Monday, December 31, 2018

Sebon fines four mutual fund managers

The capital market regulator has fined four mutual fund managers for parking their money in bank deposits higher than the prescribed limit, violating investment-related rules.
The Securities Board of Nepal (Sebon) move is likely to push mutual funds toward volatile stock market due to the lack of other investment scopes.
Though mutual funds are barred from depositing more than 10 per cent of total assets of their schemes in banks, the Sebon has used it discretion to define bank deposits as fixed deposits to fine them for breaching investment-related provision in the regulation. "But if the merchant bankers put the same fund in the call deposits, it is not counted as bank deposit, according to the regulator.
The Sebon – issuing a press note today – confirmed that it had fined NMB Capital, Laxmi Capital Market and CBIL Capital Market Rs 35,000 each for investing funds that are supposed to manage in bank deposits, breaching the allowed limit. Likewise, NIC Capital has been fined Rs 25,000 for breaching investment limit on bank deposit.
According to the Sebon, Citizens Mutual Fund-1 managed by CIBL Capital, NMB Sulav Investment Fund-1 and NMB Hybrid Fund L-1 managed by NMB Capital, Laxmi Equity Fund and Laxmi Value Fund-1 by Laxmi Capital and NIC Asia Growth Fund by NIC Asia Capital breached the rule on limitation of the fund.
This is the first punitive action against mutual fund scheme managers, the Sebon press note reads, adding that the regulator expects the action will help strengthen compliance among securities businesspersons and develop healthy market.
Earlier five months ago, the Sebon has sought clarifications from them over the breach of limit on investment on bank deposits from their mutual fund schemes. The fund managers – in their clarifications to Sebon in August – said that their share of fixed deposit investment crossed 10 per cent due to the fall in their value of assets.
The Nepal Merchant Bankers' Association, however, claimed that that the regulatory body should revise its regulation that bars fund managers from making their judgment on investments. The association also claimed that the regulation was introduced some eight years ago and now it's high time to review those provisions. 

Trade deficit widens to Rs 570 billion

Trade deficit widened to Rs 569.50 billion in the first five months of the current fiscal year due to a meager exports and increasing imports.
"Soaring imports of petroleum products, construction materials, machinery, automobiles, electric appliances and airplane parts pushed the trade deficit high up," according to Trade and Export Promotion Centre (TEPC).
These products accounted for 49 per cent of the country’s total import bill, the data further states, adding that the country's largest import –petroleum products – stood at Rs 88 billion. "The trade deficit increased by 35.5 per cent year-on-year and reached Rs 115.03 billion last month (mid-November to mid-December)."
The import to export ratio jumped to 16.2:1, which means Nepal spent Rs 16.2 on imports for every rupee it earned from exports.
According to the TEPC, the exports inched up by just 12.3 per cent to Rs 37.5 billion by the mid-December compared to a 33.8 per cent jump in imports, for which Nepal paid Rs 607 billion.
After petroleum products, imports of iron and steel products that valued Rs 73.23 billion stood the second largest imports, whereas imports of machinery worth Rs 48.36 billion stood third largest item on imports bill. "Nepal paid Rs 44.12 billion for automobiles and parts, and Rs 23.23 billion for electrical equipments' imports. "Imports of aircraft and parts soared more than fourfold to Rs 18.26 billion while imports of apparel and clothing accessories swelled more than threefold to Rs 16.46 billion."
Nepal's imports of agricultural goods increased by 14 per cent to Rs 91 billion, despite being the country an agriculture country, according to deputy executive director of the TEPC Suyash Khanal. "On the contrary, export earnings from farm products increased by 26 per cent to Rs 11.44 billion making Rs 80 billion deficit in agriculture products trade only."
"Demand for non-agricultural goods like woolen carpets, readymade garments, pashmina and yarn has been encouraging in recent days," executive director of the Trade and Export Promotion Centre Sarad Bickram Rana said, adding that export earnings from polyester and cotton – the country’s largest exports – increased by 20 per cent to Rs 3.82 billion. "They were followed by woollen carpets and readymade garments with export earnings of Rs 3.3 billion and Rs 3 billion, respectively."
Nepal exported some 59 per cent – of its total exports – to India, whereas imported some 64 per cent – of the total imports – from India, whereas Nepal imported 22 per cent from China.

Sunday, December 30, 2018

NEA cancels contract on New Khimti-Bahrabise transmission line

The Nepal Electricity Authority (NEA) has scrapped a contract for the first section – of the New Khimiti-Bahrabise – under the Tamakoshi-Kathmandu 400 KV transmission line, citing the violation of the terms and conditions.
The Authority – issuing a press note claimed that – took the move for not meeting the conditions and failing to start works on time by the contractors. The contract to construct the New Khimti-Barhabise section of the transmission line project had been jointly awarded to China-based Guangxi Transmission and Substation Construction Company and the Shenzhen Clou Electronics.
The contract was terminated few days ago, seizing the 10 per cent of the works executions securities, project chief Nawaraj Ojha said, adding that the companies failed to begin the works of initial phase despite the completion of the 74 per cent of contract time. "The Chinese contractors that were responsible for construction of the project have violated the terms and conditions that govern the agreement."
According to the statement by the power utility, the NEA had terminated the contract a few days ago and also seized the 10 per cent of the works executions securities.
"We have seized $1.45 million, which is 10 per cent of the total construction cost, and also the performance guarantee amount of Rs 61.67 million that the contractors had submitted,” Ojha said, adding that the NEA has also seized $1.45 million that the contractors had deposited as advance payment and Rs 61.67 million that had been deposited as bank guarantee. "NEA had signed the contract with the two companies on September 27, 2016 and the transmission line project was expected to be completed by May 2019. The contract was awarded at a cost of $14.54 million and Rs 616 million."
NEA managing director Kul Man Ghising, said that the Tamakoshi-Kathmandu transmission line project is a strategic one for the country but the Chinese contractors had failed to perform.
Meanwhile, the same Chinese companies had also won the bid to construct the 220/132 kV substation in Bahrabise. According to Ojha, the works of the substation are also not satisfactory and NEA may terminate the contract, if the contractors fail to do works as per schedule.

Saturday, December 29, 2018

New Chinese ambassador arrives in Kathmandu

New Chinese Ambassador to Nepal Hou Yanqi arrived in Kathmandu today to take up her new assignment.
Deputy Chief of Protocol at the Foreign Ministry Khadga Dahal received her at the Tribhuvan International Airport (TIA) today afternoon. Hou is the 21st Chinese envoy to Nepal since the two countries established diplomatic relations back in 1955. She has replaced Yu Hong, who returned Beijing last month – after serving as the ambassador to Nepal for two years – being promoted to joint-secretary.
Before coming to Nepal, Hou was one of the four deputy director generals at the Department of Asian Affairs under the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The new ambassador has expertise over South Asian affairs. Having joined the Chinese Foreign Service in 1996, Hou is in her early 50s and has served in Pakistan and China’s Consulate General Office in Los Angles.
Hou arrived in Nepal at a time when the two neighbours have deepened their bilateral cooperation in the field of economy, politics, culture, tourism, connectivity and people-to-people contacts under the framework of Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).
Earlier in November, the Chinese side had communicated to Foreign Ministry through diplomatic channel about its decision to nominate Hou as the new ambassador.
The new ambassador will start work after presenting the letters of credence to President Bidya Devi Bhandari.

Friday, December 28, 2018

Three banks seek central bank nod to provide stockbroker services

Three commercial banks – Sanima Bank, NIC Asia Bank and Citizens Bank International – have sought permission from the central bank for opening the subsidiary company to work as a stock brokerage firm.
They have applied for the permission of the central bank to set up their subsidiary companies for securities trading as the Nepal Rastra Bank (NRB) has last week – issuing directives – allowed the banks to work as broker company as a subsidiary company. Earlier, the central bank – in its Monetary Policy for the current Fiscal Year 2018-19 – had promised to introduce a provision for the commercial banks to work as stock broker.
The three commercial banks have sought the central bank’s nod to begin the process of setting up subsidiary for providing securities business services, according to the central bank. "Once the central bank gives them permission, the banks will set up a subsidiary company to provide brokerage service for securities business."
The commercial banks had applied before the directives that had said that a commercial bank can make investment in a subsidiary company with minimum 51 per cent ownership to provide securities businesses. After the central bank green signal, they should also get license from the capital market regulator Securities Board of Nepal (Sebon) to work as securities broker.
There are some 50 securities brokerage firms at present. The Sebon – in its annual plans and programmes – has also promosed to provide broker license to bank.
The central bank has, however, barred such subsidiary company from trading securities of its parent company. These subsidiaries will also not be allowed to provide all securities business services, according to Sebon that also claimed that these brokerage firms will be allowed only to execute the trading order of securities of their clients as stockbroker.
According to the capital market regulator, they cannot also provide other securities business services like investment management, dealership, consultancy services as have been understood by many. "Any bank which wants to work as stock broker should first set up subsidiary and acquire the permission from Nepal Stock Exchange (Nepse) before applying the license with the Sebon."
Stockbroker license to commercial banks is expected to expand the share and other securities trading services outside Kathmandu valley also due to their presence across the country.

Thursday, December 27, 2018

CG Telecom to operate mobile service

The Supreme Court has ordered the Nepal Telecommunications Authority (NTA) to allow the CG Communications (CG Telecom) to operate its mobile service. A single bench of Justice Deepak Raj Joshee issued the verdict in this connection today, paving the way for the CG Telecom to bring the mobile service – popularly known as 4G service – within 2019.
After the apex court's order, Chaudhary Group (CG) said that the company will expedite process to launch the mobile service at the earliest. "Following the court's order, our company is now ready to launch the mobile service," spokesperson at the CG Group Madhusudan Poudel said.
The CG Communications had filed a case at the Supreme Court after the authority did not allow the company to run the mobile service even though the company had already acquired Unified license.
A cabinet meeting – on Jestha 14, 2074 – had decided to give license to the CG Telecom to operate the mobile service in May 2017. But the telecommunications regulator has been putting on hold the government the decision. 
Though the government had already decided to provide basic telephony license to CG Telecom, the authority invited telecommunications companies for the auction of residual spectrum in 900/1800/2100 MHz band on Poush 4, 2075. The CG Telecom went to Supreme Court against the frequency auction, which hinders them from getting frequency spectrum. Without frequency spectrum, no telecom operator can start any of the mobile service operation (2G, 3G, 4G).
The SC decision also directs NTA to treat CG Telecom in the same way as other telecom operators. Putting the spectrum auction on hold, SC instructs NTA not to hinder in any way for the operation of mobile service by giving permission to bring equipment and operate with frequency spectrum.
CG Telecom had already started paying the pending sum for the royalty and frequency fees in installment, Poudel said, "Out of total Rs 360 million, CG Telecom has paid the first installement to NTA."
CG Telecom is a subsidiary of Chaudhary Group (CG), the multi-national company from Nepal which manufacturers Wai Wai, owns Nabil Bank, CG Electronics, hotels, insurance and more. Paudel also hinted that the company has already finalised the Strategic Partnership with world renowned International company.

Wednesday, December 26, 2018

NTA chairperson Jha resigns

After three month-and-a-half of his appointment, the chairperson of Nepal Telecom Authority (NTA) Digambar Jha has resigned from his post. He submitted his resignation to communication minister Gokul Baskota today afternoon.
Sensing that the incumbent KP Sharma Oli-led government is going to sack him due to the pressure from within the party, he has put in this paper today afternoon. Before the election, he was appointed by the then Sher Bahadur Dueba-led government. But Jha lost his job after a cabinet meeting on July 4 decided to scrap the appointment made by the erstwhile government of Deuba. Jha had moved the court against the decision of the government. But after agreement with the communication minister Baskota, he took his case back.
Later, Jha was re-appointed as the chairperson of the regulator of the telecommunications sector on September 6 through 'open competition'. It was his third stint as the chairperson of the NTA. But his appointment was controversial within the ruling party itself, and outside of the party.
After a Standing Committee meeting of the Nepal Communist Party (NCP) last week extensively criticised his appointment, some 43 leaders of the ruling party – the day before – has also submitted a memorandum to the chairperson duo KP Sharma Oli and Puspa Kamal Dahal 'Prachanda' asking them to sack the 'corrupt' Jha. Minister Baskota has been blamed for appointing him by taking bribe.
Feeling the heat, Jha today morning organised a press meet and blamed the ruling party for his character assassination. He also challenged them to prove the corruption charge. He claimed that he was going to scrap the licence of UTL, STL and CG as they have been only holding the licence. "There are only two players, Nepal telecom and Ncell, which are serving the customers," he said, adding that one additional multinational player will be enough for the domestic market.

Central bank allows banks to work as brokerage services

The central bank has allowed commercial banks to set up a subsidiary company to provide brokerage services for securities trading.
Issuing a circular today, the central bank said that a commercial bank can set up a subsidiary company with an ownership of a minimum of 51 per cent to provide brokerage service after acquiring license from the Securities Board of Nepal (Sebon).
So far, commercial banks or their subsidiaries were not allowed to work as stock broker though they have been repeatedly asking with the central bank for the permission.
Though providing broker license to bank subsidiary was one of the top agenda of Sebon's chairman Rewat Bahadur Karki, the plan could not be materialised due to the lack of legal apparatus.
However, the central bank's circular today has paved the way for banks to open subsidiary for working as brokerage. The central bank has, however, barred such subsidiary company from trading securities of its parent company.

Tuesday, December 25, 2018

Paddy production increases but not enough to meet demand

Though paddy production has increased by around nine per cent this year, it still is not enough to meet the overall demand of 6.1 million metric tonnes for the countrymen.
Some 5.6 million metric tonnes of paddy was produced this year compared to 5.1 million metric tonnes last year, according to the Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock Development.
The better paddy harvest will give a push to the economic growth – for the current fiscal year – also as paddy has more weitage in Nepal's economic growth, especially agriculture growth, that contributes to around one third to the gross domestic production (GDP).
The increased paddy production has also met the fourth three-year plan of producing 5.5 million metric tonnes paddy. "The increment in paddy yield per hectare of land stands at 3.76 metric tonnes compared to 3.5 metric tonnes last year," the ministry said, adding that the overall increment in paddy yield stood at 8.89 per cent this year. "The paddy fields swelled around 22,000 hectares this year, an increment of 7.27 per cent."
Rains, arrangements for fertilisers on time, the use of hybrid seeds, and less impact of natural disasters contributed to the increment in paddy production, said the agriculture secretary Yubakdhoj GC.
Province 2 topped the paddy production increment this year among the seven provinces, according to information officer of the ministry Binod Bhattarai. "Province 2 witnessed the production of 1.49 million metric tonnes of paddy, an increment of 209,000 metric tonnes, compared to last year."
The paddy plantation – this year – covered some 1.49 million hectares of lands compared to 1.46 million hectares last year. Approximately 97 per cent paddy plantation had been witnessed across the country this year. 

Nepal limits expenditure in India

The central bank today imposed a monthly limit on the amount of Indian Currency (IC) Nepalis can spend in India as the balance of payments (BoP) position of the country has been slipping into deficit for the last few months.
A visiting Nepali would not be able to spend more than Rs 100,000 IC every month while paying for goods and services in India, the central bank said, adding that it will help deal with the current account deficit situation.
Issuing a circular today, the central bank has barred class ‘A’ commercial banks and class ‘B’ development banks from allowing electronic payments of above Rs 100,000 IC per month from a bank account primarily to ease the foreign exchange reserve pressure of the country.
It is the first time that Nepal has enforced a limit on electronic payments for Nepali nationals in India. The policy applicable to prepaid, credit and debit cards of Nepali banks came into effect from today.
Currently, the central bank has set the cash withdrawal limit through cards in India at Rs 15,000 IC per day and a maximum withdrawal amount of Rs 100,000 IC per month. Apart from that, a Nepali national can also get Indian currency of up to Rs 25,000 IC while travelling to India.
The central bank move is a part of the policy adjustments that the economy was making to overcome economic crisis in multiple fronts, according to the central bank spokesperson Narayan Poudel. "The decision is taken to deal with the growing problem of current account deficit and the balance of payment crisis," he said, adding that the measure would however exempt payment in hospitals and pharmacies in India. "Similarly, the Rs 100,000 IC per month electronic payment cap also exempts the current cash withdrawal limit that Nepalis have been enjoying in Indian market."
Chief of the Foreign Exchange Management Department at the Nepal Rastra Bank (NRB) Bhisma Raj Dhungana said that NRB took the step to control capital flight that emerged due to the spending trends of Nepali citizens in India.
Apart from impacting the spending trends of Nepali consumers and tourists in India, the move is also expected to influence trade in the India-Nepal border areas where Nepali businessmen usually pay in Indian Currency.
Apartfrom the BoP deficit, the country has also been witnessing depletion in foreign exchange reserves forcing the central bank to impose a number of currency exchange controls.
Earlier in November, NRB had lowered the foreign exchange facility to $1,500 per passport for outbound Nepali travelers from the earlier ceiling of $2,500. The NRB had also reduced the limit on payments through Telegraphic Transfer (TT) to $30,000 from an earlier limit of $40,000.
According to the central bank, the BoP slipped into a deficit of Rs 57.33 billion in the last four months of the current fiscal year 2018-19, compared to a surplus of Rs 2.4 billion in the same period last fiscal year. Likewise, forex reserves have also dropped to $9.43 billion as of mid-November 2018 from $10.08 billion in the same period last year.

Saturday, December 22, 2018

India relaxes cross-border power trading guidelines

India has relaxed the cross border power trading guidelines by giving recognition to the tripartite arrangement in cross-border trading of electricity. The 'Guidelines on Cross Border Trade Import/Export of Electricity' has also paved the way for Nepal to export surplus electricity to Bangladesh via Indian transmission lines.
The Indian Power Ministry – introducing the new guideline – has removed the discriminatory provision included in the older one, under which Nepali-based hydropower projects, which are owned by the Indian government or have a majority (51 per cent) Indian share were only allowed to export power to India.
The new guideline has, however, included a provision under which two countries having a bilateral agreement with the Indian government can trade electricity between them through Indian power lines after entering into agreement with the Indian government owned-Central Transmission Utility.
"Provided that in case of tripartite agreements, the cross border trade of electricity across India shall be allowed under the overall framework of bilateral agreements signed between the Government of India and the Government of respective neighbouring countries of the participating entities," the guideline reads.
"Where tripartite agreement is signed for transaction across India, the participating entities shall sign a transmission agreement with the Central Transmission Utility of India to obtain transmission corridor access," it further reads, adding that it will foster power trade between Nepal and Bangladesh.
While issuing guidelines on cross-border electricity trade for the first time in 2017, the Indian Power Ministry had neglected a possibility of trilateral arrangement among Nepal, India and Bangladesh. But the new guidelines – issued after withdrawing the old one issued in 2017 – provide an opportunity to its neighbouring countries, including Bangladesh and Nepal to trade electricity between them through Indian territory.
The latest guidelines – that is more progressive and has opened plenty of avenues for the development of hydropower sector in Nepal – also follows the spirit of the Power Trade Agreement (PTA) signed between Nepal and India in 2014, which requires both countries to allow non-discriminatory access to cross-border electricity market.
The older guideline was discouraging to foreign investors and private Nepali power developers planning to construct export-oriented hydropower projects.

Friday, December 21, 2018

Second phase of bridge maintenance project begins

The Department of Roads has started the second phase of nationwide bridge maintenance project from today.
The project aims at repairing vulnerable or damaged bridges along the major highways across the country and enhance their durability, according to director general of the Department of Roads Rabindra Nath Shrestha.
The project 'Second Bridges Improvement and Maintenance Programme-II (BIMP-II),' is a joint project of the government and the World Bank, he said, adding that the government is contributing $63 million, whereas the World Bank is contributing $119 million, respectively for the five-year long project. "The project was preceded by another five-year project of bridge maintenance worth Rs 7 billion, which maintained several bridges across the East West Highway and other highways on the first phase that ran from 2012 to 2017, with contribution of $60 million from the World Bank and the rest from the government."
The first phase had upgraded bridges in different states. The percentage of bridges in good condition was 85 at the end of the first phase, up from 50 per cent in 2012 when the project started.
A total 17-km of bridge length was maintained for bridges with structural damages. Minor repairing works covered 10-km of bridge length.
The second phase will also build 14 new bridges along the Mugling-Narayangadh road section, which was completed this year. Bridges for maintenance are yet to be identified.
The project will conduct risk assessment of the vulnerable bridges along the main highways. New bridges will replace the old ones if needed.
There are about 2,200 motorable bridges across the country and about 400 of them are along the main highways. Another 1,450 bridges are in different stages of construction
The details are yet to be prepared about particular bridges to be included in the project," according to senior divisional engineer Naresh Man Shakya. "We will prepare a three-year maintenance project based on need assessment," he said, adding that construction of new bridges begin thereafter.

Thursday, December 20, 2018

Bankers agree to bring down deposit rate

Nepal Bankers’ Association (NBA) has decided to cap the interest rate on savings, individual fixed deposits and institutional fixed deposits, bowing down to strong pressure from the Finance Ministry and central bank.
The association today – during a meeting – agreed to provide maximum of 9.25 per cent interest to individual depositors, 8.5 per cent to institutional depositors, 6.5 per cent in saving deposits and 4.5 per cent on call deposits.
The decision will come into effect from tomorrow, though the unnatural decision to suppress the rates could bring side effects to the economy.
The banking sector has been competing to increase interest rate due to tight loanable fund. The tightening liquidity situation has created interest rate volatility as the commercial banks began waging an interest rate war by offering higher rates to the depositors by ditching their ‘gentlemen’s agreement’ on interest rates three weeks ago.
Three weeks ago, the association had agreed to limit interest rate on savings to seven per cent and 10 per cent each on individual fixed deposit and institutional fixed deposit. But some banks – news and established ones both – had started accepting fixed deposits at up to 13 per cent interest rate lately after the association let them fix interest rate, on their own.
Following such volatile interest rate regime, the central bank has directed commercial banks to bring down the interest rate on deposits, though it could have adverse impact to suppress the interest rates.
A study committee led by deputy governor of central bank Shivaraj Shrestha has also recommended the Finance Ministry to bar banks and financial institutions from adding premium of over two per cent to the base rate while setting lending rates for the priority sector as a few banks were found adding a premium of up to 12.5 per cent to the base rate, prompting lending rates to shoot up.
Likewise, the committee has also suggested introducing a measure mandating banks and financial institutions to tie up their savings deposit rate to inflation to ensure depositors do not lose out when parking money in the financial institutions.
The commercial banks had started competing in interest rate to attract deposits, breaching their earlier 'gentleman’s agreement'. If the banks suppress the interest rates or start unhealthy competition to hike rates to lure more deposits, either way the economy is getting hurt.
On December 7, the Finance Ministry had formed a panel under central bank deputy governor Shrestha to study the impact of soaring interest rate. The panel – in its report submitted yesterday – recommended the government to put a cap on the bank interest rate to address problems seen in the money and capital markets.
The panel has presented 58 points to address the shortage of loanable fund along with the slump in stock exchange market for short term, medium term and long term.
The panel has also asked the government to reduce the risk weight in shares to 100 per cent from previous 150 per cent. It has also suggested increasing the threshold of margin on loan against shares to 65 per cent from the existing 50 per cent and allowing banks to invest up to 40 per cent of their core capital in shares. At present, the central bank has restricted banks to issue loan in shares only up to 25 per cent of the core capital. 

Stroke claims 3,000 lives annually in Nepal: WHO

World Health Organisation (WHO) has estimated that around 3,000 people in Nepal die due to stroke annually.
The number could be higher in the rural areas than that of estimation as the rural population lack specialists and healthcare for their healthy heart, it said adding that those who have high blood pressure, diabetes, addiction to alcoholism are at risk of stroke.
A training themed ‘Stroke Thrombolysis 2018’ has concluded in Kathmandu where 30 stroke specialists deliberated on how to extend support in the treatment of stroke and how to render healthcare services to the stroke patients at the earliest.
The training organised by Synergy Corporation and Nepal Stroke Association also imparted knowledge about management of stroke and techniques of its cure as well as remedy, among others, according to executive director at the Upendra Devkota Memorial National Institute of Neurology and Applied Sciences Dr Madhu Devkota.
Stroke Specialist Dr JP Agrawal, on the occasion, said that it was challenging to extend city-oriented treatment to stroke patients in the rural areas. He was confident that the training would contribute toward extending this service to the rural population.
Likewise, Association’s president Prof Dr Lekhjung Thapa underscored the treatment from the skilled specialists to the stroke patients, stating that the effects of stroke would be immediately seen on the patient.
Of the total deaths across the world, stroke accounted for 86 per cent of deaths, according to the statics of the WHO.
Likewise, Nepal Medical Association president Dr Muktinath Shrestha pointed out the need to launch awareness drive in the rural areas about stroke. He also called for the government’s attention toward the attack on the health workers and vandalism on the health facilities.

Monday, December 17, 2018

Share investors start hunger strike at Nepse

Two share investors have started a hunger strike on the premises of Nepal Stock Exchange (Nepse) – against the governmental from today – citing that the secondary market has not been serious in addressing their demands.
The share investors’ pressure group has demanded the resignation of finance minister Dr Yubaraj Khatiwada, governor of the central bank Dr Chiranjibi Nepal, chairman of Securities Board of Nepal (Sebon) Dr Rewat Bahadur Karki, chairman of Nepal Stock Exchange (Nepse) Laxman Neupane and chairman of Insurance Board (IB) Chiranjibi Chapagain.
Tilak Koirala and Hari Dhakal – representatives of the pressure group – have started a hunger strike stating that the government authorities – especially finance minister Dr Yubaraj Khatiwada – are solely responsible for the current situation in the stock market.
The share investors’ pressure group has also unveiled a series of protest programmes putting forth various demands including reforms in the capital market, protection of investment and creating an environment conducive for investment.
"We have started a hunger strike for the betterment of the stock market," the pressure group’s coordinator Hari Dhakal said, adding that they strongly demand the resignation of the finance minister, who is not share market friendly. "If the they do not resign they will not end the hunger strike."
They have already been staging a relay-strike since the past eight days. "We have been compelled to launch protest programmes as the government has failed to address our demands," Dhakal added.
Earlier, the Finance Ministry had formed a committee led by deputy governor of Nepal Rastra Bank (NRB) Shivaraj Shrestha comprising share investors to identify the problems in the share market and recommend necessary suggestions. "The committee was supposed to submit its report today but officials at the Finance Ministry refused to accept the report citing that more discussions need to be held regarding the issue,” according to Nepal Investors’ Association.
Asking the government to introduce necessary act, regulations and laws for greater interest of capital market, the protesters have also accused the government-formed committee of ignoring their demands.

Sunday, December 16, 2018

Government fails to improve budget spending capacity

The stable and strongest government – ever since decades – of Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli failed to boost development works across the country like earlier unstable governments. The Oli government has not only failed to invest in capital formation but also improve its spending capacity by the end of five months of the current fiscal year 2018-19.
According to Financial Comptroller General Office (FCGO), the government has managed to spend merely 12.59 per cent of the total budget allocated under capital expenditure in the first five months of the current fiscal year. "Of the Rs 313.998 billion allocated for capital expenditure for the current fiscal year 2018-19, capital spending stands at only Rs 39.51 billion as of yesterday."
The government has spent Rs 250.5 billion as recurrent expenditure during the five months. The recurrent expenditure is basically spending of the government on non-capital formation programmes like salaries of government staffers, social security and other expenses. "The recurrent expenditure in the first five months of fiscal 2018-19 stands at 29.63 per cent of the total allocated budget worth Rs 845.4 billion," the FCGO report reads, adding that the government has been able to spend only 13.98 per cent or Rs 21.7 billion on financing till mid-December out of the total allocated budget of Rs 155.7 billion.
Of the total Rs 1.31 trillion budget for the fiscal year 2018-19, the government’s total expenditure stands at Rs 311.8 billion or 23.71 per cent.
Inefficient system, various expenditure controlling mechanisms and the failure of the government to introduce effective policies to expedite development works led to low capital expenditure. Low budget spending will pull the economic growth not only for this year but also for the years to come as the capital expenditure in development works will help capital formation in future that will lead to the economic growth and employment creation.
On one hand the government has failed to spend, but on the other, it has been able to mobilise Rs 352 billion in the first five months of the current fiscal year 2018-19, which is 37.25 per cent of the total revenue mobilisation target of Rs 945 billion for the entire fiscal year. The low spending and high revenue mobilisation will help bulge the government coffer, which is not a good sign for the economy like Nepal that needs billion of doller in spending in infrastructure to graduate to middle income country by 2030.

Sutlej offers to sell 10 per cent power to Nepal

The Indian power developer Sutlej is proprosing to sell 10 per cent of the energy – available for export from mush-awaited Arun III Hydropower Project – to Nepal.
SJVN Arun III Power Development Company wrote – last week – to Investment Board Nepal (IBN) asking if the Nepal government would be willing to buy 10 per cent of the total energy available for export.
According to the project development agreement (PDA) signed between SJVN and the board, Nepal will receive 21.9 per cent of the total energy generated by the project free of cost while the developer has rights over the rest of the output. The agreement also requires the developer to offer 10 per cent of the electricity from its share to Nepal on commercial terms.
"As we have secured a market for 90 per cent of our share of the energy, we have sent a proposal to board asking if the Nepal government would be interested in buying the rest of the electricity as provisioned in the PDA,” said resident representative of SJVN in Nepal Hari Ram Subedi.
The board has forwarded Sutlej proposal to Nepal Electricity Authority (NEA), the sole buyer of electricity in the country.
The NEA – confirming that the government power utility has received the proposal – said that it will ask Sutlej to clearly mention the terms and conditions and the tariff rate. "If Sutlej quotes a reasonable rate, the NEA will purchase the electricity from Arun III," informed the NEA.
The Indian developer of the export-oriented 900 MW plant located in eastern Nepal is carrying out work on the construction site of the Arun III plant on a war footing after Nepali and Indian Prime Ministers jointly laid the foundation stone for the project remotely this May during Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Nepal visit.
According to the board, Nepal will receive Rs 348 billion over 25 years from the project. The project developer will also provide 21.9 per cent of the energy free of cost, which is worth Rs 155 billion, plus another Rs 107 billion in royalties.

Saturday, December 15, 2018

Transport committees get more time to register as company

Citing the necessity to amend a few provisions in the existing Company Act to bring the large transport associations and committees under the company format, the government has today extended the deadline for the transport bodies – for the second time – to register themselves as a company till mid-March.
Though the government has decided – a few months ago – to end transport cartel, it has failed to implement the decision, presumably under pressure from transport entrepreneurs, and extended the deadline.
The three-month extension allows them to continue operating as committees, which means the public transport operators will run its cartel until then, though the government has promised an amendment in the Companies Act to insert a special provision for the existing bus operator committees to register as companies even if a committee is run by more than 101 individuals.
However retired secretary at the Ministry of Physical Infrastructure and Transport Tulasi Prasad Sitaula claimed that both the changes in the law were unnecessary. "This raises questions as to why should they be allowed to run a company with so many members," he said, adding, "No company requires that many number."
A joint meeting of three ministers – transport minister Raghuvir Mahaseth, industry minister Matrika Prasad Yadav and home minister Ram Bahadur Thapa – decided to allow them to run as bus operator committees for more three months on Thursday, only two days before the Dec 16 deadline.
According to director general at Department of Transport Management, the deadline has been extended for the final time. "The extension is basically intended to address a few concerns raised by the transport entrepreneurs," he said, adding that transport entrepreneurs had last week ‘officially’ agreed to switch to the company model but had set a few preconditions that include transferring transport bodies’ movable and immovable properties, including their vehicles and staffs to the new company.
By scrapping the registration of transport bodies including transport committees and associations earlier in April, the government had claimed that it would not renew their registration from mid-July, if they failed to transform into the company modal. But the  the government’s recent decision – for the second time – to extend the deadline for transport bodies to register themselves as company reflects government’s unwillingness to illegalise transport cartel.
The government move was, however, intended not only to end the monopoly of transporters in the public transportation sector and ensure its growth, but also to bring public transport sector, which makes billions worth transactions annually, under the income tax net of the government. The company model was also introduced to bring the transport operators into tax net, formalise the transport service sector, stop them from manipulating the services, and make public transport a properly organised system.
Publishing a notice a week ago, the department has informed that public vehicles that have not been registered with the department under the company model will not be allowed to ply the roads from December 16. However, going against its own decision to end transport cartel, the department has once again extended the deadline to register themselves into company till mid-March.
According to the department, only around 10,000 public vehicles – of the total 1,500 transport bodies – out of more than 200,000 public vehicles across the country have registered with the department under the company model so far.
The government’s move earlier this year was resisted by the bus operators, who defied the government’s announcement to convert them into companies. They called strikes and the public transport services came to a grinding halt.
Home Minister Ram Bahadur Thapa had led a move to arrest the operators for obstructing essential public service, and ordered seizing bank accounts of the transport committees, though tye resisted to the government move. But the committees surrendered to the government and promised to convert themselves into companies when their bank accounts were frozen. They were given a deadline of doing so until mid-July, but the government later extended it to December 16. 

Friday, December 14, 2018

Nepal can increase exports to South Asia by four-fold: World Bank

Nepal has the potential to increase exports to South Asian countries four-fold, according to a report.
Man-made trade barriers have held back intraregional trade in South Asia, reads the report, ‘A Glass Half Full: The Promise of Regional Trade in South Asia’, Launched here in the capital today. "If these barriers were reduced, intraregional trade could grow from its current value of $23 billion to $67 billion."
Intraregional trade in South Asia remains one of the lowest in the world and accounts for about 5 per cent of the region’s total trade, compared with 50 per cent in East Asia and the Pacific, highlights the report launched at a discussion programme hosted by the World Bank in partnership with the South Asia Watch on Trade, Economics and Environment (SAWTEE). "Nepal mostly exports to South Asia and has a trade deficit of $10.8 billion which is equivalent to 37 per cent of its GDP."
The report also assesses the gap between current and potential trade in South Asia and provides a roadmap for deepening regional trade. It identifies four critical barriers to regional trade: tariffs and para tariffs, real and perceived non-tariff barriers, connectivity costs, and a broader trust deficit.
“Situated in the world’s fastest growing region, Nepal’s potential to expand trade in goods and services is promising,” said World Bank country manager for Nepal Faris Hadad-Zervos. "Addressing its own protectionist policies will help Nepal significantly increase its exports not only to South Asia, but also to the rest of the world."
South Asian countries impose greater trade barriers for imports from within the region than from the rest of the world. More than one-third of intraregional trade falls under sensitive lists, which are goods that are not offered concessional tariffs under the South Asian Free Trade Area (SAFTA). More than 36 per cent of Nepal’s imports from South Asia are under sensitive lists, more than any other country in the region.
The report recommends targeting sensitive lists and para tariffs to enable real progress on SAFTA and calls for a multi-pronged effort to address non-tariff barriers, focusing on information flows, procedures, and infrastructure.
Likewise, connectivity is a key enabler for robust regional cooperation in South Asia. Though repeatedly discussed on increasing connectivity, poor land and air connectivity prevent South Asian countries from reaping the benefits of shared borders, the report adds.
"There are no flights between Nepal and Sri Lanka, the Maldives, or Afghanistan," World Bank Lead Economist and lead author of the report Sanjay Kathuria said, adding that there is only one flight per week between Nepal and Pakistan. "Lack of connectivity is a key contributor to the high cost of trade between Nepal and South Asia and improving connectivity will take Nepal a long way."
The report also suggests that policy makers in South Asia may draw lessons from the India-Sri Lanka air services liberalisation experience, where liberalisation was gradual and incremental, but policy persistence paid off.

Thursday, December 13, 2018

वित्तीय संघीयताका चुनौती

मोरङको बूढीगंगा गाउँपालिकाले त्यहाँ रहेका उद्योगलाई विभिन्न शीर्षकमा लगाएको करविरूद्ध मोरङ व्यापार संघले उच्च अदालत विराटनगरमा मुद्दा दायर गरेको छ । व्यापार संघले सोमबार उच्च अदालतमा बूढीगंगा गाउँपालिकाले संविधानविपरीत दोहोरो कर लिएको भन्दै मुद्दा दायर गरेको हो । संघका अध्यक्ष पवनकुमार शारडाका अनुसार बूढीगंगाले त्यहाँका उद्योगमा यस आर्थिक वर्षदेखि लागू हुने गरी विभिन्न शीर्षकमा अत्यधिक मात्रामा छुट्टै व्यवसाय कर लगाएको छ । जसअनुसार ठूला उद्योगलाई ५ लाख, मझौला उद्योगलाई ३ लाख र साना उद्योगलाई १ लाख कर कायम गरेको छ । साथै घर जग्गा करअन्तर्गत उद्योग भवनसमेतको समेत कर दस्तुर लगाइएको छ । रिट निवेदनमा ‘उद्योगहरूले धेरै अगाडिदेखि करसमेत बुझाई कारोबार गर्दै आएकोमा पुनः पटके सवारी कर, विदेशी सवारी साधनमा लाग्ने दस्तुर र कवाडी कर भनी उद्योगका लागि आउने सवारी तथा कवाडीका सामाग्रीमा दोहोरो कर उठाउन आह्वान गरिएको बोलपत्र नै गैरकानुनी’ रहेको दाबी गरिएको छ । बूढीगंगा गाउँपालिकाले कार्यपालिकाको बैठकबाट दररेट पारित गरी फलाममा प्रति केजी २ रूपैयाँ, पित्तल, तामा, फलाम, जिंकलगायतमा प्रति केजी २.५० र काम नलाग्ने मेसिनरी औजारमा प्रति केजी २ रूपैयाँका दरले लगाएको करले उद्योग व्यवसायको लागतमा वृद्धि भएको अध्यक्ष शारडाले बताए । 
बूढीगंगा गाउँपालिकाले लगाएको करको विरुद्ध ब्यवसायीले अदालतमा मुद्दा नै दायर गरेको एउटा प्रतिनिधिमूलक घटना हो यो । संघीय संविधानको लेखनक्रमममा नै निजी क्षेत्रले संघीयता लागू भएपछि दोहोरो कर तथा अन्य विभिन्न करहरूमा एकरूपता ल्याउनु पर्ने मागसहित राजनीतिक दलका शीर्ष नेतृत्वलाई लामो फेहरिस्त नै बुझाएको थियो । पटक–पटक विभिन्न नाममा दोहोरो कर लगाउँदा उद्योगी–व्यवसायीको मनोबल खस्कने र उद्योग व्यवसायको लागत बढ्न गइ धराशायी हुन्छ ।  संविधान तथा कानुनअनुसार पनि सघीय सरकार, प्रदेश सरकार तथा स्थानीय सरकारले एउटै वस्तुमा पटक पटक कानुन नै नबनाई दोहोरो–तेहेरो कर दस्तुर लिनु गैरसंवैधानिक तथा गैरकानुनी पनि हो । तर राजनीतिको विद्यालयबाट संघीयताको पाठ्यक्रम पढेर हुर्किएको हाम्रो स्थानीय तथा प्रदेश एवं संघीय नेतृत्व नै वित्तीय संघीयताको मूल मर्मविपरित संघीयतालाई नै खतरामा पार्ने क्रियाकलापमा व्यस्त छन् । राज्य पुुनःसंरचना तथा भौगोलिक संघीयताको चुरो भनेको वित्तीय संघीयता हो । यदी वित्तीय संघीयताको बारेमा संविधान निर्माणकै क्रममा व्यापक छलफल भएको भएको भए, आज यो विवाद आउँदैनथ्यो होला । तर, संविधान निर्माणका क्रममा भएका सबै नै छलफल केबल राजनीति र भूगोलमा मात्रै केन्द्रित भयो, चुनावलाई केन्द्रबिन्दुमा राखेर राजनीतिक दलले देशमा शासन गर्ने अभिप्रायले नै संविधानको परिकल्पना गरे । त्यसको परिणाम आज प्रदेश, प्रदेशबीच तथा स्थानीय सरकार, स्थानीय सरकारबीच धेरैभन्दा धेरै लगानी तान्ने र औद्योगिकीकरणमा जोड दिनुपर्नेमा अऔद्योगिकिकरण हुने डर फैलिएको छ । निजी क्षेत्रलाई त्रसित बनाउनु भनेको मुलुक अऔद्योगिकीकरणको बाटोमा जानु हो । मोरङको बूढीगंगा गाउँपालिकाको यो घटना एउटा प्रतिनिधिमुलक घटनामात्र हो ।
नेपालमा शदियौंदेखि एउटा वर्गको केन्द्रिकीत शासनसत्ताका कारण राज्यका सबै स्रोत र साधन उनीहरूको कब्जामा रह्यो । जसका कारण देश गरिबी, अभाव, असमानता तथा अविकासको दुष्चक्रमा प-यो । विगत ७० वर्षदेखि नेपालका राजनीतिक दलले नेपाली जनतालाई घोकाउँदै आएको पाठ यही हो । त्यसैले समानुपातिक, न्यायोचित तथा समविकासका लागि संघीयता आवश्यक छ । नेपाली जनताले राजनीतिक दलको पाठ अक्षरशः पालना गरे र एउटा परिवार वा वर्गको हातबाट शासन सत्ता खोसेर आफनै हातले संघीय गणतन्त्र नेपालको संविधान लेखे । तर, राज्यको पुनः संरचना कुुनै पनि देशको विकासका आयामभित्रको एउटा पाटोमात्र हो । समानुपातिक, न्यायोचित तथा समविकासको लागि, त्यसैले, राज्य पुनः संरचना भौगोलिक कार्यमात्र होइन । स्वस्थानी कथामा झैं एउटा घेरा कोरेर तिमी यो राज्यको राजा भयौ भन्नका खातिर हजारौं नेपाली जनताले बलिदान दिएका होइनन् । तर, राज्य पुनःसंरचना तथा त्यसपछिका केन्द्र सरकारका क्रियाकलापमा स्थानीय तथा प्रदेश सरकारको आर्थिक सक्षमता विकास तथा वित्तीय संघीयताको झल्को नपाईदा एउटा वर्गको हातबाट शासन खोसेर अर्को नवकुलिन वर्गको हातमा शासन सत्ता गएको हो कि झैं आभास हुन थालेको छ । किनकी स्थानीय सरकारमा चुनिएका नेताहरू आफना गैर संवैधानिक तथा गैरकानुनी चुनावी वाचा पूरा गर्न आर्थिक अनुशासनहीनता तथा विकृत वित्तीय अनुशासनको अभ्यास गर्दै छन् । मोरङको बूढीगंगा गाउँपालिकाका पानीमाथि उत्रिएको हिउँको एउटा सानो टुक्रामात्र हो । योभन्दा ठूलो आकार पानीमुनि अझैं छोपिएको छ । त्यसको पूर्ण आकारको अनुमान अहिले कसैले गरेको छैन । जब त्यसको पुर्ण आकार देखिन्छ, जनतामा संघीयताप्रति चरम वितृष्णा नजाग्ला भन्ने छैन ।त्यसैले वित्तीय संघीयताको पहिलो ठूलो चुनौती भनेको अझै पनि जनवादी केन्द्रिकृत राज्य सत्ताको धङघङी नै हो । वित्तीय संघीयता कार्यान्वयनको पहिलो चुनौती अहिलेको केन्द्रिकृत कार्यशैली तथा वित्तीय अनुसाशनहिनता नै हो भन्नेमा विज्ञहरु विश्वस्त छन् । अर्थविद् डा. चन्द्रमणि अधिकारी पनि केन्द्रका नेतृत्वको ब्यवहार संघीय प्रणाली अनुरूपको हुनुपर्नेमा जोड दिन्छन् । तीनै तहको सरकारको चुनाव पछि नेपाल संघीयता कार्यान्वयनमा गएको मान्ने हो भने पनि कार्यशैली भने परिवर्तन भएन । केन्द्रले नै सबै निर्णय गर्ने तथा विकासको जिम्मा लिने हो भने, प्रदेश तथा स्थानीय सरकाले कहिले क्षमता अभिवृद्धि गर्ने र संघीयता पूर्ण रूपमा लागू हुने प्रश्न जटिल छ । किनकी विकास भनेको आर्थिक क्षमता वृद्धि मात्र होइन, अपितुु नागरिकको व्यवहारमा आउने समष्टिगत सुुधार हो । संघीयता अनुरूपको व्यवहार नभएसम्म संघीयता अझ त्यसमा पनि वित्तीय संघीयता कार्यान्वयन हुन सक्दैन । समस्या मोरङको बूढीगंगा गाउँपालिका जस्ता अनेकन स्थानीय तहमा छ, त्यता समाधान गर्न लाग्दा ठिक होला न कि गद्दी छोडेर साधारण नागरिक भइसकेका ज्ञानेन्द्रले नाचेको प्रति टिप्पणी गर्दा ।
दोस्रो चुनौती, तीनै तहका सरकारबीच साधन स्रोतको ठाडो तथा तेर्सो सन्तुलित बाँडफाँड हो । वित्तीय संघीयताका विश्वव्यापी सिद्धान्तअनुरूप वित्तीय स्रोतको प्राप्ति र वितरणसँग सम्बन्धित सिद्धान्तहरूमा राजस्व जिम्मेवारीको सिद्धान्त, अन्तरसरकारी हस्तान्तरणको सिद्धान्त, ऋण प्रवाहको सिद्धान्त, वित्तीय व्यवस्थापनको सिद्धान्त नै प्रमुुख हुन् । तर, देशको भूूगोल, उद्योग–व्यवसाय, स्रोत परिचालनका सम्भावना पनि महत्वपूर्ण हुन् । हाल नेपालमा संघीयता महँगो भयो, कर धेरै लगाइयो भन्ने आवाज जताततै छ । अवश्य पनि केन्द्रिकृत राज्य व्यवस्था भन्दा संघीयता महँगो हुन्छ नै । संघीयता महँगो राजनीतिक व्यवस्था भए पनि जथाभावी कर लगाउँदा आइपर्नसक्ने भावी दुुश्परिणामबारे जनप्रतिनिधिहरू अनभिज्ञ देखिएका छन् । पहिला एउटा सरकार भएकोमा हाल केन्द्र, ७ प्रदेश तथा ७५३ स्थानीय सरकार नेपालमा छन् । प्रादेशिक संसद र मन्त्री, संघीय संसद र मन्त्रीलगायत धेरै निकाय तीनै तहमा राखिने व्यवस्था भएकाले संघीयता खर्चिलो हुुनुु स्वाभाविकै पनि हो । त्यसमाथि चुनावपूर्व गरिएका राजनीतिक वाचा पूरा गर्ने नाममा जथाभावी डोजर लगाउने खर्च विभिन्न करका नाममा थप्नु गैरसंवैधानिक तथा गैरकानुनी हो । सिद्धान्ततः कर जहिले पनि र जुनसुकै प्रकृतिको भए पनि न्यूनतम आवश्यकता पूरा भएपछि मात्र लिनुदिनु पर्ने वित्तीय औजार हो । त्यसैले, जनता अब सचेत भइसकेका छन् र वित्तीय औजारको दुरूपयोग बुझ्ने भइसकेका छन् । कर तिर्ने बेलामा उनीहरूले आफूले पाएको सुुविधाको समीक्षा अवश्य पनि गर्दछन् । देशको भूूगोल, आर्थिक क्षमता, पूर्वाधारको क्षमता, जनताको हैसियत आदिलाई हेरेरमात्र कर नलगाउँदा अर्को विद्रोह ननिम्त्याउँला भन्ने छैन । राज्यको आयस्रोतको ठूलो स्रोत भनेको कर राजस्व हो । तर, एकातिर रोजागारी सिर्जना गर्ने तथा कर तिर्ने उद्योगी ब्यापारीलाई त्रसित पार्ने, अर्कोतिर अत्यावश्यक पूर्वाधारको अभावमा नयाँ लगानी नआउने भएपछि भएका सीमित स्रोत पनि नासिने भयो । संघीयतामा केन्द्र, प्रदेश र स्थानीय सबै सरकारले कर लिन पाउने विश्वव्यापी मान्यता छ भन्दैमा बन्द व्यापार उद्योग नै बन्द हुने गरेर स्रोतलाई नै नष्ट, भ्रष्ट गर्ने अभ्यास गर्दा नकारात्मक सन्देश जान्छ र संघीयताप्रति नै वितृष्णा जगाउँछ । संविधानको अनुसूची ६ मा उल्लेख भएको विषयमा प्रदेश र अनुसूची ८ मा उल्लेख भएको विषयमा स्थानीय तहले कर लगाउन पाउँने भएपनि साझा अधिकारको सूचिभित्रका विषयमा र कुनै पनि तहको सूचीमा नपरेका विषयमा राजस्व उठाउने व्यवस्था नेपाल सरकारले निर्धारण गरे बमोजिम हुन्छ नै । तीनै तहलाई आ आफ्नो अधिकारक्षेत्र भित्रको विषयमा राजस्व उठाउने अधिकार पनि छ । तर राजस्व उठाउनेमात्र होइन उठेका राजस्व सदुपयोगको तथा पारदर्शिताको कुरामा पनि ध्यान दिनु आवस्यक हुन्छ । अपुग स्रोत केन्द्रले संकलन गरेको राजस्व संघ, प्रदेश र स्थानीय तहलाई न्यायोचित वितरण गर्नुपर्ने हुन्छ । प्रदेश र स्थानीय तहले प्राप्त गर्ने वित्तीय हस्तान्तरणको परिमाण राष्ट्रिय प्राकृतिक स्रोत तथा वित्त आयोगको सिफारिसमा हुने व्यवस्था समेत संविधानले गरेको छ ।तर, संविधानले सबै अधिकार दिएको छ । आफै व्यवस्था गर भनेर केन्द्रले भन्ने स्थिती हाल छैन । किनकी उनीहरूको क्षमता अभिवृद्धि पनि आवस्यक छ । त्यसबाहेक आवस्यक स्रोत केन्द्र सरकारले प्रदेश र स्थानीय तहलाई राजस्वको क्षमताको आधारमा वित्तीय समानीकरण अनुदान वितरण गर्ने व्यवस्था गरिएको छ । साथै, प्रदेशले नेपाल सरकारबाट प्राप्त अनुदान र आफ्नो स्रोतबाट उठ्ने राजस्वलाई मातहतको स्थानीय तहको खर्चको आवश्यकता र राजस्व क्षमताको आधारमा वित्तीय समानीकरण अनुदान वितरण गर्नु पर्दछ । नेपाल सरकारले संघीय सञ्चित कोषबाट प्रदान गर्ने सशर्त अनुदान, समपूरक अनुदान वा अन्य प्रयोजनका लागि समेत संघीय कानून बमोजिम वितरण गर्न सक्छ । राजस्व बाँडफाँड गर्नेसम्बन्धी कानुन बनाउँदा प्रदेश र स्थानीय तहले जनतालाई प्रदान गर्ने सेवा, राजस्व उठाउन सक्ने क्षमता, विकासको आवश्यकता, गरिवी र असमानताको न्यूनीकरण र बञ्चितीकरणको अन्त्य जस्ता विषयमा ध्यान पुर्याइएको पनि राष्ट्रिय प्राकृतिक स्रोत तथा वित्त आयोगले बताएको छ ।सिद्धान्ततः संघीय प्रणालीमा राजनीतिक र प्रशासकीय अधिकार जस्तैगरी वित्तीय अधिकार समेत संघीय इकाइहरूबीच आपसमा बाँडफाँड गरिन्छ । संघले प्राप्त गरेको आय (राजस्व) लाई प्रदेश र स्थानीय तहसम्म प्रदेश वा स्थानीय तहको क्षमता, आवश्यकता र क्षेत्रीय सन्तुलनसमेतलाई विचार गरी कानून बमोजिम वा संवैधानिक आयोगको व्यवस्था भए सोको सिफारिसमा वितरण गर्नुपर्दछ भन्ने मान्यता अनुसार नै आयोगले वितरणको फर्मुला बनाएको हो । यसरी वितरण गरेको स्रोत के कामको लागि खर्च गर्ने भन्ने अधिकार भने पूर्ण रूपमा प्रदेश वा स्थानीय तहलाई नै हुन्छ । यसो गर उसो गर भनेर हस्तक्षेप गर्न वा निर्देश गर्न पाइदैन । यसरी स्थानीय तहसम्मै स्वतन्त्र रूपले खर्च गर्न पाइने हुँदा क्षेत्रीय असमानताको अन्त्य हुने, बेरोजगारी समस्या घट्ने, राजनीतिक उत्साह र जिम्मेवारीबोध हुने तथा जनजागरणमा सकारात्मक परिणाम प्राप्त हुन्छ भन्ने मान्यता पनि हो । त्यसैले राष्ट्रिय प्राकृतिक स्रोत तथा वित्त आयोग गठन तथा अन्तरसरकारी वित्त व्यवस्थापन ऐनले पनि सरकारका तहहरूबीच राजस्व बाँडफाँड गर्ने सहजीकरण गर्न गर्दछन् । किनकि साथै, बिनास्रोत साधन समानुपातिक, समन्यायिक तथा समविकास पनि चुनावी नारा मात्र हुन्छ । त्यसैले स्थानीय सरकारकै ब्यवहारका कारण अर्को चुनावसम्ममा संघीयताको विरुद्धको जनमत तयार नहोस् भन्नका लागि पनि वित्तीय ब्यवस्थापन महत्वपूर्ण छ । बिना सफल वित्तीय संघीयता कार्यान्वयन नेपाल फेरि अर्को एउटा राजनीतिक प्रयोगशाला नबन्ला भन्ने छैन । इतिहासले नेपालमा प्रत्येक १०, १० वर्षमा पटके राजनीतिक परिवर्तन भएको देखाउँछ । इतिहास नदोहोरिएला भन्ने प्रत्याभुति दिनसक्ने वर्तमान सरकारको कुनै क्षमता छैन ।
अर्थविद् अधिकारीका शब्दमा नेपालको वित्तीय संघीयताको तेस्रो प्रमुख चुनौती भनेको साधन तथा स्रोतको परिचालन र व्यवस्थापन हो । नेपालको संविधान २०७२ ले संघीय, प्रादेशिक र स्थानीय सरकार गरी तीनैवटा सरकार संवैधानिक हकको अधिकार प्रयोग गर्न सक्ने बनाइ दिएको छ । यसैले, सरकार चलाउन खर्चको आवश्यकता पर्ने भएकाले सबै तहका सरकारको ध्यान करको दर र दायरा बढाउनतिर नै गएको देखिन्छ । संविधानको धारा ६० तथा साझा सूची र ५ देखि ९ सम्मका अनुुसूचीहरूले स्थानीय, प्रान्तीय र संघीय सरकारका कार्यक्षेत्र, अधिकार र साझा अधिकार खुलाइदिएको पनि छ । तर, साधन तथा स्रोतको परिचालन र ब्यवस्थापनमा  नेपालको कुनै राम्रो इतिहास छैन । र संघीयतामा सबैभन्दा ठूलो झगडा यसैमा देखिन्छ । यहि साता काठमाडौंमा भएको अन्तर प्रदेश परिषद्को बैठकमा मुख्यमन्त्रीहरूको गुनासो पनि यसैमा थियो ।    संघीय राज्यव्यवस्था र सरकारको महत्वपूर्ण पक्ष नै शक्ति र स्रोतको बाँडफाँड हो । नागरिक हक–अधिकार, निर्वाचन प्रणाली, सरकार–सरकारबीचको अन्तरसम्बन्धजस्ता विषयहरू शक्तिअन्तर्गत पर्छन् भने राज्य सञ्चालन, जनहित र विकास–निर्माणका लागि स्रोत, आम्दानी र राजस्वको बाँडफाँड र निरूपणसम्बन्धी कुरा स्रोतअन्तर्गत पर्छन् । अधिकारमात्र दिने तर आर्थिक स्रोतको सुनिश्चित नहुने भएपछि मुख्यमन्त्रीहरूका गुनासा बढ्दै जानेछ । जसबाट संघीयता विरोधीलाई बल पुग्छ र दशकौंपछि नेपालीले प्राप्त गरेको राजनीतिक स्थिरता पनि खतरामा पर्ने देखिन्छ । किनकि वित्तीय संघीयता भनेको संघीय प्रणालीमा देशका विभिन्न तहका संघीय इकाईबीचको वित्तीय सम्बन्ध हो । त्यसैले संघीयताको सफल कार्यान्वयन गर्न वित्तीय संघीयता अचुक अस्त्र हो । कुनै पनि संघीय मुलुकको सफल कार्यान्वयन गर्न सरकारका तहबीच स्वस्थ, पारदर्शी तथा सन्तुलित वित्तीय व्यवस्था आवश्यक छ । तर, नेपपमा वित्तीय विकेन्द्रीकरणको पक्ष सहज देखिँदैन । स्रोतसाधन र विकासका गतिको हिसाबले विभिन्न सरकारमा ठूलो भिन्नता पाइन्छ । विगतका तथ्यांक हेर्दा नेपालभित्र ६ जिल्लाबाट ८५ प्रतिशत राजस्व संकलन भइ बाँकी ७१ जिल्लामा १५ प्रतिशत मात्र उठ्ने अवस्था छ ।
नेपालको संविधानले सार्वजनिक, निजी र सहकारी क्षेत्रको सहभागिता र स्वतन्त्र विकासमार्फत राष्ट्रिय अर्थतन्त्र सुदृढ गर्न अर्थतन्त्रमा निजी क्षेत्रको भूमिकालाई महत्व दिंदै उपलब्ध साधन र स्रोतको अधिकतम परिचालन गरी आर्थिक समृद्धि हासिल गर्ने लक्ष्य लिएको छ । संविधानले निर्देशित गरेका लक्ष्य हासिल गर्न निजी क्षेत्रको ब्यापक सहभागिताबिना असंभव छ । निजी क्षेको आग्रहमा नै संविधानको धारा २३६ ले अन्तरप्रदेश व्यापारमा वस्तुको ढुवानी वा सेवाको विस्तारमा कुनै किसिमको बाधा अवरोध गर्न वा कुनै कर, शुल्क, दस्तुर वा महशुल लगाउन वा त्यस्तो सेवा वा वस्तुको ढुवानी वा विस्तारमा कुनै किसिमको भेदभाव गर्न नपाइने व्यवस्था गरेको पनि छ । तर पनि ब्यवहारमा कस्ता समस्या आउने छन् हेर्न बाँकी नै छ । यस्तै, हाल खर्च बढिरहेको कारण संघ, प्रदेश र स्थानीय तहको खर्चको व्यवस्थापन गर्न तथा तीनवटै तहको बजेटको स्रोत व्यवस्थापन गर्न अप्ठ्यारो परेकोले के कसो गरेर नयाँ स्रोत जुटाउन सकिन्छ भन्ने ध्याउन्नमा स्थानीय तह लागेको देखिन्छ । त्यसैले राजनीतिक रूपमा स्वतन्त्र भएपनि नेपाली जनताले संविधानले दिएको आर्थिक स्वतन्त्रता पुर्ण उपभोग गर्न पाउनु पर्दछ । आफूले चाहेको पेशा व्यवसाय स्वतन्त्रतापूर्वक गरेर खान पाउने अधिकारमा कुनै पनि तहको सरकारले हस्तक्षेप गर्दा संघीयता संचालनको लागि चाहिने स्रोत सुक्ने र पुँजी पलायन मार्फत अर्थतन्त्र धरासयि हुने खतरा रहन्छ । मोरङको बूढीगंगा गाउँपालिकाको घटना यस्ता विकृत अभ्यासको अन्तिम उदाहरण बनोस् । 

Nepal sees record 1 million foreign tourists in a year

Nepal witnessed a record tourist arrival this year. The country hosted over the much awaited mark of one million annual arrivals in the 11 months of 2018. "The foreign tourists by air touched 1,001,930 with cumulative increase of 17 per cent over the same period in 2017," according to Nepal Tourism Board (NTB).
According to the board, for the first time in history foreign tourist arrivals from January to November in 2018 has crossed over a million. "The figures do not include the number of overland international visitors to Nepal in October and November this year."
Nepal saw arrival of 940,218 foreign tourists in 2017.
NTB chief executive officer Deepak Raj Joshi remarked that the image of Nepal as one of the most preferred tourist destinations has been reinforced with an extraordinary growth in the visitor arrivals to Nepal, according to a press note issued by the board.
It is a good news as the country is starting Visit Nepal Year 2020 campaign, he said, adding that India and China – the largest source markets for Nepali tourism industry as always in last some years – led in terms of sending more tourists in Nepal. Nepal welcomed a total of 260,124 Indian visitors during the 11 months of 2018 while Cina sent 134,362 visitors during the same period.
The US, Britain and Germany came third, fourth and fifth in terms of sending tourists as of November in 2018. Likewise, the number of American Tourists, which stood at 73,650 in 2017, surged to 82,870 in 11 months of 2018. Tourists from the UK increased to 57,555 from 50,652 in 2017, while German tourists visiting Nepal also grew to 34,479 from 28,702 in 2017. The number of Australians visitors to Nepal in January-November period stood at 33,528.
"Even if overland arrival figures of last year are assumed to be constant, overall growth in January-November period has been 23 per cent,” the NTB press note reads, adding that the arrival of European tourists has also surged in 11 months of 2018. "The total European arrivals in January-November period in 2018 reached 224,206."
"It can also be attributed to the concerted efforts of the government, NTB, private sector and media towards promotion of overall tourism sector in the international tourism arena," Joshi added.
The government targets to bring two million foreign tourists to the country by the Visit Nepal Year 2020.
Though the government is yet to come out with Tourism Satellite Account (TSA), the travel and tourism sector alone contributed about 7.8 per cent to the gross domestic product (GDP) last year.

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Trade to slow in 2019, millions of jobs put at risk by trade conflicts: UN report

Coinciding with a recent trade truce between the US and China to usher in dialogue and trade negotiation, the United Nations (UN) Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) has released a new report discussing the impact of a full-blown trade war and charting potential policy responses in the region to withstand the headwinds.
The Asia-Pacific Trade and Investment Report (APTIR) 2018 notes an accelerated imposition of restrictions on trade in goods and services, and more reservations on Foreign Direct Investment (FDI). The US-China trade tensions have also begun to disrupt existing supply chains and dampen investor confidence, as evidenced by the deceleration in trade growth after the first half of 2018. "If the trade tensions remain, export growth may slow to 2.3 per cent in 2019, compared to a nearly 4 per cent growth in export volume in 2018," it reads, adding that FDI inflows to the region are also expected to continue in their downward trend next year, following a 4 per cent drop in 2018.
Tariff hikes that have already taken place are expected to cut global Gross Domestic Product (GDP) by $150 billion, and regional GDP by a little over $40 billion, if they remain. Importantly, as many of the main export industries in the region are relatively labour-intensive, a contraction of export could spell at least temporary hardship for many workers. At a minimum, Asia and the Pacific will see a net loss of 2.7 million jobs due to the trade war, with unskilled workers -often women- shouldering more severe impact.
The report finds that if the tariff war further escalates in 2019 and investor and consumer confidence drop, global GDP could ultimately be cut by nearly $400 billion, also driving regional GDP down by $117 billion. Almost 9 million people could be put out of work in the region, with many more workers also moving to new jobs in different sectors.
As trade frictions reshape global value chains (GVCs), winners and losers in the region are likely to emerge. Based on research, South-East Asia is well positioned to benefit in the medium term. "As production shifts take place and resources are reallocated across sectors and borders due to the trade conflicts, tens of millions of workers may see their jobs displaced and be forced to seek new employment. Regional integration will be important to create new economic opportunities," director of the Trade, Investment and Innovation Division at ESCAP Mia Mikic said, adding that other complementary policies like labour, education and retraining policies plus social protection measures to support people negatively affected must also be placed high on the policymakers’ agenda if the region is to continue making progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
The report highlights that neither China nor the US can win a trade war: both will see significant economic losses from continuing conflict. It also finds that implementation of mega-regional trade agreements such as the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership, among ASEAN and its six partners, could offset much of the economic losses from trade tensions. ESCAP estimates that implementation of mega-regionals could boost exports by 1.3 per cent to 2.9 per cent and add 3.5 to 12.5 million jobs in employment for the Asia-Pacific.

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

FNCCI asks central bank to tame rising interest rates

The private sector has asked the central bank to crack whip on soaring interest rates.
Federation of Nepalese Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FNCCI) today – submitted a memorandum to the Nepal Rastra Bank (NRB) governor Dr Chiranjibi Nepal asking him to tame the rising interest rate that has added doing business cost.
The abrupt hike in interest rate has made an adverse impact on industries and enterprises, FNCCI president Bhawani Rana told governor Dr Nepal submitting a memorandum at the latter's office.
A delegation led by Rana called on the central bank governor today to draw his attention on the effects of soaring interest rates on deposits on lending rates.
The hike in lending rates will erode the competitive capacity of domestic industries, increase project costs and discourage entrepreneurs and industrialists to start new projects, the delegation told the central bank governor. "The high rates will make it difficult to increase industrial production and narrow widening trade deficit that are key targets of the fiscal and monetary policy."
FNCCI has also suggested the central bank to address high-interest rates and manage liquidity problems that banks are facing at present. Institutional depositors are blamed for driving interest rates higher by bargaining with banks and financial institutions for better rates. The umbrella organisation of the private sector has suggested that the share of institutional depositors – including Employees Provident Fund, Citizen’s Investment Fund and welfare bodies of security agencies – in total deposits should be reduced to 25 per cent from existing 45 per cent.
The FNCCI has also asked the central bank to lower the difference between lending and deposit rates to 3 per cent from existing 4.5 per cent, bring remittances through formal channel, bring money from informal markets to bank and financial institutions, and increase the government’s capital spending. Likewise, it has suggested central bank to bring auto loan down to 50 per cent and introduce credit rating for any private limited company to make borrowings of Rs 1 billion or above.
The central bank governor Dr Nepal responding to the private sector assured that the central bank will take needful initiative to tame rising interest rates.

Friday, December 7, 2018

Ex-minister Pandey accused of embezzling billions

The Commission for Investigation of Abuse of Authority (CIAA) today filed a corruption case at the Special Court against 21 persons – including former minister and chairman of the Kalika Construction Bikram Pandey – accusing them of embezzling Rs 8.32 billion in the course of the construction of main canal of Sikta irrigation project, a national pride project.
They have been charged with using faulty design, substandard construction and repeated collapses of the main canal of the national pride project Sikta.
CIAA spokesperson Rameshwor Dangal confirming that the anti-graft body has filed corruption cases against former minister and chairman of the Kalika Construction, Bikram Pandey after a quality test found problems in the works. "The CIAA has charged with corruption on 20 others – along with Pandey – including government officials and consultants involved in the Sikta Irrigation Project," he said, adding that the anti graft body has lately focussed on irregularities in development project implementation. "Those indicted by CIAA are project chiefs Sarva Dev Prasad, Saroj Chandra Pandit, Dilip Bahadur Karki, and Ramesh Basnet; nine senior divisional engineers; engineers with the Irrigation Department Uddhav Raj Chaulagain, and managing director of the project consultant ERMC-ITECO Nepal JV."
The CIAA has sought to recover Rs 2.13 billion as embezzled amount from Pandey, whose Kalika Construction won the contract of building the main canal of the multi-billion-rupee Sikta Irrigation Project that aims at irrigating 80 per cent of arable land in Banke district. However, the quality of works at the project has been questioned after repeated collapses of the main canal. The main canal was heavily damaged at different sections of a 5-km segment in June 2016 and July 2018. When the newly built channel was first tested in June 2016, it collapsed at multiple sections. Despite repair, it broke in July again during another test.
The CIAA came into action after a government probe panel formed on August 10 submitted the report stating that repeated collapses of the main canal were due to the failure to spot dissoluble soil in the designing phase.
The report prepared by the panel – led by joint-secretary at the Energy Ministry Sushi Chandra Tiwari – had stated that consultants, while designing the project, failed to carry out a special soil test, which led to a fragile canal. The panel reported that the detailed project report prepared by the consultant said nothing about the presence of the dissoluble soil in the area where the canal collapsed.
The panel’s report blamed the dispersive soil for the repeated collapse of the main canal. The canal was built on such soil because the feasibility studies did not mention anything about that, according to the report.
According to the CIAA chargesheet, most structures of the project’s canal section crumbled and the huge investment made in the project proved to be a waste of money, provisions to ensure quality work were not incorporated in the contract as it was signed in haste with the intent of committing corruption, authorities okayed wrong design and incorporated incomplete, ambiguous provisions in the contract without going through the reports prepared in the past on the project, those responsible for construction of the project did not conduct even the quality tests stated in the contract, provisions that could ensure quality work in construction of the embankment of the main canal were overlooked, and the joint in concrete lining was substandard, apart from the main canal that was supposed to withstand the current of 50 cubic metres per second could not withstand lower volume of water.
The Office of the Auditor General – in its 55th annual report – has also stated that despite clear presence of dissoluble soil on the surface, its identification, analysis and treatment were not conducted before constructing the canal. Due to the glitches, construction of the project has been delayed and overall cost shot up. When the project was initiated in 2005-06, it was supposed to be completed by 2014-15 at an estimated cost of Rs 12.8 billion.
Officials now say the project may not be completed before 2019-20. By the time it is fully operational, the project cost is expected to shoot to Rs 25.02 billion.
This is the second instance in the last two months of a leading construction firm being charged by the anti-graft body with corruption. The CIAA on October 6 had filed a corruption case against Pappu Construction owner Hari Narayan Rauniyar and his son Sumit Rauniyar for building a substandard bridge over the Babai river in Jabbighat, Bardiya.

UNESCO warns not to ignore the education needs of internal migrants

Three quarters of all those on the move are internal migrants, often moving from rural to urban areas to find better opportunities. Depending on the definition, Asia has the highest rates of internal migration, at each education level. The new UNESCO Global Education Monitoring Report, 'Building bridges, not walls,' looks at the implications for these movements on education systems.
Director of the GEM Report Manos Antoninis said that countries are underestimating the education needs of children on the move. "Many governments, such as India, have made efforts, including to track migrant children, to set up seasonal hostels or boarding schools and translate school materials," he said, "But they may be missing the bigger picture."
Schools must reflect cultural differences and improve teacher training. Until then, the value of an education will always lose to the attraction of earning money through work, he added.
The report further reads that in India 10.7 million rural children lived in households with a seasonal migrant in 2013. About 28 per cent of youth aged 15 to 19 in these households were illiterate or had not completed primary school, compared to a national average of 18 per cent. About 80 per cent of temporary migrant children in seven Indian cities lacked access to education near worksites. Children of brick kiln workers in Punjab state in 2015 were found to work 7-9 hours a day.
The report also warns of registration and documentation requirements set up to reduce migratory flows that make it harder to enter schools, and have effects even long after they have been eased.
Likewise, the report emphasises the acute education needs faced by children living in slums in the region. It estimates these needs will increase with 80 million more children expected to live in slums globally by 2030. While scarce, data tend to show that education in slums is far worse than in other urban areas.
Slum dwellers’ education needs are often severely impacted by eviction and resettlement: In India, 18 per cent of the students displaced by a River Front Project in Ahmedabad dropped out, and an additional 11 per cent had lower attendance. The 2016 India Habitat III national report committed the government to universal provision of basic services including education. Yet research from the same year showed that urban planners were not being trained to understand the particular needs of slum dwellers.
Children who have left home to become domestic workers are found to be the most vulnerable to exclusion from education.
The report further warns of the negative impact on children’s education that being left behind as parents migrate can have.

Thursday, December 6, 2018

New ILO figures show 164 million people are migrant workers

The International Labour Organisation (ILO) estimates that 164 million people are migrant workers, a rise of 9 per cent since 2013, when they numbered 150 million.
According to the second edition of the ILO’s Global Estimates on International Migrant Workers, which covers the period between 2013 and 2017, the majority of migrant workers – some 96 million – are men, while 68 million are women. This represents an increase in the share of men among migrant workers, from 56 per cent to 58 per cent, and a decrease by two percentage points in women’s share, from 44 per cent to 42 per cent.
“While growing numbers of women have been migrating autonomously in search of employment in the past two decades, the discrimination they often face because of their gender and nationality reduces their employment opportunities in destination countries compared to their male peers,” said director of the ILO Conditions of Work and Equality Department Manuela Tomei.
Nearly 87 per cent of migrant workers are of prime working age, between 25 and 64 years old. This suggests that some countries of origin are losing the most productive segment of their workforce, reads the the report adding that it could have a negative impact on their economic growth.
The report also provides a comprehensive picture of the subregions and income groups in which migrants are working. Of the 164 million migrant workers worldwide, approximately 111.2 million (67.9 per cent) live in high-income countries, 30.5 million (18.6 per cent) in upper middle-income countries, 16.6 million (10.1 per cent) in lower middle-income countries and 5.6 million (3.4 per cent) in low-income countries.
Migrant workers constitute 18.5 per cent of the workforce of high-income countries, but only 1.4 to 2.2 per cent in lower-income countries. From 2013 to 2017, the concentration of migrant workers in high-income countries fell from 74.7 to 67.9 per cent, while their share in upper middle-income countries increased. This could be attributed to the economic development of the latter.
Nearly 61 per cent of migrant workers are found in three subregions; 23.0 per cent in North America, 23.9 per cent in Northern, Southern and Western Europe and 13.9 per cent in the Arab countries. Other regions that host large numbers of migrant workers – above 5 per cent – include Eastern Europe, Sub-Saharan Africa, South-Eastern Asia and the Pacific, and Central and Western Asia. In contrast, Northern Africa hosts less than 1 per cent of migrant workers.
The authors also highlight the importance of gathering more comprehensive and harmonized statistical data on migration at national, regional and global levels. The ILO is planning to produce global estimates on international migrant workers regularly, to better inform decision-making and contribute to the implementation of the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration. 

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

'EU organises round table on women rights'

Nepal has made immense progress in terms of gender equality, according to ambassador, Delegation of the European Union (EU) to Nepal Veronica Cody.
Addressing a half-day discussion on 'Women in Nepal: the Journey To Prosperity' organised – as part of the global 16-day campaign against Gender Based Violence, being implemented in collaboration with the United Nations (UN) –in Kathmandu on Wednesday, Cody lauded the significant steps taken by Nepal in terms of developing inclusive political and economic policies. However, at the same time, she pointed the need to implement the laws and policies in place as there are cases of violence and discrimination against women being reported time and again. She presented the initiative being taken by the EU to advocate for gender equality with the introduction of the 'Gender Champion'. She herself will be taking up the role from January 1, 2019.
Speaker of the House of Representatives Krishna Bahadur Mahara, speaking on the occasion, highlighted that 41 per cent of elected officials at the local level and 32 per cent at provincial and federal levels are women. He also reiterated that the constitution recognises women’s rights as a fundamental right and National Women Commission as a constitutional body. However, he stated that there is still a lot to do to achieve an 'equality-based society'.
Presenting his paper on 'Women for inclusive laws and policies', chairperson of the Committee on Law Krishna Bhakta Pokharel said that the present constitutional and legal frameworks are the most progressive in terms of gender equality till date. The constitution guarantees women’s property rights, reproductive rights and various other social rights. For the first time, Chhaupadi has been criminalised, dowry carries a sentence of 3 to 5 years and rape is now punishable by up to life in prison, he said. However, he accepted that gender bias still prevails when it comes to granting citizenship in the name of the mother. Overall, he expressed optimism that with equal laws now in place, Nepal may be able to achieve an equal society in the next 8 to 10 years.
Likewise, member at the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) Mohna Ansari Mohna Ansari, speaking on 'Women for effective implementation of the laws and policies' stated that although Nepal's laws have been improved but they still are not enough. "And as long as 51 per cent of Nepali population (women) is not included in mainstream development, the nation cannot achieve prosperity," she said.
Chairperson of Women, Entrepreneurs and Development Committee at the Federation of Nepalese Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FNCCI) Kamala Shrestha, on the occasion, presenting an innovative concept of utilising Information and Communication Technology (ICT) to empower women, especially in the field of e-commerce, said that true empowerment can only come from financial independence and hence, women entrepreneurs must be encouraged, most prominently in the field of Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs). She also shed light on the problem that women are often not trusted to take up leadership roles and so, the society must be convinced of a woman’s leadership potentials.
Gender and Social Inclusion (GESI) expert Bharati Silwal Giri, on the occasion, presenting a paper on 'Women in the lead in Nepal: Issues, Challenges and Way forward' challenged the notion of women officials elected at various levels. Women have found a place in public sphere but mostly as token positions. Among the mayor and deputy mayor, women have mostly been elected as deputy mayors. And while Nepal does have a woman president, the position is without power and prerogatives. She expressed that woman must be allowed to do constructive work and not merely given posts. She opined that the major hurdle for women empowerment lies in the institutionalised form of patriarchy.
The roundtable discussion was moderated by Rajesh Hamal, who began by commemorating the relevancy of this discussion on the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
Head of Political, Press and Public Diplomacy Section at the EU Delegation to Nepal Zane Petre thanking all the participants reaffirmed gender equality as a core value of EU and EU’s commitment in gender as a cross cutting issue in its development cooperation with Nepal. She also highlighted EU’s role in both advocacy and practice of gender equality, not just in Nepal but all around the world.

Monday, December 3, 2018

NOC slashes fuel prices

The continuous fall in the prices of fuel in the international market has pushed the fuel price in the domestic market down too. Nepal Oil Corporation (NOC) has – effective from tonight – revised the fuel prices downwards by Rs 2 per litre. "The NOC has reduced the retail prices of petrol, diesel and kerosene by Rs 2 per litre," informed spokesperson of the state utility Birendra Goit. "After the revision, a litre of petrol will now cost Rs 112 while diesel and kerosene will cost Rs 99 per litre," he said, adding that the petrol and diesel are in profit, even after decreasing the price. "However, the NOC still incurs Rs 288 loss in a cylinder of LPG – popularly known as cooking gas – though the corporation is profiting in other petroleum products including petrol, diesel and kerosene.
The NOC revises the price of fuel, according to the price list sent by its sole supplier Indian Oil Corporation (IOC) that sends the price list, twice a month on the first and 15th of the Gregorian calendar.
However, this is the first time, the NOC has reduced the fuel price after the incumbent government led by Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli came to power months ago.

MDBs announce joint framework to combat climate change

Multilateral Development Banks (MDBs) today announced a joint framework for aligning their activities with the goals of the Paris Agreement, reinforcing their commitment to combat climate change.
In a joint declaration, the MDBs committed to working together in six key areas considered central to meeting the goals of the agreement, which aims to limit the increase in global temperatures to well below 2°C, pursuing efforts for 1.5°C.
The declaration was issued at the start of the 24th Session of the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP24) in Katowice, Poland.
"The global development agenda is at a pivotal point," the joint declaration reads. "There is international consensus on the urgent need to ensure that policy engagements and financial flows are consistent with a pathway towards low greenhouse gas emissions and climate-resilient development."
The MDBs and the International Development Finance Club (IDFC) had already pledged in December 2017 to align financial flows with the objectives of the Paris Agreement.
"To realise this vision, we are working together to develop a dedicated approach," the joint MDB declaration adds.
The MDBs plan to break their joint approach down into practical work on six core Paris Alignment areas – the building blocks – including: aligning their operations against mitigation and climate-resilience goals; ramping up climate finance; capacity building support for countries and other clients; plus an emphasis on climate reporting.
This approach builds on the ongoing MDB contribution to climate finance, which, in 2017, amounted to $35 billion to tackle climate change in developing and emerging economies, while mobilising an additional $52 billion from private and public sector sources.
The MDBs will report back to next year’s COP25 gathering on their progress under the six building blocks.
The nine MDBs includes the African Development Bank Group, the Asian Development Bank, the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, the European Investment Bank, the Inter-American Development Bank Group, the Islamic Development Bank, the New Development Bank, and the World Bank Group (World Bank, IFC, MIGA).

World Bank Group announces $200 billion for climate action

The World Bank Group today announced a major new set of climate targets for 2021-2025, doubling its current 5-year investments to around $200 billion in support for countries to take ambitious climate action.
The new plan significantly boosts support for adaptation and resilience, recognising mounting climate change impacts on lives and livelihoods, especially in the world’s poorest countries. The plan also represents significantly ramped up ambition from the World Bank Group, sending an important signal to the wider global community to do the same.
“Climate change is an existential threat to the world’s poorest and most vulnerable," World Bank Group president Jim Yong Kim said, adding that these new targets demonstrate how seriously we take this issue, investing and mobilising $200 billion over five years to combat climate change. "We are pushing ourselves to do more and to go faster on climate and we call on the global community to do the same. This is about putting countries and communities in charge of building a safer, more climate-resilient future."
The $200 billion across the Group is made up of approximately $100 billion in direct finance from the World Bank and approximately $100 billion of combined direct finance from the International Finance Corporation (IFC) and the Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency (MIGA) and private capital mobilised by the World Bank Group.
A key priority is boosting support for climate adaptation, recognising that millions of people across the world are already facing the severe consequences of more extreme weather events. By ramping up direct adaptation finance to reach around $50 billion over fiscal year 2021-2025, the World Bank will, for the first time, give this equal emphasis alongside investments that reduce emissions.
"People are losing their lives and livelihoods because of the disastrous effects of climate change," World Bank chief executive officer Kristalina Georgieva, said, adding that the Group must fight the causes, but also adapt to the consequences that are often most dramatic for the world’s poorest people. "This is why we at the World Bank commit to step up climate finance to $100 billion, half of which will go to build better adapted homes, schools and infrastructure, and invest in climate smart agriculture, sustainable water management and responsive social safety nets."
The new financing will ensure that adaptation is undertaken in a systematic fashion, and the World Bank will develop a new rating system to track and incentivise global progress. Actions will include supporting higher-quality forecasts, early warning systems and climate information services to better prepare 250 million people in 30 developing countries for climate risks. In addition, the expected investments will build more climate-responsive social protection systems in 40 countries, and finance climate smart agriculture investments in 20 countries.
“There are literally trillions of dollars of opportunities for the private sector to invest in projects that will help save the planet,” IFC CEO Philippe Le Houérou, said, "Our job is to go out and proactively find those opportunities, use our de-risking tools, and crowd in private sector investment. We will do much more in helping finance renewable energy, green buildings, climate-smart agribusiness, urban transportation, water, and urban waste management."
The new targets build on the World Bank Group’s 2016 Climate Change Action Plan. In 2018, the World Bank Group provided a record-breaking $20.5 billion in finance for climate action: doubling delivery from the year before the Paris Agreement and meeting its 2020 target two years ahead of schedule.
The World Bank Group will support the integration of climate considerations in policy planning, investment design, implementation and evaluation to increase system-wide impact for countries. It will also support at least 20 countries implement and update Nationally Determined Contributions and increase engagement with Ministries of Finance in the design and implementation of transformative low-carbon policies.
In key sectors, efforts will include:
• In Energy: Support the generation, integration, and enabling infrastructure for 36 GW of renewable energy and support 1.5 million GWh equivalent of energy savings through efficiency improvement;
• In Cities: Help 100 cities achieve low-carbon and resilient urban planning and transit-oriented development;
• In Food and Land-Use: Increase integrated landscape management in up to 50 countries, covering up to120 million hectares of forests.

Japan hands over newly reconstructed bridges

The government of Japan handed over five bridges which were newly constructed along the Barhakilo-Barpak road in Gorkha amidst a formal inauguration ceremony in Gorkha – near the epicenter of the 2015 Gorkha earthquake – today to the government of Nepal.
Ambassador of Japan Masamichi Saigo and the newly appointed chief representative of JICA Nepal Office Yumiko Asakuma were present in the event where minister for Physical Infrastructure and Transport Raghubir Mahaseth was the chief guest.
In December 2015, half a year after the devastating Gorkha earthquake, the two governments signed an agreement for Japanese grant assistance of to be provided for major infrastructure reconstruction and rehabilitation including the 3 bridges in Gorkha.  The Subproject of Bridge Construction along 'Barhakilo-Barpak Road' is one of the 3 sub-projects under the umbrella grant 'the Programme for Rehabilitation and Recovery from Nepal Earthquake.
This subproject amounting to JapaneseYen930 million was initiated to support speedy reconstruction and recovery in the earthquake affected areas by ensuring all-season reliable access to the northern part of the Gorkha district. The construction of the three PC (pre-stressed concrete) bridges by the grant subproject – Daraudi Khola Bridge, Ghatte Khola Bridge, and Rangrung Khola Bridge – was completed in July 2018.
In addition, two reinforced concrete bridges – Khahare Khola Bridge and Jhyalla Khola Bridge – were also constructed by another JICA technical cooperation project "the Project on Rehabilitation and Recovery from Nepal Earthquake."
On the occasion, ambassador Saigo expressed his hope that the 5 newly constructed bridges will enable the people to access other communities, major markets and cities conveniently and safely throughout the year, and this would contribute to enhance the accessibility to public services, and to improve the economic activities in the northern part of Gorkha. He also hoped the friendship between Japan and Nepal will be further strengthened through this project.
Chief Representative of JICA Nepal Asakuma, on the occasion, expressed JICA’s commitment to continuing its support to the post-earthquake recovery in Nepal based on the Build Back Better (BBB) concept. She also shared her hope that the new bridges will contribute to not just supporting speedy reconstruction and recovery in the surrounding areas, but also bringing in new energies, resources, and initiatives for longer-term sustainable development in the affected communities.
The local people around these areas have benefitted at large with this new development of extended accessibility and prefer calling the new bridges as 'Japanese bridges'. It is hoped that these bridges will help expedite recovery in the surrounding communities and also stands firm as a symbol of friendship between the two nations.

Saturday, December 1, 2018

Toastmaster’s conference concludes

The first ever division conference of Toastmaster’s of Nepal concluded in Kathmandu today.
More than 250 members attended the conference from 14 different clubs in Nepal.
A distinguished toastmaster from Bangalore in India Dr Rajdeep Manwani delivered his keynote address and conducted a talk session in the conference. Dr Manwani is an academician, trainer, motivational speaker, life coach, counselor and quizmaster par excellence both by training and by choice. He is a triple postgraduate and a PhD having completed his MCom, MBA and MPhil and also a doctorate in commerce on the topic Strategic evaluation of training in commercial banks.
Nepal Toastmasters, on the occasion, also recognised and awarded a media personality 'Communication Award 2018' to Dr Swarnim Wagle, who was chosen by an eminent panel of jury members on the very day. This is the first of its kind award, which is awarded to a non-toastmaster member by the fraternity. Nepal Tournaments has announced to hand over the award every year.
On this special occasion Toastmaster also launched official website of Nepal.
"We are proud to have organised the first ever all Nepal Toastmaster Conference today," the division director of Nepal distinguished Toastmaster Ranjit Acharya said, "Almost 50% members participated and benefitted today. Learn, lead and leverage was our theme and we are hopeful that we could deliver the same to our members.”
Toastmasters International is a world leader in communication and leadership development.

Govt urges World Bank to revise ‘Doing Business’ methodology

The government has again expressed strong concerns regarding the ‘Doing Business’ report, which was published by the World Bank (WB) on October 31.
At a programme organised by the Society of Economic Journalists-Nepal (Sejon) to mark the 21st Sejon Day in the Valley, finance minister Dr Yubaraj Khatiwada, said that the report had reflected a negative picture of the country’s economic condition and investment environment.
“We had expressed our concern to the World Bank over the report," he said, adding that the World Bank mission officials have already arrived in Nepal and have started reviewing the report.
Minister Khatiwada rued the fact that the World Bank had been using six months old data to prepare report. "The World Bank must use the latest data as much as possible if it wants to provide a relevant report,” he emphasised, adding that it should include data till at least October. However, the World Bank (WB) prepares the report according to its annual schedule despite the change in governments in any of the countries. It also uses the data according to its annual calendar, not according to each of the country. But Khatiwada claimed that the World Bank collects data till May only and it is the major reason for a gloomy investment picture of the country.
Nepal ranked 105th in the ‘Doing Business’ ranking in 2017 but this year the country has dropped to the 110th position, hinting at a weakening state of trade and investment climate as it has failed to simplify the tax payment process. But Khatiwada claimed that the tax regime in Nepal is more progressive and simplified against what the World Bank reported. He also reiterated that the incumbent government has created an investment friendly environment by taking the initiative to strengthen existing policies and the system of the government but the report does not reflect that.
“World Bank needs to change the methodology of its research," the finance minister added, though the World Bank doesnot change the methodology for any one country.
Khatiwada, on the occasion, also defended the whopping trade deficit. "We recently acquired two wide-body aircraft for Nepal Airlines Corporation,” he said, adding that Nepal needs to import the equipments for development works like hydropower, which will in long run pay off. "We are planning to generate 10,000 megawatts of electricity in the next decade and for that we have to import machinery and equipment, so import in itself should not be taken as a negative development."
On the occasion, Sejon presented Rudra Khadka of Nagarik Daily and Subash Yonjan of Capitalnepal with the annual Sejon Award.
Khadka has awarded under the print media category. He was recognised for his series of in-depth stories on Sikta Irrigation Project. Khadka has been honoured with a cash prize of Rs 50,000 and a certificate of appreciation.
Similarly, in the online category, Subash Yonjan from was honoured with the Sejon award for writing in-depth stories on fake rescue scams in the mountaineering and trekking sectors. Likewise, Bhagwan Khanal from Karobar National Economic Daily was awarded Late Sanjay Neupane Research Grant, while Amar Baduwal and Arun Sapkota were given Hydro Solution Fellowship grants.
Likewise, editor of Karobar National Economic Daily Kuber Chalise, chief editor of Abhiyan Daily Madan Lamsal, Hridaya Gautam from Ajako Artha and news chief of Kantipur TV Prashant Aryal were honoured by the Sejon for their long contributions in economic journalism.