Wednesday, January 31, 2018

JICA hands over mediation centres for District Courts

Chief Representative of JICA Nepal Office Jun Sakuma and Registrar at Supreme Court Mahanedra Nath Updhayay today signed the minutes of understanding on handing over of buildings of newly constructed Mediation Centres and renovated facilities amidst a function in the Supreme Court.
According to a press note from the JICA, it is providing the technical cooperation project for strengthening the capacity of Court for expeditious and reliable dispute settlement to the Supreme Court of Nepal since September 2013 until March 2018.
JICA took the objective of improving the court’s functions for promoting expeditious and reliable dispute settlement, it reads, adding that one of the outputs of the project is to promote court-related mediation.
The buildings and facilities were constructed under the project and the locations were selected in the model district courts of the project in Kavre, Dang and Dhanusha to accomplish the objectives.
The Mediation Centres were built with prefab structure and is expected to support each District Court to expedite the use of court related mediation and increase the settlement of cases. In Kavre District Court, one meeting hall and three court rooms were also renovated. The total project cost is Rs 22.21 million.

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Nepal improves budget transparency; still more room for improvement

Nepal has increased its score in Open Budget Index (OBI) and topped the rank in the South Asian region.
According to the Open Budget Survey (OBS) global report launched today, Nepal increased its budget openness score to 52 from 24 in 2015. Freedom Forum – a Civil Society Organisation working in the area of public financial management – conducted the OBS for Nepal as a representative of the International Budget Partnership (IBP).
Nepal's 2017 OBS country summary report stated that Nepal’s score of 52 out of 100 is moderately higher than the global average score of 42. With this Nepal has become the South Asian leader in regard to budget openness score followed by Afghanistan (49), India (48), Pakistan (44), Sri Lanka (44) and Bangladesh (41). The OBS was held in a total of 115 countries around the globe.
"Open budget score for Nepal has changed over the time with 24 in 2015, 44 in 2012, 45 in 2010, 43 in 2008 and 36 in 2006", shared the report. Nepal’s score on the Open Budget Index in 2015 declined sharply to 24 due to the late publication of the Executive’s Budget Proposal, in OBS 2017 the country’s score rose substantially to 52, said Forum's Chief Taranath Dahal, who was involved in the survey.
However, the report reveals that Nepal still provides the public with limited budget information; offers few opportunities for the public to engage in the budget process and the legislature and supreme audit institution in Nepal provide limit oversight of the budget.
Since 2015, Nepal has increased the availability of budget information by publishing the Executive Budget Proposal in a timely manner. However, as in other rounds of budget survey, Nepal has failed to make progress in producing a Pre-Budget Statement and a Citizens Budget.
Each country receives a composite score – out of 100 – that determines its ranking on the Open Budget Index, the world’s only independent and comparative measure of budget transparency. The biennial OBS assesses the country's budget transparency, people's participation in budget process and strengths of budget oversight agencies – the Supreme Audit Institution and Legislature.
Drawing on internationally accepted criteria developed by multilateral organisations, the Open Budget Survey uses 109 equally weighted indicators to measure budget transparency.
These indicators assess whether the central government makes eight key budget documents available to the public online in a timely manner and whether these documents present budget information in a comprehensive and useful way.
According to the report, the Executive’s Budget Proposal was not provided to legislators at least two months before the start of the budget year; legislative committees did not examine and publish reports on their analyses of the Executive’s Budget Proposal online.
To measure public participation, the Open Budget Survey assesses the degree to which the government provides opportunities for the public to engage in budget processes. Such opportunities should be provided throughout the budget cycle by the executive, the legislature, and the supreme audit institution.
The Open Budget Survey also examines the role that legislatures, supreme audit institutions, and independent fiscal institutions play in the budget process and the extent to which they are able to provide effective oversight of the budget. These institutions play a critical role — often enshrined in national constitutions or laws — in planning budgets and overseeing their implementation.
These indicators were revised to better assess the role of formal oversight institutions in ensuring the integrity and accountability in the use of public resources. Therefore, data on the role and effectiveness of oversight institutions in the Open Budget Survey 2017 should not be compared directly to data from earlier editions.
The Open Budget Survey uses internationally accepted criteria developed by multilateral organisations from sources such as the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), the International Organisation of Supreme Audit Institutions (INTOSAI) and the Global Initiative for Fiscal Transparency (GIFT).
Nepal's Legislature-Parliament provided limited oversight during the budget cycle. This score reflects that the legislature provided weak oversight during the planning stage and implementation stage of the budget cycle.
The supreme audit institution provided adequate budget oversight. Under the law, it has full secretion to undertake audits as it sees fit. Moreover, the head of the institution is appointed by the legislature or judiciary and cannot be removed without legislative or judicial approval, which bolsters its independence.
Finally, the supreme audit institution is provided with sufficient resources to fulfill its mandate and its audit processes are reviewed by an independent agency.
Nepal does not have an Independent Fiscal Institution. While IFIs are not yet widespread globally, they are increasingly recognised as an important source of independent, nonpartisan information.
Nepal should prioritise the actions to improve budget transparency that include producing and publishing a Pre-Budget Statement and a Citizens Budget, providing detailed data on macroeconomic forecast as well as data on the financial position of the government in their Executive’s Budget Proposal, increasing the information provided in the In-Year Reports and the Enacted Budget.
To improve public participation in its budget process, Nepal should prioritise actively engaging with individuals or civil society organisations representing vulnerable and underrepresented communities during the formulation and monitoring of the implementation of the national budget, hold legislative hearings on the formulation of the annual budget, during which members of the public or civil society organisations can testify, establish formal mechanisms for the public to participate in relevant audit investigations.
To make budget oversight more effective Nepal should ensure that the Executive’s Budget Proposal is approved by legislators before the start of the budget year, ensure the legislature is consulted prior to shifting funds between administrative units away from what is specified in the Enacted Budget during the budget year and the spending of any unanticipated revenue, consider setting up an Independent Fiscal Institution to further strengthen budget oversight.
With the adoption of a federal governance, a significant share of the budget is now going to the local level government. And hence, adopting budget transparency and people's participation in the budget process and strengthening oversight agencies would promote wise spending of the public money and its subsequent outcomes to transform the people lives.

Monday, January 29, 2018

NRNA to form Special Purpose Vehicle to operate Rs 10 billion Investment Fund

The Non-Resident Nepali Association (NRNA) is planning to form a Special Purpose Vehicle to operate Rs 10 billion Infrastructure Fund.
"We have sought approval from the Securities Board of Nepal (Sebon) to operate NRN Infrastructure Fund of Rs 10 billion," said NRNA President Bhaban Bhatta. "The Fund will have investment from all including government, government entity, private sector, diaspora community and local, though the diaspora community will be given privilege to invest," he added.
Nepali diaspora community has announced to set up an Infrastructure Fund worth Rs 10 billion to finance the infrastructure needs of the country in London last week in the presence of Nepal Rastra Bank (NRB) Governor Dr Chiranjibi Nepal.
"The promoters of the fund will inject the capital to set up the fund," Bhatta said, adding that they are willing to make huge investment in infrastructure sector. "Thus, if Sebon approves us to issue bonds, NRNA will sell it among diaspora community to collect the funds."
On the occasion, portfolio adviser of the NRN Infrastructure Fund Anal Raj Bhattarai said that the Fund is willing to diversify its investment to ensure the regular fixed return for the investors. "The Fund will have investment from government, government entities like Hydroelectric Investment and Development Company and the diaspora community," he said, adding that the Fund also wants to make consortium financing under the leadership of various commercial banks in hydropower projects. "We can bring in billions of rupees from the diaspora community by selling bonds.
He also said that the NRNA office bearers' have asked capital market regulator for its approval to bring in investment. 
Sebon has been drafting the Alternative Investment Regulation Funds Regulations to regulate such funds, equity investment and venture capital
Discussing with the Society of Economic Journalists of Nepal (Sejon) here on Tuesday, he informed that discussions were underway with the government bodies for setting up the fund.
On the occasion, NRNA President Bhatta also listed the newly elected committee's work in the last almost 100 days. The newly elected NRNA committee – in the last three months – has expedited construction of the Laprak Model Settlement in Laprak of Gorkha. The settlement was destroyed by the Gorkha Earthquake of April 25, 2015. A total of 327 houses are being reconstructed in Laprak.
According to him the NRNA is also constructing a park on 32 ropanis land on the bank of the Bagmati river at Shankhamul at an estimated cost of Rs 22.5 million, apart from completing the NRNA headquarters in Baluwater.

Monday, January 22, 2018

Government forms committee to rescue troubled cooperative

The Ministry of Cooperatives and Poverty Alleviation has formed a seven-member management committee – led by Gauri Bahadur Karki – to take over and manage the ‘troubled’ Oriental Cooperatives.
December 14 cabinet meeting had decided to form a committee.
Gauri Bahadur Karki led committee will have Kashi Nath Marasini, Gobinda Bahadur Malla, Dipak Prasad Poudel, Huma Kanta Panthi, Rewati Raman Pokharel and a representative recommended by the Federation of the National Cooperatives as members.
The committee – that has two-year tenure – will compensate the depositors, who lost their savings after the cooperatives went bankrupt around four years ago, said the ministry’s spokesperson Raghuram Bista.
The cooperatives went bankrupt after it disbursed haphazard loans and invested the deposits illegally in real-estate. The real-estate bubble bust sent the cooperatives into bankrupt.

Nepal Emerging Leaders programme 2018 starts

Kathmandu-based Leadership Academy and US-based Kroc School and Kroc Institute for Peace and Justice (IPJ), University of San Diego, have launched a year-long programme aimed at strengthening the leadership capacity of youth leaders from across the country.
Titled ‘Nepali Emerging Leaders Programme 2018, the project will groom some 28 young leaders – 14 men and 14 women – selected from the 14 zones of the country. The participants are aged between 25 and 40 and represent various political parties and organisations from the hills, mountains and the Terai region.
A team comprising seasoned politicians and experts in various sectors will train and mentor the ‘emerging leaders’ of the country for the next one year.
Speaking on the occasion – to launch the year-long programme today – inn Kathmandu, former Prime Minister and one of the mentors, Lokendra Bahadur Chand said that the programme that is aimed at enhancing the leadership capacity of the young emerging leaders from across the country is a good initiative. "There were no such programmes and organisations, when I began my political career," he said, adding that the young leaders who have been selected for the program areme lucky to get such an opportunity. "I hope they will be able to work for the country’s development more effectively after completing the course."
President of Leadership Academy Santosh Shah, on the occasion, expressed hope that the programme will be effective in strengthening the leadership capacity of the youth leaders selected for the programme. "The first phase of training has already been organised and now the second phase of three sessions – one each in the hills, mountains and the plains – will be organised,” Shah added.
Nepali Congress leader and former deputy speaker Chitralekha Yadav, CPN (Maoist Center) lawmaker and former sports minister Kamala Rokka, CPN-UML leader and former lawmaker Ratna Gurung, UN Women Nepal chief Wenny Kusuma, programme officer of IPJ Daniel Orth also addressed the function.

Global FDI slips last year

Global flows of foreign direct investment (FDI) fell by 16 per cent in 2017 to an estimated $1.52 trillion, from a revised $1.81 trillion in 2016, according to the latest UNCTAD Global Investment Trends Monitor.
“FDI recovery continues to be on a bumpy road," said UNCTAD secretary-general Mukhisa Kituyi. “While FDI in developing countries remained at a level similar to the previous year, more investment in sectors that can contribute to the Sustainable Development Goals is still badly needed," he said, adding that promoting FDI for sustainable development remains a challenge.
A slump in FDI flows to developed countries (-27 per cent) was the principal factor behind the global decline. A strong decrease in flows was reported in Europe (-27 per cent ) as well as in North America (-33 per cent ), mainly due to a return to prior levels of inflows in the United Kingdom (UK) and the United States (US) after spikes in 2016. This decline was tempered by an 11 per cent growth in flows to other developed economies, principally Australia.
FDI to developing economies remained stable, at an estimated $653 billion, 2 per cent more than the previous year. The FDI Flows rose marginally in developing Asia and Latin America and the Caribbean, and remained flat in Africa. Developing Asia regained its position as the largest FDI recipient region in the world, followed by the European Union (EU) and North America.
In the world’s transition economies, FDI declined by 17 per cent to an estimated $55 billion, mainly due to a drop in the Russian Federation and lacklustre inflows across most of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS).
“The decline of global FDI flows is in stark contrast to other macroeconomic variables, such as GDP and trade growth, which saw substantial improvements in 2017,” said James Zhan, Director of UNCTAD’s Investment Division. “Upward synchronisation of the trends in 2018 is probable, but risks are abundant.”
The UNCTAD Global Investment Trends Monitor also showed that, after three years of growth, cross-border mergers and acquisitions declined in 2017. Their growth had already slowed in 2016, and they went on to contract by 23 per cent in 2017, to $666 billion. However, this still represented the third-highest level since 2007.
Preliminary data on the value of announced greenfield FDI projects show a decline of 32 per cent to $571 billion, or 17 per cent in number of projects, their lowest level since 2003. If confirmed, the drop in greenfield project announcements would be a negative indicator for the longer term. Of particular concern is the near halving of the value of project announcements in developing economies, although the fall in project numbers was limited to 23 per cent.
Higher economic growth projections, trade volumes and commodity prices would normally point to a potential increase in global FDI in 2018. However, elevated geopolitical risks and policy uncertainty could have an impact on the scale and contours of any FDI recovery in 2018. In addition, tax reforms in the United States are likely to significantly affect investment decisions by US multinationals, with consequences for global investment patterns.

Sunday, January 21, 2018

Nepal ‘partly free’ country

Nepal is a 'partly free' country according to the 2018 world freedom index published by Freedom House.
Nepal has slightly improved its ranking and got the score of 55 out of 100. It had scored 52 in 2017. Freedom House rates a country on the basis of Freedom Rating, Political Rights, and Civil liberties. Nepal has scored 3.5, out of 7 in the Freedom Rating, whereas it scored 3 out of 7 in Political Rights and 4 out of 7 in Civil liberties. According to the freedom index, score 1 is the freest, whereas, 7 is the least free country.
Freedom House acknowledges the uptrend is due to 'to the first national, regional, and local elections held under a new constitution, with high voter turnout despite some reports of violence'.
Among South Asian nations, only India remains free with the score of 77, out of 100. Sri Lanka, Bhutan, and Nepal share the same score and ranking, whereas Bangladesh scores 45 out of 100. But Pakistan scores 43 out of 100 and Afghanistan scores 26 out of 100, which are not free country. China – the least free country – scores 14 out of 100.
South Asian countries have a big task ahead to improve its Freedom Index in the year 2018.
However, Nepal received an upward trend arrow due to the first national, regional, and local elections held under a new constitution, with high voter turnout despite some reports of violence.

CAN Info-Tech from January 25

The annual ICT gala is taking place from January 25.
Federation of Computer Association of Nepal – organising a press meet today – informed that the Subisu CAN Info-Tech- 2018 will start from January 25 and last till January 30. The expo will showcase hardware, sales and maintenance, power solutions and mobile accessories during the six days. "There will be a total of 222 stalls in the exhibition," according to CAN Federation president Hemanta Chaurasiya.
"Students from government schools will be given free entry provided but they have to be registered in advance," he added.
According to Subisu president Sudhir Parajuli, such expo will be organised in four provinces among the seven.

Friday, January 12, 2018

ADB operations reach $28.9 billion

Asian Development Bank (ADB) operations—comprising approvals of loans and grants, technical assistance (TA), and cofinancing—reached $28.9 billion in 2017 in its continued efforts to help meet Asia and the Pacific’s development needs, according to preliminary figures released today.
Approvals of loans and grants from ADB’s own resources reached a record $19.1 billion, representing a 9 per cent increase from the $17.5 billion seen in 2016. This puts ADB well on its way to meet its $20 billion target by 2020. Of the total, non-sovereign (primarily private sector) operations accounted for $3.2 billion, a 26 per cent increase from $2.5 billion in 2016. TA, meanwhile, increased by about 22 per cent to $205 million from $169 million in the previous year.
Commitments (the amount of loans and grants signed)—ADB’s new performance measure—reached $20.1 billion. This is a significant increase from $13.3 billion in 2016, reflecting the signing of large projects approved in 2016 and 2017.
“The strong figures for ADB operations in the past year were supported by the successful merger of ADB’s concessional Asian Development Fund (ADF) lending operations with the Ordinary Capital Resources balance sheet—which took effect at the start of 2017,” ADB President Takehiko Nakao said. “This will allow us to deliver a much higher level of assistance to our developing member countries for years to come without seeking a capital increase.”
A highlight of ADB’s operational figures for 2017 is climate financing, which reached a record $4.5 billion (comprising mitigation $3.6 billion and adaptation $0.9 billion), a 21% increase from 2016. This puts ADB in a good position to achieve its $6 billion climate financing target by 2020.
Cofinancing approvals declined to $9.5 billion in 2017 from the $13.9 billion recorded in 2016, partly due to the delay of large expected cofinanced projects. Disbursements were $11.7 billion in 2017, compared to $12.7 billion in 2016. This is because of lower approvals, and hence disbursements, of policy-based lending and counter-cyclical support facility, among other factors.
“Disbursements are essential to make a difference on the ground. Cofinancing and catalyzation is a much-discussed strategy in the international community to realize the Sustainable Development Goals,” said Mr. Nakao. “ADB will come up with additional concrete measures to increase disbursements and cofinancing, building on the new procurement policy approved in April 2017 and ongoing efforts to leverage resources.”
Among ADB’s other operational highlights were projects that combine finance with innovative approaches to development, including satellite data and remote sensing to improve irrigation in Indonesia and Pakistan, pilot testing of climate-smart agriculture practices in Bangladesh, and supporting social welfare reforms in Mongolia to promote human development.
An innovative $100 million TA loan to the Philippines, approved in October 2017, will help the government prepare and deliver infrastructure projects under its Build Build Build program. 
On the funding side, ADB offered new and innovative thematic products such as the health bond and gender bond. This is on top of increased efforts to raise local currency funding to meet the growing demand for nonsovereign local currency loans. ADB’s Indonesian rupiah bond in December was the first bond issued from a multilateral development bank of which Indonesia is a shareholder.
ADB launched three high-impact publications in 2017. Meeting Asia’s Infrastructure Needs estimated Asia and the Pacific’s annual infrastructure needs at $1.7 trillion per year until 2030. A Region at Risk: The Human Dimensions of Climate Change in Asia and the Pacific put forward scenarios of the devastating effects of climate change. The ADB history book, Banking on the Future of Asia and the Pacific focused on the region’s economic development, the evolution of the international development agenda, and the story of ADB over 50 years.
To scale up the bank’s operations with quality, the ADB Board approved the 2018 budget totaling $672.3 million, an increase of 3.9 per cent over 2017, comprising 2.2 per cent  price growth and 1.7 per cent volume growth. This budget supports the ongoing investments in IT reforms and organisational resilience. ADB continues to make its utmost efforts at staff optimization and efficiency measures.
A key priority for ADB in 2018 is to finalise its new corporate strategy, Strategy 2030. ADB’s 51st Annual Meeting of its Board of Governors will be held in Manila again in May after 6 years. Strategy 2030, the impact of technological change and globalization on jobs, aging and longevity dividends, role of women entrepreneurs, and private sector participation in infrastructure development will be among the topics discussed. ADB expects more than 3,000 participants to attend the meeting.
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, it is owned by 67 members, 48 from the region.

Nepal ends India's Internet monopoly

The commercial operation of Nepal-China optical fiber link has begun from today, ending India's monopoly in cyber connectivity network.
The landlocked Nepal was totally dependent on India for access to the worldwide web through connections at Biratnagar, Bhairahawa and Birgunj, for which it pays a substantial sum as fees and royalties but Nepal Telecom (NT) and China Telecom Global today launched their services giving Nepal an option.
The information and communication minister Mohan Bahadur Basnet and Chinese ambassador Yu Hong inaugurated the new optical fibre link during a ceremony in Kathmandu.
The telecom companies had finished the laying of optical fibre cables between Kerung in China and Rasuwagadi in Nepal, about 50 km north of Kathmandu before the launching of the connectivity. A successful test of the link was conducted last week before it became operational on Friday.
"It will give Nepal an alternative to India for cyber connectivity and ensure uninterrupted connections," Pratibha Vaidya, Nepal Telecom spokesperson said, adding that Nepali consumers can now look forward to a reliable service. He noted that infrastructure had also been created to extend the Chinese railway network to Nepal.
Ambassador Yu, on the occasion, said China is the second largest investor in Nepal and also send many tourists to the country.
Nepal Telecom (NT), the government-owned telecom service provider, has now acquired bandwidth from China Telecom Global Limited, with its head office in Hong Kong. NT signed an agreement with the Chinese company in December 2016 to acquire bandwidth.
Nepal’s has a 25-GBPS link with India while the Chinese link is 1.5 GBPS. "The cost of internet services will remain the same," she said, adding that Nepal has been connected with China at only one point now, which will be increased in the future.
According to a report from Nepal Telecommunications Authority (NTA), more than 61 percent of Nepal population of more than 26 million is connected to the internet, mostly through mobile devices.