Sunday, March 31, 2019

Himalaya Airlines extends its network to Abu Dhabi

Himalaya Airlines – an international air carrier – is starting thrice-weekly flights from the hub in Kathmandu to a thriving and bustling city, Abu Dhabi. The new service is a part of the airline’s commitment to boost the connectivity of Nepal with Middle-East countries, reads a press note issued by the company.
The inaugural flight H9 567 departed from Tribhuvan International Airport (TIA) at 21:30 hours (local time) and touched down at Abu Dhabi International Airport (AUH) at 00:53 hours (local time) carrying a total of 148 passengers. The return flight from Abu Dhabi H9 568 departed at 02:31+ 1 (local time) on April 1, 2019 and landed at TIA at 08:41 hrs (local time) carrying a total of 150 passengers. Himalaya Airlines has appointed Fishtail Travel and Tourism as their GSA for UAE.
The new flights will operate every Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday with Airbus A320-214 narrow body aircraft, configured with 8-seat in Premium Economy Class and 150 in Economy Class. The flight schedule has been timed evenly throughout the week to provide a mix of weekend, short stay and business travel options.
“We are excited to launch the direct flights between Abu Dhabi and Kathmandu," said vice president of administration at the airlines Vijay Shrestha.
There is a strong demand from both markets for a direct operation on the route, and we have responded to this increasing customer requirement.Commercial and cultural links between the UAE and Nepal are flourishing and Himalaya is honoured to play a pivotal role in facilitating and enhancing the growth of trade and tourism between the two countries, he said, adding that the airlines hopes the new connectivity will further boost traffic from the UAE. "Himalaya Airlines is on the verge of completing its third year of successful commercial operations soon and we are pleased to add Abu Dhabi into H9 network."
Abu Dhabi is the capital and the second most populous city of the UAE, which focuses on oil exports and commerce.
Established in August 2014, a Nepal-China joint venture Himalaya Airlines is a private airline of Nepal providing international air services. Currently, Himalaya Airlines network consists of four destinations, Doha, Kuala Lumpur, Dubai and Dammam adding Abu Dhabi as the fifth one. The airline owns 3 Airbus A320-214 series of narrow-body aircraft with the configuration of 8 Premium Economy class and 150 Economy class seats. The airline plans to focus on China connectivity by adding up Beijing to its destination network and eventually extending to other cities like Nanchang, Wuhan, Changsha, and Nanning.

Silver Heritage to expand business in Nepal

Silver Heritage Group of Australia – which is one of the prominent foreign investors in the country’s hospitality sector and has already invested over Rs 6 billion – has expressed its plan to expand its business and raise investment in Nepal.
"The improving investment environment in Nepal and the rise in both the flow of tourists and other tourism activities have motivated the company to invest further in the country," chief executive officer of Silver Heritage Group Mike Bolsover said.
The Silver Heritage Group currently has invested in the Tiger Palace Resort in Bhairahawa.
Similarly, the group has also invested in the Millionaire Club and Casino.
“We started our business in Nepal through a resort in Bhairahawa and it has been successful along with the increasing flow of both foreign and domestic tourists in recent years," he said, adding that they plan to open their second and third resorts in the far-west region, probably in Dhangadi and also in Jhapa in the eastern region soon. "The resort in the far-western region will basically target tourists from Delhi and Haryana of India."
Citing that Nepal’s strategic location between India and China has created immense tourism potential in the country, Bolsover said that his group will gradually increase investment in Nepal’s hospitality industry.
Likewise, the Silver Heritage Group, according to him, is also planning to invest in a multiplex, restaurants and night clubs in Nepal. He, however, said that Nepal still needs to enhance its air connectivity and prioritise the development of tourism infrastructure in a bid to ensure accelerated growth of the tourism and hospitality sector. "“Nepal needs to enhance the capacity of Tribhuvan International Airport as connectivity is crucial for tourism growth."

Domestic airline companies issue travel alert for passengers

Domestic airlines today issued a travel alert as the Tribhuvan International Airport (TIA) will remain shut for 10 hours from tomorrow evening for runway rehabilitation and expansion work. The only international airport that also houses the domestic one will remain closed from 10pm to 8am every day for 45 days till June 30 for maintenance. Based on a notice to airmen (NOTAM) issued by the TIA, the domestic airline companies have issued a travel alert about the changes in their flight schedule for the convenience of the passengers.
Due to NOTAM, Yeti Airlines and Tara Air – owned by the same group – reduced some 13 flights a day including six mountain flights in the morning. "Apart from mountain flights, one regular flight to Bhairahawa, Tumlingtar and Bharatpur each has also been reduced till the next notice is issued," the airliner stated a press note. "Likewise, two flights to each to Bharatpur and Pokhara have also been reduced from the regular schedule."
Likewise, Buddha Air also issued a travel alert last week – on March 26 – revising the time schedule for flights. "Currently we are not planning to reduce the number of regular flights," marketing director of Buddha Air Rupesh Joshi said, adding that they will not cut down the flight numbers, if rescheduling flights help maintain the schedule. "If necessary, we will also reduce few flights, though we are trying to reschedule as much flights."
Simrik Air has also already issued its travel alert – a month back – cancelling its pre-booked flights to Lukla.
Meanwhile, almost all mountain flights from Kathmandu have been cancelled for the coming 45 days, whereas all flights to Lukla airport from TIA have been diverted to the Manthali airport of Ramechhap.
The TIA’s runway was built in 1975. Though, according to international practice, runways of international airports should be refurbished with new bitumen every 10 years, the TIA has never done that. A Chinese company – China National Aero Technology International Engineering Corporation – is working on the project.

Saturday, March 30, 2019

NRNA, domestic investors save the government

Non Resident Nepalis Association (NRNA) and domestic private sector saved the government as the mega projects illuded the investment summit that has showcased 77 projects for the foreign investors.
The government today signed some 15 memorandums of understanding (MoUs) – most of which is with the domestic private sector and NRNA – of the 17 applications, at the conclusion of the two-day Nepal Investment Summit 2019 in Kathmandu.
The summit witnessed investment agreements on 15 projects between investors themselves and also between the government and investors, according to the Investment Board of Nepal (IBN) that has extended the deadline to submit their applications for the showcased projects till April 20 due to low turnout.
Of the 15 projects that were signed, Chaudhary Group (CG) – owned by Forbes-listed only Nepali billionair Binod Chaudhary – alone signed 4 joint venture agreement with Indian investors, whereas some of the projects earlier said to bring in foreign direct investment (FDI) also signed agreement for financing with the local banks – giving a new definition to the FDI, though the experts claimed it to be a government 'face saver' for the government. A FDI project signing financing agreement with domestic banks is going to not only change the definition of FDI but also create liquidity crunch and hit macroeconomic stability in the country, though the amount seems not huge.
The projects include a joint venture agreement on development of a multi-model logistic park between CG and Sharaf Group, JV agreement to develop the 600-megawatt utility-scale solar photovoltaic project between CG and Skypower, JV agreement between CG and Turkcell for 5G mobile network service, solar photovoltaic energy between Chief Ministers’ Office of Province 2 and CG Infrastructure, according to the board. 
The summit also witnessed agreement on development of the 164MW Kaligandaki Gorge Hydropower Project between Yunnan Xinhua Water Conservancy and Hydropower Investment, Hydro Solutions Group and Shanghai Investigation, Design and Research Institute.
The event also witnessed commitment letter for financing the 900MW Arun-III Hydropower Project – though the Indian developer was supposed to bring in the FDI to develop hydel project – between Nabil Bank, Everest Bank, State Bank of India and SJVN Arun-III Power Development Company. The Indian SBI Bank has made a commitment to provide Rs 65.6 billion while Everest Bank Ltd (Rs 8.13 billion) and Nabil Bank Ltd (Rs 4.88 billion) will also contribute to the project estimated to cost  Rs 112.28 billion.
Muthoot Finance of India also officially announced its investment of Rs 399 million in United Finance, though Muthoot had already agreed to inject money in C-class financial institution in Nepal. United Finance is also a part of Chaudhary Group (CG).
The summit also witnessed an agreement for development of Himalaya Boutique Village Resort in Banepa, setting up a Rs 10 billion fund by Non-Resident Nepali Association (NRNA) and construction of a grain warehouse and infrastructure development cooperation. NRNA and Ministry of Industry signed the agreement. NRNA presiden Bhaban Bhatta informed that an agreement is signed with the government to set up a basket fund worth Rs 10 billion to support the government’s agenda of economic prosperity.
Likewise, Investment Board Nepal (IBN), International Finance Corporation (IFC) and Special Economic Zone (SEZ) Authority for development of Simara SEZ as per public-private-partnership (PPP) modality. Also notable were the announcement of financial investment confirmation of $650 million for the 216-MW Upper Trishuli Hydropower Company by a Korean company.
The IBN has also claimed that it will set up a robust follow-up mechanism on agreements that had been signed and those that would be signed in the next few weeks.
But the investors seemed not convinced with the two-third majority 'communist' government due to their schooling and unpredictable behavior.
The second Nepal Investment Summit held in 2017 saw the commitment of around Rs 14 trillion and its implementation progress is nearly 25 per cent. The country had organised the summit for the first time in 2048 BS following the restoration of democracy. The investors attending the summit had pledged investment of approximately $100 million, but only around 25 per cent was realised, government data show.
This time the investment could go up in the extended deadline.
Addressing the concluding ceremony, former prime minister and co-chair of Nepal Communist Party (NCP) Pushpa Kamal Dahal said it was the right time for investors to inject investment in Nepal as the country’s sole priority was economic prosperity and development.
Finance Minister Dr Yubaraj Khatiwada said the investment summit had successfully promoted Nepal as a favourable destination for doing business and expressed his commitment to support investors through all means.
A total of 735 delegates from 40 countries representing 300 companies, in addition to 600 domestic participants from over 100 companies, took part in the summit, according to the board.

ADB VP attends investment summit in Nepal, reaffirms development support

Asian Development Bank (ADB) vice president Shixin Chen reaffirmed the multilateral development partner's commitment to supporting economic prosperity and assisting the country in fulfilling its growth aspirations.
"In our 50-year partnership, we have mobilised about $6 billion to help build infrastructure and services and improve the lives of the people of Nepal,” Chen – who is on Nepal visit from March 26 to March 30 – said at the Nepal Investment Summit here today.
"ADB’s operations in Nepal have continued to grow over the years and we will continue to support Nepal as it aims for accelerated economic growth," he said, underscoring Nepal's recent efforts to introduce economic reforms and to extend economic cooperation in the region. "Nepal is at the cusp of transformation and can now capitalise on improvements in the economy and address the remaining challenges in attracting investment."
Chen took active part in the Nepal Investment Summit yesterday and today, where Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli and representatives of development partners discussed on making Nepal more investment friendly country.
During the visit, Chen also met with the Prime Minister and reiterated ADB’s support for the government’s development agenda while expressing confidence in the country’s economic prospects. He also met with finance minister and ADB governor Dr Yuba Raj Khatiwada and energy minster Barsha Man Pun during his visit, a press note from the ADB Country Office in Kathmandu reads.
Chen – during his remarks at the investment summit – also noted that Nepal government’s campaign of 'Happy Nepali, Prosperous Nepal' rightly captures people’s aspirations for accelerating economic development in the country and the Summit comes against the backdrop of political stability and improvements in the economy.
Chen noted that ADB’s country partnership strategy for Nepal covering the 5-year period – from 2020 to 2024 – is being prepared and will reflect the government’s development priorities for sustainable and inclusive growth.
During his 5-day visit, Chen also visited ADB-supported project sites, including the South Asia Tourism Infrastructure Development Project in Lumbini and Gautam Buddha International Airport in Bhairahawa, and Sanjivani School in Dhulikhel under the Earthquake Emergency Assistance Project. The latter project is helping to rebuild schools, government buildings, and roads damaged by the devastating earthquake of 2015.
ADB's active portfolio consists of 36 projects amounting to $2.8 billion and 18 technical assistance projects worth $26.4 million.
ADB is committed to achieving a prosperous, inclusive, resilient, and sustainable Asia and the Pacific, while sustaining its efforts to eradicate extreme poverty. In 2018, it made commitments of new loans and grants amounting to $21.6 billion. Established in 1966, it is owned by 68 members, 49 from the region.

Repatriation of profit from Nepal is easy

Repatriating profit from Nepal is difficult a myth, clarified foreign investors investing in Nepal since long.
Speaking at a session on 'Building Industrial Base and Creating Jobs' during Investment Summit Nepal 2019, here today, managing director of Surya Nepal Abhimanyu Kumar Poddar said that repatriating profits from Nepal has never been an issue. "It's a myth that it is difficult to repatriate profit out of Nepal," Poddar said adding that Surya Nepal has had successful investment in local value chains of the country, which today connects, among others, more than 10,000 farmers to the company's manufacturing system.
Repatriation has been an issue for the foreign investors time and again. And Poddar's statement – an assurance to investors participating in the summit that they can easily repatriate returns from the country – is a testimony of the company that is working in Nepal since the last 35 years.
Poddar, on the occasion, also shared his experience of doing business in Nepal, stating that the business environment has significantly improved in the country over past few years.
Citing examples of improvement in power situation and the responsiveness of the government, he also laid Surya Nepal's plan to invest in manufacturing sector, particularly food products in near future. "The company is entering into the country's tourism industry and constructing a luxury hotel in Kathmandu," he said, adding that the multinational company also has a plan of investing another Rs 6 billion in the hospitality sector.
However, international investment experts suggested Nepal to address a few challenges regarding structural reforms and adoption of technology in a bid to lure foreign investors.
"Nepal has a huge investment potential," deputy chief executive officer of KPMG, India, Akhil Bansal said, adding that Nepal still has a long way to go in terms of easing the doing business climate, which is crucial for investments to come in and the economy to grow though the country in recent times has initiated structural reform.
Apart from the sectors like tourism, agriculture and hydropower, which have immense untapped potential for investors, Nepal also should promote investment in the manufacturing and technology sector,” Bansal said, adding that adoption of technology will be crucial in bringing down the production cost in Nepal, which is relatively high. "Adoption of technology along with low labour cost will help bring down the cost of doing business in Nepal."
Explaining that the cost of doing business determines rate of return, he said that any investor first looks at the rate of return before investing. "Political stability, easy administrative procedures, easy entry and business operation are the other aspects that investors look for."
He also said that the foreign investors in the past were reluctant to come to Nepal due to political instability. "Now, it is high time for Nepal to promote itself as a business-friendly country following the end of political transition," he said, adding that the investment summit has been organised at the right time.

DPRs of cross border railways to be completed within a year: Mahaseth

Nepal expects to complete Detail Project Reports (DPR) of cross border railways within a year.
Addressing a session on 'Building Sustainable Transport Infrastructure' during the Nepal Investment Summit 2019, here today, minister for Physical Infrastructure and Transport Raghubir Mahaseth said that Nepal is expecting to complete the (DPR) of Kathmandu-Kerung and Kathmandu-Raxual railways within a year.
"The East-West Railway is around 1100-kilometer," he said, adding that Nepal has already completed pre-feasibility survey of Kathmandu-Kerung and Kathmandu-Raxual railways. "We hope to complete DPRs of both the railways within one year."
He also said that the estimated cost of proposed Kathmandu-Kerung railway is around $3 billion. "Nepal is planning to finalise the DPR of the Kathmandu-Kerung railway project in six months," he said, adding that there will be discussion with the Chinese side about the modality of the DPR by the first week of April. "The government is working to improve transport infrastructure in the country."
Highlighting the need for cable car and e-vehicle among other transportation infrastructures, as an alternative transportation models in Nepal, he said that Nepal doesnot have technology in infrastructure development of Nepal. "Thus Nepal should develop this sector with the support from neighbouring countries."
Encouraging the private sector to invest in the aviation sector, Mahaseth said that Nepal is now heading to achieve sound economic growth. "Nepal is graduating to the middle-income country by 2030."
Inaugurated by the Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli today morning, the third investment summit is witnessing parallel sessions 'Infrastructure: Building Sustainable Transport Infrastructure', 'Agro and Forest Products: Opportunities Through Niche and Value Chains' and two plenary sessions 'Invest in Nepal: Experience Sharing', 'International Experience Sharing' and 'Financing for Infrastructure Development", and over 600 foreign investors including high-level delegates from 40 countries are sharing their experience.
Mahaseth, on the occasion, said
Speaking, on the occasion, panelists in the discussion said that Nepal needs to construct infrastructure in the transport sector and there are ample opportunities to invest in Nepal.

Friday, March 29, 2019

India to allow Nepal’s power export to third countries

India committed to allow Nepal to export electricity through its territory to countries like Bangladesh and Myanmar. With India willing to allow transmission of electricity to Bangladesh via its territory, the foreign investors' moral is expected to get a boost. The foreign investors have been expressing concerns about lack of access to foreign markets for energy produced in Nepal.
"Nepal is a hub for hydropower electricity generation and it has great potential to recharge entire South Asia as a battery backup,” secretary of the Central Electricity Regulatory Commission (CERC) of India Sanoj Kumar Jha said, addressing a session 'Energy: Generating 15000 MW Meeting Domestic And Cross Border Demand For Economic Transformation' at the Nepal Investment Summit in Kathmandu today.
"India will provide necessary support to export Nepal’s power to Bangladesh and Myanmar through its territory," the chief of the key regulator of power sector in India said, adding that India also needs more hydropower electricity to diversify its energy mix.
India has set a target of increasing the share of hydropower generated electricity to 40 per cent in its total energy mix as India’s energy portfolio is heavily skewed towards coal-based thermal power. India's hydropower accounts for only 26 per cent of the total energy mix."
Nepal is expected to become energy-surplus nation during wet season once 456-megawatt Upper Tamakoshi Hydropower Project and few others come into operation from next year.
"We are searching for markets in South Asia and beyond to sell the excess power,” said energy minister Barsha Man Pun, on the occasion. "The government is also seeking support of domestic and foreign investors to tap the country’s energy potential, which stands at over 80,000 MW, whereas current installed capacity stands around 1,270 MW only."
He also committed to reform the power sector and make sure that proper policy and legal instruments are in place to harness Nepal’s huge energy potential. "The government is currently formulating an integrated water resources policy, which will guide the overall development of water resource-based projects in Nepal," he said, adding that it has also begun to develop river basin plans and a hydropower development master plan for holistic development of potential energy projects. "The government has put energy in top priority as the sector is the major basis of country's economic transformation."
The government has set a target to produce 15,000-megawatt power within next 10 years and export 5,000 MW, Pun added. "The government has been taking initiatives to bring in foreign investment in big projects."
Urging the foreign investors to invest in hydropower sector of Nepal as it is the important foundation for the development of South Asia he also informed that projects like Dhalkebar-Mujjaffarpur transboundary transmission line have been forwarded.
"Nepal needs to export electricity to fast growing economies like India and Bangladesh,” suggested general manager of Power China Song Dongsheng. "Very soon energy consumption in South Asia will also go up and Nepal’s electricity will play a vital role in meeting the demand," he said, promising that China is ready to provide necessary support to Nepal’s power sector under the one belt one road initiative.
Chief Engineer of Bangladesh Power Development Board Mohabubur Rehman, on the occasion, informed that Bangladesh targeted to import 9,000 MW of power from Nepal by 2040 and that 500 MW was being purchased from the Upper Karnali Hydropower Project.
Power purchase agreement (PPA) with GMR, developer of Upper Karnali Hydropower Project of Nepal. "It is also underway to import 500 MW immediately," according to Rahman. "It is believed that the finalisation of PPA is expected to pave the way for signing financial closure in the project."
Nepal and Bangladesh have also signed an agreement of energy cooperation and also announced a plan to build electricity transmission line via India. Bangladesh has also been seeking Indian support in bilateral and multilateral talks to import energy.
National Planning Commission (NPC) member Dr Krishna Prasad Oli, on the occasion, stressed the need for constructing watershed hydropower projects to reduce impact of climate change. Stating that a bilateral mechanism has been set up for exchange of cooperation among neighbours China, India and Bangladesh, he said efforts were underway to export Nepal's electricity to the regional market.
SAARC Energy Framework Agreement signed in 2014 has laid the foundation of energy cooperation and exchange, which paved the way for further cooperation in energy transfer among the South Asian countries.
Likewise, executive director of the Nepal Electricity Authority (NEA) Kulman Ghising said efforts were afoot to achieve the government's goal to produce 3,000 megawatts electricity in next three years, 5,000 MW in five years and 15,000 MW in 10 years. "Pojects of 16,000 MW are at various phases of construction."
Speakers at the session also highlighted the institutional arrangements and bilateral agreements that the government had made for investors in the energy sector.

Global e-commerce sales surges

Global e-commerce sales grew by 13 per cent in 2017, hitting an estimated $29 trillion, according to the latest numbers released today by UNCTAD.
A similar surge was seen in the number of online shoppers, which jumped by 12 per cent and stood at 1.3 billion people, or one quarter of the world’s population. Though most internet buyers purchased goods and services from domestic vendors, the share of those buying from abroad rose from 15 per cent in 2015 to 21 per cent in 2017. The growth was driven mainly by an increase in the United States.
As a result, cross-border business-to-consumer (B2C) sales reached an estimated $412 billion, accounting for almost 11 per cent of total B2C e-commerce –a 4 per cent hike on the previous year’s numbers. “The new figures show that e-commerce is indeed creating export opportunities,” UNCTAD secretary-general Mukhisa Kituyi said.
“But the question from a development standpoint is whether businesses in developing countries are prepared to seize the opportunities,” he said, adding that this will be discussed at next week’s eCommerce Week, held from April 1 to 5 at the United Nation’s European headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland.
Little change occurred in the list of the top ten e-commerce markets, with the United States holding on to its top position. At almost $9 trillion, online sales there were three times higher than in Japan and more than four times higher than in China.
The only shuffle in the list was Germany’s overtaking of the Republic of Korea as the fourth largest online market.
While business-to-business (B2B) e-commerce continued to dominate – accounting for 88 per cent of all online sales – B2C was the segment that saw the most growth, increasing by 22% to reach $3.9 trillion in 2017.
In the B2C realm, China increased its lead on the United States, while the United Kingdom held on to third place. But UK consumers were still the most likely to shop on the internet, with a whopping 82 per cent of people aged 15 and older making purchases online in 2017. Overall, however, China had the largest number of internet buyers at 440 million.

NPI concludes global consultations on development plan and vision

Nepal Policy Institute (NPI) has concluded its global consultation on development plan and long-term vision of Nepal Diaspora.
The interaction programme – organised by Nepal Policy Institute (NPI) in association with NRNA Thailand today in Bangkok – saw some 32 experts from diverge areas of specialisation.
National Planning Commission (NPC) vice chairman Dr Puspa Raj Kadel addressed the interaction as a chief guest. According to NPI member Ramesh Singh, the programme was a part of NPI’s effort in collecting inputs from Nepali Diaspora for 15th periodic development plan and long-term vision of Nepal. The NPC had requested the NPI some 3 weeks ago for the input.
NPI had organised another interaction among America based professionals few days ago for the same purpose. The programme was coordinated by NPI secretary Anil Sigdel and EC member Rudra Aryal.
In the beginning of the interaction, NPC joint secretary Khom Raj Koirala briefed the Diaspora of the concept paper the NPC prepared for 15th Periodic Plan and long-term vision.
Informing the Diaspora about the consultations programme held in Nepal from local to National level to develop a draft of concept paper, Koirala mentioned that in the context Diaspora would be critical to finalise the draft. "NPC is keen on engaging NPI in developing a draft of concept paper from the early stage," he added.
Following the NPC’s presentation, NPI chair Khagendra Dhakal gave a presentation sharing the major points that were drawn through the global consultation to shape the Bangkok based interaction effectively. Presenting nine different problems and their solutions in response to draft plan of NPC, NPI chair Dhakal also recommended a new theme Build-Produce-Manage-Monitor (BPMM) for the consideration of NPC to adopt in the upcoming plan and vision.
Explaining about BPMM, he said that Build Physical Infrastructure and Improve Cross-Border Transport System with neighbours. "These are the major barriers to developing Nepal’s market into a competitive economy in the region and globe," he said, adding that private builders should be encouraged for investment in development of infrastructure. "Without industrialisation and manufacturing no nation can achieve economic prosperity and this is not likely without improved physical infrastructure, transportation convenience and ease in cross border trading," he added.
Likewise, he urged production of agricultural farm commodities to bridge the gap in supply shortages and food imports and to reduce higher prices. "This will ensure better choices for consumers with adequate supply at a reasonable cost contributing to market boost that would have a multiplier effect in the economy," he said, adding that the government should continue with long-term agriculture perspective plan vigorously and monitor implementation of the plan.
Similarly, Dhakal also suggested efficient management of Water Resources, including reforestation, soil conservation and expand solar energy. "It should be re-energised with new vigor in the plan," he said, adding that providing safe drinking water supply should remain on top agenda while building small water reservoirs by tapping on rain waters for both household and small-scale irrigation purposes also to be promoted.
NPC should be rebranded with clear mandate of authority for the effecting monitoring of the implementation of plan and measure the desired outcome of the plan and vision, recommended Dhakal, who is currently working as specialist at King Monkut’s University of Technology in Bangkok. Emphasising on the need of pragmatic policy with tangible outcome and powerful monitoring mechanism, he further stressed that without such mechanism in place, the next development plan otherwise will be merely an another plan to add in the list of past 14 plans.
Dhakal indicated that NPI’s final input including the comments from Bangkok interaction will be a good reference for NPC to consider for incorporation in the plan documents. NPI gives an angle on how Diaspora Nepali will see the development scenario rolling up in Nepal. The NPC has started meeting in Kathmandu from Wednesday to finalise the concept paper for the 15th periodic plan.
NPI research coordinator and economist Bishwa Nath Tiwari, on the occasion, conducted interaction on macro-economic sector including economic sector, social sector and cross-cutting issues, infrastructure sector, governance sector. They discussed on growth versus sustainability, green economy, human capital, double digit growth, national pride projects, graduation from LDC, health, women, investment, infrastructure, remittance, and tax related issues.
Chief guest of the program NPC vice chairman Dr Puspa Raj Kadel also responded to all the questions the diaspora raised. Appreciating the NPI for identifying problems and giving solutions too he committed to incorporate the comments and requested NPI to forward the consolidated input from the global consultation. He also asked NPI for regular input.
"NPI is conducting global consultations with Nepali professionals, migrant workers, students, different specific committees of NRNA for past 3 weeks," NPI EC member Ramesh Singh said, clarifying that NPI is an official entity of NRNA as enshrined in the constitution of NRNA. But it behaves as an autonomous global knowledge platform and think tank for Nepal and Nepali exceeding the normal scope of NRNA. He assured that NPI work will be evidence based and placed in public domain for any stakeholder to use with credit to NPI. Singh also added that collective and individual efforts were received from included professionals, migrant workers representatives, Nepali students based in North America, Europe, Australia, UK, Asia, Middle East and also Nepal-based retired professionals of international organisations.
A team led by Switzerland-based development expert Kedar Neupane had processed the inputs swiftly to prepare the first draft and NPI Team is working to give a final touch on the input producing final document.
Speaking in the programme, the joint secretary at the Foreign Ministry Bharat Raj Paudyal appreciated the initiative of NPI that provides multiangle perspectives from the global diaspora which would be a great asset to Nepal. Similarly, joint secretary at at the Ministry of Youth and Sports Ganesh Prasad Pandeya said that policies can never be perfect therefore continuous interaction with diaspora professional which NPI has already started should be continued to reform policies of the nation.
Thirty two experts from the diverse areas of expertise had attended the interaction program where Nepal’s ambassador to Thailand Khaga Nath Adhikari and NRNA Thailand President Assajita Awale welcomed the participants. NRNA Thailand vice president Bhabendra Basnet, treasurer Kanchha Gurung (Gabo), EC member Atish Shrestha, former general secretary Kedar Timalsina and other members took active part in the interaction. 

UN Forum concludes with calls for greater inclusivity to accelerate efforts toward SDG

At the close of the sixth Asia-Pacific Forum on Sustainable Development (APFSD) in Bangkok today, delegates called for stronger partnerships and a more inclusive dialogue with a broader range of development actors if the Asia-Pacific region is to meet the ambitious targets set out by the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
More than 1,000 participants gathered at the Forum to review progress on SDG 4 (Quality education), 8 (Decent work and economic growth), 10 (Reduced inequalities), 13 (Climate action), 16 (Peace, justice and strong institutions) and 17 (Partnerships for the Goals).
While delegates recognised progress in areas of poverty reduction, education and health, there were concerns about rising inequalities in the region, such as widening income and wealth gaps, unequal access to resources, education, employment opportunities, technology and social protection. The impact of climate change in the region, especially on vulnerable populations, also emerged as a key concern, as participants highlighted the need to strengthen inclusive decision-making on issues of environment, natural resource management and food security.
Over the three-day meeting, government and civil society representatives, academics and business identified specific recommendations to accelerate action on the six Goals under review and get the region up to speed in its implementation of the SDGs.
Participants highlighted the importance of coherent integrated policies that looked at the links between the Goals, adding that good governance and appropriate and effective investments were vital for the development and implementation of policies to lead the region to a truly sustainable future.
In her closing remarks, UN under-secretary-general and executive secretary of ESCAP Armida Alisjahbana said, “Overall, the discussions give cause for optimism."
"They recognised considerable challenges, but also considered many specific initiatives the region is taking to monitor and accelerate progress," she said, adding that the need for integrated and inclusive policy making was clearly recognised during discussions on this year’s theme, empowering people and ensuring inclusiveness and equality. “The concrete examples of how empowerment has been successfully delivered in many of your countries are inspiring, as are the many innovative approaches which are underway."
Organised annually by the United Nations (UN) Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP), the outcomes from APFSD will provide input into the global discussions held at the High-Level Political Forum in New York in July this year.

PM invite investors to take benefit from opportunity in Nepal

The government today called foreign investors to inject money in Nepal by taking advantage of the better investment climate. The government also vowed to protect their investments in Nepal and 'guarantee' their profits, as part of its efforts to woo foreign investment.
“Nepal offers attractive packages to investors in terms of taxation, import duties and export facilitation," Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli told some 1,000 participants, including around 600 participants from 40 countries, during the inaugural session of the two-day long Nepal Investment Summit 2019, jointly organised by the government and Investment Board Nepal (IBN), here, today.
Nepal also offers low labour cost, which investors primarily look for, he said, explaining reforms that have been made over the years to attract foreign investment, which is crucial to bridge huge infrastructure gap and generate jobs in other sectors to transform Nepal into a middle-income country.
The country has brought legislations that are investor-friendly and amended key laws to improve the business climate, he said, adding that the government has also simplified business registration, land acquisition and environmental impact assessment processes. "Every sector, from hydropower to agriculture and tourism to manufacturing, is highly profitable and their potential is yet to be tapped."
Oli further told the investors that Nepal today has a government which is not just stable but also has a clear vision for inclusive development through government-private sector partnership. "Feel secure and grab the opportunity," he said, adding that the government and the entire country will facilitate both domestic and foreign investment.
Likewise, finance minister Dr Yuba Raj Khatiwada, on the occasion, reinforced PM’s calls for greater foreign investment adding, “Favourable policies, stable politics and the country’s strategic location are what really make Nepal a suitable business destination."
Addressing the inaugural session, former finance minister and Nepali Congress leader Dr Ram Sharan Mahat said that foreign investment is crucial for Nepal to expand its export base and address the problem of ballooning trade deficit. "Nepal will not meet its growth and development targets without foreign investment,” he said.
“Nepal should look for responsible investors who do not prioritise short-term profit," union minister for investment and foreign economic relations of Myanmar U Thaung Tun said, urging the government to 'focus on agriculture sector to boost the economy'.
Likewise, vice-president of the World Bank for South Asia Hartwig Schafer and vice-president of the Asian Development Bank Shixin Chen, on the occasion, praised the government for giving high priority to introduction of business-friendly regulations and improvement of business climate.
Chen said investments had already been made in energy, drinking water, town infrastructure and education of Nepal, and strategies had been made for more investments. Referring to the ADB's investment in Melamchi Drinking Water Project, Gautam Buddha International Airport, he said that ADB plans to make long-term investment in Nepal.
Likewise, Schafer expressed his readiness to invest in Nepal so as to help its goals of 'Prosperous Nepal, Happy Nepali', stating that is environment conducive for investment in Nepal lately with some changes in legal structures in this regard.
The government has expedited the process of economic reform in recent months with an aim to lure FDI and ease the doing-business environment. Crucial legislation for investment including the Foreign Investment and Technology Transfer Act (FITTA), and the Public-Private Partnership (PPP) and Investment Act were approved just before the investment summit, , though development partners have called the government move a 'haste' and lack of enough discussion on the legal reforms. The laws still needs enough discussion as they still are restrictive, the development partners observed.
However, a dozen memorandums of understanding (MoUs) are going to be signed with foreign investors by the end of the summit to bring in their investment, according to government sources.
Addressing the guests, finance minister Dr Yuba Raj Khatiwada said that high and broad-based economic growth, solid economic fundamentals, a transparent and predictable tax system and recent regulatory reforms make Nepal an attractive investment destination.
"Affordable tax rates have been fixed and laws made targeting investors," he said, adding that there is possibility for investors to have a big market in Nepal standing between big countries China and India.
The summit will witness various discussions on investment opportunities in Nepal today itself. 

Thursday, March 28, 2019

Investment Summit to kick off tomorrow

The Investment Board Nepal (IBN) said that it will showcase 77 different projects including private sector worth $31.93 billion from various sectors during the Nepal Investment Summit 2019 that is scheduled to be held tomorrow and day after tomorrow, in Kathmandu.
Prime Minister K P Oli is scheduled to inaugurate the summit where finance Dr Yubaraj Khatiwada will brief participants about the investment environment in the country and what the government has to offer to investors. The Directive Committee of the investment – led by finance minister Dr Khatiwada – has decided to showcase 50 government-owned projects and 27 other projects from private sector.
A meeting of the committee held on Monday, has calculated the value of the projects by fixing the US dollar exchange rate at Rs 110 per dollar. Based on that rate the value of the 50 government-owned projects stands at $28.59 billion and that of the 27 private sector-led projects stands at $3.34 billion.
During the summit, the government will showcase 25 projects related to energy and infrastructure, 17 related to tourism and 11 projects related to the transportation sector.
Likewise, it will showcase eight projects related to agriculture, seven related to urban development and six related to industrial sector. The government is also presenting three projects related to the education and health sector.
The government’s main objective in the summit is to demonstrate the improved business climate of the country in recent years to potential investors, spokesperson of the board Balaram Rijyal said, adding that the summit will focus on transforming the political and policy stability into trust among the domestic and international business society.
"The two-day conference will also discuss and brainstorm on investment opportunities in various sectors," he said, adding that the government is expecting around a dozen memorandums of understanding (MoUs) to be signed with multiple investors for different projects during the summit.
The government had changed and amended various laws and policies related to foreign direct investment to make the summit a success, though the development partners have said that the government did not give enough time to discuss on key Acts likr Foreign Investment and Technology Transfer Act (FITTA) that could be magnet to bring in foreign investment into Nepal. The opposition party has also claimed that the government has not done enough homework and is organising investment summit in haste.
However, the Oli government is hosting the investment summit a year after assuming office, with a view to 'give out a message that Nepal is the best destination for foreign investment' and with its eyes on double digit economic growth.
According to the board, over 600 participants from 40 countries will be taking part in summit, from which investment of up to $30 billion is expected to be pledged. China dominates the roster of participants with 265 investors and delegates, followed by India with 120, Japan (21) and Myanmar (19). Investors and other representatives from the USA, UK, Canada, UAE, South Korea, Germany and other countries have also arrived in Kathmandu for the summit.
Union Minister for Investment and Foreign Economic Relations of Myanmar U Thaung – who is one of the key-note sspeaker in the summit – has arrived in Kathmandu today.
Likewise, key representatives from Nepal's major development partners including the World Bank and ADB are also here.
Nepal had hosted an investment summit in 2017 after the promulgation of the new Constitution and projects worth $4 billion – out of nearly 14 billion pledged – are working after acquiring the survey licence.

With love from Myanmar
The government has invited Union Minister for Investment and Foreign Relations of Myanmar U Thaung Tun as one of the key note speakers of Nepal Investment Summit 2019 that will begin in Kathmandu tomorrow.
The summit – third in the history of the country – will see participation from over 40 countries around the world. Myanmar minister will address the inaugural session – among the eight digniteries – on the first day as one of the keynote speakers, though Nepal has not seen any investment from the country that was ruled by the Army Junta for long. The ruling communist party's love for the country with Army background is something that is suprising for the development partners. Tun – who previously served as the National Security Adviser of Myanmar's military government – is the first minister of the newly-formed ministry that seeks to boost local and international investment in Myanmar.
Myanmar is in the same legue of Least Developed Countries (LDC) and struggling to catch up the pace of development amid continuing political turmoil. It is also not in a position to immediately invest in any other countries. Recently, Myanmar has also faced a serious case of gross human rights violation of Rohingya refugees. The international community – especially Western democracies – have been asking Myanmar to clear itself from the gross human rights violation. Nepal's move to invite the Myanmar minister as one of the keynot speakers is also seen as legitimising the human rights violations carried out by Myanmar authorities, according to foreign policy experts.
Nepal's love for Myanmar is not new as this is not the first time Nepal has given priority to Myanmar. Nepal had rolled red carpet to the then Myanmar Army Chief Min Aung Hlaing in 2017, stirring a huge controversy then too.
Likewise, in November 2017, Nepal was among 26 countries choosing to abstain from voting in the resolution sponsored by Bangladesh to mount pressure on Myanmar on Rohingya issue in UN's Third Committee, though Nepal also saw influx of Rohingya refugee.
The Committee, which focuses on human rights, voted 135 in favour and 10 against the draft text that asked Myanmar to end military operations that have 'led to the systematic violation and abuse of human rights' of Rohingya Muslims in the country's Rakhine state
In the previous Nepal Investment Summit held in 2017, Nepal had invited Indian finance minister Arun Jaitley as the keynote speaker.

TIA to remain shut for 10 hours daily from Monday

Tribhuvan International Airport (TIA) will remain shut for 10 hours per day from Monday for the biggest maintenance work of the runway since its construction almost five decades ago.
The construction work on the tarmac of the only international airport in the country will continue from 10 pm to 8 am everyday for 45 days, according to the TIA. The TIA spokesperson Pratap Babu Tiwari said that at least 15 per cent of the flights would be affected by the project. "Due to the maintenance, Cathay Dragon, China Southern, Malaysia Airlines, Jet Airways and Qatar Airways will have to reschedule their flights, as they currently operate flights between 10 pm and 8 am," he said, adding that the TIA has already given different time slots to conduct flights for those airlines until the maintenance completes.
According to TIA general manager Raj Kumar Chhetri, currently, TIA handles around 400 flights, including 100 international flights, every day. According to the international standard, runways of international airports should be refurbished with the use of new bitumen every 10 years. TIA’s runway was built in 1975. TIA, however, has never done that, he added.
The Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal (CAAN) has employed China’s state-owned enterprise China National Aero Technology International Engineering Corporation to complete the runway and taxiway rehabilitation work. It signed an agreement with the Chinese company on November 5, 2018. The ‘most critical project’ –  that has been planned at the airport till date – will cost Rs 3.78 billion. The construction company has already started collecting necessary materials to renovate The 3,050-metre-long dilapidated runway and taxiway.
In the first phase, the Chinese company will blacktop 3000m runway. The company will complete the work in 45 days, although the CAAN has given it a 70-day deadline. But it will take around 18 months to rehabilitate the taxiway. The project is scheduled to be completed on June 30.
A study conducted by the Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal (CAAN) in 2014 concluded that the runway at the country’s sole international airport was not strong enough to handle wide-body jets due to its ageing asphalt foundation, and distress is caused to the upper surface instantly when heavy planes land on it. Repeated occurrences of cracks on the runway have been affecting smooth operation of aircraft since 2011.
The congested TIA has handled 7.19 million passengers last year. There were a total of 129,511 flights over the Nepali skies – last year – of  which 74 per cent of them domestic flights.
Due to extreme pressure following frequent cracks in the pavement that have raised safety concerns, the TIA has been forced to improve the runway. For the last seven years, aircraft weighing more than 196 tonnes have been barred from TIA to prevent further damage to the runway. "Last monsoon, the runway has developed cracks more than 30 times," according to airlines.

Nepal, Bangladesh share energy cooperation at multilateral level: Minister

Nepal and Bangladesh share bilateral and multilateral level cooperation in the field of energy, according to energy minister.
Addressing Nepal-Bangladesh Business Forum organised by the Bangladeshi Embassy here today, energy minister Barshaman Pun termed the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU)  signed between Nepal and Bangladesh for energy cooperation on August 10 last year as a very important milestone for both countries. He also argued that Nepal’s willingness to seek further collaboration on the Grid Interconnection among the member countries of BIMSTEC through another MoU has demonstrated Nepal’s commitment in achieving common goal of sub-regional and regional electricity integration. "The energy cooperation and bilateral engagements were being intensified between Nepal and Bangladesh lately."
"We too have forged energy cooperation at sub-regional and regional level understating that sub regional and regional energy connectivity is necessary for balancing energy supply and demand in the region," he said.
Bilateral relations between Nepal and Bangladesh have been further bolstered since the two countries established diplomatic relations in 1972, Pun said, stating that the cooperation between these two countries had spread across political, tourism and education sectors.
Bangladeshi envoy to Nepal Mashfee Binte Shams, on the occasion, spoke on he need for exchange of expertise, education and skills between the two countries as both countries were making a headway for economic development.

EU ambassador visits Bungmati to see efforts towards conservation

EU ambassador to Nepal Veronica Cody visited Bungmati in Lalitpur today to take stock of the progress of Sustainable Tourism and Green Growth for Heritage Settlements of the Kathmandu Valley (Parya-Sampada) project funded under SWITCH-Asia intervention of the European Union (EU).
The project is implemented by UN-Habitat in partnership with Institute for Housing and Urban Development Studies, the Netherlands, Centre for Integrated Urban Development, SAARC Business Association of Home-based workers Nepal, and Lumanti. National Reconstruction Authority (NRA) is joining hands to provide backstopping support for the reconstruction works at Bungamati. This comprehensive initiative was kicked off in May 2018 in partnership with the government and Lalitpur Metropolitan City, and is expected to be completed by 2020.
This initiative is an effort to support the post-earthquake recovery process, to regain the lost momentum by restoring Bungmati as a pilot case to its previous stage by conservation and creating sustainable tourism opportunities, mainly to improve livelihood of the community by capitalising on culture, local cuisines, festivals, rituals, music, local stories, etc for the micro, small and medium enterprises (MSME) including homestays, cafes, and handicraft shops, especially youths and women. Bungamati is selected as a prototype out of 52 heritage settlements in the Kathmandu Valley, which has a huge potential to showcase heritage conservation and sustainable tourism through green growth, sustainable reconstruction, entrepreneurship development of women and youth, investment and product innovation.
Speaking at the programme, ambassador Cody highlighted that the action contributes to enhance the institutional capacity of the local government and communities to put the beautiful Bungmati town firmly on the radar screen of the tourism industry, more specifically, bringing more tourists, supporting the government's effort to celebrate 'Visit Nepal 2020', a national tourism year committed to promote tourism industry and enhance local tourism as associated industries, as well as promote sustainable development, reducing poverty and contributing towards climate change mitigating, addressing current global challenges and opportunities in the light of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development (SDG), more specifically SDGs 5, 8, 11 and 12, supporting Nepal in the achievement of SDGs in a timely manner.

Crises in rural areas threatens progress in hunger, poverty reduction

Marked by deepening cycle of hunger and malnutrition, persistent poverty, limited economic opportunities, and environmental degradation, rural areas continue to be in a state of crisis in many parts of the world, threatening to slow the progress toward the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), global climate targets, and improved food and nutrition security, according to the 2019 Global Food Policy Report (GFPR) released today by the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI).
Rural areas remain underserved compared to urban areas and face a wide array of challenges across the globe: rural areas struggle with environmental crisis in China; severe agrarian crisis in India, and acute shortage of jobs for the growing youth populations in Africa. The report calls for rural revitalisation – to overcome these challenges –highlighting policies, institutions, and investments that can transform rural areas into vibrant and healthy places to live, work and raise families.
“Revitalising rural areas can stimulate economic growth and begin to address the crises in developing countries, and also tackle challenges holding back achievement of the SDGs and climate goals by 2030,” said director general of IFPRI Shenggen Fan. "Rural revitalisation is timely, achievable, and, most important, critical to ending hunger and malnutrition in just over a decade," added Fan.
A majority of the world’s poor live in rural areas: rural populations account for 45.3 per cent of the world’s total population, but 70 per cent of the world’s extremely poor. The global poverty rate in rural areas is currently 17 per cent, more than double the urban poverty rate of 7 per cent.
"Rural transformation requires a holistic economic approach to connect rural and urban economies," administrator at the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and co-author of the lead chapter in the report Achim Steiner said, adding that strengthening these connections can spur growth and diversification in the farm and non-farm sectors, closing socio-economic and quality-of-life gaps between urban and rural areas.
The report emphasises that rural areas could become premiere hubs of innovations in just under a decade. It recommends revitalising rural areas with a focus on five building blocks: creating farm and non-farm rural employment opportunities, achieving gender equality, addressing environmental challenges, improving access to energy and investing in good governance.
"In south Asia, there is a greater emphasis on growth in rural employment, and agricultural productivity by strengthening of the agriculture-based rural nonfarm economy," said director for South Asia at the IFPRI, and co-author of the report chapter on South Asia, Pramod Joshi. To ensure all can participate and benefit from growth and transformation of rural areas, the report recommends investing efforts in reducing general disparities. “Empowering women can improve agricultural productivity, overall well-being of mothers and children, and increase their capacity to contribute to rural revitalisation,” said researcher at IFPRI, and co-author of report chapter on gender equality, Hazel Malapit.
Beyond economic progress and human capital, rural environments must also be restored and improved to secure the many services they provide. “To engage rural residents as custodians of valuable natural resources, their rights to these resources should be recognised in law and practice,” said deputy division director, and co-author of the report chapter on environment, Claudia Ringler.
Achieving these policy goals require investments in good governance. The report identifies three aspects of governance critical for rural revitalisation: appropriate and predictable laws and regulations; effective policy implementation and enforcement; and accountability of those in positions of power and authority. 

High-level World Bank Group delegation heads for Nepal Investment Summit

The chief executive officer of the Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency (MIGA) and two World Bank Group vice presidents will join development banks, ambassadors, and hundreds of investors from more than 30 countries at the Nepal Investment Summit on March 29 and 30, according to the World Bank.
The summit aims at helping attract private financing for key infrastructure projects as Nepal undertakes new regulatory reforms.
The top three bank officials including executive vice president and CEO of MIGA Keiko Honda, vice president of the World Bank’s South Asia region Hartwig Schafer, and vice president at the Economics and Private Sector Development of International Finance Corporation (IFC) Hans Peter Lankes will take active part in the summit.
The three World Bank Group representatives will discuss the bank’s support for Nepal with Prime Minister K P Sharma Oli and finance minister Dr Yuba Raj Khatiwada, the bank's press note reads.
“Nepal has been a rising star in South Asia with foreign direct investment flows reaching a record high in 2017, and likely to remain an important investment destination in the region," Honda said, adding that it confirms Nepal’s efforts to improve its investment climate and become a competitive investment destination for multinational companies that want to have an impact. "We stand ready to work with investors and the government to make Nepal a hub for investment in infrastructure that improves lives, leads to sustainable growth and delivers opportunity for its citizens."
"With 25 projects approaching $3 billion in financing, we are here for the long haul and will continue to support infrastructure development, policy reforms, skills development, and anything required," South Asia VP Schafer said, adding that there is a clear acceptance by Nepal authorities that the country’s prosperity will rely on crowding in the investment from around the world. "Not only financial resources, but also technical and managerial know-how, will be critical to realise Nepal’s vast potential."
"IFC has played a role in creating markets and supporting investments for 60 years," added IFC VP Lankes. "In Nepal, we are looking to scale up significantly our investments in strategic sectors such as hydropower, agribusiness, tourism, and financial inclusion," he said, adding that the IFC is encouraged by the government’s efforts to improve the enabling environment and IFC plans to increase its cumulative investment portfolio to around $1 billion over the next four years.
Schafer will speak at the summit’s inaugural session tomorrow. Lankes and Honda will deliver special addresses at March 30 sessions on international experience-sharing and financing infrastructure, respectively.
In Nepal, the World Bank Group (WBG) includes the International Development Association (IDA), the concessionary lending arm; the International Finance Corporation (IFC), the private sector arm; and the Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency (MIGA), the investment risk insurance arm.
The World Bank currently supports 25 active investment projects in Nepal with $2.6 billion in commitments from IDA and trust funds of which a significant portion is for policy reforms in the areas of fiscal decentralisation, the financial sector, and the energy sector. The indicative resources available under IDA18 (fiscal year 2018-20) are about $1.39 billion, including $300 million from the IDA Risk Mitigation Regime. IFC aims to commit about $800 million to $1.2 billion over the five-year period (Fiscal year 2019-23). MIGA is actively seeking opportunities to support foreign private investment into Nepal.
IFC Nepal focuses on private sector development through provision of financing and advisory services to companies to boost their competitiveness, while expanding financial inclusion and delivering sustainable infrastructure solutions. IFC’s current portfolio in Nepal is $57 million. The budget for advisory support aimed at creating bankable projects and building capacity stands at nearly $16 million.
The World Bank Group (WBG) fielded its first economic mission to Nepal in 1963 to assess the country’s development prospects and challenges. It approved its first credit in 1969 for a telecommunications project. Since then, the World Bank has provided Nepal $4.75 billion in assistance ($3.48 billion in credits and $1.27 billion in grants).

Wednesday, March 27, 2019

Kathmandu ranked 19th best tourism destination in the globe

Kathmandu has been ranked 19th out of 25 world's best tourism destinations for the year 2019.
The world's largest travel site of the United States (US),, has included capital city Kathmandu in the list of 25 best tourism destinations for the year 2019.
The website – that has incorporated Nepal's capital surrounded by a valley full of historic sites, ancient temples, shrines, and fascinating villages in the list of prime tourism destinations – provides comprehensive information about travel and possible visiting sites to the tourists.
Mingle with locals and animals amid Durbar Square’s monuments, or join mountain trekkers in the bustling Thamel District, it reads, adding that explore shops for exquisite work by local artisans - carpets are some of the activities tourists like most in Nepal. "Garden of dreams, Kopan Monastery, Pashupati Nath are specialties of Nepal for tourists."
United Kingdom's capital London has been ranked the first followed by Paris of France and Rome of Italy in the list.

WHO aims to mark five years of polio-free certification

WHO South-East Asia Region was certified polio-free today proving wrong many public health experts who believed that the region, which accounts for one-fourth of the global population, would be the last bastion for polio eradication. Five years on, the region not only continues to maintain its polio-free status but is demonstrating how the polio legacy can effectively strengthen overall immunisation and other programmes.
“Member countries, partners and the community themselves continue to work together to keep the crippling virus at bay," regional director at WHO South-East Asia Region Dr Poonam Khetrapal Singh said, adding that the polio programme’s emphasis on innovation and reaching everyone, everywhere is being replicated by many other public health programs with impressive results.
The last case of wild poliovirus in the region was reported from West Bengal, India, where a two-year old girl suffered polio paralysis on January 13, 2011.  An intense response by Government of India supported by WHO, UNICEF, Rotary International and other partners ensured it remained the last case in WHO South-East Asia Region. 
Post certification, these efforts continue. Every year, more than 32 million children across the region are being reached with oral polio vaccines under routine immunisation and through mass polio vaccination campaigns to maintain high population immunity against polio. In India, an additional 460 million doses of oral polio vaccines were given to children through four mass polio vaccination campaigns conducted in 2018.
As a part of the vigilance for polio in the region, surveillance for polio continues to be further strengthened. More than 75 000 stool samples were tested in 16 poliovirus laboratories in the region in 2018. Environmental surveillance for poliovirus detection has been expanded three-fold in the last five years. Samples are now collected for testing from 74 sites in India, Indonesia, Bangladesh, Nepal, Myanmar and Thailand. In 2014, environment surveillance was conducted only in India, from 23 sites.
While continuing to maintain a strict vigil against polio, the entire polio machinery in the Region is also geared towards strengthening routine immunisation to further boost defense against polio as well as other vaccine preventable diseases. There has been a steady progress in immunisation coverage of the basic vaccines provided in the first year of life.  Nearly 88 per cent children in the region are receiving three doses of the basic vaccines before they achieve the age of one year. In seven of the 11 countries, this coverage is over 90 per cent. All countries have introduced at least two new vaccines under their routine immunisation programme to protect children from vaccine preventable diseases.
Polio programme and its lessons are guiding efforts to eliminate measles and control rubella, a flagship priority programme in WHO South-East Asia Region. 
The polio networks are also supporting countries to strengthen vaccine preventable disease surveillance. “This day is a reminder of our momentous victory against polio, a reminder of our commitment to health of our children, and a reminder of our potential, of our determination to turn impossible into possible,” the regional director said.

UN forum opens with call to advance inclusion, empowerment and equality in Asia-Pacific

The Sixth Asia-Pacific Forum on Sustainable Development (APFSD) opened in Bangkok today with a resounding call for bolder steps to be taken to ensure greater empowerment, inclusiveness and equality, if the region is to realise the ambitious goals of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
Despite its impressive economic growth coupled with advances in technology, recent estimates show that on its current trajectory, the Asia-Pacific region is unlikely to achieve any of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by the 2030 deadline. Empowerment and inclusion are approaches that can accelerate progress towards many of the SDGs.  Today, over 50 per cent of women across the region remain excluded from critical decisions related to their health while poor and vulnerable populations still lack access to land and ownership rights. In some countries, more than 30 per cent of youth are not in employment, education or training.
“Over recent years, I have watched with fascination the progress of nations of Asia and the Pacific in their road to sustainable development," United Nations (UN) deputy secretary-general Amina J Mohammed said in her keynote address.
"Your governments have taken on the challenge of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development with decisive leadership," she said, adding that they are making significant investments to enhance data and statistical coverage, take partnerships to scale and promote people-centered policies, strategies and programmes. "However, in Asia-Pacific, rising inequalities have become a major obstacle to accelerating progress. Inequality of wealth, of access to basic services and inequality in the ability to withstand setbacks and respond to the ravages wrought by climate change, are all on the rise.”
Addressing the region’s lacklustre performance in implementing the SDGs, UN under secretary-general and executive secretary of the Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) Armida Alisjahbana underscored the need for greater investment in key social sectors. 
"To achieve the 2030 Agenda, increased investment is needed to quicken the pace of progress," Alisjahbana said, adding that initial analysis suggests that most countries can afford it, although where the money is needed will vary greatly in a region of the size and diversity of Asia and the Pacific. "What is consistent is evidence that empowering people and ensuring inclusiveness and equality – the theme of this APFSD – can help accelerate progress towards all SDGs."
The annual Forum, which brings together a cross-section of key development actors, including senior government and UN officials, the private sector, and a wide range of civil society organizations, will over three days undertake an in-depth review of the region’s progress on SDG 4 (Quality education), 8 (Decent work and education), 10 (Reduced inequalities), 13 (Climate action), 16 (Peace, justice and strong institutions) and 17 (Partnerships for the Goals). The outcome of the Forum is expected to feed into the High-Level Political Forum in July.
“The Forum provides an opportunity to take stock of lessons learned and the challenges ahead," vice president of the UN’s Economic and Social Council Kira Christianne D Azucena said, adding that she looks forward to a frank exchange of ideas and proposals for new avenues of development and partnerships to strengthen the follow-up and review mechanism, not only at the regional, but also at the global level.
One of the highlights of this year’s Forum is the launch of the Asia-Pacific SDG Gateway, an interactive analytical tool developed by ESCAP that assesses regional and sub-regional SDG progress at goal, target and indicator levels. The innovative methodology for progress assessment can be used to inform follow-up at country-level and hence review the progress of implementation.
Organised by ESCAP, the APFSD has since 2014 provided a unique platform for countries to share perspectives, challenges and best practices as they progress toward implementing the SDGs. It is also an opportunity for governments to present their Voluntary National Reviews and assess Asia-Pacific’s collective efforts in realising the Regional Road Map for implementing the 2030 Agenda adopted by countries in 2017.

Tuesday, March 26, 2019

Nepal International Trade Fair from March 28

Federation of Nepalese Chamber of Commerce and Industry (FNCCI) is organising the eighth Nepal International Trade Fair in Bhrikutimandap from March 28 to promote the international market for Nepali products.
The fair – supported by the Ministry of Industry, Commerce and Supplies – will showcase 225 stalls featuring domestic and imported goods and services like handicrafts, tourism, information technology, agri products, energy, real estate, and education. "Ninety stalls will be from China," informed the FNCCI. The event is promoted by the Trade and Export Promotion Center (TEPC). Likewise, the Lalitpur Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI) and Federation of Handicrafts Associations of Nepal (FHAN) are the co-organisers of the event.
The five-day event is bringing together entrepreneurs and traders from India, China, Bangladesh and Pakistan, according to FNCCI that organised a press meet today.
Handicraft items and domestic products like ginger, tea and Pashmina which are included in the Nepal Trade Integrated Strategy- 2016 will be the major attractions of the fair that will see greater interactions with business delegates from China, business talks and the signing of an agreement for joint-venture.
It is expected that high-level foreign delegations scheduled to arrive here to participate in the Nepal Investment Summit 2019 (March 29-30) will visit the event, further increasing its importance, according to FNCCI president Bhawani Rana. "Bilateral and multilateral meetings with business delegates have been scheduled on the sidelines of the fair."
Some 100 thousand people from home and abroad are expected to visit the fair which will conclude on April 1. 

Third edition of NBBF on Thursday

Third edition of Nepal-Bangladesh Business Forum (NBBF) is sell set to begin on Thursday March 28. The NBBF has been proved a best platform for promoting and strengthening bilateral cooperation between two crucial members of South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC).
A joint endeavor of Kathmandu-based think tank Asian Institute of Diplomacy and International Affairs (AIDIA) and Embassy of Bangladesh in Kathmandu, the theme of NBBF this year is ‘Navigating the Next Phase of Socioeconomic Cooperation.' The third NBBF focuses on two major issues; strengthening media cooperation and expanding multimodal connectivity.
Economic and commercial cooperation between two countries is growing over the years. This is high potential for expanding and diversifying economic and trade relation between two countries. There is a huge potential between two countries on energy cooperation as two countries signed a cooperation agreement in the energy sector – last August – which is expected to pave the way for the export of electricity.
Moreover, media cooperation between Nepal and Bangladesh is vital for fostering trade and economic relations, strengthening transport and energy connectivity, promoting tourism, educational collaboration and people-to-people contact, enhancing bilateral cooperation in common platforms like SAARC, BIMSTEC, BBIN , exchanging the respective climate policy paradigms (CPPs) among others.
According to the AIDIA, energy minister Barsha Man Pun will be the chief gust of the programme. Other prominent guests are former communication minister Mohan Bahadur Basent, ambassador of Bangladesh to Nepal Mashfee Binte Shams, transport secretary Madhusudan Adhikari, former foreign secretary Madhu Raman Acharya, deputy director general Department of Road Keshab Kumar Sharma,  spokesperson Bibeksheel Sajha Party Dr Surya Raj Acharya, chief economist at the International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD) Golam Rasul, former executive director at the Nepal Intermodal Transport Development Board (NITDB)  Laxman Bahadur Basnet and editors of the prominent dailies.
"In-depth and on-the-spot media coverage will promote the better understanding of the matters of mutual bilateral concern and there are ample of such common concerns between Nepal and Bangladesh,” said founder and CEO of AIDIA Sunil KC. "The third NBBF intends to hold the intense discourse involving policymakers and government officials, business executives, media practitioners, scholars, academicians among others."

Monday, March 25, 2019

Japan formally opens door for employment for Nepalis in 14 sectors

Nepal and Japan today signed a Memorandum of Cooperation (MoC) for sending 'specified skilled workers' (SSW) paving the way for Nepali workers to go to Japan for employment in 14 specified sectors, though number of Nepali workers Japan will take and cost has yet not been disclosed.
Officiating secretary at the Ministry of Labour, Employment and Social Security (MoLESS), Ram Prasad Ghimire and Japanese ambassador to Nepal Masamichi Saigo signed the MoC on behalf of their respected governments in capital today. The MoC will come into force from April 1, 2019.
Nepal has been sending youths to South Korea through the government-to-government (G2G) agreement under Employment Permit System (EPS), which is much safer and most lucrative destination for Nepali youths. Now, the successful and safer process of migration will be replicated with Japan too. 
After signing the MoC, Nepal has joined the list of eight countries authorised to send specified skilled workers to Japan after latter decided last year to loosen the restriction of entry for foreign workers. According to Japanese envoy Saigo, Japan estimates to recruit nearly 304,000 workers in five years from the eight countries including Nepal. "The foreign workers will receive treatment on par with the domestic workers in Japan including remuneration, medical care and other issues," he added.
The new policy of the second biggest economy of Asia will give the foreign workers the status of residence is aimed at addressing the serious labour shortage in Japan by accepting experienced foreign human resources with specific expertise and skills. Under the new programme, Japan will accept skilled workers from eight countries including Nepal in 14 specified sectors ranging from nursing care to aviation industry, according to the Japanese Embassy in Kathmandu.
There are two categories for SSW, who will be recruited under the new policy. Under the first category, workers with required skills will be allowed to stay in Japan for up to five years in total. Workers recruited under this category must have proficiency in Japanese language for daily life and at the workplace.
Similarly, the second category will allow foreigners with expert level skills to work in Japan while being accompanied by their family members.
The recruitment of Nepali workers based on the demand of employers in Japan will be carried out by a separate unit established under the Department of Foreign Employment, according to the ministry that will facilitate the recruitment process through a separate unit. "The unit will call for applicants, facilitating the Japanese side to conduct the language and skills tests and oversee the deployment of the successful applicants to Japan," the ministry added. "The applicants must pass language and sector-specific skills exams which will be conducted by the Japanese side."
According to the ministry, a joint task force has been formed to finalise the mechanism, process and remaining issues on sending Nepali workers. The MoC to send Nepali workers to Japan will establish a basic framework for information partnership in order to ensure smooth and proper sending and accepting specified skilled workers, states a press issued by the Embassy of Japan in Kathmandu after the signing labour deal between the two countries. "This deal will eliminate malicious intermediary organisations and will resolve the problems of sending, accepting and residing in Japan of specified skilled workers," the press note reads, adding that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan enhances the mutual benefits of both countries, through cooperation for proper operation of the system, in collaboration with the relevant ministries and agencies of Japan.

IFC works with Sebon to educate investors in local shares

IFC – a member of the World Bank Group – has partnered with Nepal’s securities market regulator to educate investors from rural communities about the risks and benefits of purchasing local shares in hydropower projects.
The education sessions in Rasuwa and Solukhumbu this week were targeted at local officials and civil society leaders, womens’ groups, and community members, the IFC said in a press note. "They follow similar successful events held in Lamjung and Dolakha in December 2018."
The joint session includes a presentation by IFC on the findings of its study 'Local Shares: an in-depth examination of the opportunities and risks for local communities' seeking to invest in Nepal’s hydropower projects that was published in September 2018, followed by a session by Securities Borad Of Nepal (Sebon) the securities market including buying, selling and trading of shares, and the risks and rewards of investing.
Despite an ongoing demand for equity participation in hydropower projects in Nepal, the risk associated with purchasing local shares is not well understood by the majority of investors, whose decision making is often driven by hearsay and the advice of family and friends. This is reflected in the IFC study as well as in the education sessions in Lamjung and Dolakha, where the majority of participants had the expectation that local shares are guaranteed to generate a profit. 
“There was a lot of rumor flying around that investing in shares will be lucrative," according to Man Maya Gurung of Lamjung. "So I put in Rs 40,000 of my savings without much thought," she said, adding that she only wished I had gotten to attend such a programme before she invested savings. "We need more of such programmes.”
To help address these gaps in investor knowledge, Sebon conducts dozens of education sessions every year aimed at potential shareholders, especially those in poor and vulnerable communities.
“Many investors take loans or use their savings to purchase local shares," executive director and spokesperson of Sebon Niraj Giri said, adding that it’s important they have realistic expectations for returns. "Through education, and securities market reform, we can improve their access, and increase their chances to share in the benefits that hydropower can bring to their communities."
Among the reforms initiated by Sebon to make the securities market more transparent and investor-friendly are an online trading platform, where shareholders can buy and sell with minimal transaction costs. Companies will also have the option to raise capital from the general public ahead of a local shares offering, giving poor investors more time to arrange for financing. IFC has identified both the problems as key recommendations in the its study.
"We’re pleased to be working with Sebon to bring the findings of the local shares study back to the communities who contributed to the report," IFC’s country head in Nepal Mohammad Rehan Rashid said. "In addition to this investor education, the report recommends tightening up the eligibility criteria for local shares, putting in additional safeguards for vulnerable investors, especially women, improving the transparency of information to potential shareholders, and the consideration of alternate delivery models for private companies," he added.

Korean peninsula sees peace at the end of tunnel

SEOUL: Seoul is hopeful that the Korean peninsula is soon going to witness a peaceful unity as the clouds of doubts have started clearing between the two Koreas – North and South – in recent years.
In his address during the inauguration ceremony of the Global Journalist Conference (GJC) 2019, in Seoul on Monday, Second Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs Lee Taeho briefed the journalists from around the world about the latest developments in an attempt to reach an agreement that would bring Seoul and Pyongyang closer.
"Inter-Korean relations continue to look hopeful this year," he said, adding that the two Koreas withdrew guard posts in the demilitarized zone and hosted a groundbreaking ceremony for an inter-Korean railway linkage. "The Korean Peninsula is gradually transforming itself from the world’s last Cold War frontier to a symbol of world peace."
Calling the media to play a role in building peace on the Korean Peninsula, he said a peaceful Korean Peninsula was closely linked to the security of East Asia. "North Korea's participation in economic affairs in the region will help stabilize it."
As relations between North and South Korea has been moving towards more peaceful future, the year 2019 is expected to see both the countries start some of he joint projects. Though, South Korean has been openly talking about the significance of peace on the peninsula, the North has not denied the joint future that looks more promising and prosperous.
The week-long conference – organised by the Journalists Association of Korea (JAK) – also helped the international journalists to better understand Korea’s policies aimed at peace building.
Some 70 journalists from 40 countries around the world – on the occasion – not only discussed on 'Role of journalists in seeking peace on the Korean Peninsula,' but also presented their country case study. Some 13 participants presented their country case study and talked about the challenges media today is facing, globally and locally. They also discussed on responsibility of media in promoting world peace and how their reports can make a difference in the world.
Apart from Seoul, the journalists will visit some six major South Korean cities including Suwon, Sejong, Jeollabuk-do, Gwangju, Daejeon, Cheonan and Incheon, before leaving for their home country on March 30. The journalists will also visit traditional Korean houses at a Hanok Village, the Samsung Innovation Museum in Suwon, the Independence Hall of Korea in Cheonan, and the May 18th National Cemetery, commemorating the nation's democratization movement back in 1980.
After the inauguration ceremony, the Korea Tourism Organisation hosted a lunch for the journalists. President of the Korea Tourism Organisation Young Bae Ahn, on the occasion, informed the guests that South Korea witnessed a total inbound and outbound tourist volume of 44 million tourists. Highlighting the South Korea’s growing role in the global tourism industry, he informed that 15 million international visitors arrived in Korea while 28 million Korean tourists travelled overseas.

Sunday, March 24, 2019

Wheat harvest expected to set new record

Wheat harvest – in the current fiscal year – is expected to set a new record as it is projected to exceed 2 million tonnes due to good rainfall in the season. The record wheat crop follows a bumper paddy harvest last summer.
Though, the government is planning to announce crop production estimates for the current fiscal year 2018-19 soon, wheat – the country’s third most common cereal crop after paddy and maize – harvest is expected to record a 7 per cent growth this year largely due to ‘good winter’ rainfall across the country, according Agriculture Ministry.
The good harvest of cereal crops is expected to not only increase farmer incomes and reduce rice import bill but also bring the inflation down. It will also push the economic growth because agriculture contributed to around 30 per cent to the gross domestic production (GDP). Wheat accounts for more than 7 per cent of the Agricultural Gross Domestic Product (AGDP), according to the Central Bureau of Statistics (CBS).
The bumper growth in cereal crop production is also expected to increase the agriculture sector’s growth rate by over 5 per cent this fiscal year pushing the overall GDP growth up. The government – through the budget – has tragetted to achieve 8 per cent GDP growth in the current fiscal year. The projected harvest is expected to generate revenues of more than Rs 45 billion based on the average price of wheat of Rs 22 per kg at the current price.
The country witnessed a record wheat output of 1.97 million tonnes in the fiscal year 2014-15. But the rainfall dependent production plunged by 12.1 per cent to a six-year low of 1.73 million tonnes in the fiscal year 2015-16. Due to good rain, harvests jumped by 6 per cent in the fiscal year 2016-17, reaching 1.84 million tonnes. Wheat production stood at a record 1.93 million tonnes in the last fiscal year, making it the second biggest wheat harvest in the country’s history also due to improved varieties of wheat seeds that boost productivity. Nearly 45 per cent of the wheat acreage is now covered by improved seeds."

Annual Wheat Harvest
Year          Output (in tonnes)
2018-19     2.08 million
2017-18     1.94 million
2016-17     1.84 million
2015-16     1.73 million
2014-15     1.97 million
2013-14     1.88 million
2012-13     1.88 million
2011-12     1.84 million
2010-11     1.74 million
2009-10     1.55 million
(Source: Agriculture Ministry)

Paddy harvest to hit record high

Paddy harvest – in the current fiscal year – is expected to hit a record high of 5.61 million tonnes this fiscal year due to better-than-expected rainfall, according to the Agriculture Ministry. The bumper crop is expected 9 per cent increase from last fiscal year, reveals the preliminary statistics.
The statistics reveals that Nepal’s paddy productivity is expected to increase to a record high of 3.8 tonnes per hectare in the current fiscal year, up from 3.5 tonnes in the last fiscal year 2017-18. The country’s average productivity is 3 tonnes per hectare.
Based on the average price of Rs 21 per kg, the current fiscal year’s projected paddy harvest is worth more than Rs115 billion, excluding the value of byproducts like straw and bran which reaches billions of rupees, the ministry claims.
The bumper growth in paddy – the most common cereal crop – production is also expected to increase the agriculture sector’s growth in the current fiscal year pushing the overall GDP growth up as the agriculture contributes to around 30 per cent to the economic growth. The government – through the budget – has tragetted to achieve 8 per cent GDP growth in the current fiscal year.

Supreme Court refuses to free Kist Bank ex-chief Gyawali

The Apex Court today refused to free the then chief of Kist Bank Kamal Gyawali, who has been serving a jail sentence after being convicted of banking fraud.
A division bench of justices Kedar Prasad Chalise and Dambar Bahadur Shahi rejected the plea to free Gyawali after the hearing on a case filed by Gyawali himself.
The Supreme Court rejected his plea to release him through a habeas corpus order even though he claimed that he has been detained illegally. Gyawali claimed that he was convicted by the Patan High Court and still was supposed to file an appeal at the Supreme Court. Gyawali also claimed that he had surrendered before the court respecting the verdict but sending him to jail when he still has the right to file an appeal against the judgment at the Supreme Court was 'illegal'.
Gyawali has been serving a four-year jail sentence according to the decision of the Patan High Court which also imposed a fine of Rs 42.7 million on him for bank fraud.
He was convicted for releasing millions of rupees in the name of Jamko Prakashan illegally by exercising his power – as chief executive officer – for which he was prosecuted at the High Court Patan. Borrowers Kishor Dhakal and Devaki Bastakoti and evaluator Komananda Adhikary were also convicted along with him. They had released millions with the collateral of a low quality land through overvaluation.

DRI files case against five for smuggling 32 kg gold

Department of Revenue Investigation (DRI) filed a case today against five including Laxman Tiruwa, Suraj Tiruwa, Sarita Tiruwa, Indira BK and Shankar Bahadur BK for smuggling 32 kg of gold to Nepal from India. "The group had smuggled the gold to Nepal via Kanchanpur in far-western Nepal, according to the department that has filed the case at Kanchanpur district court.
The department has charged the defendants of revenue evasion. It has also sought to recover Rs 169.2 million from them.

NAC plans Kathmandu-Narita flights

Nepal Airlines Corporation (NAC) is planning non-stop flights between Kathmandu and Narita, a city on the eastern outskirts of Tokyo in Japan.
The national flag carrier is holding talks with the visiting delegation of Narita International Airport Corporation (NIAC) of Japan today on operation of the flights between Kathmandu and Narita. Though, NAC wanted to fly to Tokyo after a decade, it could not get any slot at the Tokyo Airport and plans to fly to Narita.
A three-member team – of NIAC that manages the Narita airport facilities – led by vice president of aviation sales and marketing department of the airport Koji Takahashi arrived in Kathmandu today.
“As NAC has applied for a slot at Narita International Airport, the national flag carrier will hold discussions on the facilities and other areas of commercial operation," according to senior official at the Nepal Airlines Corporation that has last week applied for the slot and has been approved by the airport. "However, the NAC is still waiting to receive landing permission from the aviation regulator of Japan, Japan Civil Aviation Bureau (JCAB)."
The national flag carrier is planning to fly its two long-range Airbus A330 jets to Narita after it has revised air service agreement (ASA) on June 18. The revised ASA has increased the number of flights to seven-fold from twice weekly to 14 weekly flights with any type of aircraft on a reciprocal basis. The revised agreement has allowed NAC to fly to Narita International Airport, and also to Kansai International Airport, Osaka.
Though, NAC has been planning to restart flights to Japan, the process including safety checks, has been delaying the Kathmandu-Narita flight. "In the first phase, Kathmandu-Narita flight will be once a week," according to the NAC.
Earlier, Nepal Airlines had launched its services to Japan in 1994, flying to Osaka via Shanghai in China. But it was forced to suspend the flight in 2007 due to lack of aircraft.  

Saturday, March 23, 2019

Low bidding makes construction sector infamous, quality questioned

Low bidding has made construction sector bad name and the quality has also been questioned, according to president of Federation of Contractors’ Association Nepal (FCAN) Rabi Singh.
The construction sector has been denigrated because of a rising trend of working at low bidding, he said, asking construction entrepreneurs to stop doing business with those contractors who are willing to work at low rates. "Quality of work is compromised when working for cheap."
"Low bidding also affects the project completion timeline," he said addressing the sixth district convention of contractors at Chautara. The convention concluded today.
Singh also admitting that there are some weaknesses in the construction sector asked the concerned authorities not to sign any project at extremely low rates. "The delayed budget finalisation by the government has hampered project works, which has caused repeated failures in meeting project deadlines," he said, adding that the contractors are compelled to halt work because of delayed budget finalisation, and the projects are delayed. He also asked for construction sector-friendly public purchase law.
“Contracts up to Rs 50 million must be handed to local level contractors, while contracts exceeding this amount but less than Rs 150 million must be given to provincial level contractors,” Singh said, adding that contracts exceeding Rs 150 million must be given to large-scale contractors. "Likewise, both the international and national contractors must be given the right to handle contracts over Rs 1 billion."

Five-star club adds Hotel Central Plaza in Kohalpur

Hotel Central Plaza in Kohalpur, Banke has been awarded a five-star rating, making it a second five-star hotel in Nepalgunj. However, the total number of luxury hotels in the five-star category reached 13 with this new addition. Of the total 13 five-star hotels in the country, the Fulbari Resort and Spa in Pokhara has closed while the Everest Hotel at Baneshwor in Kathmandu has been closed after the devastating earthquake in 2015.
Hotel Central Plaza was awarded the five-star rating on February 26 after completing an evaluation of the hotel, according to the department. Hotel Central Plaza has 80 rooms with 99 beds. According to the new provision, a five-star hotel can be opened outside the Valley with 80 rooms. Earlier, the minimum number of rooms required was 100.
Likewise, Hotel Marriott Kathmandu in Naxal has also applied for the prestigious five-star rating at the Tourism Department. The department is preparing to conduct a field inspection before it will award the Marriott Kathmandu the five-star rating.
Under the Everest Hospitality and Hotel group, the proposed 235-room five-star hotel in Naxal will be managed by Marriott International. a leading hotel chain based in Maryland, US. The Naxal Marriott is the second hotel in Nepal being managed by the international hotel chain management company after the Fairfield by Marriott Kathmandu, Thamel.
We are opening the Marriott Kathmandu in Naxal on April 14, chairman of the Everest Hospitality Group Shashi Kant Agarwal said.
Apart from Marriott, two more five-star hotels – one Chhaya Centre in Thamel and another Hotel Pawan Palace in Lumbini are also being operational by June.
Similarly, the department had awarded the five-star rating to Soaltee Westend Premier in Nepalgunj in February. The Soaltee Westend Premier – formerly Soaltee Sibkrim Hotels and Resorts – in Nepalgunj had initially applied for a four-star rating but – with the new provision – it reapplied for a five-star rating.
In 2017, the Tourism Department had awarded a five-star rating to the Tiger Palace Resort at Kotihawa in Bhairahawa. The 100-room hotel – the first integrated five-star casino resort in South Asia – was developed by Australian-stock market listed Silver Heritage Group.