Saturday, February 28, 2009

GLOBAL CRISIS-4: Meltdown hits work destination Qatar

Global financial crisis has hit the construction sector in Qatar -- a country that has been the most favoured destination of Nepali migrant workers -- forcing the sector to halt new recruitment.
Though Nepal's ambassador to Qatar Surya Nath Mishra said Qatar has approved 1,12,000 new visas for Nepalis, data from the Department of Foreign Employment (DoFE) tells a different and stark story.
According to the department, only 6,413 Nepalis left for Qatar in the seventh month -- from mid-January to mid-February -- of this fiscal year. In 2008, an average of 3,647 Nepalis left for Qatar and the trend is decreasing in 2009 despite the envoy's assurance that recession will only hit Qatar next year in 2010. Around 95 per cent of the Nepalis employed in Qatar work in the construction sector there, according to the envoy.
Major construction companies in Qatar have halted new projects and that is hitting all Nepali workers directly. In the first seven months of this fiscal year, Qatar absorbed a total of 46,202 Nepali migrant labourers. The number is down from 47,509 during the corresponding period last year.
Qatar presently employs some 2,86,511 Nepali employees, according to official data. It is one of the countries with which Nepal has entered into a bilateral labour agreement. According to the pact, officials from two countries will meet every two years. "The meeting between the officials could help to clarify the confusion," the envoy added.
The bilateral labour accord between Nepal and Qatar came into force from January 20, 2008, ensuring better pay and perks for Nepali workers though the two countries had signed the labour pact in 2005.
The then Labour Minister Ramesh Lekhak and his Qatari counterpart Dr Sultan bin Hassan Al Dhabit Al Dousari had last January signed an addendum protocol -- to formally implement the labour pact inked some two years ago -- in Qatar's capital Doha. According to the protocol, Nepali workers would get paid at par with other overseas employees at around 800 riyals. The initial cost for Nepalis to get employment in Qatar also went down by 50 per cent.
Nepal and Qatar signed the bilateral labour pact on March 21, 2005. The pact -- signed by the then foreign minister Ramesh Nath Panday -- remained inactive because neither side took any initiative to bring it into practice until 2008.
After the pact came into effect, Nepali workers were expected to get remuneration and facilities as specified by the labour law of Qatar. The accord ensured Nepali migrant workers' legal status in accordance with other migrant workers' countries with whom Qatar has signed labour pacts.
Qatar emerged as the most popular destination for most of the unskilled and manual works in construction works. A small number of Nepalis is also working in the service sector like petrol pumps, hotels, restaurants and shopping malls. "One per cent of Nepalis work in the technical sector, 0.5 per cent in service sector, 0.3 per cent in the health sector and 0.2 per cent are self-employed," said Mishra.
Qatar had overtaken Malaysia as the most popular destination for Nepali jobseekers.

Investors wince as Nepse plunges

Unlike in the past weeks, this week the major market propellers, commercial banks and development banks' groups, lost pulling Nepse down whereas the hydropower, insurance and finance company groups gained.
The commercial banks and development banks groups pulled Nepse down by 22.08 points to push it to 677.52 points from last week's closing of 699.60 points.
The sensitive index -- a barometer of 78 Group-A companies -- also lost 4.07 points to drop to 178.60 points from last week's 182.67 points. Similarly, the float index -- calculated on the basis of real transactions - also lost 1.59 points to drop to 65.90 points from last week's 67.49 points.
In the three-day trading session this week -- due to public holidays on Monday and Wednesday -- the indices of development banks plunged by a whopping 49.63 points to slide to 931.65 points while those of commercial banks lost 23.55 points and dropped to 668.61 points.
However, last week's loser hydropower companies group this week gained 4.77 points to go up to 838.78 points. Similarly, insurance companies gained 21.57 points to reach 693.72 points while finance companies gained 1.47 points to reach 795.81 points.
Though the market opened in the green on Sunday, Nepse could not continue its bullish trend on the other following days.
Nepse surged by 4.50 points to reach 704.10 points from last Thursday's closing of 699.60 points. However, the sole secondary market index plunged by 8.18 points to drop to 695.92 points on Tuesday. Thursday, the last day of trading in the domestic market also witnessed a huge fall of 18.40 points to close the weekly market at 699.52 points.
The transaction amount for this week also decreased by 21.19 per cent to Rs 244.63 million against last week's 35.68 per cent rise. Group A companies' shares dominated this week's trading as the group witnessed 78.44 per cent of the transaction against last week's 59.63 per cent. Against last week's transaction of 79 listed companies, only 72 companies saw their scrips being traded this week.
This week's top performers were Bank of Kathmandu (with Rs 27.82 million), Standard Chartered Bank Nepal (with Rs 23.83 million), Laxmi Bank (with Rs 20.58 million), Nabil Bank (with Rs 14.49 million) and Nepal SBI Bank (with Rs 11.21 million).
In terms of share units traded, Laxmi Bank topped the chart with 22,000-unit shares this week whereas in terms of number of transactions Nepal Development and Employment Promotion Bank topped the chart with 436 transactions.
This week, Merchant Finance listed its 3,00,000-unit primary shares at Nepse that did not see any transaction of bonds and debentures.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Private sector, finance ministry at loggerheads

The Maoist-led government and the private sector are again at loggerheads over a contentious aspect of the Voluntary Disclosure of Income Sources (VDIS) scheme – the investigation on the current investment. The private sector wants the government not to probe source on all the investments till date. But the finance ministry is firm on investigating investment on unproductive sectors.
This lack of clarity over investigation of investment sources has been riling private entrepreneurs for the past few weeks. The confusion has come to the fore even as the government bowed to popular demand and extended the VDIS deadline by a month till March 13. Industry captains have urged the government to identify the productive and unproductive sectors in a bid to attract more investment. “Otherwise, investors will be discouraged,” said Federation of Nepalese Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FNCCI) president Kush Kumar Joshi.
Addressing media people here today, he accused the government of working at cross purposes. “On one hand, it claims to provide security to investment while on the other it plans to probe sources of investment,” he said. The president of the umbrella organisation of the private sector urged the ruling coalition to desist from the probe.
“The industries that are already in the tax net and providing employment should be spared,” he added. Joshi rather suggested to expand the tax net.
Of late, the government has hinted at not investigating the sources of investment in hydropower projects and also of industries that have more than 500 employees on their payrolls – the move hailed by the private sector and expected to discourage the investment on unproductive sectors.
Joshi hauled up the government for the prolonged power cut, which is having an adverse impact on business. The government’s move on not investigating the source of hydropower projects will encourage more investment on power projects.
Earlier, the Finance Ministry collected Rs 1.42 billion through VDIS, exceeding its initial target of Rs 1 billion.Nepal Chambers of Commerce (NCC) president Surendra Bir Malakar said that record revenue could be collected due to the support from the industrialists. “However, we will take to street if the government forces us to come up with the sources of investment,” he warned.FNCCI chief Joshi warned of an economic crisis if the cordial ties between the government and private sector were snapped.The FNCCI, NCC, Confederation of Nepalese Industries (CNI), Hotel Association of Nepal (HAN) and Nepal Overseas Export-Import Association representatives have been involved in discussions with the finance ministry on the VDIS scheme and investigating the source of investment for the last two weeks. But half the month has already passed without any agreement between the government and private sector.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Food price hike changes consumption pattern

Increasing food price has led to altered consumption patterns. "As expected, households have reduced intake of food and/or shifted to cheaper food items," said a report of the World Food Programme (WFP).
Apart from that, Nepal is unlikely to overcome -- in the near future -- the key challenge of increasing agricultural production and reducing reliance on imports, which have made the country particularly susceptible to rising global prices during 2008, said the report on Nepal Market Review 2008.
Ninety-eight per cent of households reported that their expenses had increased during the year. For almost all households, high food prices were an issue, and in 58 per cent of households it was the major cause of increased expenditure. During the same period only 31 per cent of households saw an increase in their income while for 17 per cent income decreased.
When food prices were at their highest point during the middle of the year, households reported spending on average 67 per cent of their income on food. The extremely poor and urban poor had the highest share of food expenditure, 78 and 70 per cent respectively.
As food prices reduced towards the end of the year and people started to harvest paddy, the average percentage of income spent on food also reduced to 63 per cent.
"For nearly a year, Nepalis have been struggling with food prices that have yet to reduce significantly. We are very concerned about the effects that this sustained high food price is having on Nepal's poor," said WFP country director Richard Ragan adding that addressing this key issue needs to be made a priority in 2009 if food security is to be achieved.
"In many areas, people are skipping meals because they can't afford to buy enough food. The longer this goes on, the more vulnerable the people -- especially children -- become to malnutrition," he said adding that many of the factors that contributed to Nepal's inflation rate in 2008, like high transport costs, are still an issue.
Inflation in Nepal is said to be imported from India. But India's annual rate of inflation fell further this week that ended on February 14 to 3.36 per cent from 3.92 per cent the week before. Nepal's inflation rate, instead of following the Indian rate, is going up and is more than double than the target of seven per cent set by the budget. It stands at 14.4 per cent by the end of the first six months of the current fiscal year.
However, the report said that relatively strong harvests in 2008 in both India and Nepal should keep prices controlled through at least the first half of 2009.
Nepal can also expect further price reprieve if the full reduction of global fuel prices is passed on through the Nepal Oil Corporation (NOC). However, transporters have not reduced the transportation fare despite a four-time fuel price cut. The transporters' syndicate has been a key hurdle in fare reduction.
"Nepal did not experience as sharp a decline in food prices as other countries in the region during the final months of 2008 -- and this was 'partially' due to transportation costs remaining relatively high," said the report.

GLOBAL CRISIS-3: Fewer workers Malaysia-bound

Department of Foreign Employment (DoFE) data reveal that the number of Nepali migrant workers leaving for Malaysia -- the second most preferred destination -- has dropped in the seventh month of this fiscal year.
The number of workers leaving for Malaysia dropped to 1,553 during the month in comparison to 2,873 a month earlier. "The decrease in number is due to the Malaysian government's recent decision not to take in any foreign migrant workers, especially in the manufacturing and service sectors, from January," said Foreign Employment Association of Nepal (FEAN) president Tilak Ranabhat. On January 10, the Malaysian government put a freeze on the intake of foreign workers due to global financial crisis.
However, Nepalis already working in Malaysia will not be affected due to the East Asian country's decision. "The interests of Nepalis working in Malaysia will not be overlooked," Nepal's ambassador to Malaysia Dr Rishi Raj Adhikari said, adding that Nepal has accepted that Malaysia will let demand and supply dictate wages.
The important thing is that recruitment will be done fairly, with all sides -- workers, employers and recruiting agents -- protected, according to him.
There are about 3,00,000 Nepalis working in Malaysia, most of them in the construction and agriculture sectors and a few in service and other sectors -- making Nepalis one of the largest foreign workforces in Malaysia.
Nepal started sending workers to Malaysia, though through private manpower agencies, since 2001. The two governments have agreed on minimum wage, which was set at RM600 ($167) a month.
Adhikari, who was posted in Malaysia after the Maoist-led government came to power last April, said that the Nepali embassy in Malaysia is keenly watching the economic scenario there as Malaysia is hit by the global financial crisis.
However, in total the number of Nepali migrant workers leaving for foreign employment has increased by eight per cent during the current period compared to Poush month. According to data, a total of 18,715 workers left for different foreign job destinations in the seventh month of this fiscal year, up from 17,300 in the sixth month.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Kakarbhitta dry port to see light of day by year-end, cost escalates

The cost of Kakarbhitta dry port is escalating due to delay in its completion as it is unlikely to be operational before the end of this year.
Earlier, the target was to get it up and running by mid-2009.
“The six-month delay can be attributed to last year’s Kohsi flood fury coupled with slight modification in the original plan. The extension of the timeframe will lead to an additional expense of around 10 per cent,” explained Sarad Bikram Rana, executive director, Nepal Intermodal Transport Development Board (NITDB).
The nation’s fourth dry port at Kakarbhitta -- The Kakarbhitta Inland Clearance Depot (ICD) -- on the Nepal-India border in the eastern region is being bankrolled by the Asian Development Bank (ADB). As per the preliminary estimate, Rs 300 million was required for the ICD’s construction and development. The NITDB will assume its responsibility once it is deemed fit for use.
“Protocol demands that the ICD be given on lease while complying with international bidding norms. The bid document has already been prepared to that effect. It is awaiting the customary nod from the steering committee, which is likely to give the finishing touches in the next meeting,” said Rana.
The much-touted Public-Private Partnership (PPP) will form the basis of the operation and maintenance of the dry port. A private operator will be roped for the smooth running of the Sub-regional Transport Facilitation project, which aims to boost trade not only with New Delhi but also Dhaka.
At present, the country boasts of three dry points — located at Birgunj, Biratnagar and Bhairahawa. All of them have been leased out for 10 years to various Nepal-India joint ventures.
The government has also launched the Nepal Multi-model Transit and Trade Facilitation Project at an estimated cost of $28.5 million. The World Bank has pledged $23.5 million for the initiative.
Meanwhile, the ADB is willing to aid similar sub-regional ventures. Preparation for the next round of trade and transit facilitation project has already begun in earnest. However, the government’s role is vital to future projects.
The ADB has hinted at providing assistance for the proposed fifth ICD at Tatopani.
Nepal, a land-locked nation, is in dire need of dry ports. Trade can only flourish if there are adequate facilities for multi-model transport (where container seals can remain unbroken despite being moved from one place to another, irrespective of the inhospitable terrain).

GLOBAL CRISIS-2: Squad of 45 to SKorea under EPS

Forty-five blue-collar Nepali job aspirants left for South Korea today under the Employment Permit System (EPS). Earlier, they were leaving in batches every week but now they are leaving at fortnightly intervals.
After South Korea started feeling the heat of the global financial crisis, it was expected it would change its policy. "However, there is no sign of policy change till date," said Kamal Koirala, Nepal's ambassador to South Korea.
Korea has set an annual quota (from March to February of the following year) for foreign workers. For the year between 2008 and February 2009, the annual quota of 72,000 exhausted on December 30, 2008. Though Korea has stopped issuing new employment permits until the begining of March 2009, those who have already received certificates of confirmation of visa issuance (CCVI) will continue to fly there.
Some 2,592 CCVIs were received by the EPS Section under the Department of Labour and Employment Promotion (DoLE). However, 171 CCVIs were also cancelled.
Those having already received their labour contracts from their Korean employers will not be affected by the exhaustion of the quota and thus still proceed to Korea. The EPS section has received 2,814 labour contracts. According to the section, 71 labour contacts have also been cancelled.
The majority of Nepalis are assigned to the manufacturing and agriculture sectors while a few are employed in hotels. "Nepalis work in those sectors where Koreans don't prefer working," the envoy said and added: "That's why the job lay-off by the Korean government won't affect Nepalis."
The number of people with jobs fell in South Korea in December year-on-year for the first time since 2003, reflecting the severe economic downturn, according to the National Statistical Office, South Korea.
A total of 23,245,000 people were employed last month, a loss of 12,000 from a year earlier and the first such annual contraction since October 2003 when 83,000 jobs disappeared. The youth jobless rate covering those aged 15 to 29 went up by 0.3 percentage point from a year earlier to 7.6 per cent in December, the office said.
"Conglomerates in the last quarter of fiscal 2008 will start cutting the number of employees full-scale, or at least won't hire more people in the near year," according to a report.
"However, there are only around 7,500 Nepalis, including students and kids," Koirala said. "Thus the impact on Nepalis will not be huge," the first Nepali envoy to South Korea reasoned adding that apart from this it's a government-to-government contract.
According to the contract between the two countries, after receiving HRD-Korea's final letter with the names of job aspirants, the department begins sending them to Korea. The name-list that HRD-Korea sent is according to the CCVI list. As per EPS rules, the first step for employment in South Korea is the Korean Language Test (KLT) and a stringent medical test.
After the government sealed an agreement with South Korea to send workers under EPS, Nepalis are flying to Korea on an airfare charge of $970. Prior to this, some manpower agencies used to charge hefty amounts of upto Rs 6 lakhs for each ticket.

Outbound traffic up
KATHMANDU: The number of Nepalis leaving for work abroad increased by eight per cent during the month of Magh in comparison to Poush. According to the Department of Foreign Employment (DoFE), 18,715 workers left for various destinations during Magh, up from 17,300 a month ago. The number of workers leaving for Malaysia dropped to 1,553 in comparison to 2,873 a month earlier. The United Arab Emirates (UAE) witnessed a rise, albeit marginal to 2,550 from 2,548 previous month. According to the department, only 6,413 Nepalis left for Qatar. During the first seven months of this fiscal year, the number of migrant workers increased by 4.5 per cent to 1,38,867 in compariosn to 1,32,812 during the same period last year.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Hesitant Insurance Board retards mega power project

Beema Samiti (Insurance Board) -- the regulatory authority of insurance companies -- is sitting pretty on the Rastriya Beema Samsthan's (RBS) investment proposal of the Upper Tamakoshi hydro power project for reasons best known to it.
The mega initiative, which aims to be a fully self-reliant venture, is supposed to get funding from a host of prominent domestic enterprises. For instance the Employment Promotion Fund (EPF), Nepal Electricity Authority (NEA) and its employees, and other financial institutions, including the RBS, are supposed to chip in realise the dream project that will be constructed with complete domestic capital and is second to Chilime Hydropower in this model.
The RBS -- a state-run life and non-life insurance company -- pledged Rs 2 billion for the project. It had sought permission from the Beema Samiti and Finance Ministry about a month ago to go ahead with its investment plans.
"Though the Finance Ministry readily gave its approval, the Samiti is yet to take a decision," said a source at the RBS.
Interestingly, the pussyfooting does not augur well at a time when the nation has been reeling from 16-hour daily power cuts, thanks to the growing divide between demand and supply.
Perhaps, the delay can be attributed to the change of guard in the Samiti. "A section of unscrupulous elements are against the investment since it is raking in moolah by investing in various financial institutions," reasoned the source.
The RBS has committed Rs 2 billion in five installments -- Rs 400 million annually -- over the next four years. In that light, it is not a huge sum, since the RBS collects over Rs 1.25 billion in premium annually.
"It is a risk-free investment. Be that as it may, the status quoists are against the venture," added the source. The insurance company is certainly not suffering from any funds crunch. It boasts of idle funds worth Rs 13 billion.
"Besides, the Samiti's accounts haven't been audited for the past seven years," said Krishna Hari Baskota, acting revenue secretary.
According to a recent report, the Upper Tamakoshi project aims to generate 456 MW, surpassing the preliminary estimation of 309 MW.
Despite the Samiti's delaying tactics, both EPF and NEA authorities remain firmly committed to the venture as principal investors.
Domestic financial institutions and popular support -- in the form of shares -- will fund 30 per cent of the low-cost project. While, residents of Dolakha -- the site of the initiative -- are tipped to get 10 per cent of shares.

Plea to end VDIS imposition

Entrepreneurs today reiterated their plea to the government not to investigate the source of their income.
At a meeting at the Finance Ministry here, they requested the ministry to create investment-friendly environment by not investigating the source of already invested in industries. The government conceded this request.
The finance ministry said it was positive towards creating investment-friendly environment but also requested them to pay tax on undisclosed income under the Voluntary Disclosure of Income Source (VDIS) scheme.
A team of industry captains, including Federation of Nepalese Chambers of Commerce and Industry president Kush Kumar Joshi, Confederation of Nepalese Industries president Binod Chaudhary and Nepal Chambers of Commerce president Surendra Bir Malakar along with other entrepreneurs held talks with finance secretaries and revenue officials held elaborate talks on the issue. However, they could not reach any decision today. Another meeting will be held on the issue this week again.
Earlier, on February 11 both sides had agreed to form a team to study the promotion of investment and find a win-win situation for both the entrepreneurs and the government. The team was mandated to submit its report within a week.
"We requested the government to help create an investment-friendly environment," NCC president Surendra Bir Malakar said adding that he hoped that the government would take serious note of it.
At the request of the harried entrepreneurs the government had previously extended the deadline for the VDIS scheme by a month to February 11. The new cut-off date is March 13.
Under the earlier deadline, tax collection exceeded the government's expectations and it ended up collecting Rs 1.42 billion. The extension is being viewed as an encouragement for more entrepreneurs to pay their dues.
In his budget for the fiscal year 2008-09, Finance Minister Dr Baburam Bhattarai had announced the VDIS scheme for collecting 10 per cent tax on income that has no source. The government has been repeatedly saying that it needs money to spent on infrastructure but not a single development project has started yet.

IRD collects Rs 12.5 million more
KATHMANDU: Though the Inland Revenue Department (IRD) collected Rs 1.42 billion (the declaration stood at Rs 14 billion) by the end of first deadline of February 11, after that date it coolected Rs 12.5 million. "After February 11, till Sunday IRD collected Rs 12.5 million," said IRD director general Kapil Deve Ghimire. Some 29 more taxpayers came under VDIS, he said adding that over 3,500 people across the country also paid house rent tax of Rs 100 million till date. A taxpayer had then paid Rs 39.4 million on the last day on February 11, registering it as the single largest amount by an individual under the scheme. Altogether, four persons paid more than Rs 10 million tax each. The number of tax payers under VDIS scheme is increasing. On the previous February 11 deadline, over 1,100 people paid Rs 650 million.

Gold price goes higher to Rs 29,800 per tola

International price pushed the price of gold in the domestic market to touch a new record high of Rs 29,800 per tola (11.664 grams) today. It is looking to Rs 30,000 per tola.
The precious yellow metal was traded at Rs 25,550 per ten grams on Sunday —the first day of transaction -- gaining Rs 345 per ten grams from Friday’s Rs 25,205. Nepal Gold and Silver Dealers Association (NEGOSIDA) said that skyrocketing price of bullion in the international market has pushed up the gold price in local market up.
This weeding season saw an unexpected rise in the price of gold pulling the demand down despite wedding season.
In the international market, gold rose to $990 per ounce and it is still looking up to $1,000 per troy ounce (31.11 gram). Analysts said the precious yellow metal is possibly targeting last March's all-time high of $1,030.80 per troy ounce.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Dreams unlimited of a man limited

Arun Kumar Subedi is a dreamer. He has conjured up a dream palace in the air. But like every reality his dreams have their roots in the ground. He has penned down his dreams in a book Sapanaka Gathaharu: Yojana ra Niti Sambandhi kehi Prastab (Dreams Unlimited: Some proposals for planning and policy).
Human right activists Purushottam Dahal describes Subedi as not only a dreamer but also as an unsatisfied human being -- unsatisfied with the present policy-makers, politicians and society as a whole. This book is a result of his dissatisfaction at the slow pace of development in Nepal.
By name, Sapanaka Gathahary seems a work of fiction but actually it is a vision of a developed, prosperous and complete Nepal where there is east-west railway, cable cars, more power projects, and planned and well managed cities where there are no sanitation and transportations problems. The reality is that we are living under a 16-hour load-shedding at present.
Going through the book, it all seems like fantasy but there are stark realities encrypted in each chapter. The author talks of an education system that is creating two classes. Though a hardcore democrat, Subedi's view on education is more revolutionary than that of our ruling comrades who are acting more like their once enemy burgeouise capitalists.
From the end of 20th century and begining of 21st century corporate capitalism came into existence. However, the past government's policy could not encourage industrialisation and corporatisation, he writes. The result: Unlike in other countries' capital markets where infrascture-based companies' and industries' shares are considered blue-chip shares, in Nepal the manufacturing groups' shares have negligible contribution to the total Nepse index. Only three hydropower companies are listed at Nepse. An industry owned by the same industrialist is backrupt and a financial institution of the same industrialist is minting profit -- how, why and where did our policy makers fail?
Though small, the capital market could be a vehicle for development in Nepal but the government has not taken it seriously and is instead 'begging' donors for mega projects.
The author has penned down elaborate dreams of development of tourism and renewal energy, exports, labour policy and cooperatives apart from suggestions for national security that is in his own words a 'Marshal Dream'.
But he is only a dreamer, and has no mechanism to bring these dreams into reality. Is there any policy maker or politician listening to him. If so, perhaps in a few decades back Subedi's dreams may come true. Will that policy maker stand up and be counted, please?

Book: Sapanaka Gathagharu
Writer: Arun Kumar Subedi
Publisher: Nepal Sahitya Prakashan Kendra
Price: Rs 300
Pages: 139

Hydropower companies group shares lose sheen

Except the hydropower companies group, all other major market players gained this week to push the Nepse index up by 28.11 points to 699.60 points from last week's closing of 671.49 points.
The sensitive index -- a barometer of 78 Group-A companies -- also gained 8.62 points to surge to 182.67 points from last week's 174.05 points. Similarly, the float index -- calculated on the basis of real transactions -- gained 4.16 points to 67.49 points from last week's 63.33 points.
In the four-day trading session this week -- due to public holiday on Wednesday -- commercial banks, insurance companies, development banks and finance companies groups gained a whopping 42.54 points to go to 692.16 points, 20.77 points to go to 672.15 points, 12.81 points to go to 981.28 points and 1.81 points to go to 794.34 points, respectively.
The hydropower companies group lost 14.93 points to dip to 834.01 points from last week's closing of 848.94 points.
Though the market opened in the red on Sunday by losing 1.64 points to drop to 669.75 points from last Thursday's closing of 671.49 points, on the remaining three days the market witnessed growth and continued last week's bullish trend, albeit at a slow pace.
Nepse surged by 3.36 points to reach 673.59 points on Monday. Again, on Tuesday it gained 17.74 points to reach 690.25 points. On Thursday, the last day of transaction in the domestic secondary market, Nepse gained 9.35 points to close for the week at 699.60 points. The transaction amount for this week also increased by 35.68 per cent to rise to Rs 310.42 million against last week's Rs 228.77 million. Group A companies' shares dominated this week's trading as 59.63 per cent of the total transaction was of this group.
However, unlike last week when 79 listed companies saw their shares traded this week only 72 listed companies saw their shares traded.
This week's top performers were Nabil Bank (with 63.57 million), Infrastructure Development Bank (with Rs 45.72 million), Malika Bikas Bank (with Rs 24.67 million), Bank of Kathmandu (with Rs 18.38 million) and Standard Chartered Bank (with Rs 12.23 million).
In terms of share units traded, Malika Bikas Bank topped the chart with 52,000-unit shares this week whereas in terms of number of transactions Infrastructure Development Bank topped the chart with 1610 transactions.
This week, Triveni Bikas Bank listed its 5,00,000-unit primary shares and Clean Energy Development Bank listed its 32,00,000-unit primary shares at Nepse where 20 million-unit shares of Development Bond-2071-Ka were also listed even though the secondary market has not yet seen any transaction of bonds and debentures.

Laurels for bosses

Once the largest tax-payer, Janakpur Cigarette Factory, today is a losing venture. Outdated mindset of the management and constant political bickering has bled the factory white.
Mismanagement has, over the last decade, forced many a reputed institution to the brink of closure and none remembers any of them. Companies have risen and fallen because they trusted the wrong managers and successors with management duties.
There is no dearth of talent and natural resources in the country but Nepal still remains under-developed. At a time when the northern and southern neighbours are emerging as economic powerhouses, Nepal is trailing pathetically.
The root cause of poverty and undevelopment is mismanagement of resources. Manpower, water, land and forests that Nepal can justly be proud of, had these been managed properly, no other country could have matched Nepal.
Realising the great mismatch, professionals in 1979 established the Management Association of Nepal (MAN) as the apex body of management professionals. The corporate sector also supported their efforts actively to make it an important forum for developing management professionalism and a performance-oriented platform as well as engendering a socially responsible work culture in the country.
Over the last three decades, how much MAN has contributed could be a debatable issue but an institution with a strong membership base of over 1,700 individuals and 180 institutions from different disciplines and myriad sectors of the Nepali economy and society is languishing under shadow.
"MAN could be a synonym for management," said immediate past second vice-president of MAN Rajendra Khetan, who thinks that the organisation needs more participation from the new generation of CEOs that Nepal has seen over the last decade.
For long, the organisation that is one of the founding members of the Asian Association of Management Organisations (AAMO) was dominated by bureaucrats but it has changed with time. "The new breed of managers need to make it more dynamic," Khetan said.
Echoing his views, new executive member of the new committee elected by the 28th National Management Convention Ashwini Kumar Pudasaini said, "The new committee is definitely more dynamic."
MAN has forged close ties with various well-known professional bodies like the American Management Association (AMA) and All India Management Association (AIMA).
These linkages help MAN to get access to information on best management practices and techniques available in other parts of the world.
MAN has also started a weekly debate on burning issues, resulting in making it a more vibrant platform over the past years. The existing scenario people are increasingly tending to realise that the ongoing processes of the restructuring of the state and the ongoing transformation in Nepal require to be followed by management development process for their effectiveness and sustainability.
MAN -- a common forum of professionals representing different sectors and disciplines -- has a tremendous role to play in the management of overall development of Nepal and it has been awarding Manager of the Year Award from 1987, recognising the competence of certain individuals in order to encourage fresh talent to emerge from the block.
From its first president, late Nanda Lal Joshi, to present president Janak Raj Saha, MAN has tried to live up to its charter that says "It is essential to apply, develop, promote management science and make necessary arrangements to offer such knowledge."
MAN has also created a Management Development Centre (MDC) in 2005 as a think-tank for its important professional pursuits and activities.
Just as President Dr Ram Baran Yadav opined during the 28th National Management Convention, the country needs managers whom MAN can groom to take the economic leadership of the country.

The Manager of the Yearspeak:
"I think manpower is essential to the management of family, organisation and the country as a whole. Nepalis are hard working and honest folk. I can give examples of urban and rural people in different districts. They not only serve in their own land, they even join the Indian Army, British Army and get work around the globe because of their hard-won identity as hardworking and honest people.
A void of managerial skills exists here at home. An organisation may be good or bad, depending on its management. In the conflict period, many companies did a sterling job. They got along due to the skills of the managers who headed them. Lack of good political leadership is our weakness though we are blessed in terms of manpower, land and water resources..
Earlier, there was discrimination on the basis of caste but now the Constitution has put a clamp on such discrimination. However, the new trend is that people are being treated like pariahs on the basis of their political ideology. A leader or a manager is like the conductor of an orchestra. The conductor does not play any musical instrument himslef but coordinates all the instrument players. If the conductor himslef starts playing musical instruments, the orchestra will not fucntion as a unit or a harmonic whole. It will fail.
The conductor very well knows which musician can play what instrument to his/her best capacity and accordingly arranges for the particular player to do his/her best for a composite melody.
Consequently, just like an orchestra conductor a leader or a manager should recognise the core competence of each worker in the workplace and create the right environment for that worker to give optimum performance and output. Having the right person in the right place is the leader's quintessial quality. Leadership should institutionalise the system, as a correct means to the natural evolution. We should be proud of our organisation even after 50 years after leaving and be able to say and remember that we did contribute our best to the institution.
I think that collective status is more important in comparison to personal status. I suggest that in view of Nepal having a pool of talented manpower, the right person in the right place is the most important rather than touted ideology. -- Anil Shah, CEO, Nabil Bank, (Manager of the Year 2008)

1. Janak Raj Shah (president)
2. Dipak Prasad Upadhyay (First vice-president)
3. Asha Adhikary (Second vice-president)
4. Saroj Kumar Pradhan (secretary general)
5. Chandra Kanta Bhandari (treasurer)
6. Rameshore Prasad Khanal (executive member)
7. Ashbin Kumar Pudasaini (executive member)
8. Avanindra Kumar Shrestha (executive member)
9. Bindra Hada Bhattarai (executive member)
10. Dr Shailendra Sigdel (executive member)
11. Keshav Raj Jha (executive member)
12. Kunj Bihari Kayal (executive member)
13. Shanti Laxmi Shakya (executive member)
14. Suman Neupanne (executive member)
15. Sushil Kumar Aryal (executive member)
16. Thakur Raj Pandey (executive member)
17. Umang Bagaria (executive member)
18. Vijay Bahadur Shrestha (executive member)
19. Kedar Man Joshi (executive director)

The winners
2008 -- Anil Shah -- CEO -- Nabil Bank Ltd
2007 -- Dr Bhagawan Koirala -- Executive Director -- Sahid Gangalal National Heart Centre
2006 -- Gyanendra Lal Pradhan -- CEO -- Butwal Power Company
2005 -- Sujit Mundul -- CEO -- Standard Chartered Bank Nepal
2004 -- Parameshwor Mahaseth -- CEO -- Salt Trading Corporation

The Women Managers
2008 -- Anuradha Koirala -- chairperson -- Maiti Nepal
2007 -- Sangita Niroula -- CEO -- SWATI
2006 -- Lily Thapa --chairperson -- SWE

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Sri Lankan President set to visit Nepal

Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa is scheduled to visit Nepal in the first week of March.
He will be the highest-level dignitary to visit Nepal from any country after the Maoist-led government came into power last April. Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal 'Prachanda' had invited President Rajapaksa to visit Nepal during the second BIMSTEC summit on November 11-13 in New Delhi.
A source in the Sri Lankan Embassy, Kathmandu confirmed that the President is visiting Kathmandu in the first week of March.
The details of the three-day visit have been kept under wraps due to security reasons. However, President Rajapaksa, who chairs South Asian Association of Regional Cooperation (SAARC), is scheduled to visit Lumbini and Swoyambhunath, a Buddhist shrine.
It will be the first ever visit of SAARC chairperson to Lumbini -- the birth place of Lord Buddha. Sri Lanka has a majority of Buddhist population and Sri Lankan tourists visiting Lumbini have been on the rise in recent years.
Nepal and Sri Lanka in January revised the decade-long Air Sevices Agreement (ASA) to start direct flights between Kathmandu and Colombo in the wake of increased tourist rush from Sri Lank.
Both the South Asian countries share harmonious relations and are active members of SAARC, apart from being members of the Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC) that comprises Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Myanmar, Nepal, Sri Lanka and Thailand.
Established in 1997, BIMSTEC is a $810 billion economy, sharing about 22 per cent of world population and 3.64 per cent of surface area.
The Sri Lankan government has in its latest attempt to crush the Liberation Tamil Tigers of Eelam had dispatched 50,000 troops to the north-east of the island in an attempt to end the country's 30-year civil war.
Nepal, the youngest republic, has seen a flurry of high level delegates in the recent months.
Sri Lankan President's visit is expected to strengthen the relations between the two South Asian countries.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Gold price looks to Rs 30,000 per tola, set to shatter all records

Gold is likely to rise up to Rs 30,000 per tola (11.664 gram), hurting the domestic trade. Gold traders are a worried lot as the price is gaining every day, pinching their trade in the wedding season.
"Today, it broke all records and was traded at Rs 29,160 per tola in the domestic market," said Tej Ratna Shakya, president of Nepal Gold and Silver Dealers' Association (NEGOSIDA). Interestingly, silver also jumped to Rs 414 per tola today.
"The weak dollar against the Japanese yen and Euro and poorer performance of global share markets have pushed up the gold price in the international market apart from weak rupee against the dollar at home," he said adding that the price of gold in the international market also is looking to go up to $1000 per ounce. Today, it was around $965 per ounce.
"Speculative market players have also contributed to the hike in gold price," Shakya said. Gold is unique because it is both a commodity and a monetary asset and thus a safe haven for investors. "Gold is seen as a hedge against inflation; while its real value can vary in the short term, its purchasing power has remained stable over centuries," said Shakya.
Today, very little gold was traded, at Rs 25,000 per 10 gram while silver was traded at Rs 355 per 10 gram.
According to World Gold Council's Gold Demand Trends, identifiable gold demand in tonnage terms rose by four per cent on previous year levels to 3,659 tonnes. This year as a whole, the gold price averaged $872, up by 25 per cent from $695 in 2007.
Similarly, global demand for jewellery was also up by 11 per cent in dollar terms at almost $60 billion for 2008 against 2007.
Investors around the world have recognised the benefits of holding back gold during such a time of unprecedented global financial crisis, recession and the spectre of future inflation. Gold has again proven its core investment qualities as a store of value, safe haven and portfolio diversifier. Naturally, this has struck a chord with nervous investors.
Total demand in India, the world's largest gold market, in the fourth quarter of 2008 was up by 84 per cent in tonnage terms, led by a very strong 107 per cent rise in jewellery demand, underpinned by investment attributes of gold.
Similarly, total gold demand in Greater China in Q4 of 2008 was resilient against the global turmoil. Total off-take was up by 21 per cent on the same period last year, with investment the main contributor to growth but jewellery demand also holding up well.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Fewer Nepalis are unemploymed

According to the labour survey a decade ago, around 85.8 per cent of Nepalis were employed. "A total of 90.2 per cent of males were employed and so were 81.9 per cent of females," said the decade-old report published by the Central Bureau of Statics (CBS).
The picture won't be much different, when by the end of March the preliminary report of the second Nepal Labour Force Survey (NLFS) will be published.
The International Labour Organisation (ILO) says that if a person is engaged at least one hour in any economic activity, such a person is called employed. From the standard definition given by ILO, 85.8 per cent of Nepalis are employed as they are engaged in economic activities like animal husbandry and farm work even in the rural areas. But the stark reality is that their economic activities do not diminish their poverty.
At a time when the government is under tremendous pressure to mitigate the crisis that is forcing Nepali migrant workers to return home en masse, the Central Bureau of Statics (CBS) is finalising the second domestic labour survey report to ascertain the present state of the domestic labour force.
"It is a kind of a nationwide household survey -- done over a year-long time period to mitigate seasonal effect -- that categorises employed, under-employed and unemployed," said Tung S Bastola, director general of the CBS -- the national databank.
Done in 73 districts except Dolpa and Manang because of chances of selection or Possibility Proportion to Size (PPS) -- due to less population in these districts -- the data of the second Nepal Labour Force Survey (NLFS), is being processed. "The editing of the data will be over by the end of February, and by March end the preliminary report will be published," said Anil Sharma, statistical officer at the CBS.
The second domestic labour force survey was done in 800 Primary Sample Units (PSUs) in 16,000 families. The survey started in December 2007 and ended on December 31, 2008. However, power-cuts have made it difficult for the officials to complete the task on time. "Still, we are trying to complete it within the schedule," Sharma added.
The first Nepal Labour Force Survey was done in 1998-99. The government formulated its labour policy based on a decade-old report. The present survey, which is at least expected to bring forth some changes in terms of unemployment, employment and under-employment rates, is likely to be helpful in formulating the new policy. It is also expected to help update the Millenium Development Goals (MDGs).
The earlier Labour and Employment Policy-2062 addresses the issues of internal labour management. Since not enough employment opportunities have been generated in the domestic labour market, some 2.5 million workers are estimated to have gone to various countries for employment.
The Three-Year Interim Plan (2007-2010) -- a national priority set by the government -- stresses on undertaking additional efforts to ensure secure, decent and productive employment opportunities for female and male workers by effectively managing the domestic and foreign employment sectors. However, even till the end of half of the Three Year Interim Plan period, the government has not been able to create a single employment opportunity.

Website for trade facilitation in SAARC

A common website has been established to connect the different databases of the network partners and identified data sources in all the SAARC member countries to create an easy entry point for trade information.
Though the website is awaiting formal launching, it is expected to facilitate and promote trade among the SAARC member states. Importers and exporters in the member states are expected to make use of the decision-support Business Information Service (BIS) that will be connected to a network of information providers in SAARC to promote inter- and intra-SAARC trade.
The first Operations Committee (OC) meeting of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation -- Trade Information Project (SAARC-TIP) concluded here today. The two-day OC meeting provided an opportunity for its members to network with each other and to get to know each other's profile and functions of the organisation. In the two-day meeting, the OC members have agreed to support promotion and facilitation of trade in the region.
The meeting was organised by the SAARC Information Centre (SIC) and GTZ in order to make the OC members aware of the SAARC-TIP concept, modalities and its deliverables was participated by all the SAARC member countries including the SAARC Chamber of Commerce. The OC constitutes the SAARC Information Centre (chair), GTZ, SAARC Chamber of Commerce, national chambers of commerce, government trade agencies and trade-related organisations.
The SAARC-TIP intends to establish an easy accessible trade database for traders by connecting trade databases within the SAARC countries to a common SAARC entry point for trade information.
Advisory Committee meeting was held last month to formulate the guidelines and suggestions for the OC that has representatives from the SAARC secretary general, SAARC presidency (currently the representative of the president of Sri Lanka) and GTZ/SAARC-TIP Programme Manager. It is considered a forum for communication and cooperation between the GTZ and SAARC structures and meets twice a year.
GTZ on behalf of the government of Germany has implemented the SAARC - TIP in recognition of the efforts made by SAARC countries for regional economic integration. The project commenced following the exchange of notes between the German government and the SAARC Secretariat.
SIC has been operating since 2006 with the main objective to act as an institution for collection and dissemination of information of the SAARC member nations and its activities.

Gold price hits sky, touches Rs 28,400 per tola

The price of gold today touched another record high of Rs 28,400 per tola (11.664 gram), an increment by Rs 550 over yesterday's price.
Yesterday, gold was traded at Rs 27,850 per tola. The price of precious yellow metal increased in the domestic market because of weak Nepali rupee. "The US dollar against nepali rupee is at Rs 78.90 today against yesterday's Rs 78.25 per dollar," said Tej Ratna Shakya, president of Nepal Gold and Silver Dealers' Association (NEGOSIDA).
"Apart from that the price of precious yellow metal in the international market also went up," he added. Yesterday, per ounce gold was $941.70 in the international market whereas today it is $957 per ounce today.
Gold this week opened at Rs 27,900 per tola.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Bizmantra's mantra booklet on SMEs

The government is preparing to bring New Industrial Policy. Experts opine that Industrial Policy should have separate arrangents for the Small and Medium Entreprises (SMEs) in it as the SMEs should not be lumped together and treated similarly.
For a country like Nepal that cannot compete in the manufacturing sector with rising industrial powerhouses China and India, SMEs' development can be key to economic growth.
To make its importance felt and impart lessons from past mistakes, Bizmantra has brought out a Small and Medium Entreprises (SMEs) handbook. Bizmantra claims this really is the first such book in Nepali. It gives glimpses of Nepali SMEs, from their historical backgrounds to the present situation.
The book is sectioned into four parts. The first part has background information and defination of SMEs in Nepal. The second part gives us detailed development of SMEs in Nepal. The third part shares the experiences of entrepreneurs and challenges that they faced. The almost four dozen enterprises and their investors' experiences are not only inspiring but also lessons for new entrepreneurs.
The fourth part of the book has suggestions for the government and some of the examples of SME policy in other countries. If the government can prevent shutdown of SMEs that come to around 70 per cent, these can contribute handsomely to the national economy.
The hand book could be an eye-opener and a good reference book for students and enterprises as well.

Book: Sana Tatha Majhaula Uddham Charan Ra Chunauti (Small and Medium Entreprises: Process and Challenges)
Publisher: Bizmantra
Pages: 147
Price: Rs 100

GLOBAL CRISIS-1: Out-of-work migrant workers apparent return spells doom

The global economic crisis heightens the potential for social unrest back at home when thousands of Nepali migrant workers suddenly out of work return home and demand government to take swift and decisive action.
"The flood of unemployed returning migrants could poses big challenges to social stability," said Ganesh Gurung, a social scientist, adding, "Nepal may have social unrest, only if 10 per cent of the total 2.5 million migrant workers return."
After work started drying up in Malaysia, Qatar and Dubai -- key destinations of Nepali migrant workers -- the government is also worried. It has asked its envoys to the affected countries to get first-hand information. However, they seem to sound more optimistic that the crisis may not impact Nepali workers, more than 80 per cent of whom are involved in the construction sector.
A six-year boom in Dubai that turned sand dunes into a glittering metropolis, creating the world's tallest building, its biggest shopping mall and, some say, a shrine to unbridled capitalism, is grinding to a halt forcing Nepali construction workers to return home.
However, Arjun Bahadur Thapa, Nepal's ambassador to the United Arab Emirates (UAE), cited the UAE government's stimulus package of over $40 billion -- that is not related to job creation -- and claimed that the construction sector was not panicking.
Still, the demand has been continuously dropping. In December 2008 the Nepali embassy in the UAE received a labour demand of 1,129 but in January the demand dropped to 813 proving Thapa wrong.
"In 2008, the demand for Nepali workers totalled 37,704 and in 2007 it was 35,131 -- including construction sector, security and others," Thapa said.
But Dubai, one of seven states that make up the UAE, is in crisis. The real estate bubble that propelled the frenetic expansion of Dubai on the back of borrowed cash and speculative investment has burst.
Half of all the UAE's construction projects, totalling $582 billion, have either been put on hold or cancelled, leaving a trail of half-built towers on the outskirts of the city stretching into the desert.
Among the casualties is the tower Donald Trump promised would be the ultimate in luxury, a $100 billion resort complex by the beach, and four huge theme parks and an artificial island developed by the state company Nakheel.
The banks have stopped lending and the stock market has plunged by 70 per cent. "Perhaps those who suffer most are construction workers from the South Asian subcontinent, who have carried out perilous work on building sites earning as little as £70 a month," according to a report.
Dubai, which has barely a trickle of oil in comparison, is projecting a 42 per cent increase in public spending on infrastructure projects, to compensate for vanishing private investment.
Low-paid Asian workers, including Nepalis who toil long days to build the skyscrapers of Dubai have become the latest victims of the global financial crisis as companies run short of business and money.
For many years, the Gulf emirate was a magnet for South Asian workers who fed the booming economy with cheap manpower -- from cleaners and gardeners to skilled and unskilled builders.
A report issued earlier this month showed that $582 billion worth of building projects in the UAE, of which Dubai is a part, had been put on hold due to the slowdown. That was 45 per cent of the total.
Six years of spectacular growth in the UAE construction sector, mainly in Dubai, absorbed hundreds of thousands of workers, mostly from South Asia. That had a knock-on effect, creating further opportunities for migrants. But the financial crisis, mainly in construction and related industries, is reversing that trend, forcing foreign workers to go home.
Even for labourers who were brought to the UAE on a work visa to satisfy the needs of the once-booming economy, many are receiving the pink slip. The companies told them not to come back until they called.
"The companies tell the workers that they do not have much work and that there is shortage of money," Thapa said adding that In the past, workers were not taking vacations, even after four years of continuous work as there was a huge work load till the immediate past.
"It appears some of the unpaid 'vacations' are simply a way of getting rid of people without having to pay them off," the Nepali envoy said adding but the embassy has suggested them to contact embassy, if any such proposal is received. Being market based economy the UAE government do not interfere in the private sector’s decisions making the Nepali migrant workers more vulnerable to be laid off.

Number game
KATHMANDU: There are 1,25,277 Nepalis in the UAE, according to the official data. Equal number of Nepalis are in the UAE unofficially. Till September 10, 2008, the UAE had over 1.5 million Indians, 0.3 million Philippines and 1,25,277 nepalis, informed Nepali ambassador to the UAE Arjun Bahadur Thapa. Majority of Nepalis are in construction sector and very few are in security, service sector (hotel) and some are drivers. The Nepalis in UAE send hone back a total of Rs 4.28 billion remittance in 2006 and in 2007 they sent Rs 4.49 billion.

From desert to builders' paradise
DUBAI: Dubai was turned from a desert backwater into one of the world's most awe-inspiring cities in less than 50 years. Its ruler, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum, is determined to make Dubai the global centre for finance, leisure and tourism. "In the race for excellence, there is no finish line," he said, and Dubai has grown exponentially into the desert, sky and sea. When its artificial Palm Islands -- Jumeriah, Jebel Ali and Deira -- are complete, they will have added 320 miles to Dubai's Persian Gulf coastline.
A tax haven, Dubai has encouraged foreigners to join the building frenzy -- the native Emirati make up less than 20 per cent of the population. The city hosts some of the planet's most spectacular buildings, as well the tallest -- the Burj Dubai -- which reached 818 metres in January. But it has also become known for its conspicuous consumption. It uses more water per capita than anywhere else -- a costly exercise when it comes from the sea. It boasts the 'seven star' hotel Burj Al Arab, the recently opened Dubai Mall, one of the world's largest, and, on the edge of the desert, a 22,500-sq-metre ski resort. -- The Guardian

Highlights of Indian interim Budget

Following are the highlights of the Indian interim budget presented by Minister for External Affairs Pranab Mukherjee in the Lok Sabha on Monday.
* Plan expenditure for 2009-10 pegged at IRs.952,231 crore (IRs.9.52 trillion)
* Budgetary support for 2009-10 at IRs.2,85,149 crore (IRs.2.85 trillion), 17.16 percent
* Additional plan expenditure between 0.5 percent to 1 percent of GDP may be considered
* Fiscal deficit forecast 5.5 percent of GDP for 2009-10
* Revenue deficit forecast 4 percent of GDP for 2009-10
* Subsidy for food, fertiliser and petroleum at IRs.95,579 crore
* Defence allocation increased to IRs.141,703 crore (IRs.1.417 trillion)
* Urban renewal spending pegged at IRs.11,842 crore (IRs.118.42 billion)
* Rural sanitation spending at IRs.1,200 crore (IRs.12 billion)
* National rural health mission spending at IRs.12,070 crore (IRs.120.7 billion)
* Rural infrastructure development outlay at IRs.14,000 crore (IRs.140 billion)
* Midday meal scheme spending at IRs.8,000 crore (IRs.80 billion)
* India remains second-fastest growing economy in the world
* Economy expected to grow 7.1 percent this fiscal
* Need to make economic growth inclusive
* Government spent IRs.70,000 crore (IRs.700 billion) on 37 infrastructure projects in 2008-09 * Under public-private partnership (PPP), 54 central infrastructure projects approved
* Total expenditure of PPP projects estimated at IRs.67,700 crore (IRs.677 billion)
* India Infrastructure Finance Company to raise IRs.10,000 crore (IRs.100 billion) by end-March
* India has weathered inflation crisis, but no room for complacency
* Country's agriculture outlook is encouraging
* Focussed attention to agriculture
* Plan allocation for farm sector hiked 300 percent in past five years
* Three-fold increase in short-term agriculture credit to IRs.250,000 crore (IRs.2.5 trillion)
* Farm debt worth IRs.65,300 crore (IRs 653 billion) waived
* Government will continue to provide additional subsidy to farmers
* Corpus of Rural Infrastructure Development Fund hiked to IRs.14,000 crore (IRs.140 billion) from IRs.5,500 crore (IRs.55 billion)
* Outlay for higher education hiked 900 percent for 11th Five Year Plan
* Country's social security net will be strengthened
* New scheme unveiled for young widows in the age group of 18-40
* New disability pension scheme introduced for age group of 18-40
* 15 point programme for welfare of minorities set up
* Record foreign direct investment of $32.4 billion attracted
* Global economic situation not encouraging
* Extraordinary situation merits extraordinary measures
* Need to consider additional fiscal measures in regular budget
* Financial sector reforms need to be accelerated
* Non-performing assets (NPAs) of public sector banks have declined
* State-run banks see NPAs drop from 7.8 percent to 2.3 percent in four years
* Number of loss-making state-run units down from 73 to 58
* Profit-making units up from 143 units to 158 units
* In past three years, India grew by average of over 9 percent
* Per capita income expanded by 4.7 percent per annum
* Fiscal deficit was brought down from 4.5 percent to 2.7 percent
* Revenue deficit was cut from 3.6 percent to 1.1 percent
* Exports increased 26.4 percent per annum
* Foreign trade increased from 27.3 percent to 35.5 percent
* Tax to gross domestic product ratio expanded by 9.2 to 12.5 percent
* Agriculture grew by 3.7 percent per annum
* Revised estimates for 2009-09 peg plan expenditure at IRs.282,957 crore (IRs.2.83 trillion)
* Central plan increased for host of areas like telecom, rural development
* Tax collections expected to fall to IRs.627,949 crore (IRs.6.28 trillion)
* Revised revenue deficit is 4.4 percent of GDP against one percent
* Revised fiscal deficit at 6 percent of GDP against 2.5 percent

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Revenue collection pole-vaults target

The government has exceeded its revenue collection target for the seventh month of this fiscal year.
"The government collected Rs 72.26 billion till the end of the seventh month of this fiscal year," said acting revenue secretary Krishnahari Baskota. The target was to collect Rs 69.25 billion till the end of seventh month. "But collection has exceeded by 104.35 per cent of the target," he said.
Finance Minister Dr Baburam Bhattarai was earlier blamed for his ambitious revenue target in the budget for the fiscal year 2008-09, but till the seventh month of this fiscal year 2008-09 the collection has seen encouraging growth.
Though the government has not been able to spend on development activities, revenue collection has witnessed 32.5 per cent growth in comparison to the same period the last fiscal year. By the end of seventh month the last fiscal year, revenue collection was at Rs 54.52 billion. "Its a 32.5 per cent growth in comparison to the same period last fiscal year," the acting revenue secretary said.
Collection shot up by Rs 12.78 billion in a single month in the seventh month from Rs 59.48 billion in the sixth month of this fiscal year. Baskota also contributed the growth in revenue collection to the Voluntary Disclosure of Income Source (VDIS) that saw a whopping Rs 1.42 billion roll in by the end of a 'deadline' that has been extended one more month after repeated request from entrepreneurs. The new deadline for VDIS that is expected to collect another over Rs 1 billion is March 13.

Crisis could hit country where it hurts the most

Global recession could eat up the remittance that is a life line of the Nepali economy as well as sink its teeth into exports, Foreign Direct Investment (FDI), debt servicing and tourism.
Experts during a workshop, 'Global recession and its Impact on Nepali economy,' organised by the Independent Business News (IBN) -- producer of Aarthko Aarth TV programme -- in associoation with Nepal Rastra Bank (NRB), Nabil Bank and Standard Chartered Bank Nepal, held a brainstorming session here today on the magnitude of global recession's probable impact on the country's economy.
"If the crisis hits home, it will be very difficult for the government to rescue the economy," said Radhesh Pant, president of Nepal Bankers' Association (NBA) and managing director of Bank of Kathmandu.
"It is also the appropriate time for the regulatory authority to increase survillence and monitoring," he said adding that the global crisis could be the opportunity to build up internal strength as Nepal has only a 'loose connection' to the global economies.
"Our home-grown crisis also needs to be tackled for economic development," said Anil Shah, CEO of Nabil Bank. "The labour dispute and power crisis issues are more dangerous threats to our economy than the global crisis," he said.
"FDI will not come to a country that is plagued by labour disputes," said Dr Chiranjeevi Nepal, former chairman of Securities Board of Nepal (Sebon). "Similarly, tourists also won't come to Nepal if regular bandhs are not stopped," he said adding that both would bleed the economy white.
The experts also suggested that the government increase capital expenditure in order to create more jobs.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Nepse in revival mode, Mega IPOs fail to drag market index down

Investors in the secondary market this week earned in comparison to the earlier weeks as Nepal Stock Exchange (Nepse) gained 15.43 points to reach 671.49 points from last week's closing of 656.06 points.
Despite huge primary issues of Rs 300 million each of two commercial banks that totalled Rs 600 million the secondary market this week performed satisfactorily. The share market opened on a positive note on Sunday rising by 15.65 points to reach 671.71 points. But the sole secondary market shed 2.89 points to register 668.82 points on Monday. On Tuesday, Nepse again slipped by another 3.67 points to slide to 665.15 points.
On wednesday, the fourth day in the domestic market, the index further dipped by 1.63 points to drop to 663.52 points. However, on Thursday, the last day of the trading in the domestic market, Nepse bounced back by 7.97 points to close the weekly market at 671.49 points.
The market closed in the green on two days of the five-day session and the transaction amount decreased by 16.22 per cent to go down to Rs 228.77 million from last week's Rs 273.08 million. Last week, it had increased by 36.62 per cent to go up to Rs 273.08 million.
This week, 79 listed companies saw their shares traded as against 78 last week.
The sensitive index -- a barometer of 78 Group-A companies -- gained 5.90 points to surge to 174.35 points from last week's 168.45 points. Similarly, the float index -- calculated on the basis of real transactions -- gained 1.74 points to 63.33 points from last week's closing of 61.59 points.
This week's top performers were Infrastructure Development Bank (with Rs 20.99 million), Bank of Kathmandu (with Rs 16.80 million), Standard Chartered Bank (with Rs 14.30 million), Nabil Bank (with Rs 13.66 million) and Nepal Development and Employment Promotion Bank (with 10.07 million).
In terms of share units traded, Alpic Everest Finance topped the chart with 46,000-unit shares this week whereas in terms of number of transactions Infrastructure Development Bank topped the chart with 898 transactions.
Except commercial banks and hydropower companies groups, the insurance companies, finance companies and development banks groups lost this week.
Finance companies group's investors lost heavily this week as the group lost a whopping 62.94 points to slide to 794.34 points from last week's closing of 857.28 points. Similarly, development banks and insurance companies group lost 6.87 to go to 968.47 points and 1.54 points to go to 651.38 points.
Commercial banks group gained 30.13 points to rise to 649.62 points and hydropower group gained 26.65 points to rise to 848.94 points.

Gold breaks all past records

The weak Nepali rupee against the US dollar and fluctuating international market have pushed the price of gold up to Rs 27,800 per tola (11.664 grams) on Friday -- the last day of trading in the domestic market. Gold gained Rs 685 over a week from last Friday's closing of Rs 23,150 per 10 gram.
"The precious yellow metal was traded at Rs 23,835 per 10 gram this Friday," said Nepal Gold and Silver Dealers' Association (NEGOSIDA).
Though the international market has not wirnessed the record price hike in the international market like last July the domestic market witnessed a whopping gain this week, hitting the transaction of the gold.
"Last July, when gold touched a historic high of $1000 per ounce in the international market, the Nepali rupee was at Rs 62 per dollar. But on Friday, the Nepali rupees was at Rs 77.80 per dollar," said Tej Ratna Tej Ratna Shakya, president of NEGOSIDA.
"If the dollar gets strong -- which it is expected to due to US president Barack Obama's $787 stimulus plan --- gold price may come down," Shakya predicted. But the end to the bull run seems nowhere in the sight.
The escalating price hit the transaction of the precious yellow metal as the market across the country witnessed only four-five kilo gram transaction in a day.
On Sunday, gold opened at Rs 23,235 per 10 gram from last Friday's closing of Rs 23,150 per 10 gram. The price remained constant on Monday. On Tuesday it plunged by Rs 85 per 10 gram to Rs 23,150. However on Wednesday, the price shot up to Rs 23,320 per 10 gram -- Rs 27,200 per tola.
On Thursday, the domestic market observed yet another record price of gold at Rs 27,700 per tola -- a hike of Rs 500 in a single day. The precious yellow metal was traded at Rs 23,750 per 10 gram on Thursday.
On Friday, the precious yellow metal broke all past records to set a new record of Rs 27,800 per tola. "Gold was traded at Rs 23,835 per 10 gram on the last day of this week," said Shakya.
Meanwhile, silver also was on a roll the whole week. It was traded at Rs 328 per 10 gram on Sunday and remained constant on Monday. But on Tuesday today it was traded at Rs 330 per 10 gram (Rs 385 per tola). "It scaled a historic high of Rs 480 per tola last year, but due to recession in the industrial countries, the price of silver went down," Shakya added.
On Thursday, it again gained nine rupees to hop to Rs 339 per 10 gram. The domestic market this week closed at Rs 343 per 10 gram of silver on Friday.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Primary shares oversubscribed

Citizens' Bank International's Initial Public Offerings (IPOs) is oversubscribed by over 15 times to around Rs 5 billion.
"The subscription crossed Rs 3 billion till yesterday," Pramod Pandeya, head-R&D at the Ace Development Bank, the issue manager of Citizens' IPOs, said adding that today evening the collection might touch around Rs 2 billion making it a total of around Rs 5 billion.
"Due to the secondary market's bad performance in recent months and two commercial bank's -- Citizens' International Bank and Bank of Asia Nepal (BoAN) -- IPOs at the same time worth equal units and amount, the primary issues, unlike earlier, would not be oversubscribed," said Sunil KC, deputy general manager of NMb Bank, the issue manager of Bank of Asia Nepal.
Citizens' International Bank floated three million-unit primary shares at a face value of Rs 100 each on February 3 that total Rs 300 million and BoAN on February 9. According to the rule, if the shares are oversubscribed, then the IPO should be closed on the fifth day. If not, the IPO remains open till a month. Citizens' IPO closed today and BoAN's IPO will close tomorrow due to oversubscription.
"The time is not favourable," said an investor who sold other shares he had for the new IPO as the financial institutions are considered more lucrative in the secondary market trading.
BoAN has also floated three million-unit primary shares at the face value of Rs 100 per unit that totals Rs 300 million on February 9. It is also expected to be oversubscribed and close tomorrow. The bank's primary shares also are expected to be oversubscribed by 15 times to around Rs 4.5 billion.
After the closure of the primary shares, the financial institution has to allot shares within 60 days. After allotment, within another 45 days according to the Securities Registration and Issue Approval Guideline 2057 the company must apply for listing at Nepse.
"If the company does not list its shares at Nepse within 45 days, it has to apply to Securities Board of Nepal (Sebon) with a proper explanation and seek a 30-day extension," states the guideline.

Classification revised
KATHMANDU: Nepse has -- like every year -- revised the list of Group-A companies. According to the new revision, of the 142 companies listed at Nepse, only 78 are in Group-A. Last year, there were 71 companies in the Group-A companies' list. According to the Securities Listing Regulation-2053, a company that has a minimum of Rs 20 million paid up capital, more than 1,000 shareholders, book value of the shares not less than paid up value, has submitted its accounts within the other six months of the end of fiscal year and is churning out profit for last three consecutive years is classified into a Group-A company. There are 14 commercial banks, a manufacturing company and hydropower company each, 10 insurance companies, 37 finance companies and 15 development banks in Group-A, according to the new revised list.

Nepalis migrant workers abroad are vulnerable

The experts and diplomats today said that foreign employment was not a long-term solution.
Speaking at a seminar on 'Global Financial Recession and Its Impact on Foreign Employment' organised by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in collaboration with the Ministry of Labour and Transport Management, diplomats were of the view that global recession had hit albeit less the major countries where there is large concentration of Nepali migrant workers.
Nepali ambassadors from the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Israel, Republic of Korea and Malaysia presented first-hand information about these countries and the condition of Nepali migrant workers there.
Inaugurating the seminar, Minister for Labour and Transport Management Lekhraj Bhatta said Nepali youths are compelled to go out for foreign employment due to lack of employment opportunities here at home.
The envoys giving the first hand account of these countires highlighted that the Nepalis missions abroad needs to be strenghtened to tackle such labour problems. "Construction sector in the most of the countries in the Gulf and Malaysis is hit by the recession and majority of Nepalis are employed in this sector making them more vulnerable," they opined.

Gold at Rs 27,700 per tola

The price of gold seems to be on a roll, with no end in sight to its ongoing hike. The domestic market today observed yet another record price of gold at Rs 27,700 per tola (11.664 gram) -- a hike of Rs 500 in a single day.
The precious yellow metal was traded at Rs 23,750 per 10 gram from yesterday's Rs 23,320 per 10 gram. With the global recession, the price of gold in the international market is also rising and pushing up the price in the domestic market.
This week, gold in the domestic market opened at Rs 27,100 per tola and continued its bullish trend the whole week.

World Bank opens development marketplace for nutrition competition

The World Bank today launched a competitive development marketplace for nutrition (DMN) aimed at finding and funding innovative ideas to change the lives of thousands of pregnant women, infants and young children in South Asia.
Titled 'Family and Community Approaches to Improving Infant and Young Child Nutrition', DMN is looking for entrepreneurial organisations across South Asia to submit proposals for local, small-scale projects which have the potential to be upscaled and replicated. "Winners will be selected by an international jury of development and nutrition experts at the DMN event in August, 2009 in Dhaka, Bangladesh, and will receive funding to implement their proposals," according to a press release.
"Malnutrition affects the lives of millions of infants and young children in South Asia," said Isabel Guerrero, World Bank vice-president for the South Asia region. "It saps a child's growth potential, delays enrolment in school, limits school achievements and lowers lifetime earnings. This competition offers a unique opportunity to channel small grants directly to community organisations and NGOs who present innovative ways to address this devastating problem."
Malnutrition is the single biggest contributor to child mortality in the world. In no place is this problem more serious than in South Asia, where child malnutrition rates are among the highest in the world. Both child underweight and stunting rates in the region are nearly double those in Africa. In Nepal, malnutrition remains a big problem, evidenced by the fact that nearly half of all children below the age of five suffer from stunted growth. One in two children below five years is anemic and 39 percent of them are underweight.
The South Asia Regional DMN is implemented in partnership with the Deutsche Gesellschaft fur Technische Zusammenarbeit (GTZ), Micronutrient Initiative, UNICEF, and the World Food Programme (WFP). The competition is open to civil society groups, social entrepreneurs, youth organisations, private foundations, academia and private sector corporations in Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, the Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka. The maximum award will be $40,000 per proposal. Proposals will be accepted until March 31, the bank said.
The DMN global competition has awarded nearly $46 million to small-scale projects over the last eight years. Using this funding as a launching pad, projects often go on to upscale or replicate elsewhere, winning prestigious awards within the sphere of social entrepreneurship.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Industrialists wish come true, VDIS collection exceeds expectation

Finally, the government has taken note of the harried entrepreneurs' plea. It extended the deadline for Voluntary Disclosure of Income Source (VDIS) scheme by a month today. The latest cut off date is March 13.
Perhaps, the tax collection that exceeded expectations may have prompted the relaxation. It had set out to raise Rs 1 billion. It ended up with Rs 1.42 billion till date.
"The extension will help more entrepreneurs to pay their dues," said Krishna Hari Baskota, acting revenue secretary. Interestingly, Baskota had ruled out any extension till yesterday.
Finance Minister Dr Baburam Bhattarai, who arrived after a weeklong visit to Japan this afternoon, hinted at the extension while interacting with the media at the Tribhuvan International Airport (TIA).
"If there is technical issue and the government feels that entrepreneurs' intention is honest, we can always extend the time frame," he had said at the TIA.
Later this evening, his assertions came true.
Earlier, this afternoon A team of industry captains, including Kush Kumar Joshi, president, Federation of Nepalese Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FNCCI); Binod Chaudhary, president of Confederation of Nepalese Industries; Surendra Bir Malakar, president, Nepal Chamber of Commerce; Chandi Raj Dhakal, former president, FNCCI and Rajendra Kumar Khetan, along with other entrepreneurs held elaborate talks with the Finance Ministry mandarins on the deadline impasse. They also sought secrecy of information and creating conductive climate for investment.
The representatives wanted the government to ensure that the current ‘productive’ industries -- that have generated employment -- be barred from investigating their investment source.
Dr Bhattarai, however, maintained that the government would seek the source, if taxes were not paid. "We want more investment in productive sectors and will discourage investment on unproductive sectors," he added.
Meanwhile, a team will be formed to study the promotion of investment and other technicalities. It will submit its report within a week. "We will help government collect taxes within the deadline as the government has also agreed to create an investor-friendly environment," Joshi said.
"As per the revised deadline, the government plans to collect another Rs 1 billion," said Baskota.

Record bettered on 'last day'
KATHMANDU: Till late Wednesday evening, the Inland Revenue Department (IRD) collected Rs 1.42 billion (the declaration stood at Rs 14 billion). A taxpayer paid Rs 39.4 million on Wednesday. "So far, this is the single largest amount by an individual under the scheme," according to the IRD. Two other persons also paid Rs 15 million on Wednesday, declaring Rs 150 million each. Altogether, four persons have paid more than Rs 10 million. Though 85 per cent of the sum was collected in the Valley, the scheme has also gathered momentum in many places like Bhairahawa, where the response was at best lukewarm till Tuesday evening. As on Wednesday evening, more than 1,900 have availed of the scheme. On Wednesday, over 1,100 people paid Rs 650 million.

Gold price scales new high

Gold price scaled a new high today with Rs 27,200 per tola (11.664 gram) in the domestic market.
Since the begining of this week, the price of the precious yellow metal has seen record highs. On Sunday, it opened at a record high of Rs 27,100 per tola, said Tej Ratna Shakya, president of Nepal Gold and Silver Dealers' Association (NEGOSIDA).
Gold was traded at Rs 23,235 per 10 gram on Sunday and the price remained constant on Monday. "Tuesday witnessed a marginal drop of Rs 100 per tola to Rs 27,000," he said adding that today gold traded at Rs 27,200 per tola (Rs 23,320 per 10 gram). Shakya added, "Due to high price the domestic market witnessed minimum trading of gold despite the wedding season. Trading was only four-five kg per throughout the country."
The international price of gold has also seen a bullish trend due to recession in the US and European countries.
The weak Nepali rupee has also contributed to the record high price of gold apart from fluctuating international market. It is being traded at around $912 per ounce in the international market.
"If the dollar gets strong -- which its is expected to due to US president Barack Obama's $800 stimulus plan --- the gold price may come down," Shakya predicted.
Meanwhile, silver also started gaining. It was traded at Rs 328 per 10 gram on Sunday and Monday but today it was traded at Rs 330 per 10 gram (Rs 385 per tola). "It scaled a historic high of Rs 480 per tola last year, but due to recession and industrial output cut, the price went down," said Shakya.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Entrepreneurs harp on VDIS deadline extension

Entrepreneurs today again sought an extension of the Voluntary Disclosure of Income Source, which expires tomorrow.
“We are not opposed to the scheme. But, the timeframe should be extended till April 13. Besides, the procedural complications need to be simplified,” said Kush Kumar Joshi, president, Federation of Nepalese Chambers of Commerce and Industry.Krishna Hari Baskota, acting revenue secretary, ruled out any possibility of an extension.
Surendra Bir Malakar, president, Nepal Chamber of Commerce, said entrepreneurs would initiate a struggle if the government did not pay heed to their entreaty. They have set up a 25-member panel to hold talks with the PM.
The entrepreneurs have also been clamouring for exclusion of the investment, whose taxes have already been paid, from the VDIS.
A section of entrepreneurs is of the view that the government should not let the corrupt utilise the VDIS by paying a 10 per cent tax (whereby they can convert their ill-gotten wealth legitimate overnight). The objection stems from the fact that the government is not interested in the source of income as long as the individual complies with the deadline.
Interestingly, the Finance Ministry has targeted high-income groups of professionals like doctors, engineers and lawyers to shore up its revenue collection. Politicians and share investors have not been spared, either.
The government aims to rake in Rs 1 billion through the VDIS. But in reality, the massive publicity drive has not cut much ice with the prospective tax payers. Be that as it may, the Inland Revenue Department has been at it with follow-up activities like telephonic reminders and SMS.
Meanwhile, the private sector is anxious about the “misuse of the information”. Baskota, however, assured all of absolute secrecy.“Though no data is available, the scheme has escalated the flight of capital,” saidDr Shanker Sharma, ex-vice-president, National Planning Commission.Dr Sharma’s doubts are substantiated by a Birgunj-based businessman. “Over the past few days, cash worth at least Rs 20 million is being transferred daily to bordering Indian towns,” he said.As per the Income Tax
Act, defaulters have to cough up penalty up to 100 per cent. Their property will also be seized.

Scheme finds 793 and counting
KATHMANDU: The IRD collected Rs 350 million as revenue till Tuesday afternoon (the declaration stood at Rs 3.5 billion). "A taxpayer paid Rs 10 million on Tuesday. So far this is the single largest amount by an individual under the scheme," said Kapil Dev Ghimire, director general, IRD. "The scheme is also gathering momentum in Dhangadi, Nepalgunj and Dharan. Altogether, there are 22 IRD units in the districts," said Krishna Hari Banskota, acting revenue secretary. "As on Tuesday, 793 people have availed of the scheme. The amount, too, has doubled overnight," added Ghimire.

Alternative energy exhibition on February 13-15

Ministry of Environment, Science and Technology (MoEST) is organising Alternative Energy exhibition on February 13-15 at Bhrikutimandap Exhibition hall in Kathmandu.
The government has declared the year 2065 BS an Alternative Energy Year. "To promote the alternative and renewal energy, the ministry is organising the exhibition," Umesh Mainali, secretary at the MoEST, said adding that the ministry has planned such exhibition in other parts of the country too.
The global consumption of alternative energy stands at eight per cent in total energy consumption. "However in Nepal it is less than one per cent," he said. At a time when Nepal is facing a severe power crisis alternative energy can help reduce current power crisis. Though, the government has also planned to increase its consumption, there is no any such project at present.
The government in this fiscal year's budget has also promised to generate 20 MW from the wind energy. But the process of generating energy from wind is moving at a snail's pace. "We may be able to generate around 4-5 KW within this fiscal year," said Mangal Das Maharjan, acting executive director at the Alternative Energy Promotion Centre that has received a couple of proposals for installation of wind turbines to generate energy.
Apart from wind, biomass and geo thermal, solar energy is yet another alternative energy that Nepal can take benefit from. "Not only the rural Nepal but the urban Nepal and Kathmandu valley can also benefit from the alternative energy as the only means to tackle present power crisis."
The three-day long exhibition -- that is expected to be visited by around 15,000 to 20,000 -- will help policy makers and people understand the value of alternative energy, hoped Mainali.
Alternative Energy Centre and other INGOs and NGOs are actively involved in promotion of alternative energy.

Call to lure more Chinese tourists

If only 10 per cent from three million Tibet-bound Chinese tourists can be attracted, Nepali tourism sector can take a turn around.
Despite Nepal being one of the approved destinations by Chinese government for their citizens, Nepal could not reap benefits from it, said Prachanda Man Shrestha, chief executive officer (CEO) of Nepal Tourism Board (NTB) during an interaction on 'Possibilities of Tourism Promotion between Nepal and China' here today.
Presenting a paper on 'China Outbound to Nepal,' he said that disposal income of Chinese is growing and they take traveling as a social status. "Nepal needs to double the air seats to maintain the present market share and get more Chinese tourists by Nepal Tourism Year 2011," he suggested.
Nepal could not market itself to the Chinese tourists despite their being among highest spenders during travel. "Nepal needs to bring its product and services as per the expectations of the Chinese visitors apart from marketing our products in China," suggested Rajesh Kazi Shrestha, president of Nepal-China Chamber of Commerce and Industry.
Minister for Tourism and Civil Aviation Hisila Yami and Chinese ambassador to Nepal Qiu Guohong also suggested to promote Nepal.

Monday, February 9, 2009

ADB grants $9 million for SASEC ICT

The Asian Development Bank (ADB) has agreed to provide a grant assistance of $9 million (approximately Rs 698.85 million) to Nepal for the implementation of the South Asia Sub-regional Economic Cooperation (SASEC) Information Highway Project -- Nepal component.
Finace Secretary Rameshwor Khanal and country representative of ADB Barry J Hitchcock today signed the agreement at the finance ministry on behalf of their respective institutions.
"Knowledge and Information Communication Technology (ICT) is key to human capital," said Khanal after the signing ceremony. "It will not only foster better interconnection among the four countries in SASEC sub-regional groping and increase penetration into rural areas but also provide market information and price,"he added.
SASEC ICT Group was established in 2003. ADB is playing a major role in supporting regional cooperation among Bangaldesh, Bhutan, India and Nepal through the SASEC programme since 2001.
"With its growing importance in development, ICT is also a priority sector of the SASEC programme," said Hitchcock. The SASEC Regional ICT Strategy intends to coordinate and consolidate the national leadership, vision and strategies of the four countires for ICT. "It has proposed three most urgent areas for improvement in ICT -- cross-border connectivity, rural access to information and human resource capacity," he added.
The objective is to improve ICT connectivity between the SASEC countries and provide modern, affordable and relaible broadband information, communication and knowledge services within and across borders to universities, businesses and expand ICT accessibility in remote areas. With the assistance of ADB, more such projects like SASEC tourism project are in pipe line, said Khanal.

Outbound labour size falls

The number of out-bound migrant workers has dropped substantially by around 246 to 410 from 656 per day since a couple of months. At the same time, the rate of Nepalis returning is increasing, said experts here today at an interaction on 'What after Nepali workers return?', organised by the Group of Labour Journalists (GLJ).
They opined that government must be prepared with a package programme to deal with the tide of returnees.
"The government is prepared to deal with them and we have called a two-day brain storming session in this regard on February 12-13," said Minister for Labour and Transport Management Lekhraj Bhatta.
"For a short-term solution we have decided to refund 40 per cent and 25 per cent of their expenses respectively, if they return within six months and a year," he said adding that as a long-term solution the government must provide them jobs apart from finding alternative destinations.
The brainstorming session on February 12-13 will have ambassadors and foreign ministry officials as it is a matter between countries and falls under the jurisdiction of the foreign ministry. "Our diplomatic missions abroad have also failed us," Bhatta admitted.
"Nepali diplomatic missions should be mobilised to save the jobs of Nepali workers abroad," said Dr Shanker Sharma, former vice-president of National Planning Commission (NPC). "Jobs of around 3,00,000 -- at the maximum -- unskilled Nepali workers in foreign lands are at risk," he said adding that Nepal will feel the heat of the labour lay-off from the second half of 2009 till the third quarter of 2010. Remittance has been not only keeping the economy afloat it has been helping reduce poverty also, Dr Sharma opined.
"Every minute, Nepal gets more than Rs 2,00,000 as remittance," said Ganesh Gurung, a social scientist. "But the number of Nepali migrant workers leaving for various destinations abroad has dropped substantially and that will ultimately hit the economy," he said adding that apart from that it has brought change in the society as the family is at present headed by women. "Women are involved in the decision making of family matters in the absence of their husbands," Gurung added. He also said that the security of the migrant labour was a major concern. "Everyday, two dead Nepalis are sent home in bodybags," he pointed out.
Tilak Ranabhat, president of the Nepal Foreign Employment Agencies' Association (NFEAA), said on the occasion that the en masse return might lead to social problems as the returnees have no skills and no jobs at all.
Taking a cue from the global economic meltdown, the Gulf countries -- major markets for Nepali migrant workers -- have started reducing workforce strength especially unskilled hands and those working in manufacturing and service sectors.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Cardamom sector losing competitiveness

Despite competitive advantage, large cardamom is slowing losing its market due to lack of policy-level backing, various taxes levied by local government agencies and extortion by militant outfits.
"Though Nepali cardamom has competitive advantage over the Indian one, India is exporting large cardamom to 10 countries but Nepal is exporting it to only four countries," Dr Devbhakta Shakya, executive director of Agriculture Entreprises Centre (AEC) said during a interaction on 'Policy Needs for Cardamom Sub-sector Development' organised by the AEC/Federation of Nepalese Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FNCCI) here today.
"Last year Nepal exported to four countries including Afghanistan but this year, Afghanistan did not import from us," he said adding that Nepal has been unable to compete with the cardamom from Sikkim and is losing markets like Afghanistan.
On one hand, farmers have to pay extortion money to militant outfits and on the other the government also milks the sector through various taxes, Shakya added.
Though large cardamom was introduced in Ilam in 1865 its commercial farming started only in the late 70s. Currently, 37 districts grow large cardamom. Of the total output, more than 97 per cent is grown in seven districts of the Eastern Development Region. "Taplejung, Panchthar, Ilam and Sankhuwasabha districts grow more than 86 per cent of the total production," Shakya said adding that their share in export comes to around 90 per cent. India is the largest importer of Nepali cardamom. Some 33,000 families are engaged in growing klarge cardamom.
Shakya opined that diversification of market was a must for the development of the sector, "Nepal needs to explore more markets. Bangladesh could be a potential buyer," he said.
Nepal is losing its competitive edge also due to lack of well-equipped ventilated storage places and high transportation cost. "Besides, Nepali cardamom desperately needs brand promotion like Nepali tea for grabbing the international market," Shakya said.
More than 80 per cent farmers are still dependent on local traders for cash at much higher rates of interest of 18 per cent to 36 per cent. "Cardamom farmers may be new avenues for financial institutions as they are dependent on non-banking channels for cash flow," he suggested.
Though some institutions like SNV are helping these farmers, government agencies like district development committees also need to focus on the issue. Suggesting some long-medium and-short term strategy for the development of large cardamom sector, the AEC executive director also urged the government to bring a special package programme in the next fiscal year's programme.
Dr Gunanidhi Sharma, vice-president of National Planning Commission (NPC), Kush Kumar Joshi, president of Federation of Nepalese Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FNCCI) and Krishna Prasad Tamrakar, president of Agriculture Enterprises Centre (AEC) also expressed their views on the occasion.