Monday, December 22, 2014

IFC, GMR Group partner for power projects to unlock hydro potential and promote growth

International Finance Corporation (IFC) – a member of the World Bank Group – has partnered with India’s GMR Group to develop the 900 MW Upper Karnali hydropower plant, and two transmission line projects in Nepal.
The projects will meet energy demands and create jobs in Nepal and the South Asia region.
The transmission projects will evacuate power from the Upper Karnali and 600 MW Upper Marsyangdi Hydropower projects in Nepal. IFC InfraVentures – a global infrastructure project development fund – is a co-developer of these projects. IFC will make investments for project development and help achieve financial closure for these projects, which have a total investment outlay of $1.7 billion. The Upper Karnali plant will create over 3,000 jobs and help reduce greenhouse gas emissions of nearly two million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent annually.
According to the joint development agreement, 12 per cent of the power generated from the Upper Karnali project will be provided free of cost to Nepal.
"This is the very first project for which the Project Development Agreement (PDA) was executed by the Investment Board,” said chief executive officer of Investment Board of Nepal Radhesh Pant. "IFC's expertise in the international financial markets brings complementarity and synergy to GMR's strengths in regional infrastructure," he said, adding that IFC's involvement will help the project achieve timely financial closure, construction, and operational milestones.
"IFC’s financing and global expertise in the hydro sector will help the projects become a game changer for Nepal’s hydropower sector and will attract international investors,” said group chairman of GMR Group G M Rao. "The development of these projects complements the initiatives taken by India and Nepal to establish high-capacity cross-border transmission links to facilitate power trading between the two countries," he added.
Nepal has significant hydropower potential but less than one per cent of it is developed. Only an estimated 46 per cent of the population has access to electricity. Over the last decade, demand for power in Nepal has grown at nine  per cent annually, while supply has not kept pace.
“Hydropower is a powerful engine for economic growth in Nepal,” said IFC director for Asia Pacific Vivek Pathak. "These projects will boost a common energy market in South Asia, create sustainable employment, improve quality of life, and provide reliable and clean energy for local industry," he added.
Nepal is a priority country for IFC.
Since 2008, IFC has been working closely with Nepal's private sector through investments and advisory services. IFC has been working in developing infrastructure, tourism, financial markets, transportation, and trade finance in the country. In recent years, IFC has also been assisting the government to make doing business easier.

Friday, December 12, 2014

After India, US and China compete to help Nepal

US and China are competing to help Nepal, after the southern neighbour India.
The US – under Millennium Challenge Corporation – is going to fund between $100 million and $600 million per project, whereas the northern neighbouris going to fund RMB 800 million, according to the Finance Ministry.
With the restoration of stability and improved economic prospects, the development partners are increasing their assistance to Nepal. In August, Southern neighbour India had also pledged $1 billion soft loan for Nepal.
The MCC selection is is also a message of Nepal’s shift from a conflict-ridden country to a stable one with a parliament and agencies for good governances that are active, and an image-booster in the global arena. The MCC assistance will not only directly channeled to the national budget, it will also help whitewash Nepal's image in the international community that its ready to development.
The US has decided to make Nepal eligible for its large-scale Compact Programme for investment, finance minister Dr Ram Sharan Mahat said, adding that the move has come due to improvement in various economic indicators and the country's progress in institutionalising democratic process.
The board of the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) – in its press note issued by the US Embassy in Kathmandu – stated that Nepal’s consistent strong performance on the MCC’s eligibility scorecards as well as its progress in institutionalising democratic progress.
The MCC Board meeting, held in Washington DC yesterday, selected Nepal for the US government’s multi-year agreements to fund specific programmes targeted at reducing poverty and stimulating economic growth.
Following the board’s selection of Nepal for the Compact Programme, MCC’s chief executive Dana J Hyde called Prime Minister Sushil Koirala and informed him about the board’s decision. Compact Programmes are multi-year agreements between the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) and a given country to fund specific programmes targeted at reducing poverty and stimulating economic growth.
"The government of Nepal has made great progress in establishing democratic institutions that are responsive to its citizens," Hyde was quoted in the US Embassy’s statement. "The decision provides an opportunity for US to deepen its bilateral relationship with Nepal and help improve the lives of Nepali people."
Premier Koirala, on the occasion, thanked Hyde for Nepal’s selection for the programme. He also thanked the US government for the assistance and its continuous support for the socio-economic development of Nepal.
Likewise, MCC vice-president Tom Kelly called finance minister Dr Ram Sharan Mahat on phone and informed the MCC decision to help Nepal.
Dr Mahat thanking the MCC informed him of the country's willingness to utilise the investment in the infrastructure, especially in hydropower and road transportation.
The Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) had selected Nepal for its threshold funding in December 2011 also but Nepal was yet to receive any grant under the funding, in the form of small-scale grants.
Earlier, a joint team of Nepal and the US had prepared a Growth Constraints Analysis report, along with a diagnosis of the constraints, for the MCC.
Joint Secretary at Finance Ministry Madhu Marasini said that Nepal has been directly chosen for the large-scale funding between $100 million and $600 million per project. “A team from US will visit Kathmandu in January and they, alongwith Nepali officials, will select projects in energy and road infrastructure, which are major growth constraints,” added Marasini, who is also chief of the International Economic Cooperation Coordination Division under Finance Ministry.
Along with Nepal, the MCC board has also selected Mongolia and the Philippines as eligible for new Compact Programme recipient countries, in addition to the previous 25 countries.
MCC is an innovative and independent US foreign assistance agency that is helping lead the fight against global poverty. It forms partnerships with some of the world’s poorest countries, but only those committed to good governance, economic freedom and investments in their citizens.
There are two primary types of MCC grants: Compacts and Threshold Programmes. Compacts are multi-year agreements between the Millennium Challenge Corporation and a country to fund specific programmes targeted at reducing poverty and stimulating economic growth. Threshold Programmes are smaller-scale grants awarded to countries that may not qualify for compact funding but are firmly committed to improving policy performance.
Likewise, China has also pledged to increase grant assistance for Nepal by over 400 per cent in the next fiscal year 2015-16. "China is providing a grant of around RMB 800 million (approximately Rs 12.93 billion) in the fiscal year 2015-16," said finance secretary Suman Prasad Sharma, who is visiting China next week to sign the agreement. "China has committed an assistance of RMB 150 million for the current fiscal year 2014-15."
A team led by Sharma is leaving for China on Monday to take part in Inter-governmental Economic and Technical Committee meeting. The meeting that is being held after seven years, is scheduled for Wednesday and Thursday, will discuss issues related to trade, investment and foreign assistance.
The country has received  Rs 84.34 billion foreign aid commitment – Rs 10.96 billion more than what the country received in the last fiscal year – in the first quarter of the current fiscal year.
Nepal has, however, received foreign cash loans of Rs 1.99 billion and foreign cash grant of Rs 3.34 billion in the first three-month between mid-July and mid-October, in terms of actual flow, the central bank data revealed.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Nepal third most corrupt country in South Asia: Transparency International

Nepal has slipped down from last year's rank – to become third most corrupt country in the South Asia – in the Corruption Perception Index (CPI) 2014 published by Transparency International, today.
Nepal has been ranked 126th this year with 29 score out of 100 among 175 countries, according to the Transparency International. The country was ranked 116th position in 2013 with a score of 31 among the 177 countries.
Bhutan – ranked 30th – maintained its clean image and succeeded in remaining on top among South Asian countries with 65 points. Last year, Bhutan – with 63 points – was ranked 31st among 177 countries.
Likewise, Bhutan has emerged as the least corrupt nation in South Asia securing 65 score behind India (rank 85) and Sri Lanka (rank 85) scoring 38 each. Afghanistan improved its score – by 4 points – this year, but it has remained on bottom among the South Asian countries.
The 20th edition of the Corruption Perception Index ranked Bangladesh at 145th and Pakistan at 126th position.
The  Corruption Perception Index scores countries on a scale of zero to 100, with zero indicating high levels of corruption and 100, very clean.
More than two thirds of the 175 countries in the 2014 Corruption Perception Index have scored below 50, according to the Transparancy International that has placed Denmark on top of the chart with a score of 92, whereas North Korea and Somalia share last place, scoring just eight.
"The 2014 Corruption Perceptions Index shows that economic growth is undermined and efforts to stop corruption fade when leaders and high level officials abuse power to appropriate public funds for personal gain,” said chair of Transparency International José Ugaz, in his statement.
The fight against corruption has been a big challenge to developing countries, including Nepal, over the years, said chair of Transparency International Nepal Chapter Bharat Bahadur Thapa, releasing the Transparency International report in the capital today.
"We urge the government and other stakeholders to take initiatives to control corruption," he said, adding that the country has failed to control corruption since it was listed in the Corruption Perceptions Index some 11 years ago. "The report covers not only the corruption in public sector but also in the private sectors."
He also regretted that stakeholders including the government never took the Transparecny report seriously.
The Nepal report is based on the separate surveys conducted by five international organisations, Bertelsmann Foundation, World Bank, World Economic Forum, Global Justice Project and Global Insight.
Bertelsmann Foundation conducted the survey on action against those abusing authority, World Bank conducted survey on status of accountability and corruption status, World Economic Forum carried out survey on paying bribes to get professional and public services, whereas Global Justice Project surveyed on the abuse of authority by the government, judiciary and lawmakers for fulfilling vested interests. Likewise, the Global Insight had come out with survey on the impact of corruption in business sector.

South Asian countries – Rank
Bhutan – 30
India, Sri Lanka – 85
Nepal, Pakistan – 126
Bangladesh – 145
Afghanistan – 172

Thursday, November 27, 2014

SAARC nations ink power deal opening regional trade

South Asian countries today signed a last-minute deal to trade electricity among themselves opening opportunities for development of hydropower projects in Nepal.
Before the SAARC summit concluded here in Kathmandu, foreign ministers of all the eight countries signed the SAARC Framework Agreement on Energy Cooperation and Electricity Trade that will boost the investment and trade, apart from a greater regional connectivity.
The deal will also ensure electricity trading through grid connectivity.
Howver, the eight countries failed to sign two pacts – one on motor vehicle and another on railways – that could have increased intra-regional connectivity to fuel trade in the South Asia.
SAARC Energy Center – based in Islamabad of Pakistan had long been doing groundwork – and SAARC energy ministers had finalised the draft framework agreement at a meeting in New Delhi on October 16-17.
The framework provisions South Asian governments to enable their agencies for grid connectivity, policy harmonisation and trading as well as facilitating the supply of electricity to power-deficit cities
The framework agreement comes into effect from today.
After the signing of the agreement of the concluding session, SAARC chair and Prime Minister Sushil Koirala announced that the two pacts which will boost connectivity and encourage people-to-people contact and movement of goods will be approved within three months.
At the end of the two-day 18th SAARC summit – which took place after three years, a 'Kathmandu Declaration' was also adopted. The 'Kathmandu Declaration' recognised that after nearly 30 years of its existence, it was time to "reinvigorate' SAARC's regional cooperation and 'revitalise' the bloc as an effective vehicle to fulfill the developmental aspirations of the people in the region.
The summit declaration also identified trade as a key area with leaders renewing their commitment to achieve South Asian Economic Union in a phase-wise and planned manner through a free trade area, a customs union, a common market, and a common economic and monetary union.
The declaration said the leaders unequivocally condemned terrorism and violent extremism in all its forms and manifestations and underlined the need for effective cooperation among the member states to combat them. The SAARC leaders also directed respective authorities to ensure full and effective implementation of the SAARC Regional Convention on Suppression of Terrorism.
Koirala also declared that the 19th SAARC Summit will be held in Islamabad of Pakistan in 2016.
The SAARC member countries – Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka – host the summit alphabetically every year, though it has been held in three years this time. The two-day SAARC Summit – started yesterday – was attended by Presidents of Afghanistan, Sri Lanka, the Maldives, and Prime Ministers of India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal and Bhutan.

Nepal to benefit
KATHMANDU: Nepal will benefit from the energy agreements among the SAARC nations. Currently, some Indian companies are giving special interest to invest in the energy sector in Nepal, but Bangladesh has also shown in joint investment in hydropower in Nepal to meet its increasing energy demand.
Investment Board of Nepal has recently signed agreements of 900-MW each Upper Karnali and Arun III hydropower projects.
According to the agreements, Nepal will get 306-MW power free of cost. Nepal will also get free shares of the Upper Karnali and Arun-III. The Arun III is going to Rs 1 billion worth shares to locals, while the country will get 27 per cent share of the Upper Karnali.
Likewise, the government is planning to invest Rs 100 billion soft loan from India in Budhigandaki Hydropower.
These projects will not only help Nepal reduce ballooning trade deficit with India, but also help meet rising energy demand in India.
Currently, India has been providing electricity to Bangladesh. India has also promised Pakistan and Afghanistan to provide 1,000 MW each soon. However, India is a net buyer of power from Bhutan, currently, as India has already signed bilateral energy trading agreements with Bangladesh and Bhutan.
September's Nepal-India Power Trade Agreement (PTA) has opened door to sell the electricity produced in Nepal to Bangladesh. But the SAARC framework agreement has expanded the opportunity to regional level.
Similarly, World bank is helping construction of Dhalkebar-Muzaffarpur Transmission Line that will help cross border connectivity. Some 1,400 MW of power can be exported and imported through the transmission line.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

South Asia lags behind despite huge potential

Despite huge potential, South Asia lagged behind compared to other regional groups, according to the experts.
There is immense economic potential in the region," vice chair of National Planning Commission Prof Dr Govind Raj Pokhrel said addressing a two-day regional consultation on 'Deepening Economic Cooperation in South Asia: Expectations from the 18th SAARC Summit' here in Kathmandu today.
Stressing on improving trade facilitation to boost intra-regional trade, he also highlighted on the potential of regional energy cooperation. The recent efforts of the government to promote energy cooperation with India are indication in the right direction, which could further facilitate regional energy cooperation, he added.
The programme – being organised as a side-event to the 18th SAARC Summit to provide useful recommendations to deepen economic cooperation in South Asia – was organised by South Asia Watch on Trade, Economics and Environment (SAWTEE), National Planning Commission and Federation of Nepalese Chamber of Commerce and Industry (FNCCI), in collaboration with
German Cooperation for Development (GIZ), CUTS International, India Council for Research on International Economic Relations (ICRIER), and Friedrich Eburt Stiftung.
President of FNCCI Pradeep Jung Pandey, on the occasion, provided an account of the barriers faced by the business community in conducting trade within South Asia. He also stressed the need to go beyond trade in goods and also look as how to exploit the untapped potential of the services sector.
More important he pointed out the need for greater economic as well as people-to-people connectivity in the region, and argued that normalised trade relation between India and Pakistan is necessary for South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) to move forward.
Inaugurating the programme, chief guest and minister of Foreign Affairs Mahendra Bahadur Pandey said that SAARC has long dreamed of deeper regional cooperation for economic growth and prosperity and has also undertaken initiatives to facilitate trade and investment, and improve regional connectivity. "However, several constraints like financial and investment-related, largely affect the efficient implementation of trade and transport facilitation measures," he added.
Expressing hope that SAARC would undertake necessary steps to promote intra-regional investments and attract foreign direct investments (FDIs), Pandey said that through the effective implementation of the SAARC Agreement on Trade in Services (SATIS), SAARC could see higher growth in the services sector.
Most countries in the region have failed to meet the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), he said, emphasising that the SAARC Development Goals (SDG) should be aligned with the Sustainable Development Goals in line with the post-2015 development agenda.
He also highlighted the necessity to take mitigation and adaptive measures to address the threat of climate change, which is going to impact, among others, food security of the region.
Strengthening of regional cooperation on this front is essential, he said, expressing hope that the 18th SAARC Summit would be able to send across a strong message that SAARC leaders are ready to revitalise and implement all past initiatives undertaken by SAARC to deepen regional integration.
Likewise, an independent analyst from India Major General (Retd) Ashok Mehta, on the occasion, rightly highlighted the role of track-II approach in moving forward relevant issues to track-I. He spoke about the Kathmandu Declaration signed at the 3rd SAARC Summit, and how SAARC went against its original Charter to address the issue of peacekeeping, which was viewed as a security issue and was thus beyond SAARC mandate.
He also advocated for a collective regional stance on peacekeeping issues at the UN, through the formation of a regional consultative mechanism to discuss the issue at the political, academic and field level. "It would pave the way for enhanced economic cooperation," he added.
Despite the existence of SAARC, progress in deepening regional integration has been frustratingly slow and gains have only been modest, said executive chairman of SAWTEE Dr Posh Raj Pandey speaking as the chair of inaugural session.
Therefore, what is needed to move SAARC forward is political will and sincere commitments at the highest level, he said, adding that informal trade in the region being substantially higher than formal trade is testimony of policy-induced trade barriers, which need to be overcome to make SAARC a truly economically integrated region.
Importantly, he stressed the need to reinvent the regional development paradigm with inclusiveness.
Earlier, executive director of SAWTEE Dr Hiramani Ghimire welcoming the participants said that the regional consultation is an opportunity to discuss what can realistically be done to enhance economic cooperation in South Asia, and provide recommendations for the 18th SAARC Summit.
The two-day discussion will see more than 60 participants, including researchers, policy makers, private sector representatives and media from different South Asian countries are participating in the regional consultation.
They will brain-storm on issues like trade and transport facilitation, and transit; non-tariff barriers; trade, gender and technology transfer; India-Pakistan trade relations; intra-regional investment cooperation; and regional cooperation for energy security.

Friday, November 14, 2014

ADB, Norway to help Nepal overcome crippling power shortage

Norway has pledged a grant of 360 million Norwegian kroner ($60 million) for power sector to be spent under the Sub-Regional Economic Cooperation (SASEC) Power Expansion Project.
The project’s lead donor, the Asian Development Bank (ADB), will administer the Norwegian aid.
The project aims at increasing electricity access and help overcome power shortages in Nepal besides exporting surplus power to neighbouring India by strengthening and increasing the power transmission capacity and network in the country. It is by far the largest single project support by Norway to the energy sector of Nepal, according to the ADB.
The ADB and Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs signed a co-financing agreement today.
Joint secretary of the Finance Ministry Madhu Kumar Marasini and ADB country director Kenichi Yokoyama signed the grant agreement in the presence of Norwegian ambassador Pettersen at the Finance Ministry, here today.
"We believe that the project will leverage private sector investment and extend access to energy services in Nepal," said Norwegian Ambassador to Nepal Kjell Tormod Pettersen during the signing of the co-financing agreement with ADB.
"It is in line with the Norwegian development policy on energy," he said, adding that there is also a clear focus on immediate poverty reduction in the project as it supports the extension of electricity distribution lines to more than 70,000 households in the transmission corridor.
"With several new hydropower projects coming on board in the next few years, the project is crucial in developing a robust and reliable transmission network allowing transfer of power to the main load centres for domestic needs as well as giving Nepal the ability to export at least 1,200 MW of electricity to India,” said Marasini, on the occasion.
"Access to electricity is vital for Nepal’s all round development," said ADB’s country director for Nepal Kenichi Yokoyama.
"The project – a priority initiative of SASEC – will help Nepal Electricity Authority (NEA) to substantially upgrade and expand transmission and distribution lines and substations," he said, adding that it will also help Alternative  Energy Promotion Centre (AEPC) to provide electricity to rural communities with mini grid renewable energy systems.
The SASEC Power System Expansion project is expected to be completed by December 31, 2021. The renewable energy portion of the SASEC Power System Expansion project will be implemented by the AEPC and the components related to power transmission and distribution network improvement activities are to be implemented by NEA.
The grant from Norway will complement a $180 million loan from the ADB’s concessional resources of the Asian Development Fund, a loan of $120 million from the European Investment Bank, and a $11.2 million grant from the ADB-administered Strategic Climate Fund.
The project aims at increasing the mini grid-based renewable energy systems in off-grid areas and improve the management capacity of the NEA and the AEPC.
Under the power transmission and distribution capacity development component, approximately 45 km of 400 kV transmission lines and 192 km of 220 kV transmission lines along the Kali Gandaki Corridor and the Marsyangdi-Kathmandu route will be constructed.
Likewise, grid substations will be constructed, augmented and replaced in various parts of the country.
The project will strive to achieve cent per cent electrification by assisting connection to marginalised households in the new distribution corridors.

Friday, November 7, 2014

Nepal re-positions itself at the global tourism map, receives Best in Travel 2015

The world's famous travel publisher – Lonely Planet – awarded Nepal 'Best in Travel 2015' award at World Travel Market 2014 (WTM 2014) today.
Khumbu Region of Nepal has been awarded as one of the top 10 regions to travel by Lonely Planet under Best in Travel 2015 category.
The four-day long global travel and tourism exchange platform – WTM 2014 – concluded in London yesterday.
World Travel Market is the leading global event for the travel industry which caters top travel trade companies and government tourism organisations from around the world for promoting business and exchange new ideas and travel trend.
 This year Nepal’s stand at the World Travel Market 2014 was designed based on Nepali pagoda style temple having intricate wooden carvings festooned with prayer flags around the stall showcasing its nature and cultural products.
The visitors asked about nature, culture, adventure at the Nepal stall.
Nepali delegation – led by minister for Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation Deepak Chandra Amatya – had joint secretary at the ministry Sadhu Ram Sapkota along with senior officials of Nepal Tourism Board and 12 travel trade companies.
Meanwhile, minister Amatya also attended UNWTO and World Travel Market Ministers' Summit at the World Travel Market 2014.
Participants at the UNWTO and World Travel Market Ministers' Summit stressed that 'immense synergies' between mega-events as tourism should be used to generate long-term benefits for the destinations and its people.
Speaking at the opening the Summit, UNWTO secretary general Taleb Rifai stressed on infrastructure development, investment, job-creation, involvement of local community for organising mega events.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Khumbu one of the Lonely Planet’s 10 best regions to explore in 2015

Lonely Planet ranked Khumbu region – also known as the Mt Everest region – among the 10 best regions to explore in 2015.
The Australia-based world’s largest travel guide publisher, cautioning the would-be visitors about recent mishaps in Nepal, has placed Nepal in the sixth spot after Gallipoli in Turkey, Rocky Mountain National Park in the US, Toledo in Belize, Tasmania in Australia and Norway Arctic in Norway.
"Mt Everest was a classic journey following in the footsteps of Tenzing and Hillary into the planet’s most jaw-dropping mountain arena, home to the world’s highest peak," it wrote, adding that trekkers are rediscovering the region’s remoter trails, with Nepal’s Maoist uprising firmly behind it. "We don’t really need to sell one on the mountain glories of the Khumbu region; just a whisper of the word ‘Everest’ and everyone in the room snaps to attention."
The travel guide publisher has also asked to try the high-altitude Three Passes trek or adventurous Mera Peak expedition. "And since 2015 marks a half-century since Major Jimmy Roberts organised the first commercial trek in Nepal, it might be time to dust off those trekking boots,” the guide book further said, suggesting to tread the old-school approach routes to Mt Everest from Jiri and Tumlingtar, along parts of the 1,700-km-long Great Himalaya Trail, if one wants something more authentic. "Already popular, the trails to Mt Everest are only going to get busier in future seasons."
Why trek to Everest, Lonely Planet elaborates, "Well, as Mallory famously quipped, ‘Because it’s there’."
This month’s tragic events in Annapurna region, which killed dozens of trekkers have pushed mountain safety to the top of the agenda. "Extreme weather can occur in the Himalaya at any time, and it is essential to monitor local weather conditions and seek shelter if conditions deteriorate," it suggested, asking the trekkers to be properly equipped – on any trek – and "inform people of where you are going and when you will be back, and seek local advice as you trek.”
Fans of the bizarre will want to hike up to Khumjung Monastery to get a peek at its yeti scalp," it said, adding, "nearby Pangboche Monastery had its famous yeti hand stolen in 1991, but a replica is now on display."
With 60 flights daily at the Lukla airport – the airport at the highest part of the world – in the peak season and 200 people queuing up to attempt Mt Everest on a good day, overcrowding on the trails is an ever-pressing issue. The crowd has also increased waste dumped around. Finding a sustainable way to deal with the waste produced by so many trekkers and porters in such a remote region is a complex problem, though solar-powered technology is making a difference in many trekking lodges, it added.
However, each Mt Everest climber is required to carry eight-kg of waste off the mountain – to clean the garbage – from this year. "Likewise, air safety in Nepal is yet another concern, after air crashes in 2010, 2011 and 2012 killed dozens of trekkers and Nepali staff en route to or from the region," it added.
The Mt Everest region receives around 36,000 trekkers and mountaineers annually. Many of the lodges one stays in will be run by retired summiteers, and most families have at least one member employed as a climbing porter or trekking guide," Lonely Planet wrote.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Tribhuvan International Airport among the world's worst airports

Tribhuvan International Airport in Kathmandu is one of the world's worst airports, according to an international survey.
Pakistan's Islamabad Benazir Bhutto International is the worst international airports, followed by Jeddah's King Abdulaziz International and Nepal's Tribhuvan International Airport, according to The Guide to Sleeping in Airports, a travel website that produces an annual survey to identify the world's worst and best aviation terminals.
No wonder the only international airport in Nepal is being listed as one of the worst international airports as the airport lacks basic facilities. The government's plan to upgrade the airport has also not taken momentum due to prolonged political transition and red tape in the bureaucracy.
After being crowned worst three years in a row, Manila's Ninoy Aquino International Airport has this year lost its place at the bottom of the heap to Pakistan's Benazir Bhutto International Airport in Islamabad. It's now climbed to the heady position of fourth worst.
Despite the website's name, airports weren't just rated according to how easy it is to catch some shuteye. Readers were also asked to judge facilities in four categories: comfort, conveniences, cleanliness and customer service.
Airport officials didn't reply to CNN's requests for a comment, but survey respondents were less than complimentary, the survey quoted respondents, adding that the Benazir Bhutto International Airport is [like] a central prison.
The survey ranked Saudi Arabia's busiest airport.
Manila's climb to fourth follows what many respondents said was a 'slight improvement' created by the recent opening of its Terminal 3.
Three European airports frequented by low-cost carriers were next in line.
Paris Beauvais-Tille International Airport and 'not-in-Frankfurt' Frankfurt Hahn International Airport tied for sixth. Bergamo Orio al Serio International Airport near Milan was listed as eighth worst.
Likewise, New York City's LaGuardia International Airport, ranked 10th, was the only US entry to make top 10 list.
Singapore's Changi International took the title for being the best airport as usual since the survey began 18 years ago. Its success is credited to the spa, pool, gym, four-story slide and movie theaters that make the airport a destination in itself, the survey added.
Offering almost as many cool perks as its Singapore counterpart, South Korean's Seoul Incheon International was named second best.
Amsterdam Schiphol and Hong Kong International Airport (last year's third and fourth best airports) dropped out from the top five to ninth and seventh spots, respectively.
Helsinki International Airport, Munich International Airport and Vancouver International Airport wrapped up the top five.

Worst Airports of 2014
1. Benazir Bhutto International Airport, Islamabad, Pakistan
2. King Abdulaziz International Airport, Jeddah, Saudi Arabia
3. Tribhuvan International Airport, Kathmandu, Nepal
4. Manila Ninoy Aquino International Airport, Philippines
5. Tashkent International Airport, Uzbekistan
6. Paris Beauvais-Tille Airport, France
6. Frankfurt Hahn Airport, Germany
8. Bergamo Orio al Serio Airport, Italy
9. Tegel Airport, Berlin, Germany
10. LaGuardia Airport, New York City

Best Airports of 2014
1. Changi Airport, Singapore
2. Incheon International Airport, South Korea
3. Helsinki Airport, Finland
4. Munich Airport, Germany
5. Vancouver International Airport, Canada
6. Kuala Lumpur International Airport, Malaysia
7. Hong Kong International Airport, Hong Kong
8. Tokyo Haneda International Airport, Japan
9. Schiphol Amsterdam Airport, Netherlands
10. Zurich Airport, Switzerland

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Investment Board to approve Rs 25 billion cement factory

Investment Board of Nepal is going to approve Rs 25 billion cement factory.
The board meeting after the Tihar festival is going to approve India's Reliance Industries' Rs 25 billion cement factory for foreign direct investment, informed external affairs head of the board Ghanashyam Ojha.
The board – chaired by the Prime Minister Sushil Koirala – has received the proposal from the Reliance Industries that is owned by India's Ambani group, he said, adding that the company is planning to set up the cement factory in either the central region or the eastern region of the country. "The Department of Mines and Geology has already given its permission to the factory in mid-July."
The approval got delayed due to the board's busy schedule with the project development agreement (PDA) on Upper Karnali Hydropower Project with another Indian firm GMR.
After the board's approval – post Tihar festival that ends on October 25 – Reliance will conduct environmental impact assessment (EIA). The company will then submit the EIA report to the board, through Ministry of Environment.
After the clearance of the EIA from the board, Reliance will start the work to set up the factory, Ojha added.
Reliance has, however, demanded that the government provide 60 MW of uninterrupted supply of electricity to the factory, he said, adding that the company has demanded that it should be provided subsidy in the import of coal or other fuel for generating electricity, in case the government is unable to provide uninterrupted supply of electricity.
More cement companies both domestic and foreign investment are coming up lately as the demand for cement has increased due to construction of big infrastructure projects including hydropower projects lately.
The government – to encourage the cement industries – promised to provide access road and electricity to new cement factories. According to Trade and Exports Promotion Center (TEPC), import of cement has gone down by 19.2 per cent to Rs 3.18 billion in the fiscal year 2013-14 compared to a fiscal year ago in 2012-13, when the country saw Rs 3.94 billion worth cement import. But the country has seen rise in import of clinker as most of the domestic cement factories are dependent on imported raw material for cement that is clinker. Only few of the cement factories rely on domestic mines and majority of them have been importing clinkers.
According to central bank, in the fiscal year 2013-14, the country imported Rs 9.71 billion worth cement and clinkers that is some three per cent higher than that of a fiscal year ago in 2012-13, when the country imported Rs 9.42 billion worth cement and clinkers.

TAAN rescues 77 trekkers from Manang district

A team of Trekking Agencies’ Association of Nepal (TAAN) rescued some 77 trekkers from different parts of Manang district today.
"Of the total rescued trekkers, some 17 were Israelis, 29 Nepali support staff, five Indonesians, 10 Germans, five Spanish, four Indians, three Canadians, two Russians, and two Polish, said the association that had deployed two choppers – AS 350 B3 and MI 17 – for rescue works.
Likewise, rescue workers have recovered 10 bodies from Phu and Kangla area of Manang district.
The association had sent rescue team from land route in the Mustang side of Thorang La Pass. The team brought down five bodies – two Nepalis, two Israelis and one Polish - today. Similarly, one more body has been brought down to Jomsom. They have not been identified yet.
With today's deceased, the total number of death toll in Mustang side has reached 10. Rescue teams had recovered four bodies yesterday.
Rescue team of Nepal Army has told us that there are eight bodies near Doomcamp below Thorong Pass, second vice president of TAAN Pokhara Chapter Hari Bhujel, said from Mustang. "We will bring them down tomorrow."
According to Mustang chief district officer Baburam Adhikari, 64 trekkers from different countries, including Nepali support staff, were rescued from Mustang yesterday.
The association's executive members Ang Pemba Sherpa and Pasang Tendi Sherpa were in the rescue team, whereas TAAN president Ramesh Prasad Dhamala oversaw rescue works in Manang.
Coordinator of TAAN’s Rescue Department Keshav Pandey coordinated the rescue works from Pokhara. Likewise, first vice president Kami Rinji Sherpa, general secretary Sagar Pandey and treasurer Gopal Babu Shrestha were at TAAN Secretariat to coordinate the rescue works, while executive member Vidya Hirachan was at Tribhuvan International Airport (TIA) to facilitate the operation.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Nepal still one of the least economically free countries in the world

Nepal is still one of the least economically free countries in the world, according to an international report.
Nepal continues to be one of the least economically free countries ranking 126 out of 152 countries with an overall score of 6.16, which is slightly lower than last year's score, the annual Economic Freedom of the World report 2014 revealed. Nepal ranked 125 with a score of 6.19 last year.
The report released today in Brussels concluded that Nepal's scores reveal weaknesses in Legal System and Property Rights, Labour Market Regulations and Regulatory regime for trade and business.
The report measures the economic freedom – including levels of personal choice, ability to enter markets, security of privately owned property, and rule of law – by analysing the policies and institutions of 152 countries.
Lower level of economic freedom could be attributed as a reason behind's Nepal's inability to catch up with other developing nations which are experiencing higher levels of economic growth owing to reforms that make it easier to trade and do business.
The peer-reviewed report that uses the data of two years back is released annually. Therefore, the 2014 report provides ratings for the year 2012, the most recent year for which comprehensive data is available.
Nepal showed mixed performance in regards to all the five measured areas of economic freedom in the 2014 report. Though its ranking and scores in some of the areas have improved, Nepal’s overall performance in terms of economic freedom continues to be low.
Nepal scored less in two of the five key areas of economic freedom. Under size of government Nepal's score decreased from 7.6 in the previous year to 7.4 this year. Likewise, under regulation of credit, labour and business, the country's score slightly decreased from 6.5 in previous year to 6.4 this year.
However, under legal structures and security of property rights, the score remained unchanged at 4.2, and freedom to trade internationally, the score unchanged at 6.4, whereas under access to sound money, the score increased slightly from 6.3 in the previous year to 6.4 this year, the report added. "The score is awarded from 1 to 10, where a higher value indicates a higher level of economic freedom and a higher ranking."
The Fraser Institute – Canada's top ranked think tank – produces the annual Economic Freedom of the World report in cooperation with the Economic Freedom Network, a group of independent research and educational institutes in nearly 90 nations and territories.
The Economic Freedom of the World Report uses 42 variables to construct a summary index and measure the degree of economic freedom of countries around the world. The cornerstones of economic freedom are personal choice, voluntary exchange, freedom to compete, and security of private property. Economic freedom is measured in five different areas: (1) size of government, (2) legal structure and security of property rights, (3) access to sound money, (4) freedom to trade internationally, and (5) regulation of credit, labour, and business.
According to the report, Hong Kong, once again, is the most economically free jurisdiction in the world followed by Singapore, New Zealand, Switzerland, Mauritius, United Arab Emirates, Canada, Australia, Jordan and (tied for 10th) Chile and Finland.
Likewise, the report, based on 2012 statistics (the most recent year of available data), the US that was once considered a bastion of economic freedom now ranks 12th in the world, tied with the UK, whereas Japan (23rd), Germany (28th), Russia (98th), India (110th) and China (115th) are some of the economically free countries.
However, the 10 lowest-ranked countries are Myanmar, Democratic Republic of Congo, Burundi, Chad, Iran, Algeria, Argentina, Zimbabwe, Republic of Congo and Venezuela, which retains the title of the world’s least economically free country.
Some despotic countries such as North Korea and Cuba could not be ranked due to lack of data.
Globally, the average economic freedom score dropped slightly to 6.84 out of 10 from 6.87 last year.
Like previous years, Samriddhi Foundation – one of the co-publishers of the report – has released the report in Nepal this year. The report demonstrates a strong link between economic freedom and prosperity whereby the most economically free countries have shown to offer the highest quality of life and personal freedoms.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Investment Board of Nepal, GMR sign PDA for Upper Karnali

Investment Board of Nepal and Indian company Grandhi Mallikarjuna Rao (GMR) Energy today signed Project Development Agreement (PDA) for construction of the $1.5 billion Upper Karnali Hydropower Project in western Nepal.
Investment Board of Nepal chief executive officer Radhesh Pant, president of Hydro Energy Business Unit of GMR RV Seshan and Nepal chief Harvinder Manocha signed the agreement after six years of signing of memorandum of understanding between Nepal government and India’s GMR-ITD Consortium.
The Project Development Agreement is expected to open a door for the Indian company to move ahead for financial close and construction of the 900 megawatt Upper Karnali Hydropower Project.
According to the PDA, Nepal will get 27 per cent free equity and 12 per cent (108 MW) free electricity from the project. Likewise, the agreement also ensured handover of the project, along with the 100-km transmission line, to the government after 25 years of operation.
GMR is planning to sell the remaining 88 per cent energy to India, Bangladesh and Nepal. However, the price will depend on the final project cost and the situation of demand and supply in the market on completion of the 900 MW hydel project.
Likewise, GMR will also construct a 2-MW project that will supply electricity round the year to locals. More than 2,000 people are expected to get employment opportunity from the project estimated to cost Rs 145 billion.
The project will bring road connectivity, hospital, technical school and bridge in the district.
Prime Minister Sushil Koirala, some of his cabinet colleagues, senior government officials, visiting Indian home minister Rajnath Singh and ambassador to Nepal Ranjit Rae were present at the signing ceremony at Singha Durbar in Kathmandu, on the occasion.
The agreement will be implemented with immediate effect, said deputy prime minister and home minister Bam Dev Gautam, after signing of the agreement.
"The agreement has opened the door for developing other large hydropower projects in Nepal," he added.
Likewise, wishing timely completion of the project visiting Indian home minister Singh termed the agreement a 'historic' one. "I believe this is the single biggest foreign investment in the history of Nepal," he said, adding that the success of GMR in Nepal will ensure credibility of both the company and India both.
The Investment Board of Nepal had been working hard on PDA negotiation with GMR since last June. But according to Pant, serious negotiations actually began last September. "Today's PDA agreement is the outcome of several rounds of discussions with stakeholders and has addressed issues raised by them," he said, adding that the board has prepared the PDA document according to the international norms and standards and good practices. Pant also said Nepal can buy energy at competitive market rates from the export-oriented project.
"GMR Group will mobilise 25 per cent equity capital while the remaining 75 per cent will be raised from international lenders including International Finance Corporation (IFC)," Seshan said, after signing the agreement.
There will not be any problem in raising prerequisite equity and debt capital to execute the project,” he said, adding that the GMR was confident of completing the financial closure within two years, according to the PDA. "We will implement the project within the next five years."
However, construction of re-regulating dam by GMR is yet to be finalised.
"The decision will be taken based on the consultation with Nepal government once the joint study team submits its report,” Seshan added.
According to the PDA, the Indian developer will have to build the re-regulating dam on its own, if the study report shows Upper Karnali will impact water flow for downstream irrigation project. Construction of the re-regulating dam was suggested by an independent study team has been included in the PDA document after experts and Irrigation Ministry drew attention to the matter, saying the hydropower project would affect irrigation projects.
Likewise, planning commission vice chair Dr Govind Raj Pokharel, who led the technical team to study the PDA, hoped that the PDA signing would be a first step towards the prosperity of Nepal. "It will also send message of an improved investment climate in the country," he added.
The Cabinet has approved the PDA yesterday after the Investment Board of Nepal approved the amended PDA draft a day ago on Thursday.
The government yesterday also formed a high-level task force led by Dr Pokharel for the implementation of the project that is planned to be generate power by 2021. The panel will help address problems arising during project development.
The 900-MW Upper Karnali Hydro Power project – located on Karnali river in the Surkhet, Dailekh and Achham districts – was awarded to the GMR Group through an International competitive bidding process in 2008 on BOOT model.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

US summit highlights new approaches, fundsup to $70 million to build a more resilient Nepal

The US Mission in Nepal, through the US Agency for International Development (USAID), today announced – during a Resilience Summit organised in the valley – three new programmes with up to $70 million in funds that will help communities more quickly recover from natural disasters and other stressors.
The Summit brought together government officials and development experts to look for new models to solve complex and interrelated challenges such as extreme poverty, food security, and climate shocks. Working under the leadership of the Nepal government, the US government aims at saving and improving more lives, building inclusive economic growth, and decreasing the need for humanitarian assistance.
"Resilience is essential if we are to win the fight against poverty," US ambassador Peter Bodde, shared addressing the Summit. "We know we cannot prevent floods and landslides, but we can work much harder and more strategically to ensure these shocks don’t devastate families or set back hard-won development gains," he added.
"The government sees resilience as a vital framework to help alleviate poverty and promote more sustainable development, lessening the impacts of disasters," said chief guest at the Resilience Summit, vice chair of National Planning Commission Dr GovindaPokhrel. "That will take creativity, innovation, and cross-sectoral partnerships, and we are pleased that USAID is highlighting this most important priority."

The envoy announced three resilience projects –  community resilience programme, early warning flooding system, and science and technolocy competition for resilience – at the summit to help Nepal.

Up to $70 million Community Resilience Programme is an integration in disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation into USAID’s food and nutrition security efforts in Nepal. "A quarter of Nepal’s population lives below the international poverty line of $1.25-per-day, and the programme will benefit an estimated five million of the most vulnerable in hilly regions," Bodde said.
Under the $500,000 Innovative Early Warning Flooding System, the USAID’s Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance will fund an early warning system to help protect communities in the Eastern region from flooding, he said, adding that the project will install gauges along flood-prone rivers and share real-time data with district authorities using SMS and email. "It will help save lives in the event of flood."
Likewise, a $100,000 Science and Technology Competition for Resilience programme is a call for bold and innovative solutions to 'building sustainable food security' in Nepal. "The Competition opens on September 4, and will be open to individuals, non-profits, academic institutions, and the private sector, with a focus on districts primarily in the Mid- and Far-West regions of the country," Bodde added.