Thursday, January 31, 2019

Urge to focus on quality of audits to improve trust

Accountancy professionals urged the accountants to improve the quality of audit for enhancing public trust on audit reports issued by them.
Speaking at a session on ‘Enhancing Quality of the Audit to Meet Expectations of Stakeholders’ during a day long ‘Conference on Accounting Profession and Way
Forward' – organised by the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Nepal (ICAN) – in Kathmandu today, they said that chartered accountants should conduct audit of corporate and public enterprises in accordance with auditing standards prescribed by the regulators.
ICAN – an autonomous body to regulate chartered accountancy in Nepal – has organised the conference on the occasion of its 22nd anniversary.
Experts and practitioners, on the occasion, presented and commented on technical papers in four sessions during the conference, where they discussed on Blockchain and Financial Market, Corporate Governance Reporting and Role of Professional Accountants, Experience in Implementation of Nepal Financial Reporting Standards in Nepal.
Over 250 participants, including ICAN members, government officials, corporate executives, regulators and chartered accountants, participated in the conference, where finance minister Dr Yuba Raj Khatiwada also addressed. 

Wednesday, January 30, 2019

World Bank to help scale up renewable energy options in Nepal

The World Bank today approved Strategic Climate Fund (SCF) Grant in the amount of $5.61 million and SCF Loan in the amount of $2 million to help Nepal diversify its energy sources to renewable. The SCF grant and credit support the private sector-led Mini-Grid Energy Access Project, which aims at mobilising energy-service companies in selected regions of the country to increase capacity of renewable energy mini-grids.
"One component of the project will provide credit facility to the private sector to support renewable mini-grid sub-projects, and help this sector prosper and expand,” said World Bank senior energy specialist and task team leader of the Project Subodh Adhikari. "The second component will provide technical assistance to the mini-grid sector, energy-service companies and partner banks to ensure smooth and sustainable implementation," he added.
The Project is aligned to the efforts of the government to address barriers to private sector participation in the renewable energy mini-grid sector. The Project will aim to address these barriers by successfully demonstrating new approaches that will promote public-private partnerships (PPPs). Private entities and cooperatives will be mobilised to provide electricity services to rural areas as 'energy service companies' (ESCOs). These specialised ESCOs will crowd-in the necessary technical expertise and financing capacity to develop, build, own and operate renewable mini-grid projects. They will have access to better credit terms and stronger project development support through the Project.
“This Project will tap into the vast business opportunities and technical potential for the private sector to provide more efficient and sustainable energy services in Nepal,” said World Bank country manager for Nepal Faris Hadad-Zervos. "It is directly linked to the Nepal government’s effort for greater private sector management and commercial financing through public-private partnerships, and the World Bank’s mission of maximizing all financial opportunities for development,” he added.
The Project aims at improving the overall energy supply situation in Nepal by promoting renewable energy solutions, including the opportunities to capture private sector efficiencies through PPPs. This is consistent with the World Bank Nepal’s Country Partnership Framework (CPF) that has identified unavailability of energy supply to be one of the major obstacles in investment, productivity, and livelihood opportunities. The Project will introduce conditions to gradually shift from subsidised model to a commercial business model in mini-grids, pushing for a vibrant and long-term energy market to combat it.
While enhancing the market, the Project ultimately aims at supporting rural residential and nonresidential customers, who will gain access to new or improved energy services in rural areas through renewable energy mini-grids.

Central bank directs banks to ease concessional loans

The central bank has directed Banks and Financial Institutions (BFIs) – after receiving complaints that the BFIs were reluctant to provide concessional loans under the government scheme – to make arrangement to ensure that eligible people get credit facility from their branch offices easily.
Issuing a circular today, the Nepal Rastra Bank (NRB) also directed them to prepare internal working procedures in line with the Unified Working Procedures on Interest Subsidy for Concessional Loans and provide the subsidised loans of appropriate scheme to eligible and interested public through their respective branch offices across the country.
Following various complaints from the public that they did not get subsised loans from the BFIs, the central bank was pressurised to issue directives for the implementation of interest subsidised loan schemes.
Earlier some four months too, the central bank had issued a circular to the licensed BFIs to implement the working procedure of interest subsidised loan schemes as announced by the government in the budget speech for the current fiscal year 2018-19. The budget has announced cheaper subsidised interest rates on loans for targeted groups including migrant worker returnees, women entrepreneurs and earthquake survivors. The government has promised to pay certain percent of the interest costs – through the central bank – of these loans. The government bears 5 per cent to 6 per cent of the interest cost based on the scheme of the loans. Some of these new schemes bear certain per cent of interest expenses for loans up to Rs 50 million for commercial agro and livestock farming, Rs 700,000 for educated self-employment youth, Rs 1 million for migrant worker returnee’s business project, Rs 1.5 million for women enterprise and Rs 1 million for business for Dalit community.
Likewise, others, who are eligible to get the interest subsidised loans are earthquake survivors – up to the limit of Rs 300,000 to rebuild their houses – and youths up to Rs 500,000 for higher and technical or entrepreneurship education.
According to the central bank, banks are not allowed to charge more than 2 per cent premium on their base rate as interest rates in these loans that have maturity period of up to five years.
But the implementation of the subsidised loan scheme no easy cake as the banks need the complete paper works and lenders must eligible to get such loans.
"The directive is issued to prepare the internal working procedure in line with the central bank’s working procedure and make arrangement that eligible and interested public get such loans under the appropriate heading stated in the working procedure through any branch across the country," reads the central bank directive. 

Gold price looks up to Rs 62,200 a tola

Taking cue from the international market, gold in the domestic market today reached Rs 62,200 per tola (11.333 grams), up from Rs 61,500 per tola yesterday. The gold price has increased by 1.63 percentage points – from Rs 61,200 on Sunday to Rs 62,200 today – according to Federation of Nepal Gold and Silver Dealers Association.
In August 2012, gold has fetched Rs 63,300 – the highest price of the precious yelloe metal in the domestic market – per tola. Likewise, the lowest price the domestic market recorded was at a low of Rs 47,700 per tola. If the current trend continuous in the international market, the precious yellow metal will break the record in the domestic market next week.
The gold price in the international market has been hovering between $1,283.25 and $1,311.95 per ounce in the last week.
The precious metal price has been continuously increasing since a month. "In the beginning of January, the gold price stood at Rs 61,000, before increasing by 1.97 percentage points to Rs 62,200 today," the association reported, adding that increasing international gold prices and depreciating Indian Currency (IC) – because of weakening dollar as a result of current trade tension between China and the US – have influenced the domestic gold market. "Due to continuous increase in price, the demand for gold has also been decreasing."
According to former president of the association Tej Ratna Shakya, "The rising US-China trade tension and decreasing consumer confidence in dollar and weak performance of the international stock markets can be attributed for the rising gold price."

Dhurmus Suntali Foundation to construct international cricket stadium

The Dhurmus Suntali Foundation is going to construct an international cricket stadium in Bharatpur Metropolis in Chitwan District, though big infrastructure project construction should be the key responsibility of the government.
Dhurmus Suntali Foundation and Bharatpur Metropolitan City today signed an agreement – in the presence of Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli and chairman of Nepal Communist Party (NCP) Pushpa Kamal Dahal 'Prachanda', apart from leaders from various political parties – on the land acquisition for the construction of the Gautam Buddha International Cricket Stadium at a function held at City Hall in the capital.
The social organisation – founded by comedian couple Sitaram Kattel 'Dhurmus' and Kunjana Ghimire 'Suntali' – has claimed that the international stadium will cost around Rs 3 billion and will be completed within 2 years.
According to the agreement, the international cricket stadium will be constructed at an estimated cost of Rs 3 billion in Bharatpur-16, Dhurmus said, adding that the stadium is expected to be completed in next two and half years and handed over to Bharatpur Metropolis. "The funds will be collected from Nepalis at home and abroad to construct the stadium."
The cricket stadium will be built in an area of 20 Bighas and six Katthas land – which is now in the name of Tribhuvan University and being occupied by Agriculture and Forestry University – the foundation informed, urging everyone to help provide support to construct the international cricket stadium.
Nepal ranks at the 15th position in the ICC ODI ranking, though Nepal is suspended by the ICC at present and ineligible to hosts ODI matches in home. The maiden ODI series win with UAE – with couple of world records – yesterday is a moral and confidence booster for the team but the government has been not able to provide basic infrastructure for the development of cricket in the country. But the initiative by the Dhurmus Suntali Foundation has encouraged the cricketers.

Tuesday, January 29, 2019

Nepal tries to correct diplomatic blunder

After the 'diplomatic blunder' by the party co-chairman Puspa Kamal Dahal 'Prachanda', the Nepal Communist Party (NCP) led government has claimed that it stands for peace, stability and unity of Venezuela. "Nepal calls for resolution of differences through peaceful means," a press note released today by the Foreign Ministry reads.
It also said that the people of Venezuela have the ultimate right to take a decision on the country’s political and constitutional course. "We have been closely following the recent political development in the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela,” further reads the press note, adding, "In line with its principled position, Nepal believes that internal political problems of a country need to be resolved within its constitutional parameters in a democratic manner, free from external interference."
However, Nepal’s official position – of the non-aligned – bends away from the statement released by ruling NCP (NCP) co-chairman Dahal on January 25. On Friday, the NCP had issued a statement bearing recognition to democratically elected constitutional President Nicolas Maduro. The NCP (NCP) statement read that the recognition of self-declared acting president Juan Guaido by US and other states is ‘unacceptable intrusion’ in internal affairs and an attempt of ‘imperialist coup’.
The statement – the diplomatic blunder of Nepal siding with Russia-China group against Nepal's position of non-aligned – followed the stand taken by China, Russia and a number of other countries, who have criticised the role of the US and its allies on Venezuela’s political crisis.
The letter signed by NCP (NCP) co-chairman Dahal – in absence of the party’s another co-chairman and also the Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli – had not triggered a debate over whether it is the official position of the government or the NCP (NCP) only but also raised serious concern from the US. The US has also sought Nepal government's official position in the issue.
Foreign experts claimed that the Dahal statement on Friday was a reaction to the statement issued by around a dozen Kathmandu-based missions including the UN, who asked the government to finalise Truth and Reconciliation Commission and Commission for the Investigation of Enforced Disappeared Persons (CIEDP).
On Thursday, issuing a press note Kathmandu-based diplomatic missions of Australia, Germany, European Union, Finland, France, Norway, Switzerland, United Kingdom, United States of America, and United Nations said, "Noting the looming expiration of the mandates of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and the Commission for the Investigation of Enforced Disappeared Persons, as well as the upcoming fourth anniversary of the 2015 Supreme Court ruling that affirmed certain requirements for transitional justice processes, we encourage the government to clarify to the public its plans to take the transitional justice process forward in 2019."
Though, Nepal has extended diplomatic relations with 163 countries around the world, it has not been in any group historically. Nepal and Venezuela had tied the bilateral relations on April 28, 1987.

Nepal ranks 124 in corruption perception index

Despite a stable and strong government – in the history of the country – Nepal failed to crack whip on corruption. "Nepal climbed two points to 124 in the Transparency International's annual Corruption Perception Index-2018 from 122 last year among the 180 countries, though it has equal score compared to last year," according to a report released today by the Transparency International Nepal (TI Nepal).
Nepal's position has stayed the same as there was no headway to reduce corruption this year, the CPI-2018 report reads, adding that after the elections of 2017, corruption in the public sector, businesses and by government officials continue to plague the country.
In South Asia, Nepal ranks the third most corrupt country as Bhutan – ranked at 25 – is the lease corrupt country followed by India (ranked 78), Srilanka (at 89), Pakistan (at 117), Maldives (at 124), Bangladesh (at 149) and Afghanistan at 172.
The CPI measures the extent of corruption within a country on a scale ranging from zero to 100. Countries securing higher scores are rated as the least corrupt and those with low scores are perceived to be the most corrupt. The annual Index is generated based on surveys conducted by the World Bank, World Economic Forum, Global Insight, Bertelsmann Foundation, World Justice Project and Varieties of Democracy (V-DEM).
TI has been publishing the report since 1995 but Nepal was included in the CPI report from 2004 AD.
"Two third of the countries – in the report – have scored below 50 with an average score of 43," according to the report. The CPI 2018 draws on 13 surveys and expert assessments to measure public sector corruption in 180 countries and territories. Since 2012, only 20 countries have significantly improved their scores, including Estonia and Côte D’Ivoire, and 16 have significantly declined, including, Australia, Chile and Malta.
"The inability to control corruption has threatened democracy across the world," it further reads, adding that highly corrupt countries are found to be repressive and authoritarian and curtail democratic practices. "Likewise, in lesser corrupt countries, there is rule of law, independent monitoring agencies, free press, and aware citizenry."
The CPI 2018 has also revealed that the continued failure of most countries, including Nepal, to significantly control corruption is contributing to a crisis of democracy around the world.
"With many democratic institutions under threat across the globe – often by leaders with authoritarian or populist tendencies – we need to do more to strengthen checks and balances and protect citizens’ rights,” managing director of TI Patricia Moreira said in a press release. "Corruption chips away at democracy to produce a vicious cycle, where corruption undermines democratic institutions and, in turn, weak institutions are less able to control corruption,” she added.
Transparency International has called on all governments to strengthen the institutions responsible for maintaining checks and balances over political power, and ensure their ability to operate without intimidation, close the implementation gap between anti-corruption legislation, practice and enforcement and support a free and independent media, and ensure the safety of journalists and their ability to work without intimidation or harassment to make real progress against corruption and strengthen democracy around the world.
Denmark – with a score of 88 – is the least corrupt country in the world, whereas Somalia – with a score of 10 – is the most corrupt country in the world followed by New Zealand – with a score of 87 – and Nepal joins the club of 124th position with Djibouti, Gabon, Kazakhstan and Maldives.
"The score received by Nepal on the index suggests that the situation of corruption is worrisome," TI-Nepal press note reads.

Monday, January 28, 2019

Paras hits ton as Nepal beat UAE to secure maiden ODI series win

Skipper Paras Khadka smashed a debut One Day International (ODI) ton and propelled his team to a maiden overseas series win over UAE – after defeating the third and final match of the three-match – at the ICC Academy Oval in Dubai today. Khadka hit 115 runs in just 109 balls to become the first ever Nepali batsman to record ODI ton before being trapped leg before wicket (lbw) by Qadeer Ahmed in 38.5 overs.
Nepal opted to field first – after winning the toss – and restricted the hosts to a formidable score of 254/6 in the 50 overs. Nepal successfully followed its first ever ODI target of 254 runs – also the highest – in 44.4 overs losing six wickets to clinch the series.
Nepal – following the impossible looking score – clinched the victory by four wickets with thirty-two balls to spare. Khadka was out in lbw of Qadeer Ahmed’s spin delivery in 115 runs – with fifteen fours – off 109 balls, when the team still needed 40 runs for victory, which looked like the game went out of Nepal's hand.
But the lower order batsman Sompal Kami took away the game with a towering six to register the historic win. Sompal Kami and Aarif Sheikh combined for 40 unbeaten runs for the seventh wicket to take the team home.
UAE team was once reeling at 47/4 at one stage before the lower middle order steadied their innings, and posted a 254/6 in the 50 overs. Shaiman Anwar top-scored for the hosts on 87 runs – off just 70 balls with nine fours and two sixes – whereas Mohammad Boota remained 59 not out to pose a decent total on board.
Karan KC and Paras Khadka took two wickets each, whereas Sompal Kami and Sandeep Lamichanne claimed one each.
While batting Nepal lost its first wicket in 4.3 overs, with Binod Bhandari at 9 runs – caught by Ghulam Shabber off Mohammad Naveed – but skipper Paras Khadka and opener Gyanendra Malla stood firm on the crease and stabilised the inning. Malla scored 31 runs – off 35 balls – and debutant Sandeep Jora contributed 19 runs. Likewise, world record holder young batsman Rohit Kumar Paudel contributed 16 runs.
UAE’s Imran Haider, Ashfaq Ahmed took two wickets, whereas Mohammad Naveed and Qadeer Ahmed chipped in with a wicket each.
Earlier, Nepal had lost the opening match with three wickets, whereas won the second match by a wide margin of 145 runs to level the series 1-1. Skipper Rohit Kumar Paudel – in the second match – rewrote history as the youngest batsman to hit ODI fifty runs by overpowering Pakistan’s Shahid Afridi and India’s Sachin Tendulkar’s record.
After gaining ODI status – after world cup qualifying games in Zimbabwe – Nepal toured to the Netherlands before the Gulf states for three ODIs and three T20 Internationals. They played a 1-1 draw in the Europe tour.
Though, Nepal – at present – is suspended by the ICC and is ineligible to hosts ODI matches in home, it ranks 15th in the ICC ODI ranking. The ODI series with UAE has also helped Nepali cricket a moral and confidence booster with couple of world records.

Saturday, January 26, 2019

Paudel beats Tendulkar, Afridi to become youngest man to hit ODI 50

Nepali all-rounder Rohit Kumar Paudel – at 16 years and 146 days old – has become the youngest male batsman in history to register a 50 in One-Day International cricket – writing a new history at the ICC Academy in Dubai – after hitting 55 runs off 58 balls against UAE today. After losing an opener yesterday, Nepal bounced back today to register a thumping victory over UAE.
With a remarkable batting display Paudel has beaten the likes of legendary Indian batsmen Sachin Tendulkar and Pakistan’s Shahid Afridi.
The previous record was set by Afridi, who registered 102 runs against Sri Lanka aged 16 years and 217 days in Nairobi in 1996. The other international record of a half-century in a Test Match was set by Indian cricket legend Tendulkar, who registered 59 runs against Pakistan at the age of 16 years and 213 days in Pakistan in 1989.
The right-hand batsman said that he raised his bat only after Karan KC told him that he hit a half-century.
Afridi had converted his half-century into a 37-ball 102 which remained as the fasted ODI century for a long time. Likewise, Indian star cricketer Tendulkar had made 59 runs against Pakistan in test cricket at the age of 16 years and 213 days.
Paudel’s 55 runs was Nepal’s highest score in the second ODI against UAE, which Nepal began 1-0 down in the series and finished on 242/9 after winning the toss and electing to bat.
Right hand batsman Paudel of Nawalparasi was 15 years and 335 days old when he made his ODI debut against the Netherlands in August last year, making him the fourth youngest man. Paudel first caught attention for hitting India fast bowler Kamlesh Nagarkoti for 24 runs in five balls in a U19 ODI in 2016.
The overall international record is held by South Africa’s Johmari Logtenburg, who hit both Women’s Test and ODI fifties as a 14-year-old.

Friday, January 25, 2019

Nepal still ‘mostly unfree country’: Heritage Foundation

Nepal’s economic freedom score has gone down to 53.8, making its economy the 136th freest in the 2019 Economic Freedom Index.
Its overall score has decreased by 0.3 point from 54.1 points in 2018 Economic Freedom Index, with lower scores for trade freedom and government spending exceeding improvements in labour freedom and monetary freedom.
Nepal is ranked 34th among 43 countries in the Asia–Pacific region, and its overall score is below the regional and world averages, the 2019 Economic Freedom Index, published by the Heritage Foundation, revealed.
There is a fundamental lack of entrepreneurial dynamism in landlocked and isolated Nepal that holds back long-term development, it reads, adding, “Although the government signed a trade and investment deal with India to increase Nepal’s hydropower potential, foreign investment has been hampered by political uncertainty, a history of statism, and a difficult business climate.”
Cronyism, a burdensome approval process, and a lack of transparency are other impediments, it adds. “Property rights are undermined by an inefficient judicial system that is subject to substantial corruption and political influence.”
Nepal, the youngest federal republic since 2008, is wedged between India and China. In the decade since then, Nepal has faced nearly continuous political instability, and it remains one of the world’s poorest and least-developed countries.
With a two-third majority, the communist government led by Prime Minister KP Oli – the 41st prime minister of Nepal – is more conservative towards the foreign investment and private sector.
Though, in 2018, China and Nepal agreed to establish a rail link and signed a deal to boost Chinese investments in Nepal’s power grid, it still seems political gimmick as China has been repeatedly saying that linking Kathmandu with Kerung by rail is more costly and technically expensive.
The economic freedom report reveals that people in countries with greater economic freedom tend to be happier about their lives. Nepal government is planning to conduct Happiness survey, but mostly unfree economy will have to work hard to make the country happy.
Likewise, men and women tend to fare equally in countries with greater economic freedom, it reads, adding that greater economic freedom is associated with more political rights and civil liberties. "Most importantly, extreme and moderate poverty are lower in countries with more economic freedom."

Property Rights-39.2
Government Integrity-26.2
Judicial Effectiveness-34.7
Property rights are not protected effectively, and it can take years to resolve property disputes. The law provides for an independent judiciary, and the courts are generally reliable, but they remain vulnerable to political pressure, bribery, and intimidation. There are numerous reports of corrupt practices undertaken with impunity by government officials, law enforcement officers, and political parties that undermine the rule of law.

Government Spending-83.7
Tax Burden-84.0
Fiscal Health-98.5
The top individual income and corporate tax rates are 25 percent. Other taxes include value-added and property taxes. The overall tax burden equals 18.7 percent of total domestic income. Over the past three years, government spending has amounted to 23.3 percent of the country’s output (GDP), and budget surpluses have averaged 0.2 percent of GDP. Public debt is equivalent to 27.1 percent of GDP.

Business Freedom-61.8
Labor Freedom-47.9
Monetary Freedom-69.4
The economy lacks the entrepreneurial dynamism needed for stronger economic growth and long-term development. Despite some streamlining of the process for launching a business, other time-consuming requirements reduce the regulatory system’s efficiency. Labor regulations remain obsolete, and underemployment persists. The government has expanded its renewable energy subsidy to private developers of smaller hydropower minigrids.

Trade Freedom-60.4
Investment Freedom-10.0
Financial Freedom-30.0
The combined value of exports and imports is equal to 51.8 percent of GDP. The average applied tariff rate is 12.3 percent. As of June 30, 2018, according to the WTO, Nepal had nine non-tariff measures in force. Nepal’s statist approach to economic management and development has been a serious drag on trade and investment activities. About half of adult Nepali have access to an account with a formal banking institution.

Davos focuses on reform

Global trade regime director-general Roberto Azevêdo reviewed the challenges and opportunities facing global trade today – participating in a series of ministerial discussions during the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting in Davos this week – and stressed that the trading system must evolve if it is to remain relevant.
The meetings included the informal ministerial gathering on World Trade Organisation (WTO) issues hosted by the Swiss government today. The discussion largely focused on possible reforms to the trading system, with a range of different perspectives being aired. The need to address the impasse in appointments to the WTO's Appellate Body was a common theme, along with the need to make progress in a number of other areas.
DG Azevêdo also participated – by invitation – in a Canadian-organised ministerial meeting on WTO reform which took place yesterday; a meeting today where a group of WTO members issued a joint ministerial declaration setting out their intention to launch negotiations on electronic commerce; and a range of discussions organised by the World Economic Forum (WEF) throughout the week.
Speaking at the conclusion of his programme in Davos, the director-general said that trade has been at top of the agenda in Davos. "We had some very productive discussions this week across a range of meetings, and notably we've seen real progress towards negotiations that were announced on e-commerce," he said, adding that it is all very welcome. "It is a sign of the strong and very widely-shared commitment to the global trading system."
"The current trade tensions pose a threat to the entire international community," he added. "The risks are real and have real economic effects. But the opportunities are real too. It is in everyone's interests that we improve prospects for global trade. It is vital for jobs, growth and development around the world. This is what the WTO is all about – so we are taking action."
He said that 2019 will be a crucial year for global trade and for the WTO. "We have an opportunity to tackle the systemic challenges before us and strengthen the WTO for generations to come," the director general said, adding that ultimately the success will depend on whether members are ready for the system to evolve.

Ruling party bulldozes medical bill through House

The ruling party today bulldozed the Parliament to pass the controversial National Medical Education Bill trampling on an earlier agreement reached with Dr Govinda KC. Refusing to acknowledge the main opposition Nepali Congress (NC), the Nepal Communist Party (NCP) used its two-thirds majority and hundreds of marshalls in the House to endorse the Bill.
During the forceful move by the government, House Speaker Krishna Bahadur Mahara is blamed to be sided with the government going beyond his non-partisan role. "It will have far-reaching consequences – in terms of politics as well as the future of the medical education sector – blamed the main opposition.
The government has moved ahead in an authoritarian style to push the bill through the House, NC president Sher Bahadur Deuba said, blaming the Speaker for failing to maintain dignity of his post. He also warned of more protests – both from the streets and Parliament – in coming days.
Demanding that the National Medical Education Bill be endorsed in its original form, Dr KC – who has been staging his 16th hunger strike for the last 17 days – had written an open letter to the parliament yesterday, calling on NCP lawmakers to abide by the agreement Prime Minister KP Oli had reached with him on July 26, during his 15th fast-unto death hunger strike.
The parliamentary committee – with the ruling party's majority – had passed the Bill amending some crucial provisions against the agreement reached with Dr KC. The NCP has claimed that the bill addresses 95 per cent of the fasting surgeon demand of reforms in the medical education sector. But manipulating 5 per cent has raised serious questions on the ruling party's intention either it wants to create socialist education system or acting on behalf of some controversial investors of medical colleges.
The NC had obstructed House proceedings on Monday and Tuesday demanding the government to run two hospitals named after Nepali Congress leaders and late Prime Ministers – Girija Prasad Koirala and Sushil Koirala – by the federal government likme the other 9 hospitals. Earlier, the government had excluded the two hospitals – among the 11 hospitals – from under federal government.
But the Speaker Mahara today increased the number of marshalls as the ruling party was preparing to pass the Bill by force.
With the beginning of the House, the NC parliamentarians started shouting slogans. Amid the chaos, the Speaker gave time to NC lawmaker Pushpa Bhusal to air her views. The fellow Congress lawmakers continued shouting slogans and moved towards the bell – after Bhusal finished her speech – but mobilising more marshalls, Speaker Mahara allowed education minister Giriraj Mani Pokhrel time to table the bill at the parliament.
Amid the obstruction of NC lawmakers, Pokhrel tabled the Bill, and the Speaker called for discussion. Since nobody from ruling party wanted to speak and opposition were busy in protesting, Speaker Mahara presented the Bill to the House for final approval. The ruling NCP lawmakers passed the Bill with 'yes' votes as there was no response for 'no' votes call since the opposition NC lawmakers were continuing their protests.
Mahara then declared that the 'Bill has been endorsed by majority votes.'
The NC lawmaker Gagan Thapa – also a former health minister – after forceful approval of the Bill accused the NCP (NCP) of playing 'politics of negation.'
Thapa also took exception to the role played by Mahara as the House Speaker. "The Speaker failed to keep his word as he had in the morning vowed to seek a solution through dialogue,” he said.
After parliament's fiasco, the fasting surgeon held a brief press meet at Tribhuvan University Teaching Hospital where (TUTH) – where he is staging his hunger strike – and reminding the government of six demands other than the medical bill. Dr KC also clarified that he would continue his fast-unto death and demanded that Prime Minister Oli's resignation on 'moral grounds', as Oli failed to keep his agreement.

Thursday, January 24, 2019

Stakeholders welcome amendments in SEZ Act

Stakeholders today opined that the recent amendments in the Special Economic Zones (SEZ) Act will encourage investors towards injecting investments in the SEZs.
Addressing a roundtable discussion on ‘Problems faced by industries inside the Bhairahawa SEZ', organised by the Society of Economic Journalists of Nepal (Sejon) in the capital today, they said that the government’s decision to reduce the compulsory export provision for industries inside SEZ to 60 per cent from existing 75 per cent is investment-friendly. "It will encourage the private sector towards investing in such protected zones," they added.
With various amendments intended to lighten up the export provisions for industries inside SEZ and assure further tax incentives, the cabinet had endorsed the SEZ Bill last week. The SEZ Bill has been tabled at the Parliament for the final nod.
Along with reducing the mandatory export provision for industries operating within the SEZ to 60 per cent of their production, the new SEZ Bill also assures 100 per cent income tax waiver for such industries for the first five years and 50 per cent income tax waiver thereafter. Likewise, the Bill has also reduced the rental fee for industries within SEZ to Rs 20 per square meter per month from Rs 150 per square meter month.
Furthermore, the SEZ Bill has also reduced the minimum investment ceiling for industries inside SEZ to Rs 20 million from Rs 50 million.
"The SEZ Act has been amended keeping in priority to boost the morale of investors inside the SEZ," executive director of SEZ Authority Nepal Chandika Bhatta said. "If necessary, we can be further flexible in the export provision for such industries in future,” he said, adding that the new SEZ Bill has also incorporated a provision whereby industries inside SEZ get all assured tax waiver facilities under the recommendation of SEZ Authority itself.
Speaking at the discussion programme, former vice-chairman of the National Planning Commission (NPC) Dr Shankar Sharma said that though the SEZ Bill has attempted to promote investment inside the SEZs, the government should now focus on effective implementation of the SEZ Bill. "The new SEZ Bill has addressed some of the key issues raised by investors inside the SEZ," he said, adding that it, however, is crucial that the government implements the law properly through enhanced cooperation between the government agencies.
Likewise, director general at the Department of Customs Toyam Raya said that available laws of the government are contradictory resulting to difficulty in their effective implementation. "Thus, the government should ensure that any laws should not contradict with one another while bringing them,” said Raya.
On the occasion, deputy managing director at the Nepal Electricity Authority (NEA) Hara Raj Neupane assured that the authority is serious in providing necessary power supply in the industrial sector, including the Bhairahawa SEZ.
Meanwhile, former commerce secretary Purshottam Ojha said that the government should focus on implementing the one-door policy for industries inside SEZs. 

Wednesday, January 23, 2019

Customs Department warns fake documents holders

The Department of Customs has warned that it may put around 67 per cent of the goods under the red customs clearance channel due to an increasing number of traders producing fake details on imported goods.
"Many importers are still producing fake documents," director general of the department Toyam Raya. "They have been manipulating the certificate of origin, under invoicing, declaring one product and importing another and issuing fake harmonised system code issued from foreign companies,” he said adding that the illicit activities have not yet stopped. "So we are forced to carry out tight scrutiny of the imported goods.
The imported goods typically pass through either one of the three customs clearance channels –red, green and yellow – in Nepal. Under the red channel, importers need to fulfill a lengthy documentation process. The customs authorities will perform an examination of the import documents as well as a physical examination of the goods.
Likewise, in the yellow channel, a thorough examination of the import documents is performed while in the green channel, the goods get automatic customs clearance.
"We have also planned to increase the access of importers through the green channel,” he said, speaking at an interaction organised by the Federation of Nepalese Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FNCCI) in the Capital today. If importers come up with genuine documents, it will reduce their hassles and save time too, he added.
On an average, around 25 per cent of the imported goods pass through the green channel. In the system, the customs clear the goods based on the declaration made by the importers and customs agents.
According to the department, some 44 per cent of the imported goods come through the green channel at Birgunj Customs, the country's key trade gateway from where 45 per cent of the country’s import is made. Likewise, out of 17,164 declarations during the mid-November to mid-December period, only 47 per cent of them were scrutinised strictly, the department revealed, claiming that the customs clearance process has been eased after it enforced the HS Code, EXIM Code and customs reference price.
"Some 85 per cent of the imported goods receive customs clearance in a single day," Raya said, adding that the department has planned to clear 75 per cent to 80 per cent of the imported goods through green and yellow channel by next year to make the clearance process faster, and easier.
Though he claimed that the enforcement of the customs reference price has helped rein in cases of under invoicing, the mechanism has failed to provide a respite for consumers as the importers are still charging exorbitant prices for their products, mainly due to absence of government mechanism to look after the anomalies.
Traders – speaking at the interaction – however, complained about the department charging high fees for EXIM Code and imposing the same rate of customs duty on import of raw materials as well as the finished goods. "The same rate of customs duty on import of raw materials as well as the finished goods have made the country more import-based economy rather than helping the economy industrialisation," they said, adding that the government policy is making the country more import-led economy.
"In addition, absence of experts at the customs point has led to delays in clearance of raw materials that could be damaged if they are not stored properly,” the business people said.

Tuesday, January 22, 2019

Youth manifesto calls on governments to #ENDviolence in schools

Young people from around the world will call on governments, including the Nepal government, to end violence in and around schools at the Education World Forum (EWF) this week.
Representing children and young people from around the globe, Khuthadzo Silima and Jonathan Franca, 18-year-old youth activists from South Africa and the USA, will present a manifesto to government ministers at the high-level event in London, detailing what children and young people need to feel safe in and around school.
“The manifesto represents the voices of millions of children and young people who face violence at school every day,” said Silima ahead of the event. "The message, we want to get across is clear, adults must listen to us and take the issue of school violence seriously."
Nepal is no exception to the global reality of violence against children. More than 80 per cent of children in Nepal, aged between one and 14, experience some form of violent discipline by their parents, teachers or caregivers. The rape and murder case of 13-year old Nirmala Pant is one of the representative cases in the recent months.
However, through the landmark 2018 Act Relating to Children, Nepal has become the first country in South Asia to achieve a complete ban on violent discipline. Nepal also boasts promising initiatives on both operational and legal fronts to address violence against children, including in schools.
Following the recent cases including Pant in recent months, however, much still needs to be done to ensure that schools in Nepal are safe places for learning.
"Ending violence in schools requires political will – which the Nepal government has demonstrated," UNICEF representative to Nepal Tomoo Hozumi said, adding that it also needs to be backed by individual and collective actions. "Now is the time for leaders at the federal, state and local levels – as well as parents, teachers and caregivers – to promote and use positive teaching techniques and positive parenting instead of resorting to violence."
The #ENDviolence Youth Manifesto was drafted last month by more than 100 children and young people from around the world, including Silima and Franca. It also drew on a recent UNICEF poll of young people, which received more than 1 million responses from over 160 countries, and suggestions from a series of student-led #ENDviolence Youth Talks held around the world.
The manifesto calls for action in the following areas:
A demand for parents, guardians, schools, policymakers, and communities to take students seriously; to establish clear rules; to make laws restricting weapons; to ensure safety to and from school; to provide secure school facilities; to train teachers and counsellors; and to teach consent and respond to sexual violence.
A commitment from students to be kind, to report violence, and to take action themselves.
Diversity and tolerance in schools, regardless of culture, gender, identity, disability, sexual orientation, nationality, race, ethnicity, migration status, and religion; and protection for all students –those who experience violence and those who engage in violent behaviour.
The #ENDviolenceYouth Manifesto is part of a collective effort to#ENDviolence in and around schools, called 'Safe to Learn', led by UNICEF, the United Kingdom’s Department for International Development (DfID), UNESCO, the Global Partnership to End Violence Against Children and the United Nations Girls’ Education Initiative (UNGEI).

Monday, January 21, 2019

ADB green signal to appoint new contractor for Melamchhi

Asian Development Bank (ADB) has given green signal to the Melamchi Water Supply Project to appoint a new contractor to complete the remaining works of the much-awaited water project.
During the consultation with the multilateral development partner, the project has sought a way out to expedite the works of Melamchhi, according to spokesperson of the project Rajendra Prasad Panta. "The project is preparing to scrap the contract with the Italian construction company Co-operativa Muratori e Cementisti (CMC) di Ravenna," he said, adding that the project has also recommended entrusting the responsibilities to carry on the project’s remaining work to the subsidiary construction companies as it would take a while to call for tender.
The project would wait for 14 days for a response to the letter from the Italian construction company CMC di Ravenna for scrapping the contract, according to the agreement between the government and the contractor. According to the contract – the government has signed with CMC – the government must send a ‘termination letter’ notice to contractor giving it a 14-day ultimatum to resume the project works. In case CMC fails to resume construction works within 14-day ultimatum period, the contract will be terminated automatically, as per the legal provision.
The project work would be forwarded from February 2.
According to the Project, of the complete tunnel measuring 27.5-km – from Ambathan of Sindhupalchok to Sundarjal of Kathmandu – still some 410-metre of tunnel's finishing works is yet to be completed.
Similarly, some 885 metres of tunnel await reinforced cement concrete works and two of three ventilators are yet to be rebuilt. Ventilation has been made in the tunnel – stretching from Gyalthum to Ambathan – while drilling needs to be done for ventilation from tunnel spanning Sundarijal to Sindhu and Sindhu to Gyalthum.
Likewise, installation of big galvanised iron (GI) pipes to bring water from the outlet of the tunnel at Sundarijal to water processing centre is also left to be carried out. Apart from that a regular monitoring system has also to be put in place.

Government opens Malaysian job 'partially'

The government has opened the Malaysian job albeit partially.
The Ministry of Labour, Employment and Social Security has decided to issue labour permits to the Malaysia-bound Nepali migrant workers, provided that the Embassy of Malaysian in Kathmandu directly issues visas to them.
The Department of Foreign Employment (DoFE) – after the ministry's directive – today issued labour permits to 20 workers, who had directly approached the embassy for working visas. The embassy informed the department – in a letter on January 18 – that visas had been granted to the workers, who would be working with a tunnel company in Malaysia. Though departure of these workers does not mean that the government has resumed sending workers to Malaysia, government said that it will not have any problem issuing labour permits to the concerned workers, if the embassy oversees their pre-departure process and grants visas.
The ministry had sent the department a list of workers, who had been granted visas. The work permits has been issued based on the ministry’s decision, the letter from the embassy and the application of the employer company. 
The batch of 20 workers, who obtained labour permits and subsequently left for Malaysia, is the first group of Nepali workers to reach Malaysia since both countries signed a labour deal on October 29, 2018.
Recruiting agencies have also been demanding the government to make arrangements for departures of those workers with calling visas issued by the Malaysian authorities. 
According to Nepal Association of Foreign Employment Agencies, nearly 9,000 workers had obtained calling visas from the Malaysian government before the government suspended labour migration to Malaysia.
The labour department today asked all recruiting agencies to submit exact details and documents of the people – who have already received ‘calling visas’ from Malaysia –within 15 days to cross check the number of Nepalis, who have received calling visa. Calling visas are confirmations from their employers about the job.
The outsourcers have, however criticising the government for issuing labour permits to only 20 workers – out of nearly 9,000 with calling visas – who had directly applied for working visas at the embassy, would not submit the details of the workers.
The association has said – issuing a statement – that the recruiting agencies have already submitted these details to the Foreign Employment Office, Tahachal.
Last May, the government had temporarily halted sending labourers to Malaysia as workers were said to be charged unnecessary fees for related services by private companies, namely Immigration Security Clearance and One Stop Centre. The departure of Nepali migrant workers has been stopped in the absence of the mechanism to implement the deal even though it has been more than two months since Nepal and Malaysia signed the labour agreement.
The leaders from various political parties – including Nepali Congress and Rastriya Prajatantra Party Nepal – had urged the Federal Parliament to resume the halted migration process to Malaysia at the earliest as the overnment has still not lifted the temporary ban on Nepali workers from flying to the Southeast Asian nation.
On the other hand, Malaysian government had on January 7 said that it will finalise all preparations to hire foreign migrant workers within two months.

Buddhist Circuits Tour to begin from July Full Moon is starting the 'Buddhist Circuits Fixed Departure Tour' from the second week of July.
"The tour will begin from the full-moon day that is July 16, some 2,534 years after Siddhartha Gautam renounced palatial life by leaving Tilaurakot Palace in search of truth and enlightenment," the tour operator said in a statement today.
The programme was launched by president of Buddhist Bikram Pandey Kaji, during the First Buddhist International Travel Mart organised recently in Lumbini.
According to Pandey, participants of the trip will first visit Buddhist heritage sites in Lumbini-Kapilvastu region and enact 'The Great Renunciation' by starting the journey from the eastern gate of the ruins of Tilaurakot Palace in Kapilvastu in the same way Siddhartha Gautam renounced his palatial life and ventured out in search of truth and enlightenment. "They will then drive to India via Belhaiya border and travel to places like Nalanda, Vaishali, Rajgir, Bogh Gaya, Sarnath, and Kushinagar before returning to Lumbini," he added.
The journey will be conducted in luxury buses. This tour package will not only extend the length of stay of tourists in the Lumbini-Kapilvastu region but also provide opportunities for income generation to local people, Pandey said.
Foreign tourists usually visiting stay Lumbini barely stay for 30 minutes, according a study conducted in 2013. As Gautam Buddha International Airport is expected to come into operation near Lumbini by the end of 2019, the government has been working to promote Buddhist pilgrimage in a big way.
“This is the first time a fixed departure tour associated with the Buddha’s life has been launched," Pandey said, adding that they will organise the tour every Full Moon Day as the Full Moon Day is associated with the life of the Buddha. "However, the tour can be organised regularly, if demand picks up."
Lumbini received 1.53 million tourists in 2018, up 16.54 percent, according to the statistics of the Lumbini Development Trust. Among them, 1.18 million were Nepali, 193,635 Indian and 169,904 third country tourists. A majority of foreign tourists visiting Lumbini are handled by Indian tour operators. They enter Lumbini overland from across the Indian border, and spend a few minutes looking around. As a result, the local community and the country have not been able to reap benefits from the day trippers.
Pandey has launched the Buddhist Circuit tour following the success of the Everest marathon.

Sunday, January 20, 2019

Government still claims Melamchhi water will come on time

The government is terminating the contract with the Italian contractor of Melamchhi Water Supply Project – Cooperativa Muratorie Cementisti (CMC) di Ravenna – claiming that the already delayed project will complete on time. As less than five per cent work remains to bring the Melamchi water to Kathmandu, it is still possible to meet the deadline, claimed the project official.
The project has vowed to complete the remaining work of the Melamchi – even by awarding a new contract through a fast-track process – on time. But the cabinet has to decide on awarding the new contract as a special arrangement allowed by the Public Procurement Act (PPA). If the cabinet decides to award the contract for the remaining work to a new contractor, MWSP officials say, they can bring water to Kathmandu by mid-April. However, the Prime Minister has left for Davos yesterday – to take part in rich-nations club – for a week.
There are only five things remain to be done – fitting ventilation shafts in the tunnel, fixing three gates in the tunnel, finishing work in around a 500-meter stretch of the tunnel, some tunnel maintenance work, and construction of temporary coffer dams to divert the water to the tunnel, according to the consultant for the melamchi – EPTISA Engineering Services – has already did an assessment of the project site, evaluated the amount of remaining work and calculated the estimated costs, according to the ministry.
But it will take some more time to complete permanent construction of the dam and also complete the second phase of water treatment plant at Sundarijal. But water can be brought to Kathmandu even without completing the permanent construction works, the ministry claimed.
Secretary of the Ministry of Water Supply Gajendra Thakur today claimed that the Ministry of Water Supply will table a proposal at the cabinet for the purpose immediately after the process to end the contract with CMC di Ravenna is formalised. The Public Procurement Act 2007 has a provision to allow fast-track procurement by the cabinet, but the decision has to be appropriately justified.
The project has today formally started the process to terminate the contract with the CMC di Ravenna, which left the project site over a month ago, after the government did not pay compensation it had asked. The project office has sent a ‘notice of termination’ to the contractor and the notice, according to the procurement law, allows the contractor to correct its course within the 14 days. 
The contract between the project and the contractor – signed in 2013 – for tunnel works and building a dam will be terminated after 14 days, if the contractor fails to turn up at the project site. The project board meeting last Tuesday had decided to wait until Friday for the Italian contractor to return to the project site, which was almost unlikely.
After the termination of the contract, the government will seize all the equipment and construction materials of the Italian firm from the project site. The government will also seize two separate bank guarantees of Rs 1.34 billion and Rs 1.21 billion from Standard Chartered Bank and Nepal Investment Bank. But the Italian contractor owes Rs 1.3 billion to the local sub-contractors and suppliers. The government is claiming that it can pay the local sub-contractors and suppliers from the bank guarantee.

Central bank bans big Indian currency notes ban

The central bank today issued a circular banning the big denomination Indian Currency (IC) notes after the Indian central bank did not respond to its repeated request to take the old IC notes. The central bank had written to the Indian central bank – Reserve Bank of India (RBI) – requesting to allow using the high denomination Indian notes in Nepal.
The government had – on December 13 – banned the big denomination IC, and following the government decision the Nepal Rastra Bank (NRB) issued the circular prohibiting Nepali travellers, banks and financial institutions from holding or carrying and trading Indian bank notes higher than Rs 100 IC. "Indian denominations of 200, 500 and 2,000 cannot be carried and used for trading," the circular reads.
Under the new regulation, Nepali citizens cannot carry these denominations to countries other than India. Similarly, Nepalis are also not allowed to bring such big denomination IC notes from other countries. "Indian notes of Rs 100 or below, however, are allowed for trading and conversion," the circular further reads.
The Cabinet had on December 13 decided to publish the notification in the Nepal Gazette not to allow people to carry IC notes above 100 denominations in Nepal, though the travel traders and other business entrepreneurs have criticised the decision. It will also hit the Visit Nepal campaign – with an objective to draw at least 2 million tourists in 2020 – as the Indian travelers will face difficulty due to the currency issue.
Since a majority of Indians come to Nepal over land from bordering towns, it’s difficult for them to convert their currency to dollar. The overland Indian visitors’ survey showed that 1.2 million Indians came to Nepal through the surface route while 160,132 travelled via air. The average length of stay of Indian tourists coming overland stands at 5.8 days. Likewise, they also spend Rs11,310 per person on an average.
The Indian government, however, in a surprise move on November 8, 2016, pulled Rs 500 IC and Rs 1,000 IC out of circulation 'to unearth unaccounted wealth and fight corruption”. Since then, the Nepal Rastra Bank have also banned those notes in Nepal.
Earlier, the central bank had allowed Nepalis to carry Indian banknotes of Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 denominations based on the Indian government’s decision.
The Reserve Bank of India, in February 2015, introduced the Foreign Exchange Management (export and import of currency) Regulations, allowing Nepali and Bhutanese citizens to 'carry Reserve Bank of India currency notes of denomination Rs 500 IC and Rs 1,000 IC up to a limit of Rs 25,000 IC. Following the India's Modi-government’s move of 2016, billions of Indian currency notes of 500 and 1000 are still stuck in Nepal.

Poudel in fiscal commission, Subedi in inclusive commission

The Constitutional Council (CC) today has recommended names for the head of five constitutional bodies, as government had promised to appoint these vacant posts within January 15.
The meeting of the CC has recommended the name of former secretary Bala Nanda Poudel as chairman of National Natural Resources and Fiscal Commission (NNRFC), and former finance secretary Shanta  Raj Subedi for National Inclusion Commission, apart from Dr Bijaya Kumar Dutta for Madhesi Commission,  Bishnu Prasad Tharu for Tharu Commission and Samim Ansari for Muslim Commission.
National Natural Resources and Fiscal Commission is one of the major constitutional organs as its work mainly determine detailed basis and modality for the distribution of revenues between the federal, province and local governments out of the Federal Consolidated Fund in accordance with the Constitution and law and to make recommendation about equalisation grants to be provided to the province and local governments out of the Federal Consolidated Fund. The Constitutional Council is also key to make the fiscal federalism effective without which the federation of the country is not complete.
Likewise, National Inclusion Commission, under Article 258 of the Constitution of Nepal consist a chairperson and four other members, who will study and forward suggestions to government for the protection of rights of and interests of the communities, including Khas Arya, Backward class, persons with disabilities, senior citizens, labours, peasants, minorities and marginalised community.
According to Article 262, under the Constitution of Nepal, Madhesi Commission shall work for the protection of the rights and interests of the Madhesi nationalities. The CC has proposed Bijay Kumar Dutta as Madhesi Commission Chair.
The Tharu Commission, under Article 263 requires to work for protection of rights and interest of Tharu communities. The Constitutional Council has recommended Bishnu Prasad Chaudary as its chair.
Like the Madhesi and Tharu Commissions, the Muslim Commission shall focus its functions and duties to preserve interests of the Muslim community. The CC has recommended Samim Ansari as its chair.
According to the Constitution of Nepal, the President shall, on the recommendation of the Constitutional Council, appoint the chairperson and members of all the constitutional bodies.

NMB signs PPA to launch unique solar roof-top model

NMB Bank Ltd (NMB) today signed a private power purchase agreement (PPA) with Saral Urja Nepal Private Ltd (SUN) for a 50-kW grid-tie solar roof-top with net metering. The grid-tie solar roof-top will be placed in NMB Bank’s head office in Babarmahal, Kathmandu.
Under the PPA, SUN will install, own and operate the solar roof-top for 15 years. NMB will purchase all the electricity generated from the solar roof-top at a price lower than their retail grid electricity tariff with no up-front investment.
"This initiative reaffirms NMB’s commitment to expanding and financing renewable energy in Nepal," chief executive of the NMB Bank Sunil KC said after signing the agreement. "Not only will part of our own electricity requirements be met through solar, we will also use this to expand financing of solar roof-top solutions across Nepal."
Over the 20 years life of NMB’s solar roof-top system, NMB will pay a lower price per unit from solar than from the grid. The 50-kW will also help to avoid 2 million kWh imports and reduce imports by Rs 20 million over the project’s life.
“We welcome the decision of Nepal Electricity Authority to allow net metering, a system that allows users to connect their solar system to the grid and export the excess electricity to the grid," managing director of Saral Urja Nepal Bishal Thapa said, adding that net metering has opened up tremendous opportunities for Nepal to diversity its generation base, reduce electricity costs to consumer, avoid imports and help build a more reliable electricity grid."
The agreement between NMB Bank and SUN is also intended to expand financing of such solar roof-top systems across Nepal. "The system at NMB Bank is a unique model, where customers can get a solar roof-top system with no upfront investment and pay a rate for solar electricity that is lower than NEA’s tariff," according to chief executive of SUN Aashish Chalise. "We believe that through this system we can achieve 500-MW of solar roof-top within the next 5 years."
NMB and SUN are working towards a financing facility that will enable SUN to offer the solar energy services across Nepal.
“Following this project, we expect to partner with SUN in launching a financing facility to expand the application of solar roof-top across Nepal that will allow customers to save money, diversify Nepal’s generation, reduces electricity imports and create many new jobs,” said chief of Energy & Development Organisation Dinesh Dulal.

Saturday, January 19, 2019

Second International Entrepreneurship Conclave ends

Indian Embassy in Kathmandu and Clock b Business Innovations successfully completed the second edition of Connect (IN) - International Entrepreneurship Conclave today.
Inaugurating the conclave, Indian Ambassador to Nepal Manjeev Singh Puri emphasised on the young entrepreneur’s energy. "In this era of globalisation the conference like this will play pivotal role to make platform for young entrepreneur to make connection between entrepreneurship ecosystem now and in the days to come," he said, adding that Nepalese youth are not only able to work in abroad but are also equally capable of investing in different sector such as education technology and hospitality sector and can generate employment opportunity and contribute for the development process of overall nations.
The conclave with a theme ‘To connect the great entrepreneurial minds of Nepal and India’ has helped build market connections between startups, entrepreneurs, investors, marketers, lawyers, auditors, government, universities and colleges, mentors, advisors, corporate leaders, incubators and accelerators, development partners, and business enthusiasts, according to the organisers. The conclave also aimed at aiding collaborative discussion and learning.
At second edition of Connect (IN), the young entrepreneurs got an opportunity to connect with investors, venture capitalists and mentors, discussed with the entrepreneurial ecosystem actors, learnt from the prominent entrepreneurial journeys and network with fellow entrepreneurs from India and Nepal.
One of the core objectives of second edition of Connect (IN) initiative was to scout startups, provide them with training and mentorship in the Incubation programme, and finally take the most promising startups to the finale. The organisers, on the occasion, also hosted series of college and youth-level promotional activities and Ideation workshops in various cities to look for the entrepreneurial enthusiasts.
After yearlong social media campaign, outreach activities that reach up to more than one million and partnerships, hundreds of applications were received. After screening these ideas, top 21 ideas were selected for 7 days 'Startup Incubation Programme.' Then, these 21 Startups went through Idea Auditions and finally 6 most promising ideas were selected for the Finale to Pitch their ideas in front of investors, media and entrepreneurs from Nepal and India. The top 6 ideas, who appeared in the finale are Airlift, Swadeshi Innovations, Maker Valley, Unschool, Offering Happiness, and Walkman.
Founder of You First Ventures &TransAsia Ventures Vikrant Gugnani, chief executive for India and South Asia at the OYO Hotels & Homes Aditya Ghosh, co-founder and managing director of IME Group Hem Raj Dhakal, chief executive of Prisma Advertising Ranjit Acharya, president at King’s College Narottam Aryal, editor of Karobar National Economic Daily Kuber Chalise, chief executive of Sushmit Group Sushil Pokharel, second secretary at the Indian Embassy in Kathmandu Kapidhwaja Pratap Singh, Venture Philanthropist and Social Entrepreneur Varun Saraf were few of the speakers at the conclave.
The chief guest for the conclave, chief advisior to the prime minister KP Sharma Oil Bishnu Rimal, on the occasion, said that youth are the engine of the nation. He also stated that for development process an enthusiasm is must and only the youth are enthusiastic by the nature for the great new idea and innovations that can be helpful for development process.
On 24th March 2018, Indian Embassy in Kathmandu and Clock b had successfully hosted its first edition, which brought together over 400 Nepali and Indian startups, entrepreneurs, investors, venture capitalists, aspiring youths, experts, high ranking Nepali and Indian government officials and representatives from media that provided a common platform for the exchange of innovative ideas between the entrepreneurial communities of the two countries.

Government finally decides to terminate contract with CMC

The government is scrapping the contract with Co-operativa Muratori e Cementisti (CMC) di Ravenna, the Italian contractor of the Melamchi Water Supply Project, pushing the national pride project into further uncertainty.
Scrapping the contract with CMC will delay the construction of the Melamchi Water Supply Project – that was expected to be completed by the next few months – the termination of contract with CMC also means that the government has to follow a lengthy process to hire a new contractor for the project. A regular process to hire a new contractor would mean the project will be pushed at least a year further. First of all, there should be a global tender which requires at least 45 days of notice. Then following the guidelines of the Asian Development Bank (ADB), the development partner, would require at least eight-nine months. The ADB needs to seek consent from its headquarters for any project above Rs1 billion and then more time will be required for correspondence, selection and evaluation of the contractor.
Less than 5 percent of work remains on the project, which will divert 170 million litres of water every day to Kathmandu from the Melamchi river in Sindhupalchok.
But the meeting of the Water Supply Development Board yesterday decided to terminate the contract with the Italian contractor and publish a ‘termination letter’ notice giving CMC a final chance to resume works.
According to the contract – the government has signed with CMC – the government must send a ‘termination letter’ notice to contractor giving a 14-day ultimatum to resume the project works. In case CMC fails to resume construction works within 14-day, the contract will be terminated automatically.
According to executive director of Melamchi Water Supply Development Board Surya Kandel, the government however cannot ‘legally’ terminate the contract with CMC before February 10 – the project contract period of CMC – as the dispute resolution committee of the water project had earlier made a decision that the government cannot scrap the contract with CMC till that time.
“The government formally dispatched a letter of termination to the Italian contractor CMC di Ravenna after it failed to come up with any concrete decision regarding resuming works,” Kadel said, adding that the project has decided to terminate the contract with the existing builder after it did not turn up to resume works even a month after abandoning the project."
In its previous letter sent last Tuesday, the government had set a Friday deadline for the CMC to make it clear whether it was interested to resume works and how it would want to resolve the dispute.
According to Kadel, the Italian builder did respond but sought at least one more week. “We received a meaningless correspondence which had not even come from the proper channel…..and it just sought more time," he added.
However, CMC official claimed that they had said a meeting was possible at a suitable time-around January 27 or so and "we had also sought diplomatic assurances."
But the government has decided to begin the process to scrap the contract with CMC after officials of the Italian company – who had left for their countries to celebrate Christmas – failed to return to complete the project. They have also not tried contacting the government since they left the country.
"We will soon send the notice of ‘termination letter’ to the CMC office in Italy,” said secretary at the Ministry of Water Supply Gajendra Kumar Thakur.
Earlier, CMC had terminated its contract with the project citing the company’s bankruptcy. However, the government had not accepted the termination letter of CMC as the project was in the final stage of completion. The government let the CMC officials go home to celebrate Christmas after their commitment to return. The Italian embassy in India and the Consulate General of Italy in Kathmandu had assured the government of their return. But the officials' failure to return has forced the government to begin the contract termination process with CMC.
Police on the night of December 16 had apprehended Italian staffers of the contracting company, accusing them of abandoning the project and trying to flee the country.
The CMC official said that the government cannot terminate the project which it had already scrapped after the government failed to pay the dues. "Melamchi project remains terminated by the CMC," the CMC official said, adding that the employer (Nepal government) cannot terminate something which is not in place."
The Italian contractor had first submitted the project termination letter to the government in the third week of December, saying the government had failed to pay Rs 350 million that it owed to the builder as per a decision by the Dispute Adjudication Board (DAB).
Since then the CMC has maintained that as the Nepal government had not paid the amount decided by the DAB within the deadline, they reserved the right of terminating the project. But government officials have refuted the CMC claim.
But in an interesting turn of events, the CMC had withdrawn the termination letter after its staffers were allowed to leave the country. They had subsequently flown out of the country. 

Labour permit from Karnali begins tomorrow

The government is beginning to providing labour permit from Surkhet, the capital of Karnali province from tomorrow.
The Labour and Employment Office of the Province will provide the permit and will also monitor and regulate the foreign employment agencies and training and orientation service providers, according to the Ministry of Labour, Employment and Social Security.
The service has already begun in Province no 2, in Province no 5 and Gandaki province. The service will begin in remaining of the provinces soon.
Earlier, the migrant workers from Karnali too had to travel all the way to the capital Kathmandu to get the labour permit.

Friday, January 18, 2019

Government will probe on Swiss Bank deposit issue

Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli has said that Nepalis cannot deposit money in foreign banks against the law of the land.
Replying the queries raised by lawmakers – in the House today – on the money deposited by Nepalis in Swiss Bank, he said the government will investigate it and bring out the facts.
The Center for Investigative Journalism (CIJ) on Wednesday revealed that as many as 55 Nepalis have stashed away Rs 52.07 in Swiss banks, though the authenticity of the amount has been under question.
Lawmaker Khagaraj Adhikari demanded with the government to probe the money deposited illegally by Nepalis in the Swiss Bank.
Nepali Congress lawmaker Dilendra Prasad Badu also asked premier on how the government is preparing to inquire the deposit during his upcoming visit to Switzerland. As  As PM Oli is going to take part in World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos of Switzerland on Sunday, the lawmaker has asked him to inquire Nepalis illegal deposits. 
Answering the lawmakers, the Prime Minister said that the government is committed for good governance and development, transparency and ending of corruption.
Saying that some of the people have already refuted about the money deposited in Swiss bank, PM Oli asserted that depositing money in the foreign banks illegally breaches Nepali law and is not tolerable.
According to Foreign Exchange Regulation Act (FERA) 2019 BS, Nepalis cannot deposit money in the foreign banks, unless it has the green signal from the central bank. But the CIJ report has also claimed that Nepali depositors have already received Rs 77.41 million in interest from their deposits.

Thursday, January 17, 2019

Knowledge Exchange Programme for parliamentarians

Members of the Federal Parliament in Nepal and officials from the World Bank today held consultations and development policy dialogue at a knowledge exchange programme. Over 40 members of the Parliamentary Finance Committee and the Parliamentary Secretariat took part in the programme.
“These engagements with the representatives of the people are a key part of our role and responsibility as trusted partners in Nepal," World Bank Country Director for Bangladesh, Bhutan and Nepal Qimiao Fan said.
"They allow us to exchange ideas, and to better understand the vision of the Nepali people in reducing extreme poverty and boosting shared prosperity." He said, adding that it also allows the World Bank to share experiences on development narratives from the rest of the world. "The country’s path of nation-building and sustainable development relies on sound policies and institutions, and the Parliament is key in ensuring that these are both in place."
During the programme, supported by the World Bank and facilitated by the Parliament Secretariat, the country manager Faris H Hadad-Zervos introduced the World Bank Group operations in Nepal, its instruments, country partnership framework and areas of development support. This was followed by a synopsis of the Bank’s analysis of latest macroeconomic and development updates, presented by World Bank senior country economist Kene Ezemenari. Likewise, senior energy specialists from the World Bank Xiaoping Wang and Rabin Shrestha, on the occasion, presented on the current scenario of the power sector in Nepal.
"The programme was a great opportunity to understand the World Bank Group operations and explore avenues of cooperation and support in the days to come,” said chairperson of the Parliamentary Finance Committee Krishna Prasad Dahal. "Extensive sharing of data, information and practical knowledge will help pinpoint the direction of future policies and refine our responsibilities as lawmakers."
The World Bank is engaging the Nepali Parliament in various ways. Through the Integrated Public Financial Management (PFM) Project supported by the Multi-Donor Trust Fund – financed by Australia, Switzerland, DfID, EU, Norway and USAID – the World Bank is currently supporting the Parliament through strengthening of the PFM capacity of technical staff in the Secretariat. The World Bank will provide knowledge exchange opportunities to MPs within this programme. It will also help Provincial Parliaments since they can benefit from the expertise of the Federal Parliament to build their own. 

Cabinet gears up cross border ship, railway operation programme

The government has established a Ship Office with 16 vacancies.
Announcing last week's cabinet decisions today, minister of Communication and Information Technology Gokul Baskota said that the government has decided to establish a Ship Office with 16 vacancies to operate cross-border ship between Nepal and India in Narayan and Sapta Koshi River.
"The plan to operate ship in Sapta Koshi river has moved beyond paper with this decision," he said, adding that the cross-border ship operations is going to become a reality. "The operation of the sailing vessel in the water sources of the country is expected cross-border trading between Nepal and India that will help lessen trading cost and time."
However, for the ship operations between the two countries, Nepal and India needs to enter into an agreement.
Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli has – three years ago, when he was premier for the first time and also after becoming premier this time almost a year ago – been repeatedly claiming that Nepal will operate its own vessel between Nepal and India from January 1. But the date has been passed without any progress in operation of vessels in waterways between Nepal and India. People have been mocking premier's fixing date for operating passenger ship services from Nepal to India.
Though, it is not the first time, Nepal has established a Ship Office, the two-third majority government led by KP Sharma Oli has made it a prestige issue. Nepal also had a Ship Office during Late King Mahendra, as he also had dreamt of operating a vessel in the sea with Nepal's flag. The incumbent government is more obsessed by King Mahendra than communist ideology.
According to Baskota, the cabinet has also authorised the Ministry of Physical Infrastructure and Transportation to procure railway carriages for cross border railway service. The green light on train procurement has come from the government amid plans to resume passenger railway service from Janakpur to Jayanagar soon. This decision to obtain the railway carriages through G2G level from the government of India will support the 35-km railways service from Kurtha of Janakpur to Jaynagar of India.
Likewise, the cabinet has also decided to arrange the payment of the minister’s salary and other incentives through the respective ministries. Earlier, the ministers used to take the salary and incentives from the Office of the Prime Minister and Council of Ministers, and they have been blamed for pocketing the salary of the personal assistants and sub ordinates.
The cabinet has also approved the establishment and operation work procedure of the Prime Minister National Talent Prize Fund 2075. The fund will be some $200,000. The fund will be utilised to award the persons excelling in innovation, scientific research, and those contributing significantly to the national life.

Dhakal, Bajgain deny report on unlawful deposits in foreign land

At least four individuals – out of some 55 Nepalis, who are said to be investing in offshore companies and bringing in foreign direct investment (FDI) into Nepal from tax havens – have defended themselves by saying that they have not any unlawful activities.
Chairman of IME Group of Companies Chandra Prasad Dhakal – organising a press meet – defended that the report of Centre for Investigative Journalism-Nepal (CIJ-Nepal) is misleading as he has been running the remittance business according to the law of the land. 
He owns International Money Express (IME) UK Ltd – a British company – which according to him has been under operations after the central bank's approval to open the office in London to bring the remittance into Nepal through banking channel. “It was established to bring in remittance from the UK and other EU countries,” he said.
"I have opened a company in the UK, complying with all applicable laws of the country," Dhakal said, adding that he had taken the approval of central bank to open a company in 2002 in order to bring remittances to Nepal from the UK. "There was no violation of any law of the country."
If opening a company to bring remittances through formal channels is a crime, I have nothing to say, he added. "Otherwise, bringing up my name suddenly and lumping it with others including those with deposits in Swiss banks is unfair.
The report reads that Dhakal purchased the Sunbrid Compter Consultant Ltd, which was later rechristened IME UK Ltd.
"We have neither established companies in tax haven countries nor have we brought foreign direct investment from such countries," Dhakal said, adding that neither he nor his companies has any account in the Swiss bank. "IME UK Ltd was established after obtaining approval from Nepal Rastra Bank."
Likewise, Rajendra Bajgain – a central committee member of the Nepali Congress and a tourism entrepreneur – whose name has appeared in the list of Nepalis with investments abroad has also taken exception to allegations made against him. He is also alleged that he had brought foreign direct investment (FDI) from the British Virgin Islands.
Bajgain said that he has not flouted Nepali laws to bring FDI into the country. But the report of CIJ-Nepal released yesterday claimed that Bajgain channelised Rs 1.755 billion into the country from the British Virgin Islands thorough Silver Heritage Group, a Hong Kong-based company.
Likewise, sugar mill operator Shashikanta Agrawal and businessman Arun Kumar Chaudhary have also objected to the CIJ-Nepal report and denied that they have violated any law of the land.
Dismissing the report, all four of them said that have been unfairly targeted by media reports even though they have not done anything illegal. Denying that they have committed any wrongdoing, they both said the CIJ report has puts them in a negative light and tarnished their image. The report, 'Nepal Leaks 2019: Illegal Wealth Watch', released by the CIJ-Nepal yesterday should not have contained such flaws, they said, though CIJ claims that the report was the outcome of year-long investigations. However, most of the names Nepal Leaks claims to have disclosed also featured in the 'Panama Papers Leak' two years ago in 2017.
All Nepalis making investments in foreign land should not be put into a single basket as some of them may have secured permits from the central bank, while others may have become investors while living abroad, and some may be NRNs.

Current account deficit soars to Rs 119.33 billion

Contrary to the Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli's claim – in the House couple of weeks ago – that the economy is faring well, a significant rise in the import bill and slower exports growth has put excessive pressure in the country’s current account lately.
According to the macroeconomic report – of the first five months of the current fiscal year 2018-19 published by the central bank today – revealed that the current account has registered a deficit of Rs 119.33 billion following a whopping rise in import of merchandise goods against a deficit of Rs 64.11 billion during the same period in the last fiscal year.
The merchandise imports have increased by 34.2 per cent to Rs 607 billion in the first five months of this fiscal year compared to an increase of 18.2 per cent during the same period in the last fiscal year. But the merchandise exports have increased by only 11.2 per cent to Rs 37.50 billion till mid-December in 2018-19 compared to an increase of 10.1 per cent during the same period in the last fiscal year, the central bank report reads. "As a result, the total trade deficit has further widened by 36.1 per cent to Rs 569.49 billion in five months of the current fiscal year, whereas the export-import ratio has declined to 6.2 per cent from 7.5 per cent in the same period of last fiscal year."
The import of commodities like petroleum products, vehicle and spare parts, aircraft spare parts, MS billet, machinery and parts, vegetables, fruits and rice has seen an increase, which pushed the import bill upwards. "Rising import has exerted pressure on the overall balance of payments (BoP) situation as it remained at a deficit of Rs 85.32 billion in the first five months of the current fiscal year compared to a deficit of Rs 5.48 billion in the same period of a fiscal year ago," the report further reads, adding that the workers’ remittance has however increased by 31.9 per cent to Rs 376.59 billion in the same period against a decrease of 0.8 per cent in mid-December of the last fiscal year. "The consumer price inflation stood at 3.7 per cent in mid-December 2018 compared to 4.2 per cent during the same period in the last fiscal year."
The inflation rate has been at the exact level, the Prime Minister Oli had reported last month in the House, though the calculation of the inflation was not out by then. The central bank calculates the inflation rate prepares the macroeconomic report every month. It takes atleast one month to calculate all the economic indicators. But matching of the premier's early announcement of the inflation rate and central bank's calculation creates some suspicious on the central bank's intention and its wish to please the Prime Minister by putting the central bank's integrity, authenticity and national economic indicator's global acceptance. After intellectual's question on his misleading the data, the premier had then replied that the majority government led by him 'will create its own data'.

Government manipulates revenue mobilisation data

The two-third majority communist government has manipulated revenue mobilisation data, though it has been boasting of a brisk mobilisation.
Financial Comptroller General Office (FCGO) – considered as the government treasury – has been found to be inadvertently producing inflated revenue mobilisation data because of double counting, may be on government's direct order or may not be. AS the government has transferred earlier chief of FCGO for revealing the real data, the error could be orchestrated to show the better government performance.
The erroneous reporting on revenue mobilisation has been revealed after the FCGO stated that the government had mobilised Rs 520 billion revenue in the first half of the current fiscal year. The experts were surprised because it was 21 per cent more than the government’s own revenue mobilisation target of Rs 429 billion for the six-month period  -- from mid-July to mid-January – but the central bank, which also tracks the government’s revenue collection, said that it has mobilised Rs 414.3 billion that is only 96.4 per cent of the revenue target. The government has missed its revenue mobilization target – for the first six months of the current fiscal year – by 3.4 per cent in the first six months of the current fiscal year.
It is said that the FCGO has failed to present accurate statistic because of double calculation of fund transferred to divisible fund.
Since the beginning of the current fiscal year – as the country has entered into the federal system – the central government has been sharing 30 per cent of value added tax (VAT and another 30 per cent of inland excise duty with provinces and local bodies as part of the policy to financially empower sub-national governments and institutionalise fiscal federalism. The portion of VAT and inland excise duty dedicated to provinces and local bodies is parked in the divisible fund.
Although the amount deposited in the divisible fund is also a part of federal government’s revenue, the FCGO has initially kept it separate, which means the FCGO’s system had to deduct the amount kept in the divisible fund from the federal government’s gross revenue mobilisation. But it seems the FCGO has not been deducting the fund, counting it double and presenting the inflated figure 'to please the government', which is more conservative that the democratic government.
However, the FCGO claimed that it is revising the revenue mobilisation figure from the beginning of the current fiscal year.
The FCGO provides daily updates on government’s income and expenditure through its website.

Government announces vacancies for employment coordinators

After the six months of the announcement of the programme, the Ministry of Labour, Employment and Social Security has started the process to recruit employment coordinators in all 753 local units across the country as part of the implementation of the Rs 3.1 billion-Prime Minister's Employment Programme.
According to the ministry, applications have been invited online – from all prospective candidates aged between 21 to 45 years –starting from tomorrow for 15 days.
The government plans to recruit 705 gazetted third class officials and 48 non-gazetted first class staffers to work as employment coordinators in all local units to implement the ambitious employment programme that aims at creating employment in various sectors including agriculture, tourism, transport infrastructure, and drinking water. The coordinators will implement the Employment Management Information System (EMIS).
According to the requirement of the Public Service Commission (PSC), the ministry has set minimum intermediate level of education for officials to be deputed as employment coordinators at the local units with less than 10,000 population and bachelor's level education for those to be deputed to the local units with more than 10,000 population.
The ministry is going to shortlist three candidates for each post and make final selection through computer skills test examination to be held at all seven provincial headquarters, though the opposition claims that the government is bypassing the PSC to appoint its cadres.
The government had allocated Rs 3.1 billion in the current fiscal year to implement the ambitious programme, under which it is planned to provide subsistence allowances to unemployed people.
The ministry plans to start registering details of unemployed persons, prospective employers and employment sectors in each local unit starting mid-May under the programme announced in the budget for the current fiscal year.
Likewise, the ministry plans to endorse work procedures to execute the plan at the earliest, as a regulation to this effect has just been endorsed. Delay in regulation has pushed the starting of the process of the programme to six months.

Government gears up for second Investment Summit

The government has decided to hold Investment Summit in the last week of March in a bid to attract foreign investment in the country.
A cabinet meeting has decided to hold the ‘Investment Summit-2019’ on March 29-30, minister for Communications and Information Technology and government spokesperson Gokul Prasad Banskota said, speaking at a press conference today.
The summit will be totally different from the first one, he said, adding that the Investment Summit this time is being organised in a changed political context in Nepal. "We will urge foreign countries and development partners to invest in Nepal to help realise the dream of ‘Prosperous Nepal: Happy Nepali’."
The then government – in association with Investment Board of Nepal (IBN) – had organised first Invetsment Summit before election during Sher Bahadur Deuba government. The foreign participants had then signed Rs 140 billion worth Letter of Intent (LoI). Out of which, some investors have acquired survey licence of hydropower projects worth Rs 40 billion, and other investors' which had shown interest in the first investment summit are also in contact with the Investment Board for investment.
Meanwhile, the Investment Board has also briefed Nepal-based foreign missions yesterday The representatives of Nepal-based foreign missions and development partners were invited to the Finance Ministry to brief them on the government's preparations on the summit. Finance Minister Dr Yubaraj Khatiwada asked the representatives to propagate the information about investment summit to their respective governments and business communities.
The representatives from China, India, USA, Finland, along with international agencies including World Bank, Asia Development Bank, United Nations, however, asked the government to reform the laws that are the biding constraints for the investment in Nepal.
The representatives expressing their willingness to make the Nepal Investment Summit successful and bring adequate fund to Nepal, pointed out reforms needed in Nepal to attract the foreign investors. They also highlighted the problems prevalent in acquiring land and much-needed reforms in relevant legal process to attract foreign investors.
Responding to them, Dr Khatiwada committed to reform Nepal’s investment-related laws according to the international standard. He also said that Nepal now has adequate human resources pooled through enhanced quality education and skilled migrant labours who returned from foreign employment.
The government has however failed to please the domestic investors by not lending ears to them, which has created some confusion among the private sector. The private sector is terrorised by the government's activities, they said, adding that the key ministers – finance minister Dr Yubaraj Khatiwada doesnot want to listen and industry minister Matrika Yadav only threatens the private sector – are the key obstacles in creating investment-friendly environment in the country.

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Call for accelerated efforts to reduce maternal, newborn deaths and still births

An expert group has called for strengthening and expanding sexual and reproductive health services in member countries of WHO South-East Asia Region, to reduce deaths of mothers and babies, which despite substantial decline in recent years continues to be at unacceptable levels.
"Though millions of lives are now being saved due to efforts in recent years, it is unacceptable that mothers or babies continue to die from preventable causes," regional director at the WHO South-East Asia, at the South-East Asia Region’s Technical Advisory Group (TAG), Dr Poonam Khetrapal Singh said, meeting for women’s and children’s health, in New Delhi. "We must focus on neglected sexual and reproductive health issues such as post pregnancy family planning, comprehensive abortion care, and prevention and management of cervical cancer."
The expert group acknowledged that many countries in the region have made significant progress since 1990 contributing to 69 per cent decline in maternal deaths by 2015, 70 per cent reduction in under-five deaths and 60 per cent reduction in newborn mortality by 2018. However, stillbirths need urgent attention as their reduction has been concerningly slow at 31.7 per cent between 2000 and 2015. More needs to be done to achieve the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals for health, she added.
Preventable maternal mortality and stillbirths are interlinked and interdependent, Dr Khetrapal Singh said, adding that the right mix of quality services and high coverage of essential interventions, particularly around the time of birth can save lives of many mothers and their newborns, and reduce stillbirths. Progressive and significant increase in institutional deliveries in the region offers a good opportunity to build on further efforts.
The Technical Advisory Group, comprising of experts from the region and across the globe, recommended focused measures to address both direct and indirect causes of maternal and newborn deaths, and prevent stillbirths.
Early marriage and adolescent pregnancies increase the health risk to both mothers and babies, especially as the young mothers themselves are under-nourished and anemic. Countries must invest in health services tailored to the needs of their adolescent population, including access to sexual and reproductive health related information, the Technical Advisory Group recommended.
Quality abortion services including post-abortion care and increasing access to contraception is another area to focus on. Every year nearly 6 million women are treated for complications related to unsafe abortions in the region.
The Technical Advisory Group also recommended ensuring quality antenatal care services, specially in the third trimester, for identifying complications and taking remedial measures to minimise impact on mothers, their unborn and newborns.
Increased budgets for health – particularly for maternal and child health programmes, trained health workforce, especially midwifery personnel, access to essential services and medicines, and continued focus on institutional deliveries – are key to reduction in maternal, child and neonatal deaths, the Technical Advisory Group, which met in New Delhi on 15 and 16 January, reiterated.
High quality sexual and reproductive health services are integral to any drive towards universal health coverage. Access to quality services is a right of everyone, everywhere, said the regional director, who has been promoting universal health coverage and reduction in preventable maternal, child and newborn deaths, as flagship priority programmes in WHO South-East Asia Region.