Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Asian infrastructure needs exceed $1.7t per year: ADB

Infrastructure needs in developing Asia and the Pacific will exceed $22.6 trillion through 2030 – or $1.5 trillion per year – if the region is to maintain growth momentum, according to a new flagship report by the Asian Development Bank (ADB) published today.
"The estimates rise to over $26 trillion – or $1.7 trillion per year – when climate change mitigation and adaptation costs are incorporated,” reads the report, 'Meeting Asia's Infrastructure Needs', that focuses on the region's power, transport, telecommunications, and water and sanitation infrastructure. It comprehensively examines current infrastructure stocks and investments, future investment needs, and financing mechanisms for developing Asia.
"The demand for infrastructure across Asia and the Pacific far outstrips current supply," said ADB president Takehiko Nakao. "Asia needs new and upgraded infrastructure that will set the standard for quality, encourage economic growth, and respond to the pressing global challenge that is climate change."
Infrastructure development in the 45 countries covered in the report has grown dramatically in recent decades, spurring growth, reducing poverty, and improving people's lives. “But a substantial infrastructure gap remains, with over 400 million people still lacking electricity, 300 million without access to safe drinking water, and about 1.5 billion lacking access to basic sanitation,” the report reads, adding that many economies in the region lack adequate ports, railways, and roads that could connect them efficiently to larger domestic and global markets.
Nakao said that ADB pledges to work with member countries and use our 50 years of experience and expertise to meet infrastructure needs in the region. "As the private sector is crucial to fill infrastructure gaps, ADB will promote investment friendly policies and regulatory and institutional reforms to develop bankable project pipelines for public-private partnerships.”
In Nepal too, the ADB is helping set up Public Private Partnership (PPP) Centre at the National Planning Commission (NPC) to encourage the private sector in infrastructure construction.
Established in 1966, ADB is celebrating 50 years of development partnership in the region. It is owned by 67 members, 48 from the region.

Report Highlights:
- Of the total climate-adjusted investment needs, $14.7 trillion will be for power and $8.4 trillion for transport.
-Investments in telecommunications will reach $2.3 trillion, with water and sanitation costs at $800 billion
- South Asia will account for 8.8 percent of climate-adjusted investment needs through 2030.
-The $1.7 trillion annual climate-adjusted estimate is more than double the $750 billion ADB estimated in 2009.
-Currently, the region annually invests an estimated $881 billion in infrastructure
-Multilateral development banks (MDB) have financed an estimated 2.5 percent of infrastructure investments in developing Asia. 

Monday, February 27, 2017

South Korea increases quota for Nepalis more than threefold

South Korea – the most lucrative destination of Nepali migrant workers – has increased quota for Nepali migrant workers for 2018 by more than three fold compared to this year.
Korea – which is taking 3,100 Nepali migrant workers through Employment Permit System (EPS) in 2017 – has decided to increase the quota to 10,200 for 2018.
According to EPS Center, the Korean Human Resource Department has informed that the Korean government will take 10,200 Nepali migrant workers in 2018. Among the 10,200 workers, Korea has been seeking 6,200 workers for the agriculture sector and 4,000 for production sector.
The Centre also informed that it is planning to open applications for Korean language test from March 22 to March 31 and conduct the exam by mid-June.
According to the Centre, the candidates can apply online from this year. Because of the online facility, the candidates do not have to stay in queue for hours to submit their application like earlier years.
South Korea has been taking Nepali migrant workers every year through EPS. Nepali youth have been taking Korean Language Test to get listed in the roaster, from where the Korean Human Resource Department selects them in various sectors.

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Stop politicisation of development projects: ADB

One of Nepal's important development partners has asked the government to stop politicisation in development activities.
Addressing the first Tripartite Portfolio Review Meeting (TPRM) of the year 2017 country director of ADB Nepal Resident Mission Kenichi Yokoyama today asked the political parties to refrain from or abandon "the practice of so-called 'bhagbanda' – division of spoils – by all means, to ensure timely project execution."
Saying that the ADB-funded projects have shown notable improvement in the year 2016, he attributed the success to project readiness, project leadership and human resources, procurement, contract management, safeguards, and addressing complex local issues. "Nevertheless, we must also say that the progress is just half way through, compared with our target of making annual execution – contract awards and disbursement – at par with annual lending – new commitment – level of $300 million in recent years,” he said, highlighting the critical importance of having competent project directors.
"Specifically, there is very high correlation between the strong project leadership and the performance of the project, ie, project performance is stronger where it is led by a competent project director," he added. "The rapid progress of flagship projects such as Melamchi and SASEC power and transport projects are testament to this."
He also asked the two-day TPRM to discuss and agree on critical issues related with high-attention projects, like ensuring timely completion of the Melamchi and Kathmandu water distribution projects to deliver water to Kathmandu by October 2017, while advancing reforms of Kathmandu Uptyaka Khanepani Ltd (KUKL) and addressing environmental concerns and bringing the problem projects like Tribhuwan International Airport (TIA) that is under deep trouble despite urgency of completing the works amidst heavy air traffic congestion, back on track; among others.
In 2016, ADB's Nepal portfolio's financial performance in terms of contract award totaled $359 million and disbursement totaled $202 million, both highest in ADB's operational history in Nepal.
"Enhanced readiness of new projects and strong project leadership in some projects has contributed to this achievement," DDG at the ADB South Asia Department Diwesh Sharan said on the occasion.
ADB's portfolio in Nepal is growing; and as of end 2016, cumulative assistance, since its operation in 1969 in Nepal, stands at $4.9 billion and the active net portfolio stands at almost $2 billion for 34 investment projects. "Clearly, Nepal's portfolio performance has improved. However, challenges remain," he said, adding, "Of the active portfolio, 44 per cent or $883 million is uncontracted and $1.3 billion remains undisbursed."
It is the lowest as a percentage of the active portfolio (66 percent), and compares well with the ADB average (for 2015) of 44 per cent and 64 per cent, respectively, he added.
The corresponding contract and disbursement ratios were 30.5 per cent and 16.1 per cent, respectively. "However, given the pending amounts to be committed and disbursed, we are all here to collectively and very specifically, identify the issues project by project, and agree on actions to improve project implementation," Sharan added.
Nepal's performance has improved steadily in recent years but challenge remains, he said, asking stakeholders to focus on efforts to ensure higher readiness, further improvements in procurement documents and evaluation scrutiny, stringent contract management to contain high implementation and fiduciary risks, and sound safeguard management, including environmental management, such as dust control.
Likewise, he also highlighted the slow progress of some of the flagships projects, including Earthquake Emergency Assistance, Tribhuvan International Airport, Gautam Buddha Airport, SASEC Power and Road. Though Melamchi Water Supply Project is expected to deliver water to Kathmandu by October of this year, he asked the bank's officials to very closely monitor the progress and measures to accelerate as needed, to ensure target can be met for this much anticipated major accomplishment.
Addressing the programme, as the chair of the inaugural session, finance secretary Shanta Raj Subedi said that the better performance does not happen by accident. Asking the development partners to join hands with ministries in monitoring the projects, he asked ADB officials to brainstorm for two days and bring out doable solutions to expedite the projects.
Likewise, chief of International Economic Cooperation and Coordination Division of the Finance Ministry Baikuntha Aryal, listed some of the problems including project readiness, procurement problems, weak implementation capacity, lack of interagency coordination, resource constraints, social and political issues, project reports, monitoring and supervision, and also problems with development partners as factors that have hold the development projects back.

Saturday, February 25, 2017

IPPs to receive 5 million

The government is going to implement its incentive scheme for the hydropower developers.
The then government through the fiscal budget of 2014-15 had announced to extend incentive worth Rs 5 million per megawatt (MW) to the developers of generation projects that start commercial operation by 2022-23. However, due to the delay by the Finance Ministry in providing its consent to the Energy Ministry to implement this decision, the announcement had been stalled for long.
The Independent Power Producers (IPPs) had long been lobbying with the government for the prompt execution of the facility following the announcement made by the budget.
The Finance Ministry had delayed in bringing this provision into force for quite some time as the country’s economy was shattered by the earthquake and the months-long border blockade, which had affected revenue generation, according to Energy Ministry.
"The finance ministry has finally agreed to implement the incentive scheme that was announced for the private sector developers," it said, adding that Finance Ministry agreed to implement this provision looking at the momentum in power generation in the last one yea.
The private sector developers contributed 105 megawatts of electricity to the national grid in 2016.
The Energy Ministry has also included provision of incentive in the ‘Energy Crisis Prevention and Electricity Development Decade’ – a vision document of the government to harness 10,000 megawatts of electricity in 10 years – and sought consent from Finance Ministry to execute incentive package announced by the fiscal act.
“Though, it took quite a long time to obtain the consent of the Finance Ministry, we will soon execute this package through a guideline that needs to be approved by the Cabinet," joint spokesperson for Energy Ministry Gokarna Raj Pantha said.
"After the guideline is endorsed from Parliament developers can submit their applications with the evidence of project completion within the aforementioned period to avail the facility," he said, adding that the ‘Energy Crisis Prevention and Electricity Development Decade’ launched last year has also mentioned about extending the incentive for 10 years, which means it would have been in effect till fiscal 2024-25. "But the Finance Ministry has clearly said that the facility will be extended to projects that are completed in between 2014-15 and 2022-23."
The IPPAN – umbrella association of the private sector hydropower developers in the country – has said that if the government had not delayed in implementing this announcement it would have been a lot better. "Though late, it will help motivative the private sector developers," president of IPPAN Shailendra Guragain said.
"As a large quantum of electricity from the independent power producers is going to be added within a few years, the project developers will benefit from this facility,” he said, adding that the power developers had sought exemption on value added tax (VAT) for the hydroelectricity projects to encourage developers so that the energy crisis could be addressed, but the fiscal budget 2014-15 addressed our demand in a different way.
As the government has announced the incentive, it will more or less be equivalent to exemption of the VAT amount.

Friday, February 24, 2017

Nepal needs to amend 50 laws by 2018

Nepal needs to amend some 50 laws within next two years to abide by its international commitment to fight against the flow of dirty money.
The laws also need to be amended to help the country stop funding for criminal activities. If these laws are not amended, the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) will put Nepal in the black list, unlike in the 2014 when it was in the watch list only.
The FATF removed Nepal from the watch list in June, 2014, indicating that the international body that creates standards for fighting financial crime is satisfied with efforts made by the country in combating money laundering and terror financing. The decision was taken by the plenary meeting of the FATF held in Paris.
Though removal of Nepal from the watch list helped enhance the country’s image as a financially disciplined country, the country has a lot to do in preparing and amending the laws, according to a high ranking official of the Finance Ministry.
FATF removed Nepal from the watch list after the parliament ratified the amendment to several acts including the Money Laundering Prevention Act, Proceeds of Crime (Confiscating, Seizing and Freezing) Act, Mutual Legal Assistance Act, Organised Crime Control Act and Extradition Act that are  related to anti-money laundering and combating terror financing.
Blacklisting by the FATF would make the country’s financial institutions unable to collaborate with international financial institutions, add extra transaction costs as the country’s goods are put under scanner, and dispel foreign investment and aid like in the case of Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK).
The FATF – the global standard setting body for anti-money laundering and combating the financing of terrorism (AML/CFT) – today identified Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) for its strategic deficiencies for anti-money laundering and combating the financing of terrorism regime, and the serious threat this poses to the integrity of the international financial system. It has also called on its member countries to apply counter-measures to protect the international financial system from the on-going and substantial money laundering and terrorist financing (ML/FT) risks emanating from the DPRK.
Likewise, it will continue to engage with Iran and closely monitor its progress, adds the FATF press note. "The review in Paris today also listed nine countries for their strategic deficiencies in combating the flow of dirty money,” it added.
If laws are not amended by 2018, to update them and give teeth to the country’s fight against money laundering and terror financing, Nepal this time runs the risk of falling back into the black list unlike earlier, the official added.
The FATF will review Nepal’s case again in 2019, the official said, adding that anti-money laundering rules not only include drug money, human trafficking money or terrorism transfers and illegal weapons deal but also compliance with cross-border transactions and paying taxes.
Though Nepal is not a direct member of FATF, it is under the Asia/Pacific Group on Money Laundering (APG) that ensures the adoption, implementation and enforcement of internationally accepted anti-money laundering and counter-terrorist financing standards as set out in the FATF Forty Recommendations and some Special Recommendations.
The APG is helping Nepal in enacting laws to deal with the proceeds of crime, mutual legal assistance, confiscation, forfeiture and extradition; providing guidance in setting up systems for reporting and investigating suspicious transactions and helping in the establishment of financial intelligence units.
There are currently 37 members of the FATF – 35 jurisdictions and 2 regional organizations. Financial Information Unit (FIU) under the central bank is Nepal’s financial intelligence unit. The national agency responsible for receiving, processing, analysing and disseminating financial information and intelligence on suspected money laundering and terrorist financing activities to the Investigation Department, other relevant law enforcement agencies and foreign FIUs is working with various agencies including Finance Ministry, Foreign  Ministry, Home Ministry and Law Ministry to  amend the laws before  the FATF review in 2019.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

अरुण तेस्रोमा लगानी जुट्यो

भारत सरकारले एसजेभिएन (सतलज) लिमिटेडलाई बजेट विनियोजन गरिदिएपछि दुई दशकअघि राजनीतिक कारणले रोकिएको अरुण तेस्रो जलविद्युत् आयोजना बन्ने भएको छ।
नयाँदिल्लीमा प्रधानमन्त्री नरेन्› मोदीको अध्यक्षतामा बुधबार बसेको मन्त्रिपरिषद् अन्तर्गतको अर्थ समिति बैठकले ५७ अर्ब २३ करोड भारतीय रुपैयाँ (नेपाली रुपैयाँ ९१ अर्ब ५७ करोड ९५ लाख ) सतलजलाई विनियोजन गरिदिएपछि नौ सय मेगावाटको बहुप्रतिक्षित परियोजनाका लागि वित्तीय स्रोत व्यवस्था भएको हो।
भारतीय सञ्चारमाध्यमका अनुसार बैठक निर्णयबारे जानकारी दिँदै ऊर्जामन्त्री पियुष गोयलले आगामी पाँच वर्षभित्र सो परियोजना निर्माण गरिसक्ने बताएका छन्।
अरुण तेस्रोलाई भारतको केन्› सरकार र हिमाञ्चल प्रदेश सरकारको साझेदारीमा खोलिएको एसजेभिएनले (सतलज विद्युत् निगम) निर्माण गर्न लागेको हो। एसजेभिएनले नेपालमा अरुण तेस्रो जलविद्युत् आयोजना निर्माण गर्न आफ्नो शतप्रतिशत लगानीको सहायक कम्पनी एसजेभिएन–अरुण तेस्रो कम्पनी दर्ता गरिसकेको छ।
परियोजनाको सर्भे लाइसेन्स ९ वर्षअघि पाएको एसजेभिएनले ४ वर्ष लगाएर अनुसन्धान काम सकेको थियो। त्यसपछि ३ वर्षअघि डिपिआर समेत तयार पारिसकेको यस आयोजनाले हालसम्म करिब १ अर्ब २९ करोड रुपैयाँ मुआब्जा पनि बाँडिसकेको छ। आयोजनाले २ सय ६५ परिवारको घर तथा जग्गा अधिग्रहण गर्ने तयारी गरेको छ।
२०७१ मंसिर ९ गते लगानी बोर्डसँग सतलजले आयोजना विकास सम्झौता (पिडिए) सम्पन्न गरी दुई वर्षपछि निर्माण कार्य सुरु गर्ने सहमति भएको थियो। अरुण तेस्रो जलविद्युत् आयोजना निर्माणमा करिब एक हजार रोपनी जग्गा अधिग्रहण गर्नुपर्ने हुन्छ। सम्झौता अनुसार आयोजनाले प्रभावित परिवारलाई ३० युनिटका दरले विद्युत् निःशुल्क उपलब्ध गराउनेछ। यो घरजग्गा अथवा दुवै प्रभावित परिवारले पाउने छन्।
पिडिएमा सरकारले एक वर्षमा निजी जग्गा र २१ महिनामा सरकारी जग्गा उपलब्ध गराउने प्रतिबद्धता व्यक्त गरेको थियो। यो आयोजना बिजुली उत्पादन सुरु भएको २५ वर्षपछि सतलजले नेापाल सरकारलाई हस्तान्तरण गर्ने सम्झौता छ।
प्रतिमेगावाट लागत १० करोड ५७ लाख रुपैयाँ हुने अनुमान गरिएको यस परियोजनाको  'फाइनान्सियल क्लोजर' आउँदो असोजसम्म गर्नुपर्ने थियो। तर, बुधबार भारत सरकारले यस परियोजना र लगानी पारित गरेपछि अब अरुण तेस्रो परियोजनाको निर्माणले गति लिने एसजेभिएन लिमिटेडका अध्यक्ष तथा म्यानेजिङ डाइरेक्टर आर एन मिश्राले पिटिआईलाई जानकारी दिएको भारतीय सञ्चार माध्यमले जनाएका छन्।
सम्झौता अनुसार अरुण तेस्रोले अबको ५ वर्षमा उत्पादन सुरु गर्नुपर्ने छ। आयोजनाले पहिलो कामअनुसार पाथीभराको छिरिन्टेमा २० मिटर अग्लो बाँध बाँधी चार सय ६६ मिटर लामो टनेल बनाएर पानी फर्काउन हाइटेन्सन टनेल निर्माण गर्ने र फ्याक्सिन्दामा पानी खसाल्ने बताएको छ। दोस्रो कामका रूपमा ड्याम र सुरुङ निर्माण गरिने आयोजनाले जनाएको छ।
संखुवासभा जिल्लामा पर्ने अरुण तेस्रो जलविद्युत् आयोजनाको कुल अनुमानित लागत एक खर्ब ४ अर्ब रुपैंयाँ रहेको छ।
सम्झौता अनुसार अरुण तेस्रो जलविद्युत आयोजनाबाट उत्पादित कुल विद्युत्को २१ दशमलब ९ प्रतिशत अर्थात् १९७.१ मेगावाट बिजुली नेपाललाई निःशुल्क उपलब्ध गराउनुपर्ने छ।
आयोजनाबाट २५ वर्षमा नेपाललाई ३ खर्ब ४८ अर्ब  रुपैयाँ प्राप्त हुनेछ। त्यस्तै एक अर्ब १६ अर्ब रुपैयाँ रोयल्टी, एक खर्ब ६६ अर्बको निःशुल्क विद्युतु र ८० अर्ब आयकर नेपालले पाउने बताइएको छ।
कम्पनीले व्यावसायिक उत्पादन सुरु भएपछि १० वर्षसम्म शतप्रतिशत नै आयकर छुट पाउनेछ। त्यसपछिको थप पाँच वर्ष नेपाल सरकारले ५० प्रतिशत आयकर छुट दिनुपर्ने छ।
आयोजनाका लागि आयात गरिने सिमेन्ट, रड तथा स्टिलजन्य सामग्री खरिद गर्दा भन्सारमा ५० प्रतिशत छुट दिइने व्यवस्था पनि सम्झौतामा छ। यस्तै, परियोजना सम्पन्न भएपछि नेपालले पाउने निःशुल्क ऊर्जाबाहेक अरुण तेस्रो र माथिल्ला कर्णालीको विद्युत् भारतमा निर्यात हुनेछ।

NTB, Chengdu Radio and TV sign MoU for tourism promotion

Nepal Tourism Board (NTB) and Chengdu Radio and Television (CDRTV) signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) aimed at promoting Nepali tourism in China.
Chairman of the executive committee of Nepal Tourism Board (NTB) and tourism secretary Shankar Prasad Adhikari and vice president of Chengdu Radio and TV He Tao signed the MoU on behalf of respective institutions today in Chengdu of China.
"The main objective of the MoU is to promote mutual understanding and friendship among the people of Nepal and China by making public exposure of splendid Nepali culture and tourism resources to Chinese audience," a statement issued by NTB reads.
According to the MoU, Chengdu Radio and TV will send its media persons to Nepal for making programmes on Nepal’s tourism, and Nepal Tourism Board will provide logistic support in Nepal.
Addressing the signing ceremony, Adhikari said the MoU would explore new avenues in promoting Nepali tourism in China. He also sought the cooperation from Chengdu Radio and TV for the same.
Highlighting the historical tie between Nepal and China and Chinese commitment for reconstruction of Kathmandu’s heritage sites, he said there has always a good relation between the two governments. "Now it is the time to strengthen the relation between the people of the two countries by visiting each other," he added.
Likewise, Tao, on the occasion, spoke about the CDRTV saying that this MoU would further allow CDRTV to work closely with Nepal Tourism Board in wider range of promotional activities. He said that CDRTV has nine television and three radio channels with a reach to more than 30 million people.
He also expressed willingness to allow other subsidiary companies of CDRTV like digital media, travel agencies, and multimedia promotional platform for promotion of Nepali tourism.

Delay in construction of expressway costing the country Rs 8 billion annually

The government is starting construction of Nepal's first expressway very soon as the delay has been costing the country dearly, according to minister for Physical Infrastructure and Transport Ramesh Lekhak.
Speaking at the meeting of Parliamentary Accounts Committee (PAC) today, Lekhak said that he would forward the proposal to start construction of the Kathmandu-Tarai Expressway in the cabinet very soon.
The delay in construction of the express highway has been costing the country more than Rs 8 billion every year. Due to recurring controversies and delays, the project’s original cost estimate of Rs 56 billion has doubled to Rs 112 billion in seven years, which means the price tag has been swelling by Rs 8 billion annually after adjusting for inflation.
The minister also told the parliamentary committee that the government would set up a special purpose vehicle to build the expressway as per the report of the Study Committee led by National Planning Commission (NPC) vice chair Dr Min Bahadur Shrestha.
The committee led by Shrestha has recommended to the government set up a separate mechanism for construction of the expressway.
He also informed that the ministry is dealing with three processes simultaneously – resource management, procurement model and establishment of a separate mechanism to execute the five-year project in line with the recommendation of a government committee.
“We will soon prepare a project modality and table it at the Cabinet," he said adding that that a separate mechanism would be formed to execute the ‘public expressway’ as it could be a ‘reference document’ to call for bids under the EPC model. "The report will be used as a bill of quantities (BOQ), a document usually used in tendering in construction projects."
However, the Indian firm IL&FS has sought Rs 600 million from the government for the DPR.
The 76-km expressway that connects Kathmandu with Tarai-Madhesh in just an hour can be split into at least two sections to procure contract services, the study committee had suggested, recommending to build the first of its kind of expressway in Engineering Procurement and Construction (EPC) modality to save time and money.
Speaking at the meeting, transport secretary Dhan Bahadur Tamang told the parliamentarian that the 76-km expressway project may go for the EPC model instead of the build own operate transfer (BOOT) model proposed earlier.
The EPC contract binds the contractor to deliver the project at a stipulated time with predetermined price regardless of any increase in cost that the contractor may incur after the contract is signed.
Once the contract for the project is awarded, the contractor will prepare a detailed engineering report which will ascertain the real cost. The IL&FS – in its DPR submitted to the government in 2015 – had estimated Rs 112 billion, whereas a study conducted by the Asian Development Bank (ADB) in 2008 had estimated the project to cost Rs 56 billion. The cost was revised to Rs 96 billion in 2014.
One of the reasons for the project's delay is also the recurring controversies regarding the price tag.
In the meeting too, a number of lawmakers said that the cost estimate for the scheme was unrealistic.
Lawmaker and former finance minister Bishnu Poudel, on the occasion, said the government should agree to the EPC model and invite bids immediately. "We need to prepare a time-bound calendar to successfully execute the project," he said, warning that it will remain a distant dream, otherwise.
The government has recently announced that it will construct the highway by allocating around Rs 20 billion every year for five years.
Poudel also asked the government to immediately start the construction of the highway without further delay according to the previous government's plan. "The previous government had also allocated Rs 10 billion budget for the expressway," he added.
Poudel as the finance minister – in the erstwhile government led by KP Sharma Oli – had allocated Rs 10 billion for the project in the current fiscal year. But the budget has not been spent at all because of the delay in finalising project development and financing modality.
However, the National Pride Project has not been able to spend its budget due to various technical problems including dispute in compensation for land to be acquired for the project.
Kathmandu-Tarai-Madhesh expressway project chief Satyendra Shakya said that the change in construction modality has also delayed the project.
Lawmaker Ramhari Khatiwada said Nepal’s roads were being used as trial and we should be careful on whether the fate of the expressway would be like that of the BP Highway, a section of which crumbled a couple of days ago.
Likewise, the Lawmakers, on the occasion, demanded the government to expedite the construction of Kathmandu-Tarai-Madhesh expressway as it will be a milestone in the country's transportation network and can cut transportation cost, fuel consumption and time taken for transporting goods and traveling significantly that would also strengthen the national unity, the committee opined.
Concluding the meeting PAC chairperson Dor Prasad Upadhyay said the next meeting is expected to discuss the issues of the expressway again and come up with a substantive decision on the matter.

Track to be opened to motor traffic
The Department of Roads said that it was planning to open the track of the proposed Kathmandu-Tarai-Madhesh expressway to motor traffic. Director general of the department Devendra Karki said that they had been conducting repairs at Chhaimale, Dakshinkali and Nijgadh to allow vehicular movement. The Nepal Army started work to open a track in 2009 November as per the government’s instructions. It was completed in 2013.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

WTO’s Trade Facilitation Agreement enters into force

A major milestone for the global trading system has been reached today, when the first multilateral deal concluded in the 21 year history of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) entered into force. In receiving four more ratifications for the Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA), the WTO has obtained the two-thirds acceptance of the agreement from its 164 members needed to bring the TFA into force.
Rwanda, Oman, Chad and Jordan submitted their instruments of acceptance to WTO director general Roberto Azevêdo, bringing the total number of ratifications over the required threshold of 110. The entry into force of this agreement, which seeks to expedite the movement, release and clearance of goods across borders, launches a new phase for trade facilitation reforms all over the world and creates a significant boost for commerce and the multilateral trading system as a whole.
Full implementation of the TFA is forecast to slash members' trade costs by an average of 14.3 per cent, with developing countries having the most to gain, according to a 2015 study carried out by WTO economists. The TFA is also likely to reduce the time needed to import goods by over a day and a half and to export goods by almost two days, representing a reduction of 47 per cent and 91 per cent respectively over the current average.
Implementing the TFA is also expected to help new firms export for the first time. Moreover, once the TFA is fully implemented, developing countries are predicted to increase the number of new products exported by as much as 20 per cent, with least developed countries (LDCs) likely to see an increase of up to 35 per cent, according to the WTO study.
DG Azevêdo welcomed the TFA's entry into force, noting that the Agreement represents a landmark for trade reform. "This is fantastic news for at least two reasons," he said, "First, it shows members' commitment to the multilateral trading system and that they are following through on the promises made in Bali. Second, it means we can now start implementing the Agreement, helping to cut trade costs around the world."
It also means we can kick start technical assistance work to help poorer countries with implementation, he said, adding that it would boost global trade by up to $1 trillion each year, with the biggest gains being felt in the poorest countries. "The impact will be bigger than the elimination of all existing tariffs around the world."
But, he said, this is not the end of the road. The real work is just beginning and it is the biggest reform of global trade in a generation, according to him. "It can make a big difference for growth and development around the world. Now, working together, we have the responsibility to implement the agreement to make those benefits a reality.”
The agreement is unique in that it allows developing and LDCs to set their own timetables for implementing the TFA depending on their capacities to do so. A Trade Facilitation Agreement Facility (TFAF) was created at the request of developing and least-developed countries to help ensure they receive the assistance needed to reap the full benefits of the TFA and to support the ultimate goal of full implementation of the new agreement by all members.
Developed countries have committed to immediately implement the agreement, which sets out a broad series of trade facilitation reforms.
Spread out over 12 articles, the TFA prescribes many measures to improve transparency and predictability of trading across borders and to create a less discriminatory business environment. The TFA's provisions include improvements to the availability and publication of information about cross-border procedures and practices, improved appeal rights for traders, reduced fees and formalities connected with the import/export of goods, faster clearance procedures and enhanced conditions for freedom of transit for goods. The agreement also contains measures for effective cooperation between customs and other authorities on trade facilitation and customs compliance issues.
Developing countries, in comparison, will immediately apply only the TFA provisions they have designated as 'Category A' commitments. For the other provisions of the agreement, they must indicate when these will be implemented and what capacity building support is needed to help them implement these provisions, known as Category B and C commitments. These can be implemented at a later date with least-developed countries given more time to notify these commitments. So far, notifications of Category A commitments have already been provided by 90 WTO members.
As of today,  WTO members including Nepal, Hong Kong China, Singapore, the US, Mauritius, Malaysia, Japan, Australia, Botswana, Trinidad and Tobago, the Republic of Korea, Nicaragua, Niger, Belize, Switzerland, Chinese Taipei, China, Liechtenstein, Lao PDR, New Zealand, Togo, Thailand, the European Union – on behalf of its 28 member states – the  the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Pakistan, Panama, Guyana, Côte d’Ivoire, Grenada, Saint Lucia, Kenya, Myanmar, Norway, Viet Nam, Brunei Darussalam, Ukraine, Zambia, Lesotho, Georgia, Seychelles, Jamaica, Mali, Cambodia, Paraguay, Turkey, Brazil, Macao China, the UAE, Samoa, India, the Russian Federation, Montenegro, Albania, Kazakhstan, Sri Lanka, St Kitts and Nevis, Madagascar, the Republic of Moldova, El Salvador, Honduras, Mexico, Peru, Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan, Senegal, Uruguay, Bahrain, Bangladesh, the Philippines, Iceland, Chile, Swaziland, Dominica, Mongolia, Gabon, the Kyrgyz Republic, Canada, Ghana, Mozambique, Saint Vincent & the Grenadines, Nigeria, Rwanda, Oman, Chad and Jordan have accepted the TFA.
The acceptance process involves WTO members ratifying a Protocol of Amendment to insert the TFA into Annex 1A of the WTO Agreement. Members who have not done this are still required to do so.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

११३ अर्ब खर्च नहुने पक्का

अघिल्लो सरकारका अर्थमन्त्री विष्णु पौडेलले ल्याएको महŒवाकांक्षी १० खर्ब ४८ अर्ब ९२ करोडको बजेटमध्ये झन्डै सवा खर्ब खर्च नहुने पक्का भएको छ। सरकारी संयन्त्रको संस्थागत कमजोरी तथा कर्मचारीतन्त्रको अक्षमताका कारण बजेट खर्च बढ्न नसकेपछि अर्थमन्त्री कृष्णबहादुर महराले बजेटको मध्यावधि समीक्षा गर्दै सोमबार १ खर्ब १३ अर्बभन्दा बढी बजेट खर्च नहुने अनुमान गरेका हुन्।
महराले चालू आर्थिक वर्षको मध्यावधि समीक्षा गर्दै पहिलो छ महिनामा २ खर्ब ७४ अर्ब ६८ करोड ५१ लाख रुपैयाँ बजेट खर्च भएको जानकारी दिए। ६ महिनामा बजेटको कुल २६.१९ प्रतिशत मात्र खर्च भएको भन्दै उनले कुल खर्चमध्ये पुँजीगत खर्च ११.३० प्रतिशत अर्थात् ३५ अर्ब २५ करोड ४६ लाख रुपैंया मात्र हुन सकेको उल्लेख गरे।
चालू खर्च ३५.४२ प्रतिशत अर्थात् २ खर्ब १८ अर्ब ६० करोड ९१ लाख रुपैयाँ रहेको छ।
राजस्व असुलीमा भने सरकारले अपेक्षाभन्दा बढी सफलता पाएको छ। चालू आर्थिक वर्षको ६ महिनामा सरकारले राजस्व संकलनको लक्ष्य २ अर्ब ५८ अर्ब ७४ करोड ३ लाखमध्ये २ अर्ब ७७ अर्ब ५७ करोड १५ लाख रुपैंया असुली गरेको छ। यो असुली अर्धवार्षिक लक्ष्यको तुलनामा १०७.९२ प्रतिशत र वार्षिक लक्ष्यको ४९.०५ प्रतिशत हो।
साथै बर्र्खान्तमा भने अर्थ मन्त्रालयले कुल ५ खर्ब ७९ अर्ब ३० करोड २ लाख संकलन हुने महराले बताए। बजेटमा कुल राजस्वको प्रक्षेपण गर्दा ५ खर्ब ६५ अर्ब ८९ करोड मात्र गरिएको थियो। अर्थात् राजस्व भने करिब १५ अर्ब उठ्ने तर खर्च भने १ खर्ब १३ अर्बभन्दा बढी नहुने पक्का भएको अर्थ मन्त्रालयको संशोधित अनुमान छ।
कार्यक्रममा महराले जेठमा बजेट ल्याएको भए पनि साउन १ गतेदेखि मात्र अख्तियारी दिँदा चाँडै बजेट ल्याएको फाइदा लिन नसकिएको बताए। '४५ दिनअघि बजेट ल्याउँदा पनि फाइदा लिन सकिएन', उनले भने।
तर, अर्थ मन्त्रालयले फागुन अन्त्यसम्म खर्च गर्न नसक्ने विभिन्न आयोजनाको बजेट अन्य आयोजनामा रकमान्तर गरेर भए पनि खर्च बढाउने लक्ष्य लिएको पनि उनले बताए।
'कम प्रगति भएका र खर्च हुन नसकेका कार्यक्रम र आयोजनाको रकम खर्च गर्न सक्ने प्राथमिकता प्राप्त अन्य आयोजनामा रकमान्तर गरेर भए पनि खर्च वृद्धि गर्न अर्थ मन्त्रालयले सहजीकरणको भूमिका निर्वाह गरिरहेको छ', अर्थ सचिव  शान्तराज सुवेदीले बताए।
मन्त्रालयले बाँकी अवधिमा पुँजीगत खर्च बढाउन स्पष्ट निर्देशन दिएको, ठूला आयोजनाको अनुगमन गरेको, राष्ट्रिय गौरवको आयोजना र पुनर्निर्माणको कार्य प्राथमिकतासाथ अघि बढिरहेको लगायत कारण देखाउँदै बजेट खर्चमा उल्लेख्य सुधार हुने जनाएको भए तापनि स्थिति सुधार हुनेमा भने शंका देखिएको छ।
मन्त्रालयले जनाएअनुसार वैदेशिक सहायता परिचालनतर्फ विभिन्न विकास आयोजना कार्यान्वयनका लागि १ खर्ब ५२ अर्ब ३१ करोड ३१ लाख बराबरको वैदेशिक सहायताको प्रतिबद्धता प्राप्त भएको छ। जसमध्ये ३८ अर्ब ३० करोड २७ लाख अनुदान हो भने बाँकी ऋण।
अर्थ मन्त्रालयले त्रिवर्षीय खर्च संरचनालाई सहभागितामूलक बनाउनुपर्ने औंल्याउँदै ठूला र मध्यमखालका आयोजनाको सम्भाव्यता अध्ययन गरी आयोजना बैंक बनाउन प्रोत्साहन गर्नुपर्ने देखिएको पनि मन्त्री महराले बताए।
राष्ट्रिय गौरव र महत्वपूर्ण आयोजनाहरुको निर्माण कार्य द्रूत प्रक्रियाबाट सम्पन्न गर्ने नीति अवलम्बन गरी छुट्टै कानुन एवं संयन्त्रको निर्माणको आवश्यकता औंल्याइएको छ।

Tankers disrupt fuel supply

Due to the deliberate disruption in supply of petroleum products by petroleum tanker operators – demanding amendment in the Petroleum Products Transportation Bylaw – consumers have started queuing at petrol pumps across Kathmandu Valley.
Though halting supply of essential products like petroleum products is a serious crime, the tanker operators have been disrupting the supply, as a result of the disruption, the demand for petroleum products has increased substantially also due to growing fear of shortage. "The demand has not subsided even though Nepal Oil Corporation (NOC) has doubled the quantity of petrol and diesel that it supplies regularly in the market," according to the government fuel monopoly.
"Following the disruption, NOC has almost doubled the supply of petrol in the market to 800 kilolitres (kl) per day against normal demand of 450 kl since Sunday," the corporation said adding that the NOC has also increased supply of diesel.
Putting forth the demand to amend the Petroleum Products Transportation Bylaw, agitating tanker operators – close to the General Federation of Nepalese Trade Unions (GEFONT) – has completely halted supply of petroleum products from Friday. They have also not loaded fuel from Indian oil refineries. Threatening to halt the supply completely from Monday, the tanker operators have submitted a 15-point demand to the government.
The new bylaw requires operators to maintain a minimum fleet size of five tankers, and pay fine to NOC, if the volume of petroleum products is less than what is prescribed in the bylaw. Before the bylaw came into effect, operators with a single tanker were also allowed to supply petroleum products.
Likewise, the bylaw also states the tanker operator has to pay fine if their ‘technical loss’ is more than 30 liters.
According to the National Consumers Forum, tankers have been reporting technical loss of around 235 liters per tanker in recent years. Officials of the forum say that tanker operators have been stealing fuel from tankers and selling them in the market. “Most of the tanker drivers, who have become tanker operators themselves, have been stealing and selling petroleum products,” the forum claimed, asking the government to take stern action against them.
President of Nepal Petroleum Transporters Federation (NPTF) Khageswor Bohara however said that the supply disruption attempt was being made by only those tanker operators close to GEFONT. "Out of almost 1,800 petroleum tankers operating in the country, some 800 tankers are individually owned and they are staging a protest citing that they cannot increase their fleet of tankers as required by the amended bylaw,” he said, requesting the the tanker operators not to interrupt regular supply of petroleum products. He also urged agitating tanker operators to resolve the issue through dialogue with the government.
Had the NOC consulted tanker operators while making amendments in the bylaw, he said, “the problem would not have arisen."

Monday, February 20, 2017

ADB to finance 2nd phase of Melamchi project

The Asian Development Bank (ADB) has expressed willingness to finance the second phase of the Melamchi Water Supply Project (MWSP) after the first phase concludes in October.
Addressing journalists in Kathmandu today, ADB vice president Wencai Zhang said that on the basis of the advancement of the Kathmandu Upatyaka Khanepani Ltd (KUKL) reforms to become customer-oriented water provider, ADB was ready to extend assistance for the second Melamchi project to extend tunnel to the Yangri and Larke rivers to further augment water supply from the tunnel from 170 million liters per day (MLD) to 510 million liters per day. "This will make possible continuous supply of water to people in Kathmandu Valley, 24 hours a day, seven days a week," he added.
Zhang, who is currently on a 3-day official visit to Nepal, also acknowledged the progress of the Melamchi Water Supply Project and Kathmandu Valley Water Supply Improvement Project that are likely to start delivering Melamchi water in October 2017, and agreed on maximum mutual efforts to complete the project in time.
In this connection, both sides also agreed on expediting institutional strengthening of the KUKL including the restructuring of its board and implementation of the roadmap prepared by its management, such as ICT-based automated water distribution and billing, and deployment of middle managers and additional technical staff, he added.
Zhang also renewed ADB's commitment to support Nepal to prepare long-term socio-economic development vision, strategy, and economic transformation programmes toward achieving its goal of becoming a prosperous middle income country by 2030.
He conveyed readiness to support critical regulatory and institutional reforms in energy sector, and associated investments such as Dudhkoshi Hydropower Project (300 MW), and modernisation of electricity distribution systems in the Kathmandu Valley.
Zhang also participated in the Nepal Infrastructure Summit 2017, organised by the government and the Confederation of Nepalese Industries (CNI) yesterday. He delivered speeches in its opening plenary attended by Prime Minister Puspa Kamal Dahal, and a business session on enablers for accelerating infrastructure investments chaired by minister for Physical Infrastructure and Transport Ramesh Lekhak.
He is scheduled to visiting the site of Tanahu Hydropower Project in Tanahun district, and a dairy plant assisted by an ADB-funded livestock project in Kaski district tomorrow.
During his visit, Zhang also met with deputy prime minister and finance minister Krishna Bahadur Mahara, and other senior officials to discuss the overall direction of development partnership between the ADB and Nepal.
"The ADB stands ready to support Nepal in its aspirations to become a prosperous middle-income country by 2030 while achieving the Sustainable Development Goals," he said, commending that the much improved project implementation performance in 2016, achieving $358 million contract award and $201 million disbursement, both highest in ADB's operational history in Nepal, thanks to enhanced readiness of new projects and efforts to build implementation capacities including faster and more disciplined procurement and contract management.
"ADB has allocated for Nepal $843.8 million for 2017-2019," he added. "A further $356 million can be made available over the period for projects contributing to regional cooperation and integration and reduction of disaster risks and fragility, provided that Nepal continues to improve its performance of its ongoing projects."
Zhang is scheduled to meet Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal, minister for Water Supply and Sanitation Prem Bahadur Singh, energy minister Janardan Sharma and vice chair of the National Planning Commission (NPC) Dr Min Bahadur Shrestha tomorrow.

Finance Ministry revises budget downward to Rs 935.88 billion

The Finance Ministry has revised the budget downwards – based on the current dismal spending trend – to Rs 935.88 billion for the current fiscal year.
Though the earlier government had brought Rs 1048.92 billion budget for the current fiscal year, poor implementation capacity of the government agencies has forced the ministry to revise the budget downwards. But despite their eroding capacity to increase development spending, various ministries have sought an additional Rs 276.90 billion budgetary demand which is around 30 per cent of the total budget of the current fiscal year.
The ministry has also revised the capital expenditure target to 84 per cent or Rs 262 billion of the total allocated amount worth Rs 311.95 billion in the current fiscal citing the weak performance of the ministries that were responsible for mobilising a large chunk of the budget. Despite government's repeated harping on ramping up capital expenditure, the slow progress of big ticket projects under various ministries disappointed the government this year again forcing it to revise the budget downwards.
Addressing the Mid-Term Budgetary Review Programme in Kathmandu today, deputy prime minister and finance minister Krishna Bahadur Mahara said that various ministries have asked extra budget from the finance ministry.
Presenting a bleak picture of the government expenditure in development projects, Mahara said that the Ministry of Physical Infrastructure and Transport spent merely Rs 18.45 billion out of the total allocated amount of Rs 72.68 billion, Ministry of Urban Development was able to mobilise only Rs 8.56 billion out of the total allocation of Rs 19.05 billion, and National Reconstruction Authority (NRA) also mobilised just Rs 1 billion out of the total Rs 34 billion capital budget.
The government will be able to spend only 89.22 per cent of the total budget," he said, adding that the recurrent expenditure will also hover around only 91 per cent of the total allocation of Rs 617.16 billion.
"Instead of facilitating implementation of ongoing projects, the ministries have been asking for additional budget which is not a healthy practice,” he said, adding that the finance ministry, however, has been able to mobilise resources efficiently. “The ministry had set revenue target in the first half of 2016-17 at Rs 258.74 billion but succeeded in mobilising Rs 277.57 billion in the period, which 107.92 per cent of the target."
Mahara further said that the encouraging revenue mobilisation, which became possible due to various programmes lunched to plug revenue leakage holes, has forced the ministry to revise it annual revenue target to Rs 579.30 billion.
He also accepted that despite early budget – that was brought some 45 days ahead of the fiscal year – the budget implementation has not been satisfactory due to procedural hurdles. Mahara, however, reiterated to transfer the unspent budget to the projects that have been performing better and are in need of more resources.
“The budget of low-spending National Pride Projects will be transferred to other National Pride Projects that have performing better,” finance secretary Shanta Raj Subedi explained, adding that the transfer will be done according to the law.
Inefficient bureaucracy, procedural hurdles, lack of carrot and stick policy, and ad hoc budget preparation process are blamed for low capital spending that could have contributed to not only in employment generation but also in economic development in the long-run. “The government will transfer the budget to projects that can help capital formation and employment generation and give impetus to economic growth,” he added.
The ministry, however, claimed that the growth target of 6.5 per cent will be achieved due to growth in agricultural production and consumption sector. It also mentioned that inflation will remain below the desired level of 7.5 per cent as inflation in the review period stood at 5.8 per cent along with improved supply system and narrow inflation wedge between India and Nepal.
On the occasion, the National Planning Commission (NPC) vice chair Dr Min Bahadur Shrestha clearified that the ministries may not have to seek the permission of the NPC before implementing projects and programmes incorporated in the budget from the next fiscal year as the Finance Ministry is preparing to cut short the budget implementation process to expedite capital spending.
The Financial Procedures Rule currently makes it mandatory for ministries to get approval of the NPC prior to implementing central-level projects.
Because of this provision, the government failed to implement budgetary programmes from the first day of this fiscal year despite introducing the budget in Parliament one-and-a-half months prior to the commencement of the new financial year.
The Finance Ministry will soon put an end to this age-old practice by incorporating a provision in the Appropriation Bill that would pave the way for ministries to implement projects and programmes included in the budget without seeking permission of the NPC.
If such a provision is introduced, different ministries can roll out budgetary projects and programmes from the first day of the fiscal year, which is expected to help expedite the development budget.
Earlier, also then finance minister Dr Ram Sharan Mahat tried to cut short the practice.
But this time the ministry is mulling to amend the Financial Procedures Act and Rule, if there is need,” according to the chief of Budget and Programme Division at the Finance Ministry Madhu Kumar Marasini.
The Finance Ministry, from now onward, will also automatically approve projects and programmes sent using Line Ministry Budgetary Information System (LMBIS) to expedite capital spending. The LMBIS is a software that was introduced some 2 years ago to make budget planning process scientific and ensure funds are not allocated for various development projects in a haphazard manner.
It makes mandatory for ministries to clearly mention timeline for project implementation, time that would take to complete the project, challenges in implementation of the project, estimated cost of the project and expenditure plan over the years. But many ministries still submit programmes in a haphazard manner, ultimately delaying project implementation.

Saturday, February 18, 2017

खेर गएको एउटा युग

दशकैपिच्छेको राजनीतिक उतारचढावका कारण उत्पन्न अस्थिरता तथा राजनीतिक दल अनि नेतामा आर्थिक विकासको चेत अभावमा २००७ सालमा जन्मेको एउटा नेपालीको जीवन राजनीतिक लडाइँ लड्दालड्दै खेर गएको छ।
२००७ सालमा नेपालकै स्थितिमा रहेका दक्षिण कोरिया, चीनजस्ता मुलुक २०७३ मा आइपुग्दा विकसित देशको लयमा तालमा ताल मिलाएर अगाडि बढिरहेका छन्। तर, नेपाल भने संकुचित आर्थिक, वैयक्तिक तथा राजनीतिक स्वतन्त्रताका कारण अझै अल्पविकसित मुलुकको श्रेणीमा छ।
पूर्वअर्थसचिव रामेश्वर खनालका अनुसार १ सय चारवर्षे राणा शासन अन्त्यपछि नेपालमा प्रजातन्त्र आएकै वर्ष २००७ सालबाट विश्वभरि विकासको लहर चलेको हो। 'तर, राणा शासनको अँध्यारो युगबाट प्रजातन्त्रको उज्यालोमा आएको नेपाली समाजको चेतनाको स्तर विस्तार नभएका कारण त्यस बेला हाम्रोजस्तै स्थिति भएका धेरै मुलुकभन्दा अहिले नेपाल धेरै पछाडि छ', उनी भन्छन्, '२०२१ सालमा नेपालको प्रतिव्यक्ति आय ६५ अमेरिकी डलर हुँदा कोरियाको १ सय पाँच डलर थियो तर हाल कोरिया र नेपालको प्रतिव्यक्ति आयमा आकाशजमिनको फरक छ। केन्द्रीय तथ्यांक विभागका अनुसार नेपालको प्रतिव्यक्ति आय हाल ७ सय ६६ अमेरिकी डलर छ अर्थात् ५० वर्षमा नेपालीको प्रतिव्यक्ति आयमा १२ गुणामात्र वृद्धि भएको छ। जब कि कोरियाको प्रतिव्यक्ति आम्दानी ३४ हजार डलर पुगेको छ। त्यसैकारण नेपाली युवा वैदेशिक रोजगारीमा त्यहाँ जान तँछाडमछाड गर्छन्।
विश्वमा एकै पुस्तामा आर्थिक विकासको शिखर चुमेका देश पनि छन् तर नेपालका पछिल्ला पुस्ताको जीवन अल्पविकसित, विपन्न राष्ट्रको नागरिकका रूपमै बित्यो। मुलुकलाई समृद्ध र विकसित राष्ट्रको पंक्तिमा देख्न चाहनु हरेक नेपालीको सपनामात्र होइन, अधिकार पनि हो। राजनीतिक नेतृत्वले समृद्धिको नारा मात्र लगाउने तर व्यवहारमा उद्योगधन्दा बन्द गराएर औद्योगिकीकरणबाट देशलाई व्यापारतिर धकेल्ने सरकार तथा राजनीतिक दलको नीतिले नेपालको विकास गति पश्चगामी भएको छ।
'निर्वाहमुखी कृषि तथा राणा शासकको चाकरीमा आधारित नेपाली अर्थतन्त्र २००७ सालपछि फेरिने ठूलो सम्भावना थियो', खनालले भने, 'तर लामो र अँध्यारो कालखण्डबाट बाहिर निस्केको नेपाली समाजले खुला वातावरणमा रमाउनेबाहेक विकास तथा समृद्धिको कल्पना गर्न गाह्रै भयो। २००७ देखि २०१३ सालसम्म स्वच्छन्द प्रकृतिको प्रजातन्त्र थियो तर चेतना अभावमा त्यो कालखण्ड उपलब्धिविहीन भएर बितेको खनालको निष्कर्ष छ।
राष्ट्रिय योजना आयोगका सदस्य स्वर्णिम वाग्लेका अनुसार पनि राजनीतिक र आर्थिक विकास सँगसँगै नभएका कारण पछिल्लो पाँच दशकमा नेपालमा 'घिटिघिटी' विकास भयो।
'केही पनि नभएको भने होइन', वाग्ले भन्छन्, 'तर २००७ सालमा हाम्रोजस्तै स्थिति भएका धेरै मुलुक विकासमा धेरै अगाडि बढिसक्दा पनि नेपाल अझै अल्पविकसित मुलुकको सूचीमा छ।'
प्रत्येक राजनीतिक परिवर्तनले नेपालीको जनजीवनमा फरकफरक प्रभाव पारेका छन् तर ती कुनैले पनि आर्थिक स्थिति तथा जीवनस्तरको तह बढाउन भने सकेनन्। २००७ सालको परिवर्तनपछि नेपालीमा स्वतन्त्रताको चेतना आयो। सँगसँगै विकास निर्माणका केही काम पनि थालिए। दोस्रो र तेस्रो योजना अवधिमा रूस र चीन सरकारको सहयोग तथा सरकारी स्वामित्वमा चिनी, चुरोट, छाला जुत्ता, इँटा, सिमेन्ट, कृषि औजार कारखाना खुले। त्यसपछि कागज कारखाना र अर्को चिनी कारखाना पनि खुल्यो। दोस्रो योजनादेखि औद्योगिक क्षेत्र निर्माण भए र निजी क्षेत्रले साना तथा मझौला उद्योग खोल्न थाल्यो।
वाग्लेका  अनुसार पञ्चायत कालखण्ड, २०४६ सालपछिको उदार अर्थनीतिको कालखण्ड, सशस्त्र द्वन्द्वकाल र त्यसपछिको दशकलाई विश्लेषण गर्ने हो भने पक्कै पनि नेपाल धेरै अगाडि बढेको छ।
ससाना उद्योग खोल्न पनि अनुमति लिनुपर्ने, वास्तविक उद्यमीलाई सहज रुपमा कर्जा प्राप्त नहुने, पूर्वाधार कमी तथा अन्तर्राष्ट्रिय बजारमा प्रतिस्पर्धी हुन आवश्यक प्रविधिमाथि सहज पहुँच नहुनाका कारण २०४६ सालसम्म उद्योगको वृद्धि दर सुस्त थियो।
सरकारले नै उद्योग चलाउने बन्द अर्थतन्त्र भएको २०३० सालमा एकै वर्ष औद्योगिक उत्पादन १८ प्रतिशतले घट्यो। २०४२ सालमा ज्यादै न्यून सरदर वृद्धिको तुलनामा २४ प्रतिशतको उच्च दरले बढ्यो। 'तर समस्याले नै विकासको ढोका खोल्छ भनेझैं त्यसपछि सरकारले विभिन्न अन्तर्राष्ट्रिय निकायको सल्लाहमा सीमित खुला अर्थतन्त्र अँगाल्यो', वाग्ले भन्छन्। पञ्चायतका अन्तिम वर्ष तथा २०४६ को आन्दोलनपछि बनेको नेपाली कांग्रेसको सरकारले लिएको उदार अर्थनीतिका कारण २०४७ सालपछि तीन वर्षमा ७१ प्रतिशतले औद्योगिक उत्पादन बढेको देखिन्छ। त्यसपछि २०५९, २०६५ र २०६६ मा सामान्य गिरावट भयो तर समग्रमा सरदर वृद्धि दर २०४६ सालअघिको भन्दा कम रहेन।
यस्तै, सेवा क्षेत्रको वार्षिक वृद्धिदर २०४६ सालपछि निरन्तर कायम देखिन्छ। उदार अर्थनीतिका कारण शिक्षा, स्वास्थ्य, सामाजिक सुरक्षा, ऊर्जा तथा जीवनस्तर पनि बढेके देखिन्छ।
२०५२ सालमा माओवादी द्वन्द्व सुरु हुनुअघिसम्म नेपालको आर्थिक विकासले गति लिएकै कारण २०४१ देखि २०५० सालसम्मको दशकको औषत आर्थिक वृद्धिदर ५.२ प्रतिशत देखिन्छ। उदारीकरणलाई सत्तोसराप गर्नेहरू पनि खुला बजारमा आआफ्नो क्षमता तथा सीपअनुसारको पेसा व्यवसाय चलाएर अर्थिक विकास गरेको दशकका रुपमा २०४१–२०५० लाई लिन्छन् वाग्ले। उदार अर्थनीतिभन्दा अगाडि नेपालमा सरकारले नै उद्योगधन्दादेखि वायुसेवा, शिक्षा, स्वास्थ्यमा लगानी गर्ने गरेको परिप्रेक्ष्यमा उदार अर्थनीतिका कारण निजी क्षेत्र प्रभावशाली भएर आएको हुनाले नेपालीको जीवनस्तरमात्र होइन, प्रतिव्यक्ति आयदेखि सेवा क्षेत्रसम्मको विस्तार पनि भएको पाइन्छ।

माओवादी द्वन्द्वले अर्थतन्त्र ओरालोतिर
२०४६ सालमा अर्थतन्त्रमा सेवा क्षेत्रको योगदान ३३ प्रतिशत र उत्पादनशील उद्योगको योगदान ५.७५ प्रतिशत थियो। त्यसपछि सेवा क्षेत्रको योगदान क्रमिक रुपमा बढ्दै गएर हाल ५१ प्रतिशत पुगेको छ। यस्तै, उदार अर्थनीतिका कारण उत्पादनशील उद्योगको योगदान २०५३ सालमा सबैभन्दा उच्च विन्दु ९.६६ प्रतिशत पुगेको थियो। माओवादी द्वन्द्व सुरु भएपछि २०५३ सालबाट औद्योगिक उत्पादन ओरालो लाग्ने क्रम सुरु भयो। हाल उद्योगको योगदान ६ प्रतिशतवरिपरि छ। उद्योग व्यवसायमा अवरोध गरेर माओवादीले नेपाली अर्थतन्त्र उनीहरूले नै भन्ने गरेको दलाल पुँजीवादी बाटोतिर धकेल्यो। नेकपा एमालेका उपमहासचिव एवं आर्थिक विश्लेषक घनश्याम भुसालका अनुसार राजनीतिक रुपमा सबैभन्दा बढी कम्युनिस्टले प्रयोग गर्ने शब्दावली दलाल पुँजीवादबाट राष्ट्रिय पुँजीको विकास कसरी गर्ने भन्नेबारे नेपालका कुनै पनि कम्युनिस्ट पार्टीले छलफलसम्म गर्न सकेका छैनन्, जसका कारण जानी नजानी तिनीहरूले दलाल पुँजीवादको विकासमा योगदान पुर्‍याइरहेका छन्।

निराशाजनक निर्यात
खनालका अनुसार २०३३ सालसम्म नेपालको कुल निर्यात कुल गार्हस्थ उत्पादनको ४–५ प्रतिशतमात्र थियो। २०३३ सालपछि १० प्रतिशत नाघ्न थाल्यो र २०४६ सालमा ११ प्रतिशत पुग्यो । २०४७ देखि क्रमिक रुपमा २०५४ सालसम्म बढ्दै गएर २६.३३ प्रतिशतसम्म पुगेको देखिन्छ । २०६९ मा फेरि यो १० प्रतिशतभन्दा तल झर्‍यो।
२०४७ देखि २०५८ सालसम्म मुलुकको विदेशी मु›ाको प्रमुख स्रोत निर्यात थियो। त्यसपछिको ठूलो स्रोतका रुपमा पर्यटन पर्थ्यो। २०५९ सालमा विप्रेषणबाट प्राप्त हुने आम्दानी दोस्रो ठूलो स्रोत बन्न पुग्यो। २०५० सालसम्म विप्रेषण यति नगण्य थियो कि यसको अलग हिसाब राखिँदैनथ्यो। २०५८ सालमा विप्रेषण कुल गार्हस्थ उत्पादनको २.४५ प्रतिशत थियो, जब कि पर्यटनबाट प्राप्त हुने आम्दानी त्यसभन्दा बढी थियो। माओवादी द्वन्द्वका कारण कलकारखाना बन्द हुन थालेपछि वैदेशिक रोजगारीमा जाने क्रम यसरी बढ्यो कि २०६२ मा आइपुग्दा विप्रेषण कुल गार्हस्थ उत्पादनको १४.९१ प्रतिशत पुग्यो, जब कि वस्तु र सेवा निर्यातबाट प्राप्त विदेशी मु›ाको अंश घटेर १४.५८ रह्यो। २०७२ मा विप्रेषणको हिस्सा बढेर अर्थतन्त्रको ३० प्रतिशत पुग्यो तर वस्तु र सेवा निर्यात अंश भने १२ प्रतिशतभन्दा कम छ। केन्द्रीय तथ्यांक विभागका अनुसार हाल नेपालको कुल अर्थतन्त्र २१ खर्बको छ।
आयातमा आधारित अर्थतन्त्रका कारण वस्तु तथा सेवा निर्यातबाट प्राप्त हुने विदेशी मुद्राले पेट्रोलियम पदार्थ आयातको भुक्तानी पनि पुग्दैन। अर्थशास्त्री विश्व पौडेल माओवादी द्वन्द्व नभएको भए पनि संस्थागत क्षमता अभाव तथा सुधार कार्यक्रम नियमित नहुँदा नेपाली अर्थतन्त्रमा संरचनागत समस्या आउने पक्का भएको बताउँछन्।
निरन्तरको श्रम समस्या तथा बन्दहडतालले उद्योगी उद्योग बन्द गरेर वस्तु आयात गर्ने र कमिसन खाने सहज आयका क्षेत्रतिर लागे। त्यस्तै सरकारले पनि आयातलाई  प्रोत्साहन गर्ने तथा उत्पादन निरुत्साहित गर्ने नीति लिँदै गएका कारण पछिल्लो एक दशकमा औद्योगिक उत्पादनको हिस्सा कुल अर्थतन्त्रमा ६ प्रतिशतभन्दा बढेको छैन।
माओवादीद्वारा सिर्जित श्रम समस्या तथा आपूर्तिजन्य अवरोध तथा राजनीतिक अस्थिरता, चर्को लोडसेडिङका बीच पनि गार्हस्थ उत्पादनमा उद्योगको हिस्सा २०४६ सालअघिको कुनै पनि वर्षभन्दा कम छैन। पूर्वअर्थमन्त्री रामशरण महतका अनुसार २०४६ सालपछिको आर्थिक सुधारले चर्को द्वन्द्वबाट गुजि्रएको नेपाली अर्थतन्त्र हालसम्म पनि धानेको छ। उनका अनुसार पहिलो चरणको  आर्थिक सुधारले हालसम्म अर्थतन्त्रलाई धानेको भए पनि अब दोस्रो चरणको आर्थिक सुधार नगरीकन अर्थतन्त्र विस्तार हुन सक्दैन।
नेपालमा आवधिक योजना सुरु भएको ६ दशक पुगेको छ। पहिलो आवधिक योजना सुरु हुँदा २०१२ सालमा आर्थिक वृद्धि दर १.५ प्रतिशतभन्दा कम अनुमान गरिएको थियो। तत्कालीन समयमा ४ सय ८० किलोमिटर सडक रहेको, उद्योगहरूको अवस्था गम्भीर रहेको, निर्यातयोग्य वस्तुको अभाव रहेको, तिब्बतसँगको व्यापार खस्किएर भारतसँग अत्यधिक निर्भरता बढेको उल्लेख गर्दै व्यापार विविधीकरण गर्न भारततर्फका १७ वटा नाका र तिब्बततिरका दुईवटा नाकाको पूर्वाधार सुधार गर्ने कार्यक्रम प्रस्तुत गरिएको थियो। २०७३ सालमा पनि यी समस्या यथावत् रहनुमा हाम्रो राजनीतिक नेतृत्वमा दूरदृष्टिको अभाव कारक भएको अर्थशास्त्री विश्व पौडेलको निष्कर्ष छ।
आर्थिक वा राजनीतिक प्रणालीले काम गर्न एउटा नियमितता अर्थात् राजनीतिक भाषामा 'लिगेसी' चाहिन्छ तर आर्थिक उदारीकरणको भावनाअनुरुप लिगेसी कायम हुन नसकेको पौडेलको भनाइ छ।

आर्थिक स्वतन्त्रता अभाव विकासमा बाधक
तीव्र आर्थिक प्रगतिको दौडमा रहेका दुई विशाल छिमेकी चीन तथा भारतको बीचमा नेपाल अल्पविकसित मुलुक भएर निम्न आयको कोटीमा पर्नुको कारण आर्थिक स्वतन्त्रता नहुनु नै हो। हेरिटेज फाउन्डेसनले बिहीबार प्रकाशन गरेको इकोनोमिक फ्रिडम प्रतिवेदनअनुसार नेपाल आर्थिक रुपमा अनुदार मुलुक हो। नागरिकले आफूले चाहेको पेसा व्यवसाय राज्यको नीतिनियमभित्र बसेर स्वतन्त्रतापूर्वक गर्न नपाउने मुलुकको सूचीमा नेपाल १ सय २५ औं नम्बरमा पर्छ।
आर्थिक विकासको एउटा प्रमुख आधार पूर्वाधार हो। तर, नेपालको पूर्वाधार जलविद्युत् उत्पादन ८ सय १८ मेगावाट, प्रसारण लाइन २ हजार ६ सय ४० किमि, सिँचाइ सुविधा पुगेको १३ लाख ६८ हजार ६ सय १७ हेक्टर, कालोपत्रे सडक ११ हजार ९ सय ३० किमि, ग्राभेल सडक ११ हजार ५ सय ८५ किमि, पक्कीपुल एक हजार ८ सय २० र एउटा अन्तर्राष्ट्रिय विमानस्थलमा सीमित छ।
पूर्वाधार विकास अपेक्षाअनुसार हुन नसक्नुमा कर्मचारीतन्त्रको अक्षमता, संस्थागत क्षमतामा कमी, भ्रष्टाचार तथा राजनीतिक हस्तक्षेपजस्ता कारण छन्। वाग्लेका अनुसार दोस्रो चरणको आर्थिक उदारीकरण तीव्र पारेर मात्र नेपाल सन् २०२२ सम्ममा अल्पविकसित मुलुकको श्रेणीबाट उक्लेर विकासशील तथा सन् २०३० सम्ममा निम्न आय भएको मुलुकबाट स्तरोन्नति भएर मध्यम आयको मुलुक हुन सक्छ।

Meghauli Serai featured among the best new hotels of 2017

Travel & Leisure magazine has featured Meghauli Serai – a Taj Safaris lodge – as one of the best new hotels of 2017.
Meghauli Serai is a part of CG Hotels & Resorts, a hospitality portfolio arm of Chaudhary Group (CG).
Travel & Leisure has showcased some 44 hotels and resorts around the globe in its annual 2017 'ItList' as the Best New Hotels. The US-based magazine is a globally renowned publication on luxury hospitality travel and tourism.
"This year, the competition was fiercer than ever," the magazine writes. "The 44 hotels and resorts are making waves for different reasons – some for killer design, others for culinary bona fides or an unbeatable location – but all are inspiring the rest of the hospitality world to take note."
The 2017 'Best Hotels in the World' ItList covers 44 hotels and resorts in 31 countries on six continents.
"We are truly humbled by this amazing recognition which has put Nepal and CG on the global map for providing world-class hospitality experiences,” said executive director of Chaudhary Group and MD of CG Hotels and Resorts Rahul Chaudhary. "CG Hotels & Resort's hospitality portfolio consists of some of the most iconic properties globally in destinations such as the Maldives, Sri Lanka, Dubai, the Philippines, China, Indonesia and New York to name a few," he said, adding that the company is proud of its partnership with Taj and is confident that Meghauli Serai's feature in Travel & Leisure will result in the influx of high-end tourism into Nepal. "This is the 5th high-end lodge within our portfolio under Taj Safaris in India and Nepal."
Located next to the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Chitwan National Park, Meghauli Serai offers the visitors an opportunity to experience rich diversity of wildlife and vegetation. The park is especially renowned for its protection of one-horned rhinos, Royal Bengal tiger and Gharial crocodiles.

Friday, February 17, 2017

Political instability, lack of vision led to wasted generations

For anyone born on February 18, 1951, the day democracy came to Nepal, it has been a lifetime wasted by political instability decade after decade and lack of economic vision among successive leaders.
Countries like South Korea and China that were at about the same level as Nepal some 66 years ago have excelled along the path of economic development but Nepal has lagged woefully behind.
In 1965, Nepal's per capita income stood at $65, and South Korea's at $105.  "While Nepal's per capital income increased by only 12 times to $766 in the last 50 years, South Korea's increased more than 300 times to $34,000," said former finance secretary Rameshwor Khanal.
The couple of years from 1951 to 1957 were an ideal period for economic development but Nepal could not take advantage of this due to the ongoing aftereffect of the 104-year Rana regime, he added.
Since then, Nepal has not seen continuous growth due to political and policy instability, according to a member of the National Planning Commission (NPC) Swarnima Wagle. "In the 1985 to 1994 decade – the last years of the Panchayat regime and early years of restored democracy – Nepal witnessed a spurt in economic growth," he said, adding that the average economic growth then stood at 5.2 per cent, the highest to date. "This also proves that the economy needs a liberal policy to grow," he said.
In the autocratic Panchayat regime the average economic growth stood at 1.9 per cent, whereas during a decade of insurgency it stood at 4.1 per cent.
Another economist, Bishwa Poudel, seconds the view. "Personal and economic freedom are key to development," he said. Economic growth has not been consistent also because of the Maoist insurgency, he further said, adding that the economy was faring well enough until the insurgency kicked in back in February, 1996.
The decade-long armed insurgency dragged down economic growth, fuelling massive migration and industrial downslide. Industrial growth that had recorded a high of 9 per cent skidded continuously to around 6 per cent due to the disruptions created by the Maoists. When they came to power in 2006, the Maoists claimed that they had become converts to liberal economic policy, but they have only promoted crony capitalism. They have forced industrialists to shift to trade rather than open new industrial ventures and risk getting mired in labour disputes.
Chronic power outage, running labour disputes backed by the Maoist party, policy inconsistency and lack of connectivity pushed up the cost of industrial production. Industrialists turning to trade instead has hampered employment generation and also rendered the economy lopsidedly import-dependent.
However, Wagle claims that all is not lost yet. "There has been an increase in life expectancy, the literacy rate has risen and people have more social security," he said adding that there has, however, to date been no big push factor in the economy, which is the need of the hour.
Wagle also opined that Nepal can recreate the magic of its post-liberal economic era, when growth touched 7.2 per cent, with a second generation of reforms.
Former finance minister Dr Ram Sharan Mahat, who is the eproponent of the liberal economy, said the economy is afloat thanks to the economic reforms that he brought about during the 1990s, and it's time for second generation economic reforms to create the push needed for the country to graduate to a developing-country status by 2022 and to middle-income status by 2030.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Nepal still remains mostly an unfree economy

Even though it has improved in ranking, Nepal still remains a mostly unfree economy, according to a report from an American think tank.
From its rank of 152, with a score of 51.2, in the Economic Freedom Index 2016, Nepal has jumped to 125 with a score of 54.1 in the Economic Freedom 2017 report published by The Heritage Foundation today.
“However, Nepal’s economy lacks the entrepreneurial dynamism needed for stronger economic growth and long-term development,” it said, adding, “Overall, weak reform efforts have failed to stimulate broad-based poverty reduction."
The state continues to hinder private-sector development, and political instability further weakens the capacity to implement economic reform or create a stable development environment, it added.
Overall, the static approach to economic management and development has been a serious drag on business activity, The Heritage Foundation said in its Index of Economic Freedom report. “Lack of transparency, corruption, and a burdensome approval process impede much-needed expansion of private investment and production."
The report has also noted that property rights are undermined by the inefficient judicial system, which is subject to substantial corruption and political influence.
It further added that property rights were not protected effectively in Nepal and it can take years to resolve property disputes. The law provides for an independent judiciary, but courts remain vulnerable to political pressure, bribery, and intimidation, it said, adding that there are numerous reports of corrupt actions by government officials, political parties, and party-affiliated organisations. "Corruption and impunity in general are problems within the Nepal Police and Armed Police Force.”
The index measures 10 freedoms – from property rights to entrepreneurship – in 186 countries. The report says the top individual income and corporate tax rates in Nepal are 25 per cent. “Other taxes include a value-added tax and a property tax," it said, adding that the overall tax burden equals 16.1 per cent of total domestic income. "Government spending in Nepal amounted to 18.7 per cent of total output (gross domestic product) over the past three years, and budget surpluses averaged 1.5 per cent of GDP. "Public debt is equivalent to 28.7 per cent of GDP.”
Among South Asian countries, the report ranked Afghanistan (163), the Maldives (157), India (143), Pakistan (141) and Bangladesh (128) below Nepal (125), while Sri Lanka (112) and Bhutan (107) fared better. Hong Kong, Singapore and New Zealand topped the index which categorized 23 countries as repressed economies.
The report also noted that despite some progress in streamlining the process for launching a business, other time-consuming requirements reduced the efficiency of the regulatory system in Nepal.
“Nepal’s labour regulations remain obsolete, and underemployment persists," it said, adding that in the wake of the devastating 2015-earthquakes, Nepal has subsidised the rebuilding of homes, contingent on the use of earthquake-resistant methods and materials."
Trade, the report says, is important to Nepal’s economy – the value of exports and imports taken together equals 53 per cent of GDP. "The average applied tariff rate is 10.9 per cent," it said, adding that the judicial and regulatory systems impede foreign investment, and state-owned enterprises distort the economy.
The report also says that Nepal’s fragmented financial system remains vulnerable to government influence, and financial supervision is inadequate to poor.
The Heritage Foundation said in the report that economic freedom was a fundamental right and every human should have the right to control their own labor and property. “In an economically-free society, individuals are free to work, produce, consume, and invest in any way they please,” it said, adding that in economically free societies, governments allow labour, capital, and goods to move freely, and refrain from coercion or constraint of liberty beyond the extent necessary to protect and maintain liberty itself.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Experts suggest relook in water, energy policy

Experts emphasised on need to review and reinforce the energy and water cooperation in South Asia.
Addressing a workshop jointly organised by South Asia Watch on Trade, Economics and Environment (SAWTEE) and Institute for Social and Environmental Transition (ISET)-Nepal, ‘Rethinking water and energy cooperation’, here in Kathmandu today, they suggested for a review of existing cooperation modalities to share benefit for improved and quality lives of people of regional or sub-regional level through effective utilisation of water. Discussing on political, economic and ecological dimensions of water cooperation in South Asia region, they also stressed on need to review Nepal’s water and energy policies.
Presenting a thematic paper, executive director at ISET-Nepal Ajaya Dixit said that the impact of climate change is already visible in Nepal’s water resources. Citing International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD), he said that between 1977 and 2010, Nepal’s icecaps have receded by 29 per cent.
Likewise, water reserve in springs in mid-hills has depleted, and at the same time, rivers have deteriorated into sewerage channels. Water-related disasters of recent times – such as western Nepal’s 2014 flood caused by three days of torrential rains and the 2008 Koshi flood – show the erratic nature of the rivers.
Dixit stressed that our focus on river conservation has mostly centred on the Himalayan rivers. But bilateral and multilateral platforms need to consider water-sharing and management issues of rivers originating from the Mahabharata and Chure as well.
Commenting on Dixit’s presentation, former deputy-managing director of Nepal Electricity Authority (NEA) and chief executive of Kabeli Energy Sher Singh Bhat pointed out that the major problem in Nepal’s hydrological management is lack of intra-sector and inter-sector coordination. As an example, he pointed out that licensing authorities grant clearances for projects without considering effects of upper stream projects on lower stream and vice versa and also how some hydropower projects could possibly adversely impact irrigation.
Vice president of Independent Power Producers’ Association (IPPAN) Kumar Pandey, on the occasion, opined that government sorely lacks policies for effective utilisation of water resources while developing multipurpose projects; hydropower, irrigation benefits, tourism activities (rafting).
Likewise, chairman of SAWTEE Posh Raj Pandey said Nepal’s inability to properly manage its water resources and energy potential has left it not only in power deficit situation but with a large trade deficit too. Nepal’s increased dependency on India would translate to soaring payments deficit in this fiscal due to increased power purchase, he added.
Pandey also urged the government to insert electricity import cost in trade deficit figures.
The current trade deficit figures published by Nepal Rastra Bank exclude the electricity import cost. Nepal's electricity import increased by 28.36 per cent to 1,758.41 GWh in the last fiscal year compared to the previous fiscal year.
Though the sixth periodic plan had introduced the idea of exporting electricity back in the 1980s, the possibility of beginning power export in the near future appears slim. Rather, power import is increasing at an alarming rate in recent years.
The participants, on the occasion, said that the idea itself is flawed as importing energy from Nepal was neither a priority for India in 1980s, nor now.
“Almost all the policies of the past five decades in water and energy cooperation have failed and they should be revisited,” according to a senior journalist and an advisor to former President Ram Baran Yadav Rajendra Dahal. "We have not seen any indication that India will buy Nepal's energy. The southern neighbour is only eying on water resources."
Dahal's view goes against country's policy documents which envisage narrowing down the bulging trade deficit with India by exporting electricity. Indian leaders and diplomats often claim that Nepal can narrow down the widening trade deficit by exporting energy to the southern neighbour.
When talks of building Arun III project was doing rounds in the 1980s, those who were in favour of building the plant had argued that export of even half of the energy generated by Arun III could put the country in a trade surplus situation, Dahal said, adding that Nepal has managed to end load-shedding at present by increasing energy imports from India. "Thus, our focus should be on becoming self-sufficient in electricity."
Stating that the country was facing resource crunch to develop big hydropower projects, Dahal also said that the country needs to attract foreign investments in hydropower sector.
The participants, on the occasion, also suggested strengthening institutional capacity of organisations like NEA to streamline hydropower generation and distribution.
They also lamented that water discourse in Nepal has always been limited to energy generation and as a result other potential usage of rivers such as for navigation, fisheries and even for keeping ecological balance have been ignored.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

ढुकुटीमा तीन खर्ब थन्कँदै

संस्थागत रुपमै सरकारको खर्च गर्ने क्षमतामा आएको ह्रासको कारण चालु आर्थिक वर्षको अन्त्यमा ढुकुटीमा ३ सय अर्ब बचत हुने देखिएको छ। हालकै खर्चको प्रवृत्ति कायम रहे सरकारको ढुकुटीमा ३ खर्ब रुपैयाँ अर्थात् चालु आर्थिक वर्षको एकतिहाइ बजेट बचत हुन्छ। 'नागरिकले सिटामोल खान नपाएर मर्ने स्थिति रहेको मुुलुकमा यत्रो बजेट बचत हुनु लाजमर्दो स्थिति हो,' राष्ट्रिय योजना आयोगका उपाध्यक्ष मीनबहादुर श्रेष्ठले भने।
सरकारले आफ्नो बजेट खर्च गर्न नसकेर पैसा ढुकुटीमा थुप्रिएको यो पहिलो वर्ष भने होइन। गत आर्थिक वर्ष पनि खर्च गर्न नसकेकैले ढुकुटीमा एक खर्ब १५ अर्ब रुपैयाँ बचत थियो।
अर्थसचिव शान्तराज सुवेदी भने फागुनदेखि बजेट खर्च बढ्ने दाबी गर्छन्। तालुक मन्त्रालयका सचिवहरुले वैशाखसम्म बजेट खर्च गर्ने प्रतिबद्धता जनाएको भन्दै उनी खर्च बढ्नेमा आशावादी देखिन्छन्। उनका अनुसार खर्च बढ्ने तथा चालु आर्थिक वर्षमा बचत भए पनि धेरै नहुने उनको अनुमान छ। असार मसान्तमा ८० प्रतिशत पुँजीगत खर्च गर्ने सरकारको लक्ष्य रहेको उनले बताए।
खर्च प्रवृत्ति हेर्दा चालु वर्ष ८० प्रतिशत पुँजीगत खर्च गर्ने सरकारको लक्ष्य नभेटिने देखिए पनि ८० प्रतिशत खर्च भए साढे दुई खर्ब रुपैयाँ मात्र पुँजीगत खर्च हुने देखिन्छ। अर्थात् सरकारले वाचा गरेअनुरुप असार मसान्तसम्म खर्च गरे पनि एक सय ५० अर्बभन्दा बढी बजेट खर्च नहुने स्पष्ट छ।
साथै, संसद्को निर्देशन एवं सरकार आफैंले बनाएको नियमअनुसार पनि आर्थिक वर्षको अन्तिम तीन महिनामा ४० प्रतिशतभन्दा बढी खर्च गर्न पाइन्न। अर्थात् फागुन र चैत दुई महिनामा कुल बजेटको ३० प्रतिशत र पुँजीगत बजेटको ४५ प्रतिशत खर्च गर्नुपर्छ।
चालु आर्थिक वर्षमा विगतमा अगाडि नै बजेट आए पनि धेरै नै ठूलो आकारको बजेट आएको, योजनाका प्राथमिकताभन्दा पनि प्रचारमुखी कार्यक्रम बजेटमा ल्याइएको तथा पुनर्निर्माणमा पनि अपेक्षाअनुरुप खर्च नभएका कारण बजेट खर्च बढ्न नसकेको अर्थ मन्त्रालयका अधिकारीको बुझाइ छ।
चालु आर्थिक वर्षको सात महिनामा पनि पुँजीगत खर्च अवस्था भने निराशाजनक देखिएको छ। माघसम्म पुँजीगत खर्च जम्मा १६.६५ प्रतिशत मात्र भएको महालेखानियन्त्रकको कार्यालयले जनाएको छ।
चालू आवको माघसम्म ५१ अर्ब ९५ करोड रुपैयाँमात्र विकास बजेट खर्च भएको कार्यालयले जनाएको छ। सरकारले चालू आवका लागि ३ खर्ब ११ अर्ब ९४ करोड रुपैयाँ पुँजीगत बजेट विनियोजन गरेको छ। आर्थिक वर्ष सकिन अब एक सय ५० दिन मात्र बाँकी छ। अबका प्रत्येक दिन सरकारले करिब २ अर्ब रुपैयाँ बजेट खर्च गर्नुपर्नेछ।
पहिला–पहिलाको खर्च प्रवृत्ति हेर्दा पनि वैशाखदेखि खर्च बढ्ने गरेको भन्दै अर्थसचिव सुवेदी चालू आर्थिक वर्षमा पनि यो क्रम दोहोरिने बताउँछन्। अघिल्लो आर्थिक वर्षमा अख्तियारको डरले काम नभए पनि यो वर्ष कानुनसम्मत खर्च गर्न अख्तियारको डर नरहेको तथा पुनर्निर्माणमा खर्च हुने आशा गर्दै सुवेदीले छिटो बजेट आए पनि खर्च गर्न तालुक मन्त्रालय असफल रहेको स्वीकारे। 'अर्थ मन्त्रालयले स्रोतको व्यवस्था मात्र गर्ने हो, खर्च तालुक मन्त्रालयले नै गर्नुपर्छ', उनले भने।
माघसम्म चालू खर्च बढेर ४२.४२ प्रतिशत पुगेको छ। महालेखा नियन्त्रकको कार्यालयका अनुसार माघसम्म २ खर्ब ४९ अर्ब ४८ करोड रुपैयाँ खर्च भएको छ। चालु आर्थिक वर्र्षमा चालु खर्चतर्फ ६ खर्ब १७ अर्ब १६ करोड रुपैयाँ विनियोजन भएको छ।
राजनीतिक रुपमा अस्थिर सरकार र संस्थागत रुपमै कमजोर तथा क्रमिक रुपमा खर्च गर्ने क्षमता घट्दै गएको कर्मचारीतन्त्र भएको अवस्थामा अघिल्लो सरकारका अर्थमन्त्री विष्णु पौडेलले चालु आर्थिक वर्षका लागि १० खर्ब ४८ अर्ब ९२ करोड रुपैयाँको बजेट ल्याएका थिए।
विकास बजेट खर्च गर्ने क्षमता गुमाउँदै गएको सरकारले राजस्व संकलन भने लक्ष्यभन्दा बढी गरिरहेको छ। माघसम्ममा राजस्व संकलनको ५६.६८ प्रतिशत लक्ष्य पूरा भएको छ। महालेखानियन्त्रकको कार्यालयका अनुसार माघसम्म ३ खर्ब २० अर्ब ७७ करोड रुपैयाँ राजस्व संकलन भएको छ। माघसम्म सरकारले ५ खर्ब ६५ अर्ब ८९ करोड रुपैयाँ राजस्व संकलन लक्ष्य लिएको थियो।
यस्तै, सरकारले लक्ष्यअनुसार विकास बजेट खर्च गर्न नसके पनि आन्तरिक ऋण भने उठाउन थालेको छ। सरकारले चालू आर्थिक वर्षको बजेटमा एक खर्ब ११ अर्ब रुपैयाँ आन्तरिक ऋण उठाउने लक्ष्य राखेको थियो।
नेपाल राष्ट्र बैंकका अनुसार सरकारले माघमा टे्रजरी बिल्समार्फत ५० करोड रुपैयाँ उठाउनेछ। फागुनमा साढे ४ अर्ब रुपैयाँ उठाइनेछ। फागुनमा सरकारले नागरिक बचतपत्र तथा ५० करोड रुपैयाँको वैदेशिक रोजगार बचतपत्र उठाउने तालिका सार्वजनिक गरेको छ।
सरकारले बजेटको लक्ष्यअनुरुप चालू आर्थिक वर्षमा ६७ अर्ब रुपैयाँ विकास ऋणपत्रमार्फत, ३३ अर्ब रुपैयाँ टे्रजरी बिल्स तथा १० अर्ब रुपैयाँ नागरिक बचतपत्र र एक अर्ब रुपैयाँ वैदेशिक रोजगार बचतपत्र मार्फत उठाउनेछ।

Moderate trade momentum in first quarter of 2017 seen

The World Trade Organisation's (WTO) latest World Trade Outlook Indicator (WTOI) suggests that global trade growth will continue to build moderately in the first quarter of 2017 after having strengthened in the final quarter of last year.
Trade-related indicators including air freight, automobile sales, export orders and container shipping have all registered solid gains in recent months, auguring for faster growth in merchandise trade volumes in the first few months of the year, it adds.
The Indicator is a leading indicator of world trade, designed to provide 'real time' information on the trajectory of merchandise trade three to four months ahead of trade volume statistics. It combines several trade-related indices into a single composite indicator to measure short-run performance against medium-run trends. A reading of 100 indicates trade growth in line with trend, while readings greater or less than 100 suggest above or below trend growth.
With a current reading of 102 for the month of November, the Indicator points to above-trend trade growth in February-March. It has risen further above trend since the last release three months ago, when the indicator stood at 100.9.
Four of the six component indices of the latest Indicator are more positive than the reading for August. Air freight, automobile sales, export orders and container shipping are all moving in a positive direction above trend and rising. Data on international freight tonne kilometres from the International Air Transport Association (IATA) have risen sharply as European air carriers posted strong growth. Container port throughput of major ports has largely recovered from its recent slump while the automobile index has also rebounded after dipping in the middle of last year. On the other hand, indices for electronics and agricultural raw materials trade are both below trend.
The WTO trade forecast issued on September 27 last year foresaw world merchandise trade growth of 1.7 per cent in 2016 and growth between 1.8 per cent and 3.1 per cent in 2017. The Indicator currently suggests that trade volume may begin to recover in the fourth quarter once data become available. Any such rebound would have to be fairly strong for trade growth in 2016 to match the 1.7 per cent increase forecast by the WTO last September.
The Indicator is not intended as a short-term forecast, although it does provide an indication of trade growth in the near future. Its main contribution is to identify turning points and gauge momentum in global trade growth. As such, it complements trade statistics and forecasts from the WTO and other organisations.

Monday, February 13, 2017

New Rs 1000 denomination bank notes in the market

The central bank is issuing new Rs 1000 denomination bank notes in the market as China has printed and delivered the new bank notes.
The Nepal Rastra Bank (NRB) has received 24 million Rs 1,000 denomination bank notes printed and delivered by the China Banknote Printing and Minting Corporation (CBPM), according to executive director at the Currency Management Department under the central bank Bhuban Kadel
We have checked the new notes, he said, adding that the central bank is utterly impressed by the quality of the notes, particularly considering the cost was far lower than the bank had previously paid to another printer. "The quality is as good as the ones that were printed earlier in another country but the cost is less than half of the amount we had earlier paid."
Getting 200 million notes printed in China saved the central bank $3.76 million, according to Kadel.
Timely delivery of these notes was also important for the central bank to provide grant aid to earthquake victims as promised by the government.
After finding that the notes available were insufficient to meet the requirements for providing the grants to the quake victims, the central bank had ordered printing the Rs 1,000 denomination notes without revising the specifics, which were earlier planned to be changed. "The second and third consignments under the first batch have also arrived in Kolkata of India, from where we will take delivery next week of one of the consignments," he added.
The central bank will take delivery of all Rs 1,000 denomination bank notes in three batches. Under the first lot, 84 million notes have been delivered.
China Banknote Printing and Minting Corporation (CBPM) – the Chinese state-owned company – had won the tender last August to print Rs 1,000 bank note, which is the largest denominated currency notes in the country.
The same Chinese company had earlier printed Rs 100 denomination bank notes as well, which were delivered in June 2016. It was the first time that any Chinese company was involved in printing Nepal's currency notes. Nepal had been earlier getting its notes printed by Indonesian, French and Australian companies.
According to the central bank, the same Chinese company also signed the contract to print 260 million Rs 5 denomination bank notes recently at a lower cost than the previously paid for.

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Telephony customer reaches 33 million milestone

Nepal reached 33 million voice telephony subscribers in October 2016, up from 31.4 million in June. The mobile voice subscriber base amounted to 31.3 million users in mid-June, up from 29.7 million in June, according to data from the Nepal Telecommunications Authority (NTA). "The total included 29.8 million GSM users, and 1.46 million subscribers to Nepal Telecom's CDMA service."
Nepal Telecom led the country’s voice telephony services market in October, with a total of 16 million subscribers, followed by Ncell with 14.6 million, according to the NTA's management information system (MIS). "The country had a mobile teledensity of 118.3 percent at mid-October 2016, while fixed teledensity reached 3.22 per cent," it revealed, adding that Nepal also had 14.4 million data/internet services users at October 17, and an internet penetration of 54.42 per cent.

Friday, February 10, 2017

Bangladesh willing to invest $1 billion in Nepal's power sector

Bangladesh has shown a keen interest to invest in Nepal's hydropower sector.
According to the ambassador of Bangladesh to Nepal Mashfee Binte Shams, Bangladesh is ready to invest $1 billion in Nepal. "Bangladesh is open to pursue every possible collaboration in the power sector, be it investment or power trade between the two countries," she said at an interaction organised by Energy Development Council (EDC), in Kathmandu, today.
As the economy of Bangladesh is growing at the rate of over 7 per cent, it is a power hungry country, the ambassador said, adding that the current installed capacity of Bangladesh is 15,000 MW but 'still it is not enough'.
Bangladesh has projected its electricity demand to reach 20,000 MW in 2021 and 34,000 MW in 2030, according to the envoy. The Bangladesh government has already proposed to sign an umbrella Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Nepal. "Bangladesh is waiting for the positive response from the Nepal government," she added.
Shams also informed that private companies of Bangladesh are also interested in investing in Nepal's hydropower sector. "Bangladesh, with its huge electricity deficit, is actively exploring to generate electricity from wind, solar and other renewable sources," she said, adding that Bangladesh has been importing electricity from India as it has friendly relationship with New Delhi.
If Nepal has to export electricity to Bangladesh, the transmission line has to go through India, as a small section of India lies in between Nepal and Bangladesh. "India will have no problem, if Bangladesh imports electricity from Nepal," she added.
Recently, India has also said that it will have no problem, if Bangladesh imports electricity through its territory. Though, there has been cross border electricity trade – between Nepal-India, Bhutan-India and India-Bangladesh – the beginning of power trade with Bangladesh will materialise power trade in the South Asia region as a whole as the regional forum has been continuously discussing on regional power trade.
Despite relatively large energy resource endowed, comprising of hydropower potential of 294,330 MW; coal reserves of 108,961 million tons and 95 Trillion Cubic Feet (TCF) of natural gas and a large renewable energy resource base; South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) region is facing acute power shortages, leading to frequent and long power outages.
The spread of these resources as well as the demand pattern are highly skewed across the region, according to a study of the Japan-ADB and SAARC. "While the resource base in some countries far exceeds their projected demand, other countries do not enjoy this luxury," it reads, adding that this scenario provides a perfect environment for the development of these resources to meet the in-country demand as well as for cross border electricity trade within and with neighboring regions.
Many hydropower projects, including mega projects like Upper Karnali, Arun III and West Seti, are being developed by India and China. If things go as planned, Bangladesh will be the second South Asian country to invest in Nepal's hydropower sector.
Speaking on the occasion, Sujit Acharya, the chairperson of EDC, welcomed the interest of Bangladesh in Nepal's energy sector. He said that the council will put its effort in bridging the gaps among the authorities concerned.
Power investment summit in September
Chairperson of Energy Development Council (EDC) Sujit Acharya also announced that EDC was organising Power Investment Summit in September.
Around 100 investment-ready projects will be showcased in the summit, Acharya said, adding that deals will be made on the sport as the summit will see high-level delegates' participation.
On the occasion, ambassador Shams said that Bangladesh was willing to participate in the Summit. “Our energy minister would be delighted to come for the summit,” she added.

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Lukla-Everest, Annapurna base camps to get free Wi-Fi

The government is planning to set up free wi-fi zones along the trials of Lukla-Everest Base Camp (EBC) area and Annapurna Base Camp.
Nepal Telecommunications Authority (NTA) today announced its plan to expand internet facility to Everest Base Camp (EBC) and Annapurna Base Camp (ABC) to facilitate trekkers.
Chairman of the authority Digambar Jha, speaking during during a programme 'Nepal Broadband Forum 2017 – Enabling Digital Economy For a Better Connected Nepal: Transforming Nepal into a Broadband Nation By 2022', informed that NTA would soon begin expanding internet services to EBC and ABC trekking routes for the safety of trekkers and promotion of Nepal’s tourism.
The base camp is located at the height of 5,360 metres (17,600 feet), making this the highest location at which free WiFi services will be available. Some hotels and restaurants at the base camp currently offer users WiFi at a rate of up to $5 (Rs 537) per hour.
"Availability of internet facility in these trekking routes will facilitate trekkers in receiving regular weather forecasts of different places, which will help reduce possible accidents that occur due to bad weather,” he said, adding that NTA will expedite the process of expanding internet facility along these two routes.
In October 2014, a snowstorm and series of avalanches had hit ABC, killing dozens of Nepali and foreign trekkers. The NTA believes that availability of internet in such trekking routes will deliver accurate weather forecasts and reduce risks of such accidents.
“Availability of internet in ABC and EBC will not only ensure trekkers’ safety, but also promote ABC and EBC as one of the best tourism and trekking destinations in the world,” added Jha. "NTA would bear the operation and maintenance cost of internet services in the routes."
Meanwhile, director of NTA Purshottam Khanal informed that a Japanese group has shown interest to lay optical fibre along the trekking routes in coordination with NTA. The NTA has, however, not yet taken any decision regarding the same," he said, adding that many countries have expressed concerns over the unfortunate incident of 2014 in ABC and they are willing to work closely with NTA to take internet facility to ABC and EBC trekking routes. The NTA is yet to develop concrete working modality for the planned expansion of internet service."
Even if implementing the plans with a partner does not materialise, NTA will lay optical fibre on its own along ABC and EBC trekking routes by utilising Rural Telecommunication Development Fund (RTDF) as internet services in these routes is crucial,” Khanal added.
On the occasion, general secretary of Trekking Agencies’ Association of Nepal (TAAN) Karna Bahadur Lama said that availability of internet and good telecommunication network along ABC and EBC would be a boon for trekkers in these two routes and also benefit the country’s tourism. "With the internet service in ABC and EBC, information-sharing regarding weather and other factors will be timely and effective," he said, adding that it will minimise accident risks.
Nepal Telecom has informed that the service will operate on the Okamura Model. The model suggests use of low-cost optical cable for high-speed internet and was propagated by International Telecommunications Union former Optical Transport Vice-Chairman Haruko Okamura.
Speaking at the program, secretary of the Ministry of Information and Communications Mahendra Man Gurung lauded the role of private sector in the development of ICT sector.
“There is a serious need to improve ICT infrastructures to reap more benefits from ICT,” he said, adding that the country will be developed only after ICT infrastructures are built in rural areas.

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

NT 4G service opened to Apple phone users

Nepal Telecom (NT) has made fourth generation (4G) or Long Term Evolution (LTE) service available to Apple phone users also from today after fixing technical issues.
"4G service is now available to Apple iPhone 6, 6 Plus, Seven and Seven Plus handset users,” the telecom service provider said in a statement.
Even after 4G service was opened to postpaid and prepaid subscribers, people using Apple phones could not switch to the upgraded network due to procedural delays between NT and Apple due to technical issues, according to the telecom service provider.
The US-based Apple said that it would make 4G network compatible with all Apple handsets from March in Nepal. "However, our persistent communication with Apple yielded results as the company made 4G service available by introducing a beta version,” the state-run telecom giant's press note reads. "Apple phone users need to download an application from Apple’s website beta.apple.com."
Due to lack of such version in iPhones available in Nepal, a number of iPhone users were deprived of 4G service. NT had then requested Apple to introduce the feature in its mobile phones in Nepal.
However, users have been advised to make a data backup before downloading the software. After that, they should go to the handset’s general settings, open software update and download the beta version, one of the largest operators in the country said.
NT customers can subscribe to 4G service by dialing *444#.
According to the company, more than 50,000 postpaid users in Kathmandu and Pokhara have switched to 4G network since the service was launched for them on January 1.
It expects the number of prepaid subscribers upgrading to 4G to rise faster as there are more of them than postpaid users. NT has opened 4G service in Kathmandu and Pokhara in the pilot phase.
The telecom service provider has upgraded 308 of its Base Transceiver Station (BTS) towers in the Kathmandu Valley and 25 stations in Pokhara to launch 4G service, it said, adding that the upgraded network allows consumers to use data at speeds of up to 32.4 Mbps. "The company aims to eventually raise the speed to 100 Mbps."
Nepal Telecommunications Authority (NTA) has authorised Nepal Telecom to offer 4G service with a bandwidth of 5 Mhz from the 1800 Mhz frequency band. The NT has asked the regulator for another 5 Mhz bandwidth to increase the speed to 100 Mbps. Once the pilot phase is completed, the company aims to launch the service in 15 municipalities in the first phase, according to the regulator of telecommunications sector.
According to the Management Information System (MIS) report of the authority, the NT has 13,536,114 GSM subscribers, apart from 7,504,457 internet service users using GPRS, EDGE and WCDMA technologies. "There are 13.74 million internet service subscribers using these technologies across the country."

ADB Climate Operations Reach a Record $3.7 Billion in 2016

The Asian Development Bank (ADB) approved $3.7 billion in climate finance investments in 2016, according to recently released figures – marking a 42 per cent boost from the $2.6 billion reached in 2015. Estimates show that in 2016, climate finance from ADB’s internal sources reached a record $2.65 billion for climate mitigation and $1.08 billion for climate adaptation.
“ADB is responding to the Paris Agreement by boosting its support to climate action in developing member countries in line with their Nationally Determined Contributions and the Sustainable Development Goals,” said ADB president Takehiko Nakao. "ADB remains committed to scaling up its climate financing to $6 billion by 2020, of which $4 billion will target mitigation and $2 billion adaptation," he said, adding that it is expected that ADB’s spending on climate change will increase to around 30 per cent of its overall financing by 2020.
In addition to its own financing, ADB mobilised $701 million from external sources, with $595 million invested in mitigation and $106 million in adaptation. Including financing form external sources, ADB delivered over $4.4 billion in climate finance in 2016.
ADB will continue to work with public and private sector partners to mobilise additional financing for climate projects, it added.
In response to climate action commitments made under the COP 21 Paris agreement by its developing member countries (DMCs), ADB is developing a Climate Change Strategic Framework. The strategic framework will spell out ADB’s future direction regarding climate change from 2017 to 2030, and will feed into ADB’s new corporate strategy toward 2030, which is currently under development. It will also outline how ADB will deliver on its $6 billion goal by 2020 and the anticipated growth in DMC demand for ADB support for climate action to 2030.
ADB, based in Manila, is dedicated to reducing poverty in Asia and the Pacific through inclusive economic growth, environmentally sustainable growth, and regional integration. Established in 1966, ADB is celebrating 50 years of development partnership in the region. It is owned by 67 members, 48 from the region.