Friday, June 21, 2019

Indian state of Rajasthan to pay for Pashupatinath trip

Indian state of Rajasthan has decided to pay for airfare of its senior citizens – above 65 years – coming on pilgrimage to Pashupatinath in Kathmandu.
According to Indian media, “The Rajasthan government has decided to fly its senior citizens free of cost to three more pilgrimage destinations, including Pashupatinath Temple in Nepal, an official statement said Thursday.”
The three new locations have been added by the Ashok Gehlot government in the list of 6 existing destinations, the media reported, adding that the Indian state of Rajasthan has been bearing pilgrimage expenses of senior citizens under the ‘Senior Citizens Pilgrimage Scheme’.
Pashupatinath Temple – listed in the UNESCO World Heritage Sites list in 1979 – has been a prime destination for Hindu pilgrims across the globe. Indian nationals top the visitors’ number every year due to religious tourism during February, when Maha Shivaratri, a major festival dedicated to Lord Shiva, is celebrated.
The latest decision of the Indian state government is likely to help promote Visit Nepal Year 2020 campaign too. 

Nepal, Bangladesh agree to make joint investment in Nepal's hydropower

Nepal and Bangladesh – during a meeting held in Dhaka – agreed to jointly invest in the feasible hydropower project in Nepal.
A meeting of the energy secretaries from both the countries today in Dhaka also decided to use the existing setup of Indian transmission lines to trade power in the short run, though they had decided to study the prospect of building dedicated power lines in the long term.
Agreeing to make a joint investment in the projects based on the whitepaper issued after the last meeting, the secretary level meeting between energy officials of both countries today agreed to form a committee to study the prospect of transferring solar power technologies available in Bangladesh to Nepal.
According to energy secretary Dinesh Kumar Ghimire, the meeting has agreed for the joint investment on hydropower, collaboration, and cooperation on alternative energy and electricity export to Bangladesh. The agreement was signed by energy secretary Dinesh Ghimire and his Bangladeshi counterpart Ahmad Kaikaus during the Joint Steering Committee meeting in line with the Memorandum of Under-standing signed by the two countries on ‘Cooperation in the Field of Power Sector’ last August.
Discussions on the use of Indian transmission lines passing through the Siliguri Corridor – popularly known as Chicken’s Neck – emerged in the wake of recent amendments to the cross-border energy trading regulations by India. India has relaxed earlier provisions and given explicit recognition to tripartite arrangements in cross-border electricity trade. “The Transmission Planning Agency of India in consultation with the Transmission Planning Agency of the neighbouring country shall grant access to the Participating Entities to use Cross Border Transmission Link for cross border trade of electricity,” reads India’s Cross Border Trade of Electricity Regulations, 2019.
During past meetings, Nepal and Bangladesh pledged to make their best efforts in devising such trilateral arrangements.
Meanwhile, Bangladesh has formulated a policy to import 9,000 MW electricity from Nepal by 2040 as Bangladesh being one of the fastest growing economies – aided by its manufacturing sector – is an energy-hungry nation which makes it a lucrative market for power produced in Nepal.
The authorities from both countries have also planned to study and invest in 20 major hydropower project proposed in the white paper released by the energy ministry in May 2018. The proposed projects include four storage and other major hydroelectric power plants including Upper Arun, Dudhkoshi, Sunkoshi 2, Sunkoshi 3, West Seti and Phukot Karnali. Out of the 20 projects, the Nepal Electricity Authority (NEA) is currently evaluating the detailed project report (DPR) of the 800 MW Dudhkoshi Hydropower project and the recent project optimisation of Upper Arun, which revised its installed capacity from 725 MW to 1040 MW. The estimated annual cumulative output of the proposed and under-study projects stands at 42713.18 GWhr, nearly 11 times current total annual output.
Nepal’s power generation is expected to surge in the next fiscal year as some 43 projects with installed capacity of 1149 MW are expected to be joined in the national grid. Due to power surplus estimation in future, the government has focused on construction of high capacity substations at cross-border trade points and finalise the modalities for developing the 400 kV Butwal-Gorakhpur Transmission Line to facilitate cross border power trade.

Experts dwell on BRI opportunities and challenges

Experts from South Asia and South East Asia have highlighted the various opportunities and challenges associated with the China-proposed Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) during a two-day international conference that was concluded in Kathmandu today.
Delivering her presentation during the ‘Fourth International Conference on Belt and Road for development and prosperity of South Asia’, Centre of International Relations and Strategic Studies under the Foreign Service Institute of Philippines Darlene V Estrada said that her country has remained very receptive towards China's BRI since it joined in 2017. “We are aligning our development plans with China's BRI even though there are some geopolitical, financial and legal risks," she said, adding that it is important for any country to maximise its national interests through BRI. “The Philippines has formulated a mechanism to avoid potential risks from the extreme debt under the BRI.”
Research Associate at the East Asian International Relations of Malaysia Nur Shahadah Jamil, on the occasion, said that the new Mahathir administration has continued engagement with China for economic cooperation though it scrapped some projects under the BRI which were agreed during the previous Najib administration. “We cannot abandon our strong economic partnership with China though we have scrapped some projects under the BRI after the new government came,” she said, adding that the Chinese investment is growing rapidly at present in Malaysia.
Likewise, macroeconomic expert of the Laos government Vanxay Sayavong shared that his country is taking huge advantage from the connectivity projects including China-Laos railway built under the framework of the BRI. Suggesting the participating countries to address the concerns of local communities while executing projects under the BRI, he said that the projects built under the BRI may face strong protests at the local level like in Laos in the recent past, if the concerns raised by local communities are not addressed.
Director at the Institute of South Asian Studies under the Xizang Minzu University of Tibet Autonomous Region of China said that China and Nepal have been expanding their economic cooperation in recent years. “We are determined to execute the cross-border railroad connectivity though it may take some time," she said, adding that India's hegemonic behaviour towards Nepal is thwarting China-Nepal relations at times. “Nepal needs to pursue an independent foreign policy and deepen its close ties with next-door neighbour China.”
The head of China Study Centre at Sustainable Development Policy Institute of Pakistan Hina Aslam, on the occasion, said that Pakistan has been benefitting from the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) by constructing energy plants, seaport, railroad connectivity projects and special economic zones. “However, hostile relationship with India over Kashmir issue and worsening security situation of Afghanistan may bring some problems in CPEC," she added.
Explaining how Bangladesh is bilaterally working with China as the Bangladesh-China-India-Myanmar (BCIM) corridor is not moving ahead as expected, Mahfuz Kabir from Bangladesh highlighted Bangladesh-China cooperation under the BRI. “As South Asian countries are heavily dependent on China for trade and investment, they need strong railroad connectivity with China,” he added.
A member of National Planning Commission (NPC) Krishna Prasad Oli said that the BRI is offering various economic opportunities for Nepal. “We want to enhance railroad connectivity with China," he added.
The conference, organised by Nepal-China Friendship Forum, witnessed the participation of scholars and experts from Nepal, China and other Asian countries including India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Laos, Malaysia and the Philippines.

Nepal, Finland establish bilateral consultation mechanism

Nepal and Finland established a bilateral consultation mechanism to hold regular consultations alternatively – in Kathmandu and Helsinki – and to review bilateral relations and identify new areas of cooperation between the two countries, as well as exchange views on regional and international issues of mutual interest.
A Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) – to establish the bilateral consultation mechanism between Foreign Ministries of Nepal and Finland – was signed by joint secretary and head of Europe America Division at Foreign Ministry Ghanshyam Bhandari and ambassador of Finland to Nepal Pertti Anttinen signed the MoU on behalf of their respective governments, at the Foreign Ministry in Kathmandu today.
Nepal and Finland established diplomatic relations in 1974. They have been enjoying cordial relations based on mutual respect, cooperation and trust but the bilateral relations needs to be taken to new height, the ministry press note reads.

IFC joins hands with Nepal to raise environmental and social standards in hydropower projects

International Finance Corporation (IFC) – a member of the World Bank Group – has signed an agreement with the Forest Training and Research Centre (FTRC), under Ministry of Forests and Environment, to improve adherence to environmental and social standards in hydropower development in Nepal.
Under the pact, IFC will provide advisory services to increase private sector compliance with environmental and social standards by improving development and implementation of regulatory frameworks for hydropower sector, including trainings in all seven provinces. The programme will also facilitate investments in hydropower sector by providing guidance on environmental and social standards and supporting inclusive development of hydropower in Nepal.
As a part of its support, IFC will focus on development and adoption of best practices, including capacity to implement the new Hydropower Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) Manual, released last year by the ministry and supported by IFC.
“To implement the EIA manual, we need to train our staff at all levels. This support will help us build our capacity as an oversight agency for environmental impact and to ensure effective compliance with environmental standards,” director general of FTRC Deepak Kumar Kharalsaid.
Given the vast environmental and social challenges Nepal faces, capturing the impacts and risks associated with hydropower development remains critical to ensuring sustainable development in the country.
“This will enable both the public sector as well as the private sector to have a clear guidance on what is expected to identify risks and manage the impact associated with hydropower projects as well as assess cumulative the impact while managing river basins holistically, particularly where multiple hydropower projects are being planned,” IFC’s resident representative in Nepal Mohammad Rehan Rashid said.
The programme, funded by the governments of Australia, Japan and Norway, has a strong social inclusion component focused on building resilience in communities affected by hydropower projects.
IFC – a sister organisation of the World Bank and member of the World Bank Group – is the largest global development institution focused on the private sector in emerging markets. In fiscal year 2018, we delivered more than $23 billion in long-term financing for developing countries, leveraging the power of the private sector to end extreme poverty and boost shared prosperity.

New international labour standard to combat violence, harassment

The International Labour Conference  (ILC) has today adopted a new Convention and accompanying Recommendation to combat violence and harassment in the world of work.
The Violence and Harassment Convention-2019, and Violence and Harassment Recommendation-2019 were adopted by delegates on the final day of the Centenary International Labour Conference, in Geneva. For the Convention, 439 votes were cast in favour, seven against, with 30 abstentions. The Recommendation was passed with 397 votes in favour, 12 votes against and 44 abstentions.
The Convention recognises that violence and harassment in the world of work ‘can constitute a human rights violation or abuse…is a threat to equal opportunities, is unacceptable and incompatible with decent work.’ It defines ‘violence and harassment’ as behaviours, practices or threats ‘that aim at, result in, or are likely to result in physical, psychological, sexual or economic harm.’ It reminds member states that they have a responsibility to promote a “general environment of zero tolerance”.
The new international labour standard aims to protect workers and employees, irrespective of their contractual status, and includes persons in training, interns and apprentices, workers whose employment has been terminated, volunteers, job seekers and job applicants. It recognises that “individuals exercising the authority, duties or responsibilities of an employer” can also be subjected to violence and harassment.
“The new standards recognise the right of everyone to a world of work free from violence and harassment,” according to the ILO director-general Guy Ryder. “The standard covers violence and harassment occurring in the workplace; places where a worker is paid, takes a rest or meal break, or uses sanitary, washing or changing facilities; during work-related trips, travel, training, events or social activities; work-related communications (including through information and communication technologies), in employer-provided accommodation; and when commuting to and from work,” he said, Welcoming the adoption, that recognises that violence and harassment may involve third parties, Ryder said that the new standards recognise the right of everyone to a world of work free from violence and harassment. “The next step is to put these protections into practice, so that we create a better, safer, decent, working environment for women and men.”
The Convention will enter into force 12 months after two member States have ratified it. The Recommendation, which is not legally binding, provides guidelines on how the Convention could be applied.
This is the first new Convention agreed by the International Labour Conference since 2011, when the Domestic Workers Convention- 2011 (No. 189) was adopted. Conventions are legally binding international instruments, while Recommendations provide advice and guidance.
The ILO, the UN’s agency dealing with world of work issues, is marking its 100th year in 2019.
The Centenary ILC – the 108th meeting of the Conference – was attended by more than 5,700 delegates, representing governments, workers and employers from the ILO’s 187 member States. The Conference is also expected to adopt a landmark ILO Centenary Declaration, focused on a human-centred approach to the future of work.

Responsible business a crucial factor in keeping region on track to achieve the SDGs

Businesses are well-positioned to offer innovative solutions to key sustainable development challenges, particularly in meeting the infrastructure and connectivity needs of rural and urban communities, concluded the annual Asia-Pacific Business Forum (APBF) in Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea today.
Organised by the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (UN-ESCAP), the government of Papua New Guinea and the Papua New Guinea Investment and Promotion Authority, with the support of the Business Council of Papua New Guinea, the Forum showcased bold, innovative and truly sustainable business solutions in sectors such as infrastructure, green financing, financial inclusion, climate and disaster resilience, as well as trade and investment.
The two-day APBF focused on the theme of ‘Global Goals, Local Opportunities’. Senior policymakers, business leaders and emerging entrepreneurs discussed the roles and responsibilities of businesses to work with the public sector to mitigate the impacts of climate change and support the development of non-urban Pacific communities.
“Connectivity is especially relevant in the Pacific context, where the challenges associated with geographic isolation and remoteness have hindered trade and investment among Pacific island countries and with major international markets. Enhancing connectivity in this subregion demands increased investments in transport networks and ICT infrastructure,” said UN under-secretary-general and executive secretary of ESCAP Armida Salsiah Alisjahbana in her opening remarks.
Alisjahbana called upon public-private sector partnerships to support SME growth and women’s entrepreneurship in the region. “Unlocking the potential of women-owned business represents a powerful opportunity for greater economic growth and leadership in our economies,” she said, adding that a stronger Asia and the Pacific demands novel strategies to overcome entrenched barriers to women owned and led businesses and entrepreneurships.
Prime Minister of Papua New Guinea James Marape, on the occasion, said that the priority is to empower our local business women and men. “We have set a goal of growing our local SME spaces so that 10 per cent to 20 per cent of our citizens are anchored in the SME sectors,” he said, adding that aligned with the focus of the APBF, the key priority sectors for SME growth are agriculture, tourism and marine resources. “We are keen to work with foreign investors to sustainably develop these industries and our SMEs in them.”
“To implement the 17 Sustainable Development Goals by 2030 is not a simple task.”
One condition for success is to engage the private sector well. For businesses to work towards the SDGs, we need platforms such as the Asia-Pacific Business Forum to bring together world business leaders,” the president of the ESCAP Sustainable Business Network (ESBN) George Lam said.

Sebon brings new AML guidelines

The capital market regulator has introduced new guidelines on anti-money laundering (AML) listing out five dozen transactions of companies in the securities and commodities market that should be notified to the Financial Information Unit (FIU) of the central bank as suspicious transactions.
The new guidelines on prevention of money laundering and terrorist financing released by the Securities Board of Nepal (Sebon) today requires companies – licensed by the capital market regulator – that are termed as reporting entities and include stock brokerage firms, merchant bankers and stock and commodity exchange company, to flag any suspicious transaction to the FIU for further investigation.
The suspicious transactions range from investment that seems to be made from tax-evaded money to discrepancies in the address of any client and transactions from another person's name, according to the guidelines. “The reporting agencies should send suspicious transaction report to the FIU within three days,” the new guidelines reads, adding that it aims at implementing the Asset (Money) Laundering Prevention Act, 2008 and prevent and discourage the money and asset laundering and financing of terrorist activities through the abuse of the securities and commodity market. “Any transaction that seems unusual in terms of size, value, nature and source, should be reported.”
The reporting agencies are also required to send each transaction report to the FIU above the value of Rs 1 million, apart from the suspicious transaction reports, the new guidelines read.
According to the new guidelines, reporting entities in the securities and commodities market are also required to categorise their clients under high-risk, risk and general risk for further scrutiny and reporting of their transactions. “Some of those who fall under high-risk are the clients who carry out transactions without coming at the fore, non-residential clients, high ranking politicians, business persons and officials in social and financial sectors; and transactions carried out with firms, companies and organisations who do not have their regulators,” it further reads, adding that the FIU forwards the cases to the respective law enforcement and investigation agencies for further investigation after analyzing and assessing the information based on the information and reports from the reporting entities.
The capital market regulator has also warned that those reporting agencies who fail to comply with the anti-money laundering laws, regulations and guidelines will have to face stern action. “Those violating the provision risks facing the fine up to Rs 50 million and cancellation of the license,” the guidelines further reads.
Nepal is currently under scanner of the global agency that looks after the AML/CFT as the Financial Action task Force (FATF) will review the country’s status in 2020. Almost all the regulatory authorities have been very serious on implementing the anti money laundering law to keep Nepal out of the black list of the FATF.

Gautam Buddha International Airport completion deadline to be extended again

The Chinese contractor company has sought an extension to the completion deadline of Gautam Buddha International Airport (GBIA) by six months, though this is the third time that the completion deadline of GBIA is being extended.
Though, the completion deadline will be extended, the investment amount will not be increased and remain the same at Rs 7 billion, according to the GBIA Project Chief Prabesh Adhikari.
The second phase of the construction – technically called ‘ICB 02’ – is still to begin, which is why the contractor has asked for deadline extension, he said, adding that currently the project is in the final phase of ICB 01 and the work of ICB 02 will begin only after completion of this phase. “The project has been divided into two phases — ICB 01 that includes infrastructural work and ICB 02 that includes installing the equipment – by contractor Northwest Civil Aviation Airport Construction Company.”
It will take at least six months to complete the work of ICB 02,” GBIA Project Chief said, adding that the process of selecting the company to purchase equipment for communication navigation and surveillance system has already begun. “Thus, we have proposed to extend the deadline.”
Under the first phase – ICB 01 – the installation of lights and marking on the runway, taxiway and apron remain to be completed. “The project has submitted the proposal for deadline extension to the Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal some two weeks ago,” Adhikari said. “We are also awaiting a response from Asian Development Bank.”
The upgradation of GBIA was started in January 2015, targeting to complete it by December 2017. But conflict between contractors, Tarai-Madhesh movement, and also lack of construction materials after earthquake of 2015 consequently pushed the completion deadline to June 15, 2018.
GBIA is expected to play a major role in making the Visit Nepal 2020 campaign a success.

Japan hands over Mediation Centers

The ambassador of Japan to Nepal Masamichi Saigo today handed over three mediation centers, one at the Patan High Court, and one each at Lalitpur District Court and Bhaktapur District Court, for the improvement of the efficiency of legal assistance in urban areas.
The Project for the ‘Establishment of Mediation Centers in the urban cities of Nepal’ is funded under the Grant Assistance for Grassroots Human Security Projects (GGP) of the Government of Japan. The grant assistance amounts to $38,388 (approximately Rs 3.9 million), according to a press note issued by the Embassy of Japan in Kathmandu.
In the increasingly populated urban cities in Nepal, people sometimes have to wait for several months to receive legal services from the courts, it reads, adding that the mediation centers that have been established next to the courts will offer legal consultations by professional lawyers so that simple civil cases can be solved before going to court. “In this way, both the courts and citizens can find efficient solutions for issues.”
The Nepal Bar Association, established in 1956, has been offering trainings and education related to legal matters, and conducting activities to promote justice and human rights.
The Embassy of Japan hopes that this project will strengthen the bilateral relationship between Japan and Nepal.

Thursday, June 20, 2019

South Asia can benefit from BRI

Minister of Foreign Affairs Pradeep Kumar Gyawali today said that South Asian states could benefit immensely from the Chinese-led Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).
Highlighting BRI’s emphasis on connectivity, he said the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor and the Bangladesh-China-India-Myanmar Economic Corridor under the BRI could play an instrumental role in boosting connectivity in the region.
“Connectivity is also important for a land-locked country like Nepal,” he said addressing the fourth international conference on ‘Belt and Road for Development and prosperity of South Asia’ in the Capital. “The BRI assistance could prove crucial in realising Nepal’s target of graduating to a middle-income country by 2030,” he said, adding that Nepal believes BRI is a reliable and result-oriented platform for cooperation. “Nepal expected capital investment and transfer of modern technology under the BRI projects.”
Our development efforts are constrained by inadequate financial resources and the BRI can be a remedy to it,” he said, adding that Nepal hopes to get benefited from the BRI investment, cooperation and exchanges. Gyawali also said that the BRI had become a fact of the present time due to its inherent policy of cooperation, collaboration and connectivity in diverse sectors.
“Economic integration in the South Asia and with China is weak, so there is a need of massive expansion of development cooperation and collaboration in trade, investment, tourism and culture,” he stated, pointing towards the need of mega infrastructure to increase connectivity to facilitate the movement of people and goods.
About 50 countries and 29 international agencies are connected with the BRI.
Chinese ambassador to Nepal Hou Yanqi, on the occasion, said that BRI is a platform for all participants. She also added that it could help boost economic and social development in the South Asian region. “The BRI aimed at delivering sustainable development results,” she said, appreciating Nepal for its support to and cooperation in the initiative. “BRI has attracted more partners, businesses and friends from which all the member countries and organisations can get benefit.”
China has become Nepal’s largest source of the Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) and tourists which is having positive impact on economic growth, she added.
Presenting the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), cross-sea bridge in the Maldives, Hambantota port in Sri Lanka and China-Afghanistan cooperation as the successful BRI projects, she said that they were benefitting both the partner countries. “Sooner or later India will also join the initiative.”
“BRI is open, inclusive and transparent and does not include any hidden geopolitical agenda,” she said, dismissing the doubt of BRI being taken as a debt-trap by some of the experts in Nepal.
Urging China to extend support in developing key infrastructure, former vice chair of the National Planning Commission (NPC) Dr Shankar Prasad Sharma, on the occasion, said that Nepal had given priority to infrastructure development. “Energy, trade, technology transfer, tourism and connectivity are critical for economic development of the country. But in case of Nepal security for energy and trade is critical,” he said, warning that it will be very challenging for Nepal to get benefits from the business as usual scenario as the export from Nepal to China has been declining since the last couple of years while the import is going up significantly. “The maintenance of infrastructure projects was also equally important as their development.”
Delivering a key note speech, member of the Parliament and president of Jatiya Samajtantrik Dal of Bangladesh, Hasanul Haq Inu highlighted the priorities of foreign policy of Bangladesh. He said that Bangladesh has been engaged in regional and multilateral forums like BRI, Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC) and South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC), and these forums are important to promote regional and bilateral connectivity among the countries.

Development partners promise to help 2015-earthquake reconstruction

The development partners – during a meeting of National Reconstruction Authority (NRA)’s Foreign Aid Coordination and Facilitation Committee today – have expressed their will to extend support to the revised programmes and financial plan for the five-year plan for post-disaster reconstruction and rehabilitation that costs Rs 630 billion.
Showing their readiness to support Nepal in post-disaster reconstruction and rehabilitation efforts in the meeting with NRA, they also appreciated the progress in reconstruction.
Acting Country Manager of the World Bank Kene Ezemenari appreciated the progress in reconstruction, whereas head of Cooperation at the European Union (EU) delegation to Nepal Ovidiu Mic said that the EU would continue to provide support to Nepal in reconstruction.
Deputy Chief of Mission at the Embassy of India in Kathmandu Dr Ajaya Kumar, on the occasion, said that India is working to provide the support it committed in the past. Likewise, representative from the Embassy of China in Kathmandu expressed Chinese commitment for necessary support in the future. Likewise, the Department for International Development (UK), USAID, Asian Development Bank (ADB) and Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) also showed their readiness in helping Nepal in the post-quake reconstruction and rehabilitation.
According to NRA’s new estimation, the total reconstruction cost for the properties damaged by the devastating earthquake in 2015 stands at Rs 630 billion about Rs 308 billion less than the primary estimates made in the immediate aftermath of the quake. “Rs 630 billion is the budget that is implemented by the NRA alone,” according to NRA chief executive officer (CEO) Sushil Gyawali.
The reconstruction authority – in consultation with the Finance Ministry in 2016 – had published the revised estimates of the total reconstruction cost at Rs 938 billion, which the NRA has revised downwards.
Gyawali, on the occasion, said that the new estimates were made after reducing the budget of the infrastructure like water supply, roads and bridges that would be built by the government and reconstruction of private houses and other structures by the national and international Non-Government Organisations (NGOs).
The NRA statistics revealed that about Rs 291 billion will be spent by the end of the current fiscal year 2018-19. Finance Minister Dr Yuba Raj Khatiwada has allocated Rs 141 billion budget for reconstruction related works for the next fiscal. “There is a financial gap in reconstruction and rehabilitation,” Gyawali said, adding that the NRA is, in consultation with the Finance Ministry and development partners, in an effort to arrange funds.
The NRA had urged the development partners to extend additional support in implementing economic and livelihood programmes, localizing the disaster management work, and rebuilding of heritage settlement and urban structure.
The meeting has emphasised amending the National Building Code and implementing it to the local levels.
Nepal, meanwhile, is holding an international conference to impart the knowledge, experience and learning it earned during the post-quake reconstruction and rehabilitation to the international community. 

China wants some concerns to be addressed before cross-border railway DPR talks

China has sought clarity on five basic issues ahead of Detail Project Report (DPR) for the Kerung-Kathmandu railway, during the fourth Nepal-China bilateral meeting that concluded today in Beijing without entering the agenda of the DPR.
Chinese officials asked the Nepali side to first meet the standards set by a pre-feasibility study for the project. Chinese officials at the meet pointed out the need for further technical study of the report, it had prepared earlier conducting a pre-feasibility study and submitted to the Nepal government.
Likewise, the Chinese officials asked for preparations to tackle the engineering challenges that may arise in future, and sought an in-depth study on minimizing possible geological disaster. The Chinese side also showed concern about measures to be taken to ensure the security of the railway system, apart from the need for a scientific study to minimize ecological impact in the affected areas.
China will enter into the matter of the feasibility study – also called the DPR – only after settling the the concerns it showed during the meeting, according to a participants in the meeting, though deputy chief of Mission at the Nepal Embassy in Beijing Sushil Kumar Lamsal claimed that both sides were encouraged by the output of the bilateral talks.
The Nepali team – led by secretary at the Ministry of Physical Infrastructure and Transport Devendra Karki for the fourth meeting in Beijing held the discussion with the Chinese team – led by deputy administrator of China's National Rail Administration An Lu Shan – agreed to hold fifth meeting in Kathmandu in December. The meeting might enter into the feasibility study, only if work Nepal addresses the five-point concern raised by Beijing, according to the Nepali teammates.
The Nepal-China railway mechanism was established two years ago. Its first meeting was held in November 2017 in Kathmandu, whereas the second meeting was held in Beijing and the third again in Kathmandu followed by the current meeting, the fourth one in Beijing.
The fifth meeting will be held in Kathmandu in December..

Half of capital budget yet to be spent, and in 10 days?

The historically strong and stable government led by Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli has miserably failed to expedite the development budget as it is yet to spend more than half of the development budget – allocated for the current fiscal year – but there is less than half-a-month to end the fiscal year.
The government has spent only 48.89 per cent or Rs 154.38 billion, out of the total Rs 313.99 billion development budget for the fiscal year 2018-19, till today – June 20 – according to Financial Comptroller General Office (FCGO).
Though, the Finance Ministry had revised the capital budget for this fiscal year downwards to Rs 265.20 billion – some 15.5 per cent down from the previous allocated capital budget of Rs 313.99 billion – through the mid-term budgetary review due to its failure to boost capital formation programmes and tepid progress of development projects, the development budget spending stands at 71 per cent, of the revised allocation also. However, it could not be called legal as the figure is not approved by the Parliament. The development budget figure of Rs 313.99 billion is approved by the Parliament, and is legal, whereas the revised data is only for the reference of the Finance Ministry.
According to the FCGO, the government has been able to spend – including capital expenditure, financing and recurrent – some 64.12 per cent of the total budget of Rs 1.31 trillion for the current fiscal year 2018-19.
The government has spent Rs 619.29 billion as recurrent expenditure – of the total Rs 845.45 billion – till today, the FCGO data revealed. The recurrent expenditure is primarily the spending of the government on non-capital formation programmes like salaries of government staffers, social security and other expenses, though some of the development projects also get budget through recurrent budget.
Likewise, the government has spent some 44.74 per cent to Rs 69.66 billion – out of the total allocated budget of Rs 155.72 billion – on financing till today, according to the FCGO data. Financing is primarily the interest served for the domestic and foreign borrowings.

Committee suggests three new laws to bifurcate CAAN

A committee has proposed a regulatory act, service provider act and civil aviation act before bifurcating the Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal (CAAN).
The independent committee – formed to prepare a new draft Civil Aviation Bill that envisages splitting the CAAN into two entities – has submitted its report to the Tourism Ministry proposing three separate pieces of legislations to make them operate smoothly.
The regulatory act will govern the regulatory body and the service provider act will govern the airports and airport related services, according to the recommendation, that further reads that the civil aviation act will govern the aviation security.
The Tourism Ministry will review the draft before finalising it. After finalising the draft, it will be forwarded to the Law and Finance Ministry for their comments, before tabling it at the Cabinet. After the Cabinet approval, the bill will be registered at the Parliament. The government plans to table the bill at the Parliament soon. The Parliament could send the draft to different parliamentary committees for further deliberations before it is passed into the law.
The proposed legislation also envisages integrating the previous acts to eliminate conflicts and contradictions at the CAAN. Currently, there is no clear demarcation between CAAN’s duties and organisational structure as it has been functioning as both regulator and service provider from the same office. The current structure is also blamed for the country to be blacklisted by the European Commission that has put Nepal on the European Union (EU) air safety list on December 5, 2013. Breaking up the CAAN into two entities is a prerequisite to remove Nepal from the EU air safety list, according to the EU ambassadors.
Though the successive governments have been working on it for the last nine years, it has been delayed due to political transition. The first draft was prepared by a Spanish consultancy Ineco with Asian Development Bank (ADB) funding of $4.2 million in 2014, following the approval by the board of the CAAN in 2010. The proposed law is expected to replace two existing acts, Civil Aviation Act 1959 and Nepal Civil Aviation Authority Act 1996.
Two years after the first draft, a four-member committee – led by then Tourism Joint Secretary Buddhi Sagar Lamichhane – was formed to prepare another draft. The panel submitted its draft to the ministry in 2017. In December 2018, a five-member panel led by deputy director general of the CAAN Narendra Thapa was formed to prepare another draft. The panel submitted the draft in early January to the ministry proposing a slew of changes to the draft prepared earlier by another government committee.
Again in March, a new five-member panel had been formed under the leadership of Tourism Joint Secretary Suresh Acharya.
The Tourism Ministry has formed the current independent committee – led by a former Law Secretary Raju Man Singh Malla – after objection were raised on earlier drafts prepared by four separate committees.

Nepal 76th peaceful country in the world

Nepal, climbing by 12 notches, has been ranked 76th most peaceful country – among 163 independent states and territories – in the world, according to Global Peace Index (GPI) 2019.
The 13th edition of the report produced by the Australia-based Institute for Economics and Peace measures the peacefulness according to factors such as military spending and deaths from conflict and terrorism, as well as an estimated economic cost of violence.
Iceland remains the most peaceful country in the world, a position it has held since 2008, the report reads, adding that New Zealand, Austria, Portugal, and Denmark, with European nations dominate the top of the list, according to their level of peacefulness.
Afghanistan is now the least peaceful country in the world, replacing Syria, which is now the second least peaceful one, the report further reads, claiming that the gap between the least and most peaceful countries ‘continues to grow’. Eighty-six countries improved their score in the 2019 report, while 76 deteriorated. “South Sudan, Yemen, and Iraq comprise the remaining five least peaceful countries.”
The report that covers 99.7 per cent of the world’s population and uses 23 qualitative and quantitative indicators – grouping into three key domains; ongoing conflict, safety and security, and militarisation – from highly respected sources to compile the index.

Gold price hits record high of Rs 64,000 per tola

The price of precious yellow metal has increased to a record high today in the domestic market due to spike in the price in international markets, which has hit the domestic consumers in the ongoing wedding season hard.
The price of hallmark gold rose by Rs 1,000 per tola (11.664 grams) in a single day today to trade at Rs 64,000, according to the Federation of Nepal Gold and Silver Dealers’ Association (Fenegosida). “Yesterday, the bullion was traded at Rs 63,000 per tola.”
The price of precious yellow metal has also been moving up since the budget – announced on May 29 by finance minister Dr Yuba Raj Khatiwada – when the import duty was jacked up by Rs 800 per 10 grams. Gold become dearer by Rs 4,500 per tola in two weeks.
“The federation that fixes the reference price for gold in Nepal also increased the price today morning due to price hike in the international market,” past president of Fenegosida Tej Ratna Shakya said, adding that the committee fixed the price of gold for Nepali dealers in line with the international price while also factoring in the exchange rate and profit margin. “The price, which is disclosed at 10:30 am every day, remains in place until the next day, if it does not move by $10 upward or downward.”
If the gold price is changed – upward or downward – by $10 in the international market, the price in the domestic market is also changed, which has happened couple of times in the past, he added.
The weakening dollar and fall in treasury yields after the Federal Reserve – the US central bank – yesterday left the interest rates unchanged, which has pushed the price of yellow metal in the global market, the Shakya said, adding that last time on February 20, the gold price had climbed up to Rs 63,300 per tola. “Likewise, the gold price touched Rs 64,000 per tola, on March 8 this year, and on August 28, 2013.”
The hike in customs duty also made gold more expensive, he said. “The Department of Customs said that the duty was hiked to match bullion prices in the Indian market to prevent smuggling.” Gold was relatively cheaper in Nepal before the budget statement.
The investors’ rush to buy gold – an attractive investment option when interest rates and dollar are on a downward trend – is driving up demands of the precious yellow metal across the globe specially in India and China that is also one of the reasons of gold price spike. International bullion traders have estimated that gold will touch $1,400 per ounce by the end of 2019, and it has already reached $1,380 per ounce, Shakya said.
The escalating trade war between China and the US apart from the US-Iran tensions has also pushed the precious yellow metal price up as many investors tend to make investment in gold as a hedge against any downside risk in capital and equity markets.
According to reports, the trade war between China and the US could turn into a currency war, further boosting investor demand for gold. “The rise in gold price has pushed down demand in the local bullion market,” Shakya said, adding that the gold sales which used to amount to 35 kg daily during this time of the year in the past have shrunk to 25 kg as the demand falls sharply when prices cross Rs 60,000 per tola.

Labour issue with Malaysia to be sorted out within a month

A joint-technical team of the governments of Nepal and Malaysia is expected to meet within one month to sort out issues hindering the resumption of supply of labour force from Nepal to the most preferred labour destination of the Nepali migrant workers.
According to Ministry of Labour, Employment and Social Security (MoLESS), the two countries have agreed to resolve existing issues through a joint-technical committee meeting and resume worker supply to Malaysia as soon as possible. “Though the joint-technical committee meeting has been planned, we are yet to fix the date, but it will be within a month,” according to the ministry that has been trying hard to resume the Nepali migrant worker supply to Malaysia since last May.
The supply of workers to Malaysia has been halted after the government cracked down on Immigration Security Clearance and One Stop Centre blaming them for levying additional charges on Nepali migrant workers.
Though the two governments had inked bilateral labour pact last October, the outflow of Nepali migrant workers to Malaysia – that host the largest recorded Nepali migrants – is still uncertain. The government had also started issuing work permits for those who have already received the ‘calling visas’ from April but not significant number of workers could get the easy passage to Malaysia, despite the labour pact due to inability of Nepal government to finalise health institutions to be allowed to conduct health checkups of workers.
Though, the government has finalised the list of 51 health and medical institutions – few weeks ago – responsible to conduct the health check-up of Nepali migrant workers aspiring to go for foreign employment, the outflow to Malaysia is yet to resume.

Wednesday, June 19, 2019

External sector continues to worsen as BoP slips to deficit of Rs 68 billion

The balance of payment (BoP) has again slipped into a deficit of Rs 68.2 billion in the 10th month of the current fiscal year worsening the external sector position more.
Nepal has been facing BoP deficit since the last fiscal year mainly due to the rise in current account deficit and weak financial inflows. The BoP deficit was Rs 18.93 billion in the same period of the last fiscal year 2017-18, according to the Nepal Rastra Bank’s monthly report, ‘Current Macroeconomic and Financial Situation of Nepal’, based on 10 months' data of 2018-19 published today.
Painting a bleak picture of the external sector, the central bank report reads that the current account registered a deficit of Rs 221.4 billion in 10 months. “Such deficit was Rs 192.05 billion in the same period of a fiscal year ago.”
Likewise, Nepal has received Rs 9.47 billion in foreign direct investment (FDI) in ten months of the current fiscal year, down from Rs 14.15 billion in the same period of the last fiscal year, the report further reads, adding, “While the FDI has dropped, the remittance inflow, a major source of foreign currency earnings, jumped by 19.6 per cent to Rs 725.3 billion.”
Though, the growth in remittance has been increasing, it is insufficient to cover the whooping trade deficit of the country as the central bank data reveals that the trade deficit widened 19.7 per cent to Rs 1.10 trillion in ten months of current fiscal year 2018-19.
The merchandise imports increased by 19.6 per cent to Rs 1.18 trillion in the first 10 months of the current fiscal year 2018-19 compared to an increase of 21.8 per cent in the same period of a fiscal year ago. But, Nepal exported goods worth only Rs 78.53 billion in the same period of the current fiscal year.
Likewise, the central bank data also revealed that the foreign exchange reserves (forex) also fell to $9.42 billion in mid-May from $10.08 billion in mid-July last year. “The foreign exchange reserve is depleting in recent months as the higher external deficit was partly financed by drawing down international reserves,” according to the report.

Customs duty makes books expensive

After the government introduced a new tax provision for imported books, it has become expensive hitting not only the students but also a reading culture.
The budget – brought by the finance minister Dr Yuba Raj Khatiwada – for the next fiscal year has mandated a 10 per cent customs duty on all imported books. Earlier, there was never a tax on the imported books, especially schoolbooks – according to UNESCO’s Florence agreement, which prohibits customs duties on the import of books and publications that can be classified as educational, scientific and cultural – as Nepal is also one of the signatory of the agreement. The government’s new move, however, contradicts the UNESCO’s Florence agreement, affecting thousands of students.
Though the tax will be applicable to the books published only in foreign countries, most of the books used in the schools and colleges are imported. According to director of the Department of Customs Shishir Ghimire thefe should be tax on finished goods – imported books – as there is a tax on raw materials like papers for publishing in Nepal.
Due to no tax on imported books, most of the domestic publishers lately have started printing the books in India and bring it back to the market, which according to some domestic publishers, is hitting the domestic publishing business very hard.
The government wants to promote the publishing industry in Nepal, according to Ghimire, who, like some domestic publishers, think that the printing Nepali books in India, though a recent trend, has hit the domestic publishers. Currently, a majority of Nepali publication houses print their books in India, as it is cheaper than to print in Nepal, according to them.
But those publishers – who are opposing the government decision – are afraid that the customs duty will hit the reading culture among young people. “A reading culture was finally emerging in Nepal, but the added customs will again discourage them,” a publisher said, adding that there are very few libraries that could encourage reading culture.
The National Booksellers' and Publishers' Association of Nepal (NBPAN) said that the government move will encourage piracy. Protesting the government move of customs duty on all types of books, including schoolbooks, the association has decided to halt imports of books for the time being. The association also blamed the government for not consulting them before bringing the new law. “We found out only when transportation companies informed publishers about the new price in the invoices for future shipments,” the association added.

Second Nepal-Bangladesh JSC meeting discuss cross-border energy cooperation

A two-day joint steering committee (JSC) meeting on energy cooperation between Nepal and Bangladesh kicked off in Dhaka from today. The meeting will look into ways of capitalising on plans and provisions of the bilateral understanding on energy trade and investment.
The meeting is discussing ways to enhance energy trade and investment between the two countries, apart from discussing ways to enhance cross-border energy cooperation and promote investment in the hydropower sector of the two nations, according to the Ministry of Energy, Water Resources and Irrigation (MoEWRI).
A seven-member team of the MoEWRI that is participating in the second meeting between the respective authorities of the two countries – which started today after Nepal and Bangladesh inked a memorandum of understanding (MoU) on energy cooperation last August in Kathmandu – is led by secretary Dinesh Kumar Ghimire. Likewise, the Minister for Power, Energy and Mineral Resources of Bangladesh is leading the delegation from Bangladesh. The first meeting was held in Nepal.
The Nepali team will also discuss on electricity trade by building a dedicated transmission line through the Siliguri Corridor in India which separates Nepal and Bangladesh. The meeting will discuss the agenda items contained in the memorandum of understanding on Cooperation in the Field of Power Sector the two countries signed last August. “Apart from transmission connectivity, they will discuss the possibility of trading electricity generated by Sunkoshi basin projects, particularly Sunkoshi 2 and Sunkoshi 3,” according to a source at the Nepal Electricity Authority (NEA).
Nepal and Bangladesh have been planning to enhance energy cooperation, especially after the Power Trade Agreement (PTA) that was signed with India in 2014. Both the countries have already agreed to focus on electricity generation, development of hydroelectricity, cross-border transmission lines, development of efficient human resources in the hydroelectric sector, promotion of government-to-government and private sector investments, grid connectivity, power efficiency and investment in renewable energy.
The main agenda of this meeting will be to discuss a dedicated high voltage double circuit transmission line that will need to be installed to supply Nepal’s electricity through India to Bangladesh. The Bangladeshi government has already committed to buy 500 megawatts (MW) of energy produced by the Upper Karnali hydropower project, which is being developed by India-based GMR. Moreover, Bangladesh has expressed interest to buy 9,000 MW of electricity from Nepal by 2040.
During past meetings, Nepal and Bangladesh have pledged to make their best efforts in devising such trilateral arrangements as a common agenda. According to the agreement in the first meeting, the secretary-level JSC and the joint secretary-level joint working group (JWG) will meet every year to discuss and take forward the issues related to cooperation in the power sector between the two nations.

Hyatt Regency resumes operations

Hyatt Regency Kathmandu resumed operations from today as the agitating workers have withdrawn their protest with immediate effect.
The stock-market listed hotel confirmed that its operations have resumed but also claimed that the workers’ act was unlawful. The protesting workers have returned to work from last evening after the Labour and Employment Office stepped in to find a feasible solution to their grievances with the management.
All Nepal Hotel, Casino and Restaurant Workers Association decided to withdraw its protest on the request of Labour and Employment Office in Kathmandu, the association said – in a press note – adding that they had started protest against the management accusing the latter of curtailing facilities of workers and ‘misbehaving’ Indian personnel working at higher management level.
The protest had affected normal operations of the five-star hotel. In the eve of Visit Nepal Year 2020, the hotel management had declared to close the hotel for indefinite period, if the protest continues. Although the workers have returned on their duties, the hotel will not take any reservation for a few more days, according to head of Human Resource Department of Hyatt Govinda Pariyar, who also accepted that the hotel received a letter from the labour office this morning only.
The association today said that all workers returned to work from yesterday evening itself even though the management has not responded to their demands. “We decided to withdraw all our protest programmes and ask all the workers to return to work after Labour and Employment Office assured us to mediate with the management toward addressing our demands,” the chairperson of the authorised trade union at the hotel Mukti Dahal said.
The hotel management has blamed the trade union for being the puppet of the people, who want to close the hotel or ever. Blaming the hotel management for wanting to grab the government land, the trade union said that they fear the protest could be used to escape from the blame.
The trade union has ben blaming the hotel management of confiscating the government share in the hotel. The government’s stake in Taragaon Regency Hotels – which owns the hotel – has now come down to around 10 per cent from nearly 40 per cent, when the hotel resumed operation in late 1990s.
Currently, there are around 400 workers employed in Hyatt Regency that has 280 rooms, including seven suites and 35 regency club rooms. Hyatt Regency Kathmandu has been serving guests in Nepal since 2000. It is one of the Nepal Stock Exchange-listed hotels in Nepal.
Though the hotel management has been claiming that the government’s share has lowered because of its failure to buy rights shares issued to all shareholders, the trade union has been claiming that the management is trying to capture the government land. The hotel management, on the other hand, blames the trade union of being puppet of some unscrupulous people, who wants to gran the land and plot it and sell as land price has appreciated over 1000 times from the 1990s, when the hotel was constructed.

Tuesday, June 18, 2019

TIA to resume 21-hour operation from July

Tribhuwan International Airport (TIA) is preparing to resume operation for 21-hours-a-day from next month as the runway rehabilitation project is going to be completed before the deadline of June 30.
Currently, the airport is closed for 10 hours every day from 10:00 pm to 8:00am for runway rehabilitation work, according to the general manager of TIA Raj Kumar Chhetri. “The rehabilitation work will be finished within 10 days,” he said, adding that a final phase of rehabilitation work is going on at the moment. “Considering the speed of the current work, it is likely to be completed within 10 days.”
China National Aero-technology International Engineering Corporation is rehabilitating the runway of TIA, at present. After completing the runway rehabilitation, the notice to airmen (NOTAM) will be removed and TIA will begin the construction of taxiway and parking bays from September 1.
The two new parking bays constructed on eastern side of TIA have already been inaugurated on June 2. The parking bays have a capacity of two wide-body aircraft and one ATR-72 plane. But remaining two parking bays – with the capacity to accommodate two wide-body aircraft – will be constructed on the southern side of the airport from September 1. It is targeted to be completed by December 31.
The TIA that has been facing congestion with around 400 flights – including 100 international flights –being operated from TIA every day will have less congestion after the upgradation.
Though, the runway of an international airport needs to be renovated every 10 years – according to the international practice – the TIA runway is getting renovated for the first time since its construction.

JICA holds workshop for technology transfer in Nepal

Nikken Sohonsa Corporation and Nippon Koei Co Ltd – in association with JICA – organised a workshop here today.
The workshop – held by the Japanese companies to transfer Japanese technology to the officials in the Department of Roads in Nepal and other related agencies – imparted knowledge and ideas on how to protect the slops along the highways, especially those in the mid-hill areas in Nepal using biological soil crust method and later replicate the technology in other similar roads in Nepal.
This workshop was part of ‘Collaboration Programme with the Private Sector for Disseminating Japanese Technology for Environment-friendly Slope Restoration with Soil Algae’ project implemented by JICA. The project also carried out slope restoration with soil algae along the Sinduli-Bardibas Road and other mid-hill highways by promoting vegetative succession by spraying biological soil crust produced from the cosmopolitan soil, according to a press note from the Japanese Embassy in Kathmandu.
Upon the implementation of this new technology, it is believed that the traffic flow along the Sinduli-Bardibas Road would be secured. The technology is expected to support for better protection of the mountain roads by mitigating slop failures, the release reads, adding that the technology transfer is one of the ‘corner stones’ of JICA’s cooperation with Nepal.

TV screens to go blank next week

Nepali TV screens will go blank next week due to cable operators’ protest against the government decision to implement the clean feed.
On June 24, cable operators will not broadcast any foreign pay channels that run advertisements for a whole day starting June 24, 12:00 am opposing the government’s proposed Advertisement (Regulation) Bill.
According to the proposed Bill, the foreign channels must relay television contents in Nepal without advertisements from the date of implementation of the rule, which, according to the cable operators, will throw them out of business.
However, the Advertising Association of Nepal (AAN) that has been lobbying for clean feed for last one decade, has welcomed the Bill, and urged the government to implement it immediately, unlike earlier attempts. This is not the first time, governments trying to implement clean feed rule asserting that the empty slots in foreign television content can be given to domestic advertisers, which will expand the domestic advertising market and the government will also get more revenue.
After a long debate, the Bill was tabled by Information and Communication Minister Gokul Prasad Baskota in January and is likely to be endorsed by the Lower House.
According to president of the federation of cable TV Association of Nepal Sudhir Parajuli, the authorities have not done proper research on how the rule can backfire. “The viewers will start subscribing to foreign channels through set-up boxes and viewing cards of Indian DTH operators, which are easily available in Kathmandu,” he said, claiming that the fate of Nepali channels, advertisers and even cable operators – once clean feed is implemented – will hang in uncertainty caused by the loss of customers and, ultimately, revenue.
Indian broadcasters – who feed most of the foreign channels to Nepal – must streamline the contents to make sure they run without adverts, which requires them to set up a separate company dedicated to serving Nepal. It will increase their cost as Nepal generates ‘very low average revenue per user’, which will make the Nepali service providers pay higher downlink – including subscription or broadcasting – costs, which will not be economically feasible.
He also said that the government will lose revenue from annual license fees it takes from all the channels – which are watched widely by the Nepali population – if the foreign channels stop.
Earlier in 2017 too, government tried to implement the clean feed rule under National Broadcasting Policy but the domestic service providers and Indian stakeholders, who used the diplomatic route to relay their objections.
After the pressure from different quarters, the government – that had announced in the budget for the fiscal year 2017-18 to implement clean feed – had to backtrack on its decision citing a lack of preparations.

Development banks seek flexibility in lending limit

Aiming to ease the shortage of lendable fund in the banking system and also encouraging them to increase loans to the agriculture sector, Development Bankers Association Nepal (DBAN) has urged the central bank to allow the 'B' class financial institutions to deduct loans floated to agriculture sector in excess to the regulatory requirement in the credit to core capital plus deposit (CCD) ratio.
The CCD ratio is a prudential lending limit enforced by the central bank, restricting bank and financial institutions (BFIs) to lend more than 80 per cent of their combined capital and deposits.
The association submitting an 11-point suggestion to the Nepal Rastra Bank (NRB) – to address their problems through the monetary policy for next fiscal Year 2019-20 – also sought a relaxation in the way the CCD ratio is calculated. According to the suggestion of the association, agro loans exceeding the regulatory requirement should be allowed to deduct in the CCD ratio.
The development banks can disburse new loans equivalent to agro loans without mobilising new deposits even, if they are close to breaching their lending limit, if the measure is introduced, said development banks that are currently required to float at least 10 per cent of their loans in priority sector including agriculture.
“It will encourage development banks to help meet the government's target by increasing investment and lending in the agriculture sector,” reads the recommendations submitted to the central bank last week by the association that has also sought flexibility in deducting loans directly floated to deprived sector exceeding the CCD requirement, as well as the investment higher than the requirement in the cash reserve ratio (CRR) and statutory liquidity ratio (SLR).
The association has also recommended the central bank to increase the limit and maturity period of the refinance fund to ease the liquidity crunch and offer a respite to productive sector which has been facing shortage of loans.
The association has asked the central bank to increase the limit and maturity period of the refinance fund. The central bank currently provides refinance facility for up to six months.

Remittance inflow up by 20 per cent

The remittance inflow has increased by around 20 per cent, though the number of youth leaving for foreign job has been decreasing.
According to central bank, remittance has increased by 19.6 per cent to Rs 725 billion in the ten months of the current fiscal year. “The remittance inflow has increased by 7 per cent compared to the same period of the last fiscal year,” the report reads, adding that the outflow of the youth for foreign employment has, however, declined by 36.6 per cent in the last ten months. “The out flux was declined by six per cent compared to the 10 months in the last fiscal year.”

Nepal to seek access to all Chinese airports in new aviation agreement

Nepal is seeking access to all Chinese airports as the Chinese airliners have been flying to Nepal but Nepali airlines have not been able to fly to anywhere in China, which according to some experts is ‘Airspace ban’ by China to Nepal.
Likewise, China has proposed to increase flight frequencies to Nepal during the Nepal-China bilateral air service agreement revision meeting next month. The two countries will meet in Beijing on July 23.
Tourism Joint Secretary Suresh Acharya confirmed that Nepal will ask China to allow Nepali airliners to fly to different Chinese cities as the government has set a target to significantly increase Chinese arrivals during Visit Nepal Year 2020, which aims at hosting 2 million foreign tourists.
Nepal has targeted to host at least 500,000 Chinese tourists during the Visit Nepal Year 2020.
Though not a single airliner fly to China, some six Chinese carriers – including Air China, China Southern, China Eastern, Sichuan Airlines, Cathay Dragon and Tibet Airlines – operate flights to Nepal with up to 70 flights per week. The national flag carrier used to operate its service to Osaka, Japan via Shanghai until 2008 under fifth freedom rights, but has not been able to fly to China as the Chinese government has not allowed its airports for Nepali carriers. Nepal Airlines Corporation (NAC) had applied for landing permission at Guangzhou Baiyun International Airport in 2015, but its application has not been approved. Though, Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal (CAAN) suspected that Nepali carriers have been kept out of Chinese airports due to the significant safety concern tag given to Nepal by the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) in its audit report in 2013, China has not spelled anything but denied NAC request.
Himalaya Airlines – a Chinese-Nepal private airliner – had also submitted applications at the Tourism Ministry on different occasions with a plan to connect Chinese cities such as Shanghai, Shenzhen, Wuhan and Changsha which are key outbound markets with a high consuming capacity, but has not got any green signal from China.
Nepal will add new air routes including the ones asked by Himalaya Airlinesn in the revision meeting, whereas China wants to increase the flight frequency as it has used up all the agreed frequency, he said, adding that Chinese carriers want the revision of the pact to allow more flights with travel demand constantly going up.
Nepal and China signed a revised bilateral air services agreement in February 2014, permitting the operation of 56 flights per week with any type of aircraft on a reciprocal basis. The agreement allowed each country to increase the flight frequency to 70 per week by 2016. Under the old agreement, Chinese airlines were allowed to operate 14 flights per week.

Internet prices likely to go up from mid-July

Internet Service Providers (ISPs) have said that the Internet prices may go up by 20 per cent from the beginning of next fiscal fiscal year 2019-20, with the government levying 13 per cent telecommunication service charge (TSC), and NEA increasing the rental fee of poles by five times.
“If the government decides to continue with 13 per cent TSC on Internet service, we will be forced to hike the internet prices from next fiscal year,” Internet Service Providers' Association Nepal (ISPAN). The association said that the government – in its ICT policy – claims to make digital Nepal and expand the access to information technology, and on the other it is levying 13 per cent TSC making the internet more costly. “The decision of the government to levy additional taxes on Internet services also contradicts with the Broadband Policy-2015, which promises to bring down the cost by 2018,” it added.
Though, the cabinet meeting last week decided to provide tax waiver to ISPs on router, installation of intranet, lease line connectivity and maintenance, asking ISPs to adjust TSC on Internet package cost, the service providers have been adamant, as they have been cheated ‘according to them’ by the government in the current fiscal year.
The dispute between the government and the ISPs over Internet prices began last year when the government took a decision to levy TSC on Internet services. After the opposition from the ISPs, the ministry officials and ISPs held a meeting that ended with an agreement to adjust TSC in Internet package cost without putting additional burden on consumers. In return, the government assured subsidies and adjustment in taxes to service providers. But the government did not fulfill its promise and continue with 13 per cent TSC in the current fiscal year too, the association said, adding that they adjusted 13 per cent TSC in their package cost last time but the government failed to walk its talk, and the ISPAN is forced to increase its price this year.
The association also said that Internet prices will go further, if Nepal Electricity Authority (NEA) does not review its decision to hike rental fee of poles by five times. NEA has told the association that it will review the rental fee. The NEA has formed a committee that has representations from Nepal Telecommunications Authority (NTA) and ISPAN to review the rental fee.

Aid agencies revise operating guidelines

Fourteen aid agencies today revised and endorsed the Basic Operating Guidelines (BOG) in recognition of the federal structure of Nepal. The BOGs were first introduced in Nepal in 2003, in the context of the armed conflict and revised with minor changes in 2007.
The BOGs were developed as a way to keep development space open and to ensure the security of staff. They were effective in carrying out development work as they clearly explained operating principles to all concerned actors, in a clear and comprehensible manner, according to a press release issued by the United Nations (UN).
The release further reads that the current revision of BOGs has been undertaken in recognition to the federalised context of Nepal, which meant a difference in the way the development partners and their implementing partners operate.
Co-chair of the BOGs UN Resident Coordinator Valerie Julliand, on the occasion, said that the Basic Operating Guidelines have been revised to reflect the fundamental changes which have taken place in Nepal. “This does not only include the federalisation process, but also focuses on increasing development efforts at national, provincial and local level,” he said, adding that it reaffirms the commitment to the principles of accountability, impartiality, transparency, and inclusion.
Likewise, co-chair of the BOGs group ambassador of Switzerland Elisabeth von Capeller said that the BOG will continue to play an important role in supporting the implementation of federalisation as development partners will comply by using the BOGs as an entry point for the introduction of development activities at the federal, provincial and local level, wherever they work. “In addition to the existing thirteen signatories of the BOG, the American Embassy has also joined as a signatory.”

End the insider trading at Nepse

Stakeholders of the stock market today urged the Securities Board of Nepal (Sebon) to check the insider trading in the share market.
Stating that the insider trading was rampant in banking and financial institutions (BFIs), they asked the capital market regulator to prepare a database of the individuals concerned with the vital financial information of the respective company. They also claimed that a handful of investors, who have access to the information are benefitting from the stock market, while majority of investors have been cheated.
Commenting at an interaction organised by the Sebon to collect recommendations for the security-sector policies for the next fiscal year 2019-20, the investors also blamed the regulatory authority’s staff for their involvement in the insider trading. “The media has also been used as a tool in the misuse of information so it should be controlled by including some additional provisions in the Sebon rules,” they said, blaming the regulator.
Asking the regulator to bring strong regulation to check the insider trading, they also shared their concern of the promoter shares. “There is a growing trend in the promoters to sell their part of shares immediately after three years and ousting themselves from the company,” they said, adding that this trend has increased the fear of insecurity among the investors of the real sector companies. According to the rule, promoters share has a lock in period of three years after they were listed in the Nepal Stock Exchange (Nepse).
They also suggested that the promoters should not be allowed to sell all the shares at once, instead there should be a rule to allow the sale of only a small part of their shares in a year. 

Monday, June 17, 2019

Nepali team leaves for Beijing to discuss cross-border railway links

A Nepali team today left for Beijing – on the invitation of the government of China – for consultation on the construction of cross border railway including preparing the detailed project report (DPR) of the project.
Secretary at the Ministry of Physical Infrastructure and Transport Devendra Karki is leading the Nepali team that has joint-secretary Gopal Prasad Sigdel, director-general of the Department of Railways Balram Mishra, spokesperson Aman Chitrakar and the representatives of the Finance Ministry, Foreign Ministry and the Nepali Embassy in Beijing. This will be the fourth railway meeting between Nepal and China.
The Nepali delegation will also have bilateral discussions with the office-bearers of the National Railway Authority of China, apart from participating in the Nepal-China Railway Cooperation Committee’s meeting in Beijing.
According to Karki, the Chinese and Nepali officials will dwell on topics including investment and construction modality. Nepal and China had agreed to move forward the process of railway construction during the official visit of Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli on June 19-24, 2018.
It has been long since Beijing has submitted the preliminary study report – prepared by the Chinese technical team – on the railway project to Nepal. “The report has paved the way for carrying out further home work regarding the modality and the modus operandi for the construction of this railway,” according to the Department of Railways.
According to the preliminary study, Kathmandu-Kerung railway will be 80-km with construction period of nine years at estimated cost of approximately Rs 300 billion, according to the department.
The proposed railway – under the China’ Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) – linking Kerung city in southern Tibet to Nepal’s capital Kathmandu, entering the country in Rasuwa district will eventually go to India making Nepal a transit country. However, the proposed railway links between Nepal and China have started a debate in Nepal with many dreaming of cheaper goods and a geostrategic balance to India, whereas others claiming it a pipedream of KP Oli government, which used it as a election winning strategy, and a debt trap for Nepal. However, the Chinese Ambassador to Nepal Hou Yanqi, recently, has tried to allay fears clarifying that the BRI is not a ‘debt trap’ that some countries may fall into, but an ‘economic pie’ that benefits the local population.
The pre-feasibility study report prepared by China in late 2018 accepts that the project is an extremely hard one but not impossible. “Technically it will be one of the world’s toughest railways to construct,” according to the report that has listed six extremes including topography, weather, hydrology and tectonics making the project hugely challenging.
About 98 per cent of the railway on the Nepal side will be in tunnels and on bridges according to the report that has proposed about five stopovers. Tracks will need to be built on steep terrain, as the railway climbs from an altitude of 1,400 metres in Kathmandu to about 4,000 metres in Tibet. The proposed route also cuts through the mountains near a major fault line – where the Indian plate meets the Eurasian plate to form the Himalayas – so the area is very susceptible to earthquakes.
Preliminary estimates of the Kerung-Kathmandu railway project – listed as one of the 64 to be considered under China’s BRI during the second Belt and Road Forum in Beijing in April – comes to around 38 billion yuan ($5.5 billion). The railway would be 170-km long from Tibet to Kathmandu. Although only one third of the total length falls on the Nepal side, it would account for almost half of the costs due to the extreme geology and climate.
The Chinese do not seem in a rush as the Chinese railway line from Shigatse needs to arrive at Kerung, which is only expected to happen by 2025, before it will be linked to Kathmandu and then Birgunj, and Pokhara. Both the sides – in Beijing – will also discuss a feasibility study for the Kathmandu-Pokhara railway, over which a joint team of Nepali and Chinese technicians had conducted a field visit last December. Nepal is seeking a grant from China to construct the railway, whereas China has not been very enthusiastic about it, the Nepali delegation added.
Likewise, the government is currently studying another railway project, the east-west railway planned in the southern plains. A new 34-km railway from the Indian state of Bihar to Nepal is due to start running in a few months but the government will have to hire a train driver from India and other technicians to operate its first modern rail.
India has submitted a ‘pre-engineering and traffic survey report’ for the Raxaul-Kathmandu railway last month. Nepal and India had signed an agreement to conduct a survey on connecting Kathmandu with the Indian town of Raxaul in Bihar during the fourth BIMSTEC summit, held in Kathmandu last August.  Konkan Railway Corporation Limited – owned by the Indian government – had been tasked with preparing the report.
According to the Indian report, there are two alternatives – some 200-km of tracks with a gradient of one per cent, the same as the Indian rail network; or 135-km of tracks at a gradient of 1.5 per cent. The survey has also suggested the construction of 40-km to 50-km of underground tunnels.
Nepal and India, however, still have differences over the gauge – the width – of the railway track. The Indian side has based its survey report on a broad gauge while Nepali technicians prefer a standard gauge as China generally uses a standard gauge in its railways and it will be easier to connect both the railway lines in future.

Finance ministry promotes financial indiscipline, transfers Rs 85 million

Shifting financial resources from another heading for foreign junkets could undermine financial discipline but the Finance Ministry has transferred Rs 84.51 million from 'miscellaneous' heading to 'delegation, foreign visit and reception' heading to finance foreign junkets of top-ranking officials in the past two months alone.
According to the ministry data, it transferred Rs 84.51 million in Baisakh – from mid-April to mid-May – and Jestha – from mid-May to mid-June – from the 'miscellaneous' heading to 'delegation, foreign visit and reception' heading to finance high profile visits to various countries, breaching the financial discipline.
Though, law permits budget transfer of only 10 per cent for each ministry and agencies within the ministry, the transfer of millions of budget to finance junkets of officials has raised serious questions on the government's commitment for financial austerity and fiscal discipline.
Out of the total transfer for financing foreign junkets, the finance ministry has provided Rs 21.29 million to pay for Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli's state visit to Vietnam and Cambodia. Likewise, the ministry has released Rs 30.96 million to the Foreign Ministry for expenses incurred during the official visit of President Bidya Devi Bhandari to China in the last week of April. The ministry also provided Rs 16.21 million to finance President Bhandari-led delegation to the US to attend the 63rd Session of the Commission of the Status of Women by the United Nations in March. The Finance Ministry has transferred Rs 5.38 million to provide daily allowance and pay travel agency for air tickets issued to delegates to participate in various international programmes.
The ministry has also released Rs 1.52 million to Nepal Law Commission to finance its three-member delegation – led by chairperson Madhav Paudel – to Zambia to participate in a conference of Commonwealth Association of Law Reform Agencies, Rs 1.36 million to pay for visits of chief secretary-led delegation to Egypt and Israel, Rs 704,273 for forest Minister-led team to Doha, Rs 955,245 for deputy prime minister and defence minister to New York for 2019 UN Peacekeeping Defence Ministerial Meeting and Rs 838,908 for industry minister Matrika Yadav to Dubai and Bahrain.
Likewise, the ministry has transferred Rs 1.39 million to finance trips of law secretary to UN Headquarters in New York, Rs 1.87 million to finance foreign minister visit to Argentina, Rs 648,191 to finance sports minister’s visit to the US, and Rs 851,350 to finance National Information Commission's commissioners' visit to South Africa.

Nepal still fears blacklisting next year

Nepal still fears blacklisting next year from the international agency that checks the flow of dirty money.
The Asia Pacific Group (APG) of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) will evaluate Nepal by the end of 2020 to ensure implementation of its international commitments in fight against the flow of dirty money.
The APG – by the end of 2020 – will be looking for concrete action by Nepal in implementing the 40 suggestions and 11 results that it committed in 2010. The evaluation next year will focus less on laws and more on implementation and results, which remains weak due to long political transition.
As Nepal has no records of wealth of any individual, neither Money Laundering Investigation Department nor the government can figure out wealth with any individual is legal or not. The business people have been, thus, asking the government to let them declare their wealth once, so that the government can have a record of individuals before taking any legal action, on illegal earnings.
Likewise, the Money Laundering Investigation Department – that was set up as a commitment in 2010 evaluation and also to escape the black listing then – also lacks coordination, though Financial Investigation Unit (FIU) under the central bank coordinates and shares suspicious transaction report (STR) with it.
According to the department insiders, the government has also been finding it difficult to implement the law because so many of them enjoy political protection. “The politicians and high ranking officials will not be able to show source of their wealth, if the Money Laundering Prevention Act is implemented,” they said, adding that the legislation was brought and department was created to escape the blacklisting from FATF only, not to implement it. “Implementation of the Act was never a priority for the government as the government is knee deep in corruption.”
Earlier too Nepal was put under an international monitoring list in February 2010 by the APG working committee after it found that Nepal’s attempts to control money laundering were not effective enough. Nepal – to fulfill its international commitment in fight against the flow of dirty money – and also to escape the blacklisting passed the Anti-Money Laundering legislation and established a Money Laundering Investigation Department. The department, however, has been not able to function due to pressure from the higher political leadership, who are flushed with money from ‘commission’ and ‘corruption’. The FATF has identified a politically exposed person (PEP) as a high risk person in the fight against the flow of dirty money. The PEP is an individual, who is or has been entrusted with a prominent function, many of whom hold positions that can be abused for the purpose of laundering illicit funds or other predicate offences such as corruption or bribery. Because of the risks associated with PEPs, the FATF Recommendations require the application of additional AML/CFT measures to business relationships with PEPs.
Established in 1999, FATF tracks down and stop money laundering and funding of terrorist activities around the world. Nepal – a member of FATF associate organisation APG that investigates regional member countries – had passed the Money Laundering Prevention Act in 2008 under pressure, but took 2 years to implement it. Though Nepal brought legislation to escape the black listing in 2010, it does not seem to have made much progress since then in actually preventing tax evasion and money laundering. But the APG will be investigating on its own next year, which is going to create troubles to Nepal. The APG evaluation committee – under the FATF – meets twice a year to review the progress of the member countries and jurisdictions. On June 21, next week, the APG evaluation committee will meet but Nepal’s evaluation will be done in the second meeting of 2020, which will decide the fate of the country.
FATF has, currently, blacklisted Iran and North Korea, whereas 12 countries, including Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Cambodia, Ethiopia, and Syria, are on its international monitoring list.

Finnair proposes Kathmandu-Helsinki direct flight

The national flag carrier of Finland – Finnair – has proposed to launch direct flights between Kathmandu and Helsinki. Finnair forwarded the proposal to Nepal through the Embassy of Finland in Kathmandu.
According to the Ministry of Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation (MoCTCA), Finnair’s proposal was forwarded by the Finnish Embassy in Kathmandu. “The government of Finland has submitted a proposal at the ministry,” the ministry confirmed, adding that the ministry is doing its homework.
The ministry has forwarded the Finnish proposal to the Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal (CAAN) and also sought suggestions from Nepal Airlines Corporation (NAC).
“Once the homework is completed, CAAN and NAC will finalise the documentation,” according to the ministry that will forward the final documents to the cabinet for the approval. “The cabinet may approve the proposal after the evaluation.”
After the cabinet’s approval, the ministry will forward it to the Finnish government.
Currently, passengers travelling between Nepal and Europe have been using Turkish Airlines – from Kathmandu to Istanbul of Turkey – or Gulf airlines, apart from India as a transit. But the Finnair has proposed to directly connect Kathmandu – without any transit – with Helsinki. Once the Finnair starts flights to Nepal, the European Union (EU) will also be pressurised to delist Nepal from its safety list. Nepali airline companies are, currently, banned from the European sky – due to a EU safety list – since last six years.
The direct flight from Kathmandu to Europe is also expected to help bring more tourists to Nepal during Visit Nepal 2020.

Nepal-India cross border pipeline nears ready for operation

Laying of Nepal-India cross border pipeline – connecting Motihari in India to Amlekhgunj in Nepal – is finally coming to an end.
The South Asia's first cross border petroleum pipeline that covers a distance of 70.2-km will have to tested before it starts flowing diesel, which will save around Rs 2 billion of transportation cost apart from ensuring the smooth flow of diesel even in the times of unrest in the southern plains.
Estimated to cost around Rs 2.75 billion, the petroleum pipeline covers a distance of 32.65-km from Motihri to Raxaul on the Indian side was completed a month ago, and the task of laying pipeline for a distance of 37.25-km from Raxaul to Amlekhgunj of Bara on the Nepal side is also over, according to the Nepal Oil Corporation (NOC). “The pipeline's technical examination – including hydro-test, radiography of pipes joined by welding, taking X-ray at the points where the pipes have been joined and removing the rust in the pipe through scan-plast have started with the completion of the pipeline laying works – is underway,” it informed, adding that a 25-member technical team, including NOC engineers, has left for Lucknow for training on hydro-test and other technical works of the pipeline. The sole supplier of the petroleum products to Nepal Indian Oil Corporation (IOC) is providing training to the technicians to make them capable to take care of the petroleum pipeline.
After signing an agreement to lay the pipeline on August 24, 2015, Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli and his Indian counterpart Narendra Modi during Oli's India visit jointly laid the foundation stone for Motihari-Amlekhgunj petroleum pipeline project at the Hyderabad House in New Delhi.

Sunday, June 16, 2019

Provincial budgets follow wrong precedent of federal budget, distribute budget to parliamentarians

Following the wrong precedents of the federal government, the provincial governments distributed the budget to parliamentarians, in one name or the other, which is a gross misuse of the public tax money. 
Unveiling their third budget – though practically second one as provincial election was not completed then – nearly three weeks after the Federal Budget 2019-20, the seven provinces, however, claimed that they have focused on infrastructure including including cable car, monorail and tunnel roads, and social development.
The provincial governments tabled a total budget of Rs 2. 596 trillion. The provincial budget has increased by 25.55 per cent compared to last fiscal year’s budget. Province 3 has tabled the highest budget of Rs 47.50 billion, whereas Far West Province has tabled the lowest at Rs 28.16 billion.

Province 1
Province 1 Minister for Economic Affairs and Planning Indra Angbo tabled a budget of Rs 42.20 billion. “Of the budget, Rs 18.54 billion is allocated for recurrent expenditure and Rs 23.57 billion for capital expenditure,” he said, adding that education sector will receive Rs 1.28 billion, drinking water and sanitation Rs 3 billion, and irrigation will get Rs 3.2 billion.

Province 2
Province 2 government presented a budget of Rs 38.72 billion. “Out of the total budget, Rs 19.11 billion was allocated for recurrent expenditure, whereas Rs 19.26 billion is for capital expenditure,” the Province 2 government said adding that the government has announced Rs 30 million for each constituency in accordance with the Constituency Infrastructure Development Special Programme. “The budget has also focused on agriculture, education and health.”

Province 3
Province 3 Minister for Economic Affairs and Planning Kailash Prasad Dhungel announced a budget of Rs 47.6 billion for the next fiscal year. “The budget has allocated Rs 24.46 billion for recurrent expenditure and Rs 22.03 billion for capital expenditure,” he said, adding that the budget will focus on developing infrastructure including ring roads and tunnels across several parts of the Province, tourism development, agro-sector modernisation, and community farming.

Gandaki Province
Gandaki Province Minister for Economic Affairs Kiran Gurung tabled a budget of Rs 32 billion. “Of the total budget Rs 12.28 billion as been allocated for recurrent expenditure and Rs 19.85 billion for capital expenditure,” he said, adding that the government has focused on programmes and policies announced from the last fiscal. “Additionally, it has allocated ample funds for the construction of ‘national pride projects’ within the province.”

Province 5
Province 5 Chief Minister and Economic Affairs and Planning Minister Shankhar Pokharel announced the budget of Rs 36.41 billion for the next fiscal year. “Rs 13.45 billion has been allocated for recurrent expenses and Rs 18.57 billion for capital expenditure,” he said, adding that the budget has given top priority to infrastructure and tourism development, agriculture sector commercialisation and mobilising the sector to eliminate unemployment, and completion of Gautam Buddha International Airport.

Karnali Province
Karnali Province Minister for Economic Affairs Prakash Jwala unveiled a budget of Rs 34.35 billion. “The budget has allocated Rs 13.05 billion for recurrent expenses and Rs 21.29 billion for capital expenditure,” he said, adding that the Karnali Province government has prioritized agriculture, infrastructure and tourism sectors, setting up the Karnali Infrastructure Development Authority as part of the budget allocation of Rs 1.2 billion for the infrastructure sector.

Sudurpaschim Province
Sudurpaschim Province Minister for Economic Affairs Jhapat Bahadur Bohara tabled a budget of Rs 28.16 billion today. “The budget has allocated Rs 12.57 billion as recurrent expenditure and Rs 13.06 billion as capital expenditure,” he said, adding that the government has prioritised agriculture, drinking water, energy, irrigation, infrastructure and roads. “The budget has also focused on promotion of a model agriculture village with Rs 5 million budget for every local unit.”

UK did not accept proposal: PM Oli

Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli today said that the joint communiqué – issued after the meeting between Nepali him and his British counterpart Theresa May – did not spell revision of Nepal-India-UK Tripartite Agreement on Gurkha recruitment as the British side did not accept the proposal.
Saying that he has proposed the British government to revise the 1947 tripartite agreement (TPA) among Nepal, Britain and India about the recruitment of Gurkha soldiers in Indian and British armies, Prime Minister Oli, informed that the British government, however, did not consider the proposal, and it did not even include the issue in the joint communiqué.
Talking to journalists at a press meet upon his arrival from three-country Europe visit today organised at Tribhuvan International Airport (TIA), Oli said that he had proposed revision of the TPA and replace it with a new agreement between Nepal and the UK. “But the British side did not accept it.”
The joint communiqué only includes issues that are easily acceptable to both sides, according to diplomatic norms. Though, foreign minister Pradeep Kumar Gyawali and other government officials – earlier – claimed that Nepal’s proposal to revise the treaty was one of the biggest achievements of PM’s Europe trip, it was not included in the joint communiqué.
The joint communiqué released at the end of Oli’s UK visit reads that the Foreign and Commonwealth Office of the United Kingdom and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Nepal acknowledged the long and distinguished service of Gurkhas in the British Army. The two sides recognised Gurkhas as a vital link in strengthening bilateral relations. Going forward, both sides agreed to continue discussion on Gurkha matters.
Oli, during his talks with May, claimed that he has proposed a new bilateral agreement – encompassing recruitment, retirement, and post-retirement situation of Gurkhas, in line with the changed context – replacing the old TPA signed after India became independent from the UK in 1947.
The two governments decided to split Gurkha regiments between the British and Indian armies as it quit India. “The TPA has now become very old, and it cannot guide and control our present needs,” he said, adding that it is obvious, not impulsive, that Nepal seek a revision. “It is not that the agreement should always remain tripartite, we can also go for bilateral agreement.”
Meanwhile, Prime Minister Oli has been forced to raise the issue with Britain as the former British Gurkhas have been staging protests in both Nepal and the UK demanding pay, pension, and other facilities equal to British nationals. The Gurkha veterans have demanded that besides providing equal pension, the British government should compensate the entire amount – that comes around Rs 1.2 trillion apart from the regular pension of around Rs 36 billion every year – which former and serving Gurkhas did not receive over the years due to discrimination against them in terms of pay, pension and other facilities.
The Ex British Gurkha said that they would continue their protest unless the government made concrete efforts towards addressing their demands by forming a high-level dialogue team in line with the ‘Report of the technical committee on Gurkha veterans’ prepared by a tripartite committee. The report has documented the discrimination faced by British Gurkhas over the years. It was submitted to both the governments on 22 March, 2018.
The Parliamentary International Relations Committee – in the second week of March – had also directed a high-level talks team of the government to hold dialogue with the British government in line with the report.
Coordinator of Gurkha Satyagraha United Struggle Committee Krishna Bahadur Rai said that their struggle will continue until the Nepal government – keeping Gurkha veterans in the loop – formally writes to the British government seeking formation of the high-level talks team to implement the ‘Report of the technical committee on Gurkha veterans’, which the British government has accepted but is waiting formal invitation for a bilateral talks.
The Ex Gurkhas have given Nepal government an ultimatum that it should form a talks team by July 1. “Otherwise, we will start a decisive protest against both the governments,” Rai said.