Sunday, August 12, 2018

FDI for largest solar power plant gets approval

Investment Board of Nepal (IBN) today approved foreign direct investment (FDI) of $200 million for the development of a 170 megawatt (MW) solar power plant.
It is the first phase – of the largest-ever solar project in the country – that aims at building solar plants with a total installed capacity of 850 MW from solar energy within seven years. The ambitious project is funded by a European group under Dolma Impact Fund, the first international private equity fund for Nepal.
"The first phase of the project is expected to be completed within 2 years to 3 years,” IBN chief executive officer Maha Prasad Adhikari said, adding that the remaining project is expected to be completed by another four years.
According to him, the project would soon start study on the first phase. The group has submitted 10 tentative locations – including Lomangthang, Lekhnath Municipality of Pokhara, Patan of Baitadi and Rasuwa – to set up the solar project.
Recently, the government has started construction of 25MW solar plant at Devighat Hydropower Station in Nuwakot. It was the largest solar power plant at a single location in the country till date. The project will be completed within a year.
Likewise, the government is working to amend a number of laws related to the IBN to facilitate the mega project, while the board is going to amend the Investment Board Act. The Finance Ministry has also started preparations to amend Public Private Partnership (PPP) Act to regulate the board’s operation.

Government plans to mobilise foreign aid through budget

The government is planning to mobilise foreign assistance either through budgetary system or a separate basket fund to ensure effective utilisation.
Speaking at a meeting of the Economic Committee – under the House of Representatives – today finance secretary Rajan Khanal said that the government has now realised the need to change modality of the foreign aid and grants mobilisation system.
Currently, donors are allowed to mobilise funds through NGOs and I/NGOs after signing an agreement with the government agencies. "If the foreign assistance is brought under the budgetary system, the government would have a management control on it so that the income and spending would be more transparent," he said, adding that the fund would be utilised in a more productive way. "It was discovered that many foreign donors typically pledge to provide a large amount of funds initially but later don’t fulfill their commitments."
“In many cases, donors also impose a number of conditions when they provide aid,” he added. "The development partners are even found approving money to projects that haven’t made proper preparation in advance.
The country has been able to utilise only half of the committed amount in foreign assistance in the last four years, according to the foreign aid report prepared by the Finance Ministry. "Apart from underperforming, a large chunk of foreign grants and loans that Nepal has been receiving are invested in areas where there are already projects and programmes set up causing duplication," Khanal added.
Also in some cases, received assistance has also remained unspent due to various issues including the land compensation.
"As the government does not have the reserve fund of the past year, we have to rely on foreign aid to run development projects," he said. "So it’s time to revise the policy on foreign aid disbursement to get maximum benefit."
The development partners have also committed to increase foreign aid for smooth operation of the country’s federal system. During finance minister Dr Yubaraj Khatiwada’s recent visit to the World Bank Group headquarters in Washington DC, they have pledged to double support to Nepal from 2019.

Thursday, August 9, 2018

Global Gautam announces support for girls’ education programme

UNICEF Nepal has welcomed the decision by former deputy executive director of UNICEF and former Assistant Secretary-General of the United Nations (UN) Kul Chandra Gautam to donate the proceeds from the sale of his new book, Global Citizen from Gulmi, to support an innovative girls’ education programme, a part of UNICEF’s Let Us Learn initiative in educationally most deprived districts of Province 2, and the mid and far-western regions of Nepal.
The Let Us Learn (LUL) initiative aims at ensuring that all children, especially the most disadvantaged, benefit from improved access, participation and learning within inclusive and protective school environments. In Nepal, LUL supports the government in working with a range of girl children including: girls with disabilities; out-of-school girls; girls at risk of either not enrolling in or dropping out of school; and girls living in areas at risk of emergencies. Thanks to the programme, more than 21,000 girls have been able to enter or return to schools over the last six years.
“Nepal has seen significant improvements in access to education across the country over the last few decades," Gautam said, adding that this progress, however, is not equally shared among different groups and regions in the country. "A large number of children are still unable to access schools and learn due to barriers related to their gender, socio-economic status, geographical location, physical and intellectual ability."
“I remain committed as ever to support the Nepal’s continuous efforts in ensuring that the country meets the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) of providing inclusive education for all," he added.
In addition, Gautam will also be donating the prize money from his 2018 Harris Wofford Global Citizen Award conferred by the US National Peace Corps Association’s to this girls’ education project through UNICEF Nepal.
“We are extremely thankful to Gautam for his unflagging commitment and support to improving the lives of children in Nepal and worldwide," UNICEF Representative to Nepal Tomoo Hozumi said, adding that the generous support from Gautam will contribute to the goal of a quality educationfor every child.
Global Citizen from Gulmi recounts the personal journey of Gautam. It is an inspiring story of a young boy born in a remote village in the Gulmi district of Nepal, where there was no school, road or electricity but who went on to join the highest ranks of the United Nations.
Spanning three decades, the book recounts pivotal moments in modern history from the Khmer Rouge’s brutal regime in Cambodia; to the turbulent times of Haiti’s dictatorship. It provides first-hand account of UNICEF’s efforts to help children in the midst of great humanitarian crises in Africa, the debt crisis in Latin America, Asia’s economic crisis, and the transition of Eastern Europe after the collapse of Communism
Gautam also provides fascinating anecdotes of meetings with leaders such as Nelson Mandela, Aung San Suu Kyi and Bill Gates - all to promote the cause of child survival and development.
The book also chronicles the transformation of UNICEF over 70 years, from its founding as an emergency relief programme, for children impacted by war-torn Europe, into an organisation that never gives up, working day in and out to reach the hardest to reach and the most excluded.
The stirring memoir concludes with Gautam’s dream for a peaceful and prosperous Nepal.  He lays out his vision for a new world order with a revitalised UN helping humanity to achieve the ambitious sustainable development goals.
"Kul Chandra Gautam’s story is the story of UNICEF," Hozumi said, "When children, no matter who they are or where they live, get a fair chance to fulfil their potential, they can help build a better world.
"It is a story of hope,” he added.

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

World Bank approves $100mn to help deepen financial sector reforms

Nepal’s quest to secure a stable path to federalism and an inclusive and prosperous future found strong support today when the World Bank Group’s Board of Executive Directors discussed a new Country Partnership Framework (CPF) for Nepal for the next five years.
The Board also approved a fourth Financial Sector Stability Development Policy Credit (DPC4) of $100 million to help Nepal continue to deepen its medium-term reform programme in the financial sector.
Nepal is undergoing a historic transition, the World Bank press note reads, adding that the new Consitution adopted in 2015 defines Nepal as a democratic, decentralised, federal and secular republic. "The country’s 2017 elections at the federal, provincial and local levels resulted in a super majority government for the first time in its parliamentary history." Welcoming the prospects of stability, the World Bank Group – in the Country Partnership Framework – pledges its support to strengthen institutions that are critical to the effective implementation of federalism, as well as innovative pathways to faster, equitable growth and accountable service delivery.
“Nepal’s transition to federalism unlocks opportunities for all citizens to participate in its development,” said the World Bank country director for Bangladesh, Bhutan and Nepal Qimiao Fan. "This represents a window of opportunity for the country to further reduce poverty, increase the income of the bottom 40 per cent, and pursue its ambitious agenda of inclusive growth and accountable service delivery,” he added.
The Country Partnership Framework notes that the federalism agenda will underpin the World Bank Group’s future programmes at the strategic, policy and operational levels. It also cautions that transitional vulnerabilities could heighten in the early days of federalism as development roles are adjusted and the new structures take root.
Against this background, the Country Partnership Framework focuses on three areas of engagement including strengthening public institutions for economic management, service delivery and public investment; promoting private sector-led jobs and growth; and enhancing inclusion for the poor, vulnerable, and marginalised groups, with greater resilience against climate change, natural disasters, and other exogenous shocks.
It priorities emerged from extensive consultations with the federal, state and local governments, development partners and key stakeholders including civil society, academia, the private sector, rural community groups and the media. This includes hearing from over 200,000 citizens across Nepal through SMS and online surveys. The framework aligns with the government’s development priorities and Nepal’s goal to graduate to middle income country status by 2030.
“This partnership strategy with the World Bank supports our goal of giving every Nepali equal access to security, justice, good governance, basic services, and an opportunity to participate in our future prosperity,” said finance minister Dr Yuba Raj Khatiwada, who is currently in the Washington DC taking part in World Bank meeting. "The new partnership strategy with the World Bank Group is focused on supporting our transition to federalism, fits squarely within our vision and underpins a Nepali-owned model.”
The Country Partnership Framework notes that Nepal will require significant financing – over and above public and development aid resources currently available – to achieve faster growth and accelerate poverty reduction in the context of its transition to federalism. The World Bank Group will apply ‘Maximising Financing for Development’ approaches to optimise the use of scarce public resources and leverage commercial private financing in Nepal. The Country Partnership Framework states that the government’s development model of growth fueled by higher levels of investment, productivity and effective public institutions to underpin private sector dynamism will require carefully calibrated reforms to draw in private investment in parallel with the implementation of federalism.
“We will expand our investments – both debt as well as equity – and advisory services for private investment in Nepal,” said International Finance Corporation’s (IFC) country head for Nepal, Bangladesh, and Bhutan Wendy Werner. "Our efforts will encourage high-quality private investors to support the government’s strategy of inclusive development.”
The Financial Sector Stability Development Policy Credit (DPC4) of $100 million, approved by the World Bank Board today, is the final in a series of financial sector DPCs that was initiated in 2013 and has since supported a government-led programme aimed at stabilising the sector by reducing vulnerabilities and increasing transparency. In this phase, the programme has focused on implementing key reforms through a strengthened legal and regulatory framework, consolidating the financial sector, placing the financial sector safety net on a firm footing and laying the ground for a further programme of reforms to broaden and deepen access to financial services for both business and individuals.

Sunday, August 5, 2018

NCC withdraws membership from FNCCI

Nepal Chamber of Commerce (NCC) has decided to withdraw its membership from the Federation of Nepalese Chambers of Commerce and Industries (FNCCI). NCC sent a membership withdrawal notice to FNCCI today, ending the five-decade long relationship between the two organisations.
Confirming the separation, president of the NCC Dr Rajesh Kazi Shrestha said that chamber has decided to withdraw membership from the FNCCI as it is expanding its own organisation in line with the new federal structure.
NCC is the founding institutional member of the apex body of the nepali private sector, FNCCI. The FNCCI is present across the country and has the largest network second to the government.
Both the private sector institutions separating and expanding their own network on their own has drawn mixed reaction. Some claim that having more nationwide network of private sector will streghten the private sector, whereas others claim that it will weaken the private sector. "Both the institutions will advocate and lobby for the private sector,” Shrestha said, adding that they can also jointly work in many issues.
NCC – established in 1952 – is the oldest private sector organisation and has more than 1,600 ordinary members and more than 8,000 registered firms, whereas FNCCI was established by the NCC as its founder associated member in 1965. Currently, FNCCI – the the umbrella organisation – has 105 district-and municipality-level chambers in 77 districts; 100 commodity and sectoral associations; 880 leading public and private sector undertakings, and 20 bi-national chambers.
The separation is – according to some private sector leaders – mainly due to ‘ego tussle’ of leaders of the two organisations. "We have been witnessing the ego tussel among some of the leaders of the two organisations since some time," said an industry captain, without wanting to be named. "The differences bubbling under the surface have been exposed as NCC formally withdrew its membership from the FNCCI yesterday," he said, adding that the annual general meeting of NCC in January had decided to transform NCC into a federation, raising the eyebrows of top guns in the FNCCI. "The FNCCI has sought clarification – from NCC asking why the federation should not scrap its membership – which has also flared the ego tussel," said another industry leader, seeking anonymity.

Friday, August 3, 2018

Tri Chandra Military Hospital resumes service

The Trichandra Military Hospital has resumed its medical services from today. Chief of Army Staff (CoAS) Rajendra Chhetri inaugurated the newly built building of Tri Chandra Military Hospital in Kathmandu today to resume its services.
According to a press Nepal Army note, the hospital has begun dental service and will gradually provide emergency, pharmacy, pediatrics, physiotherapy, pathology and radiotherapy services to the incumbent and former staffs of Nepal Army.

Dhakal appointed Law Minister

Nepal Communist Party (NCO) lawmaker Bhanubhakta Dhakal has been appointed the Minister for Law, Justice and Parliamentary Affairs today.
Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli appointed Dhakal, a lawmaker elected from Morang-3, as the former law minister Sher Bahadur Tamang had quit after he come under criticism from several quarters for his controversial remarks on Nepali female students pursing MBBS in Bangladesh. Tamang had resigned from the post on July 24.
Likewise, state minister for Health Padma Aryal has been elevated to the Minister for Land Management, Cooperatives and Land Management and Dr Surendra Yadav has been appointed state minister for Health.
President  Bidya Devi Bhandari has later administered oath of office and secrecy to Dhakal and Aryal – at a function at the President's Palace Sheetal Niwas and Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli administered oath of office to newly appointed state minister Dr Yadav.