Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Countries lose $160tn in wealth due to earnings gaps between women and men

Countries, globally, are losing $160 trillion in wealth because of differences in lifetime earnings between women and men. This amounts to an average of $23,620 for each person in the 141 countries studied by the World Bank Group in a new report released today.
The study, 'Unrealised Potential: The High Cost of Gender Inequality in Earnings,' examines the economic cost of gender inequality in lost human capital. It comes before the meeting of the G7 – currently headed by Canada – which committed to ensuring gender equality and women’s empowerment are integrated across all G7 themes, activities and initiatives during its presidency.
The losses in wealth from inequality in earnings between men and women vary by region. The largest losses – each between $40 trillion and $50 trillion – are observed in East Asia and the Pacific, North America, and Europe and Central Asia. This is because these regions account for most of the world’s human capital wealth. Losses in other regions are also substantial. In South Asia, losses from gender inequality are estimated at $9.1 trillion, while they are estimated at $6.7 trillion in Latin America and the Caribbean and $3.1 trillion in the Middle East and North Africa. In Sub-Saharan Africa, the losses are estimated at $2.5 trillion. While losses in low income countries are smaller in absolute terms than in other regions, as a share of the initial endowment in human capital, the losses are larger than for the world.
"The world is essentially leaving $160 trillion on the table when we neglect inequality in earnings over the lifetime between men and women,” said World Bank CEO Kristalina Georgieva. "This is a stark reminder that world leaders need to act now and act decisively to invest in policies that promote more and better jobs for women and equal pay at work.”
In nearly every country today, women face barriers to fully participate in the work force and earn as much as men. Because of this, women account for only 38 per cent of their country’s human capital wealth, defined as the value of the future earnings of their adult citizens - versus 62 per cent for men. In low income and lower-middle income countries, women account for just a third or less of human capital wealth.
Programmes and policies that make it easier for women to get to work, access basic infrastructure and financial services, and control land could help achieve gender equality in earnings, the report reads.
“Human capital wealth accounts for two thirds of the global changing wealth of nations, well ahead of natural and other forms of capital,” said World Bank Group lead economist and author of the report Quentin Wodon. “Because women earn less than men, human capital wealth worldwide is about 20 percent lower than it could be.”
The study is part of a broader research program at the World Bank that benefits from support from Canada, the Children’s Investment Fund Foundation, and the Global Partnership for Education. The issue of gender equality in earnings is fundamental and it requires interventions across the lifecycle. Future work will consider other economic costs related to gender inequality, including those related to fertility and population growth.
“There are estimates showing the costs and benefits of gender equality to key economic sectors and economic growth,” said World Bank Group senior director for Gender Caren Grown. “By focusing on wealth, this study is a unique addition to that literature since wealth, and especially human capital, is the assets base that enables countries to generate future income.” 

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

7th property expo to kick off on June 15

The 7th edition of NLHDA Property Expo 2018 is going to kick off on June 15 at Bhrikutimandap in Kathmandu.
The five-day expo organised by Nepal Housing and Land Developers Association (NLHDA) – the apex body of housing and land developers in Nepal – is a one-stop solution for the entire eco-system of housing and land development sector. The event will also focus on housing sectors including commercial and business property, architecture, construction, building, engineering, habitat environment, said the organiser that is focusing on real estate market and home buyers.
The association said that investment in housing accounts for 15 per cent to 35 per cent of the country’s total investment. It is also estimated that more than Rs 400 billion has now been invested in real estate. But the housing market has suffered a lot after the devastating earthquake in 2015.
By 2023, 900,000 new construction projects will be required to meet the demand for 1,364,000 homes nationally, the association claimed, adding that Increasing the number of municipalities from 58 in 2011 to 217 to 2016 has fuelled rapid growth of urbanisation. "Industry experts agree that Kathmandu valley accounts for 42 per cent of the organised real estate sector and that the present annual national demand for houses and apartments is around 140,000 units, whereas Nepal is only able to construct 25,000 units per year. The housing construction has been increasing by 20 per cent to 30 per cent annually."
The Property Expo will host about 150 exhibitors covering an exhibition area of about 6,000 sq-metres both indoors and outdoors.
The expo will bring together home buyers, land plot buyers; commercial premise buyers and tenants, real estate agents and brokers, engineers, architects, town planners, environment and landscape consultants.
Similarly, interior designers, renovation designers and contractors, building material suppliers and distributors, construction equipment producers and dealers, construction contractors and managers, builders and property developers, property and facility managers, plumbers, electricians and lighting professionals will gather in a single platform, the organiser said.

Police arrests notorious gold smuggling racketeer Gore

Police arrested Chudamani Upreti alias Gore of Urlabari, the alleged mastermind behind the smuggling of 33.5 kg gold and related murder of a carrier Sanam Shakya.
The police – hosting a press meet at the Home Ministry today – made public the notorious gold don.
The member of a team investigating into the smuggling and subsequent murder of a mule Sanam Shakya confirmed the arrest of mastermind, against which International Criminal Police Organisation (Interpol) had also issued a diffusion notice a couple of days ago.
The case of the smuggling is currently underway at Morang District Court as the body of Shakya was recovered from Biratnagar.
Following an investigation opened in the wake of Shakya’s murder, Government Attorney’s Office of Morang on May 2 had filed cases against 63 persons at Morang District Court claiming that they had smuggled around 38 quintals of gold worth over Rs 17.018 billion over the years since 2015. But 32 of those charge-sheeted in connection with the smuggling and murder are still absconding.
Gore was at large ever since the death of Shakya, who had been electrocuted allegedly on Gorey’s instruction.
Though, the government formed probe team leader Ishwor Poudel – joint secretary at the Home Ministry – claimed to have arrested him at Gauri Ghat in Pashupati today morning, he is said to have been arrested from Silgudi and brought to Kathmandu. But some also claimed that he has surrendered due to threat to his life.
As much as 33.5 kg smuggled gold brought from the United Arab Emirates (UAE) had landed at the Tribhuvan International Airport (TIA) on January 21. Later, investigations had revealed that Gore was the mastermind of the smuggling and the precious yellow metal belonged to MK Agrawal, though no one has a clue, who he is.
The case took a nasty turn after SSP Bikashraj Khanal – the incharge of Makwanpur District Police Office – was arrested in connection with the case, the murder of alleged carrier of smuggled gold, and the disappearance of 33.5 kg precious yellow metal.
The 33.5 kg gold smuggled through the TIA had mysteriously disappeared from Kathmandu before reaching its intended destination.
The smuggling case drew much public attention following the murder of Sanam Shakya, an alleged smuggler. Shakya’s was tortured to death in Urlabari on March 2 and his body was recovered from a vehicle (Ba 12 Cha 5963) in Biratnagar the following day. Police said electric shock was the cause of Shakya’s death.

Monday, May 21, 2018

Government to focus on creating jobs

The government has claimed that no Nepali youths will be flying abroad for employment in next five years.
Presenting the government’s policy and programmes for next fiscal year today, President Bidhya Devi Bhandari also claimed – in the the joint meeting of both the houses – that by 2023 the average earnings of Nepalis will be doubled.
Nepal needs to create some 240,000 new jobs every year, a recent report from the World Bank read, meaning the government has to create some 658 new jobs everyday to retain the youths within the country.
President Bhandari also announced a new programme, 'the Prime Minister’s Employment Programme', to achieve the employment target. However, Prime Minister’s Employment Programme could meet the same fate as the Youth Employment Fund that was set up during the tenure of the then finance minister Dr Baburam Bhattarai. It has failed due to politicisation.
Though, the almost two-third majority left government's policy seems encouraging it has not presented any programme on how to create employment in the country. The 'highly ambitious' target has also claimed to double the per capita income in the next five years, though the policy and programme is brought for a year. Currently, per capita income of the Nepalis stands at $1,004. Though, current trend shows that it took nine years to double the per capita income to $1004, it is possible to double the income in five years, if the annual growth is recorded in an average of 15 per cent. "If the inflation remains same, the government could double the income in five year with an annual growth of 15 per cent," said economist Bishwo Poudel. "However, the government needs to spend $10 billion to $15 billion to achieve 15 per cent growth every year," he said, asking the government on how to manage such huge budget and how does it tame the inflation at the time when the price of petroleum products has been regularly increasing. The incumbent government has increased the price of petroleum products for the fourth time, since it took to power three months ago.
Likewise, the government has also claimed to make the country prosperous and developed nation within a decade.
However, former finance minister Dr Ram Sharan Mahat said that there are hardly any new programmes and projects to translate those targeted figures into reality. "It is the repetition of past programmes,” he said.

NTB launches website in Chinese language

Nepal Tourism Board (NTB) has launched its website in Chinese language to facilitate an increasing number of tourists from China who are visiting Nepal.
Minister for Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation Rabindra Adhikari and Chinese ambassador to Nepal Yu Hong jointly inaugurated the website today.
"The government wants to accelerate economic growth by increasing the contribution of the tourism industry to 25 per cent,” Adhikari said – after inaugurating the website – praising the contribution of China towards Nepal’s development. "Nepal has prioritised welcoming Chinese tourists to strengthen the China-Nepal relationship and lead the country towards prosperity."
Speaking on the occasion, Chinese ambassador to Nepal Yu Hong said that the website will help take the bilateral ties between the Nepal and China to a new height and help promote cultural and economic partnerships through tourism. Currently, more than 100,000 Chinese tourists visit Nepal every year.
The board has developed the website – to inform Chinese tourists about major tourist destinations in Nepal – written in Chinese language. The website contains information about tourist destinations of all the seven provinces, including major tourist destinations, attractive pictures of important religious places, temples, snow-capped mountains and rivers.
The infographic video uploaded inside the website contains information of all seven provinces and the routes to reach in there in an illustrated way.

Nepal eliminates trachoma as a public health problem

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has validated Nepal for having eliminated trachoma as a public health problem – a milestone, as the country becomes the first in WHO’s South-East Asia Region to defeat the world’s leading infectious cause of blindness.
A letter acknowledging validation was presented yesterday to the minister of State for Health and Population Padma Kumari Aryal by the WHO South-East Asia Regional Director Dr Poonam Khetrapal Singh and the WHO Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus in Geneva, Switzerland, where the World Health Assembly is taking place.
"Nepal’s achievement is commendable and results from strong political commitment, intense community engagement and impressive leadership demonstrated by civil society,” Dr Khetrapal Singh said on the occasion.
"This remarkable achievement demonstrates what political commitment and sustained partner support can do,” said Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO director-general. “It is a big step towards health for everyone and comes at a time when Nepal accelerates its fight against other neglected tropical diseases."
In 2002, Nepal stepped up its efforts to eliminate the disease with the establishment of a national trachoma programme. From 2002 to 2005, following the implementation of sustained control activities, the prevalence of active – inflammatory – trachoma fell by 40 per cent.
The government – through the ministry of Water Supply and Sanitation – provided incentives to local communities and districts to build and maintain latrines, measures that were crucial to improving sanitation and reducing disease-carrying flies.
The national trachoma programme collaborated with the Education Ministry to include a module on trachoma in the school curriculum to increase awareness.
"We managed to accelerate awareness about the disease and sanitation through education campaigns involving brochures, posters, flipcharts, radio announcements, and programmes in schools and village health centres,” executive director of Nepal Netra Jyoti Sangh Sailesh Mishra said, adding that these were run by teachers and local health volunteers.
Approximately 30,000 operations were provided to manage trichiasis, and almost 15 million doses of azithromycin were distributed. Between 2002 and 2014, eye hospitals and dozens of eye centres and clinics with trained staff were established across Nepal.
Azithromycin is donated by the pharmaceutical company Pfizer through the International Trachoma Initiative and was delivered in Nepal by Nepal Netra Jyoti Sangh with support from the United States Agency for International Development-funded ENVISION project, implemented by RTI International.

Sunday, May 20, 2018

200 climbers scale Mt Everest, one dies

Out of a total 346 climbers of 38 expedition teams which were permitted to scale the highest peak of the world this season, some 200 have successfully climbed Mt Everest.
However, a Macedonian climber died above camp 3 at 7,200 meters on the way to the summit, according to the officials at the Tourism Ministry.
"The 62-year-old collapsed above camp 3," according to the Ministry that has confirmed that around 200 climbers have already scaled Mt Everest this season.
Before climbing big mountains, climbers first attempt to scale small peaks. That gives them idea about the altitude and temperature and will help them climb Mt Everest. The climbers of Mt Lhotse, Mt Nuptse and Mt Everest use the same base camp.
Some 10 groups of 107 climbers are attempting to climb Mt Lhotse, whereas some 40 people of three groups will be scaling Mt Nuptse.

CIB books 148 for Apex scam

The Central Investigation Bureau (CIB) of Nepal Police has filed a case of banking fraud against 148 persons allegedly involved in Apex Development Bank scam.
The CIB – after investigating the alleged fake documents for two months – has submitted the report to the Office of Special Government Attorney in Lalitpur, today. The accused have been charged under the Banking Offence and Punishment Act.
On March 16, police had arrested 21 people, including staff, board of directors, borrowers, valuators and former chief executive officer Bishnu Prasad Dhital of the erstwhile Apex Development Bank for indulging in unethical loan releases.
According to the CIB officials, the alleged masterminds of the fraud – Govinda Upadhyaya and Basanta Malla – are hiding in the US. The CIB plans to request the Interpol to issue a diffusion notice against them, though it is not sure that the US will handover them as earlier also the US has refused to handover an alleged banking fraud.
The CIB arrested the bank staffs as they have been accused of releasing loans amounting to Rs 1.50 billion through fake loan documents, insufficient collateral and other illegal means from Durbar Marg, Lokanthali, Itahari, Surkhet and Nepalgunj branches. However, the Apex Development Bank and Nepal Credit and Commerce (NCC) Bank had merged a few months ago.
The accused are said to have been involved in fake transactions during post-merger integration between NCC Bank and Apex Development Bank.
According to CIB, out of the 128 bank scam files, some 33 are from Itahari, seven from Surkhet and 13 from Nepalgunj. The CIB went through 85 files before filing a case based on the findings of those files. According to the police, it will take time to complete the investigation of total amount that was siphoned from Itahari, Surkhet and Nepalgunj branches.

Central bank issues LoI to set up infrastructure bank

The central bank today issued a Letter of Intent (LoI) to Emerging Nepal to establish Infrastructure Development Bank (IDB) after it has deposited 50 per cent of the total paid up capital of Rs 20 billion.
The proposed Infrastructure Development Bank – that will be focusing on financing mega infrastructure projects – is the country's first infrastructure bank. It has 40 promoters, including five commercial banks, a number of insurance companies and corporate houses. Former chief secretary Bimal Koirala has been named the chairman of the proposed bank.
The green signal in principle from the central bank allows the bank to proceed with setting up the infrastructure of the bank. Expected to start operations in six months, the proposed bank will be able to make equity investments in infrastructure development projects and open letters of credit (LC) to import equipment required by them. Likewise, the bank can issue domestic and foreign currency bonds, mobilise long-term deposits and issue debentures to mobilise financial resources for infrastructure projects.
The central bank spokesperson Narayan Prasad Paudel said that Nepal Rastra Bank has agreed in principle to the Infrastructure Development Bank. The central bank allowed it to proceed with the establishment process after it deposited 45 per cent of the paid-up capital in six commercial banks. It has deposited 5 per cent of the paid-up capital during the application phase, he said, adding that the bank has to register as a public limited company with the Office of the Company Registrar within the six months after receiving the Letter of Intent (LoI) from the central bank. "After the preparations of logistics including developing the necessary software and appointing senior officials, the central bank will carry out an inspection before issuing the operating licence."
Emerging Nepal had submitted an application to establish an infrastructure bank on August 30.
The government and promoters will hold 10 per cent and 50 per cent of the shares respectively, whereas remaining 40 per cent will be floated to the public.

Friday, May 18, 2018

Mishra gets lifetime award from PATA

Executive chairman of Temple Tiger Group of Companies Basant Raj Mishra has been conferred with a Life Membership Award by the Pacific Asia Travel Association (PATA) during the PATA annual summit 2018 held in South Korea today.
The award – the association’s highest honour – is presented to an individual affiliated to a PATA member organisation who has devoted exceptional service to the tourism industry in Pacific Asia Region. Mishra was also the first Nepali to be the secretary and treasurer of PATA. The summit brings together international thought leaders, industry shapers and senior decision-makers who are professionally engaged with the Asia Pacific region. The summit embraces a global forum for enhancing the sustainable growth, value and quality of tourism.
The association provides aligned advocacy, insightful research and innovative events to its member organisations, comprising 95 governments, state and city tourism bodies, 29 international airlines, airports and cruise lines, 63 educational institutions, and hundreds of travel industry companies in Asia Pacific and beyond.
Since 1951 PATA has led from the front as the leading voice and authority on travel and tourism in the Asia Pacific region.

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Prices of petro products hiked for the fourth time after Oli took charge

The state oil monopoly has hiked the prices of petroleum products for the fourth time after incumbent Prime Minister K P Oli took the power more than three months ago.
Nepal Oil Corporation (NOC) has jacked up Rs 2 per litre in petrol, diesel and kerosene each within a distance of 15-kilometre from Thankot depot in Kathmandu Valley from today midnight, the NOC spokesperson Birendra Goit confirmed, adding that the petrol will cost Rs 110 per litre and diesel and kerosene will cost Rs 92 in the Kathmandu Valley, according to the new revised rate. "However, petrol will cost Rs 109.50 per litre in Dang and Pokhara, and Rs 108.50 per litre all over Nepal except Kathmandu Valley, Dang and Pokhara."
Likewise, diesel and kerosene will each cost Rs 92 per litre within 15-km distance from Thankot depot in Kathmandu Valley and Rs 91.50 per litre in Dang and Pokhara respectively, he added, "Diesel and kerosene will be available at Rs 90.50 except in Kathmandu Valley, Dang and Pokhara."
The NOC has, however, not increased the price of Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG) – popularly known as cooking gas – and aviation fuel. A cylinder of cooking gas remains static at Rs 1,375 and Air Turbine Fuel (ATF) domestic has also remained at the same price that is Rs 95 per litre.
“With the revised rate, the NOC reaches break-even point," Goit said, adding that it would otherwise have suffered Rs 320 million loss per month.
The Indian Oil Corporation (IOC) – the only supplier of the petroleum products to Nepal – sends NOC revised price list every fortnight. The price of petroleum prices in theh international market has gone up, forcing the IOC to revise the rate upwards every fortnight.
Earlier, the state oil monopoly had increased fuel prices on May 3, April 16, February 19 and February 2, though this is the eighth time that the NOC has revised the fuel prices this year.
The price of petroleum products seems to go even up forcing the otherwise controlled inflation to look up. It will make the government and central bank difficult to tame the inflation under 7 percent as targeted in the fiscal and monetary policy.
The hike in petroleum products – especially diesel – will push the price of the good up due to increased transportation cost fueling the inflation. 

Kami Rita Sherpa summits Mt Everest for a record 22nd time

Kami Rita Sherpa scaled Mt Everest for the record 22nd time today breaking the earlier records of Apa Sherpa and Phurba Tashi Sherpa, who have climbed the highest peak of the world for 21st times.
The 48-year-old Sherpa reached Mt Everest for a 22nd time today at 8:30 am, according to the Department of Tourism. "Sherpa reached the 8,850-meter summit via the Southeast Ridge route, accompanied by 13 other climbers including his clients," the department informed, adding that he has set the new world record.
The peak sees hoards of mountaineers in the climbing season that runs from March through May. Of them most of climbers are currently on various camps of Mt Everest trying to reach the top of the world.
Kami Rita, who hails from Thame village in Solukhumbu district, made his first ascent of Mt Everest in 1994, when he was 24 years old. He plans to reach the summit for the 25th time, or even more times.
One of his 21 Mt Everest ascents was made from the Chinese side in 2016.
The 2018 Everest climbing season officially began on Sunday with eight high-altitude Nepali climbing guides making it to the hallowed peak. These highly-skilled mountaineers prepare the route to the top of the 8,848-metre peak for climbers.
This season, nearly 750 individuals, including 346 royalty-paying climbers, are expected to scale the highest peak of the world. A total of 20 Nepali climbers are also on the way to the Mt Everest.
The world’s highest peak was closed for two consecutive years in 2014 and 2015 due to deadly avalanches. On April 18, 2014, an avalanche near the base camp killed 16 Nepali guides. Then in 2015, quake-triggered avalanches killed 19 climbers. According to the statistics, some 5,324 mountaineers have scaled Mt Everest since it was first scaled by Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay Sherpa in 1953.

IBN to publish detailed feasibility study notice for metro rail tomorrow

The Investment Board Nepal (IBN) is publishing a notice seeking expression of interest (EoI) to conduct the detailed feasibility study of the Nagdhunga-Koteshwor-Dhulikhel metro rail project tomorrow.
The 21-day notice for Route Number 2 of the metro rail project will be open for all national and international companies, according to the board.
According to the chief executive of the board Maha Prasad Adhikari, Route Number 2 of the metro rail project comprises Nagdhunga-Kalanki-Koteshwor in the Kathmandu Valley and Dhulikhel of Kavre district. "It will be 37-km long," he said, adding that the preliminary study of the project was jointly prepared by the Department of Railways and Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA).
The government had earlier on April 30 directed the board to prepare a detailed feasibility study of the Nagdhunga-Kalanki-Koteshwor-Dhulikhel section (Route Number 2) of metro rail project. The 30th executive board meeting held under the chair Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli had mandated the board to conduct detailed feasibility study.
The board that is planning to select a company within six months. The shortlisted company will have to complete detailed feasibility study within 15 months.
"The detailed feasibility report will give a clear picture of investment model of the project," Adhikari sadi, adding that and the detailed project report will also make clear actual cost and time that will be required to build the project.
The metro rail will be operated under the public-private partnership (PPP) model, he said, adding that the board will select a company that also has experience of building projects under the PPP model, though the domestic companies have almost no experience of building any project under PPP model.
Likewise, the proposed Route Number 1 of extends from Budhanilkantha in Kathmandu to Satdobato and Khokana in Lalitpur. The $800-million monorail project has been delayed also due to the disagreement with yet another company earlier.
Earlier, the board was planning to sign a memorandum of understanding with Kathmandu Monorail Company (KMC). But the board has postponed signing since the company failed to fulfill all the requirements, it had agreed earlier.
The board had written a letter to prospective builder on May 3 asking it to deposit the performance security, according to the preliminary Memorandum of Understanding (MoU). But the company was unable to deposit Rs 100 million that was required as performance security forcing the board to search for new company, the board informed. "It has failed to deposit the performance guarantee."
However, the company – that was planning to construct the Kathmandu Monorail Project under build, own, operate, transfer (BOOT) model – said that it is not convinced with three clauses in the MoU, though it had shown interest earlier. "We are not comfortable with the clause that the company will have to forfeit the deposit amount as performance security, if it is unable to complete the DPR on time,” said chairman of the company DN Thapa.
Likewise, the company has also reservations on right of the DPR. According to Thapa, the company is also unhappy about the clause that reads that 'if the government is not satisfied with the DPR, it can ask another company to prepare a new DPR.'
The board has given Kathmandu Monorail Company two days to deposit Rs100 million as performance guarantee before signing the deal.
Two years ago, the company had submitted a proposal to the board showing its willingness to build the monorail along the ring road in the Kathmandu Valley. After receiving the proposal, the board – in consultation with National Planning Commission (NPC) – had formed a committee under the leadership of a member of the planning commission.
After committee has recommended the board to let Kathmandu Monorail Companyt to prepare a DPR for the project. The panel had also suggested the board to include a provision in the understanding clearly stating that the government will not bear the cost of the DPR, if the project is dropped meaning if the board – by any chance or condition – decides against developing the monorail project, it will not be liable to pay the company for the DPR. Likewise, if the board decides to award the construction project to some other developer, Kathmandu Monorail Company will receive payment only if the other party agrees to purchase the report.
The builder found the clauses unacceptable forcing the board to call for new expression of interest to conduct the detailed feasibility study.

Makalu aircraft crashes

Both the pilot and the co-pilot on board were killed after a cargo aircraft of the Makalu Airlines crashed today morning at the Bahun Kharka in Humla.
The plane was flying at a height of 12,800 feet. The single-engine Cessna 208B Grand Caravan with call sign 9N-AJU had taken off from Surkhet to Humla district headquarters Simikot. It took off from Surkhet Airport at 6:12 am and was scheduled to land at 6:55 am in Simikot. But the plane had gone missing minutes before landing at the Humla airport.
The crashed aircraft was discovered nearly four hours later. According to deputy director general at Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal (CAAN) Rajan Pokharel, the Makalu Air cargo aircraft crashed at Simikot Pass in Bahun Kharka, Humla. He said both pilot Kiran Bhattarai and co-pilot Aditya Nepali died in the crash.
Humla is one of the remotest districts in Karnali province. The district is accessible only by small aircraft.
The bodies will be airlifted to Kathmandu, an airport official said, adding that an investigation would be soon launched.
Makalu Air has three single-engine Cessna 208B Grand Caravan aircrafts to its fleet. Based in Nepalgunj, Makalu Air provides chartered passenger and cargo services.
The crash – nearly two months after a US-Bangla aircraft crashed in the Tribhuvan International Airport (TIA) killing 51 people and injuring over a dozen – once again reminded the authorities need to improve the safety of Nepali sky.

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

TIA must operate for 21 hours a day from May 21: Minister

Minister for Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation Rabindra Adhikari has asked the only international airport to operate 21 hours till 3 am every day to reduce air traffic congestion.
Addressing Tribhuvan International Airport (TIA) officials today the minister requested them to make extra efforts for bringing TIA into operation for 21 hours in a day from May 21. "Problems are everywhere," he said, asking to move forward by finding solution to the problems. "It won't be difficult to extend airport operation hours, if all stakeholders work in tandem."
He also assured the TIA staffers that the ministry will address their demands gradually. "Rightful demands of staffers will be addressed," Adhikari, said, adding that they should also act professionally.
Likewise, Adhikari also directed the authorities to complete renovation of the airport within three months and recruit more staffers immediately.
Earlier, unveiling his 100-day action plan on June 30, Adhikari had announced to operate the international airport 21 hours a day to reduce air traffic congestion at the TIA.
After the announcement, the Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal (CAAN) and TIA started working in war footing to extend airport operation hours from May 21, though the international airlines have already finalised their flight schedule for the season. "For thee current season – that is for six months – the extension of the operation hours will not benefit the TIA," according to a source at the CAAN. "However, it will save the national flag carrier some fine as it has been paying fine to the TIA due to frequent delay."
Likewise, 21-hour operation could also be hit due to lack of enough manpower. According to Nepal Air Traffic Controllers Association, there are only 66 ATCs at present, while the approved post is 105. "Similarly, there are only 16 staffers in electrical and mechanical sector, while the approved post is 32."
However, the officials of both CAAN and TIA – at the interaction – said that they were making 100 per cent efforts to bring the airport into operation for 21 hours from May 21.
Currently, the TIA is also under going expansion work to increase its capacity. After the completion of expansion work, the terminal building will have six additional baggage belts – apart from the existing four – more immigration counters and check-in desk, which is expected to ease immigration process at the airport that will ease passenger movements.

India provides Rs 180.74m for river training works

Indian ambassador to Nepal Manjeev Singh Puri today handed over a cheque of Rs 180.74 million to secretary at the Ministry of Energy, Irrigation and Water Resources Sanjay Sharma for river training and construction of embankments.
The amount handed over for river training – in the presence of energy minister Barsha Man Pun – and construction of embankments along Lalbakeya, Bagmati and Kamla rivers in the plains, according to a press release issued by the Embassy of India in Kathmandu, today.
The river training and embankment works in the Lalbakeya, Bagmati and Kamla rivers aimed at flood control and water resources management, which will benefit millions of people inhabiting in the watershed of these rivers in India and Nepal, it reads, adding that the government of India has so far given 13 installments since 2008 to Nepal for the river training and embankment works totaling to over Rs 4.68 billion.
India remains committed to continue working closely with Nepal for further cooperation in the field of river training, flood control and water resources management in these and other rivers, the press release adds.

Monday, May 14, 2018

Finance Minister assures of pro-socialist budget

Finance Minister Dr Yubaraj Khatiwada has said that government is preparing socialism-oriented budget as per the spirit of the constitution.
Responding to the queries of Upper House members regarding the principles and priorities – except tax proposal – of the Appropriation Bill for the next fiscal year 2075-76 in today, Khatiwada assured that the budget would be according to the election manifesto of the united leftist alliance.
However, the partners in the government of left alliance – the Maoist Centre – ministers have shown their dissatisfaction over the budget preparation process. They have blamed the finance minister for not discussing with them.
The Finance Ministry is preparing the budget within the ceiling of Rs 1204 billion as according to the National Planning Commission (NPA) ceiling. However, the commission's newly appointed members have also no idea about the budget preparation, though the commission is said to be the planning partner during the budget preparation.
Khatiwada has neither consulted with the alliance partners nor has he shown any indication of listening to them.
Last week, Khatiwada had invited former finance ministers to discuss on the budget but only Dr Baburam Bhattarai and Dr Rup Jyoti arrived at the Finance Ministry. The former finance ministers including Bishnu Poudel, Surendra Pandey and Bharat Mohan Adhikari – who hail from Dr Khatiwada's own party CPN-UML – and Krishna Bahadur Mahara and Barsha Man Pun – who hail from Maoist Centre, the government alliance – also could not spare their time to Khatiwada.

Friday, May 11, 2018

Oli, Modi flag off Janakpur-Ayodhya direct bus service

Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli and visiting Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi today flagged off the direct bus service from Janakpur to Ayodhya.
The direct bus service – announced by Modi while he visited Nepal in 2014 – comes under the 'Ramayan Circuit', that they both jointly announced from the premises of the Janaki Temple in Janakpur. The 'Ramayan Circuit' and direct bus service is expected to help promote the religious tourism between the two neighbours.
The Ramayana Circuit is one among the 13 tourist circuits under the Indian government promoted Swadesh Darshan scheme. Indian Ministry of Tourism has linked 15 destinations – from where Lord Ram is believed to have travelled – in the Ramayana Circuit.
Modi – during the two-day State visit – has landed in Janakpur on Air India aircraft.
Today evening Oli and Modi will jointly inaugurate an Indian-financed Arun III hydropower project.
5T key in Nepal-India relation
Modi, while addressing the crowd in the Barhabigha maidan in Janakpur, also said that 5T – Tradition, Trade, Tourism, technology and Transport – has important role in the relation between Nepal and India. Though, he talked about connectivity, he didnot mention increasing air connectivity, which Nepal has been asking for long. He also announced Rs 1 billion for the development of Janakpur and surrounding areas. "The aid will be spent in the coordination between the centre government and province," he said, referring Kathmandu and Janakpur, the capital of province 2.

Thursday, May 10, 2018

World Bank to provide $266mn concessional loan to Nepal

The International Development Association (IDA) of the World Bank (WB) is providing a concessional loan of $200 million under the first Programmatic Fiscal and Public Financial Management Development Policy Credit (DPC) in budgetary support and $66 million for Rani Jamara Kulariya Irrigation Scheme.
Country Director of the World Bank Qimiao Fan and finance secretary Rajan Khanal signed the agreement for the loan at a programme organised at Finance Ministry today.
The total amount worth $266 million is equivalent to approximately Rs 27.65 billion.
The loan proceeds available under ‘Development Policy Credit’ will be utilised in the sector of government’s priority through national budgetary system. This policy credit is tailored with prior actions of reform in fiscal and public financial management sector. The agreement remains effective until February 28, 2019.
The second agreement signed today is for Rani Jamara Kulariya Irrigation Scheme II which envisions modernising irrigation system and strengthening the water user’s associations committees and agricultural production support, according to the Finance Ministry press note.
In the second phase of modernisation of the project, the credit will be utilised to complete the remaining works of ongoing project. This credit agreement remains effective until December 31, 2023.
The World Bank has been extending DPC following Nepal’s reform initiative for the macro-economic and financial sectors.

Langtang International Marathon on May 19

Trekking Agencies Association of Nepal (TAAN) is organising the third International Langtang Marathon on May 19.
TAAN has been organising the 42.195-km race from 2016 to boost tourism in the region that was left devastated after the earthquake of April 25, 2015. "The Langtang region holds a lot of tourism potentials but due to the earthquake and lack of promotion, we have not been able to take more tourists there,” said TAAN president Navaraj Dahal.
"The foreign runners will take part in Langtang marathon," he said, adding that it will help promote tourism in the region. "We are expecting at least 100 runners but not sure yet."
The race will begin from an altitude of 3,870 metres in Kyanjing Gompa at the Langtang National Park and end at Syaphrubeshi passing through Ghoda Tabela, Lama Hotel, Rimche, Sherpagaun, Kangjim, Bridhim and Ling Ling.
The top three finishers will get cash prizes of Rs 105,000; Rs 78, 750 and Rs 52, 500. In the first two editions, runners from Tribhuvan Army Club and Nepal Armed Police Force (APF) Club dominated the race.

Budget principles and priorities lose focus : Bhattarai

Naya Shakti Party coordinator Baburam Bhattarai said that the principles and priorities of the budget for the next fiscal year presented by the finance minister Dr Yuba Raj Khatiwada in the House yesterday has lost its focus.
The budget should prioritise country's economic development, he said, commenting on proposal on principles and priorities of the Appropriation Bill for the fiscal year 2018-19 in the House meeting today.
Criticising the presentation of the finance minister as the continuity of past instead of prioritising development foundations, the former Prime Minister opined that the budget should incorporate agriculture, tourism, water resources, infrastructure development and education, apart from prioritising speedy construction of international airport, and run technical education.
Fee health insurance for farmers, making available of seeds, and managing irrigation are key, he said, adding that the government should allow the private sector to 'make profit but pay tax'.
Pitching for signing of Bilateral Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement (BIPPA) with other 50 countries, he remembered that Nepal signed BIPPA with India during his premiership. "We need to sign BIPPA with 50 more countries so that Nepal can attract more investment," he added.

Nepal needs huge investment for speedy economic growth

Nepal needs huge investment for speedy economic growth.
Delivering his keynote speech in the conference of South Asia Network of Economic Research Institutes (SANEI) today, former finance minister Ram Sharan Mahat said that Nepal needs huge investment for speedy economic growth and also to sustain federalism.
Following the establishment of a federal system, the government needs to make large budget allocations for regular expenditure. The administrative expenses of the three tiers of government – federal, provincial and local – amount to at least 40 per cent of the country’s GDP, Mahat said, adding that the federal transition cost is likely to stand at 3 per cent to 4 per cent of GDP annually for the next four years.
Highlighting that reforms in the economy should be a continuous process to attract investment as the country needs huge investment to address not only growing investment but also the structural bottlenecks of the economy including yawning infrastructure gap, low productivity, lack of job opportunities, sluggish export and ballooning imports, Mahat said that the country has been able to maintain macro stability despite suffering for long from political turbulence in the last two decades. “Economic reforms initiated in the 1990s were unprecedented and they have increased revenue of the government exponentially to around 24 per cent of gross domestic product, created ground for private sector and foreign investment, reduced poverty and also achieved the targets set by Millennium Development Goals (MDGs)."
He also argued that Nepal has performed better in many social indicators including nutrition safety, gender sensitiveness, and has been a champion in reducing women and child mortality, and school enrollment of children (especially girls), life expectancy.
However, slow development in the manufacturing sector, increased migrant worker departures, widening gap between exports and imports, bureaucratic inefficiency, political instability and widespread corruption have prevented the country from achieving its economic goals.
"There are challenges too," Mahat cautioned, adding loss of productivity and competitiveness at home, causing low growth and depopulation is under way in some of the districts to the economy. "The agriculture land in the villages is barren due to lack of youth migration."
Likewise, the rapid expansion of the non-tradable sector is a major threat for the economy and external balances, he said, adding that non-tradable sector are those sectors in which production and services are only for domestic consumption.
He also highlighted the sub-national governance, together with accumulating stress on current account and an emerging tendency to overreach on regulatory matters governing private sector represent major risks in the economy.
Likewise, Prof at Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi, Mahendra P Lama, on the occasion, highlighted Nepal’s straight move from primary sector like agro and forestry to tertiary sector like service sector bypassing the manufacturing sector could be costly for the country. "Manufacturing sector is important for the sustainability of the economy as it creates jobs, raises national productivity, substitutes imports and the economy has multiple advantages of protecting and promoting manufacturing sector,” he said, adding that Nepal’s economy is an urban-centric supra economy that will face institutional laggard in the federal system.
The South Asian experts, on the occasion, urged Nepal to formulate better fiscal measures and enhance tax reform to achieve its economic reform targets. They called for initiatives to reduce the existing high capital output ratio, improve road connectivity, ensure good governance and check the high recurrent expenditure as part of comprehensive economic reform.

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

ICIMOD, NMB Bank join hands for mountain communities in Nepal

The International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD) and NMB Bank, signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to provide the mountain communities in Nepal better access to finance today.
NMB and ICIMOD hope to build on each other's network and strengths to foster cooperation and contribute to sustainable mountain and socio-economic development in Nepal through knowledge intervention and business promotion, according to a statement issued by ICIMOD.
The partnership focuses on achieving and delivering the shared values and goals of the organisations. The three broad focus areas of the collaboration are access to finance, impact investment, and corporate social responsibility (CSR) activities for the benefit of mountain communities.
"ICIMOD is increasingly stepping up to work closely with private sector organisations in Nepal and other regional member countries of the Hindu Kush Himalayan region," said director general of ICIMOD David Molden, speaking after signing the MoU.
"We see that there is synergy in businesses and would like to engage in a meaningful partnership with NMB Bank to enhance our impact on mountain communities," he added.
ICIMOD recognises NMB as a strategic private sector partner that can provide communities the much-needed access to finance for sustainable livelihoods and the success of interventions in Nepal.
For NMB Bank, ICIMOD is a strategic knowledge and technical partner to link to social and environmental activities as well as activities related to business links and business opportunities in Nepal.
NMB is a financial institution and a member of the Global Alliance for Banking on Values. "NMB believes that investing in real economies is pertinent to the long-term economic sustainability of Nepal,"chief executive of NMB Bank Sunil KC said, adding that the collaboration with ICIMOD is in line with the bank's faith in value-based banking. "We are pleased to add value to ongoing ICIMOD activities by providing mountain communities better access to finance. Our partnership with ICIMOD will provide economic and social benefits to mountain people and help increase their income."
“For ICIMOD, working with the private sector provides greater development impact, opportunities to upscale and longer-term sustainability,” director of Strategic Cooperation, ICIMOD Basanta Shrestha said, stressing that ICIMOD, through its partnership with NMB, would like to 'leverage knowledge resources from its research, demonstration, and pilots for business development opportunities and promote social impact investments for the benefit of mountain communities.'
In August this year, Department of Irrigation, the Government of Australia, and ICIMOD, in partnership with the Alternative Energy Promotion Centre (AEPC), launched solar-powered irrigation pumps (SPIPs) in Saptari. The SPIP project is an ICIMOD pilot on clean, reliable, and affordable technology for year-round irrigation.
NMB Bank offered a special loan package to farmers, which allowed them to purchase SPIPs. As part of its CSR activities, NMB also handed over varieties of seeds to flood victims in Saptari.

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Outsourcers have to verify demand letter from Nepali mission from abroad

Government from today made it mandatory for recruiting agencies and foreign companies, seeking Nepali migrant workers to get their work demand letters approved by the Nepali missions.
According to the Minister of Labour, Employment and Social Security Gokarna Bista, the government was forced to bring the new provision after repeated complaints of Nepali migrant workers being cheated through fake demand letters. According to him, the foreign missions abroad, including embassies, consulate generals, permanent missions, special missions and other diplomatic missions would verify the demand letter submitted by companies or recruiting agencies on behalf of such hiring companies for obtaining Nepali migrant workers.
"The government has brought a new directive, ‘Foreign Employment Related Demand Letter Inquiry Directive (2018)’, to deal with the ill practices in outsourcing agencies," he said, adding that the directives has been approved by the cabinet yesterday.
There have been repeated incidents of fake demand letters produced by hiring companies, agents and recruiting agencies involved in supplying workers in destination countries – especially Gulf countries and Malaysia – ultimately deceiving poor Nepali workers.
The new directive is also expected to help in controlling the number of migration of unskilled manpower to these countries, where they are exploited. "There used to be problems in demand letters," he said, "For example, they would show better facilities, remunerations and other services in the demand letters, which would later not match when workers would start working."
Earlier, those companies used to send their demand letters directly to the Department of Foreign Employment (DoFE) after approvals by local notary public offices and local Chamber of Commerce. The Chamber of Commerce and Notary Public would give permission to those companies to invite Nepali workers only after checking the legal status of the company, but not their financial condition, facilities and services being given to workers.
Only few reputed companies would send demand letters that matches facilities mentioned in preliminary work permit and the final work permit. In many cases, recruiting agencies were found to be bribing local agents and staff of the hiring companies for procuring workers demand, showing attractive perks for workers. With the new directive, the foreign missions will verify these demands letters before they get final nod by the department. The employing company will have to submit demand letter authenticated by the Notary Public, Chamber of Commerce and concerned government agency of the host nation.
The foreign mission will take 10 working days to verify the workers demand letter before forwarding it to the department for final inquiry. Besides assessing the demand letter verified by agencies of the destination country, the foreign mission would also gather information on situation of Nepali workers in the same company; basic salary; facilities, services and remunerations provided to workers; condition of work place, housing, health and security situations, Bista added.
The missions will also make sure whether the recruiting company has been blacklisted, and has the valid permission from local authority to obtain workers from Nepal. If required the embassy or other missions can also make field visits to the hosting company before granting the approval for recruiting Nepali workers.
The DoFE will verify and issue pre-permission to aspirant companies based on the approval of the foreign mission.
If the details in the demand letter submitted by the employer contradict with the demand letter approved by the missions or appear to be false, the department will not grant permission to recruiting agencies to hire workers.

Monday, May 7, 2018

30 million children at the age of 5-14 are currently left out of school

South Asia is currently home to more than 10 million out-of-school children, who should be able to attend primary level and 20 million out-of-school children at secondary level. 
"While impressive strides have been made in achieving universal primary education, we have a learning crisis in South Asia with only about half of primary-aged children receiving education with minimum learning standards," according to regional director for UNICEF South Asia Jean Gough.
"We need much greater investment and increased quality education for girls and boys alike, if we hope to see the next generation reach their full potential," Gough said, adding that many countries in South Asia though have prioritised education and have achieved commendable gains in getting children into school, significant challenges remain.
Only 69 per cent of children have access to early childhood education and only a quarter of young people leave school with the secondary skills they need. The growing skills gap will stunt economic growth, with far-reaching social and political repercussions.  Unless urgent action is taken, the region will fall short of meeting the Education Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 4 on education and learning for millions of children and youth by 2030.
Facing an urgent need to tackle the learning crisis across South Asia, education ministers, senior officials from finance and planning, international education experts, development partners and civil society are gathering in Kathmandu this week to discuss what can be done to accelerate progress towards giving all children the opportunity to go to school and receive a quality education.
Co-hosted by United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the International Commission on Financing Global Education Opportunity (the Education Commission), the three-day high level conference will include participants from Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka.
"The Education Commission is proud to co-host this important gathering of countries in South Asia to share experiences of education reform and learn together about new ways to tackle the shared challenge," UN special envoy for Global Education and Education Commission’s chair Gordon Brown, said, adding that it’s time to make education a priority and it’s encouraging to see leaders committing to champion education through increased investment and reform. "It is possible to get all young people in school and learning within a generation. Let’s work together to make this a reality."
In 2016, the Education Commission launched The Learning Generation: Investing in education for a changing world report with an action plan for the largest expansion of educational opportunity in history. Drawing on new research from more than 300 partners in 105 countries, the report highlights an ever-worsening learning crisis that, if left unaddressed, will leave half of the world’s 1.6 billion children and youth out of school or failing to learn by 2030.
UNICEF is joining hands with the Commission and working with governments and partners to accelerate progress in education and increase financing for the sector giving priority to those children most at risk of being excluded from learning.
“There is no better path to stronger economies – more peaceful countries – than investment in every child’s right to an education,” said executive director of UNICEF Henrietta H Fore, on the occasion.

Government prepares to sack NT MD Rajbhandari and NTA chair Jha

The government has sought clarification from managing director of Nepal Telecom (NT), Kamini Rajbhandari, in a move to sack her.
Though the clarification has been sought doubting her managerial efficiency and blaming her for falling competitiveness of the telecom service provider in domestic sector, the government is planning to sack her, according to a high level source at the Ministry of Information and Communications.
The cabinet meeting today has decided to seek clarification from Rajbhandari, who is the first managing director in the history of Nepal Telecom to be selected from free competition. She still has almost 3 years to complete her tenure.
The source at the Ministry claimed that the efficiency of Nepal Telecom’s management has been deteriorating in recent times, compelling the government to seek clarification from the telecom service provider's top management.
Though the source also claimed that the Ministry will take necessary decisions only after analysing the clarification by Rajbhandari, clarification is sought to sack her.   
However, Rajbhandari said that she is yet to receive a letter from the government seeking her clarification.
The majority government led by Prime Minister K P Oli has also asked Nepal Telecommunications Authority (NTA) – the regulatory authority of the telecom service providers – chair Digamber Jha not to take any decision in a clear indication that he could also be sacked.
But the frequent changes in the regulatory authority on the basis of political ideology will create anarchy in the market impacting the consumers due to weak regulator. 

Sunday, May 6, 2018

Agreement ends transport cartels

Ministry of Physical Infrastructure and Transport and transport entrepreneurs agreed to end the cartel and operate under Company Act in the transport sector after marathon rounds of discussions.
In a meeting held at the Ministry in Kathamndu tonight, transport minister Raghubir Mahaseth, transport secretary and director general of the Department of Transport Management discussed with the agitating transport entrepreneurs to end the cartel. After the five-point agreement, the transport entrepreneurs have also expressed their commitment to support the government initiatives to end the transport cartel by officially withdrawing all kinds of protest programmes. The two sides have also reached an agreement to form a taskforce to make the transport sector more effective and transparent.
The two sides agreed to end all form of cartel in public transportation, to allow individuals with only one public transport to provide services, form a probe committee as per the mandamus issued by the Supreme Court, form a committee incorporating ministers and concerned agencies for consultation, and withdraw from all forms of protests.
Both the parties are going to organise a joint press conference tomorrow to announce the details of agreement reached between the government and transport entrepreneurs.
Late evening, the government has also released 106 transport entrepreneurs including Federation of Nepalese National Transport Entrepreneurs (FNNTE) president Yogendra Nath Karmacharya, senior vice president Bijay Bahadur Swar, general secretary Punya Prasad Sitaula (Saroj), deputy general secretary Basanta Bhandari, treasurer Kiran Kumar Khadka and in-charge of Province 3 Dharma Raj Rimal, who were arrested by the police for not operating their vehicles on Friday.
The transport entrepreneurs – on Friday – had halted public vehicles across the country to force the government to withdraw from its decisions of implementing the new regulation that has directed all the transporters to register their transport committees as a company.
Currently, most of the public vehicles operate under the committees and are blamed for evading tax.
However, the government struck as home minister Ram Bahadur Thapa directed to arrest transport entrepreneurs, cancel route permits and freez their bank accounts. The central bank – after the Home Ministry's request – froze 245 bank accounts of transport entrepreneurs and their committees in the afternoon.

Central bank freezes bank accounts of 245 transport committees

Two days after the government's decision to freeze bank accounts of the agitating transport entrepreneurs committees, the central bank froze their accounts today.
The central bank spokesperson Narayan Prasad Paudel confirmed that the Nepal Rastra Bank (NRB) today has directed to all banks and financial institutions (BFIs) to freeze the bank accounts of 245 such committees of transport operators.
"We have already instructed to stop making payments from the bank accounts of these committees but today we have issued official circular," he said, adding that the banks will now freeze their accounts.
The central bank – after correspondence from the Finance Ministry – has directed BFIs to freeze the accounts of transport committees defying the government, though they have more than two months time – by the beginning of next fiscal yaer – to convert the transport committees into companies.
The transport committees, which were operating as cartels, had started agitation against a government move to implement the new Transport Regulation. The regulation has not recognised their transport committees which are blamed for practicing cartel and asked them to register under Company Act.
Though, the government can seize the money in the bank accounts of the organisations, whose registrations have been scrapped, according to the law, it is said to be against the individual right to property. 
The Home Ministry along with Transport Ministry – on Friday – had decided to freeze bank accounts of transport committees after they halted the service across the country.

Saturday, May 5, 2018

ADB to pursue prosperous, inclusive, resilient, sustainable region

Strategy 2030 – the new long-term strategy of the Asian Development Bank (ADB) to be released this year – will renew ADB’s strong commitment to eradicate extreme poverty in Asia and the Pacific and expand the bank’s vision to achieve a prosperous, inclusive, resilient, and sustainable region, ADB president Takehiko Nakao said in his opening address at the 51st Annual Meeting of ADB’s Board of Governors.
With the theme of 'Linking People and Economies for Inclusive Growth,' this year’s Annual Meeting was attended by over 4,000 delegates from member governments, academics, business leaders, and civil society representatives.
In this opening address, Nakao appreciated the strong support of the Philippines as ADB’s host country since 1966 and thanked the government and its people for the excellent arrangements and warm hospitality. He highlighted Strategy 2030 which is in the consultation process, ADB’s achievements in 2017, continued solid growth of Asian economies, and impacts of new technologies on jobs.
In his remarks, Nakao said Strategy 2030 will address existing and emerging challenges. “There is still persistent poverty,” Nakao said, adding that the multilateral lending institute must address rising inequality, growing environmental pressures, and rapid urbanisation. "Aging in some countries and an increasing youth population in others present opportunities as well as challenges."
Strategy 2030 will be aligned with the international agenda, including the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the Paris Agreement on climate change.
The Strategy 2030 will have 10 priorities; tackle remaining poverty and increasing inequalities in Asia and the Pacific; accelerate progress in gender equality; scale up support to combat climate change, build climate and disaster resilience, and enhance environmental sustainability; build livable cities that are competitive, green, resilient, and inclusive; promote rural development and food security; strengthen governance; foster regional cooperation and integration; mobilise private sector resources to meet the region’s huge development financing needs; further strengthen ADB’s role as a provider and facilitator of knowledge; and pursue a stronger, better, and faster ADB.
"We will continue to use our financial resources efficiently and creatively," Nakao said, adding that the bank will invest in workforce, promote diversity including gender balance, and ensure a respectful workplace. "We will expand our presence on the ground. We will dramatically modernise business processes to speed up our services to clients."
“A One ADB approach will break down silos and bring together expertise across ADB,” he added.
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. In 2017, ADB operations totaled $32.2 billion, including $11.9 billion in cofinancing.

Thursday, May 3, 2018

ADB's private sector operations commitments reach $2.3 billion

Asian Development Bank (ADB) private sector operations over the past year reached $2.3 billion, growing the bank’s overall portfolio of private sector operations by 17 per cent to $10.9 billion, according to ADB Private Sector Operations Department’s (PSOD) Development Effectiveness Report 2017.
The 27 new private sector operations committed in 2017 accounted for 13.4 per cent of overall signed regular ordinary capital resources financing. Last year’s commitments were complemented by $5.9 billion in cofinancing, representing 50 per cent of all cofinancing mobilised by ADB, according to the report that was released in Manila, Philippines at the 51st annual meeting of ADB's Board of Governors.
“ADB is firmly committed to partnering with the private sector to help improve infrastructure, expand access to finance, and achieve the Paris Agreement on climate change and the Sustainable Development Goals,” said ADB vice president for Private Sector and Cofinancing Operations Diwakar Gupta. "PSOD will continue to ambitiously work to expand its private sector operations from 13.4 per cent to 20 per cent of total commitments by 2020, including by working in new frontier markets and sectors and increasing support for high-level technologies to improve development impact."
ADB private sector transactions committed in 2017 are expected to create 17,000 new jobs in Asia and the Pacific, while generating more than $492 million in government revenues and enabling the procurement of $2.2 billion of goods and services from local firms. Private sector commitments last year are also projected to improve infrastructure access and services, helping treat 750 million cubic meters of wastewater every year and generating around 7,755 gigawatt (GW) hours of electricity; enough to power 870,000 households.
Private sector operations support for financial inclusion in 2017 will result in over 11.8 million individuals and small businesses in the region having better access to finance. Among these, 90 per cent are expected to be women or enterprises owned by women. Agribusiness projects committed last year will help more than 2,800 farming households, while over 400,000 farmers and rural households are expected to benefit from improved financial services.
Active private sector operations have already contributed to the region’s economy, providing employment for an additional 133,850 people and training 308,000 beneficiaries, mostly in financial literacy. ADB’s private sector clients have also achieved carbon emissions reductions of 4.1 million tons annually.
The figures in the report are based on ADB’s new performance measure of “commitments,” or the amount of loans, grants, and investments signed in a given year. This indicator was introduced in 2017 to promote project readiness at approval stage, expedite post-approval steps, and get closer to project disbursement, by placing more emphasis on when the projects are signed, rather than when they are approved by ADB’s Board of Directors.
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. In 2017, ADB operations totaled $32.2 billion, including $11.9 billion in cofinancing.

Budget to safeguard domestic production

The government is planning to promote local industry by introducing 'import restriction mechanism' in the budget for the next fiscal year 2018-19.
Addressing a pre-budget interaction organised by the Federation of Nepalese Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FNCCI) today revenue secretary Shishir Kumar Dhungana said that the government would impose tariff and non-tariff measures like quantitative restriction on the imports of goods that are affecting domestic products. "We are introducing import rationalisation mechanism through the budget,” he added.
The government will – according to the Constitution – announce budget for the next fiscal year on May 29.
"The budget will also review the export incentives,” Dhungana said, adding that the exports incentives could not help increase exports. "The budget is planning income tax refund instead of export incentives."
Despite export incentives, the exports have not seen encouraging growth, he added.
The government at present provides up to 4 per cent of cash incentives in export items based on the value addition to these products. "The budget could implement the provision of providing cash incentives based on the income tax paid by the exporters,” Dhungana informed.
According to the Finance Ministry, a number of firms have been billing woolen carpet for export at just Rs 25 per square metre while yarsagumba export price is a mere Rs 5,000 per kg. The revenue administration has been blaming traders for avoiding payment of income tax as ato Dhungana, the government this year has collected only Rs150 million from the export sector.
However, the private sector asked the government to implement multiple VAT system, increase the rate of cash incentives on exportable goods, revise the reference price system at customs points and also revise the import duty on import of raw materials. The current duty has also been discouraging the industries in the country and encouraging imports of the finished goods as the duty on raw materials is higher than the finished goods.
Dhungana, on the occasion, also showed serious concern – as always – for under invoicing also.
President of Yarn Manufacturer’s Association Pawan Golyan, on the occasion, said that a large volume of substandard yarn is being imported through under invoicing. "In addition, such goods are getting up to 35 per cent exemption in customs duty whereas the raw materials used for making yarn get only up to five per cent of the exemption,” he added.

New technologies can improve financial inclusion in Asia

Asia and the Pacific has made important progress in expanding and deepening its financial systems but must make further progress to improve financial inclusion using new financial technology (fintech), according to participants at a high-level Asian Development Bank (ADB) seminar during its 51st annual meeting in Manila, Philippines, today.
This seminar was co-hosted by ADB, the International Monetary Fund (IMF), and Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP).
"Governments in the region can improve financial inclusion by broadening access to basic digital infrastructure and providing an enabling environment for innovators and entrepreneurs,” ADB president Takehiko Nakao said, adding that policymakers should also consider ways to improve regulations, including protecting consumers against cybercrimes and fraud, while striking the right balance between innovation and financial stability.
Panelists at the seminar 'New Technologies in Finance: Opportunities and Challenges for Asia' included IMF deputy managing director Mitsuhiro Furusawa, BSP governor Nestor Espenilla, chair Professor at Korea National Diplomatic Academy Oh-Seok Hyun, and director of Social Impact and Public Regulatory Affairs for the IOTA Foundation Julie Maupin.
Panelists discussed how fintech, including new innovations like distributed ledger technologies, virtual currencies, machine learning, and big data, can improve financial inclusion. The lack of access to financial services is widely viewed as a key challenge for Asia’s poor households and smaller firms. About 2 billion people in the world still do not have access to finance and half of them live in Asia and the Pacific.
"Fintech can help foster financial inclusion in Asia by its ability to reach rural areas, making financial services more affordable, and broadening access to small and medium-sized firms,” Furusawa said, adding that financial regulators will play a crucial role in creating an environment that promotes financial inclusion while mitigating the risks.
Seminar participants also agreed that new technologies hold promise for bringing financial services to poorer communities and for overcoming the challenge of obtaining the collateral needed to access formal credit markets. International financial institutions such as the IMF and ADB can play a significant role in supporting countries as new technologies are introduced.
"There will always be a trade-off or a healthy tension between security and convenience as well as efficiency and financial integrity," Espenilla said, adding, "that is why the BSP has established a regulatory environment that allows innovations to flourish, at the same time ensures that risks are effectively managed. BSP’s regulatory approach is shaped by three core principles; ensure that regulation is risk-based, proportionate, and fair; maintain active multi-stakeholder collaboration; and ensure consumer protection."
ADB supports many fintech initiatives in developing Asia. In 2017, ADB, Cantilan Bank, and Oradian, an IT company, launched a pilot cloud-based banking platform to enhance financial inclusion in Mindanao, Philippines. This effort was made possible through support from BSP, which authorised this innovative approach to introduce new financial technologies in the banking sector.
ADB established a new Digital Technology for Development Unit within the Sustainable Development and Climate Change Department in March 2018 to lead efforts to promote and further mainstream digital technology in ADB projects and programmes.
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.
In 2017, ADB operations totaled $32.2 billion, including $11.9 billion in cofinancing.

ADB delivers strong climate and gender results: Report

The Asian Development Bank (ADB) is delivering on its goal to increase development finance to the Asia and Pacific region and is making good progress towards achieving its development and operational targets, especially in climate change and gender, according to a new ADB performance review.
The 2017 Development Effectiveness Review (DEfR) was released in Manila, Philippines at the 51st Annual Meeting of ADB's Board of Governors. The report measures how well ADB is executing its corporate strategy, Strategy 2020, and the strategic priorities of the midterm review of the strategy across 85 results indicators. It is the first report under the 2017–2020 transitional results framework.
“The report clearly shows that ADB is delivering on its commitment to helping the Asia and Pacific region reduce poverty and achieve more inclusive and sustainable growth,” said director general of ADB’s Strategy, Policy, and Review Department Tomoyuki Kimura. "ADB continues to focus on its operational and organizational effectiveness, while scaling up its operations.”
The 2017 DEfR found that the share of ADB operations supporting climate change mitigation and/or adaptation rose to 49 per cent in 2015–2017, exceeding the 45 per cent 2020 target. Climate change finance, including external sources mobilised by ADB, reached a record $5.16 billion in 2017. This puts ADB in a good position to achieve its $6 billion annual climate financing target by 2020.
Gender was another area where ADB exceeded its targets. Nearly half or 48 per cent, of all ADB projects supported gender mainstreaming last year. The share of ADB projects successfully delivering gender equality results has increased to 77 per cent, above the target of 70 per cent.
During the 2015–2017 period, ADB-financed operations connected 2.7 million new households to electricity and installed 1,400 megawatts (MW) of energy generation capacity. This includes 340 MW from renewable sources through projects in Bhutan, Thailand, and Viet Nam, which will achieve an annual greenhouse gas emission reduction of 4.1 million tonnes of carbon dioxide-equivalent.
In the same period, ADB’s transport projects helped build or upgrade 7,100 kilometers (km) of roads, including 5,300 km in rural areas. ADB also provided 205,000 households with new or improved water supply and more than 142,000 households with new or improved sanitation. In addition, ADB provided 1.6 million students with new or improved educational facilities and trained 73,000 teachers.
ADB committed a record $20.1 billion in its own financing in 2017, nearly $7 billion more than in 2016. A total of $11.8 billion of direct value-added cofinancing was signed in 2017, while disbursements were $11.4 billion.
The 2017 DEfR also noted that the strong growth in commitments has contributed to challenges in meeting certain targets. Commitments for private sector operations reached $2.3 billion in 2017, but they accounted for only 13.3 per cent of overall signed regular ordinary capital resources financing. Cofinancing was almost unchanged from the previous year, but the share declined to 59 per cent of ADB financing, down from the 2014–2016 average of 71 per cent and below the ambitious 2020 target of 100 per cent. Performance on some strategic alignment indicators, such as health and education financing and support for social protection, will require additional efforts to reach 2020 targets.
ADB has taken concrete steps to ensure that it maintains its strategic alignment during this period of growth. ADB has also been focusing on ensuring the quality of its operations through, for example, expanding its quality review function and increasing staff resources in resident missions, operations departments, and operational support departments.
ADB has started to work on a results framework that is aligned with Strategy 2030. The framework will have targets that reflect the priorities of the Strategy 2030 and will be aligned with the Sustainable Development Goals. It will also rationalise the number of indicators and use innovative methods to more accurately assess ADB’s performance.
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.