Tuesday, April 2, 2024

Nepal-Switzerland Bilateral Consultations Mechanism discuss development partnership

The fourth meeting of the Nepal-Switzerland Bilateral Consultations Mechanism (BCM) held at the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs (FDFA) in Bern, Switzerland today discuss a gamut of issues including development partnership.

Head of the Europe-Americas Division of Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Nepal, Joint Secretary Ganesh Prasad Dhakal and Assistant State Secretary for Asia and the Pacific in the FDFA of Switzerland Heinrich Schellenberg led the delegations of their respective countries, according to a press note issued by the Embassy of Nepal in Geneva.

Nepali delegation included ambassador of Nepal to Switzerland Ram Prasad Subedi and the Embassy Officials whereas the Swiss Delegation included officials from the FDFA and the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC).

During the meeting, the two sides reviewed entire spectrum of Nepal-Switzerland relations including economic ties, development partnership, multilateral cooperation, and contemporary global issues such as climate change and human rights.

The two sides also discussed the exchange of high-level visits, Nepal’s graduation from LDC category, progress made towards meeting the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), and ways to further enhance bilateral cooperation on trade, investment, tourism, science and technology, and vocational training, among others, according to the press note.

On the occasion Joint Secretary Dhakal requested the Swiss side to encourage the participation of their investors in the upcoming Nepal Investment Summit being held in Kathmandu this month.

The Nepali side thanked the Swiss Government for consistently placing Nepal as a priority country for Swiss Development Cooperation. While expressing satisfaction over Nepal’s progress, the Swiss side assured of their continued support to Nepal’s development endeavours.

Following the meeting, the head of the Swiss delegation hosted a luncheon in honour of the visiting Nepali delegation.

Nepal-Switzerland Bilateral Consultations Mechanism was established in 2015 and the next meeting will be held in Kathmandu on mutually convenient dates.

Though, World Bank claims growth rebound, it downgrades Nepal’s GDP growth to 3.3 per cent

Nepal’s economy is expected to grow by 3.3 per cent in the current fiscal year (FY2024), driven by revived tourism and a pickup in hydropower exports, according to the World Bank.

On the demand side, private consumption will drive growth, supported by a substantial increase in remittance inflows, according to the World Bank’s twice-a-year country development update,

However, the World Bank on October 3, 2023 -- six months ago -- has projected Nepal's economy to grow by 3.9 per cent. In six months, the development partner has downgraded Nepal's economic growth to 3.3 per cent from 3.9 per cent.

However, the latest 'Nepal Development Update, Nepal’s Economy on a Recovery Path, but Private Investment Remains Low', projects a further rebound in growth of 4.6 per cent in the next fiscal year 2025. 

The forecast is subject to multiple risks, including a growth slowdown in partner countries, notably India, Gulf countries, and Malaysia which could lead to a drop in remittances and tourism, the report reads, adding that further business environment reforms aimed at attracting more private investment will be needed to support medium-term growth.

“Strengthening the implementation of capital expenditure, boosting business confidence, and strengthening Nepal's international competitiveness are key to stimulating economic growth and reducing poverty,” said World Bank country director for Maldives, Nepal, and Sri Lanka Faris Hadad-Zervos.

The Nepal Development Update is prepared in parallel with the South Asia Development Update, a twice-a-year World Bank report that examines economic developments and prospects in the South Asia region and analyses policy challenges countries face.

The April 2024 edition titled 'Jobs for Resilience' shows growth in South Asia is again higher than any other emerging markets and developing country region in the world, projected at 6 per cent in 2024 and 6.1 per cent in the next year 2025.

But this strong outlook is deceptive, says the report. For most countries, growth is still below pre-pandemic levels and is reliant on public spending. At the same time, private investment growth has slowed sharply in all South Asian countries, and the region is not creating enough jobs to keep pace with its rapidly increasing working-age population.

“South Asia is failing right now to fully capitalize on its demographic dividend," World Bank chief economist for South Asia Franziska Ohnsorge said, adding that it is a missed opportunity. "If the region employed as large a share of the working-age population as other emerging markets and developing economies, its output could be 16 per cent higher."

The South Asia Development Update recommends a range of policies to spur firm growth and boost employment, including increasing trade openness, improving business climates and institutions, removing financial sector restrictions, improving education, and strengthening legal protection of women’s rights. And these measures would also help lift employment growth and boost productivity, and free up space for public investments in climate adaptation.

Sunday, March 31, 2024

Not only party chief and home minister Rabi Lamichhane, his close aides including labour minister Aryal implicated in cooperative fraud

Its an old case against incumbent Home Minister and Rastriya Swatantra Party (RSP) chair Rabi Lamichhane of accusations of misappropriating cooperative funds against.

The main opposition party Nepali Congress (NC) has been vehemently opposing his appointment as Home Minister suspecting the investigation could be compromised, due to his position.

But, there seems whole lot of Lamichhane's party comrades are in the soup. More RSP comrades are accused of cooperatives fruad is no coincidence.

Its Lamichhane's close aide and incumbent Labour minister, who is the vice-chair of RSP, Dol Prasad (DP) Aryal, who is now entangled in a cooperative fraud scandal.

During Aryal's tenure as vice-chairman of the 'Hamro Naya Agricultural Co-Operative,' depositors were unable to retrieve more than Rs 40 million, according to a complaint letter they have sent to Department of Cooperatives under the Ministry of Land Management, Cooperatives and Poverty Alleviation.

Last January, the government declared 'Hamro Naya Agricultural Co-Operative' as problematic entity, after it failed to return the depositors' funds.

The complaint filed by the cooperatives's depositors include the names of DP Aryal and Rastriya Swatantra Party's joint general secretary Kabindra Burlakoti, who served as directors of the cooperative, with Surya Gurung, the then chair, when Aryal was vice-chair.

A total of 26 depositors lodged a complaint seeking refunds during Aryal's tenure as vice-chairman, according to the complaint letter.

Despite numerous attempts, the depositors did not receive their money back, forcing them to file a formal complaint with the Department of Cooperatives.

Aryal left the co-operative in 2023 after he introduced Geetendra Bahadur (GB) Rai, a business associate of RSP chair Lamichhane, into the cooperative. Upon transitioning into active politics, Aryal left the cooperative.

However, the cooperatives was in financial trouble during the tenure of Gurung, Aryal and Burlakoti.

"It was DP Aryal who brought GB Rai to the cooperative," one of the directors said, adding that the cooperative faced financial trouble during his tenure."

Surya Gurung stepped down from the board of directors when GB Rai assumed control, as chair. GB Rai is the same person, who is absconding in yet another cooperatives fraud case, which also involved the incumbent home minister Lamichhane.

Sections 104 (1) (a) to (f) of the Cooperative Act, 2074, were invoked when action was taken to address the cooperative’s failure to refund members' savings, in violation of the cooperative rules, regulations and values. As per the recommendation of the Registrar of the Cooperative Department, the Ministry of Land Management, Cooperatives, and Poverty Alleviation declared Hamro Naya Agricultural Co-Operative as problematic under section 104 (2) of the Act. The ministry has referred the matter to the Problematic Cooperative Management Committee, established under Section 105 of the same Act, to manage the cooperative's assets and liabilities.

Actually, declaring problematic is one of the legal loopholes to save the cooperative frauds, according to the director, who didnot want to be named.

According to member secretary of the Problematic Cooperative Management Committee Keshav Prasad Paudel, some 34 individuals had filed complaints regarding the non-repayment of deposits totaling over Rs 40 million. "We have secured and sealed the cooperative's documents for examination," he said, adding that the documents are currently under review. "But most of the confiscated computers donot have harddisk, as it is suspected the Aryal-Gurung-Rai-Burlakoti nexus tried to destroy the proofs of fraud."

When Aryal's team left the cooperative after bringing in GB Rai, the victims filed a complaint with the Department of Cooperatives demanding the return of their deposits.

RSP vice-chair and Labour Minister Aryal had invested Rs 2.3 million Hamro Naya Agricultural Co-operative.

Though, he claims that he voluntarily resigned in 2023, and was not involved in fraud, the cooperative depositors donot buy his argument.

According to the Nepal Police sources, the Central Investigatoin Bureau (CIB), had been investigating the case, but sudden chamge in the government has postponned for the timebeing.

Wednesday, March 27, 2024

Government, developments partners agree on harmonisation of disbursement practices

The government and six Multilateral Developments Banks (MDBs) and International Financial Institutions (IFIs)—Agence Française de Développement, Asian Development Bank (ADB), Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB), International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), OPEC Fund for International Development, and the World Bank (WB)—agreed to work together to harmonise disbursement procedures and practices to help enhance operational efficiency and achieve Nepal’s development goals.

The agreement was reached at a two-day ‘MDBs Disbursement Harmonisation Workshop’ organised in Kathmandu on March 25-26 by the MDBs and IFIs, in close partnership with the Finance Ministry.

“Fostering a unified disbursement system among all MDBs will help facilitate allocation of funds, enhance operational efficiency, and ensure timely disbursement of funds to the government to achieve development results,” said finance secretary Dr Krishna Hari Pushkar, on the occasion.

According to a press note issued by the organisers, the government and MDB-IFIs agreed to focus on various future collaborations including harmonisation of flow of funds, reporting, legal and disbursement arrangements for the three-tier structure of government; standardisation of reporting templates across MDB-IFIs’ operations in Nepal to reduce the administrative burden on the government; and strengthening and aligning country system with MDBs-IFIs to the extent possible.

“Unprecedented challenges demand urgent action and the need for harmonisation among the MDB-IFIs," the World Bank vice president and controller Pamela O’Connell said, adding that the World Bank, in its continued efforts to improve operational efficiency and support better development results for its mutual clients, is committed to work with co-financing partners in the area of disbursement harmonisation.

On the occasion, government representatives and MDB-IFIs agreed to carry froward the momentum by way of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between the government and MDB-IFIs, which will be prepared and implemented in a phased manner.

The Kathmandu Declaration would be a model to be emulated in other countries, according to the press note.

“To achieve sustainable economic growth and poverty reduction it is imperative that budget allocation is fully utilised," Financial Comptroller General Hari Prasad Mainali said, adding that the government is committed to strengthening reforms to build transparency and accountability of public financial management systems and strengthen service delivery.

The workshop was attended by high-level representatives from the government and MDB-IFIs.

Participants discussed disbursement and implementation-related opportunities and challenges, and the way forward to supporting MDB-IFIs operations in Nepal. In view of the federalism transition, legal and disbursement options available for project implementation at provincial and local levels were also discussed, and international experiences were shared.

Wednesday, March 20, 2024

Third Nepal-Germany bilateral consultation mechanism meeting discuss cooperation

The third meeting of Nepal-Germany Bilateral Consultation Mechanism in Kathmandu today took stock of overall state of the bilateral relations and cooperation between Nepal and Germany.

Division Head (Joint Secretary) of the Europe America Division under Foreign Ministry Ganesh Prasad Dhakal and director for Indo-Pacific Policy, South Asia, Afghanistan of the Federal Foreign Office of Germany Erik Kurzweil led their respective delegations to the meeting.

At the outset, the two sides reviewed the overall Nepal-Germany relations and ongoing cooperation, according to a press note issued by the Foreign Ministry. 

Joint Secretary Dhakal appreciated the continued German cooperation to Nepal’s development endeavours, whereas director Kurzweil shared about ongoing development cooperation extended to Nepal under German development assistance.

The two co-chairs stressed the need of continuing interactions, including the exchange of high-level visits, between the two countries. “They underscored the importance of enhancing partnerships in productive sectors, including investment and trade,” it reads, adding that Dhakal briefed about the business-friendly policies adopted by Nepal and requested the German side to encourage their participation in the upcoming third Nepal Investment Summit and explore possibilities of further investments in Nepal.

Matters of regional and global importance were also discussed during the meeting. The two co-chairs agreed to work together on matters of common interest, including climate change, at various multilateral for a. Views were also exchanged to further strengthening cultural relations, enhancing people-to-people contacts and connectivity, among others.

The Nepali delegation comprised of senior officials of the Foreign Ministry; Finance Ministry; Ministry of Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation; Ministry of Forest and Environment; Ministry of Home Affairs; and Ministry of Energy, Water Resources and Irrigation.

Likewise, the German delegation included ambassador of Germany to Nepal Dr Thomas Prinz and other officials of the Embassy of Germany.

Nepal-EU joint commission meeting discuss graduation from LDC, GSP

The 15th meeting of the Joint Commission (JC) between Nepal and the European Union (EU) discussed gamut of bilateral issues including graduation from LDC, GSP and investment promotion, in Kathmandu today.

A broad range of issues of mutual interest were discussed during the meeting, according to a press note issued by the Foreign Ministry.

Nepal and the EU are also celebrating the 50th anniversary of their diplomatic relations this year.

The meeting was co-chaired by foreign secretary Sewa Lamsal and deputy managing director for Asia and the Pacific of the European External Affairs Service of the EU Paola Pampaloni.

The two sides reiterated their commitment to work together in upholding democracy and human rights, promoting good governance, realising Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), promoting investment, and coping against global challenges such as climate change.

The Nepali side, on the occasion, highlighted achievements and bottlenecks in the realisation of SDGs.

Likewise, the EU welcomed Nepal’s transition strategy to graduate from LDC status and expressed their commitment to continue their cooperation through the Multi-Annual Indicative Programme (MIP).

Nepal welcomed the EU’s MIP for the term 2021-2027. The Nepali side also appreciated the MIP for aligning with the plans and priorities of Nepal.

Nepal and the EU also reviewed the progress of EU’s development cooperation in various sectors.

The meeting acknowledged the sub-commission meeting on development cooperation held on March 6.

On regional and multilateral processes, Nepal and the EU also discussed about SAARC and BIMSTEC. The two sides underlined the importance of effective multilateral cooperation.

The EU praised Nepal’s contributions to UN Peacekeeping Operations, the press note reads, adding that Nepal and the EU reaffirmed their commitments to cooperate within the United Nations (UN), World Trade Organisation (WTO), and other global fora to promote effective multilateralism and the rules-based international order. "Human rights including social inclusion were also discussed at the meeting."

The Nepali side reaffirmed its commitment to upholding human rights and concluding transitional justice as soon as possible.

The EU expressed hope on the early conclusion of Nepal’s peace process. 

The two sides unanimously agreed that corruption, including money laundering and financing of terrorism, is a major impediment to sustainable development.

The EU took note of Nepal’s ongoing legislative efforts and underlined the importance of compliance and enforcement, the press note adds.

The EU commended Nepal’s remarkable strides on inclusive participation and women empowerment. Both sides praised the EU flagship action 'Empowered Women, Prosperous Nepal', launched last year by the EU and the Ministry of Women, Children and Senior Citizens of Nepal.

The EU commended Nepal for the child grant schemes and encouraged its expansion.

The EU also appreciated the achievements made by Nepal in its socio-economic transformation. The two sides appraised the recent developments in upholding the democratic processes and institutions, and stressed the important role of civil society and media for strengthening democracy and good governance.

"The Nepali side underlined their multiple vulnerabilities of natural disasters, exacerbated by the impacts of climate change, and discussed climate adaptation finance," it reads, adding that the EU complimented Nepal for its position on Climate Change and the ‘Mountain Agenda’ during COP28 and also on its ambitious goal of reaching net zero carbon status by 2045.

"The Nepali side expressed gratitude for the EU's generous assistance following the Jajarkot earthquake, in post-earthquake resilient reconstruction and recovery efforts, and appreciated the cooperative partnership in disaster risk reduction."

The two sides exchanged their views on bilateral trade relations, including the criteria for acceding to the Generalised Scheme of Preferences Plus (GSP+).

Nepal, on the occasion, also expressed appreciation for the exchanges under the Erasmus+ programme, and the scholarships offered for Erasmus Mundus Joint Master Degree programmes, including people-to-people contacts. 

The EU and Nepal underlined that air safety remains a key priority area in their bilateral relations. Nepal assured of addressing all observations of the EU’s assessment visit in September 2023, while the EU will support Nepal in this process. Both sides agreed to follow-up at technical levels.

The next Joint Commission meeting will take place in Brussels next year.

Switzerland-Nepal fact-finding mission concludes unlocking trade opportunities

The Embassy of Switzerland, in collaboration with Switzerland Global Enterprise (S-GE) and the Nepal Swiss Chamber of Commerce and Industries (NSCCI), successfully conducted the second fact-finding mission with a Swiss business delegation's visit to Nepal from March 17 to 20.

The mission aimed to acquaint Swiss companies with the Nepali market and its key stakeholders, according to a press note issued by the Embassy of Switzerland in Nepal.

Participating were esteemed organisations such as Ferring, Roche, Stone Step, and Swiss Re, it reads, adding that the delegation engaged in high-level meetings with notable entities including the Ministry of Health, Kathmandu Metropolitan City, Department of Drug and Administration, Nepal Electricity Authority (NEA), National Public Health Laboratory, Department of Health Service, development partners, various public and private hospital and offices. “Additionally, the delegation interacted with various private sector companies primarily focused on health, Insurtech and infrastructure development.”

The ambassador of Switzerland to Nepal Dr Danielle Meuwly, highlighted the success of the first fact-finding mission, that took place in November 2022, citing achievements like the air service agreement between Nepal and Switzerland.

She expressed optimism that this second mission will contribute to similar outcomes, supporting Nepal's transition from aid to trade. 

The meaningful discussions held with government officials, experts, development partners, and private companies were well received by the Swiss delegation, significantly enriching their understanding of Nepal’s business sector and identifying potential investment areas.