Thursday, February 28, 2019

Nepal lags behind in women economic empowerment

Nepali women lag behind in the South Asian region in terms of associations with outcomes related to their economic empowerment, according to a World Bank report.
According to ‘Women, Business and the Law 2019’ report published by the World Bank today, Nepal secured 53.13 points out of 100 in terms of eight different indicators analysing the economic empowerment of women against the global average of 75 points. Such eight indicators on the basis of which the World Bank has marked different countries are going places, starting a job, getting paid, getting married, having children, running a business, managing assets and getting a pension.
Nepal is ranked fifth in the 'Women, Business and Law' report of the World Bank among South Asian nations lagging behind Maldives, India, Bhutan and Sri Lanka.
Securing 73.75 points, Maldives stands at the top while India, Bhutan and Sri Lanka stand at second, third and fourth positions securing 71.25 points, 69.38 points and 65.63 points, respectively.
Meanwhile, six economies – Belgium, Denmark, France, Latvia, Luxembourg, and Sweden – hold scores of 100, meaning they give women and men equal legal rights in the measured areas.
The index – introduced in the Women, Business and the Law 2019 study – basically looks at milestones in a woman’s working life, from starting a job through to getting a pension, and legal protections associated with each of these stages.
South Asia had the biggest improvement in average regional score, rising to 58.36 from 50, and the highest percentage of reforming economies at 88 per cent. Six economies in South Asia reformed in the category of starting a job by introducing laws on workplace sexual harassment including India, Bangladesh and Nepal.
Maldives banned sexual harassment at work and introduced accompanying civil remedies, introduced domestic violence legislation, introduced paid paternity leave and prohibited discrimination by creditors on basis of gender.
The data spans a 10-year period where 187 countries are scored according to eight indicators. "If women have equal opportunities to reach their full potential, the world would not only be fairer, it would be more prosperous as well,” World Bank Group interim president Kristalina Georgieva said, adding that change is happening, but not fast enough, and 2.7 billion women are still legally barred from having the same choice of jobs as men. It is paramount that we remove the barriers that hold women back, and with this report we aim to demonstrate that reforms are possible, and to accelerate change.

Wednesday, February 27, 2019

Despite gains, women face setbacks in legal rights affecting work

Globally, women are accorded only three-quarters of the legal rights that men enjoy, constraining their ability to get jobs or start businesses and make economic decisions that are best for them and their families, according to a new index released by the World Bank today.
"If women have equal opportunities to reach their full potential, the world would not only be fairer, it would be more prosperous as well,” World Bank Group Interim president Kristalina Georgieva, said, adding that change is happening, but not fast enough, and 2.7 billion women are still legally barred from having the same choice of jobs as men. "It is paramount that we remove the barriers that hold women back, and with this report we aim to demonstrate that reforms are possible, and to accelerate change."
The index, introduced in the study 'Women, Business and the Law 2019: A Decade of Reform', looks at milestones in a woman’s working life, from starting a job through to getting a pension, and legal protections associated with each of these stages. The data spans a ten-year period where 187 countries are scored according to eight indicators.
South Asia had the biggest improvement in average regional score, rising to 58.36 from 50, and the highest percentage of reforming economies at 88 per cent, it reads, adding that six economies in South Asia reformed in the category of starting a job by introducing laws on workplace sexual harassment, including India, Bangladesh, and Nepal. "Maldives banned sexual harassment at work and introduced accompanying civil remedies, introduced domestic violence legislation, introduced paid paternity leave and prohibited discrimination by creditors on the basis of gender."
Achieving gender equality is not a short-term process, requiring strong political will and a concerted effort by governments, civil society, international organisations among others, but legal and regulatory reforms can play a foundational role as an important first step.
Progress over the last ten years in the areas measured by the index has been significant. During this time, the global average has risen from 70 to 75. 131 economies have made 274 reforms to laws and regulations that improve women’s economic inclusion. Some 35 countries implemented legal protections against sexual harassment at work, protecting nearly two billion more women than a decade ago. Likewise, 22 economies removed restrictions on women’s work, reducing the likelihood that women are kept out of working in certain sectors of the economy and 13 economies introduced laws mandating equal remuneration for work of equal value.
Six economies – Belgium, Denmark, France, Latvia, Luxembourg, and Sweden – now hold perfect scores of 100, meaning they give women and men equal legal rights in the measured areas. A decade ago, no economy could make that claim. Under this index, economies that conducted reforms experienced bigger increases in the percentage of women working overall, leading to women’s economic empowerment, the report adds.
Despite these efforts, women in many parts of the world still face discriminatory laws and regulations at every point in their working life. Fifty-six countries – spanning all regions and income levels – enacted no reforms at all to improve women’s equality of opportunity over the ten-year period. The pace of reform was the slowest in the category of managing assets – examining gender differences in property rights.
The study develops new insight into how women’s employment and entrepreneurship are affected by legal discrimination, and in turn how this affects economic outcomes such as women’s participation in the labour market. The new index aims to lay a roadmap for progress over time and identify potential areas where more work is needed, to inspire reforms that benefit gender equality. 

Tuesday, February 26, 2019

National Cooperative Federation Nepal and UNDP join hands to work on the SDGs

The National Cooperatives Federation Nepal (NCF) and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in Nepal today signed an agreement to strengthen the role of cooperatives for the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in Province 2. The SDGs, also known as the Global Goals, are a bold, universal agreement to end poverty in all its dimensions and craft an equal, just and secure world – for the people, the planet and prosperity – by 2030.
Under the partnership between UNDP and NCF, both will collaborate to undertake joint initiatives to raise awareness on the SDGs and mobilise all level cooperatives along with other stakeholders and advocate for their contribution to the achievement of the Goals. The partnership will also explore ways to promote and maximize the contribution of cooperatives in achieving the SDGs.
“Through this partnership with National Cooperatives Federation Nepal, we ambition to mobilize the vast network of cooperative s from all across the country to localise the SDGs and contribute to their achievement," UNDP Nepal Resident Representative Renaud Meyer said after signing the agreement in Janakpur. "As important actors of the socio-economic development of Nepal, the cooperatives are also well aligned with the principles of empowerment, participation and inclusion which are at the core of the leave no one behind concept of the global goal for the advancement of SDGs," he said, calling on cooperatives in other provinces to replicate this type of partnership.
"We are committed to develop a comprehensive SDG Implementation Guidelines and continuously build capacity of the cooperatives at all levels so that they could align their activities to have a more direct and concrete contribution to the achievement of the Global  Goals,” said chairperson of NCF Nepal Keshav Prasad Badal.
As part of the agreement, NCF will start internalising the SDGs into its activities and implement concrete measures to create a positive and long lasting contribution. UNDP and NCF-N plan to collaborate in the advocacy efforts to create a conducive environment for the cooperatives to work together with provincial and local partners, including governments, civil society and the private sector for the advancement of the SDGs.

Monday, February 25, 2019

National Conference for small farmers on Thursday

The Small Farmers Development Micro Finance is going to organise National Conference for small farmers-2075 in the capital from February 28 with an objective of attracting investment in agro sector.
The two-day conference – under the theme 'Prosperity of Small Scale Farmers: Transformation in Agriculture and Development of Entrepreneurship' – is going to be organised after four years.
"Some 1,200 people including national and international experts, innovators, planning experts, policy makers and students will participate in the conference," vice chair of the Conference main organising committee Khem Bahadur Pathak said, adding that the conference will help in different activities including poverty alleviation, food security, end of starvation, production development, creating employment and environment conservation. "A total of 28 working papers would be presented in the conference."
The Small Farmers Development Micro Finance Ltd said that the representatives of more than 1,000 small-scale farmers' groups across the nation are going to take part in the conference.

Sunday, February 24, 2019

Nepal International Trade Fair from Thursday

The Federation of Nepalese Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FNCCI) is organising Nepal International Trade Fair in Kathmandu from March 28.
The four-day international travel fail will be held at the Bhrikuti Mandap Exhibition Hall in Kathmandu, according to the FNCCI.
Organising a press conference today, the private sector body said that stalls registration process is ongoing, and that 195 stalls have been booked so far. "While 80 stalls have been booked by Chinese businesses, traders and manufacturers of Bangladesh, Pakistan and India have booked 40, 15 and 10 stalls, respectively," the FNCCI added.
Speaking at the press meet, president of FNCCI Bhawani Rana said that the event has already become an important platform for Nepali companies to showcase their product and services. "We are hopeful that the event will give some traction to the Nepal Investment Summit that the government is planning next month," she said, adding that there will be altogether 400 stalls. "Last year, the event had 340 stalls."
 The traders from SAARC nations as well as China, Thailand, South Korea and Japan are going to take part in the trade fair, according to vice president of FNCCI Kishor Kumar Pradhan.
Likewise, president of the trade fair organising committee Dil Sundar Shrestha, on the occasion, said the FNCCI was expecting 100,000 participants during the four-day event.
The FNCCI is planning to organise 30 to 40 similar provincial and local level trade fairs to promote economic activities across the country.

Detailed feasibility study of Kathmandu-Kerung railway to begin in March

The detailed feasibility study of the 75-km-long Trans Himalayan Kathmandu-Kerung railway will start from March, according to the Department of Railways (DoRW). A joint study team of Nepali and Chinese engineers are scheduled to start the detailed feasibility study and also the detailed project report from next month, the department informed.
The feasibility study will be started simultaneously from Kathmandu, Nuwakot and Kerung. The joint team will conduct the detailed feasibility study and detailed project report simultaneously, the director general of DoRW Balaram Mishra said, adding that the department has planned to start conducting the detailed feasibility study from Tokha of Kathmandu, Nuwakot and Kerung simultaneously. "The joint team will study the rock foundation, soil structure and possible alignment."
The team will finalise design and exact cost of the railway project, after completing the detailed feasibility study and engineering design, he added.
As per the pre-feasibility study, the Kathmandu-Kerung railway project is estimated to cost about Rs 275 billion, according to an initial field study conducted in November 2017 by a Chinese technical team. Around 98.55 per cent section of the railway would be covered by tunnels and bridges, according to the study.
The study team – besides Nepali engineers and the local consultant – will comprise of more than 40 core technical Chinese engineers from the China Railway First Survey and Design Institute Group. The 14 engineers – sent to China to study about the electrified railway system by the government earlier – will also be included in the study team.
Earlier, a joint team Nepali and Chinese consultants had submitted the pre-feasibility report of the railway project on August 10. Both the nations have held three rounds of discussions after the consultants report.
Nepal had proposed China to conduct the detailed feasibility study and also detailed project report of the project with Chinese investment. China has also agreed to bear all the cost incurred for the study.
The Trans Himalayan Kathmandu-Kerung railway line will be connected to China that has been planning to bring the railway line to Kerung by 2022. The Chinese railway line has currently connects Shigatse – of the Tibetan autonomous region – that is some 540-km from Kerung.

Biplov owns up to Ncell blast

Two days after a deadly blast – in front of the Ncell gate in Nakkhu – that took one person’s life and wounded two others, the Netra Bikram Chand 'Biplov'-led Communist Party of Nepal claimed responsibility for the explosion and also attacks on various Ncell towers in different parts of the country.
"We didn’t carry out the explosion targeting pedestrians," one of the Biplov-led party leaders claimed, apologising for human casualty. "We exploded the bomb to warn the ongoing corruption by Ncell."
However, fighting alleged corruption with terror is not the right and legal way rather will distract foreign investment.
Three people were injured when an improvised device exploded in front of the gate of Ncell head office in Nakkhu at around 8pm on Friday. One of the injured, Singha Prasad Gurung (49) died at around 1am Saturday at Mediciti Hospital, while undergoing treatment.
Acknowledging that the explosion at Ncell office and arson attacks on the its towers were carried out by the semi-underground Communist Party of Nepal, it also claimed that the party had no intention to target any member of the public. "The entire party rank and file is sad over the loss of a human life."
At least a dozen telephone towers of the private telecom service provider were torched in different districts including Achham, Kanchanpur, Nawalparasi, Nuwakot, Gorkha, Kaski and Myagdi on Friday night. At least four towers were torched in Myagdi alone.
The splinter of the erstwhile CPN (current Maoist Centre) – that waged a decade-long insurgency – Biplov-led Communist Party has been accusing Ncell of failing to pay billions of rupees in capital gains tax, taking the money earned from Nepal to foreign country, defying court order and buying staffers of the state-owned Nepal Telecom to make its services inefficient. The party claimed that the explosion was a warning to Ncell activities.
However, the illegal way and creating terror among the foreign investors will hit the country as Nepal is preparing to organise Investment Summit next month to lure foreign investment. The incident has raised question on the government's ability and preparedness for foreign investment, though the government has been repeatedly claiming that it will provide security to the foreign and domestic investors.
Ncell – bought by a Malaysian mobile giant Axiata from Swedish TeliaSonera in April 2016 – has been in the news for wrong reasons due to government mishandling of the case.  The then government ministers and tax officials told Axiata that it need not pay capital gains tax. But the tax officials also allowed TeliaSonera go back home without paying capital gain tax – normally paid by the seller, who gains to pay the tax – and also released money from its bank account.
The government and tax officials can still write official letter to the Sweden government through the Foreign Ministry claiming to capital gain tax, but neither the government nor the protestors including Biplov-led communist party are taking the legal and official way to resolve the problem but resorting to the vandalising and extortion destroying the investment climate of the country.
Responding to a writ petition by a group of civil society members including Dwarika Nath Dhungel, the Supreme Court on February 6 ordered Ncell and its parent company Axiata to pay capital gains tax. Five days later, the tax authority said Ncell and Axiata’s capital gains tax liability stood at around Rs 75 billion. The apex court decision has also raised serious question on the government and the law as to how come a buyer pay capital gain tax – against the international law and practice – and the seller, who gained is left to return the country,
Biplov Communist Party has been regrouping and being involved in extortion and criminal activities. It had been attacking Ncell and asking for donations too.

Agriculture Ministry seeks Rs 90 billion

Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock Development has sought around Rs 90 billion for new programmes that is expected boost agricultural products and substitute agri produce imports.
The proposed projects – including Farmers Welfare Programme worth Rs 50 billion, One Municipality One Model Farm worth Rs 20 billion, Youth Employment Special Programme worth Rs 5 billion, Food Hygiene and Standards Programme worth Rs 5 billion, Agri Market Promotion Project worth Rs 5 billion, Paddy Production Programme worth Rs 4 billion and Agriculture Research and Extension programme worth Rs 1 billion – worth around Rs 90 billion.
Agriculture secretary Yubak Dhoj GC today presented at least seven medium and long-term projects to Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli. "The food production has been increasing in an arithmetic progression but demand is growing in a geometric progression," GC briefed the premier.
According to the Department of Customs (DoC), Nepal imported farm products worth Rs 215.50 billion in the last fiscal year, up by 10 per cent compared to a year ago. The share of agro products in the total import bill – of Rs 1,243 billion – has swelled to 17 per cent in the last fiscal year.
The food import bill in 2009-10 stood at Rs 44.43 billion, which almost doubled to Rs 76.05 billion in 2011-12 and to Rs 99.35 billion in 2012-13, and tripled to Rs 127.51 billion in five years in the fiscal year 2013-14, though Nepal is agriculture country. In the fiscal year 2014-15, Nepal imported agro products worth Rs 157.78 billion four times increment in 6 years.
Among the agriculture produces, cereal tops the list followed by edible oil, vegetables and food and animal fodder. According to the data, the cereal import bill amounted to Rs 44.52 billion in the last fiscal year, up from Rs 40.14 billion a year ago.
Likewise, edible oil imports touched Rs 29.72 billion in the last fiscal year, up from Rs 28.83 billion a year ago.
The vegetable import bill has also increased to Rs 22.67 billion in the last fiscal year from Rs 21.50 billion a fiscal year ago. The import of rice has also increased due to demand of aromatic and fine rice as the increasing middle-income population prefers to eat basmati rice, which is not grown in sufficient quantities in Nepal.
Though, Nepali agri produces including fresh vegetables, lentils, large cardamom and ginger are popular in Gulf countries, lack of standards, processing and packaging of these products made it difficult for the Nepali produces' export.
Likewise, Nepali tea, coffee, honey and herbs are popular in Europe, Japan, the US and Australia, but they also have branding, certification and quality issues.
Implemented in November 2016, the 10-year Prime Minister Agriculture Modernisation Project – launched to boost agriculture production and substitute imports – has failed to increase production and boost exports putting pressure on import bill.

Almost half of Arun III-affected buy land with compensation

Almost half of the Arun III hydropower project-affected locals bought land from the compensation money they received from the project developer.
"Some 46 per cent of locals affected by the 900-megawatt SJVN Arun III Hydropower Development Project have purchased land with the compensation money that they received for their land that was acquired by the project," according to a study report.
The study 'Use of cash survey (Arun III) Hydropower Project’ conducted by the Investment Board Nepal (IBN) reveals that around half the affected people had used the compensation to purchase fixed assets like land and houses. The board has said that the main purpose of the study was to confirm how the affected people had utilised the cash compensation that they had received. "Most of the affected people have procured their new property close to their original dwellings," the report reads, adding that only a small number of families have purchased agricultural land. "Only 15 per cent of the project affected families who were previously engaged in agriculture were interested to continue with their profession after receiving the compensation."
According to the project that is located in Sankhuwasabha district, the locals were provided Rs 8.25 lakh per ropani as compensation for uncultivated land and Rs 9.07 lakh per ropani for cultivated land. Likewise, compensation of Rs 1.43 million per ropani was fixed for cardamom fields and Rs 1.2 million per ropani for land with crops. The project has already paid land compensation worth Rs 1.30 billion and will spend around Rs 2 billion for land acquisition process. According to the project, it still needs to acquire 33 hectares of land. It has already provided compensation for 50 hectares of land in the affected district.
Among those who bought fixed assets, some 49 per cent have bought or constructed houses, it adds. "After fixed assets, they have used their compensation money in services like education and health as the most preferred area of investment as 17 per cent used the compensation in education and health services."
But some 15 per cent of the affected households used the compensation in repaying family loans, while almost 11 per cent used it in unspecified areas, the study report reveals, adding that just five per cent of the families used the compensation in businesses.
The government will also get Rs 330 billion as royalty for a period of 20 years – from the hydropower project – apart from distributing shares to the locals and free energy to the affected area. The Arun III hydropower project – an export-based hydropower project – that will generate 400 million units of power every year will also provide 21.9 per cent of energy free of cost. Arun-III will bring the largest ever foreign direct investment (FDI) from India worth Rs 102 billion.

Friday, February 22, 2019

Before investment summit, unidentified group detonates explosive at Ncell Office

Creating terror among the investors before Nepal Investment Summit, an unidentified group detonated a bomb in front of telecommunication service provider Ncell head office at Nakku in Lalitpur.
Police confirmed that an unidentified group has detonated an explosive near the gate of the Ncell head office at Nakkhu in Lalitpur this evening. The preliminary reports suggest that at least three persons have sustained injuries in the blast. "At least three people have been reported injured after an improvised device exploded at Nakku in Lalitpur," Police added.
Meanwhile, Police also said that an emergency response team has reached the site immediately after the blast.
Police informed that the injured have been rushed to Alka Hospital, B&B Hospital and Mediciti Hospital for treatment. "The injured have been identified as Urusha Manandhar, 25, from Kavre; Pratiksha Khadka, 26, from Baghdol; and Singh Prasad Gurung, 49, from Lamjung district," according to police spokesperson Uttam Raj Subedi. "Manandhar and Gurung are receiving treatment at Nepal Mediciti hospital in Nakkhu while Khadka is being treated at Alka hospital in Jawalakhel, He said, adding that the two females suffered minor injuries while a male victim, who was rushed to B&B Hospital in Satdobato is in critical condition.
"A team of IED disposal unit has been deployed at the site,” according to the police.
Though, the Police claimed that it was a minor explosion, it could create major setback to the government that is planning to organise second Nepal Investment Summit on March 28 and 29 in Kathmandu.
A loud explosion was heard in the area around 7:55 pm, according to eyewitnesses, who also said that the glasses of the nearby houses have also been shattered due to the blast. “A team of IED disposal unit has been deployed at the site,” Police added.

Japan pledges Rs 8m grant for coffee processing

Japan today pledged Rs 7.77 million ($68,185) to Nepal for for the construction of a coffee processing center in Kavrepalanchok district.
The support under the Japan government’s grant assistance for Grassroots Human Security Project will be used in setting up one each coffee pulping and processing centre at Timal Rural Municipality of the district, according to a press note issued by the Japanese Embassy in Kathmandu. "The pulping centre is for cleaning the coffee beans while processing centre is for roasting and packaging the beans after roast."
The agreement was signed between Japanese ambassador to Nepal Masamichi Saigo and chairperson of Association of Rural Social Welfare Nepal Jit Ram Lama. Lama is also the president of NGO Federation Nepal.
Currently, raw coffee beans need to be ferried to Kathmandu to sell which has low value. With the installation of the pulping and processing center, the farmers will get high value for their production, the press note reads.
The Japanese Embassy has also agreed to export the coffee beans from the center to Japan for the promotion of Nepali coffee. "Along with setting up the processing centre, support will be provided in marketing the beans,” the statement adds.

Thursday, February 21, 2019

Experts urge revision of trade agreements with Bangladesh

Nepal needs to revise its trade- and transit-related agreements with Bangladesh to address the growing complexities between two countries in their trade relations to benefit domestic exporters that see potential for their goods in the Bangladeshi market, according to the participants of an interaction programme 'Nepal-Bangladesh Trade: Opportunity and Challenges' jointly organised by the Ministry of Industry, Commerce and Supplies (MoICS); South Asia Watch on Trade, Economics and Environment (SAWTEE) and Morang Merchant Association (MMA) in Biratnager today.
Minister for Industry, Tourism, Forest and Environment of Province 1 Jagadish Prasad Kusiyat, on the occasion, said that Bangladesh is an important trade partner of Nepal due to its proximity, but the trade potential is under-exploited and the province government is committed to improve Nepali exports to Bangladesh.
Likewise, president of Morang Merchant Association (MMA) Pawan Kumar Sarda said that Nepal’s duty for Bangladeshi products are less compared to the tariffs imposed by the Bangladeshi government for Nepali products. "In addition, Nepali products face number of non-tariff barriers in Bangladesh due to which our export to Bangladesh is in decline while Bangladesh’s export to Nepal is increasing," he said, adding that Nepal is importing goods which are domestically produced such as juice and potatoes, and suggested we stop importing such goods from Bangladesh.
"The government is in process of renewing trade treaty with SAARC countries including with Bangladesh," joint secretary at the Ministry of Industry, Commerce and Supplies Rabi Shankar Sainju said. "Nepal and Bangladesh have agreed to provide preferential market access to some of their identified products, and Nepal is in process of identifying such products to be included in the list."
SAWTEE chair Dr Posh Raj Panday, on the occasion, made a presentation on Nepal-Bangladesh trade relations and avenues for collaboration. He stated that Nepal’s trade with Bangladesh takes place through Trade and Payment Agreement between Nepal and Bangladesh, Transit Agreement between Nepal and Bangladesh, and also through the regional, sub-regional and multilateral, international agreements signed by the two countries. He pointed out that the Most Favoured Nation (MFN) treatment Nepal gets under these agreements is not adequate to address growing trade deficit with Bangladesh. Pandey also suggested concluding a preferential market access agreement with Bangladesh to address market access issues – including transit, para-tariff and non-tariff barriers – for exportable products and protection of domestic sector, industry.
Trade Facilitation Advisor at Nepal-India Regional Trade and Transport Project (NIRTTP) of the Ministry Himal Thapa also pointed out that for the smooth transit traffic to Bangladesh, tripartite transit agreement needs to be signed between Nepal, Bangladesh and India for rail and truck movement to each other’s countries. Suggesting to establish institutional arrangements representing Nepal at the port and transshipment hub of Bangladesh, he said that Motor Vehicle Agreement (MVA) between Nepal and Bangladesh needs to be finalised and signed.
"The entrepreneurs should come forward with concrete products to promote in the Bangladeshi market," executive director at the Trade and Export Promotion Centre (TEPC) Sarad Bickram Rana, said, on the occasion.
Likewise, vice president of Federation of Nepalese Chamber of Commerce and Industries (FNCCI) Kishore Pradhan stressed a strong need for identifying products with market potential in Bangladesh along with prudent negotiations with the Bangladeshi government for our easy access in their market.
Participants of the interaction suggested agricultural and dairy products such as spices, fresh fruits and vegetables, ghee are products with high export potential to Bangladesh. They also highlighted that their province – Province no 1 – can be the gateway to export trade with Bangladesh due to its proximity with Bangladesh. Participants also stressed the need to improve border customs in both sides and shortening the documentation process while exporting to Bangladesh. They also stressed the need for simplifying the visa obtaining process to go to Bangladesh without having to go to the Bangladeshi embassy in Kathmandu.

Social Welfare Council vice chair among five sacked

The government has sacked five staffs of the Social Welfare Council (SWC) including vice chair Nil Mani Baral for their 'malicious intention'.
A cabinet meeting of February 15 had decided to remove vice chair Baral, treasurer Bir Bahadur Thagunna, members Indra Kumar Jha, Gokarna Bhatta and member secretary Dilli Prasad Bhatta, according to Communications and Information Technology Minister Gukul Banskota.
Minister Banskot – organizing a regular press meet today – said that the cabinet had decided to sack the officials for 'causing harm' to Social Welfare Council by working with 'malevolent intention' and against the law.
Banskota – who is also the government spokesperson – also informed that the government has decided carry out investigation related to financial and administrative irregularities in the Social Welfare Council according to the existing law. The case will also be sent to the Commission for Investigation of Abuse of Authority (CIAA) for action.
At a time, when the government is criticized for its inaction against the corruption, Baskota claimed that the government won’t back down from taking action against those involved in corruption.
Similarly, the government has appointed commerce secretary Kedar Bahadur Adhikari as the chairman of the Nepal Food Corporation (NFC) board. Earlier, Adhikari had served as a secretary at the Office of Prime Minister and Cabinet Secretariat for almost 2 years.
Likewise, the government has also promoted joint secretary Surya Prasad Gautam as the Financial Comptroller General and Nepal Army Colonel Ganesh Kumar Shrestha to the post of Brigadier General.
The government has also created nine temporary posts as part of the preparation to establish three medical colleges under the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology. The cabinet meeting has decided to create temporary organisational infrastructure and temporary deputation of first class officer until second week of July 2019 to run the physical infrastructure development for the medical colleges.
The government has also decided to bring five hospitals – Koshi Zonal Hospital, Narayani Sub-Regional Hospital of Birgunj, Bharatpur Hospital of Chitwan, Bheri Zonal Hospital of Nepalgunj and Dadeldhura Sub-Regional Hospital of Dadeldhura – under the federal government to provide special service, he added.
Earlier, the government had brought 11 hospitals under the federal government. 

Nepal hosts first regional conference of women in power sector

More than 250 engineers and energy-sector professionals – including representatives from 60 participating institutions from local and international power utilities, energy sector organisations, and multilateral agencies – represented their countries at the first regional conference of the Women in Power Sector Network in South Asia (WePOWER), a forum to promote and diversify female practitioners’ opportunities in the power and energy sector.
Joint Secretary at the Ministry of Energy, Water Resources and Irrigation Pravin Raj Aryal opened the two-day conference yesterday. "Energy access and infrastructure development are critical elements in South Asia’s regional development strategy," he said, adding that women’s opportunities to contribute to the energy sector are, however, limited, with a visible lack of gender diversity in technical and senior management positions."
The initiatives like WePOWER would help nurture partnerships among women professionals, leading to an increase in their engagement across the sector, he added. The conference was organised by the World Bank (WB), with support from the Energy Sector Management Assistance Programme (ESMAP), Asian Development Bank (ADB), Australian AID (AusAID) and Australia Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT).
The conference drew senior and junior professionals and engineering students from Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka. Besides panel discussions on the viability of jobs, skills, and opportunities in the sector, the conference also had a special interactive session for secondary school girl students to encourage them to find their footing in the fields of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) education.
"WePOWER aims at supporting greater participation of women in energy projects and utilities, and promote normative change regarding women in STEM education,” said World Bank country director for Maldives, Nepal, and Sri Lanka Idah Z Pswarayi-Riddihough. "This initiative also fits the broader work of the World Bank, aimed at removing constraints for more and better jobs as part of our Gender Strategy."
"Women’s low participation in the sector is a constraint to gender equality and equality of opportunities," World Bank senior director of the Gender Group Caren Grown, said, adding that it is imperative for men and women to have access to good quality jobs, and events like WePOWER reinforce this need.
Australian ambassador to Nepal Peter Budd, opening the second day of the WePOWER conference said that forums like WePOWER are and will continue to be an important mechanism for deliberation on low carbon gender integrated pathways that meet the growth needs of the countries in the region."

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

LP Gas Industry warns of protest

Nepal Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG) Industry Association – organising a press meet today – warned of a protest, if their demands are not met at the earliest. The association said that it will halt collection of LPG product delivery order (PDO) from Nepal Oil Corporation (NOC) from March 1, if their demands are not met.
Similarly, issuing a 10-point demand the association warned that it would launch a protest if the government did not fulfil them within 10 days. It said they would completely halt the supply of gas from March 14.
The The Nepal LPG Industry Association (NLGIA) has been demanding allowance for the operation of Nepali private number plate gas bullets, revision of the commission on LPG, quota determination for LP gas and uniformity in the price of cooking gas. Likewise, they have also been demanding insurance for LPG-related accidents and timely amendment to the LP Gas Regulations, 2065.
"We have invested billions of rupees to purchase LPG bullets and dozens of such bullets are ready for delivery," NLGIA president Gokul Bhandari said, adding, "However, Nepali bottlers have not been able to use these bullets due to lack of non-explosive certificate."
The association – condemned the government for failing to facilitate gas bottling plants to acquire ‘non-explosive’ certificate from Indian authorities, which enables LPG bottlers to use their own bullets to transport cooking gas from India to Nepal – has announced a series of programmes to protest the 'government’s inaction' to resolve problems facing the LPG industry.
Likewise, the NLGIA has also demanded that the government raise commission on LPG for both bottlers and distributors. Currently, NOC is providing commission of Rs 30.55 per cylinder to bottlers and Rs 32 per cylinder to distributors.
It has also been asking the Ministry of Industry, Commerce and Supplies (MoICS) – since September – to conduct a study on challenges facing the LPG industry as promised by the government.
"The government had promised to conduct a study on contemporary challenges facing the LPG industry and address them gradually five years ago," Bhandari said, adding that the government apathy towards the industry has humiliated them. According to Bhandari, the ministry had formed a committee led by former National Planning Commission (NPC) member Puskar Bajracharya in 2013 to provide recommendations on the amount of commission that should be paid to bottlers. "The panel had recommended a commission of Rs 52 per cylinder, but it was slashed to Rs 19," Bhandari added.
Bottlers also expressed concern over NOC issuing licences to new bottling firms. There are 56 gas bottlers in the country currently. "Most of these companies are operating at 40 per cent capacity," he said, adding that Nepal imports 35,000 tinnes to 40,000 tonnes of cooking gas per month. Demand for the fuel is growing at the rate of 17 per cent per annually, according to NOC.

ADB joins partnership to promote women in South Asia energy industry

The Asian Development Bank (ADB) is partnering in a new professional network launched today in Kathmandu to promote more female practitioners in South Asia’s energy and power sector.
The Women in Power Sector Professional Network in South Asia (WePOWER) aims at supporting participation of women in energy projects and institutions, as well as promote more women in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics education.
The first Regional Conference of WePOWER opened today with 150 attendees, including representatives of energy sector utilities and public agencies involved in projects, technical universities, women engineers, and students. The 2-day event is co-hosted by the World Bank Group and ADB.
“WePOWER is closely aligned with ADB’s broader long-term commitment embodied in its long-term Strategy 2030 to remove constraints that women face in finding more and better jobs,” said ADB Principal Social Development Specialist Francesco Tornieri. “Although this applies to all sectors, we see the energy sector as one of the most challenging.”
Energy access and infrastructure development are critical elements in South Asia’s development. An ADB series of Gender Equality Diagnostic studies on the energy industry in South Asian countries has found that women’s skills and perspectives account for a small part of job and decision-making by energy sector agencies. Gender diversity in technical and senior managerial positions is also visibly lacking.
Moreover, an assessment conducted by the World Bank in 8 South Asian countries found very low female enrollment rates in engineering programs (ranging from 0.5 per cent to 31 per cent), low female staff representation in utilities (2 per cent to 17 per cent), and an even lower percentage of women in technical roles in utilities (0.5 per cent to 6 per cent). The studies identified the need for role models and family support, absence of basic facilities and transport, and presence of various forms of discrimination and harassment. 
WePOWER is envisaged to become a vibrant and self-sustaining professional network backed by strategic partners that can provide technical and financial support. Its work programme will focus on five strategic areas including education, recruitment, development, retention, and policy and analysis. WePOWER will provide capacity building support, networking, and mentorship for women engineers for career advancement, research to reform policies and practices, exposure to technology, recruiting opportunities, and access to information and conferences.
The World Bank Group has agreed to host the WePOWER Secretariat for an initial four years. A second Steering Committee meeting is planned to be held at ADB headquarters in November.
ADB is committed to achieving a prosperous, inclusive, resilient, and sustainable Asia and the Pacific, while sustaining its efforts to eradicate extreme poverty. Established in 1966, it is owned by 67 members, 48 from the region.

Smart Chhori to promote digital, financial literacy among girls and young women

Khalti, a digital payment platform in Nepal is launching a special ‘Smart Chhori’ programme tomorrow. The programme is aimed at empowering girls and young women in Nepal through financial knowledge and skills. As part of this initiative, 10,000 adolescent girls and women from across the nation will be trained on financial and digital literacy expecting that they will later emerge as influencers in their communities.
Nepal has a high female unemployment rate and lacking digital skills has become one of the barriers for women and girls in enhancing their career. Still today, a lot of financial decisions are taken by the male members of the family and lots of women still struggle to use smartphones and handle basic finances. Smart Chhori programme – with an aim to encourage women and girls into digital finance – will help them to be ready for what's there to come in this rapidly advancing digital world.
Smart Chhori – a free e-learning platform inside Khalti Digital Wallet app – will help girls learn about the basics of digital payments, online security and personal finance. Girls and young women from age group 15-35 years having a smartphone and access to internet can enroll in the programme.
Through this programme, Khati aims to equip young Nepali girls with the knowledge, skills, and attitude which can change their lives by helping them become independent, establish good financial habits, discuss saving, budgeting, and expenses with family members and improve their future prospect for decent work opportunities, according to director of Khalti and coordinator of Smart Chhori programme Amit Agrawal.
"'Digital Nepal’ and ‘Smart City’ have become buzzwords recently," he said, adding that the physical infrastructures alone are not sufficient to turn this dream into reality. "Digitally literate population and public participation is very essential."
Females comprise 51 per cent of Nepal’s population. "Female Community Health Volunteers (FCHVs) have been playing a significant role to promote health care in villages across Nepal. "We can mobilise our daughters in a similar way as the agents of change to promote digital literacy and simplify lives of people with the use of internet technology," he said, adding that Smart Chhori programme is launched with an aim to prepare female workforce to change Nepal into a Digital and Smart Nepal. "We request all interested girls to enroll in Smart Chhori programme and be Smart Role Models in their communities."
By enrolling in this programme, adolescent girls and young women can grow their digital and financial skills and leverage smartphones and internet to make an impact in the lives of people in their communities. Interested girls and young women aged 15-35 years can join the training programme by clicking on Smart Chhori banner on the home screen of Khalti app, available both in iOS and Android platforms. "This e-learning platform is available for female users only," he added.

Tuesday, February 19, 2019

Tanahu Hydropower terminates CMC contract

Tanahu Hydropower – the developer of 140-MW Tanahu Hydropower Project located in central Nepal – has terminated the contract signed with Cooperativa Muratori e Cementisti di Ravenna (CMC) that was appointed to execute one of the important components of the power plant.
The storage type project – the wholly owned subsidiary of Nepal Electricity Authority (NEA) – today dispatched the termination letter to the Italian contractor – though it will delay the project – after it failed to mobilise the work force despite repeated directions from the employer.
The NEA in October had selected two contractors – one CMC and another Chinese – for the $550 million hydropower plant. The project appointed CMC and asked it to start work by February 11. But CMC asked for advance payment before it starts the work. According to the managing director of the project Pradeep Kumar Thike, the project couldn’t release the advance payment because the Italian contractor didn’t submit the full bank guarantee to qualify for such payment. "Therefore, we had no other option but to send the contract termination letter to the CMC,” Thike, said, adding that the project will initiate a new process to appoint another contractor. "But it will delay the project by at least six months."
Though, the Chinese contractor – Sinohydro Corporation hired to execute hydromechanical and electromechanical works under the second package of the project – has started work at the site, the construction of the entire project will be affected as the tasks of the two contractors are interrelated.
Earlier, Melamchi Water Supply Development Board has also terminated the contract with the Italian contractor after it failed to come back after the warning notice.
The reservoir-type project – with an estimated annual energy generation capacity of 587.7 gigawatt hours in the first 10 years of operation – can generate energy for six hours daily during the dry season. The project is being developed with credit facility extended jointly by the Asian Development Bank (ADB), Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) and European Investment Bank (EIB). 

Monday, February 18, 2019

More budget needed to achieve 'Zero hunger'

National Planning Commission (NPC) today launched 'Towards Zero Hunger in Nepal: A Strategic Review of Food Security and Nutrition', making a strong case for increased attention and investment in food security and nutrition.
The Strategic Review Report – released by deputy prime minister and health minister Upendra Yadav and NPC Dr Krishna Prasad Oli – was produced following an independent study under the supervision of an inter-ministerial advisory group led by the planning commission. It provides a consolidated picture of the food security and nutrition status, challenges, opportunities and recommendations towards achieving 'Sustainable Development Goal 2: Zero Hunger in Nepal by 2030'. The UN World Food Programme (WFP) in collaboration with FAO and UNICEF, provided technical support for the strategic review process.
In Constitution of Nepal enshrined the 'right to food' of all citizens, and subsequently the government commitment to this is elaborated in the Right to Food and Food Sovereignty Act endorsed in 2018. As part of the government's continued commitment, the report will be a key tool to support execution of this Act, with a specific action plan to achieve SDG2 targets to ensure that 'no-one is left behind'.
Yadav releasing the report said that the review results are vital to promote access and availability to safe, nutritious and affordable food, which we strive to have locally produced. "By ensuring a holistic approach to increase local production that combines traditional food varieties with modern agricultural technologies, we now have the opportunity to improve the way we work together, so that every citizen has access to locally available, affordable and nutritious food and we achieve a nation free of hunger," he added.
Speaking on the importance of the Zero Hunger in Nepal: A Strategic Review (ZHSR), Oli said that the government now has the opportunity to strengthen political commitment both at the centre and the periphery, by including SDG2 and recommendations from the ZHSR in all national policies, plans, strategies and budgets at provincial and local levels.

Sunday, February 17, 2019

Nepal’s economy to grow by 6.5 per cent: IMF

Nepal’s economy has expanded by 6.3 per cent and headline inflation averaged 4.2 per cent – in the last fiscal year – held down by subdued food-price inflation, according to the International Monetary Fund (IMF).
But the growth is expected to reach 6.5 per cent in the current fiscal year 2018-19, supported by ongoing reconstruction, investment in hydro-power projects, and strong tourism-related activity. However, fiscal and credit policies are very expansionary leading to rising non-food inflation, a widening current account deficit, falling foreign exchange reserves, and a buildup of financial sector vulnerabilities, the IMF press note reads, adding that risks are tilted to the downside, related to the financial sector and a possible slowdown in remittances. "Executive directors commended the authorities on the pick-up in economic activity in Nepal, supported by greater political stability, more reliable electricity supply, and reconstruction activity." The directors also considered that the improved near-term outlook provides an opportunity to address macroeconomic and financial vulnerabilities and deep-seated structural weaknesses and boost prospects for long-term inclusive growth and the attainment of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
The directors noted that expansionary fiscal and credit policies are putting pressure on the domestic economy, through higher non-food inflation and a buildup of financial sector risks, and a wider current account deficit. They recommended a policy tightening in the near term, including through fiscal consolidation, to avoid an abrupt slowdown, and promote a more durable economic expansion.
They welcomed the progress made in putting in place a fiscal federalism framework. They noted that public debt remains low and encouraged continued efforts to strengthen tax administration and increase domestic revenue mobilisation. The directors observed that more needs to be done to ensure fiscal sustainability, make budgets more realistic and spending more efficient, and build implementation capacity. They agreed that with the devolution of responsibilities and resources to local and provincial levels, efforts should be focused on building policy implementation capacity and instituting a sound public financial management framework at the subnational level.
Directors considered that monetary policy should be tightened, including to support the exchange rate peg to the Indian rupee. They noted that the recently initiated review of the central bank act provides an important opportunity to strengthen the central bank’s operational autonomy and accountability.
The directors, however, encouraged a strengthening of macro-prudential policies alongside an acceleration of financial sector reforms to temper excessive credit growth. They concurred that banks should be encouraged to build additional capital and provisioning buffers against potential losses, and financial sector oversight and regulations should be further strengthened. They also encouraged the authorities to continue implementing the 2014 FSAP recommendations, and strengthening the AML/CFT regime in line with international best practices.
The IMF directors welcomed the authorities’ efforts to strengthen competition, generate a more conducive environment for investment, and reduce corruption. They called for swift implementation of the structural reform agenda, including revising public procurement laws and easing obstacles to firm entry and operations. They emphasised that increasing foreign direct investment, strengthening governance and institutions, and enhancing access to finance, particularly for the underserved population outside major cities, remain top priorities.
The executive board of the IMF – on February 8 – concluded the Article IV consultation with Nepal. Under Article IV of the IMF’s Articles of Agreement, the IMF holds bilateral discussions with members, usually every year. A staff team visits the country, collects economic and financial information, and discusses with officials the country’s economic developments and policies. On return to headquarters, the staff prepares a report, which forms the basis for discussion by the executive board.
As of December 2018, gross official foreign exchange reserves held by the Nepal Rastra Bank (NRB) stood at $8.3 billion, having declined by approximately $1.2 billion from the record set in January 2018.

Government may interfere in interest rate

The government could interfere in the banks to force them to bring down interest rates, if necessary, according to finance minister Dr Yub Raj Khatiwada.
Addressing a programme mark to celebrate 10th  anniversary of National Banking Institute (NBI) today in the valley, he said that profiteering is good but it should be in the limit. "The banks and financial institutions should refrain from making excessive profits," he added.
The government is under pressure from the private sector to lower the interest rates. Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli has yesterday directed Khatiwada to talk to bankers on interest rates.
However, speaking at the same programme, Nepal Bankers Association (NBA) president Gyanendra Dhungana said that it is not possible to bring down the interest rate to single figure. "Industrialists should not be very optimistic about lower interest rates as the base rate of the banks stands at 10 percent," he added. According to the central bank rule, the banks and financial institutions can add upto 5 per cent in the base rate while lending.
Khatiwada, on the occasion, further said that the country is in need of carrying on the agenda of good governance, high integrity, and greater banking efficiency through the best service at the least cost possible by leveraging resources in the most productive areas.
Likewise, central bank governor Dr Chiranjivi Nepal called for a massive transformation in traditional payment system due to advancement in technology. He also highlighted the needs for providing better, affordable services to customers as well as service automation in quest of higher efficiency and risk management
Dr Khatiwada and Dr Nepal jointly inaugurated the programme, where NBI also hosted a Banking Conclave with the theme 'Deliberation for the next Decade'. Some leading banking professionals including MD of State Bank of India Dinesh Khara, MD and CEO of IDFC Bank V Vaidyanathan, Banking expert and Independent Director of State Bank of India Sanjiv Malhotra, Treasurer of HDFC Bank Ashish Parthsarathy, CEO of Foreign Exchange Dealers Association of India (FEDAI) Ashwani Sindhwani and the renowned business journalist from India Tamal Bandyopadhyay spoke on the occasion.
NBI is collectively established by the central bank and Nepal Bankers’ Association with support from Asian Development Bank (ADB) and the government.

Saturday, February 16, 2019

Private sector asks premier's help to lower interest rate

Going against the free market policy, the private sector has today approached the Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli and asked him to pressurise the banks and financial institutions (BFIs) to lower the interest rate.
The team led by Federation of Nepalese Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FNCCI) president Bhawani Rana went to the Prime Minister's official resident Baluwater to ask him to lower the interest rates between 7 per cent and 9 per cent for productive sector. The unpredictable interest rate has hit the industries, the private sector champions said, suggesting the Prime Minister ways to suppress the interest against the free market economy.
The suppressed interest rate is not only against the free market norms, but also creates higher loan demand again making the loanble fund much scarcer. Likewise, the direct approach to the premier – for interest rates complain – is also not going to strengthen the institutions like central bank and Finance Ministry. The central bank, though, is an autonomous regulatory body of the financial market by law, the government – especially the Finance Ministry – has been lately treating it as a department of the ministry. The weak institutions will eventually not help make a strong, independent and sovereign economy. The Oli government has been – during its one year performance – blamed for destroying the institutions and centralising the power to Baluwater, which will further weaken the institutional and structural pillars of the economy.
The move, though, is also going to weaken the governance and push the institutional reforms to backseat, the premier urged the banks not to impose interest rate arbitrarily. But the banks – majority of them – have the private sector as their promoter.
Directing the finance minister Dr Yuba Raj Khatiwada and central bank Governor Dr Chiranjivi Nepal – who were also present during the meeting – to talk to the bankers on entrepreneurs' complaints, the premier also urged the investors to increase investment on productive sectors that can prop up the economy.
The greed of more profits is not good, the communist premier Oli said, adding that it is not good that banks float loan on one condition and impose interest arbitrarily.
Speaking during the Nepal Entrepreneur Summit 2019 on Thursday, finance ministry Khatiwada also said that the profit should be socially accepted, but he did not mentioned how much is socially accepted. The government lately seems to be preparing the ground to put the ceiling in profits – which will be detrimental to the economic growth – and also discourage entrepreneurship.

Thursday, February 14, 2019

PM Oli claims miracle, fails to walk the talk

Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli – addressing the nation marking the completion of his one year in office as the prime minister – claimed that his government has worked wonders in a year.
In his televised speech from the power seat of in Singha Durbar, Prime Minister Oli also boasted about his various achievements, dubbing the completion of one year in office as the ‘foundation year’ or 'zero year'.
While issuing a white paper on economy – by cherry picking data – a year ago finance minister Dr Yub Raj Khatiwada hinted at marking this year as a 'zero year,' apart from his budget that has also claimed to make the current fiscal year a 'zero year' for the prosperous Nepal.
But the key indicators – including Balance of Payment (BoP) and trade deficit – of the economy seems not following the governments 'Happy Nepali Prosperous Nepal' slogan. The BoP remained at a deficit of Rs.63.68 billion in six months compared to a deficit of Rs.6.66 billion in the same period of last fiscal year due to deficit in current account – that registered a deficit of Rs 152.16 billion by mid-January. "Such deficit stood at Rs 97.78 billion in the six months of last fiscal year," according to the central bank.
Likewise, trade deficit has also widened in the sixth month of the current fiscal year, compared to the same period of the last fiscal year. "In six months of 2018-19, merchandise exports increased by 10.3 per cent to Rs 45.41 billion – compared to an increase of 13.5 per cent a year ago, whereas, merchandise imports increased by 30.5 per cent to Rs 723.94 billion widening the total trade deficit further by 32.1 per cent to Rs 678.53 billion," the central bank data reveals. "The export-import ratio declined to 6.3 per cent in the six months from 7.4 per cent in the same period of the last fiscal year."
Similarly, the capital transfer and FDI inflow to Nepal amounted to Rs 6.89 billion and Rs 4.36 billion – making it to a total of Rs 11.25 billion  – respectively, which is more than half the last year's six months. "The capital transfer and FDI inflow witnessed Rs 10.07 billion and Rs 14.33 billion – making a total of Rs 24.40 billion – in the six months of the last fiscal year," the central bank data reveals.
Though, the PM painted rosy picture of economy and boosted about his one-year achievements, even the share market has been not supporting the government claim. The share market – a mirror of economy and investors' confidence – has been looking down from the very first day of the KP Oli government's formation. Nepal Stock Exchange (Nepse) dropped by 8.21 points today – on the day of Premier's address to the nation boosting his achievements today – to close the market at 1112.87 points, following the trend of continuous decline since one year, from th every first day of KP Oli government.  The market also lost confidence as the government failed to initiate reform in the capital market, though it has been upgraded to online trading.
However, the premier did not spell a single word on capital market in his 28-page one-year achievement address today.
The PM, however, claimed that the economy will grow by 7 per cent – in the current fiscal year – as according to the planning commission the growth rate stands at 6.9 per cent in the six months. But his government – in the budget speech for the current fiscal year – has targeted 8.5 per cent economic growth.
The premier also went on to say that the government has already constructed 490-km road, 417 suspension bridges and registered 499 industries in last one year, but he did not spell a word on the gross foreign exchange (forex) reserves that has also depleted to Rs 1058.20 billion as of mid-January 2019 from Rs 1102.59 billion as of mid-July 2018.
Yet another setback for the Oli government is that his government has been stashing huge amount in the central bank locker, being unable to spend on development works. The government treasury is bulging with Rs 178.75 billion – including Rs 49.2 billion in Local Levels' account – as of mid-January 2019.
Though, the private sector was very much hopeful of economic revolution due to historically powerful two-third majority government of Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli promised a moon, the delivery and governance has seen no remarkable change. One year down the line, Oli government acted like his predecessors with nine months in the power.
In almost last 3 decades – Excluding former king Gyanendra – Nepal witnessed 25 prime ministers. However, the political stability in the last one year could not bring policy stability hitting the FDI inflow and also investment confidence of the private sector.
The Oli government could not walk its talk though it had made tall promises of improving people’s livelihood, sustainable development, prosperity and good governance has become. 

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

NOC former MD Khadka released on bail of Rs 20.5 million

The Special Court today ordered release of former managing director (MD) of Nepal Oil Corporation (NOC) Gopal Bahadur Khadka after he posted a bail amount of Rs 20.5 million.
Khadka was presented to the Special Court today, where a bench of Special Court Chairman Baburam Regmi, and members Pramod Kumar Shrestha and Narayan Prasad Pokharel demanded the bail amount of Rs 20.5 million.
Khadka faces corruption allegations during his career in government services in different offices in different capacities. The Commission for Investigation of Abuse of Authority (CIAA) had, on January 7, filed a corruption case at the Special Court against Khadka on the charge of amassing property worth Rs 186.6 million illegally.
The CIAA investigation has revealed that Khadka amassed Rs 86.46 million since March 15, 2013. But his expenses and investment was far more than what he legally earned in these years. He had spent and invested Rs 273.07 million in five years since 2013. Deducting his legal earning from the total amount that he spent and invested, Khadka has failed to show the source of Rs 186.6 million, according to CIAA investigation.
The anti-graft body has – after investigation – sought penalty of up to five years of imprisonment, fine equivalent to illegally earned property, and confiscation of illegally earned property. He had misused his power and close relations with CIAA former chief Lok Man Singh Karki to amass the wealth and invested in his own name and others to whitewash the money earned from alleged corruption.

Monday, February 11, 2019

Nepal Infrastructure Bank gets operating licence

Nepal Infrastructure Bank has today received operating license as a National Level Infrastructure Development Bank from the central bank.
Nepal Infrastructure Bank has received operating license to conduct financial transaction as per the Banking and Financial Institution Act, 2073 clause 107, the bank said in a press note. "The bank is established in joint effort and investment by government along with various commercial banks, insurance companies, microfinance, private companies and group of business entrepreneurs of Nepal," it reads, adding that the bank – registered in the Office of Company Registrar on June 8, 2018 – has received operating licence from the Governor of Nepal Rastra Bank Dr Chiranjibi Nepal, as a national level Infrastructure Development Bank today.
The bank with authorised capital of Rs 40 billion, issued capital of Rs 20 billion and paid up capital Rs 12 billion has 10 per cent government share and 90 per cent share from private sector.
The prime objective of the bank is to play vital role in the infrastructure development of the nation more specifically in the area of construction and development of transportation, agriculture, energy, tourism, SEZ, advanced urbanisation infrastructure, information technology (IT) along with other areas of infrastructure, the press note reads, adding that the bank shall strive to bringing everyone together – public as well as private – in order to achieve its core objectives including infrastructure financing; sourcing of long term funds from international and domestic capital market; and investing on shares of the companies operating in Infrastructure development and other services offered by the bank.

Sunday, February 10, 2019

Nepali cricketers improve in ICC rankings

Riding on the success of the recent T20 series win against the UAE, Nepali cricketers have improved their rankings.
According to T20 ranking released by the International Cricket Council (ICC) today national team captain Paras Khadka, Sompal Kami and Basant Regmi have improved their positions.
Paras Khadka has climbed to the 90th position as batsman and 40th position as an all-rounder, whereas Sompal Kami has improved by 23 points to climb to 70th position among the bowlers while he stands in the 51st position as all-rounder. "Basanta Regmi also improved his position by 3 points to reach 71st in the ranking," according to the latest ICC T20 ranking that has Babar Azam of Pakistan on top of the ranking in batting, while Rashid Khan of Afghanistan tops the bowlers list and Glen Maxwell of Australia is the top all-rounder.

Humanitarian Award nomination for work in Nepal

A doctor living in Kathmandu has been shortlisted to win a coveted humanitarian honour for her work in Nepal.
Dr Gerda Pohl, volunteers her time and skills to PHASE Worldwide. "I am thrilled to be nominated for the Bond Volunteer Award," she said, adding that she considered her nomination also as recognition to all the fantastic GP volunteers, whose visits to Nepal she has been privileged to help facilitate.
Tom Edwards from PHASE Worldwide is delighted that Gerda’s dedication is being recognized. "Gerda helped found PHASE Worldwide and has been a volunteer since it was set up in 2005," he said, adding that her commitment and determination for capacity building in a sustainable way is a unique model that makes such a difference to some of the most vulnerable communities in the world.
Now in its sixth year, the Bond International Development Awards celebrate the exceptional work undertaken in the development sector that often goes unrecognised.  The Volunteer Award specifically honours the hidden heroes giving up their time and donating their skills, often in challenging and demanding environments.
Gerda is joined by seven other deserving finalists in this category, with the overall winner announced at an awards ceremony in London on March 18.
"Each year we are delighted and humbled by the nominations we receive in this category. It is a great reflection of the hard work that goes on, often behind the scenes, by so many dedicated volunteers," Director of Communications at Bond Mike Wright said. "It is a genuine pleasure to be honoring such a diverse range of humanitarians and shining a light on these inspirational people and the incredible work they are doing."
The Bond International Development Awards form part of Bond Annual Conference, Europe's biggest international development event, bringing together diverse organisations and thinkers to share ideas and discuss emerging trends in the international development and humanitarian sectors.

Saturday, February 9, 2019

Waris Dirie, Dr Akinwumi Ayodeji Adesina bag the 2019 Sunhak Peace Prize

Waris Dirie and Dr Akinwumi Ayodeji Adesina bagged the 2019 Sunhak Peace Prize.
Waris Dirie is widely acclaimed for raising awareness throughout the world, about the tragic practice which is still prevalent in some parts of the world, Female Genital Mutilation (FGM). The Sunhak Peace Prize Committee selected Waris Dirie in recognition of her tireless advocacy for the rights of girls and women, and her call for a worldwide resolution calling for the eradication of FGM, thereby protecting girls who are at the risk of FGM.
As an agricultural economist, Dr Akinwumi Adesina has been a leader in agricultural innovation for over 30 years. He has contributed greatly to food security in Africa, aimed at improving the lives of millions currently living in poverty, throughout the African continent. The Sunhak Committee acknowledges Dr Akinwumi Adesina’s achievements in promoting Good Governance through the works of improving Africa’s economies and lifting millions of rural and poor farmers out of poverty, the Sunhak Peace Prize Committee said, adding that both laureates have made a significant contribution to improving the quality of life of the most vulnerable in Africa.
The Sunhak Peace Prize Committee recognises the immense importance of Africa, observes that Africa is undergoing rapid change and development, while also facing challenges. These Laureates have made dramatic contributions to Africa’s growth and development, it added. Each laureate received a cash prize of $500,000, totaling $1,000,000, to go along with a medal and plaque presented by the founder Dr Hak Ja Han Moon, and committee chair Dr Il-Sik Hong, during the award ceremony.
Warisi Dirie was born into a goat-herding nomad family in Somalia. She was subjected to female circumcision at the age of 5. In 1997, when her fashion career was at its peak, as a world-class supermodel, she shared her experience with the world. She became a voice for the voiceless. Her story shocked and at the same time enlightened people around the world about the tragic reality of FGM.
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), over 200 million girls and women have been affected by FGM, which is prevalent in more than 30 countries, including parts of Africa and the Middle East. Moreover, the practice threatens the lives of millions of girls. Also, due to the increase of the immigration rates, countries in Europe, the USA and Asia are affected by FGM practices. This barbaric practice is a crime and against humanity, which often causes infertility, problems with urination, high blood loss, infections and in some cases even death.
The Sunhak Peace Prize honours individuals and organisations, who have made significant contributions to the peace and the welfare of the future generations. The Sunhak Peace Prize includes a cash prize totaling one million dollars. The 2019 Sunhak Peace Prize Award Ceremony will take place in February, 2019 in Seoul, Korea.

ICC releases two years' remuneration of Nepali cricketers

The International Cricket Council (ICC) has released the remuneration – that was stopped after the ICC suspended the Cricket Association of Nepal (CAN) – of Nepali cricket players of the past two years.
The National Sports Council (NSC) member secretary Keshab Bista confirmed that the Council has received Rs 12. 79 million – which will be paid to 21 cricketers – yesterday.
The cricketers – categorised into ‘A’, ‘B’ and ‘C’ group – will be entitled to the facility. The  ‘A’ category cricketers are paid Rs 35,000 per month whereas the ‘B’ category players get Rs 25,000 and the ‘C’ category gets Rs 15,000 per month.
The 'A' category players including captain Paras Khadka, vice-captain Gyanendra Malla, Sharad Bheswakar, Basanta Regmi, Sompal Kami, Dipendra Singh Airee and Sandip Lamichhane. They will get Rs 840,000 each as the remuneration of last two years.
Likewise, 'B' category players including Arif Sheikh, Karan KC, Lalit Bhandari, Anil Kumar Shah, Rohit Poudel, Lalit Rajbanshi and Shakti Gauchan will get Rs 600,000 each, whereas ‘C’ category players including Subash Khakurel, Sagar Pun, Dilip Nath, Sunil Dhamala, Susan Bhari, Pradeep Airee and Binod Bhandari will receive Rs 300,000 each as their remuneration of last two years.
According to the Council, team manager Raman Shiwakoti and main coach Jagat Tamata will also get their remunerations of last two years, though the amount has not been disclosed. The ICC suspended the CAN some two-and-a-half years ago, citing the government intervention and partiality. But the latest feat of the Nepali cricket team in the one and 20Twenty has made the ICC rething on its decision to stop the remunerations of the cricketers.

Friday, February 8, 2019

Nepal-India agree to consider waterways as ‘trade route'

Nepal and India today agreed to declare inland waterways as one of the ‘trade routes’ in Nepal-India Trade Treaty revision.
The bilateral trade treaty review meeting between the joint commerce secretaries of Nepal and India – that concluded in Pokhara today – has agreed to identify inland waterways as trade route in the trade treaty revision, joint secretary at the Ministry of Industry, Commerce and Supplies Ravi Shankar Saiju confirmed. Saiju led the Nepali team in the discussion with his Indian counterparts. "Apart from the new addition of waterways, the two sides also discussed about enhancing cross-border air and railway connectivity."
The Indian authorities have also been positive towards the re-export of goods from Nepal to India and vice-versa, he said, adding that they have expressed the commitment to raise this issue with the Indian government and introduce re-export provision. "If this provision is introduced, Nepal can import goods from third countries via agencies of different multinational companies located in India." Importing goods from Indian agencies of global brands will help reduce the transportation cost for Nepali importers, he added.
Likewise, the trade treaty review meeting has also concluded that India will address Nepal’s agenda to drop the zero-tariff facility on Indian agricultural goods and some other primary products. "Indian authorities have sought details from Nepal on the call to levy customs tariff on such products," Saiju added.
The Nepali side has tabled the agenda of dropping the zero-tariff facility on Indian agricultural goods and some other primary products due to increasing import of Indian goods – especially agricultural products that are enjoying zero-tariff facility – widening the trade deficit with India, and also affecting the market for Nepali goods. But the Nepal government opins that the Indian authority should give continuity to the zero-tariff export facility for previously listed Nepali products in Indian market.
Ending the zero-tariff facility for Indian agricultural goods and some other primary products is expected to help reduce the widening trade deficit between the two neighbours.
Nepal and India had agreed to review the trade treaty along with the transit treaty and Railway Service Agreement (RSA) between the two countries last April. The two countries revised the trade treaty last time in October 2016 without any changes to the 2009 treaty.
Likewise, during the meeting Nepal has also proposed India to allow two additional seaports to trade with third countries. "Nepal has proposed the India to allow Mundra port (Gujarat) and Dhamra port (Odisha) for third country trade," Saiju said, adding that the Indian side has responded positively on Nepal's request.
Nepal currently uses two seaports – Visakhapatnam Port (Andrapradesh) and Haldia Port (Kolkata) – to trade with third countries.
Kathmandu will soon propose the draft of the revised trade treaty to New Delhi. "The next meeting will discuss about revising the trade treaty as Nepal will present India about what provisions precisely Nepal wants to amend in the existing trade treaty," he added.

Thursday, February 7, 2019

CGT is seller’s responsibility: Axiata

The owner of Ncell – Axiata Group – has claimed that it has no additional obligation to pay Capital Gain Tax (CGT) to Nepal government. Issuing a press note today the Malaysian telecommunications service provider claimed that the responsibility of paying CGT lied with the seller from which it acquired Ncell.
The press note in its website reads that Ncell has already made full and final payment and they were also given a full clearance by the Large Taxpayers Office (LTO) of Nepal, though the press note does not mention the amount it paid.
The company – responding to the news reports about a court verdict of Nepal – further argued that Ncell, Reynolds Holdings Ltd, and Axiata UK were given the full clearance by the tax office of Nepal of its obligations to withhold any CGT payment on behalf of seller in relation to the transactions via the letter of LTO dated 4 June, 2017.
The Supreme Court yesterday had issued a verdict asking the government to make Ncell and Axiata pay the CGT. Though the Apex Court verdict is expected to end the debate over whether the seller or the buyer should pay the CGT in a share transaction of $1.03 billion, the case seems to create further confusion in the foreign investor community.
The company has also repeated its argument that the seller – Telia, a Swedish public company – has the responsibility to pay the remaining tax amount. "The CGT is not applicable on offshore transactions and if applicable, any shortfall on payment was the responsibility of the seller," the press note in the company website reads.
The surprising angle of the largest transaction ever of Nepal is that TeliaSonera – currently Telia – is a listed public company of Scandinavian country that teaches transparency and accountability the third world countries like Nepal. The Scandinavian company chose a offshore dealing to move in and out of Nepal.
However, the Malaysian company said that it issued the statement on the basis of media reports as it had not yet received any official statement or verdict from the court. The Supreme Court is yet to issue the full text of the verdict.
Though, LTO is also waiting for full text of the Supreme Court verdict to make a final calculation, it claimed that Ncell and Axiata have to pay Rs 61 billion, as of June 2017, apart from additional applicable fines and interest for the delays. Ncell has already paid Rs 24 billion in CGT. Raynolds is the 80 per cent parent company of Ncell, and Axiata had purchased Reynolds Holdings in 2015 April.

Nirvana Chaudhary awarded YPO’s SEN Sustainability Award

Nirvana Chaudhary has been awarded the Young Presidents Organisation’s (YPO) Social Enterprise Network (SEN) Sustainability Award For Philanthropy because of his work with the Chaudhary Foundation (CF).
For eleven years, YPO has recognised five of its members, who create a positive impact in their communities and companies with the SEN awards, the recipients lead ventures that make an impact on health care, equality, education, employment, eradicating poverty or preserving the planet.
"With 43 initiatives covering all 17 UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), the Chaudhary Foundation is focused on Nepal, opening a spiritual destination that has attracted more than 1.5 million visitors while creating 16,000 jobs, 22 sustainable businesses, awarding more than 3,000 scholarships, building 2,800 free houses for earthquake victims and now launching smart villages through the country," according to , a contributing writer for YPO Elaine Viit.
Chaudhary, the managing director of CG Corp Global and Chaudhary Foundation, said that he is grateful for the opportunity to receive the award and is excited for what it means for the foundation. "It is my belief that providing high-quality community development initiative to the society around Nepal in a sustainable manner is our greatest challenge," he said, adding that it is but also the greatest hope for a better future for every individual, every family, every community and every country.
The other SEN Sustainability Awards were given to Giancarlo Bianchetti (Business), Yann Borgstedt (Equality), Elizabeth Kinney (Impact) and Chocko Valliappa (Education).
Despite his family’s achievements, Nirvana Chaudhary is no stranger to working hard for his own success. He founded his own company within the CG Corp Global conglomerate, CG Finco, when he was only 19-years-old and became the managing director of the Chaudhary Group before reaching 30.
He began leading CG’s philanthropic organisation, Chaudhary Foundation, in 2010. Through the foundation, he has helped open Nepal’s largest spiritual institute, Shashwat Dham, and partnering with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to improve health and sanitation. He also runs his own, private philanthropy initiative in the name of his parents, Binod & Sarika Chaudhary Foundation.
Likewise, Chaudhary Group is a multi-dimensional conglomerate with a complementary business portfolio that comprises over 80 businesses on five continents and in 30 countries. It has a workforce of over 15,000 people and a net worth in excess of $2.5 billion.
In 1995, Chaudhary Foundation was established by Binod Chaudhary, it is the corporate social responsibility wing of Chaudhary Group that focuses on philanthropic activities aimed to improve lives, strengthen communities and sustainably develop Nepal.
The Young Presidents Organisation’s (YPO) is the premier global leadership organisation for more than 27,000 chief executives in over 130 countries and the global platform for them to engage, learn and grow.

Asia Pacific to welcome close to 900 million international visitor arrivals

The overall annual growth rate for international visitors into 40 Asia Pacific destinations is estimated to have been around 7.8 per cent in 2018, generating an inbound volume of around 688 million for the year, almost 50 million more foreign arrivals than in 2017.
According to the executive summary of the Pacific Asia Travel Association (PATA), ‘Asia Pacific Visitor Forecasts 2019-2023’ released today, 40 destinations within Asia Pacific collectively are predicted to show an average growth rate of 5.5 per cent per annum between 2018 and 2023, to host close to 900 million foreign visitor arrivals in 2023.
Asia will continue its strong growth momentum with an expected annual average growth rate for foreign visitor arrivals of 6.2 per cent between 2018 and 2023, while the Pacific and the Americas follow with average growth rates of 4.4 per cent and 3.1 per cent per year respectively, over the same period.
Driven by its strong average annual growth rate, Asia will receive the bulk of the foreign arrivals between 2018 and 2023, it reads. After capturing a relative share of close to 74 per cent of foreign arrivals in 2018, the proportion into Asia is expected to increase to over 76 per cent by the end of the forecast period till 2023. The impact on the Americas and the Pacific is a slight contraction in their respective relative shares from 22.4 per cent in 2018 to just under 20 per cent in 2023 for the former, and from four per cent to 3.8 per cent for the latter, even as their respective numbers of foreign arrivals increase.
Asia will also be the strongest generator of foreign arrivals into Asia Pacific over the forecast period, improving its relative share of arrivals from 63.9 percentage points in 2018, to over 66 percentage points in 2023. Intra-regional travel flows remain important for both the Americas and Asia, with the former destination region seeing over three-quarters of its foreign arrivals originating within that region in both 2018 and 2023.
Similarly, for Asia, where intra-regional travel flows will increase in relative terms, from almost 94 per cent in 2018 to over 94 per cent by 2023.
The Pacific destination region differs, in as much as more than half of its inbound international visitor arrivals originated in Asia in 2018 with that proportion forecast to increase to around 57 per cent by 2023. Even so, the intra-regional flows from the Pacific to the Pacific remain significant at over 30 per cent in 2023.
PATA chief executive Dr Mario Hardy points out that 'Asia continues to be the engine of growth for foreign arrivals into Asia Pacific, with intra-regional flows in particular, remaining important.'
The intra-regional activity is true for the Americas as well, but less so for the Pacific which is rapidly becoming more popular with Asian markets, he said, adding, "once again, we need to be mindful of the fact that in delivering positive and memorable experiences to a rapidly changing inbound market mix, we need to maintain a service ethic and mind-set that is consistently superior and at the same time, tailored to the very different needs of an increasingly diverse range of visitors."
"In developing a service mindset, we need to ask ourselves are we preparing to welcome 898 million foreign arrivals into Asia Pacific in 2023, or should we think of that instead, as one very special visitor, 898 million times. Your perspective on that can make all the difference," Dr Hardy added.

Wednesday, February 6, 2019

Sports help tackle discrimination associated with disability

The international agencies have congratulated Nepal Women's Blind Cricket team for winning the first International Women’s Blind Cricket Series in Islamabad, Pakistan, on Monday.
"It gives UNICEF, UNDP, UNFPA, UN Women and the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SADC) a great pleasure to congratulate the Nepal Women's Blind Cricket team for winning the First International Women’s Blind Cricket Series," reads a press note issued by them.
"As they return home with the trophy, we are delighted to have supported the Cricket Association of the Blind, Nepal, to play the international series and believe that these matches have helped the female blind cricketers acquire more skills, develop independence, and become empowered to act as agents of change," the press note adds.
Nepal’s successful participation in the T-20 international series between women blind cricket teams of Nepal and Pakistan, and the wide admiration both sides have drawn nationally and globally – they said – shows that sports help reduce the stigma and discrimination associated with disability by highlighting their skills and potentials.
"Sport is a platform that can change the lives of women and girls with disability by providing them with an opportunity to demonstrate their physical ability, empowering them to realise their full potential and help to reduce existing gender stereotypes,” says UN Resident Coordinator in Nepal Valerie Julliand.
Women and girls with disabilities often face multiple societal barriers and disability evokes discrimination across Nepal. "Young women with disabilities face up to 10 times more gender-based violence than those without disabilities," according to a 2018 report from UNFPA. This highlights that women with disabilities are still deprived of opportunities essential to their social development, health and well-being.
As we look to the future for the Agenda 2030, Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), we hope that persons with disabilities will have an increased access to sport and recreational activities to foster the inclusion and well-being of persons with disabilities in the society, Valerie Julliand added. "On its path to making a society free of negative perceptions associated with women with disabilities, Nepal has made notable progress lately, particularly in numerous legal reforms including the new Constitution and Human Rights for Persons with Disabilities Act 2017 that guarantee protection of the rights of persons with disabilities."
"It is the right of the people with disability to lead a normal life," ambassador of Switzerland to Nepal Elisabeth von Capeller said, adding that it is important to raise awareness about the new Disability Rights Act and communicate success stories like this to help destroy the pre-judgement towards the people with disability.
The UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities is the first legally binding international instrument to address the rights of persons with disabilities and sport. Article 30 of the Convention addresses both mainstream and disability-specific sport and stipulates that states parties shall take appropriate measures to encourage and promote the participation, to the fullest extent possible, of persons with disabilities in mainstream sporting activities at all levels.

Monday, February 4, 2019

Government formally cancels contract with CMC

Though, the Ministry of Water Supply is still trying to negotiate, the board of Melamchi Water Supply Project has formally cancelled the contract of the project with the Italian contractor today as the contractor failed to resume construction works within the deadline of the government notice.
According to executive director of the project Surya Kandel, the deadline of the ‘notice to contract termination’ that was issued to Co-operativa Muratori e Cementisti (CMC) di Ravenna (CMC) had expired today. The Melamchi Water Supply Development Board had sent a final letter to CMC to resume the remaining works on January 21 but the CMC has not replied yet. "The deadline is over and the contract with CMC has been formally terminated," he said, adding that the project has made multiple efforts to establish communication with the CMC officials but the contractor did not respond.
The contract – which had a legal provision – reads that the agreement would be automatically terminated, if the contractor did not resume construction activities within two weeks of receiving ‘notice to contract termination’.
Earlier, CMC had – from its side – terminated its contract with the project citing its bankruptcy. But the government did not accepted termination letter of CMC – as the project was in the final stage of completion – and asked the contractor to continue the work.
The project is preparing to assign the remaining works to local contractors, he said, adding that the project is preparing legal documents to assign the remaining works to local contractors.
The termination of the contract with CMC is, however, going to delay the construction of the Melamchi Water Supply Project, which was expected to be completed within a couple of months.

Sunday, February 3, 2019

Nepal-bound cargo stranded at Kolkata Port

More than 600 Nepal-bound cargo are stuck at Kolkata Port due to protesting customs clearing agents compelling the traders to bear excess financial burden from the huge demurrage charges.
The agents are protesting as the government is implementing the electronic cargo tracking system as it gained transshipment privilege at the Indian port.
They have been disrupting the movement of Nepal-bound cargo since last Tuesday, from the day Nepal enforced the electronic cargo tracking system at Kolkata port.
The agents have handed over only four to five containers – since Tuesday – to the Container Corporation of India (CCI) – the shipping company offering its service at the sea port – confirmed the freight forwarders, though the tracking system is going to smoothen the Nepal's third country trade.
The authority is negotiating with customs agents to ensure hassle free movement, according to Commerce Ministry. "The Consulate General office at Kolkata is holding talks with the protesting group," the ministry said, adding that Nepal receives 200-300 containers per week via the Indian sea port. "Cargo movement is likely to be resumed from tomorrow, though the agents have yet not consented to call off their protest."
Electronic tracking – the Global Positioning System – is a satellite-based radio navigation system that allows the shipper to keep track of their consignments. After the transshipment privilege, the containers are directly sent to the Birgunj dry port where they can receive customs clearance.
Earlier, the cargo was required to undergo clearance at the entry port followed by inspections at around seven Indian check posts, which now is not necessary. Around 400 customs agents – who were engaged in the manual syatem – claiming that they are jobless, due to electricnic tracking system stopped the movements of the goods.
Nepal has started transshipment privileges and using electronic cargo tracking at Vishakhapatnam port since August, and it has been implemented at the Haldiya and Kolkata ports with the consent of Indian authorities.
"The shipping company could not transport the cargo after the customs clearing agents denied handing over the consignment to them," according to the Nepal Freight Forwarders’ Association (NFFA). 

Trade unions threaten to shut restaurants nationwide

Trade unions of hotels and restaurant workers have threatened to close the restayrents nationawide demanding rollback of a decision to withdraw 10 per cent service charge levied on restaurant bill.
Restaurant and Bar Association Nepal (REBAN) – a professional body of restaurants and bars across the country – had last week decided to withdraw 10 per cent service charge in Kathmandu, Sauraha and Pokhara, citing complaints from consumers. It also said that other restaurants and bars in other cities will withdraw the service charge gradually.
All Nepal Hotel Casino and Restaurant Workers Association, Casino and Restaurant Workers Union, and National Tourism and Hotel Associated Workers’ Union organised a rally today demanding REBAN to withdraw its decision of scrapping service chargeand also threatened to close all restaurants and bars from Tuesday, if the decision is not rolled back immediately.
A day after REBAN took a decision to scrap service charge, the trade unions had given a 24-hour ultimatum for rollback of the decision.
The mandatory service charge system came into force on January 1, 2007. Since then, hotel and restaurant customers have been paying 24.3 per cent extra on the restaurant bill as 10 per cent compulsory service charge, 13 per cent value added tax (VAT) and 1.3 per cent service tax. The VAT and service tax go to the government.
REBAN, Hotel Association Nepal (HAN) and trade unions of hotels and restaurant workers had revised the agreement on May 26, 2018 to provide larger share from funds collected from 10 per cent service charge to workers. The agreement had come into effect on June 8, 2018. Under the revision, hotel employees would get 72 per cent, the hotel management would get 23 per cent and HAN would get 2 percent. The trade unions claim that instead of giving workers their due share, REBAN chose to scrap the service charge.
"REBAN has acted against the spirit of the agreement," president of All Nepal Hotel, Casino and Restaurant Workers Association Madhav Pandey said, adding that they are forced to go streets.
However general secretary of REBAN Araniko Rajbhandari said that there was no point conducting protest as the Supreme Court has also issued a show cause notice against the decision. REBAN – also issuing a press note today – said that it is serious about the well being of its workers. “We have already taken needful initiative to implement basic salary announced by the government," the note reads, adding that tips collected from the clients will be distributed among workers.
But the three trade unions affiliated to the ruling and opposition parties have decided to shut down all member restaurants of the Restaurant and Bar Association of Nepal for an indefinite period from Tuesday onwards.
"The service charge is workers’ rights and has to be implemented at any cost," according to president of Casino and Restaurant Workers Union Surya Bahadur Kunwar, and president of National Tourism and Hotel Associated Workers’ Union Khemraj Khadka.
But the consumer rights activists have welcomed the REBAN’s decision. The rights group said that the Consumer Act and the Constitution stipulate that consumers not be cheated on the pretext of collecting a service charge.