Tuesday, March 12, 2019

Government move to amend IBN Act draws flak

The lawmakers have taken exceptions on government move to empower the Investment Board through amendment of the Investment Board of Nepal (IBN) Act.
Speaking at the Finance Committee under Parliament today, the lawmakers – including the ones from the ruling party CPN (CPN) – said that the amendment will increase already tense relations among the ministries and the board. "The bill seems to be taking away power from development-related ministries and giving it to the board,” a NCP lawmaker and former energy minister Janardan Sharma said, adding that giving excessive power to the board will paralyse other state mechanisms.
The government is amending the IBN Act also to lure the foreign investors before the investment summit scheduled for March 29-30.
The proposed amendment has also delegated the authority to issue generation licence for hydel projects with capacity of above 200 megawatts to the board but according to the existing Electricity Act, Ministry of Energy, Water Resources and Irrigation has the right to issue such licence for all hydropower projects.
Likewise, the amendment bill has also given authority to approve FDI more than Rs 6 billion to the board from current authority to approve the FDI worth more than Rs 10 billion claiming that the new legal provisions will help attract more foreign direct investment.
However, the opposition Nepali Congress (NC) lawmaker Gagan Thapa said that the government had prepared the draft of the Investment Bill and Public Private Partnership (PPP) without enough consultation with the respective secretaries and ministries. He also said that the government secretaries are against the provision of centralising power with the board. "The government seems to be feeling that development of projects will be smoother if they are under the jurisdiction of the board rather than other government agencies, including ministries," he said, adding that the board has not a single success story of the board. "The opposition party leader should also be represented at the board."
Rejecting the representation of the opposition in the board, finance minister Dr Yub Raj Khatiwada defended that the government is not trying to centralise power. "Mega projects have to be dealt with by the centre," he said, adding that empowering the board is important, apart from expanding its jurisdiction to facilitate the development of projects, as the country targets speedy development and economic growth.
He also said that the PPP and Investment Bill – that that proposes giving additional teeth to the prime minister-chaired board – will smoothen the mega projects.
After discussion, the Finance Committee today passed the bill and is likely to be tabled in the Parliament tomorrow.

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