Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Nepal slips 5 places, needs to make Doing Business easier: World Bank

Nepal needs to make paying taxes easier by simplifying the process of social security related payments. This is the reason that the recent labour act has made the process more cumbersome and contributed to pushing the country down five places to 110th in a global ranking for the ease of doing business, according to the World Bank Group’s 'Doing Business 2019: Training for Reform report', released today.
According to the annual ranking, Nepal made paying taxes more difficult through a 2017 labour act that introduced a labour gratuity, medical insurance and accident insurance paid by employers in a way that places a larger administrative burden on companies that already face considerable bureaucracy. The labour gratuity is a particular burden as employers must file and pay it manually every month whereas the medical and accident insurance is paid annually.
This has an impact on the number of tax payments and time in hours to comply with tax obligations. As a result, it took companies in Nepal around 39 payments and 353 hours to comply with their fiscal obligations in 2017. This compares unfavourably with the global average of 24 payments and 237 hours.
“Raising revenues for spending on social expenses is needed and possible," said World Bank country manager for Nepal Faris Hadad-Zervos. "It will be critical to find ways to do this that do not overly burden companies with paperwork, taking time and resources away from generating profits to employ workers and spread prosperity," he said, adding that Nepal’s tax authorities are considering the use of an e-filing platform that will need to be rolled out to make compliance easier for businesses. "Similarly, the government is considering the possibility of merging taxes and contributions that are levied on the same tax base."
The government has asked the World Bank to support its immediate priority of simplifying process for businesses in the coming period. "We view this as a very positive step forward and stand ready to support these critical reforms as part of government new vision of crowding in the private sector,” he added.
Nepal ranks 158th for paying taxes in the Doing Business ranking out of 190 countries and this is its lowest ranking among the 10 indicators. Aside from paying taxes, Nepal also ranks low in other indicators for the ease of doing business, including enforcing contracts (154), dealing with construction permits (148), and getting electricity (137).
Nepal’s performance contrasts with the rest of South Asia, where a total of 19 business reforms were carried out in the region during the past year, the second highest ever, compared with previous year’s revised record of 21 reforms.

FNCCI, Qatar Chamber to work jointly for bilateral trade and investment promotion

Nepali and Qatari private sector have vowed to explore business and trade potentials between the two countries.
Discussing on various trade potentials in Doha of Qatar high level business leaders of the Federation of Nepalese Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FNCCI) and Qatar Chambers of Commerce and Industry (QCCI) today said that they are all set to move ahead in exploring business and trade potentials between the two countries in the areas of agriculture, tourism, hydropower, infrastructure, among others.
Though, the FNCCI and QCCI had signed Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) back in 2005, the trade and investment between the two countries have not picked as expected.
Welcoming the Nepali delegation led by FNCCI president Bhawani Rana, vice chairman of the QCCI Mohammed Ahmed Twar Al-Kawari expressed interests to enhance bilateral trade and business opportunities in joint collaboration with FNCCI. He said that that for more trade and investment, both the chambers have to exchange delegations and invest in potential sectors.
Rana, on the occasion, also made presentation on Nepal-Qatar investment potentials in the meeting. The FNCCI delegation is in Qatar in the entourage of President Bidya Devi Bhandari.  FNCCI vice president Chandra Prasad Dhakal also, on the occasion, spoke on enhancing investment in the areas of tourism, banking, insurance and other sectors. 
Nepal and Qatar shares the historic and cultural ties since long. The diplomatic relations between Nepal and Qatar was established on January 21, 1977.  The issue of promoting business and trade, FNCCI and QCCI can organise B2B meetings, trade fairs, exchange trade delegations and initiate joint ventures.
Qatar investors have invested in Nepal in tourism and service sector totaling $1.48 million, so far which is very minimal. Nepal-based multinational companies like Unilever, Ncell, among others, are registering huge profits.

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Kathmandu is Lonely Planet’s new 5th top city

Kathmandu is one of the top 5 travel destinations, according to Travel Guidebook Lonely Planet.
The Travel Guidebook listed Kathmandu as the 5th top travel destination among the ‘ten cities primed to capture travelers’ imaginations' in 2019. The Lonely Planet has revealed its ten picks for the best travel destinations and experiences for the next year.
Capital of Denmark Copenhagen is the top destination, followed by Shenzhèn of China, Novi Sad of Serbia and Miami of Florida tops the list. Kathmandu is the fifth top travel destination, according to the Lonely Planet that lists Mexico City of Mexico, Dakar of Senegal, Seattle of Washington, Zadar of Croatia and Meknès of Morocco are also in the top 10. Seville, the capital of Spain’s southern Andalucía region, was the global travel guidebook’s top destination for 2018.
"In the aftermath of the 2015 earthquake, news reports from Kathmandu showed a city broken and in mourning, but today the narrative is all about reconstruction and rejuvenation," Lonely Planet describes, adding, "Sure, there’s work to do restoring the magnificent monuments that crumbled during the disaster, but historic sites are being returned to their former glory, and moves to calm the city’s infamous traffic, smog and noise have made Kathmandu more liveable than it has been in decades."
There’s even reliable electricity and wi-fi as bonus creature comforts in the atmospheric and maze-like alleyways of the old city, the description further reads.
According to Lonely Planet, Sri Lanka, Germany and Zimbabwe are the top 10 countries to visit in 2019, whereas Egypt’s Southern Nile Valley is the best value destination.

First electric bus plies on Kathmandu road from today

After exactly one decade of demise of electric-cable operated Trollybus in Kathmandu, Sajha Yatayat today launched test operation of electric buses in the capital.
Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli inaugurated the first electric bus service by travelling on the bus from Sajha Yatayat head office premises in Pulchok to his office in Singha Durbar.
Sajha Yatayat chairperson Kanak Mani Dixit said the buses were to be operated in Lumbini but will instead run on Kathmandu roads without potholes until the Gautam Buddha International airport was completed in Bhairahawa.
Purchased with a Chinese company BYD at Rs 20 million each, the bus has 19 seats and can accommodate 35 passengers.
According to the executive director of Sajha Yatayat Bhusan Tuladhar, the bus service has begun operation under the South Asia Tourism Infrastructure Development Project supported by Asian Development Bank (ADB). Under the project, ADB has provided five buses to Lumbini Development Trust, out of which two were brought to Kathmandu to start operation and determine their functionality.
"The management of the electric buses – which are also disabled-friendly – will be carried out by Sajha Yatayat," he said, adding that electric buses have been brought into operation with the joint initiative of Lumbini Development Trust and Sajha Yatayat.
Launching the bus, the premier said that the government is promoting electric vehicles. "Nepal Electricity Authority (NEA) is also setting up charging stations at 20 different places," he said, adding that the government is committed to increasing the standard and quality of public vehicles.
Emphasising the role of private sector, he also urged the private sector in expansion of electric bus service.
Tourism Minister Rabindra Adhikari, on the occasion, said that construction of Gautam Buddha International Airport – also part of the ADB Project – will be completed within the next six months.
Earlier, China had gifted electric-cable operated trolleybus to Nepal in 1975. The trolleybus – running From Tripureshwor of Kathmandu to Suryabinayak of Bhaktapur – opened on December 28, 1975. But the only trolleybus system ever to be constructed in Nepal, suspended its operations – for almost two years – from December 19, 2001 to September 1, 2003 due to lack of regular power supply, maintenance, financial problem, red tape and political bickering. Though, the trolleybus restarted its service in 2003, it could not cover the complete route but remained only to half till Koteshwor. The operation of trolleybus was again suspended – for the final time – in late November 2008, and formally closed in November 2009.

Sunday, October 21, 2018

Global Lead Week of Action calls for ban on lead paint

Series of lead paint studies in Nepal revealed that the amount of lead content in the paint produced, imported, marketed and used in Nepal has decreased. The compliance monitoring of lead paint standard carried out by Ministry of Forest and Environment (MoFE) in the year 2016 showed only 30 per cent paints comply with the standard. However, similar study carried out by CEPHED a year later in 2017 with the support of World Health Organisation (WHO) showed increased compliance of lead paint standard by 60 per cent of paints, a very remarkable achievement by the paints industries in Nepal. "And it needs to be continued improvement towards reaching 100 per cent compliance to eliminate leaded paints from Nepal thus protecting public health and environment," according to executive director and environment scientist of CEPHED Ram Charitra Sah.
Though the compliance of lead paint standards increased over the years, some of the paint products – mainly from the domestic paints industries – are still found extremely very high up to 50347 ppm, he added.
"Therefore, a regular monitoring of lead paints marketed in Nepal has been planned by the Department of Environment," said director general of Department of Environment Jhalak Ram Adhikari. "Research indicates that legislation alone is not enough to keep children safe," he said, adding, "Not only should regulation set total lead limits below 90 ppm in all paints, but enforcement and monitoring are essential."
'There are no safe levels of lead exposure,' urgently calls for effective implementation of lead paint standard and harmonisation of sectorial laws like proper inclusion of the mandatory provision of lead paint standard in NS Mark criteria, Building Codes, Green Building guidelines and colour coding guidelines of school infrastructure including school building bus, toiles and even public vehicle like taxi. The major goal of the Global Lead Week of Action is working together to 'Ban on Lead Paint'.
Environmental health, child health advocates, governments and paint industries are uniting this week – from October 21 to 27 – for the International Lead Poisoning Prevention Week of Action. Calling for protections for the 857 million children ages 0-9 years old, who live in countries with no protective lead paint regulations, organisations in 30 countries, coordinating with the Global Alliance to Eliminate Lead Paint – a voluntary partnership hosted by the UN Environment Programme and the World Health Organisation (WHO) – urge governments to adopt and effectively implement legislation to protect children’s health.
In Nepal, Center for Public Health and Environmental Development (CEPHED) jointly with the Department of Environment, Ministry of Forest and Environment (MoFE) and with the support of WHO country Office for Nepal and IPEN organising series of awareness and policy influences programme for the sectorial commitment towards enhancing effective implementation of lead paint standard and opt for harmonising the sectorial laws.
Lead paint – a major source of childhood lead exposure – can cause permanent and irreversible brain damage in children. Lead exposure globally accounted for 540,000 deaths and 13.9 million years lost to disability and death due to long-term effects on health, with the highest burden in developing regions. Some 857 million Children worldwide are at the risk of lead exposure. From 65 per cent to 100 per cent of 10,150,770 young people under 15 years old (34.6 per cent) of total population 29,362,095 (2018) are under high risk of lead exposure in Nepal.

Stock market suspends share transaction of 48 companies

Nepal Stock Exchange (Nepse) has suspended the share transaction of 48 listed companies – mostly hydropower firms, microfinance companies, development banks and hotels – as they have failed to pay annual renewal fees on time.
According to the rule, a listed company must pay its annual renewal fee – for regular transactions – within the first quarter after the completion of any fiscal year. The 48 listed companies failed to clear their dues within the first quarter that ended on October 17. The Nepse suspended their transaction today, as the share market opened after the festival holiday. The government has announced Dashain festival holiday from October 16 to October 20.
The listed companies need to pay the renewal fee as per their paid-up capital. According to the listing regulations, if a company has paid-up capital of up to Rs 10 million it must pay Rs 15,000 as annual renewal fee. Likewise, if a company has a paid-up capital between Rs 10 million and Rs 50 million, it need to pay Rs 25,000, and for a company with a paid-up capital of Rs 50 million to Rs 100 million, it has to pay Rs 35,000 annual renewal fee.
However, for a company with a paid-up capital of above Rs 100 million, the annual renewal fee has been fixed at Rs 50,000. Once the companies pay their renewal fees, their transaction will resume.
There are some 198 companies listed at the Nepse. 

Friday, October 19, 2018

Himalaya Airlines starts China flight

Himalaya Airlines – an international air carrier – entered into to the China market with the maiden flight to its latest destination, Chongqing, a major tourist city of the People’s Republic of China. The new service is an every Thursday charter service from Chongqing to Kathmandu.
The inaugural flight departed from Tribhuvan International Airport (TIA) at 16:55 hours (local time) and touched down at Chongqing Jiangbei International Airport (CKG) at 23:05hours (local time), according to the Himalaya Air that is the only airline operating direct flights between the two cities.
The return flight from Chongqing departed at on October 19 and landed at TIA.
“China is one of our target markets," vice president (Administration) of the airliner Vijay Shrestha.
We are excited to expand our footprints there, allowing us to provide greater options for business and leisure travelers," he said, adding that the company was proud to be the first and only airline to offer direct service from Chongqing, China to Kathmandu. "We are confident that this route will boost passenger traffic as we expect a good demand from Chongqing, which has a sizeable population of affluent out-bound travelers."
"The airliner will be instrumental in bringing more Chinese tourists to Nepal and helping the tourism economy of both countries," he added.
Chongqing, one of the five centrally administered municipalities in China along with Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou and Tianjin offers remarkable attractions to visitors. Chongqing known for its rich history and cultural heritage, serves as an economic and manufacturing center apart from being the transportation hub for Southwest China.
China has placed Nepal as a new leisure destination, which is one of the driving reasons for increased Chinese visitors into Nepal over the past two years. The number of Chinese travelling to Nepal has grown tremendously after the country suffered a severe earthquake in 2015 followed by the border blockade that kept the tourists away. China is presently the second largest tourist arrival market for Nepal with 109,497 visitors for 2018 (January to September) showing the growth of 48.8 per cent) over the same period of 2017. This is an exponential growth, as China now holds second ranking after India with its share of 14.17 per cent in the total tourist arrivals till September. "With this CKG-KTM connectivity, the airliner thus expects to contribute its own share to tourism economy of Nepal in a big way," he added.
Additionally the airline plans to extend its focus on China connectivity by adding up other cities like Beijing, Haikou, Nanchang in the next phase.
Established in August 2014, Himalaya Airlines – a Nepal China joint venture – is a private airline of Nepal providing international air services. "With the aim to excel in safety, on time performance (OTP) and most primarily, in service to its customers, Himalaya Airlines has already established itself in Nepal with high recognition," added the airliner that is currently flying to four destinations - Doha, Kuala Lumpur, Dubai and Dammam; using 3 Airbus A320-214 series of narrow-body aircraft with 8 Business class & 150 Economy class seats.

Asia-Pacific countries adopt declaration to improve data and statistics to drive sustainable development policies

Countries in Asia and the Pacific on Friday adopted a declaration that will strengthen national statistical systems to present a more complete picture of the region's development, and support good governance, health and human rights. 
The declaration, ‘Navigating Policy with Data to Leave No One Behind,’ was agreed at the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) Sixth Committee on Statistics held in Bangkok from October 16 to October 19.
The Committee brought together high-level policymakers with leaders of National Statistical Systems to identify transformative, collective actions to advance the regions progress towards the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, which calls for high-quality data that is accessible, timely, reliable and disaggregated by income, sex, age, race, ethnicity, migration status, disability and geographic location, along with public-private partnerships to support innovative use of new data sources to inform policy making.
In his opening remarks, the Officer in Charge of ESCAP Hongjoo Hahm called on policymakers to push the regional agenda for strengthening data and statistics in their respective countries, with the support of National Statistical Offices and other ministries.
“This is in an important declaration and high-level policy dialogue,” Hahm said, adding, “I hope the policymakers have witnessed the strength of the statistical community and their desires for their collective vision, but most importantly, the actions they are requesting that call for a whole of government approach to strengthen data and statistics throughout our region."
The declaration calls on governments to make nine commitments to strengthen and transform national statistical systems in support of the 2030 Agenda.  It also calls on development partners to support national statistical systems and on ESCAP facilitate its implementation.
In his keynote address, Thai minister of the Ministry of Digital Economy and Society Dr Pichet Durongkaveroj, noted some of the key challenges of the changing statistical landscape, particularly in relation to big data and the need for data protection.
"Every ministry is starting to think not only of big databases, but also how safe the data is,” he said, adding that the Thai Government is designing many aspects of their data centre so that they can manage the data well and provide the best data security and data protection for individuals. "Thailand stands ready to work with the Committee as well as ESCAP to ensure that no one is left behind."
The ESCAP Committee on Statistics is held every two years to support the collective vision and framework for action by the Asia-Pacific statistical community of advancing official statistics for the 2030 Agenda.

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Debate on WTO reform should reflect all perspectives

At a meeting of the full Global trade regime membership today, director-general Roberto Azevêdo noted the emerging debate on ‘WTO reform’ and highlighted the importance that this discussion is inclusive.
He said that the state of WTO is an issue in which everyone has an interest, so it is important for all members to engage, whatever your perspectives may be. DG Azevêdo also pointed to the links between this debate and efforts to solve the rising trade tensions between some major trading partners.
"One element which is at the root of current frictions is the argument that the trading system is allowing distortive trade practices to go unchecked and that therefore the system needs to change," the director-general said, adding, "In this context, WTO reform or modernisation has increasingly been on the minds and in the speeches of many."
"Such a modernising effort is being seen as a way to ease some of the trade problems that some members have identified," he said, adding that precisely, which issues are taken forward, and how, is for members to determine and he would suggest that there are also members who are not convinced that a reform is needed at all. "I would encourage members to engage with each other and exchange views through a range of channels and formats. The state of this organisation is an issue in which everyone has an interest, so it is important for all members to engage, whatever your perspectives may be."
DG Azevêdo also provided an update on the situation regarding the impasse in appointments to the Appellate Body. He stated that despite continuing discussions, there is no progress to report. He cited the warnings of Appellate Body chair Ujal Singh Bhatia on the potential delays in processing appeals which could arise from this impasse, and urged members to continue working to resolve the situation and maintain this 'essential pillar' of the WTO's work.

Energy Minister urges Chinese entrepreneurs to invest in Nepal

Energy minister Barshaman Pun urged the Chinese entrepreneurs to invest in Nepal's hydropower sector.
Addressing an interaction on 'Nepal-China Economic Co-operation Forum: Prospects of Investment in Nepal’s Energy Sector’ – organised by Beijing-based Nepal Embassy in collaboration with China Association for International Economic Co-operation – in Beijing today, he also outlined the government's plan to develop 15000 MW of electricity in 10 years.
Shedding light on the significance of energy as a priority sector with a direct bearing on socio-economic transformation of Nepal, Pun – who is on a visit to China – underscored the key role of foreign investments in achieving the target. He also invited the Chinese enterprieneurs to utilize the opportunities for investment in Nepal’s hydropower for win-win outcomes for both countries.
On the occasion, Nepali ambassador to China Leela Mani Paudyal, said that the forum was organised with a view to facilitating dialogue between Nepali policymakers and Chinese energy companies, and for exchanging ideas and experience on further accelerating Chinese investment in the generation of hydropower in Nepal, according to a press statement issued by Nepal Embassy in China.
He also assured the full support and co-operation of the Embassy of Nepal in facilitating such investments, the statement reads. "Briefing on the investment opportunities for Chinese investors in Nepal’s hydropower sector, joint secretary at the Energy Ministry Dinesh Kumar Ghimire outlined the policies, tools, processes and facilities relating to the investment regime in the hydropower sector."
Nepal Electricity Authority (NEA) managing director Kulman Ghising, on the occasion, also highlighted the potentials of investing in Nepal’s hydropower from a regional market perspective.
"It is a most appropriate time to invest in Nepal due to the huge volume of regional and domestic demand in electricity, the robust nature of energy connectivity infrastructures in the region, seasonal complementarities for demand and supply, and the credibility of NEA as an off-taker," the statement reads quoting him.
Welcoming the Nepali delegates, vice-president of China Association for International Economic Co-operation Guo Yongle said that the interactions would promote business co-operation between the two countries and create new opportunities in further advancing Nepal-China economic co-operation.
More than hundred participants including representatives of public and private sector companies of Nepal and China, senior office-bearers of Federation of Nepalese Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FNCCI), Non-Resident Nepali Association (NRNA), Independent Power Producers Association of Nepal (IPPAN), representatives of Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB), and media persons also took part in the programme, according to the Nepali Embassy in Beijing.
The event also witnessed presentations on Nepal’s investment climate and the prospects of hydro-electricity development in the country. 

Monday, October 15, 2018

APO, CIRDAP sign MoU to support agriculture and rural development projects

The Asian Productivity Organisation (APO) and Centre on Integrated Rural Development for Asia and the Pacific (CIRDAP) signed an agreement to facilitate bilateral cooperation and support collaborative research and capacity-building initiatives in the Asia-Pacific region. The memorandum of understanding (MoU) will facilitate productive relationships and exchanges in fields of common interest, including agriculture and rural development projects.
The agreement – which was signed after a bilateral meeting during the 59th Workshop Meeting of Heads of National Productivity Organisations in Yogyakarta – will enable the APO to support member countries in executing capacity-building programmes through CIRDAP as an implementation partner. The MoU follows joint initiatives by the two organisations under a similar agreement signed in 2016.
"We see value in working together and the common goal gives a strong reason for joining hands with CIRDAP," APO secretary-general Dr Santhi Kanoktanaporn said, sharing details of the agreement. "The MoU will help us optimise the resources for achieving the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) through the agriculture transformation, future food, and rural development programmes that the APO is focusing on for more sustainable socioeconomic development across our 20 member countries," he added.
Highlighting the importance of the agreement, CIRDAP director general Tevita G Boseiwaqa Taginavulau commented that the two organisations had been collaborating over the past three years, particularly through international training programmes to help countries in the Asia-Pacific region meet their SDG1 objective of ending poverty in all its forms everywhere and SDG2 to eradicate hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition, and promote sustainable agriculture.
“We are proud to say that we have achieved common objectives through collaboration with the APO,” he said, adding that the partnership with the APO reaffirmed CIRDAP’s commitment to achieving SDG1 and SDG2. “We have certainly been governed by the spirit of SDG17 to strengthen the areas of implementation and revitalise the global partnership for sustainable development."
The agreement was officially signed by APO secretary-general Dr Santhi and CIRDAP director general Tevita.
The APO is a regional intergovernmental organisation established in May 1961 committed to improving productivity in the Asia-Pacific region. It contributes to the sustainable socioeconomic development of the region through policy advisory services, acting as a think tank, and undertaking smart initiatives in the industry, agriculture, service, and public sectors. The APO is shaping the future of the region by assisting member economies in formulating national strategies for enhanced productivity and through a range of institutional capacity-building efforts, including research and centers of excellence in member countries.
Likewise, CIRDAP is a regional intergovernmental organisation established in July 1979 with the mandate to promote regional cooperation on agrarian reform, rural development, and poverty eradication. The Dhaka, Bangladesh-based center focuses on providing technical support and promoting innovative best practices for sustainable integrated rural development.

The world's $80 trillion economy

The latest estimate from the World Bank puts global GDP at roughly $80 trillion in nominal terms for 2017. The world’s top 10 economies, which together combine for a whopping two-thirds of global GDP. In nominal terms, the US still has the largest GDP at $19.4 trillion, making up 24.4 per cent of the world economy.
While China’s economy is far behind in nominal terms at $12.2 trillion, the Chinese economy has been the world’s largest when adjusted for purchasing power parity (PPP) since 2016.
The next two largest economies are Japan ($4.9 trillion) and Germany ($4.6 trillion) – and when added to the US and China, the top four economies combined account for over 50 per cent of the world economy.
Over recent years, the list of top economies hasn’t changed much from 18 months ago.
India has now passed France in nominal terms with a $2.6 trillion economy, which is about 3.3 per cent of the global total. In the most recent quarter, Indian GDP growth saw its highest growth rate in two years at about 8.2 per cent.
Brazil, despite its very recent economic woes, surpassed Italy in GDP rankings to take the 8th spot overall. Likewise, Turkey has surpassed The Netherlands to become the world’s 17th largest economy, and Saudi Arabia has jumped past Switzerland to claim the 19th spot.

Nepal plans to be ‘Developed Country’ by 2043

While Nepal is working towards upgrading to ‘middle-income’ status by 2030, the long term goal is to be graduated to a ‘developed country’ status in next two-decade-and-a-half.
The government is currently preparing a 25-year plan under ‘Long Term Vision of Nepal’ to graduate the country into a ‘developed nation’ status by 2043, according to Nepal Planning Commission (NPC). The commission has already prepared a concept note and also held discussions with the federal and provincial governments’ officials lately.
"The vision paper is being drafted to give the country a clear direction in achieving the long-term goal of prosperity as the country has completed political transition with the elections last year," the NPC vice chair Dr Pushpa Raj Kadel said, adding that the main goal of the vision paper is to achieve minimum level of development to be recognised as a developed country by 2043.
Besides the long-term vision, the commission is also preparing a new five-year periodic plan to be implemented from the next fiscal fiscal. According to the draft of next five-year periodic plan, Nepal aims to double per capita income in the next five years from current $1,012. "In line with the plan, the government has planned the current fiscal year as the foundation year for the future economic prosperity," he said, adding that the government is has aimed at an 8 per cent economic growth in the current fiscal year.
The country aims to zero-down poverty level, achieve per capita income at the level of industrial economies and ensure employment for nearly 40 per cent of population belonging to lower income category, he added.

Sunday, October 14, 2018

Nepal Army shortlists six firms to build bridges along Express Way

The Nepali Army (NA) today shortlisted six international contractors for construction of 62 high-arch bridges along the 76.2-km-long Kathmandu-Tarai-Madhesh Expressway.
Asking the interested companies to submit their proposals based on engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) model, the army had called a global tender bid to submit the proposal for the construction of the bridges on April 5.
According to the army, five Chinese firms and one Turkish construction company have been selected in the initial phase. The shortlisted companies are China State Construction Engineering Corporation, Hunan Road and Bridge Construction Group Company, China Railway 20 Bureau Group Corporation, COVEC-CREGC Joint Venture and Longjian Road and Bridge Company Limited of China, and Dogus Insaat Ve Ticaret AS & Makyol Insaat Sanayi Turizm Ve Ticaret AS Joint Venture of Turkey.
"According to the tender notice, the company that has been selected will be responsible for building 62 bridges out of the 99 bridges," NA spokesperson Brigadier General Gokul Bhandari said, adding that the remaining bridges will be built by the Nepal Army. "The selected firm will be responsible for the design, planning, engineering, procurement, construction, commissioning, operation and maintenance of the high-arch bridges."
The Nepali Army will further study the technical and financial proposals of the six shortlisted companies and will soon select the best company.
Earlier, the Nepali Army had decided to award the contract to conduct the detailed project report (DPR) of the Expressway to a South Korean joint venture company called Yooshin and Pyunghwa on September 19. The Korean joint venture company will submit the DPR by February, and the project is expected to be completed four years after the DPR has been submitted.
The Nepali Army has been assigned the responsibility to construct the Expressway, which it has separated into three segments. Out of the 76.2-km-long expressway, it plans to construct 17-km on its own, hire dependable Nepali contractors for 37-km of the stretch and sign up foreign contractors for the remaining 22.2-km of tunnel and bridge sections.

Labour pact with Malaysia on October 29

Nepal and Malaysia are going to sign a labour agreement in two weeks. The two countries will sign the bilateral agreement on October 29, informed labour secretary Mahesh Prasad Dahal.
The 'landmark achievement' coming after months of negotiations – by the Ministry of Labour, Employment and Social Security – in managing the foreign employment sector for Nepalis will set a benchmark for signing similar agreements with other countries.
The pact will be signed at the ministerial level.
Malaysian human resources minister M Kulasegaran is visiting Kathmandu on October 28 to sign the agreement with labour minister Gokarna Bista. The deal is expected to resume outflow of Nepali migrant workers to Malaysia as it has been suspended for nearly five months now.
"After signing the labour agreement, technical teams from both the countries will discuss the mechanism for resuming the outflow of Nepali workers," Dahal said, adding that the hiring of Nepali migrant workers will begin soon based on their recommendations. "The new deal will put an end to the financial exploitation of Nepali migrant workers in the pre-departure phase as the agreement clarifies the roles and responsibilities of all the stakeholders from recruiting agencies to employers, and the two governments.
The agreement guarantees maximum services and safety of Nepali migrant workers in Malaysia, apart from most of the expenses like visa, processing, levy and others will be covered by the employer as according to the Global Compact on Migration that says the host country or the employer pays for the expenses. The employers will be responsible for all the expenses of workers’ preparations for taking up jobs in Malaysia – including round-trip flight tickets – but the fees for security clearance and health check-up will, however, be covered by migrant workers during hiring process. "But the expenses will be reimbursed in the first month of the worker landing in Malaysia," Dahal informed.
Unlike the previous three-year labour contract, migrant workers will now get only a two-years deal, which gives the migrant workers the option of changing their job, if any problem arises with the employer.

Cabinet agrees to form IEDI in all provinces

The government is setting up an Industrial Enterprise Development Institute (IEDI) in each of the seven provinces.
The cabinet meeting today approved the proposal of Ministry of Industry, Commerce and Supplies (MoICS) to establish such institute in all provinces, according to industry minister Matrika Prasad Yadav. "The IEDI is aimed at strengthening the industrial and entrepreneurship sector," he added.
The government had established IEDI – under the Industry Ministry – in 1996, under the Industrial Enterprise Development Institute Act 1996, to develop human and knowledge resources for entrepreneurship and business promotion in Nepal.
The Industrial Enterprise Development Institute Board, chaired by industry minister Yadav, has proposed to expand IEDIs to the provincial level to promote business in the country through entrepreneurship development.
Since its inception, IEDI has been engaged in running various impact-generating quality tools including training, research, consultancy, enterprise education and management development programmes. The institute is also running various short-term and long-term training programmes targeting intermediary organisations as well as potential and existing entrepreneurs.
"Formation of such institutes in all provinces will help entrepreneurship to grow across the country and promote business,” industry secretary Yam Kumari Khatiwada said, adding that IEDI already has its local offices in Provinces 1, 3, 4 and 5, which will now be handed over to the provincial governments.
She also informed that the cabinet has also decided to keep Special Economic Zone (SEZ) Authority at the central level only.

Government to partner with NPI in framing development policies

The government is going to partner with the Non Resident Nepali (NRN) for the development of the country.
Foreign Minister Pradeep Kumar Gyawali – addressing plenary session on the ‘Diaspora’s Role in Development Policies of Nepal’ during the first NRN Global Knowledge Convention here in the capital – today said that the government has taken Nepal Policy Institute (NPI) as a partner for the development. NPI is a newly established think-tank of Non-Resident Nepali Association (NRNA).
The government is ready to engage NPI in its policy discourse, he said, suggesting NPI to audit Nepal’s existing public policies on the basis of best practices in the world and recommend alternative policies. "The country is in the process of transformation and relevant policies were the need of the hour."
NPI chair Khagendra Dhakal, on the occasion, said that since the 1990s the Nepali diasporas had played a key role in development of the country. "Many things, which are not possible to do living away from the motherland, have become possible now due to the ICT facilities and advanced modes of connectivity," he said, adding that China’s policy of engaging the diaspora had shifted from ‘Return and Serve Motherland’ to ‘Serve the Motherland."
Likewise, vice chair of the National Planning Commission (NPC) Dr Puspa Raj Kadel on the occasion, expressed willingness to collaborate with NRN think tank.
In the plenary session, Sharad Neupane presented NPI’s Strategic Plan (2019-2021), which focuses on policy research on migration, remittance, social security, research-based education and SDGs.
Krishna Adhikari from Oxford University and Yubaraj Pokhrel from South Asian University of Delhi also shed light on how diaspora scholars could contribute to the development of Nepal in the true sense.
Senior economist Madan Kumar Dahal, social leader Sharu Joshi Shrestha and NRNA president Bhaban Bhatta commented on the plenary speeches as panel members.

Saturday, October 13, 2018

Multilateral banks reaffirm pledge to support resilient, sustainable infrastructure

The heads of the leading multilateral development banks (MDBs) meeting at the Global Infrastructure Forum 2018 (GI Forum) today expressed their condolences following the tragic loss of lives and livelihoods in Sulawesi, Indonesia and reaffirmed their commitment to work together to deliver infrastructure that is resilient, inclusive, and sustainable.
The important role of technology in this goal was at the heart of discussions at the GI Forum under the theme "Unlocking Inclusive, Resilient, and Sustainable Technology-driven Infrastructure'. 2018 marks the first time this annual forum is being held outside of the US. Indonesia’s vice president Jusuf Kalla opened the discussion.
The MDBs agreed that their joint efforts should be based around the following priorities:
Increase technical assistance and advisory services for knowledge creation and knowledge transfer; disseminate knowledge through collaborative events that support the delivery of bankable projects; contribute to delivering sustainable infrastructure through the MDB Information Cooperation Platform; mobilise sustainable finance at scale; support sustainable public procurement; and Identify infrastructure and capacity gaps, particularly in least-developed countries, landlocked developing countries, and small island developing states and African countries.
These pledges are included in the MDBs’ Outcome Statement.
The GI Forum gathered private sector investors with representatives from the United Nations and leaders from the African Development Bank, Asian Development Bank, Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, European Investment Bank, Inter-American Development Bank, International Finance Corporation, Islamic Development Bank, New Development Bank, and the World Bank.
The forum comprised two opening sessions. The first looked at how technology, such as solar energy systems, blockchain, and big data, can be used to make infrastructure more sustainable. The second discussed how to increase private infrastructure finance.
Other sessions looked at using technology to achieve the crucial but difficult “last mile” of getting services to end users, good practices in scaling up investments in infrastructure, ways of financing the global infrastructure gap, and maximizing innovative climate finance for sustainable infrastructure.
The infrastructure needs across the world are huge. An estimated 1 billion people have no access to electricity while over 660 million people have no access to clean drinking water. These needs must be met if the global community is to meet commitments to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). New technologies and approaches such as smart transport systems and innovative climate finance can help to fill the infrastructure gap. They can also help build infrastructure that can withstand climate change and natural disasters.
A joint report by 13 development banks released in June noted that in 2017, MDBs and development finance institutions mobilised $73.3 billion of long-term private and institutional investor cofinancing for infrastructure such as power, water, transportation, and telecoms. This compared with $68.7 billion mobilised in 2016.

Friday, October 12, 2018

Ranipokhari will be rebuilt within a year: NRA CEO

The National Reconstruction Authority (NRA) claimed that the reconstruction of Ranipokhari will be completed within a year.
Addressing a programme organised by Society for Economic Journalists Nepal (Sejon) at Dhulikhel in Kavre today NRA chief executive officer Sushil Gyawali said that Ranipokhari will be constructed in three stages. "Since Kathmandu Metropolis has already approved the construction design, NRA will start reconstruction work soon,” he said, adding that the wall around Ranipokhari will be reconstructed in the first phase. "In the second phase, Bal Gopaleshwor temple – in the middle of the pond – will be reconstructed."
Likewise, NRA has also agreed with Forest Ministry to bring timber from Mahottari for the reconstruction of Kasthamandap. "A search for a special artist to rebuild Kasthamandap is on,” he said, adding that the authority has planned to hand over responsibility of reconstruction to the local levels. "We are confident that handing over the responsibility of reconstructing heritage monuments to the locals will make the work qualitative and sustainable."
Ninety-seven per cent quake victims have received first installment of the housing grant while 67 per cent beneficiaries have got the second installment, he added. "Only 30 per cent quake victims have received the last installment of the grant."

PM Oli urges NRNs to raise investment in Nepal

Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli today asked the Non-Resident Nepalis (NRNs) to increase their investment in Nepal.
Addressing the first ‘Global Knowledge Convention 2018’ organised by Non-Resident Nepali Association (NRNA) here in the capital, he said that Nepal is in dire need of both investment and expertise of NRNs.
Urged them to inject their investment and expertise for the development of Nepal, he reminded NRNs that Nepal is their country and the country needs their support in every aspect, including the development process.
"The investment environment in Nepal has improved a lot recently," Oli said, assuring that the current government will facilitate NRNs’ investment in Nepal. "NRNs are one of the important stakeholders for country’s development process and the road to prosperity."
The prime minister also assured NRNs that the government will introduce investment-friendly policies and amend existing business-related polices.
Speaking at the occasion, president of NRNA Bhaban Bhatta said that NRNs are keen to work closely with the government and be an integral part of Nepal’s road to prosperity. "Entrepreneurship development is a crucial aspect for a country to progress," he said, adding NRNs will also help the government to achieve its development and economic goals by injecting investment and sharing their expertise.
The three-day convention intends to bring together Nepali expertise scattered around the world and discuss possible measures for Nepal’s growth, development and prosperity. 

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

IMF keeps growth projection unchanged at 5 per cent

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has kept Nepal's economic growth projection for the current fiscal year 2018-19 unchanged at 5 per cent.
Earlier in April, IMF had projected Nepal's GDP to grow by 5 per cent for the current fiscal year.
Releasing World Economic Outlook – a survey conducted and published by the IMF twice a annually – on the sidelines of 2018 annual meetings of the IMF and the World Bank, in Bali of Indonesia today, the IMF said that the growth is expected to post 5 per cent. However, the growth projection is far below the government’s target to achieve 8 per cent.
According to IMF’s mission chief to Nepal Gerard J Almekinders, reduced political uncertainty and markedly improved power supply, for instances, could form the basis for an acceleration of structural reforms and sustained pickup in investment which could boost medium-term growth.
However, much will depend on progress in reforms, particularly with regard to strengthening key institutions and administrative capacity, including at the state and local levels to which substantial spending responsibilities have been devolved under the new framework for federal fiscal relations, and improving the business climate to boost private investment,” he said in the statement.
Earlier last month, the Asian Development Bank (ADB) has lowered the growth forecast for the current fiscal year to 5.5 per cent, whereas the World Bank (WB) on Sunday predicted the GDP to grow by 5.9 per cent.
According to Almekinders, the IMF may revise the growth projections for Nepal upward in the context of the mission for the Article IV consultation that starts in late-November. Generally, IMF every year sends a mission to Nepal for assessment of the country’s economic and financial developments as part of its surveillance of the economy which is commonly known as the Article IV Consultation.

Monday, October 8, 2018

PATA Nepal Chapter awards Rana, Kansakar

PATA Nepal felicitated its founder chairman Prabhakar SJB Rana with 'Lifetime Achievement' award during the 42nd Annual General Meeting (AGM) of Pacific Asia Travel Association (PATA) Nepal Chapter here today.
PATA Nepal felicitated its founder chairman Prabhakar SJB Rana with the first ever 'Lifetime Achievement' award in honour and recognition to his contributions, achievements and many layers of service in the development and promotion of quality-tourism in Nepal, reads a press note from the PATA Nepal Chapter.
Rana is the Chairman Emeritus of Soaltee Hotel and a well-known pioneer industrialist and entrepreneur in the tourism, hydropower and automobiles sector. He also served in many public and private sector organisations and institutions.
Likewise, PATA Nepal Chapter awarded managing director Nepal Airlines Corporation (NAC) Sugat Ratna Kansakar with the ‘PATA Personality of the year 2018 Award' in recognition of his valuable contribution and commendable role in promoting Nepali tourism sector over the recent years.
Similarly, the  ‘Best Student Chapter of the year’ was awarded to Nepal Academy of Tourism and Hotel Management (NATHM) in recognition of their dedication and contribution in engaging with the initiatives of PATA Nepal Chapter and best illustrating the activities, programmes, and events in line with the aims and objectives of PATA Nepal Student Chapter.
The 42nd AGM of Pacific Asia Travel Association (PATA) Nepal Chapter themed – 'Stepping towards Digital Transformation' – also listened an expert on Digital Marketing and executive director of Mekong Tourism Coordinating Office Jens Thraenhart as the keynote speaker, who shared the valuable insights on digital transformation. Embracing the need of digital transformation for Nepali tourism sector, PATA Nepal Chapter had invited Jens, who presented on 'Collaborative Social Commerce Driving Digital Transformation - an Opportunity for Nepal' on the occasion.
Likewise, PATA Nepal had also invited chairman of International China Investment Forum Dr Marcus Lee as the Guest of Honour, who presented on 'How to attract Chinese Visitors effectively'.
Welcoming the guests, PATA Nepal Chapter chairman, Sunil Sakya emphasised on the need for immediate strengthening the national flag carrier. "Opening of new air corridor and the necessary infrastructures along with the establishment of international Convention Center in Kathmandu valley are keys to promote tourism," he said, proposing the government and Nepal Tourism Board to bring back 'PATA Adventure Travel Mart' to Nepal in 2020. "As we are celebrating Visit Nepal Year in 2020, we believe that the hosting of PATA Adventure Mart once again in 2020 would be a great value-add for the industry and this would add the significant value to meet the target of 2 million tourists set by the government."
PATA Nepal Chapter had hosted PATA Adventure Travel Mart and Conference in Nepal 6 times in Nepal so far.
The chief guest tourism minister Rabindra Adhikari, on the occasion, commended PATA Nepal Chapter for successfully organising Himalayan Travel Mart, which has played an important role in promotion as well as increasing the tourist arrival in the country. He also emphasised that the increasing tourist arrival at the present scenario is the collaborative efforts along with the 22 hours operation of TIA and many positive initiatives undertaken. 

Remove import restriction on sugar, if price cannot be controlled: PAC

Quantitative restriction on sugar imports has been hurting both the consumers and sugarcane farmers. Thus, the lawmakers asked the government to either remove import restriction on sugar or control the price. They also concluded that the strong nexus between importers and sugar mills but weak government monitoring is the key reason for the rampant price hike of sugar.
Speaking at a sub-committee under the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) of the Federal Parliament today, Lawmaker Lekh Raj Bhatta said that they have found that the sister concerns of the sugar mills have been importing sugar and are now raising the price of sugar rampantly to take benefit of the restriction on sugar import. The government had imposed quantitative restriction on sugar import after the repeated request of the sugar mills.
The PAC has formed a sub-committee to study pricing, market situation and smooth and quality supply of sugar.
The government has fixed an import quota of 100,000 metric tonnes of sugar for this fiscal year on the request of sugar mill owners, as they had been complaining that the stock of sugar produced by local sugar manufacturers was not finding a market due to cheaper imports. The government currently imposes 30 per cent customs duty and 13 per cent value added tax (VAT) on sugar import. Despite higher taxes the government was finally compelled to impose quantitative restriction on sugar import citing that the sugar manufactured by Nepali sugar mills could not compete with imported sugar.
However, the lawmakers also blamed the government that it has imposed import restriction without enough groundwork like sugar in stock, quantity imported and pricing.
The immature decision of the government has been adversely affecting consumers and sugarcane farmers, as consumers are compelled to pay high prices and cane growers have not been paid their dues.
Though, lawmaker Prem Aale – taking part in the discussion – claimed that sugar mill owners had raised the price of sugar against their commitment to keep the retail price of sugar at Rs 63 per kg, some other lawmakers asked whether there was any agreement on maximum price of sugar with sugar mills before introducing the quantitative restriction.
"The government authorities are also keeping silent," he said, asking the commerce secretary Chandra Kumar Ghimire and industry secretary Yam Kumari Khatiwada to stop the rampant price hike. "If the government cannot control price," he said, asking the secretaries to withdraw import restriction on sugar.
According to Ghimire, the ministry had recommended for quantitative restriction based on the assumption that there is sufficient stock of sugar as the country has stock of 461,000 tonnes of sugar but the monthly demand is around 18,000 to 20,000 tonnes only. "Sugar mills in the country produce 175,000 tonnes in a year and 286,000 tonnes have been imported, so there will be a stock of around 51,600 tonnes of sugar by the end of the fiscal year," he replied.
Likewise, lawmakers at the PAC also suspected the 'financial nexus' between traders, mill owners and government officials. "While fulfilling the demands of sugar mill owners, why did the government not ask them to make a strictly maintain the retail price at a certain level," lawmaker Chanda Choudhary asked.
Following the pressure from the consumers and lawmakers, a cabinet meeting yesterday also formed a committee at the government level, whereas the PAC has already formed a sub-committee that is preparing a report on pricing of sugar, demand and quality supply by holding discussions with a wide range of stakeholders, including ministers, government officials, sugar mill owners, importers, consumer rights activists and retailers, among others, and based on market inspection.
Earlier on Thursday, the PAC meeting had also directed the government to cap the price of sugar at Rs 63 per kg. However, industry minister Matrika Yadav has expressed reservation over the decision of the committee, terming the parliamentary panel’s act of fixing price as ‘impractical’.
The report will be submitted to the chair of the PAC on Thursday, according to lawmakers of the sub-committee. 

Tourist arrivals up by 33.8 per cent

The inflow of foreign tourists to Nepal has increased by 33.8 per cent to 91,820 international visitors in September. With this, the arrival figures from January to September has touched 772,798 – an accumulative increase of 20 per cent – over the same period in 2017, according to Nepal Tourism Board (NTB).
Tourist arrivals from India grew by 96 per cent in September compared to last September. Likewise, arrivals from Sri Lanka surged by 57.1 per cent. Likewise, the overall arrivals from SAARC countries registered a growth of 52.8 per cent over last September.
The board has attributed the growth to the hard work of tourism fraternity.
Similarly, Chinese arrivals continued to soar with an exponential growth of 55 per cent compared to last September. Arrivals from Asia – except than SAARC – have also recorded a growth of 42.6 per cent. Likewise the arrivals from Japan and South Korea also increased by 8.9 per cent and 9.2 per cent, respectively.
The board has also explained that European markets generated 66.3 per cent more visitors, whereas arrivals from Germany and France increased by 30.9 per cent and 19 per cent, respectively, this September.
But, Australia and New Zealand witnessed a decline of nine per cent and four per cent, respectively compared to the arrival figures of 2017. Similarly, the number of visitors from the US and Canada also decreased by nine per cent and two per cent, respectively, in September.
Top five countries
Country – Tourist arrivals
India – 16,345
China – 12,947
Sri Lanka – 8,807
USA – 6,519
Germany – 3,775
Source: NTB

Government orders industrialists to pay sugarcane farmers in 5 days

The government ordered the industrialists to pay the dues of the sugarcane farmers within five days. The government today issued the directive to clear the dues of the sugarcane farmers, after repeated complaints of farmers not being paid their dues from earlier years.
A meeting of the ministers for Finance, Agriculture and Livestock Development, Industry and Supplies, Forests and Environment, and General Administration – along with the secretaries – took the decision to give the industrialists an ultimatum, agriculture minister Chakrapani Khanal informed. The government has also warned the industrialists of punishment, if they failed to clear their dues to the farmers within 5 days, he said, adding that different organisations of sugarcane farmers – yesterday – had warned to take to the streets after their dues were not cleared for long.
According to the recommendation of the Agriculture Ministry, the government had fixed Rs 536.56 for a quintal of sugarcane to the farmers including Rs 65.28 in grant from the government. However, the farmers have not yet received the money even after six months of the decision.
The farmers' claimed that the sugar mills have to pay Rs 2 billion and the government has to pay Rs 1.28 billion in grant to the farmers.
Out of 31 registered sugar mills, some 13 are in operation, which crush sugarcane to produce sugar. The government – on September 17 – had fixed sugar import quota for the current fiscal year at 100,000 tonnes to save domestic industries and help clear them the stock.
While the sugarcane farmers are yet to get their payment, sugar mills have been raising sugar price after the government imposed import restriction. The sugar price has already been raised to Rs 75 from Rs 60 per kg. 

NRNA to organise Tourism Promotion Year 2019

Non-Resident Nepali Association (NRNA) has announced to celebrate 2019 as Tourism Promotion Year for Nepal as a complimentary initiative to the government’s announcement of celebrating Visit Nepal Year 2020. The Visit Nepal Year 2020 has targeted to host 2 million tourists in 2020.
The NRNA plans to conduct promotional campaigns in 80 countries across the world in 2019 as part of its initiative. Organising a press meet in the capital today, president of NRNA Bhaban Bhatta announced to organise promotional campaigns in countries where Nepalis are currently residing.
Bhatta said that the promotional campaign would support the government’s plan of Visit Nepal Year 2020. "Nepalis reside all over the world these days,” he said, adding that the NRNs have initiated the campaign to support the government to achieve its target of hosting 2 million tourists in 2020.
NRNA will help promote Nepal and send tourists from abroad by coordinating with Nepali representatives in the respective countries, he said committing to continue ‘Atithi Devo Bhava’ (guests are gods) campaign organised by the NRNA. "The NRNs have also started 'Namaste campaign' to greet tourists visiting Nepal, and ‘Tin Jana Sathi Lai Nepal Pathau’ (send three friends to Nepal) campaign to motivate Nepalis residing abroad.
Chief executive officer of Nepal Tourism Board (NTB) Deepak Raj Joshi, speaking on the occasion, said that the board is always ready to collaborate with the NRNA for the enhancement of Nepali tourism industry.

Sunday, October 7, 2018

Economy to grow by an average of 6 per cent for next three years

Economic activity is set to grow on an average 6 per cent over the medium term, though the performance could be less impressive due to challenging transition to a federal system that has effected infrastructure provision and service delivery, according to a report. The report has also underlined other risks in the economy like slow implementation of reforms.
"Despite limited resources available for infrastructure financing and public service delivery, the Nepali economy has been growing at a stable rate," reads a report published by the World Bank-South Asia Focus 2018. "Additional private sector resources and engagement – including foreign direct investment (FDI) – are needed to sustain investment and maintain high levels of growth."
"This necessitates timely implementation of reforms to support an enabling environment for the private sector and to increase foreign investment," it further reads, adding that the service sector has been witnessed as a key sector to boost growth. "Services were the main driver contributing 3.6 percentage points, over 60 per cent of which came from trade and hotels."
For industry, over 90 per cent of growth came from construction and manufacturing. On the demand side, investment and private consumption were the main drivers of growth,” as according to the report. "The federal structure will be particularly important to enhance implementation capacity and revenue potential at sub-national levels of government."
Likewise, raising revenue potential of sub-national governments will be critical as will be their capacity to implement their projects and programmes.
Overall, taxes on rising imports, luxury items and incomes of wealthier households, including a broadening of the tax base, will help increase revenue to 29 per cent of gross domestic product (GDP) over the medium term, the report reads. The government has set a revenue collection target of Rs 945.56 billion in the current fiscal year 2018-19 compared to Rs 730.05 billion in the last fiscal year 2017-18.
The World Bank report also mentions that the budget of ongoing fiscal year includes investments to promote improved inputs and storage facilities for farmers, including for irrigation. “These investments focus on modernisation, commercialisation, mechanisation and the expansion of value chains, which is expected to boost agriculture sector growth from 2.8 per cent to 4.5 per cent in the next fiscal year,” the report states, adding that the number of foreign tourists is also expected to increase as the country has launched the ‘Visit Nepal 2020' campaign.
Growth will be supported by key infrastructure projects. A new large foreign investment– Hongshi Shivam Cement – is expected to boost construction activities, whereas the agreement to construct another cement factory with Chinese investment is likely to enhance FDI in the next fiscal year too, according to the report.
Likewise, the World Bank has projected inflation can be controlled at five per cent over medium term, assuming oil prices rise, and the exchange rate depreciates.
“The government is shifting from consumption to investment-based growth, with emphasis on engaging the private sector and raising the very low levels of FDI," it reads, adding that key reforms will include establishing public private partnerships (PPP), one-stop investor services, and e-government services for citizens, in addition to infrastructure investments. "Consolidated spending of government is expected to reach 34 per cent of GDP over the medium term against 28 per cent in the last fiscal year 2017-18, with three per cent to four per cent of the increase from federalism alone. Transfers to sub-nationals are expected to increase by four percentage points to reach six per cent of GDP by 2020-21.

Real GDP growth in Nepal
2016 – 2017 – 2018 (e/f) – 2019 (f) – 2020 (f)
0.6pc – 7.9pc – 6.3pc – 5.9pc – 6pc
e: estimate, f: forecast.

South Asia firms up its growth lead despite budget woes

With growth topping 6.9 per cent in 2018 and set to accelerate to 7.1 per cent next year, South Asia is firming up its position as the world’s fastest-growing region, further extending its lead over East Asia and the Pacific, says the World Bank in its twice-a-year regional economic update.
The latest edition of the 'South Asia Economic Focus, Budget Crunch,' finds however that the region’s growth performance is uneven across countries – with Afghanistan notably bucking the upward trend – and mainly driven by domestic demand.
The report, however, warns that a more turbulent external environment, manifested by trade wars and capital outflows from emerging markets, calls for prudent economic policy and fiscal discipline. Instead, most South Asian countries generate low tax revenue and run large budget deficits, often made worse by economic shocks and election cycles. At 4.4 per cent of its gross domestic product (GDP), South Asia’s fiscal deficit is projected to be the second largest in the world this year after the Middle East and North Africa region. The average fiscal deficit over the last three years has been around 5.5 per cent in Pakistan and above 6 per cent in Maldives, India, and Sri Lanka.
“Budget deficits in South Asia are among the highest in the world, and this could be storing up trouble for the future,” World Bank vice president for the South Asia Region Hartwig Schafer, said, adding that South Asia’s fiscal weaknesses reduce its ability to address external shocks or economic slowdowns. "It would be wise to use these good economic times for countries to get their budgets in better shape.”
While fiscal challenges vary across the region, the report notes that tax revenue is consistently low across most South Asian countries and at rates below that of other developing countries with a similar income per capita, sometimes by a vast margin. Although some countries have expanded their tax bases and curbed tax exemptions and fraud, revenue remains lower than government expenditures, creating large fiscal deficits that need to be financed through public borrowing.
South Asian countries have also favored procyclical approaches to spending – with expenditures going up fast as their economies expand – that amplifies boom-and-bust cycles.
Together with public debt, hidden liabilities, arising from non-viable borrowing by state-owned enterprises, the failure of infrastructure projects involving the private sector, and non-performing loans in commercial banks, should be closely monitored.
While fiscal outcomes vary across the region, the fiscal situation in each country reveals more profound development challenges, which range from large security expenditures in conflict-affected countries, weak discipline by sub-national governments in federal states, to the high cost of service delivery in island nations.
“Substantial government spending is understandable, even beneficial if well-invested, given South Asia’s enormous development needs,” World Bank chief economist for the South Asia Region Martin Rama, said, adding that South Asian economies but need to address their fiscal challenges to give themselves room to maneuver and sustain their journey toward greater prosperity.

Saturday, October 6, 2018

‘Nepal has already internalised SDGs’

Nepal has already internalised the SDGs in its policies and programmes and is working towards integrating them at local levels.
Inaugurating a SAWTEE Centre for Sustainable Development – launched South Asia Watch on Trade, Economics and Environment (SAWTEE) – here today foreign minister Pradeep Gyawali said that the integration will, however, necessitate support from all stakeholders, domestic and international.
The SAWTEE Centre for Sustainable Development (SAWTEE-CSD) – launched to promote inclusive and sustainable development – will initially focus on economic transformation in line with the Sustainable Development Goals’ (SDGs) principles of inclusiveness, equity, sustainability, gender mainstreaming, multi-stakeholder approach, good governance and global partnership, while also looking at all SDGs in an integrated manner, according to former under-secretary-general of the United Nations (UN) Gyan Chandra Acharya, who will be leading the centre.
Speaking on the occasion, former foreign minister Dr Prakash Saran Mahat emphasised that Nepal’s constitution envisaged sustainable and inclusive development, but the goals could be attained only through rule-based implementation of these laws and rights.
The private sector should lead the growth while the government should undertake equitable distribution, he added.
"The centre will bring together politics, policies and expertise devoid of ideological content and material interest while fully adhering to the scientific approach and ensuring non-partisan research," chairperson of SAWTEE Dr Posh Raj Pandey said, adding that the activities of the centre will contribute not only to existing issues and policies, but will also provide alternate ideas to decision makers.
The centre seeks to play the role of a catalyst and contribute to the country’s accelerated development through research, analysis, dialogue and advocacy, realising that the government has to take a lead role in the development of a country as it cannot deliver alone, he added.
Emphasis will be on structural transformation and job creation, also envisioned by SDGs. The fundamental essence of these goals – an integrated, holistic and multi-stakeholder approach, sustainability, gender mainstreaming, leaving no one behind, and global partnership – will guide the centre’s activities.
The centre will be collaborating with all stakeholders in carrying out its activities, including political leaders, civil servants, private sector, development partners, experts, the academia and beneficiaries, reads a press note issued by the SAWTEE.
The centre aims at pursuing a bottom-up approach and contributing to developing a coherent national strategy for structural transformation of Nepal’s economy that is people-centred and sustainable. Nepal’s adoption of a federal, democratic and republican structure warrants this as all the constituent federal units are responsible for economic development and related activities.
Nepal is a least developed, landlocked and post-conflict country, which needs huge support from the international community to meet the SDGs. Global support and partnership plays a critical role in its development efforts.

South Korea to allow family to visit Nepali workers, increase quota

South Korea is going to allow family members of Nepali migrant workers in South Korea to pay a visit at least once during their employment tenure, and increase the quota of Nepali migrant workers.
Responding to the labour minister Gokarna Bista, South Korean ambassador to Nepal Park Young-sik, said that Nepali migrant workers will soon be able to meet their family members in South Korea. "The South Korean government is making official arrangements for this purpose," he added.
Ambassador Youngsik – during the meeting with the labour minister Bista today at the ministry – said that some families have already visited South Korea to meet their keens.
Labour Ministry spokesperson Prakash Dahal informed that minister Bista had requested envoy Young-sik during their previous meeting to facilitate family members' visit at least once during the migrant worker’s contract period.
Though, South Korea is known for offering better facilities and remuneration among other foreign job destinations, the suicide rate of Nepali migrant workers has been increasing in South Korea in recent years. Family visits could give workers a psychological relief from anxiety, loneliness and dispel thoughts of committing suicide. The Nepali migrant workers have a-four-year-and-a-10-month contract period.
Bista also requested the ambassador to increase the jobs quota for Nepali migrant workers in South Korea. The South Korean government has fixed the maximum ceiling of 7,100 Nepali workers, who pass the qualifying test (EPS) and enter its job market in 2019 as potential candidates. Bista urged to hire Nepali workers in service sector too. Praising the performances and conduct of Nepali workers in South Korea, envoy Young-sik said he would do his best to increase the quota for Nepali workers and their placement in service sector, according to a press note issued by the ministry.
According to Department of Foreign Employment (DoFE), some 54,363 Nepali migrant workers are in South Korea currently.

Thursday, October 4, 2018

Trade war threatens outlook for global shipping

Seaborne trade expanded by a healthy 4 per cent in 2017, the fastest growth in five years, while UNCTAD forecasts similar growth this year, according to its Review of Maritime Transport 2018. Volumes across all segments are set to grow in 2018, with containerised and dry bulk commodities expected to record the fastest growth at the expense of tanker volumes.
The 2018 edition of the UNCTAD Review of Maritime Transport, marking its 50th year of publication, was launched at the Global Maritime Forum’s Annual Summit taking place in Hong Kong on October 3-4.
"While the prospects for seaborne trade are positive, these are threatened by the outbreak of trade wars and increased inward-looking policies,” UNCTAD secretary-general Mukhisa Kituyi said, adding that escalating protectionism and tit-for-tat tariff battles will potentially disrupt the global trading system which underpins demand for maritime transport.
The warning comes against a background of an improved balance between demand and supply that has lifted shipping rates to boost earnings and profits. Freight-rate levels improved significantly in 2017 – except in the tanker market – supported by stronger global demand, more manageable fleet capacity growth and overall healthier market conditions.
Supply-demand improvements, namely in the container and dry bulk shipping segments, are expected to continue in 2018. Freight rates may benefit accordingly, although supply-side capacity management and deployment remain key. UNCTAD projects an average annual growth rate in total volumes of 3.8 per cent up to 2023.
On the supply side, after five years of decelerating growth, 2017 saw a small pick-up in world fleet expansion. During the year, a total of 42 million gross tons were added to global tonnage, equivalent to a modest 3.3 per cent growth rate.
Looking at the shipping value chain, Germany remained the largest containership-owning country with a market share of 20 per cent at the beginning of 2018, although it lost some ground in 2017. In contrast, owners from Greece, China and Canada expanded their containership-owning market shares.
Meanwhile, in 2018, the Marshall Islands emerged as the second largest registry, after Panama and ahead of Liberia. More than 90 per cent of shipbuilding activity in 2017 occurred in China, the Republic of Korea, and Japan, while 79 per cent of ship demolitions took place in South Asia, notably India, Bangladesh and Pakistan.
Liner shipping consolidation, technological advances, and climate change policy are key drivers of change in global shipping, the report reads.
Consolidation activity in liner shipping continued unabated: the liner shipping industry witnessed further consolidation through mergers and acquisitions and global alliance restructuring.
As of January 2018, the Top 15 shipping lines accounted for 70.3 per cent of all capacity. Their share has increased further with the completion of the operational integration of the new mergers in 2018, with the Top 10 shipping lines controlling almost 70 per cent of fleet capacity as of June 2018.
Three global liner shipping alliances dominate capacity deployed on the three major East-West container routes, collectively accounting for 93 per cent of deployed capacity. Alliance members continue to compete on price while operational efficiency and capacity utilisation gains are helping to maintain low freight-rate levels. By joining forces and forming alliances, carriers have strengthened their bargaining power vis-à-vis the seaports when negotiating port calls and terminal operations.
Growing consolidation can reinforce market power, potentially leading to decreased supply and service quality, and higher prices. Some of these negative outcomes may already be in effect. For example, in 2017-2018, the number of operators decreased in several small island developing States and structurally weak developing countries.
“There is a need to assess the implications of mergers and alliances and of vertical integration within the industry, and to address any potential negative effects. This will require the commitment of all relevant parties, notably national competition authorities, container lines, shippers and ports,” director of UNCTAD’s Division on Technology and Logistics, Shamika N Sirimanne, said.

ADB to provide $180 million to improve East–West Highway

The Board of Directors of the Asian Development Bank (ADB) has approved a loan of $180 million to support improvements to East–West Highway, the country’s main domestic and international trade route also known as the Mahendra Highway.
“The highway’s road surface – Nepal’s busiest route – is in fair to poor condition and does not segregate oncoming traffic or slow-moving vehicles and pedestrians,” said ADB transport specialist Johan Georget. “Improving the road will boost the efficiency of Nepal’s transport system, strengthen national and regional connectivity to promote growth and trade, and improve road safety.”
Nepal’s road network, which includes eight north–south and three east–west corridors, carries more than 90 per cent of passengers and goods in the country. The project road carries an average of 8,600 vehicles daily, with more than a quarter of them heavy vehicles. This average is forecast to grow to 25,400 vehicles a day by 2033.
The project will improve and rehabilitate about 87-km between Kanchanpur and Kamala on the East–West Highway, and will upgrade the highway section to a four-lane dual carriageway to cater to the projected increase of traffic demand, including a new road surface and drainage. Road safety will be significantly improved, as a center median will reduce head-on collisions, while service lanes in populated areas will reduce rear-end, sideswape, and side-on collisions, particularly for pedestrians, motorcycles, and cyclists.
The project will also finance civil works and equipment packages to improve road safety along the entire 1,027-km of the East–West Highway, and support road safety campaigns. The loan will also finance preparation of detailed designs for future road projects along the corridor. Accompanying the loan is an ADB technical assistance grant of $750,000 to help prepare a national road safety policy and action plan, strengthen the road safety council, carry out a road safety assessment of the corridor, identify the location of potential service areas, and promote gender equality measures in the transport sector.
Contractors are currently invited to purchase bidding documents and submit their proposals, and construction is expected to start in the first quarter of 2019. Civil works contracts will include a performance-based maintenance period of 5 years after completion of construction, which is due to finish in 2022.
The total project cost is $256.4 million, of which the government will $76.4 million.
ADB is committed to achieving a prosperous, inclusive, resilient, and sustainable Asia and the Pacific, while sustaining its efforts to eradicate extreme poverty. 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.

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

'Made in Pakistan' expo kicks off in capital

The ninth edition of 'Made in Pakistan' expo kicked off in Kathmandu today. President of Nepal-Pakistan Friendship Association Himalaya SJB Rana inaugurated the weeklong expo.
The single country 'Made in Pakistan Expo' is organised by the Rawalpindi Chamber of Commerce and Industry in collaboration with a number of Pakistani businesspersons, according to a press note issued by the Embassy of Pakistan based in Kathmandu.
The Pakistani products including furniture, leather items, handicrafts, textile products and artificial jewelry are on sale at the exhibition. 

Global report highlights transformative impact of digital technologies on trade

The 2018 edition of the WTO’s flagship publication, the World Trade Report, finds that digital technologies – the Internet of Things, artificial intelligence, 3D printing and Blockchain – will have a profound impact on global trade, adding up to 34 percentage points to trade growth by 2030 thanks to lower costs and higher productivity.
However, they could also create a challenging environment for those seeking to keep up with the latest innovations. The Report launched today at the WTO Public Forum also shows that digital technologies are likely to further reduce trade costs and boost trade significantly, especially in services and for developing countries. Global trade is projected to grow by an additional 2 percentage points annually between 2016 and 2030 as a result of digitalisation, falling trade costs and the increased use of services. This corresponds with a 31-34 percentage point higher trade growth over 15 years.
The share of services in global trade is projected to grow from 21 per cent in 2016 to 25 per cent in 2030. The report also finds that the reduction in trade costs could be especially beneficial for micro, small and medium sized enterprises (MSMEs) and firms from developing countries, provided they have the ability to keep up with the adoption of digital technologies. In the best scenario, developing and least-developed economies' share in global trade is predicted to grow to 57 per cent by 2030, from 46 per cent in 2015, whereas if they cannot keep up, this share is predicted to rise to 51 per cent.
The report discusses how digital technologies can unlock savings, such as through better route planning, autonomous driving and smart inventories made possible by artificial intelligence and robotics. Blockchain solutions – a system of decentralised, digital transactions – can reduce time spent on customs compliance and logistics. The Internet of Things, the networking and processing capabilities of everyday objects, can help to improve operational efficiency through better preventative maintenance of machinery and products. These technologies can therefore reduce transportation and storage costs, which represent a major share of overall trade costs.
Digital technologies can also significantly affect what the world trades. For example, remote controlled robotics have led to revolutionary advances in trade in services and the emergence of new services such as telesurgery. Enhanced technological capacities which allow faster and simpler processing of traded products could also foster trade in time-sensitive, certification-intensive and contract-intensive goods.
The report argues that new technologies are likely to change the established ways the world trades, with comparative advantages predicted to change across economies. AI, 3D printing and advanced robotics could reduce the role of labour as a source of comparative advantage, while factors such as the quality of digital infrastructure and market size as well as institutional and regulatory determinants of comparative advantage, including intellectual property protection, might become more relevant. 3D printing, furthermore, may to some extent reduce the need for outsourced assembly, the number of production steps and other factors related to global value chains.
The report identifies certain areas which may warrant international cooperation. These include key initiatives being undertaken by multilateral organisations such as facilitating a favourable legal and regulatory framework, competition-related issues, intellectual property rules, supporting MSMEs, promoting digital inclusion, and addressing challenges related to trade facilitation and infrastructure for information communication technology. The report concludes that, overall, the expansion of digital trade holds the potential to generate considerable benefits if it takes place under conditions that adequately address important public policy challenges. Issues concerning inclusiveness, privacy protection and cybersecurity are likely to figure prominently in debates on the future governance of digital trade.

Tuesday, October 2, 2018

DPR of Kathmandu-Tarai-Madhes Expressway by February 2

The detail project report (DPR) of Kathmandu-Tarai-Madhes Expressway will be completed by February 2, 2019. Nepal Army (NA) and South Korean company Soosung Engineering today signed an agreement on the preparation of DPR of the national pride project Kathmandu-Tarai- Madhes Expressway.
Project Chief and Major General of Nepal Army Yogendra Bahadur Khand and Chairman of the Korean company Keehyun Hwang signed the agreement at the Army Headquarters to complete the DPR.
According to the agreement, the DPR should be completed within 1105 days beginning from October 21 in a total cost of Rs 101 million. The Korean company was selected for the DPR job – out of a total of 16 consulting firms that had applied – as the earlier DPR prepared by the Indian company Infrastructure Leasing and Financial Services (IF&FS) has been alleged for its high price. The Indian firm IL&FS has asked minimum of Rs 600 million for the DPR of Kathmandu-Tarai-Madhesh Expressway.
The Cabinet had handed over the Kathmandu-Tarai-Madhesh Expressway to the Nepal Army last year to complete the project within 5 years.
After failing to purchase the DPR prepared by an IL&FS, the Nepal Army had called an Expression of Interest within April 12, which was extended twice until April 28 due to technical reasons.
A total of 16 firms, including a domestic one, had shown interest to prepare the DPR of the national pride project. One year into construction, the Nepal Army is carrying out preliminary works without a DPR of the expressway that is expected to bring the Capital and Nijgadh in Bara within an hour’s drive.
The Army, which has begun construction of the 76-km road is working on the basis of a feasibility study conducted by the Asian Development Bank in 2008. The Army is clearing trees and acquiring land in the project area.

MFIs to get licence of digital payment service provider

The central bank has allowed microfinance institutions (MFIs) to provide payment service through electronic means, payment cards and mobile wallet digital payment service, if they have atlest 20 branches, and safe system. With the new circular, all class – from ‘A’, ‘B’, ‘C’ to ‘D’ – financial institutions can work as payment service provider.
According to a circular issued today by Nepal Rastra Bank (NRB), the paid-up capital of class ‘D’ financial institutions must be Rs 100 million, must have worked with no less than 20,000 borrowers and depositors through at least 20 branches to be eligible for the licence.
However, the information technology used by them must be reliable and should have been using online system to submit required data to the central bank, the circular reads, adding that the MFIs must submit the minutes of the decision of its board of directors along with IT policy. "MFIs must also submit product manual and user manual with applications to obtain the licence of payment service provider."
The MFIs wishing to work as digital payment service provider should have identified risks like market and system risks, the central bank adds. "It also should have an agreement with a telecommunication service provider for the digital payment."
The circular also reads that they can get the license for becoming payment service providers (PSP), if they have online network connectivity between head office and the branches, which is a must. The MFIs must have short message system (SMS) facility for clients, for which they have to get approval from the central bank.
The payment service providers are those institutions that carry out domestic money transfer business or pay bills of both goods and services or provide payment related services or provide payment activities through electronic means.
Of the total 65 microfinance development banks in the country, only Nirdhan Utthan Laghubitta Bittiya Sanstha and Chhimek Laghubitta Bittiya Sanstha meet the paid-up capital requirements to get the PSP license as of the end of last fiscal year.

Monday, October 1, 2018

Vivanta hotel coming up in Jhamsikhel

Chaudhary Group (CG) has signed an agreement with the Tata Group’s hospitality arm Indian Hotels Company Ltd (IHCL) to bring brand Vivanta to Kathmandu. IHCL and Chaudhary Group signed an agreement today to bring the new Vivanta, the IHCL's second hotel in Nepal after Meghauli Serai in Chitwan National Park, according to a press note issued by the group.
IHCL brand includes Taj, Vivanta and Ginger.
"The new Vivanta outlet in Nepal will have 111 spacious rooms and suites with a selection of rooms offering panoramic views of the Kathmandu city," the press note reads, adding that the hotel will be located in Jhamsikhel, Kathmandu. "The hotel will also include all-day dining and specialty restaurants, a bar, banqueting facilities and a spa."
After signing the agreement managing director of CG Corp Global and Director at R&R Hotels and Resorts, Rahul Chaudhary said that the group was delighted to once again partner with IHCL. "After having signed partnership for 12 hospitality projects with IHCL in Sri Lanka, the Maldives, Malaysia, Thailand, India and Nepal, we are now introducing the Vivanta brand to Nepal," he said, adding that they look forward to bringing the legendary Indian hospitality to the Kathmandu Valley.
"We are honoured to partner with R&R Hotels and Resorts for this new hotel," managing director and chief executive officer at Indian Hotels Company Ltd (IHCL) Puneet Chhatwal, said, adding that Kathmandu is an extremely popular tourist destination and this hotel will help the company complete a tourist circuit with Meghauli Serai, the Taj Safari lodge in Chitwan National Park.
R&R Hotels and Resorts is a major shareholder in CG Hospitality. CG Hospitality owns and operates over 95 hotels and resort in 12 countries and 70 destinations. By 2020, the portfolio is expected to grow to over 200 hotels, the CG Hospitality claimed. The Indian Hotels Company includes Taj, the hallmark of iconic hospitality, and Vivanta with its collection of sophisticated upscale hotels.

Government names top 30 council to boost business

The government has formed a 30-members Industry, Commerce, Promotion Dialogue Council headed by the Prime Minister K P Oli to improve the country’s business environment. The council has nine ex-officio members representing various trade and commerce umbrella organizations, apart from – Jagdish Agrawal, Padmajyoti, Ambika Shrestha, Pramila Rijal, Upendra Mahato, Kailash Shirohiya and many others – the who is who in the business and industry sector of the country.
A cabinet meeting on September 23 has formed the panel to help interact, co-ordinate and build rapport between government and private sector to identify and promote investment areas, increase productivity, create jobs, increase per capita income and to fulfil the objectives of national campaign ‘Prosperous Nepal and Happy Nepali’.
According to the decision, ministers of industry, commerce and supplies; finance; energy; water resources and irrigation; and culture, tourism and civil aviation are members of the PM-led committee.
The government formed the council as the private sector has been asking the government that their concerns have not been addressed by the government.