion as capital gains tax (CGT).
Though, the tax dispute is said to do nothing with Amarasekera’s resignation, the Supreme Court – last week – continued an earlier interim order barring the Large Taxpayers Office (LTO) from collecting the dues it had determined after Ncell filed a writ challenging the procedure adopted and the amount determined by the tax authority.
Axiata has notified its shareholders on April 26 that its subsidiaries – Axiata, UK and Ncell – had filed a request for arbitration at the Singapore-based settlement centre, claiming that Nepal’s conduct with regards to the CGT contravenes international law obligations under the Bilateral Investment Treaty between the two countries.

Tuesday, May 7, 2019

Elke Wisch is the new UNICEF Representative for Nepal

UNICEF has welcomed Elke Wisch as the new UNICEF representative for Nepal, succeeding Tomoo Hozumi.
Wisch is a German national with a long record of realising the rights of children and women. She brings a wealth of experience and insight to UNICEF’s work in Nepal, according to a press note issued by the UNICEF office in Kathmandu.
“I have wanted to come to Nepal for a very long time,” Wisch, said, adding that she felt very privileged to be in this beautiful country and to have the opportunity to serve the children and women of Nepal.
For over 23 years, Wisch has been working to improve the lives of children and women and their communities in a range of development, transition and emergency contexts. Wisch joined UNICEF in 1996 as Child Protection Officer in Rwanda, and subsequently served as Child Protection Chief in Liberia. Between 1999 and 2001, she worked in the Balkans region as Programme Coordinator during the Kosovo Emergency and as acting FYR Macedonia Representative. From 2001 to 2003, Wisch held senior positions in Emergency Coordination and Child Protection during the Afghanistan Emergency Operation prior to serving as the UNICEF deputy representative in Myanmar from 2003-2007.
In 2008, Wisch took on the role of Senior Peace building and Recovery Coordinator for Northern Uganda within the UN Country Team, and then held the position of UNICEF deputy regional director for the Eastern and Southern Africa region from 2009-2014.
She was appointed as the UNICEF representative in Madagascar in 2014, a position she held for four years. In August 2018, Wisch joined the UNICEF Regional Office for South Asia, serving as the Deputy regional director ad interim, until taking up the representative posting Nepal.
Wisch holds a Master of Arts in Social and Political Sciences from Munich University and a Master of Public Administration from the Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University. Prior to joining UNICEF, Wisch worked for various conflict resolution organisations and academic institutions in Germany and the United States.