Friday, April 29, 2011

Window of opportunity for Asia to improve gender equality at work

Asian countries have a window of opportunity to tackle gender inequality in their labour markets and support sustainable crisis recovery, according to a new report prepared jointly by International Labour Organisation (ILO) and Asian Development Bank (ADB).
The report, Women and Labour Markets in Asia: Rebalancing for Gender Equality, stated that although Asia is helping to lead the global economy, recovery of the labour market from the recent global economic and financial crisis has not kept pace. In some developing countries, particularly in East Asia, job growth is back, but the quality of jobs being created is a major concern. In particular, 45 per cent of the vast productive potential of Asian women remains untapped, compared to just 19 per cent for Asian men.
Even before the crisis, Asia was estimated to be losing $42-$47 billion a year because of limits on women’s access to employment opportunities and another $16-$30 billion a year as a result of gender gaps in education, according to estimates by the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific. Although the region’s economic growth of 6.2 per cent in 2000-2007 greatly exceeded the global average of 4.2 per cent, average growth in women’s employment was just 1.7 per cent - below the world average of two per cent.
These deficits are likely to have increased during the crisis, the report stated, because women disproportionately shouldered the impact due to pre-existing gender inequalities. They include discrimination throughout the region’s labour markets, inequality rooted in social-cultural norms and national policy and institutional frameworks that shape the employment opportunities of Asia’s 734 million female workers.
The report further stated that “there is now a window of opportunity to address systematic gender inequalities as well as the symptoms thrown up by the crisis, and achieve full labour market recovery and successful rebalancing.” It adds that “the policy goal should not be to return to the ‘normal’ pre-crisis situation…but to rebalance towards a new development trajectory that is job-rich, just, sustainable and inclusive.
“Asia faces both old and new challenges and it needs to address both if it is to reap the social and economic benefits of gender equality,” said Sachiko Yamamoto, ILO regional director for Asia and the Pacific. “The drive to rebalance towards more sustainable, fairer development must not distract policy-makers from dealing with ingrained gender inequalities. One cannot succeed without the other and the social and economic costs of missing this opportunity will be felt for decades. The ILO stands ready to help with this, an important step towards the goal of decent work for all”.
The report pointed out that poor quality jobs are a greater labour market challenge for women than unemployment. A large proportion of women in Asia toilss in low-productivity, vulnerable and low-paid informal work. In addition, female youth unemployment is high and women remain largely perceived as a buffer workforce or secondary earners next to men.
Suggested policies include support for women entrepreneurs; assisting women working in agriculture to boost productivity; reducing Asia’s over-reliance on the informal sector; promoting equal access to quality education and training; gender-responsive social protection; ensuring equality in representation and decision-making; and following a rights-based approach.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Soaring food prices again threaten to push millions of Asians into poverty

Resurgent global food prices, which posted record increases in the first two months of 2011, are again threatening to push millions of people in developing Asia into extreme poverty, says a new report from the Asian Development Bank (ADB) titled 'Global Food Price Inflation and Developing Asia'.
Food prices had been expected to continue a gradual ascent in the wake of the sharp spike in 2008. The report says that fast and persistent increases in the cost of many Asian food staples since the middle of last year, coupled with crude oil reaching a 31-month high in March, are a serious setback for the region which has rebounded rapidly and strongly from the global economic crisis.
Domestic food inflation in many regional economies in Asia has averaged 10 per cent in early 2011. The ADB study finds that a 10 per cent rise in domestic food prices in developing Asia, home to 3.3 billion people, could push an additional 64 million people into extreme poverty based on the $1.25-a-day poverty line.
"For poor families in developing Asia, who already spend more than 60 per cent of their income on food, higher food prices further reduce their ability to pay for medical care and their children's education," said ADB chief economist Changyong Rhee. "Left unchecked, the food crisis will badly undermine recent gains in poverty reduction made in Asia."
The report adds that if the global food and oil price hikes seen in early 2011 persist for the remainder of the year, economic growth in the region could be reduced by up to 1.5 percentage points.
In the short term, the pattern of higher and more volatile food prices is likely to continue the report says, noting that grain stocks have fallen. Adding to this are structural and cyclical factors that were at play during the 2007 to 2008 crisis including rising demand for food from more populous and wealthier developing countries, competing uses for food grains, shrinking available agricultural land, and stagnant or declining crop yields.
The report notes that production shortfalls caused by bad weather along with the weak US dollar, high oil prices and subsequent export bans by several key food producing countries have caused much of the upward global price pressure since last June, with double digit increases seen in the price of wheat, corn, sugar, edible oils, dairy products and meat. Rice prices are likely to continue their uptrend as the effects of La Niña persist, prompting consumers to seek less costly and less nutritious substitutes.
"To avert this looming crisis it is important for countries to refrain from imposing export bans on food items, while strengthening social safety nets," said Dr Rhee. "Efforts to stabilise food production should take center stage, with greater investments in agricultural infrastructure to increase crop production and expand storage facilities, to better ensure grain produce is not wasted."
Asian governments have already taken many short term measures to cushion the harsh impacts of food price inflation, including measures to stabilise prices. However rising demand for food from developing Asia and low food productivity mean policymakers must also focus on long term solutions to avert a future crisis, the report says.
The report says there is also a need to calm speculative activities in food markets. It recommends enhanced market integration, and the elimination of policy distortions that create hurdles in transferring food from surplus to deficit regions.
It also notes that cooperation between Asian nations can help better secure food supply for the region's people. The ASEAN Integrated Food Security Framework, under which the 10 member ASEAN group of countries has agreed to establish an emergency regional rice reserve system, is a positive step in that direction.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Foreign direct investment flow declines

Last year saw further drops in foreign direct investment (FDI) levels globally, though the rate of decline slowed markedly. The precarious nature of the economic recovery and unrest in the Middle East and north Africa pose a threat to FDI prospects for 2011, but fDi Intelligence expects greenfield projects to return to growth in the coming year.
While the world economy rebounded with solid GDP growth in 2010, investors remained cautious about their foreign expansion plans. The number of greenfield FDI projects declined fractionally by 0.38 per cent in 2010, following a decline of 17.3 per cent in 2009. Greenfield capital investment fell by 16 per cent in 2010, on top of the 36 per cent decline in 2009, due to major declines in the capital-intensive natural resources and real-estate sectors. Job creation by greenfield investors also declined by four per cent last year.
Lacklustre economic recovery, exchange rate instability and the sovereign debt crisis weighed heavily on investors' FDI plans for Europe, with a 15 per cent decline in greenfield FDI projects in western Europe in 2010 – a larger decline than in any other region. With a further scaling back of investments in real estate and natural resources, FDI in the Middle East continued to decline, with a 45 per cent fall in capital investment in 2010.
Brazil moved rapidly up the rankings of the leading FDI locations in the world in 2010. With 28 per cent growth in greenfield FDI projects, Brazil was the seventh leading location for projects in 2010, up from 11th place in 2009. Capital investment into Brazil increased by 19.7 per cent and job creation by 64.5 per cent, making it the fourth biggest country in the world for greenfield investment and jobs. Brazil was behind only China, India and the US when it came to job creation in 2010. The country experienced very strong growth in inward investment in the renewable energy, electronics, chemicals and food and beverages sectors in particular.
Australia also performed strongly in 2010, with a 39.5 per cent increase in FDI projects (moving it from 16th place in 2009 to ninth in 2010) and a 2.5-fold increase in capital investment, catapulting the country from 16th place in 2009 to fifth place in 2010. Poland and Canada also recorded very strong growth of FDI projects in 2010, with 33.7 per cent growth in project numbers in Poland (although the 254 projects attracted in 2010 were still far below the peak of 355 in 2008) and 16.3 per cent growth in project numbers in Canada.
With a 5.4 per cent growth in FDI projects in 2010, software and IT replaced financial services as the leading sector for greenfield FDI projects in 2010. FDI projects in financial services fell by five per cent in 2010. However, the main trend in 2010 was the major growth in manufacturing sectors. Overall, the number of FDI projects in manufacturing sectors grew by 20 per cent in 2010, and job creation grew by about 25 per cent.
The metals and automotive original equipment manufacturer (OEM) sectors had the biggest absolute increase in capital investment overseas in 2010, with 43 per cent and 34 per cent growth, respectively. In 2010, the metals sector became the second major sector for capital investment globally (after coal, oil and natural gas) and automotive OEM the third biggest sector.
Real estate was again one of the worst performing sectors, with a more than 50 per cent decline in capital investment overseas in 2010. Capital investment in 2010 was less than one-fifth the level of 2008.
Creative industries and environmental technology, which have been the two fastest growing sectors for FDI, remained relatively flat in 2010, with 1.9 per cent and 0.3 per cent increases in projects, respectively. However, their market share of global FDI increased marginally from 5.1 per cent in 2009 to 5.2 per cent in 2010 for creative industries and from 5.2 per cent to 5.3 per cent for environmental technology.
The FDI forecasting unit of fDi Intelligence is expecting a 6.5 per cent growth in greenfield FDI in 2011, with most countries attracting more greenfield FDI in 2011 than 2010. Strong growth is expected in the automotive, industrial machinery and equipment, metals and chemicals sectors in particular. Renewable energy should also recover in 2011 and grow strongly. fDi Intelligence also expects growth in natural resources investment in 2011, after a sharp decline in 2010, although this will depend on the easing of political instability in the Middle East and north Africa. Slower growth in FDI is expected in business services, financial services, and food and beverages.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Common global guideline on standard can help boost sustainable criteria for bio-energy

With rising global interest in bio-energy, there is a need of common global guidelines on standards related to sustainability criteria for bio-energy, according to the experts, who participated in three-day standardisation workshop to strengthen institutional capacity of standard organisations, private sector and other relevant stakeholders from the South and Southeast Asia regions on sustainable criteria for bio-energy.
The experts urged for requirement to take into account the possibility of producing bio-energy from wastes, need for international cooperation to help developing countries assess the impact of bio-energy production on food security and need to take into account customary laws and practices while designing sustainability criteria for bio-energy.
During the closing session, Swedish Standards Institute's MD Lars Flink urged the participants to make preparations for the Project Committee meeting to be held in Frankfurt to make sure that ISO standards will really be globally relevant.
Similrly, executive chairman of SAWTEE Dr Posh Raj Pandey opined that incapacity to participate in the standard setting process now could create trade barriers for us later. "Therefore, the current exercise is a crucial giant step to transform us from the position of standard takers to standard setters," he added.
The workshop attended by fifty-two participants from Bangladesh, Cambodia, India, Indonesia, Nepal, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Vietnam and concluded here today was organised by South Asia Watch on Trade, Economics and Environment (SAWTEE), in collaboration with the Swedish Standards Institute and with the support from the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency.
A Working Group draft (ISO 13065) has also been prepared at the initiation of the International Standards Organisation that is expected to address the environmental, social and economic concerns related to bio-energy.
The workshop was organised to prepare country-specific, and appropriate regional, comments on the draft ISO 13065 document and submit it to the ISO.
After a series of presentations and discussions on the first day, the participants worked in expert working groups on the second day and in national working groups on the third day to formulate their comments to be submitted to the ISO. During the final session of the workshop, comments on the Working Group draft ISO 13065 document were submitted by each individual expert to the ISO.
The experts from each country who participated in the Kathmandu workshop will also be participating in the Project Committee meeting to be held in Frankfurt next month to defend the comments submitted and to ensure that the concerns of South and Southeast Asian countries are well reflected in the final international standards on sustainability criteria for bio-energy.

Asian companies expand their wings

Indian, South Korean, Japanese and Chinese companies were among the fastest growing investors overseas in 2010, according to the fDi Intelligence.
The overall ranking of the world’s leading locations for FDI remained unchanged in 2010 in terms of number of greenfield FDI projects attracted, with US at the top followed by China, UK, India and Germany.
Chinese firms also increased the number of jobs created overseas by 10 per cent and capital investment by 2.5 per cent in 2010. China ranked eighth in the world by capital investment and job creation overseas.
Indian companies established 24 per cent more FDI projects overseas in 2010, making India the ninth largest investor by number of projects in 2010. Indian firms created 43 per cent more jobs overseas, moving the country from 18th place in 2009 to 10th place in 2010 by number of jobs created overseas.
Indian companies accelerated investment overseas across different industries, with the biggest growth in the business services, metals, software and IT, and leisure and entertainment sectors. Indian companies expanded fastest in the UK, but the US and Gulf states also attracted increased FDI, the report said.
South Korean FDI projects overseas increased by 12.5 per cent, with capital investment up by 36 per cent and job creation up by 50 per cent in 2010. South Korea moved up the rankings to be the sixth largest global investor overseas in 2010 in capital investment and the fifth biggest creator of overseas jobs. The fastest growth by South Korea's firms overseas was in the electronics, automotive and plastics sectors.
There was a 13.9 per cent increase in FDI projects overseas from Japan in 2010 and a 25 per cent increase in job creation, as Japanese companies established larger projects overseas. Japanese companies were the second largest creator of jobs overseas, after the US.
While Brazil, Australia, Poland, Canada and other countries achieved faster growth in FDI in 2010, the US and China further consolidated their market share dominance. With strong growth in FDI into both US and China, their combined market share of global FDI projects increased from 17.7 per cent in 2009 to 20.3 per cent in 2010. The countries' combined share of global capital investment remained unchanged at 17.6 per cent in 2010.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Nepal slips ICT global ranking

Nepal improved its score and featured in the top 20 countries in Asia but slipped seven positions down from last year’s 124th position to 131st among 138 nations in Network Readiness Report 2010-11 published by World Economic Forum.
Among the top 20 Asian countries, Nepal ranked 19th with a score of 2.97 score but positioned at the 131st position in the overall global ranking, where other South Asian countries like India (48), Sri Lanka (66), Pakistan (88) and Bangladesh (115) are ahead of Nepal.
Nepal was ranked 124th with 2.95 score in the Network Readiness Report 2009-10. The country has opened its telecommunications and Information, Communication and Technology (ICT) sector after the popular mass movement of 1990 that overthrew single party system and made way to the liberal economic policy with the multi party democratic system.
There are three major players – Nepal Telecom, UTL and Ncell – that provide the network connectivity and half dozen regional telecom service providers apart from 44 Internet Service Providers, currently.
According to the 10th edition of World Economic Forum's Network Readiness Report, it looks into an ICT-conducive environment as a key precondition of network readiness that requires a society-wide effort and ICT readiness leads to ICT usage and increased impact. It is the most comprehensive and respected international assessment of the preparedness of economies to leverage the networked economy, providing a unique platform for public-private dialogue on best policies and for determining what actions will further national ICT readiness and innovation potential.
Similarly, the Index comprises of three sub-indices Environment sub-index, Readiness sub-index and Usage sub-index.
The Networked Readiness Index measures the propensity for countries to exploit the opportunities offered by information and communications technology. This year’s coverage includes a record number of 138 economies from both the developing and developed world, accounting for over 98 per cent of global GDP.
“A total of 19 Asian countries in the 2010-2011 featured in the Networked Readiness Index, out of 138 countries worldwide,” the report said, adding that among them Singaporeis the most networked nation in Asia. The Southeast Asian city-state ranked second in the world, behind Sweden. Singapore is also the only Asian country ranked higher than the US worldwide.
Five of the Asian countries – Singapore (2), Taiwan (5), South Korea (10), Hong Kong (12), and Japan (19) – are in the top 20 of this year’s index.
Sweden and Singapore continue to top the rankings of the Global Information Technology Report 2010-2011, Transformations 2.0, confirming the leadership of the Nordic countries and the Asian Tiger economies in adopting and implementing ICT advances for increased growth and development.
Finland jumps to third place, while Switzerland and the US are steady in fourth and fifth place respectively. The 10th anniversary edition of the report focuses on ICT’s power to transform society in the next decade through modernisation and innovation.
The Nordic countries lead the way in leveraging ICT. With Denmark in seventh and Norway in nineth place, all are in the top 10, except for Iceland, which is ranked in 16th position.
Each year, the World Economic Forum ranks countries on the basis of how they adopt and implement information technology across their economies. The findings are published in the Global Information Technology Report.
The Networked Readiness Index uses a combination of data from publicly available sources, as well as the results of the Executive Opinion Survey, a comprehensive annual survey conducted by the World Economic Forum with its network of partner institutes in the countries included in the report. The survey of over 15,000 executives provides unique data on many qualitative dimensions important to assess national networked readiness.
Information Communications Technology is a key enabler of a more economically, environmentally and socially sustainable world in the aftermath of one of the most serious economic crises in decades. This year's report highlights the key role of ICT as an enabler of a more economically, environmentally and socially sustainable world.

ADB approves $17.51 billion

The Asian Development Bank (ADB) approved $17.51 billion in financing operations last year, according to ADB's 2010 Annual Report released ahead of the 44th annual meeting to be held on May 3-6 in Ha Noi, Viet Nam.
Of the total financing of $17.51 billion approved by ADB, $15.50 billion was for investment support, $1.68 billion was for policy-based support, and $327 million was for technical assistance. In addition, ADB's ongoing Trade Finance Program supported $2.77 billion in trade.
"As the region moves beyond economic recovery to sustained growth, it must ensure that the evolving growth paradigm becomes more inclusive to benefit as many people as possible," ADB president Haruhiko Kuroda said in the report.
According to an ADB study, 14 out of 20 developing Asian economies saw their Gini coefficient — a measure of inequality — increase in recent years as economic growth accelerated. The Asia and Pacific region remains home to millions of the absolute poor.
The bank continued to assist its developing member countries in addressing challenges and making progress toward the Millennium Development Goals. If the region's potential is to be fulfilled, it must rebalance growth to reduce reliance on external markets, the report said. Developing Asia must promote public-private partnerships to meet infrastructure needs and to ensure development is inclusive and environmentally sustainable.
ADB has introduced operational plans for specific sectors and thematic areas. In 2010, ADB approved three operational plans for climate change, sustainable transport, and education.
In 2010, ADB and its Special Funds provided $13.84 billion in financing, of which $11.46 billion was for 118 loans, $243 million for 8 equity investments, $982 million for 40 grant projects, $982 million for 5 guarantees, and $176 million for 243 technical assistance projects. Cofinancing partners provided $3.67 billion, bringing the total approved financing to $17.51 billion.
In 2010, ADB issued thematic bonds for the first time, raising $638 million in Water Bonds and $244 million through Clean Energy Bonds. For its local currency bond, ADB launched its inaugural CNY1.2 billion global renminbi bond in Hong Kong, China.
"The historic Millennium Declaration of 2000 promised a better life for millions of poor in Asia and the Pacific. How well this promise is fulfilled depends on our steadfast efforts," Kuroda said, adding that the ADB remains committed to working tirelessly with its developing member countries and development partners to ensure greater progress in the years ahead.
Nepal is a founding member of the Asian Development Bank (ADB) and, as of 31 December 2009, cumulative lending to the country reached $2.47 billion, with investment grant projects amounting to $495.65 million and technical assistance of $137.9 million. The assistance is focused on agriculture and natural resources, education, water supply and other municipal infrastructure and services, transport and information and communication technology, finance, energy, and public sector management.

Salt Trading to distribute dividends

Salt Trading has decided to distribute 30 per cent dividend -- 10 pe cent cash and 20 per cent stock -- to its share holders.
"The decision has to be approved by the Finance Ministry," according to the board of the salt Trading that is listed in the secondary market. It is one of the actively traded shares in the secondary marker and last traded at Rs 307 on February 22.
Salt Trading has listed 247,777-unit shares at Rs 100 paid up value per unit making a total of Rs 24,777,700 listed paid up value. Its market capitalisation as of today stands at Rs 76,067,539.
Under trading sub-group's four companies -- Salt trading, Bishal Bazaar, Nepal Trading and Nepal Welfare Company -- a total of 830,177-unit shares are listed. Of the four Salt Trading and Bishal Bazaar have Rs 100 paid up value per unit share of each company whereas the remaining two has Rs 50 paid up value making the total paid up value of Rs 78,467,700 of the four.
Bishal Bazaar and Salt Trading are the actively traded shares in the secondary market. Bishal Bazaar saw its shares being traded at Rs 2,936
But Nepal Trading saw its shares being traded last on September 27, 2000 at Rs 56 per unit and Nepal Welfare Company saw its shares being traded last on September 1, 2008 at Rs 95 per unit.
Meanwhile, the Nepse today dropped by 3.18 points to close the market at 361.12 points due to all the six sub-groups traded today ended in red zone.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Central bank injects liquidity to cash-strapped banks

As banks started to feel liquidity crunch central bank today injected liquidity through Rs 5000 million repo.
The inter-bank lending has reached to 12.50 per cent yesterday due to liquidity crunch in the market.
"But today, inter-bank rate has come a little low to 12.25 per cent expecting liquidity through repo could normalise the tight liquidity situation," said Civil Bank chief operating officer Sarbendra Mishra.
In normal condition, the inter-bank lending rate stands at around four per cent but liquidity crunch has forced the inter-bank lending rate to 12.50 per cent since the starting of this week.
However, Mishra opined that it is a seasonal impact as at the end of second quarter every fiscal year, the banks' experience liquidity crunch. "After the 21-day repo of Rs 5000 million, the inter-bank rate might come down to 10 per cent," he added.
Dealyed budget and low government spending have tightened money supply in the commercial bank forcing them to borrow from other commercial banks that are in comfortable position to maintain mandatory Credit to Deposit (CD) ratio that is 85 per cent fixed by the central bank.
The commercial bank's deposit that stood at Rs 631 billion by the end of fiscal year 2009-10 has dropped to Rs 619.49 billion by the first quarter of the current fiscal year. "By the second quarter of current fiscal year, the deposit stood at Rs 627.08 billion and loans and advances stood at Rs 503.03 billion," according to the central bank. "But by the seventh month of current fiscal year the deposit increased by Rs 7.64 billion only to Rs 634.72 billion but loans and advances increased by 49.35 billion to Rs 552.38 billion," Nepal Rastra Bank's data revealed.
Similarly, inter-bank transaction of commercial banks reached Rs 225.43 billion against Rs 175.49 billion in the same period of last fiscal year, it said, adding that liquidity injection through standing liquidity facility amounted to Rs 136.64 billion. "Of the total standing liquidity facility, the outstanding amount was Rs 5.71billion as at mid-February 2011."
During the seven months of the current fiscal year 2010-11, government budget also remained at a surplus of Rs 12.33 billion due to a high growth in resource mobilisation relative to total government expenditure creating tight liquidity situation in the money market.
"In the same period last fiscal year, budget surplus had stood at Rs 8.42 billion," according to the central bank.

Experts urge to explore export potential of bio energy

Experts here in the valley today were of the view that the South Asia has to explore export potential of bio energy.
South Asia has to explore export potential of bio energy, said secretary general of SAARC Chamber of Commerce and Industry (SCCI), Islamabad M Iqbal Tabish, speaking on workshop on sustainable bioenergy and trade opportunities, organised by South Asia Watch on Trade, Economics and Environment (SAWTEE), in cooperation with the Swedish Standards Institute (SIS) and the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (SIDA).
However, executive chairman of SAWTEE Dr Posh Raj Pandey doubted that the South Asia could whether exploit it.
The three-day workhop of standardisation workshop on Strengthening Institutional Capacity on Sustainability Criteria for Bioenergy that started here in Kathmandu today will last till Thursday.
At the time when the global enery demand is increasing and environment is threatened by the fossile fuel, bio energy can help reduce dependency on the scare fossile fuel, they said.
"The global economy is threatened by the rising fuel prices," Pandey said adding that the removal in trade barriers and sufficient logistic will help trade bio energy.
"But still the certification will be key where the international agencies like Swedish Standards Institute and Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency can help us," he added.
The three-day workshop is being organised against the backdrop of the setting of ISO standards on sustainability criteria for bioenergy. The objectives of the workshop, are to involve key stakeholders from the regions (South and Southeast Asia) in the process of setting standards on sustainability criteria for Bioenergy (ISO 13065); identify related regional needs and priorities; and make a substantial regional influence on the development of the new ISO 13065 standard.
About 40 participants from Bangladesh, India, Nepal, Pakistan, Sri Lanka in South Asia and Cambodia, Indonesia and Vietnam in South East Asian participated in the workshop.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Urge to improve productive capacities of Africa's poorest nations

Recent increases in food and energy prices may undercut progress made by Africa ’s least developed countries (LDCs) since the turn of the millennium, and their economies need greater breadth and variety to cushion them from such shocks, experts said at a workshop in Addis Ababa.
The three-day UNCTAD Regional Workshop on Productive Capacities, Economic Growth and Poverty Reduction in African LDCs, was held in collaboration with the Economic Commission for Africa. For several years, UNCTAD has recommended that LDCs improve their abilities to produce a broader variety of goods, and goods of greater complexity and value – referred to as 'expanding productive capacity'. The organisation said that it was a way out of the boom–bust cycles and persistent poverty which have characterized LDCs for decades. Such an approach to sustainable economic growth is the focus of UNCTAD’s call for a New International Development Architecture for LDCs, unveiled in UNCTAD’s Least Developed Countries Report 2010.
The workshop was termed an important opportunity for African LDCs to prepare for the Fourth UN Conference on LDCs, to be held in Istanbul from May 9 to 13. Thirty-three of the globe’s 48 LDCs are in sub-Saharan Africa. Among those addressing the workshop were Junior Davis of UNCTAD’s Division for Africa, LDCs and Special Programmes; Jennifer Kargbo, deputy executive secretary of the UN Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA); and Libère Bararunyeretse, ambassador and Permanent Representative of the Organisation International de la Francophonie. The gathering was attended by a wide range of officials from African LDCs, other African nations and donor countries.
Davis told the meeting that 'employment and export structures are still concentrated in a few sectors' of LDC economies, such as natural resource extraction. “The resilience of African LDC economies has been tested by recent price hikes in international energy and food prices, especially since 2007," he said, warning that 'part of the progress in reducing poverty achieved in recent years may have been reversed in spite of the notable efforts undertaken by governments to contain the hikes.'
He and other speakers said that LDC governments also should study carefully their increasing economic ties with other developing countries, such as China and India, to ensure that stable, effective economic growth results. In addition, officials said greater attention needs to be paid to improving infrastructure in LDCs – such as roads, railroads, ports and electricity supply – to remove constraints to broad-based economic progress.
They also urged attention to boosting domestic agriculture, domestic savings, and the development of small- and medium-sized businesses in African LDCs. The Addis Ababa workshop followed a similar workshop for Asian LDCs held by UNCTAD on March 22 to 24 in Kathmandu.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Government not serious on solving petroleum shortage

The authorities in the government and the Nepal Oil Corporation need to burn midnight oil to come up with a solution to address the concerns of those queuing up for fuel. But neither the debt-ridden NOC nor the government is willing to pour oil on the troubled waters, with thousands waiting in serpentine queues to get petrol for the last one week.
Nepal Oil Corporation will not be able to resume smooth supply of petroleum products for another week due to reduced import in the wake of its inability to pay the rising import bill and the strike of tankers since for a week.
Finance Minister Bharat Mohan Adhikari, who can rescue the NOC, will be back in the country only on Tuesday evening. And so will the Chairman of NOC Board and Commerce and Supplies secretary Purushottam Ojha, who is accompanying Adhikari to the US. In the absence of Adhikari and Ojha, the queues in front of valley petrol pumps are bound to stretch.
The NOC, meanwhile, has suggested the government to hike fuel price for smooth supply.
Petroleum price has touched $124 per barrel in the international market. “Nepal has no option but to hike the price,” said managing director of NOC, Digamber Jha.
According to the oil monopoly, its loss in April will be Rs 1.96 billion compared to earlier estimation of Rs 1.77 billion, as per the rate sent by the sole supplier, Indian Oil Corporation, on April 16. “The government should hike petrol prices by 10 per cent and aviation fuel prices by 20 per cent to reduce loss,” he suggested.
NOC has also advised the Ministry of Commerce and Supply to provide subsidy on diesel used in public transportation. “If we provide subsidy on diesel, the poor will not suffer and the market price will not rise,” he said, adding that NOC and consumers should jointly bear one-third of the increased cost of diesel.
“NOC incurs Rs 24 loss on a litre of diesel,” Jha said, adding that consumers, government and NOC should each contribute Rs 8 per litre of diesel to neutralise the loss. “The government can reduce taxes equal to the proposed contribution,” he added.
Currently, the government is earning Rs 12.42 on a litre of diesel, Rs 30.90 per litre of petrol, Rs 2.04 on a litre of kerosene and Rs 12.73 a litre on aviation fuel as revenue.
However, NOC is incurring Rs 23.26 loss on a litre of diesel, Rs 11.25 a litre on kerosene, Rs 10.02 per litre of aviation fuel and Rs 6.30 a litre on petrol, he informed, while asking the government to increase the prices at the earliest.
“If petroleum prices were not hiked, NOC will not be able to ensure smooth supply of fuel,” he said, adding that NOC does not have sufficient fuel storage in Kathmandu due to the reduced supply.
It has 29,000 kilolitre of diesel and 15,000 kl petrol stock in Thankot depot, that will last for just four days.

Nepal-Bhutan plan trade agreement

After a successful signing of economic framework agreement with the US, Nepal is gearing to enter into a trade pact with Bhutan.
Thimpu had shown interest in signing a trade treaty with Kathmandu since eight year ago, though the South Asian countries have no huge volumn of trade between themselves.
With the recent visit of the Bhutanese Prime Minister Jigme Y Thinley, the trade pact between the two countries seems to get started again.
The two countries will soon ink a deal since there has already been an agreement in principle to this effect, according to Ministry of Commerce and Supplies that has been given the responsibility to prepare draft of trade agreement with Bhutan.
During the second joint secretary level meeting in October 2010, both the countries has agreed to work out issues regarding list of exportable products from both the countries including trade routes and business procedures.
The November 2010 meeting explored some opportunities to boost bilateral trade as they discussed modalities for the formal trade treaty that could be later on developed as various preferential treatment required for the bilateral trade.
Bhutan’s export to Nepal during 2008-09 was around Rs 300 billion whereas Bhutan’s import from Nepal was at Rs 200 million. The growth of trade between the two nations has been affected by the refugee crisis.
India is the largest trading partner of Bhutan but the dynamics could change, if the trade treaty between Thimpu and Kathmandu is signed.
Although both the countries has informal trade, they never had bilateral trade agreement.
Bhutan and Nepal are both signatories to South Asia Free Trade Agreement (SAFTA) under which they can still trade but the intra-regional trade of South Asia never exceeded five per cent.
Bhutan's economy -- one of the world's smallest and least developed -- is based on hydroelectricity, tourism, agriculture, and forestry. Rugged terrain makes it difficult to develop roads and other infrastructure. Despite the constraint, hydroelectricity and construction continue to be the two major industries of growth for the country. As these two economic sectors contribute to increased productivity, Bhutan's development prospects are positive.
The Tala hydroelectric project, completed March 2007, has bolstered government revenue and exports, and will continue to do so for the next several years. In late 2009, Bhutan signed four memoranda of understanding (MOUs) with India to prepare four additional hydroelectric projects in Bhutan.
Bhutan's economy has been on an upturn due to recent sub regional economic cooperation efforts. Already this plan has strengthened the current trade relations with India, as well as opened an avenue of trade with Bangladesh. In May 2003, the Bilateral Free Trade Agreement between Bangladesh and Bhutan was re-signed. Bangladesh is Bhutan's second largest trade partner, after India.
In January 2004, as a member of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC), Bhutan also joined the South Asian Free Trade Agreement (SAFTA); Bhutan hosted the SAARC summit in Thimphu last April.
In February 2004 Bhutan joined the Bangladesh, Indian, Myanmar, Singapore, and Thailand Economic Cooperation Forum (BIMSTEC). Bhutan has applied for membership in the World Trade Organisation (WTO) and is in the process of developing clear legal and regulatory systems designed to promote business development with the Nepal.
Bhutan's major trading partners are India, Hong Kong, Japan, Germany, Singapore, and Thailand.

ASA revision
KATHMANDU: Nepal and Bhutan are revising Air Service Agreement soon. The two sides reached an agreement during a meeting between Prime Minister Jhala Nath Khanal and his Bhutanese counterpart Jigme Y Thinley. The visiting Bhutanese premier before wrapping up his three-day official visit to Nepal, said they have agreed to renew the air service agreement which will include Druk Air flghts between Bagdora in India and Kathmandu. "The government of India has given their approval to operate such a flight with fifth freedom rights," he said. Currently, Druk Air has Kathmandu-Thimphu flights four times a week.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Nepal-US sign trade agreement

Nepal and the US signed a framework agreement aimed at enhancing trade and investment between the two countries – replacing the bilateral trade and economic agreement of six decade ago.
The US Trade Representative Ron Kirk and Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Bharat Mohan Adhikari signed the new Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA) on behalf of their respective countries yesterday evening in Washington.
The new agreement will provide a forum for bilateral talks to enhance trade and investment, discuss specific trade issues and promote more comprehensive trade agreements between the two countries.
“The US has now an institutional framework for discussing trade and investment issues,” Kirk said, after signing the agreement.
”It will help us learn more about each other’s legal, regulatory and trading regimes,” he said, in the statement, adding that the US looks forward to deepening its relationship with Nepal and breaking down any and all barriers that may prevent our producers, exporters and ranchers from selling their products in Nepal.
The agreement will now help to enter into a trade agreement between the two countries apart from the US-Nepal Council on Trade and Investment that will address a wide range of trade and investment issues like capacity building and technical assistance, intellectual property rights, worker rights, environmental protection and removing barriers to bilateral trade.
The TIFA further creates a mechanism for dialogues on initiatives for expanding trade through enhanced cooperation and more comprehensive agreements. The TIFA mechanism also establishes a US-Nepal Council on Trade and Investment (TIFA Council) comprising representatives of each party.
The Council will be a permanent body that will hold meetings regularly involving the private sector and civil society. The commerce secretary of Nepal and the Office of the US Trade Representative will chair the Council meeting that will meet once a year in Washington DC and Kathmandu on a rotational basis.
Adhikari, after signing the agreement opined that it would go a long way in expanding bilateral trade and attracting US investments into Nepal.
Nepali ambassador to the US Dr Shankar Prasad Sharma, commerce and supplies secretary Purushottam Ojha, law and justice secretary Madhab Prasad Paudel, home secretary Govind Prasad Kusum and officials from the various departments of the US government were present during the signing ceremony.
The First meeting of the TIFA Council was also held at the Office of the US Trade Representative after the signing of the agreement. The Council meeting took a stock of Nepal-US economic and trade relations.
The USTR side made a presentation on the best practices of TIFA regimes in some successful countries which could be replicated in Nepal as the agreement is put into practice.
Similarly, Nepali delegates underlined the need for market access for the Nepalese products in the US markets, effective utilisation of GSP facilities, US investment promotion in Nepal since Nepal has already opened 11 service sectors with 65 subsectors under WTO.
The promotional activities through a Nepal-US Business Working Group was also emphasised by Nepal.
The Council decided to hold its second meeting in Kathmandu in second half of 2011. OJha led the Nepali team assisted by Paudel, Gyawali, and the senior staff of the Nepali Embassy in Washington DC, while the US side was led by Deputy United States Trade Representative ambassador Marantis accompanied by other senior officials of the USTR.
The US has TIFAs with its key trading partners like Afghanistan, Pakistan and Sri Lanka. The US has been showing its interest in investing in Nepal with Washington entering into a bilateral trade agreement with Kathmandu that now promises to boost export.
Currently, Nepal's trade with the US is comfortable. But the picture may not all that rosy after a couple of years since America is fast closing in on the trade deficit.
The US has reduced its trade deficit with Nepal by four times between 2004 and 2010. In 2004 the US trade deficit stood at $117.5 million but in 2010 the US has decreased its trade deficit with Nepal to $32.2 million.
In the first two months of 2011, the trade deficit of the US with Nepal stands at $4 million only as the US imported $10.3 million worth goods and exported $6.3 million worth goods to Nepal. In the year 2000, the deficit used to stand at $194.4 million.
The trade treaty between Nepal and the US is likely to give a new lease of life to the export of Nepali Readymade Garment (RMG) that has plunged by 81 per cent.
Nepal has signed bilateral investment treaties with Britain, Finland, France, Germany, India, Mauritius, and Norway, according to the Foreign Investment Division, Department of Industry.
Earlier, Nepal and the US had signed Friendship and Commerce Agreement on April 25, 1947.

Graft, nepotism hits debt striken state oil monopoly in need of structural reform

Had the government and the state oil monopoly heeded to the advice of several well-meaning committees in the past, consumers would not have been suffering today.
The Nepal Oil Corporation buys petroleum products at a higher price and sells them at a lower price, according to a member of a high level committee — headed by CA member Bhim Prasad Acharya — that is finalising the recommendations for detailed reform of state oil monopoly for smooth supply of petroleum products.
“Nepal Oil Corporation is completely crippled by corruption, along with nepotism,” he said, adding that NOC was in dire need of structural reform, along with price adjustment, to ensure smooth fuel supply.
During a consultation meeting with the high-level committee, stakeholders from different sections of the society have emphasised on the need of structural reform of the corporation and adoption of automatic price adjustment system to ensure smooth supply of petroleum products.
Though five committees have already submitted their reports recommending government to reform NOC for smooth supply of petroleum products, successive governments have failed to implement the reports. A committee headed by Bhanu Prasad Acharya in 2003 had also recommended the government to fix the price through automatic price adjustment system. The Acharya committee had also suggested a practical way to adjust price according to the international market. However, the recommendation has been gathering dust at the NOC. Interestingly, one of the members of that committee, Purushottam Ojha, is secretary at the Ministry of Commerce and Supplies, which is responsible for regulating NOC and importing petroleum products. However, he has not made any policy in line with that report so far.
“The government and NOC did not show their readiness and will-power to implement recommendations of the committees in the past,” lamented consumer rights activist Jyoti Baniya, who is also a member of the high-level committee formed by the present government to recommend ways to ease fuel supply.
The stakeholders advised the present high-level committee to reduce shrinkage and technical losses and operational cost, thought to be the loopholes in the pricing mechanism. “NOC officials take kickbacks at the time of issuing dealership and transportation permits,” another member of the high-level committee alleged.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Nepal urges US for preferential market access

Nepal urged the US for preferential market to Nepali products including textiles and pashminas.
Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Bharat Mohan Adhikari, who is in the US visit to sign Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA) today evening, also hoped that the trade and investment relations between the two countries would further expand and deepen in the days to come.
Earlier today Adhikari attended an Energy Roundtable organised by the US State Department in Washington DC and shed light on the energy scenario in Nepal and government's vision and plans to address the energy woes in the wake of recent declaration of the period of emergency in the energy sector.
During the roundtable, he also invited US investors to invest in Nepal. Many investors attending the round table thanked Adhikari for his initiatives and indicated their interest for investing in the development of hydropower sector of Nepal.
The round table was attended by some 20 representatives of various companies, and official of the US Treasury, Trade and Commerce, other offices of the US government, EXIM Bank and the State Department.
Adhikari also visited US Peace Corps’ Head Quarters and held a meeting about the Peace Corps’s works in Nepal. During the meeting with the director of Peace Corps he appreciated the contribution of Peace Corps Volunteers especially in the health, education and agriculture sector. He also requested the US to resume the services of Peace Corps Volunteers in Nepal which was withdrawn in 2006.
Director of Peace Corps appreciated Nepal's role in facilitating the work of Peace Corps Volunteers, and also assured Adhikari of their continued interest in re-dispatching Peace Corps Volunteers to work in Nepal.
Administrator of the United Nations Development Programme Helen Clark also paid a courtesy call on Adhikari. During the meeting, they discussed on various aspects of UNDP cooperation in Nepal. Similarly, they discussed on Disaster related conference, Nepal’s roles as chair of the LDCs, next LDCs conference to be held in Turkey this year.
Clark appreciated for the active leadership of Nepal as a chair of LDCs.
Adhikari, who is leading a nine-member delegation consisting of secretary of the Ministry of Law, Justice and Parliamentary Affairs; secretary of Ministry of Home Affairs, secretary of Ministry of Commerce and Supplies, and secretary of the Ministry of Energy, and joint secretaries of Ministry of Finance, Ministry of Home Affairs, and Ministry of Commerce and Supplies, also discussed on US, Nepal ties with undersecretary for Democracy and Global Affairs of the US State Department Maria Otero. Adhikari was accompanied by ambassador of Nepal to the US Dr Shankar Prasad Sharma and other officials of the embassy of Nepal in the US.
With TIFA that will be signed today evening, Nepali industrialists are hopeful of getting much awaited GSP facility and develop the export market to US.
The US has TIFA with countries at different levels of development and trade and investment interests. Exporters here are hopeful that the first Joint Council Meeting of Nepal and the US after TIFA will consider Nepal’s interest on formation of Market Access Committee for easier access of Nepali exports to the US market. Duty free access to Nepali goods in the US market would be the major issue to be discussed in the agreement, It is also expected that the meeting will assess the prevailing situation of the US Generalised System of Preference (GSP) to Nepal’s export in relation to the preference coverage, preference utilisation and erosion of the preference margins.

Bhaskar Raj Rajkarnikar elected senior vice president of FNCCI

The newly elected executive committee of Federation of Nepalese Chambers of Commerce and Industries (FNCCI) today elected Bhaskar Raj Rajkarnikar as its senior vice president.
Rajkarnikar received 37 votes against his opponent Kumud Dugar, who received 24 votes. There are 61 members in the executive committee excluding immediate past president, who also has a voting right, though there was some confusion whether to let him vote or not as this is the first time the executive committee has voted for the senior vice-president.
However, Krishna Prasad Tamrakar, who was projected as the candidate for senior vice-president by Ajad Shrestha’s camp, could not vote due to his poor health. He had been elected unopposed from Bagmati zone, whereas Kumud Kumar Dugad had been elected executive member from Bheri zone unopposed.
Rajkarnikar, who had been elected unopposed from Mahakali zone was projected senior vice-president from Suraj Vaidya panel, while in absence of Tamrakar Dugar was projected as the senior vice-president from Ajad Shrestha panel.
However, FNCCI election results on Tuesday gave the Vaidya panel a clear majority against Shrestha panel.
Earlier in the morning, the immediate past president Kush Kumar Joshi administered oath of Office to newly elected president Suraj Vaidya and Vaidya administered the oath of office to his vice-presidents and executive committee members.
Suraj Vaidya has Pradeep Jung Pandey (Commodities), Bhawani Rana (Districts/Municipalities) and Pashupati Murarka (Associate) as vice-presidents. Rana and Murarka are from Vaidya panel, while Pandey is from Shrestha panel.
The newly elected president Vaidya instructed the FNCCI Secretariat to provide unconditional service to the entrepreneurs, while director general at the FNCCI Secretariat Dr Hemant Dawadi welcomed the new executive committee.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Donors endorse work programme of IMF Trust Fund

Donors agreed today to endorse the work plan for the first year of operations of a new International Monetary Fund (IMF) trust fund designed to help ten low-income and lower-middle-income countries like Nepal to manage better their natural resource wealth.
The Managing Natural Resource Wealth Topical Trust Fund -- launched in December 2010 -- will enable the IMF to step up its technical assistance to low- and lower-middle income countries with substantial extractive industries for harnessing the full benefit of their natural resources and accelerate poverty reduction, said the Fund.
The trust fund’s donors are the European Union, Norway, Switzerland, Australia, the Netherlands, and Kuwait.
The work plan of the trust fund for the year starting from May 1 seeks a balance among geographic regions, as well as countries at different stages of resource development and income levels.
Complementing the technical assistance activities, the work plan also includes several research projects and workshops focused on economic governance in natural resource development for wide dissemination of expertise and best practice.
The steering committee unanimously appointed Norway, one of the leading donors of the trust fund, as the chair for the first year. "As donors in the steering committee, we have great expectations to this partnership, and believe it will enable us to respond to increasing needs from developing countries in strengthening their management of natural resources," Per Øyvind Bastøe, representing Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation (Norad), said.
"This is an important new development, greatly expanding our technical assistance activities in the vital area of natural resource wealth management," Carlo Cottarelli, director of the IMF’s Fiscal Affairs Department, said. "We appreciate the close engagement with donors at this inaugural Steering Committee meeting."
The multi-donor trust fund, one of several being set up to finance IMF technical assistance in critical fields, will provide about $25 million over five years from May 2011 to scale up technical assistance to 15–20 resource rich low-income and lower-middle income countries

Nepal ranks among extreme risk countries in Digital Divide report

Nepal ranks among the 'extreme risk' countries in the Digital Divide Report launched yesterday.
"Of the 39 countries rated at 'extreme risk', Nepal is one of them," according to the report that revealed that 29 countries were from sub-Saharan Africa.
The Digital Inclusion Index, released by risk analysis firm -- Maplecroft -- uses 10 indicators to calculate the level of digital inclusion found across 186 countries. These include numbers of mobile cellular and broadband subscriptions; fixed telephone lines; households with a PC and television; internet users and secure internet servers; internet bandwidth; secondary education enrolment; and adult literacy.
Sweden is among the countries with the best access to communications technologies, according to the report.
A Digital Inclusion Index compiled by British risk analysis firm MapleCroft put India in the 'extreme risk' category, meaning much of its population was shut out of the so-called 'digital revolution'.
India stood at 39 on the index, far behind Russia at 134, Brazil at 110 and China at 103, which were classified as being at 'medium risk' from lack of 'digital inclusion'.
"Digital inclusion has the potential to bring education to people in countries where educational infrastructure is limited and the development of cadres of teachers is still constrained," MapleCroft head Alyson Warhurst said.
Digital inclusion is also crucial in helping people take part in economic activities and improves democratic governance, Warhurst added.
The survey looked at 186 countries to identify those nations whose populations were being stifled by a lack of 'digital inclusion'. It used 10 indicators to assess to communications technology including mobile and broadband subscriptions.
Despite strong economic growth, the BRIC nations are still significantly outperformed by developed nations in the Digital Inclusion Index.
The countries with the best access to communications technologies were the Netherlands (186), Denmark (185), Luxembourg (184), Sweden (183) and the UK (182). Trends suggest that the BRICs nations may not lag behind for much longer however.
Of the BRICs nations, India (39) is the only country to be classified as ‘extreme risk’, meaning that the country’s population suffers from a severe lack of digital inclusion. China (103) Brazil (110) and Russia (134) are rated ‘medium risk’. Despite huge economic growth, the BRICs nations are still significantly outperformed by developed nations in the Digital Inclusion Index.
The BRICs have witnessed huge growth in demand for ICTs, which is currently driving global spending for the sector. China has the highest total number of internet users in the world (420 million), accounting for just over half of Asia’s internet users and is set to become the world’s largest ICT market, whilst India, Brazil and Russia have all seen huge expansion in demand and market size for ICT’s in recent years.
In India, for example, the wealthier, more affluent segment of the population, primarily based in urban areas, has embraced the use of modern communications technology. The growth of the middle classes in the country, which now sits at around 30 per cent of the population, has driven demand for consumer goods, including ICTs.
The vast majority of the population has, however, been excluded from this process, the report said, adding that most cannot afford ICTs (only three per cent of households own PCs), lack the education required to use it effectively (India has secondary school enrolment rates of 55 per cent and adult literacy rates of just under 63 per cent) and are located in geographical areas that have little or no connectivity to ICT services.