Saturday, September 30, 2017

Nepali workers stranded in UAE since two months

Some 22 Nepali workers are stranded in Ajman of UAE since two months. The workers reached UAE in visit visa paying huge money to the brokers in Nepal.
With the help of immigration officers at Tribhuvan International Airport (TIA), the brokers have succeeded to fly them UAE in visit visa. The brokers have charged them some Rs 200,000 to Rs 500,000.
Directors of Pandor Incorporation Keshav Thapa, Ramesh Kunwar and Dinesh Lama Moktan tempted them of attractive jobs and remuneration in UAE, according to the victims.
A team of UAE-based various Nepal organisations reached Ajman yesterday to know the whereabouts of the victims. They have assured them to rescue at earliest and has requested Nepali embassy in UAE to take initiation for the liaison.
It is illegal to over-stay in UAE. However, the number of cases has increased in recent days due to the reluctant of the government. The organisations have accused government officials of the repeated incidents.

World Bank backs NEA solar plant contract

The World Bank (WB) has defended Nepal Electricity Authority’s (NEA) in solar plant case.
Defending the NEA decision to award the contract to install a 25 MW solar plant to a Chinese company, the World Bank has written a letter to the Public Accounts Committee (PAC). PAC has ordered the NEA to scrap the contract with the Raijin Energy Co.
The PAC has also accused the NEA of breaching the Public Procurement Act by hiring Raijin Energy Co but the World Bank – in the letter – said that the NEA had followed the procurement policies and practices adopted by 189 member-governments of the World Bank Group and the funding agreement signed with Nepal.
The NEA – the implementing agency of the World Bank-funded project – had forwarded the letter from the House panel to the multilateral development partner.
The NEA has received the World Bank’s reply in early September and forwarded it to PAC. Currently, the contract with the Chinese firm is in a state of suspension, and the NEA is waiting for the House panel's response.
This is the second time that the World Bank has come forward to defend the NEA. Earlier, the multilateral development partner defended NEA in August after the parliamentary committee directed the NEA to cancel the deal with Raijin Energy Co, and restart the procurement process to appoint a new contractor.
After the House committee’s ruling the World Bank had even hinted at dropping the project as selecting a new contractor would further delay the project, which is already one and a half years behind the schedule.
In February 2015, the World Bank agreed to provide $130 million to the government to build solar stations to supply electricity to the Kathmandu Valley and reduce electricity leakage. Of the money, $37 million had been earmarked for the establishment of solar plants at Devighat and Trishuli in Nuwakot district.
Although construction should have begun within a year of signing the aid agreement, the NEA took two years to award the contract as the contractor selection process became engulfed in controversy.
The controversy began after former NEA managing director Mukesh Raj Kafle unilaterally decided to hire a Chinese company to build the project. The company was later declared ‘technically unqualified’ by a committee comprising international experts.
As a result, new NEA Managing Director Kulman Ghising decided to award the project to Raijin Energy Co.
However, the parliamentary panel directed the NEA to scrap the contract following a complaint that the price of Rs 3.7 billion quoted by Raijin Energy Co was Rs 680 million higher than the rate proposed by the contractor selected by Kafle.

Friday, September 29, 2017

ADB, KfW scale up cofinancing partnership with additional $2 billion

The Asian Development Bank (ADB) and the German development bank KfW today agreed to scale up their existing cofinancing partnership with an additional $2 billion over the next 3 years until 2020 to continue promoting development in the Asia and Pacific region.
The Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) for cofinancing was signed by ADB vice president for Private Sector and Cofinancing Operations Diwakar Gupta and a member of KfW’s Management Committee for Europe and Asia Roland Siller, at a ceremony held at the ADB headquarters in Manila.
"The agreement today is a testament of our growing partnership with KfW and proof that development work should be a collaborative process if it is to be impactful," Gupta said, adding that the bank is optimistic that the additional $2 billion in cofinancing from KfW will help promote sustainable development in Asia and the Pacific and bring us closer to the goal of a region free of poverty.
The new agreement will build on the successful cofinancing partnership that ADB and KfW launched in 2014 for the same amount. The initial partnership (2014-2017) yielded 9 cofinanced projects focused on energy, public management, finance, education and technical and vocational education and training, and the environment in the People’s Republic of China (PRC), India, Indonesia, and Viet Nam. The $2 billion provided by KfW for these projects was complemented with $3.7 billion from ADB.
Germany is the second largest bilateral cofinancier of ADB projects after Japan. The additional cofinancing from KfW will help ADB address the region’s vast infrastructure needs, estimated at $1.7 trillion annually until 2030 including climate adaptation and mitigation costs.
The new MoU will allow the two institutions to expand cofinancing operations from five countries covered by the previous agreement to 11, including Afghanistan, Bangladesh, the PRC, India, Indonesia, Mongolia, Myanmar, Nepal, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, and Viet Nam. It will also cover new areas such as health and financial inclusion. Increasing financial resources and making greater use of high-level technology and innovative approaches are the two pillars of this partnership.
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. In 2016, ADB assistance totaled $31.7 billion, including $14 billion in cofinancing.

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Role of trade key in achieving Sustainable Development Goals

Trade will play a key role in achieving the United Nations’ 2030 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), and both governments and the private sector need to be more active in ensuring trade’s full potential in contributing to these goals, speakers at the WTO’s annual Public Forum said.
The SDGs were the focus of discussion during a number of sessions at the three-day Public Forum from September 26 to 28, the WTO’s flagship outreach event. The Forum provided a unique platform for senior officials, leading global businesspeople, academics and civil society representatives to come together and discuss some of the major trade and development issues of the day.
The SDGs put significant emphasis on the role that trade can play in promoting sustainable development. There are direct references to WTO activities in many of the SDGs, ranging from ensuring food security and sustainable agriculture to conserving marine resources and promoting inclusive and sustainable economic growth.
Agriculture's role in meeting the SDGs was the centre of discussion at a Public Forum session on September 27 organised by the Geneva Office of the African, Caribbean and Pacific Group, the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) and the United Nations Industrial Development Organisation (UNIDO). Speakers noted that several of the SDGs directly relate to agriculture and that modernising agricultural production will be key to achieving this. WTO members have already agreed to eliminate export subsidies for agriculture, one of the SDG targets, at their 2015 Nairobi Ministerial Conference.
Director of the FAO's UN Liaison Office in Geneva Carolyn Rodrigues Birkett said that agriculture is changing in 'unprecedented ways', with growing demand for reliable and consistent food products and corresponding attention paid to sustainable development issues related to this production.
However, greater partnering between governments, international institutions, the private sector and civil society is needed to deliver further results that contribute to effectively achieving the SDGs.

Nepal Airlines to take delivery of last two expected Y12s

Nepal Airlines is shortly taking delivery of its two final Y12E aircraft after securing qualified flight crews. Nepal Airlines has secured three senior pilots, seven co-pilots and an instructor pilot for the Chinese aircraft. A technical team will shortly be dispatched to China to inspect the aircraft ahead of their arrival in Nepal, according ot the national flag carrier.
The NAC had signed an agreement with AVIC International Leasing in 2013 which saw the Chinese firm donate one MA-60 and one Y12E on condition that the carrier take three more Y12Es and one more MA-60 using a Rs 3.72 billion ($35.4 million) soft loan from China's Exim Bank. Nepal Airlines has slowly taken delivery of the promised aircraft, but has complained of their unsuitability for Himalayan terrain.
This June, Nepal delayed delivery of the two remaining Y12Es as it only had one qualified pilot for the type. Once the aircraft are received, they will be deployed along domestic routes which had previously been suspended due to a lack of aircraft.
"Demand for air seats in the domestic sector has grown several-fold due to the poor state of national highways," Nepal Airlines' managing director Sugat Ratna Kansakar said, adding that keeping the planes parked in China is a bad idea. 

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Debt Sustainability Framework for Low Income Countries review

The executive board of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) today reviewed the joint IMF-World Bank Debt Sustainability Framework for Low-Income Countries (LIC-DSF).
Since its introduction in 2005, the LIC-DSF has been the cornerstone of the international community’s assessment of risks to debt sustainability in LICs, with important operational implications for stakeholders. The DSF has been playing a critical role in guiding borrowing and lending decisions; multilateral lenders including the International Development Association have linked their lending policies to the DSF results and the risk assessment derived by the DSF has informed the IMF’s debt limits policy (DLP) and the World Bank’s non-concessional borrowing policy (NCBP).
The framework was previously reviewed in 2006, 2009, and 2012. While the 2012 review added several new features, notably incorporation of more country-specific information and greater attention to domestic debt vulnerabilities, executive directors saw room for further progress, including by improving the assessment of macro-linkages in stress tests and exploring more the links between investment and growth – areas which were left for future work.
In the extensive consultations surrounding the current review, stakeholders emphasised the importance of ensuring that the DSF remains balanced in its treatment of risks and borrowing opportunities, incorporates more country-specific information, and reflects the evolving financing landscape facing LICs, including risks emanating from LICs’ increased market financing and contingent liabilities.
The current review assesses the DSF’s performance in recent years and proposes a wide-ranging set of reforms that adapts the framework to the evolving circumstances facing LICs and makes it more comprehensive and transparent, and yet simpler to use. The changes will include a revised approach to the assessment of countries’ debt carrying capacity based on an expanded set of variables; adjustments to the methodology designed to improve the framework’s accuracy in predicting debt distress; new tools prepared to help shed light on the plausibility of underlying macroeconomic projections; tailored stress tests to help better evaluate specific risks of particular relevance for some countries; and a reduction in the number of debt thresholds and standardised stress tests.   
The framework is expected to become operational in the second half of 2018. It will allow for completion of the associated Guidance Note and template, followed by an extensive six-month program of training for country-level authorities.
The executive directors welcomed the comprehensive review of the Debt Sustainability Framework for Low-Income Countries (LIC-DSF) and appreciated the extensive consultations with country authorities, the executive board, and external stakeholders. They noted that the LIC-DSF is a vital tool for country authorities to help strengthen fiscal policy and debt management and this review has highlighted areas where the framework can be reformed. Directors, on the occasion, agreed that the proposed reforms would make the framework more comprehensive and transparent and that the revised LIC-DSF would continue to play a critical role in informing borrowing and lending decisions by more accurately flagging potential debt distress with the aim of avoiding unnecessarily constraining LICs’ ability to finance their development.
Directors welcomed the proposed composite measure to assess a country’s debt-carrying capacity, based on both the CPIA and a set of macroeconomic variables. They observed that the inclusion of macroeconomic variables takes better account of country-specific features, and enables a fuller understanding of, and policy discussions on, how economic policies affect debt carrying capacity. This, in turn, will enhance the contribution of the DSF to policy formulation.
Directors endorsed the proposed new thresholds for debt stock and debt service indicators. They noted that, for countries whose assessment of debt-carrying capacity remains unchanged, the revised framework may imply additional borrowing space, provided countries manage debt service well. Directors observed that the quality of the framework’s outputs depend heavily on the quality of the inputs.
Directors agreed that adding tailored scenario stress tests will help evaluate risks of particular importance for some member countries – including those emanating from natural disasters, volatile export prices, market-financing shocks, and contingent liability exposures. They called for clear disclosure in debt sustainability analyses of the key assumptions made in calibrating these tests.

Nepal, Oman establish bilateral consultation mechanism

Nepal and the Sultanate of Oman have signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on establishing a bilateral consultation mechanism.
The MoU was signed at Muscat on the occasion of the official visit of Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba to the Gulf country. Nepal's ambassador to Oman Sharmila Parajuli Dhakal and head of West Asia Department at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Oman Hilah Marhoon al-Mammari signed the MoU on behalf of their respective governments today. Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Foreign Affairs Krishna Bahadur Mahara witnessed the signing ceremony.
As Nepal and the Sultanate of Oman have been celebrating the 40th anniversary of the establishment of bilateral relations this year, the conclusion of the MoU reflects the determination of the two governments to enhance and activate different fields of co-operation, particularly on economic, cultural, technological, scientific and educational relations, a press note from the Embassy of Nepal in Muscat reads.
The MoU provides that bilateral meetings will be organised on annual basis or as deemed necessary, alternately in Muscat and in Kathmandu. The MoU comes into force from the date of its signature for a period of five years and is automatically renewable for similar periods.
Meanwhile, Prime Minister Deuba and members of his delegation returned to Kathmandu yesterday upon successfully completing the 3-day official visit to the Sultanate of Oman.

UN Technology Bank to build IP infrastructure in LDCs

A new United Nations (UN) Technology Bank for least-developed countries (LDCs) aimed at growing technology transfer and intellectual property infrastructure across the 48 poorest nations became operational at last week’s annual UN General Assembly in New York.
The bank’s creation represents the first target of the 2030 UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to be achieved.
Host nation Turkey signed an agreement with the UN on September 22, committing to provide $2 million per year for five years plus staff and offices. LDCs were lining up to make token contributions as well, but the real need is to tap resources in the developed world to make it sustainable, sources said.
The Technology Bank effort is organised by the UN Office of the High Representative for the LDCs, Landlocked Developing Countries and Small Island Developing States (UN-OHRLLS).
There are two components to the bank: technology transfer and strengthening the IP infrastructure of LDC countries, as well as support IP rights acquisition and capacity building. For example in 2015, across the LDC countries there were only 2400 patents registered compared with 800 in neighbouring countries and about 100,000 in bigger countries. You’re talking in comparison to 47 countries. So there’s big potential for supporting IP and technology transfer.
They did a costing over 5 years of the Bank and it is foreseen to cost $35 million annually. The bank has been a longstanding priority for LDCs, called for in the 2011 Istanbul Programme of Action. The 2016 UN General Assembly officially established the bank as a new UN institution and subsidiary organ of the General Assembly, to be located in Gebze, Turkey.
The Technology Bank is expected to broaden the application of science, technology and innovation in the world’s poorest countries. It will improve technology-related policies, facilitate technology transfer and enhance the integration of the LDCs into the global knowledge-based economy. It will also serve as a knowledge hub, connecting needs, resources and actors, facilitating LDC access to existing technology-related projects and fostering joint initiatives with relevant organisations and the private sector.

Nepal retains fourth competitive position in South Asia

Though Nepal has improved its competitiveness by 10 ranks to 88 -- out of 137 economies -- from last year's 98, it has retained the regional rank as the fourth most competitive economy in South Asia, according to Global Competitiveness Report 2017-18 published by World Economic Forum (WEF) globally today.
India (40), Bhutan (82) and Sri Lanka (85) are ahead of Nepal, while Pakistan and Bangladesh are behind in terms of regional ranking, the report reads, adding that Bangladesh ranks at 99 and Pakistan ranks 115.
Nepal slipped from the third most lucrative investment destination in South Asia in 2015-16 to the fourth last year. Nepal this year also couldnot improve the regional ranking from last year.
Nepal scored 4 points -- out of 7 -- and ranked 88th among 137 economies in the world, reveals the Global Competitiveness Index (GCI) 2017-2018, whereas Nepal had scored 3.87 points and ranked 98th among 138 economies in the GCI 2016-2017.
The Global Competitiveness Report 2017-18 also revealed that Nepal managed to advance its ranking in the GCI every subsequent year since 2012-13. Nepal has improved its scores across all pillars of competitiveness except Business Sophistication and Innovation Pillers that are key to advance economies.
However, government instability tops the most problematic factors for doing business in Nepal. It is followed by inefficient government bureaucracy, inadequate supply of infrastructure, policy instability, corruption, access to finance and poor work ethics.
The report also reads that ‘upgrading ICT infrastructure and increasing ICT use remain among the biggest challenges for the South Asia region’. According to the report, over the past decade, South Asia has been the area where technological readiness stagnated the most, with a performance similar to that of Sub-Saharan Africa.
Overall, the report highlights that 10 years on from global financial crisis, prospects for a sustained economic recovery remain at risk due to a widespread failure on part of leaders and policymakers to put in place reforms necessary to underpin competitiveness and bring about much-needed increases in productivity.
The results show growth is starting to recover, but still is insufficient to provide foundations needed for continued reductions in poverty and broad-based improvements in the quality of life of the many.
With emerging markets having a greater participation in global production and growth, progress in competitiveness among the large growing economies of Asia, Africa, and Latin America will be fundamental to the ability to provide a new boost to global growth.
Globally, Switzerland continued to top the overall rankings, with strong results evenly balanced across the different components of competitiveness. The United States improved a spot to rank at second overall this year. Singapore at third position (down by one) posted ‘an excellent performance across the board’. The Netherlands, at fourth, maintained its position. Similarly, Germany remained in the fifth position as last year, while slightly increasing its overall score.
There are three sub-indices in the competitiveness report -- basic requirements, efficiency enhancers, and Innovation and sophistication factors. 

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

ADB forecasts 4.7 percent economic growth for Nepal

Asian Development Bank (ADB) has pulled the economic growth projection down to only 4.7 per cent in the current fiscal year 2017-18 – due to flood in the southern plains – compared to 6.9 per cent of the previous fiscal year 2016-17.
Against the central bank's projection and government target – of 7.2 per cent – the 'Macroeconomic Update: Nepal (September 2017)' released today by the ADB said that the economy will likely grow at a slower rate of 4.7 per cent in the current fiscal year largely due to heavy rainfall during this monsoon that affected paddy and other major crops in the Tarai belt which is considered to be the breadbasket of the country.
The growth forecast by the ADB of this fiscal year has been revised down from the earlier estimate of 5.4 per cent in the wake of severe floods and landslides in August that affected one-third of the country, resulting in the loss of human lives and livelihoods, and destruction of crops.
The World Bank has also last week said that economic growth rate is likely to moderate to 4.6 per cent in the current fiscal year. Both multilateral development partners have attributed the recent floods in Tarai as a major reason to the possible slowdown in economic growth, though the central bank has downplayed the impact of the floods.
"Heavy rainfall since mid-August led to landslides and floods, resulting in the loss of human lives and livelihoods," the report reads, adding that the floods inundated paddy fields and destroyed crops in most of the Tarai districts. "This will depress farm output, hampering growth prospect."
The ADB has also said that the transition to federal system will weigh on the economic growth of the country. The World Bank has also pointed out the lack of clarity regarding fiscal architecture as a dampener for the economic growth.
“Though dates for provincial and federal level elections have been announced, several bills, namely, Natural Resources and Fiscal Commission including Inter-governmental Fiscal Transfer imperative for effective implementation of fiscal federalism have yet to be enacted,” read the periodic report. "In the absence of these bills, distribution of natural resources and revenue among all three tiers of the government will be affected, hampering growth prospect.”
The ADB’s macroeconomic report has said that the agriculture sector is expected to expand by just 2.4 per cent in fiscal 2017-18, compared to 5.3 per cent of last fiscal owing to the destruction of paddy plantation and other major crops in the Tarai belt of Nepal, which is considered the rice bowl of the country.
However, the industry sector is expected to expand by 6.6 per cent in the current fiscal as a result of the regular supply of electricity and availability of construction materials. The services sector, meanwhile, is projected to grow by 5.5 per cent in this fiscal due to an expansion of the financial intermediation, wholesale and retail trade, and tourism subsectors.
“The economy rebounded strongly in fiscal 2016-17 from fiscal 2015-16, which was a difficult year due to various external shocks. This year, we expect economic growth to be a bit tepid compared to last fiscal, partly because of the floods,” principal economist and officer-in-charge of ADB’s Nepal Resident Mission Sharad Bhandari said, adding that reforms to improve the quality of public and private investment and to encourage a competitive private sector would reduce the economy’s dependence on external factors such as the monsoon and remittances.
Like in the previous fiscal years, delay in the implementation of development projects is going to be another obstacle for economic growth in the current fiscal year. "Implementation delays of national pride projects have continued in the current fiscal year," it further reads, adding that it will likely lead to a substantial shortfall in capital expenditure and depress economic growth.
Likewise, the ADB projected inflation to rise in the current fiscal year but remain below the average 8.9 per cent of price rise in the past last decade.
According to the ADB, the inflation is expected to pick up to 6.5 per cent in the current fiscal year, up from 4.5 per cent in the last fiscal year. The proposed expansionary budget for the current fiscal year, including the fiscal transfer and election expenditures as well as the depressed farm output and infrastructure damage from the recent floods, could raise the inflationary pressure, the report adds.
The report further reads that the fiscal transfer and election expenditures compounded by depressed farm output will exert inflationary pressure in the current fiscal year.

Global trade rebound boosts growth in Asia and the Pacific

Growth remains strong across most of developing Asia as a result of the broad-based recovery in global trade, robust expansion in major industrial economies, and improved prospects for the People’s Republic of China (PRC). This will combine to push growth in developing Asia for 2017 and 2018 above previous projections, says a new Asian Development Bank (ADB) report.
In an update of its flagship annual economic publication, Asian Development Outlook (ADO) 2017, ADB forecasts gross domestic product (GDP) growth of 5.9 per cent in 2017 and 5.8 per cent in 2018 for developing Asia.
“Growth prospects for developing Asia are looking up, bolstered by a revival in world trade and strong momentum in the PRC,” ADB chief economist Yasuyuki Sawada said adding that countries in developing Asia should take advantage of favorable short-term economic prospects to implement productivity-enhancing reforms, invest in badly needed infrastructure, and maintain sound macroeconomic management to help increase their long-term growth potential.”
Growth across developing Asia is buoyed by a revival in trade. The dollar value of the region’s exports surged by 11 per cent in the first 5 months of 2017 over the same period in the previous year, and the value of its imports rose by 17 per cent. The pickup follows two consecutive years of contracting export values caused by falling commodity prices and subdued external demand for manufactures. Excluding the PRC, the eight largest regional developing economies saw real manufacturing exports rebound.
Industrial economies’ growth will reach 2 per cent in 2017 and 2018, up by 0.1 percentage points from the April 2017 forecast. Consumers are keeping the world’s largest economy on track, as the United States’ expansion enters its ninth year. Growth in Japan surprised on the upside, spurred by a combination of improving consumer confidence and business sentiment. Expansive fiscal and monetary policies, easing political uncertainty, and robust market confidence are driving the recovery in the euro area, the report reads.
Expansionary fiscal policy and unanticipated external demand helped the PRC exceed expectations in the first half of 2017. Output will increase 6.7 per cent in 2017, an increase of 0.2 percentage points over the previous forecast. In 2018, growth will slow to 6.4 per cent as anticipated reforms to trim industrial overcapacity and reduce financial risks kick in.
India continues its strong showing, although demonetization and implementation of the new goods and services tax regime have dented consumer spending and business investment. These short-term disruptions are expected to dissipate, allowing these initiatives to generate growth dividends over the medium term. India’s GDP growth is downgraded to 7 per cent in FY2017, a 0.4 percentage point drop from the April forecast. In FY2018, the forecast is adjusted down to 7.4 per cent from 7.6 per cent.
Southeast Asia, meanwhile, is set for stronger growth as output accelerates steadily from 5 per cent in 2017 to 5.1 per cent in 2018, an upgrade from 4.8 per cent and 5 per cent in the previous forecast. Regional growth will be led by rising exports from Singapore and Malaysia, while the forecasts for regional leaders Indonesia and Thailand are maintained.
Growth forecasts for Central Asia are revised up this year and next amid stable oil prices, improving prospects for the Russian Federation, and rising remittances. The Pacific outlook, on the other hand, is retained for 2017 but adjusted slightly downward for 2018 as prospects for the largest Pacific economies—Papua New Guinea and Timor-Leste—are unchanged.
Risks to the region have become more balanced. Loose fiscal policy in the US and lower oil prices are potential upside risks to the region, while downside risks include tighter global liquidity, economic disruption from a geopolitical event, or a weather-related disaster. While the region remains better prepared for potential risks from the US unwinding its quantitative easing, high debt levels in Asia and the Pacific now pose a risk to financial stability. Because long-term interest rates in many Asian economies are closely linked to those in the US, policy makers need to strengthen their financial positions further and monitor debt levels and asset prices.
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. In 2016, ADB assistance totaled $31.7 billion, including $14 billion in cofinancing.

Lack of teeth weakens government's fight against black marketers

Lack of law has made the government's fight against black marketers weak.
According to supplies minister Shiva Kumar Mandal, the black marketers are getting impunity due to lack of proper law to take action against them.
Addressing a press meet, organised by Press Centre, Morang Chapter, in Biratnagar today, Mandal said that the concerned authorities have not been able to punish the black marketers due to lack of legal authority. "The government has monitored markets for 17,000 times in the past five years but there is no record of action taken against them as the monitoring body does not have the authority,” he said, adding that there is rampant adulteration of food items and petroleum products. "The black marketing has been increasing rapidly due to lack of law."
However, the Local Administration has the right to take action against the black marketers, and also the Ministry has the right to close the shops involved in black marketeering for 90 days.
The consumer rights activists claim that the government agencies have been active in market monitoring only before the festive season. "The timing has always been before festivities – like Dashain and Tihar – and not round the year," the consumer rights activists ask.
"Durbarmarg-based shops have been opened amid pressure and completing the legal process but the owners have been warned that they would be punished if they were found involved in carrying out black marketing in the coming days,” he said, lamenting the fact that market monitoring could not be effective as expected due to lack proper coordination by Customs Department.
Earlier, some six Durbarmarg-based outlets of Nike, Puma, Bentley and Store One brands were sealed for allegedly charging exorbitant price in their products. Bugt most of these brands have claimed that they have no authorised outlet in Nepal.
The government agencies – in monitoring – are thus blamed for bargaining with the big stores and super stores before festivals.

Monday, September 25, 2017

ADB to help improve delivery of urban services and infrastructure

The Asian Development Bank (ADB) has sanctioned a $150 million soft loans for Nepal to improve urban infrastructures in the southern plains of the country.
The ADB’s board of directors has approved a $150 million loan to help improve the delivery of urban services and infrastructure in eight municipalities in the southern plains including in Province 7 in the far west, according to a press note issued by the multilateral development partner.
The project will help the areas become more sustainable, inclusive, and resilient places to live in for more than 1.5 million people, the press note reads.
Urbanisation in Nepal has been growing at a rapid pace at about six per cent since the 1970s, however, this has not contributed significantly to inclusive economic growth due to inadequate urban planning, weak institutions, neglected operations and maintenance (O&M) of existing urban infrastructure, as well as limited technical capacity. It is estimated that the government would need to double its spending on urban infrastructure to meet the backlog of future demand up to 2030 worth $24.5 billion.
Investments from the Regional Urban Development Project will focus on eight municipalities from the southern Tarai region, including four municipalities from the less-developed Province 7 in far western Nepal.
The project will enhance urban infrastructure in municipalities in the Tarai region, incorporating climate-resilient and sustainable features, reducing flooding duration to less than an hour in eight municipalities. It includes the construction and rehabilitation of 200-km storm water drains; improvement of 240-km roads; construction of at least 40-km footpaths responsive to the needs of elderly, women, children, and people with disabilities; building of four sanitary landfills and resource recovery centres; and construction of 20-km sewers while connecting 7,500 households to the sewerage system in Biratnagar.
"Improving urban infrastructure and service delivery in major urban areas in Nepal, including in the Tarai region, is a must given their importance to the country’s economy and development,” an ADB urban development specialist Vivian Castro-Wooldridge, has been quoted as saying in the press note. "The project will ensure that people in the southern parts of Nepal are living in areas that are safe, sustainable, inclusive, and resilient to climate change."
The Tarai region is where a significant amount of Nepal’s urban population lives and where majority of the landlocked country’s trade activities flow—through the municipalities of Biratnagar, Birgunj, and Siddharthanagar. Province 7, bordering India, is one of the poorest and most vulnerable provinces in Nepal, with 40 percent of people living under poverty and almost none having access to proper waste collection and treatment facilities.
The project will mark ADB’s first investment in urban infrastructure in Province 7 and will improve flood management, mobility and solid waste management. It will also assist the development of urban plans and bylaws that reflect greater disaster risk resilience, improved land management, and regional development. Municipal capacity will be strengthened through the implementation of a performance-based socio-economic development programme.
The project will also support a project development facility for the preparation of a pipeline of urban infrastructure projects, particularly in solid waste management, drainage, roads, water supply, and sanitation, with high readiness to reduce future start-up delays, adds the release.

Central bank removes 30-year retirement provision, saves 200 million

After a long debate on the retirement provision, the central bank has proposed to remove the 30-year service period from the Nepal Rastra Bank (NRB) Employees’ Bylaws and make uniform retirement provision for all.
The board of directors meeting of the central bank on Sunday has decided to retain a single provision regarding retirement of NRB employees at the age of 58. According to the existing Employees’ Bylaws, NRB employees will be retired based on age factor and completion of 30-year service period, whichever comes first.
The central bank has proposed to remove the 30-year service period provision citing that a large number of experienced staff will be retired by next year under the provision and it wants to retain them.
It will also bring uniformity in retirement provision at par with civil servants, said central bank deputy spokesperson Rajendra Pandit, who also informed that the central bank has also formed a committee that will suggest on professional development of the NRB staffers as according to the federal structure of the country.
The central bank has sent the proposal to the Public Service Commission (PSC), which is the constitutional body that is mandated to select meritorious candidates for the government, he said, adding that altogether 233 officer-level – including special class, first class, second class and third class – staffers will be retired by next year as they will meet the 30-year service period despite having few years left before they meet the compulsory retirement age. It will also be the loss to the central bank as it will not only lose its experienced staff but will also have to pay some Rs 200 million extra.
The number of staffers to be retired by next year is one-fourth of the total staffers of the central bank, he said, adding that the new entry has to be taken immediately. "If the commission is unable to finalise selection process on time, the remaining staffers, even those who do not meet the promotion criteria, will automatically get promoted," according to the central bank. "Keeping the 30-year provision will not only increase pension liability but also lose trained human resources."
According to the NRB Employees’ Bylaws, a central bank staff, who retires after completing 30 years of service will get one layer promotion along with monthly pension calculated as per the last salary scale multiplied by service period plus remaining age before turning 60, divided by 50.
The central bank currently has a workforce of around 1,125 people. Of these people, 385 are retiring in the next three years. Majority of these employees are retiring because they have completed 30 years of service. Likewise, a total of 2,700 former central bank staffers are receiving pensions at present.
The Employees Union has been opposing the central bank move claiming that it will bar fresh blood from entering the NRB – in contradiction to the spirit of the Financial Sector Reform Programme (FSRP) – and the employees of government banks will also seek uniformity in retirement with the central bank. The 30-year service period provision was introduced in the central bank – under the FSRP – from 2000 aiming at mainly to inject fresh blood in the central bank to strengthen its regulation and supervision capacity and to improve the quality of service. The provision was also introduced in government banks – Rastriya Banijya Bank, Agricultural Development Bank and Nepal Bank – under the FSRP funded by World Bank.
The Employees Unions have, however, launched a protest to oppose the central bank move. They have today picketed the Governor’s Office two hours and shut down many branch offices for one hour. We will shut down all branches of the NRB for one hour and picket the Governor’s Office tomorrow also, said general secretary of the Nepal Financial Institutions Employees Association, a trade union close to the Nepali Congress, Rajiv Regmi.
Of the three trade unions at the central bank – Nepal Rastra Bank Employees Association, which is close to the CPN-UML; National Employees Organisation, which is close to CPN (Maoist Centre) and Nepal Financial Institutions Employees Association, which is close to the Nepali Congress – only National Employees Organisation is in favour of the central bank move, while the remaining two have denounced it.
Central Bank former governor Dr Yuba Raj Khatiwada had formed a committee led by then board member Dr Parthibeshwor Timilisina, who had advised to scrap 30-year provision. But Dr Khatiwada retired before implementing the suggestion.

Parliamentarians instruct government to construct Budhi Gandaki by itself

Instructing the government to halt the process of allowing China Gezhouba Group Corporation (CGGC) to develop Budhi Gandaki Hydropower Project, the Parliamentarians have asked to construct by itself.
Nearly four months after the government signed a contract agreement for the hydel project with the CGGC, a joint meeting of Agriculture and Water Resources Committee (AWRC) and Finance Committee – under the Legislature Parliament – today has instructed the government to to scrap the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to award the 1,200-MW Budhi Gandaki Hydropower Project to the Chinese government undertaking . The MoU was signed in May.
The 1,200-MW project was recently listed as a component of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), the China-led plan that envisages greater trade and connectivity and supports varied infrastructure projects.
"The meeting has decided to order the government to scrap the MoU and all the processes of awarding the hydropower project to the Chinese developer and develop it by mobilising internal resources,” chairperson of the Agriculture and Water Resources Committee Mohan Prasad Baral said, adding that the national pride project should be built by mobilising domestic capital and capacity instead of handing it over to a foreign company.
The lawmakers, on the occasion, also flayed the government saying that the project was handed over to the CGGC against the country’s legal premises and breaches the Public Procurement Act. The government has also been criticised for not holding free competition before deciding on the company to undertake the hydroelectricity project.
"This project was handed over to a controversial Chinese company whose track record is so bad in Nepal by flouting various laws like Public Procurement Act," chairperson of the Finance Committee Prakash Jwala said, adding that the government made a blunder by awarding the project to the Chinese firm. "The intention behind selecting this Chinese firm is only to hold the project."
Budhi Gandaki – a reservoir-type mega project that lies in Gorkha and Dhading districts – has been highlighted as a key project to resolve the country’s perennial power crisis.
Kulekhani hydropower projects 1 and 2 – the only reservoir type hydropower plants in the country – having combined capacity of 92 MW are capable of offsetting supply shortage during dry season.
The government-led by Pushpa Kamal Dahal, on May 23, had in principal decided to entrust the work of building the mega project to the CGGC under the engineering, procurement, construction and finance (EPCF) model, though the government led by KP Oli had already completed the home work to award the project to the Chinese developer.
Following the cabinet decision, the then energy minister Janardan Sharma had signed the MoU with president of CGGC Lv Zexiang on June 4 in the presence of then PM Pushpa Kamal Dahal and Chinese ambassador to Nepal Yu Hong. The MoU, however, is silent about project cost. According to the project's DPR prepared by a French consultant, the project is estimated to cost Rs 261 billion.
State Minister for Energy Shambhu Lal Shrestha, on the occasion replying the House committee, said that the country can construct the project with domestic resources.
Though the parliamentary panels have directed the government to scrap the project, they want continuation of land compensation payment. The committees have suggested providing the displaced people a share in the project instead of compensation, for easing the process. The government has listed it as a national pride project. The government has allocated Rs 5.33 billion for project development this fiscal year.

Trading, corporate activities slow down

Though the government has no clear idea that trading and corporate activities have been slowed down or tax evasion has been increased – in the first 2 months of the current fiscal year – as a result the government failed to meet the revenue mobilisation target by over Rs 1 billion.
The Inland Revenue Department (IRD) has missed the revenue mobilisation target due to a slowdown in income tax collection and value added tax (VAT).
According to the department, it fell short by 4 per cent as the government was able to mobilise Rs 35.27 billion against the target of Rs 36.67 billion in income tax.
The department has been able to mobilise Rs 14.23 billion in income tax, which is 92 per cent of the target of Rs 15.46 billion. Corporate profit tax, remuneration tax and investment tax are the major sub-headings of income tax that the department collects as direct tax.
IRD spokesperson Yagya Prasad Dhungel said that the drop in income tax collection was a usual trend in the first quarter of the fiscal year, as a majority of taxpayers will not have filed their tax returns during this time.
Taxpayers need to declare and submit tentative tax returns in advance to the department.
Likewise, the department fell short of the VAT also. It has been able to mobilise Rs 12.90 billion achieving only 97 per cent of the target.
An increase in the number of cases of tax evasion recently had led to the drop in VAT collection, the department suspects. Proliferating use of counterfeit excise duty stickers and growing practice of not issuing VAT bills have led to slow revenue collection, though the department has however intensified market inspection from the past month.
The department has fined a total of 600 taxpayers for not paying their taxes on time. Likewise, it has started scrutinising 21 large taxpayers, who are suspected to have cheated the government by evading tax. The department has also instructed the concerned taxpayers to maintain updated transaction records and issue a VAT bill while making a sale.
However, excise duty collection exceeded the target. The department has been able to mobilise Rs 7.73 billion against the target of Rs 7.36 billion in the first two months of the current fiscal year.
Likewise, the department has also missed the education service tax and health service tax targets. The department has mobilised Rs 156.6 million in education service tax against the target of Rs 177.95 million and Rs 250.4 million in health service tax compared to the target of Rs 343.01 million.
The government has set a target of moblising Rs 299.91 billion through IRD in the current fiscal year.
Even as the tax authority was unable to meet the target for the first two months of the current fiscal year, the amount was an increase of 22 per cent against the same period of last fiscal year. Tax mobilisation under income tax increased by 17 per cent, VAT by 23 per cent, excise duty by 30 per cent, education service tax by 13 per cent and health service tax by 22 per cent in the first two months compared to the same period of the last fiscal year.

Two months’ revenue mobilisation
Title – Amount – Achievement
Income Tax – Rs 14.23bn – 92pc
VAT – Rs 12.90bn – 97pc
Excise Duty – Rs 7.73bn – 105pc
Health Service Tax – Rs 250m – 88pc
Education Service Tax – Rs 156.58m – 73pc

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Experts suggest private sector settle disputes outside courts

Experts have suggested private sector to settle dispute outside courts to save time, labour and money, whereas private sector will also benefit from commercial mediation.
Commercial entities will benefit from commercial mediation as the conflicting parties do not have to go through court procedures while settling their disputes and save time, labour and money, according to the private sector.
"Commercial entities will benefit from commercial mediation as the conflicting parties do not have to go through court procedures while settling their disputes," FNCCI president Bhawani Rana said addressing an interaction on the importance and challenges of mediation in commerce and the industrial sector organised by Federation of Nepalese Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FNCCI) in Kathmandu today.
"The cost as well as time will be saved if such disputes are settled outside the court,” she said, adding that the event had been organised to raise awareness among stakeholders regarding the importance of commercial mediation.
The Mediation Act came into effect in 2014.
Discussing on a working paper on ‘Commercial Mediation in the field of Commerce and Industry: Its Importance and Challenges’ presented on the occasion, they said that the mediation has become effective in commercial sector.
Acting Chief Justice Deepak Raj Joshee said that mediation has become practically effective in the commercial sector. "It has been accepted as the latest concept of alternative justice system after 1970s,” he said, adding that  law relating to mediation has been implemented with an aim at solving misunderstandings and conflicts without hampering time, labour and tools. "It has increased people’s access to justice."
Similarly, Justice Anil Kumar Sinha, on the occasion, suggested that the FNCCI proceed with organisational commercial mediation.
A mediation expert Matrika Niraula also said that mediation is very important and effective medium to settle commercial disputes as court procedures are time consuming and very expensive. 

CIAA seeks smooth delivery of public services during festivals

The Commission for the Investigation of Abuse of Authority (CIAA) has directed the government agencies to ensure smooth public service delivery during the festivals.
The anti graft body today summoned the government secretaries and representatives from different consumer-related organisations to instruct them for taking all possible measures to ensure smooth service delivey at the time of festivals. During the festivals, there wil be a lots f pressure from the consumers due to rise in demand.
The CIAA chief Deep Basnyat asked the agencies to remain alert and attentive towards the guarantee of smooth supply of quality foods, proper management and regular market monitoring during the festival. He also insisted on the need of proper management of public vehicles.
Commissioners Dr Sabitri Thapa Gurung, Rajnarayan Pathak, Dr Ganesh Raj Joshi and Nabin Ghimire, on the occasion, also asked government bodies to focuse on public interests. Revenue secretary Sishir Dhungana, home secretary Lok Darsan Regmi, Physical Infrastructure and Transport secretary Devendra Karki, culture secretary Maheshwor Neupane and acting supplies secretary Mukunda Poudel were among those present at the meeting.

Saturday, September 23, 2017

Nepali, Indian entrepreneurs join hands to promote tourism

Tourism entrepreneurs of Nepal and India are planning to promote tourism of both the countries.
The tourism entrepreneurs of Mechi zone of Nepal and Indian state of West Bengal are coordinating to promote of tourism of both countries at the initiation of Ilam Hotel Association and Mechi Hill Area Tourism Promotion Development Committee. They have jointly started the promotional activities for both Nepal and India. And for the starting, they have jointly celebrated ‘World Tourism Day’ in Siliguri, India.
A Nepali team of 22 members, along with the executive director of the committee Kesav Dharauli, president of Ilam Hotel Association Devi Poudel, senior vice-president of Ilam Chamber of Commerce and Industry Ishwor Chipalu, and other stakeholders, has reached Siliguri to celebrate ‘World Tourism Day’ jointly.
In celebration of the tourism day, they have organised an exhibition of local production in Siliguri from September 22-24. The Nepali products in display include organic tea, cardamom, lollypop – Nepali chocolate – dhaka clothes, red chilly, medicines, foods, herbs, Nepali products such as topi, dhaka-bags, Bhadgaule topi.
Nepali cultural dance is also presented during the exhibition. 
According to the Nepali entrepreneurs, visitors coming from West Bengal and south India have shown their interest on Nepali local products. The visitors were more attracted toward agricultural product of Mechi hill of Nepal in comparison to the products from India’s Darjeeling, Sikkim, Mirik and Siliguri areas.
The months from September to March, except December, are considered as tourist season for this region including Mechi hill, Darjeeling, Mirik and Sikkim. The Nepali entrepreneurs have targeted to bring tourist, who visit Darjeeling and Mirik every year, to Nepal.
According to the statistics of Tourism Information Center, Kalebung, every year 60,000 Indian tourists visit Ilam.
Especially the tourists from West Bengal choose to visit Ilam, Paachthar and Taplejung districts of Nepal, according to the entrepreneurs. "However the Gorkhaland movement in Darjeeling has affected the flow of Indian tourists this year."

Chinese bank renews loan grace period of Upper Trishuli 3A

The state-owned bank of China has renewed the loan grace period for Upper Trishuli 3A by four-and-a-half year.
Writing a letter to Finance Ministry, the Export-Import (Exim) Bank of China has informed about extension of the the grace period of the loan provided to Upper Trishuli 3A Hydroelectric Project.
The renewal of the grace period, which had expired more than a year ago, implies the country can start repaying the due credit from 2021, according to the Finance Ministry.
Nepal Electricity Authority (NEA) – that is constructing the 60-MW project in Rasuwa and Nuwakot districts through a subsidiary company – had previously asked the Exim Bank of China to extend the loan grace period by five years, after expiry of the grace period in August 2016. The NEA had sought extension after the hydroelectric project was hit by devastating earthquakes in 2015, which completed halted construction works.
The Chinese bank, in 2011, had extended a concessional loan of $114.7 million at an annual interest rate of 1.75 per cent for 25 years, with a grace period of five years. As the grace period of the loan expired in August 2016, the bank wrote to the Finance Ministry and NEA requesting commencement in payment of instalment on a timely basis.
Responding to the bank, the ministry asked for an extension of the grace period stating the construction of the project had been stalled by natural disasters. The Chinese bank finally made the decision to extend the grace period a year after the Finance Ministry made the formal request.
The project contractor China Gezhouba Group Company (CGGC) has recently resumed construction works at the project site. The project has achieved an important milestone as it has completed excavation of 4.1-km headrace tunnel – on Thursday – which marks around 85 per cent of the project’s civil work completion. "We are on track to meet the April 2019 project completion deadline,” NEA appointed site in-charge of the project Ambikesh Jha said, adding that the contractor will now concentrate on construction of the project’s powerhouse.

Friday, September 22, 2017

Over 2 billion trade deficit daily

The country witnessed trade deficit of over Rs 2 billion every day.
According to the central bank, the country has witnessed a total of Rs 70.60 billion trade deficit in the first month of the current fiscal year – mid-July to mid-August.
It is an increase of 10.1 per cent against the same period of last fiscal year,' the central bank report revealed, adding that the growth rate of trade deficit, however, has contracted when compared to growth rate of 13.6 per cent in the first month of last fiscal year.
Merchandise imports increased by 9.3 per cent to Rs 77.28 billion in the review period compared to a growth of 13 per cent in the same period of the previous fiscal year, whereas exports decreased by 3.9 per cent to Rs 6.68 billion against growth of 7.7 per cent in the same period of the previous fiscal year.
The report also revealed that imports from India rose by nine per cent whereas imports from China and other countries went up by 14.2 per cent and 7.1 per cent, respectively. "In the first month, import of petroleum products, gold, cement, hot rolled sheet in coil, aircraft spare parts, among others increased, whereas import of edible oil, machinery and parts, electrical goods and equipment, cold rolled sheet in coil and agricultural equipment, among others, decreased."
Merchandise export to India dropped in the first month by 10.1 per cent to stand at Rs 3.44 billion against Rs 3.82 billion in the same period of the last fiscal year. "Drop in export of commodities like raw jute, soap and mustard and linseed contributed to the decline in exports to India, while, export of these commodities declined by 100 per cent," according to the current Macroeconomic Situation. "However, export of hessian and particleboards increased by 305 per cent and 298 per cent, respectively in review period."
Likewise, exports to China and other countries increased by 11.3 per cent and 3.2 per cent, respectively in the first month of the current fiscal year. Commodity-wise, export of zinc sheet, thread, readymade garments and oil cake, among others, increased whereas the export of woollen carpets, polyester yarn, toothpaste and cardamom, among others, decreased.
Workers’ remittances inflow growth also increased by seven per cent to Rs 55.55 billion in contrast to a decline by 2.5 per cent in the same period of the previous fiscal year. However, outflow of migrant workers fell by 11.8 per cent following a decline of 6.9 per cent in same period of last fiscal year.
Consequently, net transfer receipt went up by 4.9 per cent to Rs 62.70 billion. Such receipt had fallen by 2.5 per cent in the same period of the previous fiscal year. The current account registered a deficit of Rs 5.43 billion due to the widening trade deficit. The current account deficit amounted to Rs 2.32 billion in the same period of the previous fiscal year. Similarly, the overall balance of payments (BoP) resulted in a deficit of Rs 3.29 billion compared to a deficit of Rs 2.11 billion in the same period of the previous fiscal year.
The central bank also revealed that Nepal received capital transfer amounting to Rs 674.7 million and foreign direct investment (FDI) inflows of Rs 4.61 billion. In the same period of the previous year, capital transfer and FDI inflows were Rs 606 million and Rs 1.23 billion, respectively.

Inflation cools down to 2.3 per cent

Inflation cooled down to 13-year low of 2.3 per cent in the first month of the current fiscal year, as food prices dropped and non-food prices went up moderately.
Consumer prices had last increased at this pace in July 2004, according to the central bank. "At that time, inflation had stood at 2 per cent."
The higher base price of the previous fiscal year contributed to the moderation of inflation in the current fiscal year's first month,” revealed the latest Macroeconomic Report of the central bank. "Inflation stood at 8.6 per cent in the same month a year ago."
Consumer prices decelerated after prices of food and beverages, which make a contribution of 43.9 per cent to the consumer basket, dropped by 1 per cent, the report reads, adding that prices of pulses and legumes had dropped by a whopping 23.3 per cent, while vegetables had become cheaper by 11.7 per cent. "These items make a contribution of 7.4 per cent to the consumer basket."
Likewise, prices of spices had also gone down by 3.5 per cent, while fruit prices had decline by 1.4 per cent. Fall in prices of these food products were able to offset 8.3 per cent jump seen in prices of alcoholic beverages and 5.3 per cent hike in prices of sugar and products made out of sugar, the report added.
"The torrential rains did cause losses of stock and hit agricultural infrastructure in most of the districts in the Tarai,” the report revealed, adding that timely onset of monsoon, normal rainfall in subsequent period, improved supply of agricultural inputs and steps taken by the government are likely to offset the output loss initially assumed.
Likewise, non-food inflation also decelerated to 4.9 per cent from 8.1 per cent a year ago, due to lower growth rate in prices of clothes, footwear, furniture and household equipment. Hike in housing and utilities costs was not as intense in the first month, which helped non-food inflation to moderate, the report adds. "Prices of clothes and footwear went up by 6.4 per cent as against 11.2 per cent in the same month a year ago."
In the first month, housing and utilities costs rose by 6.3 per cent as against 9.7 per cent a year ago, while prices of furniture and household equipment increased by 4.1 per cent against 8 per cent in the same month a year ago.

Central bank downplays flood loss

The central bank has said that losses triggered by floods and landslides in the second week of August will not hit the economy as hard as initially it was expected.
The country suffered record floods following torrential rain that continued from August 11-14 killing over 150 people and leaving 31 districts awash in water. The disaster completely destroyed over 43,000 houses and caused partial damage to thousands of other houses.
Initially the Ministry of Agricultural Development had estimated Rs 8.1 billion farm sector losses triggered by floods but later it revised the loss downwards to Rs 5.8 billion.
According to data, some 140,464 hectares of standing crops of paddy, maize, pulses, banana and spices were affected by the flood, while 37,757 hectares of standing crops suffered severe damage.
Likewise, fishes on 2,582 hectares were also swept away.
The paddy crop suffered the most damage with Rs1.72 billion, followed by fisheries (Rs1.54 billion) and vegetables (Rs1.28 billion), the data revealed, adding that the floods also killed livestock worth millions. “The torrential rains caused losses of stock and hit agricultural infrastructure in most of the districts in the Tarai,” reads central bank's latest Macroeconomic report. "However, timely onset of monsoon, normal rainfall in subsequent period, improved supply of agricultural inputs and steps taken by the government are likely to offset the output loss initially assumed."
Though, the economists have been claiming that the flood will hit the economy for next two years, the central bank forecast has raised the hopes.
Agricultural Development Ministry has decided to introduce a relief package of Rs 1.25 billion for farmers since the floods. The aid package, which will be rolled out by the District Disaster Relief Committees before Dashain, will be in the form of immediate cash grants and subsidies on agricultural inputs.
The grant and subsidy is also expected to offset losses suffered by the agricultural sector, which makes a contribution of over 30 per cent to gross domestic product (GDP).
According to the central bank, the industrial sector is also expected to perform better this fiscal year due to improved energy supply, smooth supply situation and the rise in foreign direct investment. "The successful completion of local elections has also improved the industrial climate," it reads, adding that hospitality sector is also expected to perform better in the current fiscal year, as occupancy rate of tourist hotels jumped to 75 per cent in the one-month period between mid-July and mid-August, which is considered as off-tourist season. "The government has also made fiscal transfer of Rs 225 billion – to the local bodies – that is expected to boost capital spending spurring economic activities across the country."
However, the government has not been able to meet its revenue collection target – due to slowdoqn in trading activities – merchandise exports have fallen, trade deficit has widened and both current account and overall balance of payments (BoP) are in deficit in the first month – between mid-July and mid-August – of the current fiscal year. "These developments, in case they continue, will pose policy challenges for macroeconomic management in the future,” the report adds.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Tiger Palace casino resort hotel soft launch

The Australian Stock Exchange listed Silver Heritage Group did a soft opening – for hotel accommodation-only – of its Tiger Palace Resort in Bhairahawa.
"The development of Tiger Palace continues ahead of schedule and within the revised budgeted cost of $51.8 million and the first paying hotel guests were booked in for September 20,” said the firm in a Wednesday filing to the Australian Securities Exchange.
Work on hospitality facilities including a spa, gym and swimming pool was 'being completed over the next 10 days," the document reads, adding that the casino remains on schedule to open by November 30 and the casino operations team have begun their training programme on site at Tiger Palace in the southern plains.
The Boutique Asian casino operator and developer's 2016 annual report, published in March, described Tiger Palace as a 'five-star resort hotel' with a 100-room. "The resort would have a gaming area of 2,471 sq metres (26,600 sq feet), with 462 sq metres of that for 'high limit customers'. The casino would have 'at least' 52 tables and 200 electronic gaming machines, according to the annual report.
The new venue is near Nepal’s border with the Indian state of Uttar Pradesh, one of that country’s wealthiest measured by gross domestic product (GDP), and which does not offer legal casino gambling.
According to the report by business consultancy Global Market Advisors LLC (April 2016), casino gambling by the growing middle class of Indian nationals had the potential to generate nearly $10.2 billion annually by the year 2025 provided that the right product was close to key Indian markets.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Government to re-measure Mt Everest

Amid reports of change in height after 2015 devastating earthquake, the government is – for the first time – going to re-measure the height of the Mt Everest on its own.
The devastating earthquake of 2015 has – according to the geologists – changed the height of the world's highest peak to make it a little shorter.
"The Department of Survey will re-measure the height of Mt Everest," according to director general of the Department Ganesh Prasad Bhatta.
"The department possesses all the technical know-how for measuring the height of the mountain and we will bear the cost on our own," he said, adding that the department has estimated that it would take two years' for a complete survey. "It has also estimated a budget of Rs 250 million."
Nepal – home to Mt Everest and also half the world's 14 highest mountains – has not measured the height of the Mt Everest on its own till date. The height of the peak was last determined at 8,848 metres in 1954 by Survey of India. However, some Western climbers use the height of 8850 metre determined in 1999 by the National Geographic Society and Boston's Museum of Science, in a survey that used satellite-based technology to measure the peak.
In 2005 Chinese mountaineers and researchers put its height at 8844.43 metres. The Chinese team concluded that the height of the Mt Everest is 8,844.43 metres on the basis of the rock without taking into account the snow covering the mountain peak. However, the government has taken the snow as the basis for measuring the height. "The base of measuring the height will be Indian mean sea level," he added.
"There are reports that changes are noticed in the height of the Mt Everest due to the recent earthquakes, he said, adding that the department is conducting the survey of the Everest on our own. "The department is currently working on preparing infrastructure such as acquiring equipment for the survey."
Likewise, deputy director general Niraj Manandhar, who is directly involved in conducting the survey, said that the survey will start after preparation of necessary infrastructure within the current fiscal year.
The US and Chinese teams have given different heights of the Mt Everest, sparking controversy, and also pressuring the government to re-measure the height so as to ascertain the correct height. 

Nepal proposes opening of 13 border points with China

To balance the South-tilted trade relations, Nepal has proposed China for opening nine more border points, beyond the four that they have agreed upon, making it to 13 border points with China.
During the meeting in Kathmandu today, Nepal pushed for opening of more border points, but the meeting ended inconclusively. The delegations from Nepal and China today discussed a proposal to open up 13 border points to ease the connectivity between the two countries, according to a senior Nepali official, who took part in the meeting. "The Nepali side proposed opening up nine more border points with China, beyond the four points the two sides have already inked an agreement for," he said, adding that the meeting could, however, not reach any agreement today.
The Chinese side said that it will make on-site visits to five new proposed bordering points, out of 13 proposed, though they did not mention the names of the proposed 5 bordering points, said joint-secretary at the Ministry of Physical Infrastructure and Transportation, Saroj Pradhan, who led the Nepali team in the meeting.
Though the Chinese side had been positive on opening three border points in east Nepal, they have 'backtracked on it during the meeting, making it impossible to reach any agreement', according to the official.
Earlier, Nepal and China had agreed to open border points at Yari, Kerung, Olangchungola and Tatopani, the border that has been closed since the devastating earthquakes in 2015. . Nepal has also tabled a proposal on opening the border at nine more points, including Hilsa, Korola, Dolpa, Darchula, Taklakot, Olangchungola and Kimathanka.
The Road and Transportation Agreement reached between the two countries in 1994 allows the two neighbours to reach an understanding. The agreement facilitates opening up border points, movement of people and in some special cases, Nepal can use the Chinese highways for trade in certain parts that are not linked with road connectivity from the Nepali side.
Last month, China agreed to recognise the newly opened border trading route of Rasuwagadi-Kerung as an international checkpoint between Nepal and China. The Rasuwagadi-Kerung border crossing, which connects Nepal to China's autonomous region of Tibet, had begun operations in December 2014. It is the second largest border point for trade after Tatopani, and is recently declared international customs point between the two countries.
Earlier, Nepal had appealed China for immediate resumption of the Araniko Highway – the main trading point with China – during the visit of Chinese vice premier Wang Yang. He had agreed in principle to upgrade the trade highway. Beijing has, however, backtracked from the decision to open the key trade route that has been closed after the devastating earthquake of 2015. The Araniko Highway – leading to the Tatopani Border point – was hit badly in the devastating earthquake and subsequent landslides.
This March, China had handed over the Araniko Highway – that is of crucial importance to Nepal as it carries a large amount of goods from China – to Nepal after completing
repairs. The 114-km highway was repaired with Chinese grant assistance of Rs 760 million.
Earlier on Monday – during a meeting with China's ambassador to Nepal Yu Hong – minister for Physical Infrastructure and Transport Bir Bahadur Balayar had also proposed opening new 13 transit points along the border between Nepal and China as a part of Nepal's preparation to open additional transit points.
Kathmandu and Beijing have been stepping up efforts lately to improve road connectivity while speeding up plans to build a railway line connecting to Nepal's border. The then prime minister K P Sharma Oli had signed a Transit Trade Treaty with Beijing last year.

Nepal Telecom withdraws from Dharahara reconstruction

Nepal Telecom will not reconstruct the historic Dharahara tower – one of Kathmandu’s iconic landmarks – that was collapsed in the devastating earthquake two years ago.
Citing the government's failure in assuring security to its investment, the telecom service provider said that it will, however, donate Rs 1 billion to the government for the project as it had committed earlier.
The Nepal Reconstruction Authority (NRA) has already been informed about the NT's decision, according to the telecommunication service provider.
Earlier, the government had designed the model for Dharahara with an estimated cost of Rs 4 billion. But, the government plan has been pushed into limbo after the NT pulled out of the project.
The telecom service provider decided not to take the responsibility as the government did not agree on its proposal to construct a commercial shopping complete on the premises, apart from opposition from the local cultural communities that has been asking to rebuild Dharahara according to the design proposed by Department of Archaeology. NT had proposed to add more features in the vicinity of Dharahara, such as a fountain, space for cultural music and a modern garden, which NT believed was required to ensure sustainability of Dharahara.
However, the government insisted that the premises should be left open.
The government’s design of Dharahara also stated that 70 per cent of the total area used for Dharahara reconstruction had to be left vacant. However, this is not possible as a portion of the land meant for rebuilding Dharahara is a holy site where different communities perform various rituals.
The National Reconstruction Authority (NRA) accepted that it has received a letter from NT yesterday stating the company’s unwillingness to rebuild the monument in the heart of the city. "The NT has informed us that it is unable to rebuild Dharahara according to design of the government,” informed NRA spokesperson Yam Lal Bhoosal. "
The NRA will take up the issue in the Cabinet soon, as the council of ministers had authorised NT to rebuild Dharahara
The historical monument was to spread over only four ropanis of land but according to the Department of Archaeology proposed design is spread over 30 ropanis of land.
The Department of Archaeology had earlier come up with a design to preserve the ravaged structure of Dharahara at the same location as a memorial to those, who were killed in the earthquake and a new 245-feet, 11-storeyed Dharahara would be built at the site where the General Post Office is located.
Meanwhile, Bhoosal said the authority was likely to take it upon itself to initiate the Dharahara reconstruction process.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

NRA fails to complete resurvey within deadline

The National Reconstruction Authority (NRA) has failed to complete resurvey – of individual homes damaged by the devastating earthquake – by September 16 deadline.
The reconstruction authority had mobilised 332 engineers in the 14 worst hit districts to resurvey some 128,000 homes.
The authority accepted that it could not complete the task on time due to various problems at the local level. The authority also blamed building compliance set by itself for the delay.
The authority has made it mandatory for all the houses to follow a set of building safety guidelines to ensure the structures are quake-resilient, a large number of house holds have not followed the building directives.
The engineers – deputed to survey the underconstruction homes – could not issue approval for building grant as a result.
The government had decided to provide Rs 200,000 to each household as a building grant after the devastating earthquake two years ago. The grant later was increased to Rs 300,000 to be paid in three instalments – Rs 50,000; Rs 150,000 and Rs 100,000 – by the then premier Puspa Kamal Dahal aka Prachanda.
Those, who have already constructed their homes without following the authority's guidelines are entitled to get Rs 50,000 for retrofitting. There are some 25,000 households in the retrofitting beneficiary list so far, according to the authority.
The authority spokesperson Yam Lal Bhoosal said that the engineers were still collecting data. "The decision on extending the resurvey deadline would be taken after gathering feedback from all the districts," he said, adding that some 996,162 private homes have been surveyed in 31 districts as of mid-August.
The authority has prioritised Sindhuli, Makawanpur, Kavrepalanchok and Dolakha, followed by other districts including Rasuwa, Lalitpur and Bhaktapur.

40 million in modern slavery around the world

New research developed jointly by the International Labour Organisation (ILO) and the Walk Free Foundation, in partnership with the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) has revealed that more than 40 million people around the world were victims of modern slavery in 2016.
The data of surprising scale of modern slavery around the world – released during the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) – also showed that women and girls are disproportionately affected by modern slavery. The research revealed that among the 40 million victims of modern slavery, about 25 million were in forced labour, and 15 million were in forced marriage.
The new estimates also show that women and girls are disproportionately affected by modern slavery, accounting almost 29 million or 71 per cent of the overall total. Women represent 99 per cent of the victims of forced labour in the commercial sex industry and 84 per cent of forced marriages.
The ILO have also released a companion estimate of child labour, which confirms that about 152 million children, aged between 5 and 17, were subject to child labour.
Child labour remains concentrated primarily in agriculture (70.9 per cent), it reads, adding that almost one in five child labourers work in the services sector (17.1 per cent) while 11.9 per cent of child labourers work in industry. "These new global estimates can help shape and develop interventions to prevent both forced labour and child labour."
ILO director-general Guy Ryder, on the occasion, said that the message the ILO is sending today – together with our partners in Alliance 8.7  – is very clear: the world won’t be in a position to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) unless we dramatically increase our efforts to fight these scourges. "These new global estimates can help shape and develop interventions to prevent both forced labour and child labour," he added.
Likewise, chairman and founder of the Walk Free Foundation Andrew Forrest AO said that the fact that as a society, we still have 40 million people in modern slavery, on any given day shames us all. "If we consider the results of the last five years, for which we have collected data, 89 million people experienced some form of modern slavery for periods of time ranging from a few days to five years," he said, adding that it speaks to the deep seated discrimination and inequalities in our world today, coupled with a shocking tolerance of exploitation. "This has to stop."
The new global estimates are a collective effort from members of Alliance 8.7, the global partnership to end forced labour, modern slavery, human trafficking and child labour that brings together key partners representing governments, UN organisations, the private sector, workers’ and employers’ organisations and civil society in order to achieve SDG Target 8.7.

Monday, September 18, 2017

Banks must mitigate risks of financial crime

Experts urged the banks to mitigate risks of financial crime.
Discussing during a workshop on, fight against the flow of dirty money in the banking channel, jointly organised by Standard Chartered Bank and Nepal Rastra Bank (NRB) in the Valley today, they also discussed on issues and updates in the field of emerging risks leading from financial crime and creating awareness around compliance and best practices for mitigation of potential risks.
The workshop – attended by members of Nepal’s financial sector and inaugurated by deputy governor of the central bank Shiba Raj Shrestha – also discussed on the objective of the Financial Crime Compliance. The senior management workshop was to prepare organisations’ most senior leadership for when they discuss financial crime risks and responses with third parties.
They also discussed on prevention of money laundering and how banks are likely to be used as a conduit for funding terrorist activities were held.
Concluding the workshop, central bank governor Dr Chiranjibi Nepal highlighted the importance of banks in mitigating the risks posed by financial crime in today’s world.

Central bank issues new banknotes worth Rs 11 billion

The central bank has issued Rs 11 billion worth of new banknotes to different banks and financial institutions meant for Dashain till Monday.
Executive director at the Currency Management Department of the central bank Laxmi Prapanna Niraula said that the Nepal Rastra Bank (NRB) has circulated new notes of Rs 5, Rs 10, Rs 20, Rs 50 and Rs 100 denomination worth Rs 11 billion over the last one week.
The central bank had started the distribution of new currency notes to the public from September 13.
"The demand for new notes in banks and financial institutions is increasing," he said, adding that the central bank expects the demand for new banknotes during Dashain this year to increase by almost 20 per cent compared previous Dashain. "NRB had issued new currency notes worth Rs 11 billion during Dashain last year."
The central bank might circulate around Rs 14 billion in new notes in the market this Dashain. However, the central bank will issue new banknotes to financial institutions and public up to September 26 only.
The demand for new currency notes during Dashain is increasing every year also due to expansion of the banking system across the country apart from increase in purchasing capacity of people.
According to the central bank, an individual can exchange new notes upto Rs 27,000 per person.
Different banks and financial institutions have been distributing new banknotes to the public but Nepal Bank, Agricultural Development Bank and Rastriya Banijya Bank are providing the exchange facility of new notes worth only Rs 20,000 from their 16 branches across the country.
The central bank also expects to circulate an additional Rs 4 billion worth of small denomination notes – Rs 5, Rs 10, Rs 20, Rs 50 and Rs 100 – before the Dashain vacation begins.
“We are expecting the demand for small denominations to hit Rs 15 billion this year,” central bank spokesperson Narayan Prasad Poudel said, adding that there will not be a shortage of new notes this year.
The central bank has set up counters at its currency management department at Thapathali and 16 branches of Rastriya Banijya Bank Nepal Bank and Agricultural Development Bank in order to meet such demand. 

Sunday, September 17, 2017

World Bank forecasts moderate economic growth of 4.6 per cent

The economic growth is expected to be moderate at an average of 4.6 per cent in the current fiscal year – fiscal year 2017-18 – and 4.5 per cent in the next fiscal year as agriculture output is expected to drop due to the recent floods and both export growth and remittance growth have been tapering along with the oil price shock in the Gulf countries.
Releasing the ‘Nepal Development Update’ – a semiannual publication of the World Bank to report on key economic development of the country – the multilateral development partner said that severe floods in the southern plains of the country in mid-August has hit the country’s economy.
The World Bank had lowered its forecast following devastations caused by floods, which are expected to affect agricultural output, which contributes to around 30 per cent of the GDP. The floods have affected over 5 per cent of the total population, with several districts recording the heaviest rainfall in 60 years. Over 80 percent of land in southern Tarai, the country’s food basket, was affected. Estimates of destroyed crops at 64,000 hectares will likely lead to a weak agricultural output in the current fiscal year. This will hamper agricultural output in 2017-18, according to the report.
According to the World Bank, service sector is expected to grow by 5.8 per cent, industrial sector by five per cent and agriculture sector by 2.7 per cent in the current fiscal year compared to 6.9 per cent growth in service sector, 10.9 per cent growth in industrial sector and 5.3 per cent growth in agricultural sector in the last fiscal 2016-17.
"Economic activity in Nepal, which rebounded strongly in the last fiscal year, reaching 7.5 per cent following two challenging years, has again been impacted by severe flood affecting more than one-third of the country,” according to the World Bank report.
The Washington DC-based multilateral lender’s forecast is far lower than the government’s target of 7.2 per cent growth in the current fiscal year.
Speaking at a media briefing World Bank economist Sudyumna Dahal – also principal author of the update – said that severe floods in the Tarai are likely to affect agriculture, economic activity, and poverty reduction efforts even up to the current fiscal year 2017-18.
The industrial sector growth is also expected to slow down due to base effect, impact of the floods and slow implementation of electricity generation projects, which can contribute to industrial growth like 465MW-Upper Tamakoshi Hydroelectric project, he said, adding that service sector growth may also be affected due to slowdown in remittance inflow and remittances have been lubricating the economy by stabilising wholesale and retail trade.
Nepal posted 7.5 per cent economic growth in the last fiscal year – the highest since fiscal year 1993-94 – on the account of low base of a fiscal year ago, rise in agricultural output on the back of one the best monsoons in recent years, improvement in industrial growth amid end of power cut and strong revival of growth in tourist arrivals.
However, economic growth in the current fiscal year is likely to face a setback from the recent flooding, according to the development partner. Though there has not been any assessment of the damage and losses caused by the floods, preliminary estimates show that 64,000 hectare of standing crops have been destroyed. Similarly, the floods have had a significant impact on critical infrastructure, with 80 schools across 28 districts destroyed and 710 damaged. Likewise, agricultural output, one of the major contributors in the GDP, is going to be hit worst by the flood.
"Particularly, agricultural output, which was expected to be normal, will be impacted by floods," the report reads, adding that the impact on industry sectors is however expected to be temporary, while construction is likely to remain strong driven by earthquake and flood reconstruction. "The transition to the federal structure is likely to weigh on the economic activity of the country amid challenge on budge execution in the new set-up."
Likewise, an overly ambitious budget has continued into the current fiscal year as well which is going to pose a challenge because of the lack of clarity around spending in the federal structure and several upcoming elections.
"As the country moves to a federal structure, there is lack of clarity regarding the fiscal architecture in the federal context, which can cause unintended interruptions in service delivery and execution of capital projects,” added the report which has a special focus this time on fiscal architecture for federal set-up.  
The budget for the current fiscal year has proposed a total of Rs 242 billion in transfers to the local level governments.
"The subnational governments will play an increasingly critical role in Nepal’s public expenditures,” said the World Bank’s Country Manager for Nepal Takuya Kamata. "A system of fiscal transfers that is designed for transparency and predictability and supported by a small set of simple rules, could go a long way in helping meet the development objectives of federal Nepal,” he said.
Likewise, slowdown in remittances will hit private consumption, however, the government’s consumption is expected to grow substantially as the current fiscal is the ‘de-facto year’ in terms of implementing the federal structure as the final phase of local elections as well as provincial and federal elections is going to take place within this fiscal. Export of services is expected to grow along with a rebound in tourism sector, however, export of goods to neighbouring India may slump because Nepali products have become expensive in the Indian market since the implementation of the goods and services tax (GST) in the southern neighbour from July 1.
However, on the brighter side the inflow of tourists will help revive the flagging tourism industry and progress in reconstruction activities will contribute to stimulate economic growth.

More women are working in Nepal

Nepali women are gradually climbing up in the job map comparatively more among the South Asian countries.
A World Bank paper reveals that the female workforce is rising in most parts of the world and so is in Nepal. In Nepal, women labour force employment is 79.9 per cent while in Bangladesh it is 57.4 per cent. In India 27 per cent of working age women were employed and in Pakistan the number stands at 24.6 per cent in 2015-16, the papers reads, adding that China – with its powerhouse economy – has 64 per cent of its women working, one of the highest rates in the world. "In the US, it is over 56 per cent."
Apart from parts of the Arab world, everywhere else more women are working.
The World Bank paper – by Luis Andres and colleagues – revealed that whether married or unmarried, whether Dalit, Adivasi or from the upper caste, whether illiterate or college graduates, women from all sections were increasingly not working in India.

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Bhaban Bhatta announces candadicy for NRNA president

Bhaban Bhatta today declared his candidacy for the post of president of Non Resident Nepalis Association (NRNA)-International Coordination Council (ICC).
Bhatta, the incumbent NRNA-ICC vice president, said that the NRNs have been contributing in national economy through investment of their capital, skill and technology.
Bhatta, who made a fortune from hospitality business in Japan, has also made investments in the apparel industry, education, hospitality, media and aviation sector in Nepal. He also has investments in the hospitality industry in Europe.
Announcing his candidacy, Bhatta pledged that he would give continuity to works initiated by the NRNA, if he is elected the president. The works include completion of model settlement at Laprak in Gorkha, which was devastated by the 2015 earthquakes; construction of NRNA’s own headquarters in Kathmandu; implementation of Vision 2020 and Beyond, prevention of brain-drain while encouraging those abroad to return Nepal.
He, on the occasion, also said that NRNA – under his leadership – will contribute in entrepreneurship development and transforming the country’s tourism sector by mobilising NRNA’s vast network and encourage national coordination committee of each nation to start at least one flagship project in Nepal. The association that was established some 14 years ago, has its network in 77 countries.
Likewise, he also pledged to set up a start-up fund through NRNA so that innovative ideas will get a chance to be realised to benefit especially women and youth. He also promised to work for the welfare of migrant workers through NRNA’s network and start insurance through mobilising a welfare fund. The Fund has been currently used for the rescue and relief of migrant workers. The NRNA has Rs 50 million in Foreign Employment Fund at present. "I will introduce insurance products for Nepalis working abroad," he said, addressing the media.
Around 1,500 to 2,000 NRNs are gathering in Kathmandu for the NRN Global Conference and NRNA International General Assembly on October 14-17. The NRNA-ICC had last held its election in 2015.
During the four-day event, NRNs will choose the new president, as incumbent president Shesh Ghale, is stepping down after completing his second two-year term. According to the Statute, one can have only two terms as president.
The International General Assembly will also elect different NRNA-ICC’s executive committee member. It will also elect regional coordinators and co-coordinators for six regions including Asia-Pacific, Europe, America, Oceania, Africa and the Middle-East.
No wonder as the umbrella association of Nepali Diaspora is scheduled to hold its 8th Global Conference in Kathmandu on October 14-17 to elect a new leadership for 2017-2019- term, aspirants have started announcing their candidacy but no one has formally announced candidacy for the post of president till date. Due to his growing clout in diaspora and positive energy, Bhatta is seen as a lone candidate for the president. But many other NRNs have started announcing for various posts for the next term as the election fever is slowly gripping the NRNs more.
The NRNA that is now expanded to 77 countries around the globe, except in South Asia, has over 100,000 members, though it is reported that 5 million Nepalis are living in 110 countries throughout the world.

Friday, September 15, 2017

Flood-resistant houses in six months

The government has decided to build flood-resistant houses in flood-prone districts within next six months. The decision comes a month after floods triggered by the heavy monsoon rains wreaked havoc in Southern plains.
A meeting of the Central Natural Disaster Relief Committee (CNDRC) on Tuesday chaired by home minister Janardan Sharma decided to build flood-resistant houses in the flood-prone districts.
Sharma has instructed the government agencies to come up with a plan for constructing such houses within six months.
Addressing the meeting, which consists of various governmental and non-governmental agencies working in response and recovery phases of natural disasters, he said adding that the government should complete construction of houses within six months and rehabilitate flood victims as quickly as possible.
According to the Home Ministry, some 43,433 houses were destroyed whereas 158,197 houses were temporarily damaged by floods. The August flood displaced nearly 21,000 families temporarily. Although, most of them have returned, many still remain displaced and are taking shelters in makeshift tents. Likewise, at least 159 people were killed in one of the worst water-induced disasters – which struck the southern plains in the second week of August – in many years.
In order to expedite the process, Sharma said required budget would be released at the earliest. "After collecting details, we should start building houses with an aim to rehabilitate the flood-hit within six months,” he said adding that the government will start by forming a committee within a week, which will then prepare estimation for houses with the flood-resistant base.
The recovery of the flood victims in the aftermath of the recent disaster has been sluggish. The National Disaster Response Framework (NDRF) 2015 outlines roles and responsibilities to be carried out by various governmental and non-governmental agencies. These agencies need to work in specific clusters like health, food security, shelter, education and nutrition among others.
The Ministry of Federal Affairs and Local Development, which should lead early recover cluster as per the NDRF, admitted that the recovery process has been slow due to limited resources.
According to chief of the Municipality and Environment Division of the ministry Suresh Adhikari, local bodies have helped flood victims in rescue phase by providing food items, clothes and temporary shelters, but not much has been done in the recovery phase, especially in reconstruction.
During the Central Natural Disaster Relief Committee meeting, Sharma also directed other ministries and departments to prepare detailed reports on people displaced by floods. He also pointed out the need to construct embankments and other structures under ‘People’s Embankment Project’, run under the Department of Water Induced Disaster Management, only after formulating a sustainable plan. 

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Nepal, MCC sign largest grant agreement

Nepal has signed a long-awaited deal with the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) to mobilise $500 million grant for the development of energy and road transport sector, which are considered the major constraints for the economic growth of the country.
Finance minister Gyanendra Bahadur Karki and acting chief executive officer of the MCC Jonathan Nash signed the pact, on behalf of the Government of Nepal and US Government’s MCC respectively, in US Department of State’s Treaty Room in Washington DC today.
The signing ceremony was attened by US deputy secretary of State John J Sullivan, Nepal’s ambassador to US Dr Arjun Kumar Karki, US ambassador to Nepal Alaina B Teplitz and senior officials from both the governments.
"I am pleased to be one of the signatories of this Compact Agreement that opens up an additional avenue of US-Nepal bilateral relations and economic cooperation," finance minister Gyanendra Bahadur Karki said after the signing ceremony.
"Today, as we sign this $500 million MCC compact with Nepal, we are celebrating a new chapter in the US-Nepal partnership,” MCC acting chief executive Jonathan Nash said, adding that this compact is designed to spur economic growth and private investment, and open new markets to benefit the economy, regional security and the broader global community.
According to head of the International Economic Cooperation Coordination Division
Baikuntha Aryal, the US government’s grant will be instrumental in transforming the economic landscape of the country through development of electricity transmission line via major load centres of the country to Indian border, which will also facilitate cross-border electricity trade. "The upgradation of major highways will be the lifeline for country’s economic development," he added.
Nepal will be able to mobilise $630 million – $500 million from MCC and $130 million counterpart fund – for the installation of 300-km high voltage electricity transmission lines along with three substations of 400 kV and maintenance of roads with total length of 305 km that would help spur economic growth and reduce poverty in Nepal.
"These projects need to be implemented within five years from the starting date of project, otherwise the money will go back to the US,” Aryal said. "Nepal government is responsible for land acquisition, resettlement and right of way clearance to implement the projects."
The Nepal Compact – MCC’s first compact in South Asia – aims at strengthening Nepal’s energy sector, improve regional energy connectivity, and control transportation costs to encourage growth and private investment for job creation. MCC’s investment is expected to benefit about 23 million people.
The MCC had selected Nepal for a smaller threshold programme in December of 2011. The MCC and government had analysed economic growth constraints and jointly prepared a policy improvement programme based on the results. Given Nepal’s strong performance in its MCC policy indicator scorecard through 2014, MCC’s board of directors selected Nepal to be eligible to develop a compact, a larger grant-based investment.
Nepal first passed the MCC scorecard – as it met at least 10 of a set of 20 indicators ranging from child health to fiscal policy to government effectiveness – in late 2014 before the MCC’s board officially approved Nepal for a compact – in December 2014 – and the deal has been in development since then.
A group of MCC and local economists first worked on a growth diagnostic to identify binding constraints that were impeding private sector investment. They had identified power and transportation as key barriers for Nepal's economic growth.
On the basis of the study, the compact programme is investing in an Electricity Transmission Project (ETP) and a Road Maintenance Project (RMP). The ETP is expected to transform power sector by expanding and strengthening the high voltage electricity transmission network to support new investments in generation and allow greater cross-border electricity trade. Likewise, the RMP is expected to improve the road maintenance regime and complement existing efforts to build new roads by other parties.
Out of the $500 million, $398.2 million will be spent on the electricity transmission project while $52.3 million has been allocated for the transportation project. The remaining fund of $49.5 million is for the monitoring and evaluation and programme administration, according to the MCC, an independent US government agency working to reduce global poverty through economic development.
Office of the Millennium Challenge Nepal (OMCN) – a Nepal government office which coordinates development of MCC programme – in coordination with MCC, had finalised the projects that are going to be implemented under the MCC grant.

Identified Energy projects
Transmission line and substations (400 kV)
Lapsifedi (Kathmandu)-Damauli (Tanahu)
Galchhi (Dhading)-Hetauda (Makawanpur)
Damauli (Tanahu)-Sunwal (Nawalparasi)
Three substations (of 400 kV) at Galchhi, Damauli and Sunwal (India border)

Road maintenance
Mechi Highway
Koshi Highway
Sagarmatha Highway
Tribhuvan Rajpath (Bhaise-Hetauda section)
Amelia (Dang) to Tulsipur (Dang)