Friday, April 26, 2019

Sharing of experiences and lessons learned on BBB recovery

National Reconstruction Authority (NRA) claimed that past efforts by the government to expedite the reconstruction process have been yielding results.
Presentating his past works, during a seminar 'Sharing of Experiences and Lessons Learned on BBB Recovery' – jointly organised today by Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) and NRA – to commemorate the fourth year of the Gorkha Earthquake, chief executive officer of NRA Sushil Gyewali also highlighted the progress and achievements in reconstruction and recovery based on the principle of Build Back Better (BBB) in the last four years. 
Presentating his paper before some 200 participants from the government, development partners, civil society, academia and media today, he also claimed that 80 per cent progress has been made so far in reconstruction of private houses. "Out of the 7,553 schools that needs to be rebuilt 85 per cent progress has been achieved and 66 per cent progress achieved so far in reconstruction of health facilities," he added, though the overall progress – of the devastating earthquake of 2015 April 25 – stands at around 32 per cent as almost all of the cultural and heritage sites have not yet been under construction, even after the four years.
On the occasion, senior representative of JICA Nepal Dr Kozo Nagami explained how the core principle of ‘Build Back Better’ has been integrated into the wide array of reconstruction and recovery support provided by Japan. 
This year’s seminar was enriched by the invaluable contributions by two distinguished speakers from Japan including deputy mayor of Higashimatsushima City Shu Oyama, who shared experiences and lessons learned from the Great East Japan Earthquake, which hit the northern part of Japan in March 2011. He shared the city’s efforts in developing its recovery plan and highlighted the importance of ensuring bottom-up, participatory process by involving residents in every step of recovery.
Likewise, Prof Satoru Nishikawa from the Disaster Mitigation Research Center of the Nagoya University, on the occasion, explained Japan’s long historyof coping with natural disasters, and shared how Japan reduced its vulnerability to disasters by investing in disaster risk reduction over the years.
Concluding the seminar, chief representative of JICA Nepal Yumiko Asakuma reaffirmed JICA’s continuous support for rebuilding lives, economies and institutions affected by the earthquake. This year marks the 50 years (1969-2019) of Japanese cooperation in Nepal and commemorating this occasion Asakuma further assured to strengthen JICA’s partnership and cooperation with Nepal.

Thursday, April 25, 2019

Supreme Court stays LTO on Ncell tax

The Apex Court has stayed the Large Tax Payers Office (LTO) from recovering the Capital Gains Tax (CGT) until further notice.
The Supreme Court has issued the temporary stay order as the Ncell has moved the Court against the Large Tax Payers Office (LTO) that has served Ncell a seven-day notice to pay its Capital Gains Tax (CGT) of Rs 39 billion within a week that expired on Monday. The telecommunications moved – on April 22 – to the Supreme Court seeking an order to vacate the LTO decision one day ago the expiry of the deadline.
The telecommunications company is, though, blamed for delaying to clear its tax liability, it has asked the Apex Court to reduce CGT to Rs 14 billion, as according to it, the LTO calculations is 'unjustifiable'.
The move to challenge the LTO's tax assessment at the apex court, which had earlier issued a verdict making Ncell and its parent company Axiata liable for the CGT dues, has been interpreted by some quarters as a tactic of the telecom to either avoid its tax liabilities or at least lower them.
The Ncell move has prompted calls on social media to boycott its services until it pays the government what it owes. It is even surprising that student unions and youth wings of political party that is in government, and loose civic groups have made a public appeal urging people 'not to use Ncell sim cards' until it pays the assessed tax. They have also accused Ncell of exploiting legal loopholes to delay and reduce its tax bill, though they have been mum on who and why allowed the TeliaSonera to leave the country without paying tax. They have also not asked to punish the then tax officials, prime ministers and finance minister, why they have let the TeliaSonera leave Nepal without paying CGT and who have assured the Axiata that it will not need to pay CGT, despite the largest deal in the country's corporate history.
"We urge the authorities to not take any anti-national decision like giving a tax exemption to Ncell,” reads a statement of government-affiliate four student and youth wings. They have also urged the public to boycott the services of the telecommunications company instead they should have pressurised the government – the ruling party and their mother organisation – to deal the case diplomatic. The government can still write the TeliaSonera – that is a government listed company in Sweden and settle the tax row or let the Court decide the case, instead of creating a mass against the joint venture company.
"If Ncell does not pay tax within 24 hours, we would like to inform through this statement that more programs will be announced to pile pressure,” the statement signed by Young Communist League's president Ram Prasad Sapkota, All Nepal National Free Students Union (ANNFSU) president Nabina Lama, Youth Association of Nepal president Ramesh Kumar Paudel and All Nepal National Independent Students Union-Revolutionary president Ranjit Tamang, reads.
The students unions move will not only send a terror chill in the foreign investors but also institutionalise the corruption. TeliaSonera has been said to paid huge sum to the party leaders to let it leave the country without paying tax after siging the billion-deal with Axiata.
“In filing the petition at the apex court, Ncell wants to buy more time until the case is finalised and it is also a ploy to avoid taxes,” said a lawyer Surendra Bhandari, who had pleaded in court on behalf of a group that filed the case leading to the verdict of the Supreme Court that Ncell and Axiata should pay CGT. "A video statement by Bhandari on this issue has been shared by over 14,426 users on Facebook."
Until Ncell pays the full amount of taxes, let's run a campaign not to use its Sim, he appealed, adding, "Only if we run this campaign will Ncell be compelled to pay what it owes in taxes. Otherwise it will skip taxes amounting to billions, causing a huge loss to the country."

Nepal, UAE agree to seal revised labour deal

Nepal and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) today agreed to sign a revised labour agreement that is expected to benefit as many as 360,000 Nepali migrant workers, who are currently working in the UAE. The both sides also agreed on a draft of revised labour agreement that guarantees zero investment jobs in the Gulf country for Nepali workers.
The two sides reached the consensus during a two-day second Bilateral Technical Meeting on the draft Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between Nepal and the UAE on Recruitment, Employment and Repatriation of Workers that concluded today, in Kathmandu.
The deal was signed by joint-secretary at the Ministry of Labour, Employment and Social Security (MoLESS) Ram Prasad Ghimire and director of International Bilateral Relations under the Department of Ministry of Human Resources and Emiratisation of the UAE Abdullah al-Muaimi. According to the understanding, Nepali workers will not have to bear any financial burdens – whether cost or any fees – for jobs in the emirates.
The revised agreement that has put special stress on enforcement of wage protection system for Nepali workers will be tabled at the cabinet soon to approve it. "The MoU will be signed once the two governments approve the document,” Ghimire, who led the Nepali delegation, said, adding that once the new agreement is signed, it will officially replace the ‘MoU between the Government of Nepal and the Government of United Emirates in the Field of Manpower’ signed on July 3, 2007.
According to the proposed agreement, the Nepali workers will not pay any amount in cost or fees for jobs in the UAE. "The employer will be paying all the expenses on behalf of the worker,” the agreement reads, adding that employers will bear the cost of recruitment to the recruitment agencies, employment and residency of Nepali workers in the UAE. "The employers will bear all the costs related to recruitment, employment and the residency of Nepali worker in the UAE including but not limited to recruitment agency fees, air ticket costs, insurance fees, visa fees, medical examination fees and all other recruitment related costs and fees."
"The UAE government will ensure access to Labour Court for the worker without any cost until the case is resolved," it reads, adding that when the case is in the Court, the worker is entitled to apply for a temporary work permit in accordance with the relevant Laws of the UAE. "The terms and conditions of employment of the Nepali worker in the UAE shall be defined by an Employment Contract between the worker and the employer."
The Employment Contract will specify the basic employment conditions, and the rights and obligations of the employer and worker in accordance with the laws and regulations in force in the UAE, it further reads. "The UAE government will ensure that the employment offer shall indicate the job specifications, required qualifications, types of jobs for which recruitment is proposed as well as the terms and conditions of employment offered including wages, non-wage benefits, accommodation and transportation when applicable, end-of-service entitlement, and any other details required by the government of the UAE. All these details must be reflected unaltered in the Employment Contract, Ghimire said, adding that the worker will be eligible to seek and obtain alternative employment when it is duly established that the employer has failed to meet contractual or legal obligations to the worker due to any reason including closure or winding up of business or if the worker is subjected to violation of any of his or her rights under UAE laws, without prejudice to the right of the worker to collect his or her dues from the employer and/or seek judicial redress. "In such events, the worker shall also have the right to return back to Nepal, if he or she so desires. In such case, the employer will bear all associated costs."
Most of the Nepali migrant workers currently are ordinary workers engaged in construction, hospitality, farming and security service sectors in the Gulf nation.
The UAE government has also agreed to ensure the safety, security and welfare of the Worker with due regard to the female worker. "The government of the UAE shall ensure that the worker is not subject to any form of unlawful treatment and is free to communicate with any third party," it reads, adding that the UAE will ensure extensive and close oversight over the application of the existing wage protection systems to monitor timely payment of wages and other benefits. "Besides, the UAE law has a provision of both work related insurance as well as medical insurance schemes that cover almost all the cases of accidents or injuries and sickness except personal negligence.
Nepal, as the chair of the Colombo Process – a common regional forum of labour source countries – has put priority on securing zero cost jobs for its workers as well as reviewing the existing labour agreements and signing new deals with other destination countries lately. Likewise, the UAE has been one of the most-preferred labour destinations among the Gulf countries for Nepali migrant workers for its better treatment, remuneration among other facilities. 

Wednesday, April 24, 2019

New UN-ASEAN study reveals slow but devastating impacts of drought in the region

Future scenarios of drought in many parts of South-East Asia may become even more frequent and intense, if actions are not taken now to build resilience, according to the latest joint study by the United Nations (UN) Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).
Launched today at the 34th meeting of the ASEAN Committee on Disaster Management, the study Ready for the Dry Years: Building Resilience to Drought in South-East Asia offers clear analysis on the principal risks in the region. The study is released against the backdrop of the ongoing drought in almost all countries in South-East Asia with social and economic impacts already being felt very strongly in Cambodia, the Philippines, Thailand and Viet Nam.
As reported by the study, the cumulative impacts of drought in the region strikes hardest at the poor and heightens inequality, as well as degrades land and increases the prospects of violent conflict. Droughts can also be particularly damaging in countries where many people rely on agriculture for primary employment (61 per cent in Lao PDR, 41 per cent in Viet Nam, 31 per cent in Indonesia, 27 per cent in Cambodia and 26 per cent in the Philippines). 
Over the past 30 years, droughts have affected over 66 million people in the region. However, due to their slow-onset, droughts are often under-reported and under-monitored, resulting in conservative estimates on its impact in the region. The study points out that the future could be even worse. With climate change, many more areas are likely to experience extreme conditions with severe consequences.
“More dry years are inevitable, but more suffering is not," UN under-secretary-general and executive secretary of ESCAP Armida Alisjahbana said, adding that timely interventions now can reduce the impacts of drought, protect the poorest communities and foster more harmonious societies.
Increasing resilience to drought will require much better forecasting and more efficient forms of response, at both national and regional levels. Ready for the Dry Years proposes three priority areas of intervention for ESCAP and ASEAN – strengthening drought risk assessment and early warning services, fostering risk financing instruments that can insure communities against slow-onset droughts and lastly, enhancing people’s capacities to adapt to drought.
"The priority areas of intervention highlighted in this report will contribute to the development of policy responses to mitigate the impact of future drought and eventually will strengthen efforts on building the ASEAN Community that is resilient to drought,” said secretary-general of ASEAN Dato Lim Jock Hoi.
The study was produced as part of ESCAP and ASEAN’s close collaboration on disaster risk reduction under the ASEAN-UN Joint Strategic Plan of Action on Disaster Management.

PM hands over ADB-supported earthquake resistant model school to community

Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli today handed over the newly reconstructed Sanjiwani Secondary School in Dhulikhel to the community at a ceremony.
The Asian Development Bank (ADB) is supporting the reconstruction of 154 such schools badly damaged by the 2015 earthquake under the Earthquake Emergency Assistance Project.
“A better reconstruction process can strengthen a country’s resilience to natural disasters. Reconstruction offered us an opportunity to build back better and all the schools reconstructed after the earthquake with ADB support follow better standards, building norms, and amenities,” said ADB country director for Nepal Mukhtor Khamudkhanov. "The schools are not only safe and earthquake resistant, but also have better facilities," he said, adding that a safe and nurturing learning environment goes a long way in helping children develop their full potential.
Sanjiwani Secondary School is one of the 9 model schools reconstructed under the project. Besides 32 new classrooms, the school has a 12-room hostel for out-of-town students. To enhance science education, the school has been provided with ICT and science laboratories equipment. The model school concept is a new initiative under the government’s School Sector Development Programme, which aims to improve the quality of education in Nepal.
At the same event, two district roads in Kavre and Bhaktapur rehabilitated under the project were handed over to the provincial government in the presence of the communication minister Gokul Baskota and the chief executive officer of the National Reconstruction Authority (NRA) Sushil Gyewali.
ADB is supporting the government’s efforts to put thousands of children back into schools, return vital government services to earthquake-affected communities, and create jobs and income for families by repairing critical road networks. A total of 162 schools, including 17 schools funded by USAID and 8 schools funded by the Japan Fund for Poverty Reduction (JFPR), are nearing completion with 90 schools already substantially completed under the project. ADB is also supporting reconstruction of 174 schools under the Disaster Resilience of Schools Project. ADB is supporting schools to prepare their own school disaster risk management plans. ADB support to Nepal reconstruction totals $382 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.

Monday, April 22, 2019

Debt trap warnings over BRI projects motivated by bias: FM Gyawali

Foreign minister today dismissed the notion that Nepal could fall into a Chinese debt trap, if it chose to be part of the Belt and Road Initiatives (BRI).
The argument that Nepal could fall into a Chinese debt trap, if it chose to take loans under the BRI is motivated by bias," said foreign minister Pradeep Kumar Gyawali, addressing a press meet today.
There are some concerns from various quarters that BRI loans could possibly push Nepal into a serious debt trap like some of the countries in the world. "Nepal is aware what it should do and what it should not do in its national interests," he said, adding that Nepal is free to decide on its development initiatives. "Nepal will decide independently on Chinese loans and the selection of projects under BRI."
Arguing that Chinese debt was not behind the serious economic crises in many Latin American countries including in Argentina back in the 1990s and 2000s, he said that they were not under the Chinese debt trap. "Greece is still struggling with a serious economic crisis and many other countries have also fallen into debt traps,” he added.
He also explained that there is no rule that a country will fall into a debt trap through taking loans from any particular country and not fall into it when taking loans from another country. "The issue is whether Nepal selects a project on the basis of possible returns and what is the pay back plan," he added, though his government's selection of projects till date – since it came to the power with almost two-third majority – has not seen any suitable and economically viable projects.
Since Nepal is currently holding discussions with China on the projects to be incorporated into BRI, there are a couple of projects under consideration.
Gyawali also said that Nepal and China will sign the protocol of the Nepal-China Transit Transport Agreement during visit of President Bidya Devi Bhandari beginning from tomorrow. The protocol paves the way for the implementation of the agreement and allows Nepal third country transit facilities via Chinese ports. The first state level visit of a head of the state since the establishment of a federal republic is expected to connect Nepal's development endeavors with Chinese development success through the signing of protocol in the presence of the heads of the states.
Secretary at the Ministry of Industry, Commerce and Supplies Kedar Bahadur Adhikari will sign the protocol with his Chinese counterpart during the forum in the presence of President Bhandari. Though the protocol is said to allow more flexible terms for trade and transit – compared to India – and might be feasible for trading with South East Asian countries also, the cost of doing business through the new route is yet to be calculated.
The agreement allows open utilisation of either inland waterways or roads for transit and transport to sea ports for third country trade.
Nepal signed the Transit Transport Agreement with China in 2016 after trade blockade by India.
Likewise, President Bhandari is scheduled to take part in a roundtable to be hosted by her Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping and hold bilateral talks with Xi on April 29. Transport minister Raghubir Mahaseth will deliver a speech on 'Infrastructure and Connectivity' during the forum.

Ncell moves to court against LTO

A day before the expiry of the seven-day deadline to pay its capital gains tax (CGT), Ncell today has filed a writ petition at the Supreme Court arguing that the tax amount determined by the Large Taxpayers’ Office (LTO) earlier last week was not in accordance with the existing law.
The private telecom giant moved the Apex Court claiming – in its writ petition – that the LTO has erroneously fixed its tax liability at Rs 39.06 billion. The Ncell has claimed the capital gains tax should be only at Rs 14 billion not Rs 39.06 billion.
Earlier on April 17, the LTO had assessed that the tax amount of Ncell buyout – after the Supreme Court's verdict two weeks to fix it – and served the telecom company a seven-day deadline to clear the remaining capital gains tax (CGT) amounting to Rs 39.06 billion – including interest and fine – by April 23.
The LTO has fixed a total payable tax – including CGT, fine and interest – at Rs 62.63 billion. The total CGT has been fixed at Rs 35.91 billion and fine and interest at Rs 18.33 billion and Rs 8.39 billion, respectively. But the Ncell has already paid the government a total of Rs 23.57 billion in two installments.
The Swedish Company TeliaSonera had sold its 80 per cent stake to the Malaysian Company Axiata for Rs 143.6 billion in April 11, 2016, as per an acquisition deal – the biggest in Nepal’s corporate sector – signed in December 2015. But – in its petition – Ncell has said that Rs 21.54 billion it paid earlier was 15 per cent of the total capital gains in the buyout deal amounting to Rs143.6 billion. "Of the 25 per cent tax liability, 15 per cent has been paid, and the rest 10 per cent means the company needs to pay Rs 14.36 billion," the foreign direct investor said in the petition, demanding an order of mandamus along that line to the tax authorities.
Ncell has also sought an order from the Supreme Court to the authorities not to create any kind of obstructions in Ncell’s business until the case is fully settled and tax is determined.
According to LTO, it has reassessed the tax as per the Apex Court verdict, which had told the tax offices to reassess the tax within three months. Following the Supreme Court verdict, the LTO had to change its previous assessment in which it had asked TeliaSonera – popularly known as Telia Company – the seller to pay the CGT. But the political and bureaucratic nexus made the TeliaSonera leave the country easily without paying CGT against the international norms and law that seller that makes gain pays the CGT.
The mishandling – with political bickering – of the Ncell case has sent a negative to the international investor that corruption is rampant in Nepal and they can bend the law as they wish.
Ncell has stated that the Court enjoys the extraordinary authority to 'settle the dispute' and 'provide necessary remedy' to resolve the tax dispute as the Apex Court's full-text verdict had concluded that the tax offices concerned didn't rightly claim taxes from the telecommunications company while the company's shares were sold to Axiata.
The court stated that Section 57 (1) of the Income Tax Act-2058 makes Ncell and Axiata responsible for paying the CGT and not TeliaSonera.
The LTO had last Tuesday written a letter to the Ncell mentioning it to pay remaining due of CGT. The Ncell has also received the LTO letter but it moved to the Supreme Court just a day before the deadline.

Government, World Bank launch new project to scale up renewable energy options

The government and the World Bank signed an agreement today to scale up renewable energy options in selected regions of Nepal in partnership with private sector. The agreement was signed by joint secretary at the Finance Ministry Shree Krishna Nepal and acting country manager Bigyan Pradhan on behalf of their respective institutions.
Total of $17.21 million will be spent during four-year period of the Private Sector-Led Mini-Grid Energy Access Project, of which the World Bank will finance total of $7.61 million (approximately Rs 845.2 million) through its Strategic Climate Fund (SCF) comprising of SCF Grant of $5.61 million and SCF soft loan of $2 million. Similarly, the government will contribute subsidy of $6 million and the remaining $3.60 million will be contributed by the private sector. The project will provide renewable energy to 126,000 rural people and support more than 80 businesses through micro/mini-hydro and solar subprojects in Nepal’s rural areas. The project will be implemented by the Alternative Energy Promotion Centre (AEPC), the government's nodal agency for renewable energy promotion in Nepal.
"We are thankful for the support of the World Bank in launching this milestone project to encourage commercial financing of renewable and off-grid energy systems in Nepal," Nepal said, adding that the project will demonstrate that the private sector led model is feasible in mini-grid development and the government is committed to engage private sector in development.
Under the Project, private entities and cooperatives will be mobilised to provide electricity services to rural areas as 'energy service companies' (ESCOs). These specialised ESCOs will crowd-in financing capacity to develop, build, own and operate renewable mini-grid projects. The commercial banks are a key partner who will assume credit risk of the subproject loans to ESCOs once they are eligible and selected to participate in the project by AEPC. The credit facility component of the project is in turn supported by a technical assistance component for stronger project development support to the mini-grid sector, ESCOs and partner banks to ensure sustainable implementation beyond the life of the project.
"Maximizing finance for development is an important element in Nepal’s growth trajectory,” said World Bank acting country manager for Nepal Bigyan Pradhan. "By encouraging the participation of the private sector, this project motivates a business approach to improve energy access while supporting the government’s efforts to provide clean and efficient energy options to rural communities," he added.
The government accords high priority on the renewable energy sector and the World Bank Group supports the government’s energy sector through investments in both grid and off-grid energy and energy efficiency programmes.
This project aims to support more than 25 mini-grid subprojects and add new generation capacity of 3.8 MW, while rehabilitating and restoring the capacity of existing mini-grids.
The improved policy environment through the government’s Renewable Energy Subsidy Policy 2016 and the effective implementation of this project are expected to create opportunities for this model to succeed in providing energy access to Nepal’s rural areas.

Sunday, April 21, 2019

IBN receives EoI for 31 projects worth $25.3 billion

Investment Board-Nepal (IBN) has received 48 expression of interest (EoI) for 31 different projects amounting to $25.3 billion.
"Of the 77 projects that the government had showcased at the Nepal Investment Summit held last month, investors have submitted 48 EoIs for 31 different projects," informed IBN chief executive officer Maha Prasad Adhikari today.
As the board has extended the deadline for potential investors to submit their EoI for projects showcased at the summit till May 20, the number is expected to increase. "We are expecting more investors to submit EoIs for different projects as we still have time," he informed, adding that the investors have, though, shown keen interest on various projects, Nijgadh International Airport has received the highest number of EoIs.
Investors are interested on projects related to transport infrastructure as the board has received 22 EoIs for nine transport infrastructure projects, including Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) on Nijgadh International Airport (6 EoIs), Outer Ring Road (4 EoIs), BRT on Ring Road of Kathmandu (4 EoIs), Kathmandu Valley Metro Rail, East-West Electrified Rail, Kathmandu-Pokhara-Lumbini Railways, Kathmandu Sky Train, Samakhusi-Tokha-Chhahare Road (2 EoIs) and Dhangadi Regional International Airport (2 EoIs).
Likewise, the board has received seven EoIs for five agriculture infrastructure projects including Integrated Agri Projects in Urlabari, Hemja, Banepa, Biratnagar and Tillottama.
The board has also received eight EoIs for seven energy infrastructure projects, whereas five EoIs for four projects related to urban infrastructure, apart from some EoIs for tourism, industry, health and education infrastructure projects. "Two investment proposals have been received for two projects of education and health infrastructure, while one application has been received for one industry infrastructure project."
The board, however, has not made identity of applicants public. "The identity will be made public after May 20, the deadline of the extension of the applications," the board said.
The government has extended the time for the submission of EoIs as during the two-day Nepal Investment Summit – held on March 29 and 30 – only above a dozen of projects were signed by the domestic private sector and Non Resident Nepalis Association (NRNA).
The board has categorised the EoIs into three categories. Among the applicants, some 27 projects are in the first category. The board plans to select eligible developers for these projects within three months by August 20, according to the board that will select developers for the projects in second category within nine months by February 20, 2020. Developer of these projects will be selected by reviewing their Request for Proposals (RFP). There are 17 projects in the second category. Likewise, projects in the third category are big and are of complex nature. An expert team or transaction advisory services led by secretaries of concerned ministries will look after these six projects in the category, according to the board that plans to select developers for them within 14 months by August 20, 2020.
The board has also formed a high-level committee – led by secretary at the Office of the Prime Minister and Council of Ministers Sishir Dhungana including joint secretaries from the Ministry of Physical Infrastructure and Transport, Ministry of Energy, Water Resources and Irrigation, Ministry of Industry, Commerce and Supplies and the board – to evaluate and monitor different proposals and EoIs submitted by investors for projects that were showcased at the investment summit.

Investors eye Nijgadh International Airport

Nijgadh International Airport lured the largest number of investors – as many as 6 investors – for a single project.
Nijgadh International Airport has received the highest number of applications – Expression of Interest (EoI) from the prospective investors after being showcased at the Nepal Investment Summit last month, informed Investment Board-Nepal (IBN).
The $3.45 billion mega airport project at Nijgadh in Bara is the most expensive projects the government has been trying to get foreign investment for. According to the Tourism Ministry, Nepal and Qatar governments were in talks to construct the new international airport in Nepal. The international airport has been under discussions since more than two decades. The second international airport was high on agenda also during the President Bidhya Devi Bhandari's visit to Qatar last October.
The government has decided to extend the deadline for foreign investors to submit their applications for the projects – by one month to May 20 – since the projects like Nijgadh International Airport are complex, informed the chief executive officer of the IBN Maha Prasada Adhikari today at a press meet.

Thursday, April 18, 2019

Nepal’s first ever satellite launched into space

NepaliSat-1 – Nepal’s first satellite – has been launched into space at 2:31 am on Wednesday by the Antares rocket, which carried the Cygnus cargo aircraft from the Virginia Air and Space Center of National Aeronautics and Space Administration.
Launched from the Virginia Space’s Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport at NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in the US, NepaliSat-1 – a cube satellite that weighs 1.3 kg – is supposed to reach the International Space Station at 10:45 pm on Saturday. It will gather detailed geographical information Nepal.
Similar satellites from Japan and Sri Lanka were also launched alongside NepaliSat-1.
The nano satellite is expected soon to start rotating around the earth’s orbit to collect information about Nepal's topography and earth’s magnetic field. The satellite is also expected to help develop more advanced satellites in the future.
NepaliSat-1 was launched under the ‘BIRDS-3 satellite launch to International Space Station project’, according to Nepal Academy of Science and Technology (NAST). The BIRDS project has been designed in association with the United Nations with the aim of helping countries launch their first satellite.
Developed by two Nepali students Abhas Maskey and Hariram Shrestha at Japan’s Kyushu Institute of Technology, NepalSat-1 bears the Nepali flag and the logo of NAST, which also claimed that the nano satellite is equipped with a five megapixel camera to capture Nepal’s topography and a magnetometer to collect data related to the earth’s magnetic field.
"The satellite will first reach the International Space Station," the NAST informed, adding that it will then start rotating around the earth after a month. "The images and data will be sent by the satellite to the ground station at NAST, which is currently under construction."
But the NAST hopes that the ground station will be ready before the nano satellite starts rotating. "We will also be able to receive information from other satellites which have been and will be launched under the Birds project," added the NAST. "The satellite will allow NAST to learn the process of sending and receiving data and information to and from space."
NepaliSat-1 is scheduled to be released from the cargo spacecraft into the lower orbit of International Space Station in the second week of June. Once released into its orbit, the satellite will revolve around the earth four times a day. The orbit lies approximately 400-km above the earth. It is expected to take pictures of Nepal for six to 10 minutes during each revolution. NepaliSat 1 is expected to revolve around the earth for at least six months. long with providing images and data, the launch of the satellite marks the beginning for Nepal to test its capacity in the space.
Today morning – hours after the launch of the nano satellite into space – Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli tweeted: “Though a humble beginning, with the launching of NepaliSat-1 Nepal has entered the Space-Era. I wish to congratulate all those scientists and institutions that were involved right from the development to its launching thereby enhancing the prestige of our country."
The total cost from developing the satellite to launching it and constructing the ground station is said to be Rs 20 million, which was provided by the government through NAST.
A group of four engineering graduates are also working to launch another Nepali satellite ‘Nepal PQ-1’ in 2020.

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Nepal should take benefit from BRI

Preoccupation with avoiding debt-trap has dominated the discourse on China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) preventing Nepal from developing concrete plans, experts pointed out during a roundtable discussion organised by SAWTEE-Centre for Sustainable Development (CSD), here, today.
The event was organised to add to the discourse on how to align Nepal’s development plans with the China’s multi-regional connectivity initiative; the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). The BRI basically is an infrastructure investment programme creating a web of transportation system including roads, railways, telecommunications, energy pipelines, and ports across regions.
Making a presentation on the BRI and its implication for Nepal, former vice chairman of National Planning Commission (NPC) Dr Shankar Prasad Sharma called attention to the ambiguities present in the project financing modality for the projects to be included in the BRI. "Whether the financial support will be in the form of loan or grant, if it is loan then what would be the interest rate and what would be the terms and period," Sharma asked, adding that the BRI is an evolving process, onus is on Nepal to negotiate terms that are beneficial to us.
Likewise, former under-secretary general at the United Nations (UN) and head of SAWTEE-CSD Gyan Chandra Acharya pointed out that it is evident that Nepal till date does not have clear vision on how best to proceed with the BRI, hence, discussions like these could be instrumental in shaping the future courses.
Chairman of South Asia Watch on Trade, Economics and Environment (SAWTEE) Dr Posh Raj Pandey, on the occasion, pointed out that much of the BRI discourse is only dominated by infrastructure issues, but there should also be focus on towards being integrated to Chinese value chain through investment.
Similarly, infrastructure expert Dr Surya Raj Acharya cautioned that Nepal is stuck in perpetual policy-trap that is preventing discourse on the BRI modality from gaining momentum.
Former ambassador to China Dr Mahesh Kumar Maskey said that instead of vying for viable projects like cross-border Special Economic Zones (SEZ), Nepal is more focused on dubious projects such as railways, which has become counterproductive.
The participants present in the discussion programme had a consensus view that Nepal should have a clear agenda for its national interest so as not to be swayed by peripheral issues. The round table brought together a cross-section of stakeholders, including policy makers, diplomats, scholars, and private-sector.

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

LTO orders Ncell to pay Rs 39.06 billion within a week

The Large Taxpayers’ Office (LTO) today asked the telecommunications service provider Ncell to pay Rs 39.06 billion within seven days, after officially determining Rs 62.63 billion as applicable capital gains tax (CGT) on its buyout deal. Of the total tax – the LTO has determined – Ncell has already deposited Rs 23.57 billion as CGT and late fee, and the remaining amount has to be deposited within a week, according to a press note issued by the tax authority.
The LTO ordered – writing an official letter – the Ncell to clear the dues within a week, after the Supreme Court last week released the full text of its verdict of February 6. The Apex Court has – in its full text – ordered the government to recover applicable CGT on the corporate deal from Ncell and its Malaysian-based parent company Axiata within three months.
"The Ncell has received CGT determination and direction letter from LTO today,” the press release further reads, adding that Ncell should pay 25 per cent of the profit made in the buyout deal, which is equivalent to Rs 35.91 billion as CGT, apart from interest worth Rs 8.4 billion and late fee worth Rs 18.3 billion. "The total applicable CGT on the Ncell buyout deal stands at Rs 62.63 billion but the company has already paid Rs Rs 23.57 billion."
Ncell had already paid Rs 23.57 billion in total – Rs 21.54 billion as CGT and Rs 2.02 billion as fine – the telecom company should now pay the remaining Rs 39.06 billion," it reads.
Responding to public interest litigation filed by a group of civil society members led by former secretary Dwarika Nath Dhungel, the Apex Court in the first week of February ordered Ncell and Axiata to clear the outstanding CGT. However, the full text of the verdict was released only last week, in which the Supreme Court ordered government authorities to recoup the outstanding CGT from Ncell and Axiata within three months. The Court has also barred the company from repatriating profit and distributing dividend and transferring shares until the dues were cleared.
The Apex Court has made it clear that onus to pay CGT lay with Ncell and not TeliaSonera. The Supreme Court verdict had put an end to the long-drawn-out debate over whether the buyer should pay the tax when the seller does not clear its tax liability, though Ncell has reiterated its stand that the seller TeliaSonera is responsible to pay the CGT as is the international practice.
The tax office further said in its press note that after TeliaSonera sold its share to Axiata on April 11, 2016, the capital gains tax was settled at Rs 143.65 billion On June 27, 2017, the tax authority had fixed the capital gains tax of Rs 60.71 billion to be recovered from TeliaSonera. But the tax authority had initiated the process to collect CGT in the deal after TeliaSonera exited Nepal, which sent the issue to the court.
TeliaSoera is a listed company of Norway and Sweden – the first world countries that teaches transparency to the rest of the world – and the listed company in the first world has not only a nexus with shell company but also it runs away from a third world country like Nepal without paying tax. "Though we were keeping an eye on TeliaSonera and its chief executive, pressure from the political front made us let the company exit Nepal," said the tax officials –without wanting tobe named – who were involved in the investigation of the deal between TeliaSonera and Axiata, since the December 2015. 
Axiata Group Berhad, through its wholly-owned subsidiary, Axiata Investments (UK) Ltd, had bought 80 per cent stake in Ncell for $1.4 billion in December 2015. Initially, the foreign investment in Ncell had come from a shell company called Reynolds Holdings registered in Saint Kitts and Nevis in the West Indies. TeliaSonera Norway Nepal had 75.45 per cent stake in Reynolds and the remaining 24.55 per cent shares in the shell company were held by SEA Telecom Investments BV, a company owned by Kazakhstan-based Visor. 

ECOSOC forum calls for multilateral trading system reform

The 2019 Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) financing for development forum opened yesterday where the participants called for efforts to reform the multilateral trading system. Many of the attendees' speeches started with stating economic risks and tensions which the world currently faces.
ECOSOC president Inga Rhonda King said that "debt levels have risen, as has a vulnerability, stifling investment in developing countries, trade tensions meanwhile are dampening economic growth."
In his remarks, UN secretary-general Antonio Guterres spotlighted the threats posed by heightened global trade tensions, possible economic challenges and rising greenhouse, gas emissions.
UN General Assembly president Maria Fernanda Espinosa Garces said that the economic climate has worsened, which is among the most pressing global challenges. "Financial markets are volatile: 30 developing countries are at risk or facing financial difficulties, while trade imbalances have increased over the last year," she added.
The global expansion seen in recent years continues, but at a slower pace than previously anticipated, said deputy managing director of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) Zhang Tao also calling for efforts to produce stronger medium-term growth.
In order to address these challenges, multiple approaches, particularly those regarding trade system, have been suggested by the participants.
The multilateral trading system must be bolstered, with a focus on ensuring that capacity-building and technology transfer are carried out, the UNGA president said adding that developing countries must be prioritised.
Noting that there is time to close finance gaps, the UNGA president pressed countries that made official development assistance commitments to keep them.
"No issue looms larger than trade," Zhang said, calling for efforts to reform the multilateral trading system and to reduce tensions.
He also called for an urgent redesign of global taxation efforts, noting that the current situation of widespread tax evasion is especially harmful to developing countries. In addition, some 40 percent of those countries find themselves in a situation of debt distress, requiring more sustainable financing practices.
Chef de Cabinet and principal advisor to the World Trade Organisation (WTO) director-general Tim Yeend emphasised the important role of trade in generating the resources needed to finance the 2030 Agenda. He said that there is ample evidence of the importance of trade in helping countries harness growth for development, notably in supporting job creation, raising per capita income and reducing poverty.
The integration of developing countries into the multilateral trade system, by providing access to new technologies and investments, has catalysed a 'take-off', he stressed, noting the importance of ensuring that such gains are not undone by today's challenges, which are among the most complex in a generation.
Until tensions among the largest countries are resolved, economic uncertainty will likely persist, Yeend said, adding that there is the potential for improving the global trade forecast, but it depends on reducing tensions and focusing on charting a positive path forward for trade.

Monday, April 15, 2019

Nepse makes PAN mandatory for big share investors

Nepal Stock Exchange (Nepse) has made Permanent Account Number (PAN) mandatory for high-volume share investors from today in a bid to encourage transparency in the secondary market.
Earlier, Securities Boards of Nepal (Sebon) had directed Nepse to implement the provision of making PAN compulsory for traders conducting daily transactions of above Rs 500,000 from April 14 after consulting with the Inland Revenue Department (IRD). But the decision was revoked after the after stock investors' protest.
The capital market regulator has, however, said that the investor, who does transactions of below Rs 500,000 per day can voluntarily submit their PAN. "Its not mandatory for them," the regulator said, adding that submission of PAN will help the government to identify individuals and companies and track their source of money.
"It will promote transparency in the secondary market," the Nepse also said, adding that the provision will also help determine the exact number of large investors in the secondary market. "Based on the number of demat accounts, Sebon estimates that there are 1.5 million investors in the secondary market."
The investors are of the view that the mandatory PAN provision will hit number of transactions and trading volume. Finance Minister Dr Yubaraj Khatiwada, while presenting the government’s policies and programmes for the current fiscal year, had clearly stated that the PAN provision would be made mandatory for stock trading from this fiscal year.
According to chief executive officer of Nepse Chandra Singh Saud, submission of PAN will help the government to identify individuals and companies and in tracking the source of money, which will eventually promote transparency in the secondary market. 

Sunday, April 14, 2019

PM Oli vows to increase social security allowances to senior citizens

Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli today announced that the government will increase the social security allowances to senior citizens through the budget for the next fiscal year.
While inaugurating a national campaign for health insurance of senior citizens and opening of bank accounts of all Nepali, on the occasion of the Nepali New Year 2076 BS in Kathmandu, he also claimed that the incumbent government is sincere for the well-being of the senior citizens. "I assure you that the government will increase the social security allowances to senior citizens through the budget for fiscal year," he said, adding that the government has been paying attention to every sector of the social security. "Nobody should remain poor in the country because the government is working for the well-being of people from all walks of life,” said the prime minister who, on the occasion, also distributed health insurance cards to some senior citizens.
The campaign for health insurance of senior citizens will provide great relief to the medication of the senior citizens, the premier said, adding that entire Nepal will be completely healthy in the next couple of years.
Likewise, PM Oil handed over check to his father Mohan Prasad Oli and mother-in law Dhanmaya Shakya after opening banking account – under the campaign 'opening of bank accounts of all Nepali' – at the Rastriya Banijya Bank (RBB).

Saturday, April 13, 2019

VNY 2020 soft launch in Pokhara

The government organised a soft launch of Visit Nepal Year (VNY) 2020 campaign today in Pokhara – from the Komagane Park on the bank of the Phewa lake – coinciding with Nepali New Year’s Eve.
A meeting of the main organising committee of the VNY 2020 held on April 10 had taken a decision to organise the soft launch of the campaign today in Pokhara, where chief minister of Gandaki province Prithivi Subba Gurung did soft launch of the campaign.
Addressing the programme, chief minister Gurung underscored the need of building the physical infrastructures for promoting tourism. "Tourism should be linked with production," he said, adding that the Gandaki province has declared Year 2019 as the Internal Tourist Visit Year and the Year 2020 as the 'Year for Visit by Tourists from Neighbouring Countries', to support the Visit Nepal Year 2020.
Likewise, tourism secretary Mohan Krishna Sapkota said that the Gautam Buddha International Airport would be brought into operation by June 15 this year, that construction of the Pokhara International Airport would be completed ahead of the deadline and that works on building the Nijgadh Airport were in progress.
On the occasion, campaign coordinator Suraj Vaidya, chief executive of Nepal Tourism Board (NTB) Deepak Raj Joshi, representatives from the Ministry of Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation, along with tourism entrepreneurs and stakeholders were present.
The government has already organised Visit Nepal Year twice – in in 1998 and 2011 – targeting to bring 500,000 tourists and one million tourists, respectively. But the targets could not be met in both the years. Nepal had welcomed a total of 463,684 visitors in 1998 and 736,215 tourists via air route and land route in 2011.

Friday, April 12, 2019

Government spent Rs 222.83b in last one month of fiscal 2017-18

The government’s habit of spending hefty sum on the last month of the fiscal year continued in he last fiscal year too. In the last month of the fiscal year 2017-18, the government agencies spent Rs 222.83 billion.
According to the report of the Office of the Auditor General (OAG) published today, the government agencies spent 20.55 per cent of the total budget of Rs 1.27 trillion for the fiscal year 2017-18. "The government agencies sped up their expenditure in the last week of 2017-18, spending 10.87 per cent of the total capital budget of Rs 117.92 billion for the fiscal year."
"Lack of effective implementation of the electronic procurement system, delays in awarding contracts and low capacity of the contractors hit the spending capacity as earlier years,” according to the report, that also revealed that low utilisation of foreign assistance, lack of proper planning for construction of national pride projects and awarding contracts without conducting the necessary preparation were also some of the key problems of the government machinery.
Earlier, it was said that the late budget presentation has hit the spending, so the Constitution has clearly stated to present the budget one-and-a-half months ago by May-end. The Finance Ministry has also issued time-bound action plan to speed up the capital spending.
Likewise, the government has also been unable to settle the tax dues. "The tax dues has reached Rs 252 billion, with an additional Rs 900 million due in the first nine months of the current fiscal year," the report revealed, adding that as of fiscal year 2017-18, the government was left to collect tax of worth Rs 161 billion. The government has been unable to monitor extended tax bases and tax mobilization mechanism," it added.

Per capita debt of Nepalis surges to Rs 31,750

Per capita debt of Nepalis has increased by Rs 7,043 in the fiscal year 2017-18 to Rs 31,750.
According to the Office of Auditor General's report, the debt burden of a Nepali citizen has gone up to Rs 31,750 from Rs 24,707 in the last fiscal year. "The total debt of the government was Rs 915.31 billion till 2017-18, an increase from Rs 217.62 billion."
Of the total debt, the internal debt and the external debt of the government stands at Rs 391.16 billion and Rs 524.15 billion, respectively. However the increasing debt in not as bad as it is claimed to be due to  low spending capacity and return on the debt that could have created employment and helped capital formation.

Arrears of government agencies rise by 36.7 per cent

Though, all arrears donot mean all the public money misused, the government arrears has increased by 36.7 per cent or by over Rs 183 billion in the last fiscal year 2017-18.
According to the 56th annual report of Office of the Auditor General (OAG) – handed over to President Bidhya Devi Bhandari by Auditor General Tankamani Sharma today – the unsettled amount of government agencies including federal government, provincial government offices, local government offices, district coordination committees and other organisations touched Rs 683 billion – till the last fiscal year 2017-18 – which is more than half of the budget for the current fiscal year. "Such arrears stood at Rs 500 billion till 2016-17," the report reveals.
This year, the OAG did auditing of 6,644 offices in the three tiers of the governments. "The total unsettled amount among federal government agencies stood at Rs 106 billion, which is 5.29 per cent of the audited amount of the federal government agencies," according to the report that reveals that arrears among provincial government agencies stood at Rs 190 million, which is 7.25 per cent of the total audited amount of provincial government agencies. "The OAG had carried auditing of government agencies in 747 local units out of 753 units, and local government agencies arrears stood at Rs 24 billion, which is 4.22 per cent of the total audited amount among local government agencies."
The arrears of different district coordination committees (DDCs) and other committees stood at Rs 10 billion.
Though, the Financial Procedures Act clearly directs to settle arrears within 35 days of getting official reminder but some of the government officials never take it seriously. Every year, the OAG produces the report and submits it to the the President within the nine months of the next fiscal year. The President sends the report to the Parliament for discussion and clear the arrears. The annual report is widely discussed in the Parliamentary Accounts Committee (PAC) and some of the amount is also settled. But the PAC also fails to settle all the arrears, which is increasing with every passing year. 

Thursday, April 11, 2019

One can apply for 10-unit of stock

The regulator of the capital market today relaxed the rule on the minimum number of stocks one can apply.
Securities Board of Nepal (Sebon) relaxed the rule and said that one can apply for 10 units of share in public offerings from current 50 units minimum. "The move is expected to benefit students, homemakers and other small investors," the board said, adding that it will make the share market more inclusive and accessible to a greater mass. "The directive will come into effect immediately."
“Sebon is hopeful that the move will help achieve the goal of ‘one citizen, one demat’ by providing access to all in the capital market,” the regulator's statement reads.

Co-ops to be restricted from charging exorbitant interest rates

Cooperatives will now be barred from charging exorbitant interest rates on loans as the government has approved the regulations to the Cooperative Act 2017 that envisage a separate mechanism to fix the interest rate. The Cabinet last Monday approved the regulations one and a half years after the government enacted the Cooperative Act.
The cooperatives have been offering – to attract depositors – higher interest rates and charging the exorbitant interest rates on loans too as there is not restriction on the interest rate being offered by the cooperatives as of now. And also the saving and credit cooperatives in particular, have been out of regulatory radar in the absence of necessary regulations.
The regulations have been introduced to protect customers from being charged with exorbitant interest rates, according to the Department of Cooperatives. "In past years, a number of saving and credit cooperatives have embezzled money belonging to depositors who had been lured by hefty interest rates."
Oriental Cooperative – that landed in trouble – had also offered interest up to 22 per cent per annum to its depositors. It was declared problematic in 2013 after few years in operation. Oriental owes Rs 17 billion to its creditors including depositors, apartment buyers, the government, banks and financial institutions, according to the report of Problematic Cooperatives Asset Management Committee. "Under the regulation, a committee under the department will be formed to fix the reference interest rate based on the prevailing interest rate charged by the banks," the department said, adding that the committee will involve representatives from Land Management, Cooperatives and Poverty Alleviation and Finance ministries, Nepal Rastra Bank (NRB), Cooperative Development Board (CDB), National Cooperative Federation (NCF) and other concerned cooperative associations. "The committee will also assess the liquidity positions of the cooperatives while allowing them to fix the interest rates."

Tornado damaged crops and cattle of Rs 507 million

The tornado that hit Bara and Parsa districts last fortnight caused Rs 507 million worth of crops and cattle loss, according to a preliminary report released by the Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock Development today. 
The report reads that 10 municipalities in the two districts were hit by the 90-km-per-hour tornado on March 31. It claimed 28 lives and left hundreds homeless in the southern Tarai plains.
According to the report, crops on 1,096 hectares of land were completely damaged and 1,728 hectares were partially damaged in Bara, whereas crops on 339 hectares were completely destroyed and partially damaged on 1,388 hectares in Parsa district.
The report also revealed that fruit orchards suffered the highest losses. "Fruits on 289 hectares of land amounting to Rs 297 million were wiped out by the rainstorm," it reads, adding that Bara district alone suffered losses of Rs 236 million. "Wheat crops on 2,791 hectares of land were destroyed."
The ministry estimated that the value of the wheat crops lost amounted to Rs 109 million. Bara alone suffered wheat crop losses of Rs 65 million. The rainstorm has partially and completely destroyed maize crops on 513 hectares of Rs 48 million, whereas vegetable and lentil crops were also damaged. "Some 10,494 head of cattle worth Rs 7.58 million were killed by the tornado in both districts."
The report has also recommended the government to support farmers with shallow tube wells, seeds, fertilisers and micro nutrients. It urged the provincial government also to provide additional subsidies on crop insurance.
According to the report, some 1,058 houses in two districts were completely destroyed, and the farmers’ food stocks were buried when the houses collapsed. "Two metal bins with a capacity of two quintals each should be provided per family."
Meanwhile, the government relief announcement and distribution has become complicated due to three tiers of government; federal, state, and local. Unlike in the past, the federal government cannot announce and distribute relief packages to the farmers directly as the law does not allow the federal ministry to announce and distribute relief packages or allocate a budget to provincial and local governments for relief distribution purposes.
The federal ministry has prepared a plan, in case local and provincial governments are not able to issue relief packages. "If they request, the ministry will table the proposal at the Cabinet to approve the required funding to distribute relief packages in the affected areas."
The Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock Development has, however, projected that wheat harvest could exceed 2 million tonnes and set a new record this fiscal year, largely due to good weather during the growing season in the winter. Wheat is the Nepal's third most common cereal crop after paddy and maize.
Meanwhile, authorities in Bara have estimated the damage caused by the devastating tornado on March 31 stood around Rs 234.48 million. According to the data compiled by the Disaster Management Committee, some 16,449 persons of 2,493 households were affected. "At least 530 persons, including 275 women, were injured in the storm," it said, adding that around two dozen injured are undergoing treatment at health facilities.

Sugar import higher than market demand

Nepal imported more than three folds sugar last fiscal year compared to a year before exceeding the actual demand of the domestic market.
According to the 56th annual report of Office of the Auditor General (OAG), the country imported a total of 274,000 metric tonnes of sugar in the last fiscal year 2017-18, against import of 71,000 metric tonnes in the fiscal year 2016-17.
The import of sugar surged also due to falling price in the international market. The government had also banned the sugar import following pressure from the sugar mill owners finally to be tricked by them, according to the Prime Minister. Finance Ministry had also increased import duty from 15 per cent to 30 per cent on December 11, 2017. However, the decision was implemented only on April 17, 2018.
The government lost Rs 536 million revenue due to delay in implementation of the decision,” reads the report. While the sugar import increased significantly, sugar produced within the country remained stored in warehouses, according to the mill owners. Consequently, sugar mill operators are yet to clear their dues to the sugarcane farmers, while the market was flooded by cheap imported sugar. But the mill owners raised the price of the sugar – immediately after the import ban – hitting the consumer hard.

Two-thirds of deaths in Nepal caused by non-communicable diseases

Two out of every three deaths in Nepal are caused by non-communicable diseases –heart disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, lower respiratory infection and stroke – according to a new report published today by Nepal Health Research Council.
According to a study on Nepal Burden of Disease conducted in 2017, changing age structure and life-style – increasing sedentary behaviour, tobacco and alcohol use, and unhealthy diets – are the main causes for the rise in non-communicable diseases. "Non-communicable diseases are increasingly becoming a major public health issue," the report reads, adding that ischemic heart disease and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease are significantly contributing to the burden of disease.
The findings, based on the Global Burden of Disease study, have also identified high blood pressure, smoking, high blood glucose levels as main risk factors for deaths and disability in the country. It also suggests ischemic heart disease and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease account for 16.4 per cent and 9.8 per cent of total deaths.
Ischemic heart disease – commonly known as coronary artery disease or coronary heart disease – is caused by the narrowing of the arteries, which leads to less blood and oxygen reaching the heart.
Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, often known by its abbreviation COPD, is not a single disease but an umbrella term used to describe progressive lung diseases that cause limitations in lung airflow and is characterised by increasing breathlessness.
The study has found ischemic heart disease as the leading cause of death among men, and COPD as the major killer among women.
A senior researcher at the research council, who was involved in the study, Dr Megnath Dhimal said that chronic obstructive pulmonary disease is the leading cause of death among female because 75 per cent of households still use firewood for cooking and in the majority of homes, women spend long hours in the kitchen. "Heart disease is the chief killer among males because of the use of tobacco, alcohol, exposure to heat and pollution and stress,” he added.
Lower respiratory infection, diarrheal disease and ischemic stroke are the third, fourth and fifth leading cause of deaths in males, while diarrheal disease, lower respiratory infection and Alzheimer’s disease are major causes of deaths in females.
The study also reveals that death rates have sharply declined over the past two decades with all ages and both sexes decreasing from 1,110.28 deaths per 100,000 population in 1990 to 611.38 deaths per 100,000 populations in 2017.
According to the report, the life expectancy of Nepalis has also increased, meaning someone born in 2017 is expected to live 12.6 years longer than those born in 1990.
Life expectancy has increased from 59 years to 73.3 for females and from 58 to 69 for males between 1990 and 2017.
The study, however, says not all additional years will be healthy ones. Females are expected to live 62 years of healthy life, while males will live 60 years of healthy life. The discrepancy between life expectancy and life in full health has been attributed to years of healthy life lost due to ill health and disability.
The study was jointly carried out by the Nepal Health Research Council, Ministry of Health and Population, Institute of Health Metrics and Evaluation, and Department of International Development. Dhimal said that the study could be an eye-opener for the concerned agencies to formulate national health policy and allocate resources accordingly.

ADB study highlights measures to save fish

Special measures are needed in hydro and irrigation projects in Nepal to arrest rapidly declining fish stocks in the country’s rivers, according to a new study from the Asian Development Bank (ADB).
The new study from the ADB assessed the impact of projects including the construction of dams on aquatic biodiversity and came up with several recommendations to save fish population in the rivers of Nepal.
“Early findings of this study suggest that the fish population in Nepal’s river basins with dams are in sharp decline,” said ADB’s senior environment officer and co-author of the study 'The Impact of Dams on Fish in the Rivers of Nepal' Deepak Bahadur Singh. "Some technical considerations while building dams or other such projects can go a long way in saving the fish population," he said, adding that providing a fish ladder, building a fish passage, and a fish bypass channel, are some examples.
In addition, breeding fish in hatcheries and annually releasing them upstream and downstream of the dam to maintain their populations could also be effective, reads the study that also recommends a 'fish screening framework' for identifying the scale of impact on fish by a development project and adopting typical mitigation measures.
The study assessed the operation of selected hydropower and irrigation systems with dams to divert water. The systems included the Kali Gandaki, Marshyangdi, Middle Marshyangdi, Kulekhani, Khimti, and Trishuli hydropower projects, and the Babai irrigation project. The study also reviewed international good practices, particularly in South Asia, on mitigating the impacts on fish while constructing projects with dams on rivers.
It suggests that effective regional cooperation between Bangladesh, India, and Nepal could help conserve the valuable and threatened aquatic fauna by ensuring the animals’ transboundary movements for feeding and reproduction. A few tributaries in each major river basin could also be declared aquatic life protection areas, or even a fisheries national park.
"We hope this study will open the door for more discussion and extensive research on this important topic,” said ADB’s country director for Nepal Mukhtor Khamudkhanov. "A broader understanding of the importance of a healthy fish habitat to maintaining balance in the ecosystem and food chain and generating economic and social benefits from fisheries will go a long way in promoting environmentally sustainable development.”
The study concludes that a strong legal provision and a dedicated government agency to enforce the rules and regulations are crucialin protecting fish habitat in the country.
The study was jointly authored by senior fisheries expert Singhand Deep Bahadur Swar.
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.

Wednesday, April 10, 2019

UN report calls for overhaul of global financial system

Sixty-plus international organisations, led by the United Nations (UN) and including the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the World Bank (WB) Group and World Trade Organisation (WTO), jointly warned that unless national and international financial systems are revamped, the world’s governments will fail to keep their promises on such critical issues as combatting climate change and eradicating poverty by 2030.
In their '2019 Financing for Sustainable Development Report', the international organisations find some good news, investment has gained strength in some countries and interest in sustainable investing is growing, with 75 per cent of individual investors showing interest in how their investments affect the world.
And yet, greenhouse gas emissions grew 1.3 per cent in 2017, investment in many countries is falling, and 30 developing countries are now at high risk or already in debt distress, the report reads, adding that at the same time, global growth is expected to have peaked at around 3 per cent.
Changing the current trajectory in financing sustainable development is not just about raising additional investment, says the report. "Achieving global goals depends on supportive financial systems, and conducive global and national policy environments."
Yet the report warns that creating favourable conditions is becoming more challenging. Rapid changes in technology, geopolitics, and climate are remaking our economies and societies, and existing national and multilateral institutions – which had helped lift billions out of poverty – are now struggling to adapt. Confidence in the multilateral system has been undermined, in part because it has failed to deliver returns equitably, with most people in the world living in countries with increasing inequality.
"Trust in the multilateral system itself is eroding, in part because we are not delivering inclusive and sustainable growth for all,” said secretary general of the United Nations António Guterres, in his foreword to the report. “Our shared challenge is to make the international trading and financial systems fit for purpose to advance sustainable development and promote fair globalisation.”
The international agencies recommend concrete steps to overhaul the global institutional architecture and make the global economy and global finance more sustainable, including:
supporting a shift towards long-term investment horizons with sustainability risks central to investment decisions, revisiting mechanisms for sovereign debt restructuring to respond to more complex debt instruments and a more diverse creditor landscape, revamping the multilateral trading system, addressing challenges to tax systems that inhibit countries from mobilising adequate resources in an increasingly digitalized world economy and
addressing growing market concentration that extends across borders, with impacts on inequality.
At the national level, the report puts forward a roadmap for countries to revamp their public and private financial systems to mobilise resources for sustainable investment. It introduces tools for countries to align financing policies with national sustainable development strategies and priorities.
The United Nations Economic Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) has produced a complementary report on 'Financing for Development in Asia and the Pacific: Highlights in the Context of the Addis Ababa Action Agenda, 2019 Edition'. Among other findings, the ESCAP report emphasises the importance of raising public resources to finance urban infrastructure development in a context of breakneck urbanisation and enhancing capacity-building efforts in the area of infrastructure financing and public-private partnerships.
The ESCAP report also underlines the need to scale up investments and international development cooperation to facilitate the attainment of the Sustainable Development Goals in the region. “In a region as diverse as ours,” pointed out under-secretary-general of the UN and executive secretary of ESCAP Armida Salsiah Alisjahbana. "Investment needs vary considerably," he said, adding that least developed countries (LDCs) need to invest the most at 16 per cent of GDP while South and South-West Asia has an investment need of 10 per cent of GDP to reach the goals by 2030."
Finally, the United Nations Development Programme’s (UNDP) Regional Bureau for Asia and the Pacific in partnership with the Asian Development Bank (ADB) has prepared another complementary report entitled 'Integrated Financial Solutions: How Countries are Innovating to Finance the Sustainable Development Goals'. Based on more than 40 case studies from around the world, the report documents integration efforts across public and private financing of the SDGs, with a focus on the connection between planning processes, budgeting and policies to engage the private sector.

Tourism ministry seeks clarification from TIA

The government has asked clarification from general manager of Tribhuvan International Airport (TIA) Raj Kumar Chhetri for allowing FlyDubai to take-off after 10:00 pm, going against the notice for airmen (NOTAM).
The Ministry of Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation (MoCTCA) has sought clarification from the TIA for allowing FlyDubai to take-off after 10:00 pm, confirmed spokespersom of the ministry Ghanashyam Upadhyaya. "It is against the law to break NOTAM rule," he said, adding that the ministry has asked written clarification with TIA management on why it breached the NOTAM rule and allowed FlyDubai to take-off on Tuesday night. "The ministry will take strict action against TIA management, if the ministry does not receive a justifiable reason."
Though TIA has been closing all flight operations for 10 hours from 10:00 pm to 8:00 am since April 1 for the runway rehabilitation work, the TIA management had allowed FlyDubai to take-off after 10:00pm on Tuesday night.
The FlyDubai aircraft was scheduled to depart from TIA for Dubai at 8:40 pm but departed at 10:17 pm on Tuesday night, after getting green signal from the TIA top management. The Issuing the NOTAM a few months back, TIA has begun rehabilitation and extension of the runway. However, going against the rule, TIA permitted the aircraft to take-off after 10 pm on Tuesday night. But the TIA – on April 3 – had refused to allow a Dubai-bound Nepal Airlines Corporation (NAC) flight from taking off at 10.04 pm citing the same NOTAM.
The NAC aircraft was all set for take-off but the airport management stopped the aircraft. The incident raised several questions on why the national flag carrier has always been made victim and the international airliners are always given more than level playing field. According to NAC, the captain of the concerned flight had sought four extra minutes to take-off, however the airport refused to extend the departure time as it would be against the NOTAM. The delay cost the NAC not only money but also the credibility, though it has been trying to rebuild its lost glory. But on Tuesday night, the same TIA management allowed 17 extra minutes to FlyDubai to take-off. The incident has been seen as trying to push the national flag carrier to the red and tarnish its credibility.
Though, general manager of TIA Raj Kumar Chhetri said the airport had allowed the FlyDubai aircraft to take-off looking at the convenience of passengers onboard, he tried to skip the answer on why TIA stopped the NAC flight to take off on April 3 as the national flag carrier flight was only 4 minuted late.
"On April 3, I was in Hong Kong to attend the Asia-Pacific-World Annual General Assembly conference of the Airport Council International," he said, adding that no one was there to take a decision.
"The FlyDubai pilot had already completed the pushback of the aircraft and was all set to take-off,” he said, adding that all the passengers would have to suffer at the last moment. But he could not justify why the passengers of the NAC flight on April 3 were left to suffer and NAC was made to loose money and credibility.
The CAAN has, however, blamed the NAC’s management and the captain for the cancellation of the flight. According to CAAN, all decisions related to the operation of the airport are taken by the aerodrome duty officer, not the air traffic control (ATC). But officials of NAC based at TIA had not coordinated with the aerodrome duty officer before cancelling the flight.

Banks to give Rs 100 for opening account

The banks are providing a customer Rs 100 if they open an account in the bank.
To increase the financial transaction through the banks and financial institutions, under the government scheme of ''Lets Open Bank Account Campaign, 2076' for opening bank accounts for all Nepalis. The government is launching the campaign from Baishakh 1, 2076 (April 14, 2019).
The central bank has also simplified the process of opening bank account as part of its effort to help the government in increasing people's access to finance. The new rule introduced by the central bank not only requires bank and financial institutions (BFIs) to use simplified know-your-customer (KYC) form under 'Lets Open Bank Account Campaign, 2076', but also paves the legal way for allowing them to deposit Rs 100 on those accounts from the bank's side, according to a circular of the central bank. The banks can count Rs 100 deposited in accounts opened under this campaign as their corporate social responsibility (CSR) expenses.
BFIs are required to spend at least one per cent of their total net profit in CSR activities. The central bank has also prescribed a list of activities – including activities organised to achieve Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and direct donation to education and health for poor families – where CSR fund can be utilized.
Under the new rule, people can now open bank accounts by filling up a simplified KYC form and enclosing a copy of government-issued identity cards along with their photographs.  However, the limit for annual transaction for accounts opened using the simplified KYC form has been set at Rs 100,000. "If the transaction is higher than that, the bank should make the client fill up the full KYC form," according to the central bank.
The campaign was announced through the budget for the current fiscal year 2018-19 with an aim to increase financial access and inclusion in the country.
The new provision is aimed at encouraging banks to help the government in its campaign to bring all people within the ambit of banking sector and also to formalise the economy.
Currently, there are 23.54 million deposit accounts as of mid-July last year, according to the central bank data. Lately the central bank has been offering various incentives and facilities to BFIs for deepening financial penetration. The central bank has also directed the BFIs to reach out to all 753 local units.

Establish at least one geriatric hospital in each province: NHRC

The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) and experts suggested to establish at least one geriatric hospital in each province, ensure free  medical treatment for needy patients suffering from Alzheimer’s, dementia, cancer and paralysis, pay fee of economically backward persons  living in care centres, ensure regular medical check-up and conduct  health camp at elderly homes.
They – during an interaction organised by NHRC with geriatric experts regarding the problems of senior citizens – also suggested all hospitals to have a separate ward for mentally unsound persons and a geriatric ward and all elderly homes should have health workers and medicines.
The experts also dwelt on incorporating subject matters related to medical treatment and healthcare of senior citizens into the curricula of MBBS and nursing. They urged the NHRC to inspect and monitor the condition of geriatric wards at hospitals, according to the rights body. "They also emphasised on immediate implementation of recommendations by the NHRC to the government towards ensuring dignified life for senior citizens in their autumn years."
Recently, the NHRC had recommended the government to improve the living condition of senior citizens. "As hundreds of elderly people do not have any option to live with their sons, daughters-in-law, grandsons and granddaughters, they end up at elderly homes," it said, adding that death of spouse, lack of caretakers and family affection compel senior citizens to take shelter in elderly homes. "As many as 141 elderly homes are in operation in 64 districts in the country."
NHRC chairperson Anup Raj Sharma, on the occasion, said that issues of human rights were multi-dimensional. "The NHRC had recommended that the government to establish geriatric hospital for senior citizens on the basis of the report prepared after inspecting and monitoring elderly homes and care centres across the country," he added.

VNY 2020 campaign get budget

The main organising committee of the Visit Nepal Year (VNY) 2020 campaign has today endorsed the budget allocated for campaign.
The committee meeting chaired by Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli has approved the budget of Rs 100 million for the current fiscal year that has to be spent within three months. "Campaign coordinator Suraj Vaidya will have 10 per cent authority and the programme implementing committee will have 15 per cent authority to mobilise the budget," according to the committee. "Since the chair of the main organising committee Prime Minister Oli will not have enough time to attend meetings. The authority of mobilising 25 per cent budget has been handed over to Vaidya and the programme implementing committee."
Likewise, the meeting has also decided to use the VNY 2020 logo and slogan on every government website and letterheads of public offices to promote the campaign. The committee meeting also decided to soft launch the VNY 2020 campaign on April 13 from Pokhara.
The main organising committee comprises 50 members, including the prime minister, representatives from the tourism ministry, Nepal Tourism Board, chief ministers and tourism ministers of all seven provinces as well as representatives from tourism organisations such as Hotel Association Nepal, Trekking Agencies’ Association Nepal and Nepal Association of Tour and Travel Agents.
The campaign is still searching for a place to set up its secretariat from where it can operate smoothly with managing human resources and conducting promotional campaigns
The government has announced VNY 2020 targeting to host 2 million tourists in 2020. "But we are planning to launch the campaign VNY 2020 and beyond," said Vaidya.

Industrialist Golchha passes away

Former president of Federation of Nepalese Chambers of Commerce Industry (FNCCI) and vice chair of Golchha Organisation Diwakar Golchha passed away Tuesday night while undergoing treatment in India. He was 67 and undergoing a kidney transplant in Chennai. He is survived by his two sons.
The Golchha organisation that owns Hulas CGI sheets, Wires, Shree Ram Sugarmill and many more is one of the leading business organisation in Nepal and has contributed to the industrialisation of Nepa. Golchha, also the former vice president of the Federation of Nepalese Chambers of Commerce and Industries (FNCCI), was a parliamentarian in the first Constituent Assembly (CA) in 2008 from Nepali Congress (NC) party. The elder brother of its incumbent first vice-president Shekhar Golchha, Diwakar was elected to the first Constituent Assembly (CA) in 2008 by Nepali Congress (NC) through proportional representation system.
His body will be brought to Kathmandu on Wednesday and will be cremated on Thursday, according to the family.
Meanwhile, Nepali Congress has expressed grief on the passing away of industrialist Golchha. Issuing a press note, the NC said that Golchha's demise is a huge loss to the country's industrial sector. "The country has lost honest and competent industrialist," the NC said in the press note. The party has also paid tribute to the departed soul while expressing condolence to the bereaved family members and relatives.

Tuesday, April 9, 2019

Nepal to grow by 6.5 per cent: IMF

The latest edition of the World Economic Outlook (WEO) from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) has projected Nepal’s economy to grow by 6.5 per cent in the current fiscal year 2018-19.
Though the government has kept economic growth target at 8 per cent for the current fiscal year, on Sunday, the World Bank projected Nepal's economy to grow by 6 per cent in the current fiscal year 2018-19, while the Asian Development Bank (ADB) – in the first week of April – projected Nepal’s economy to grow by 6.2 per cent in the current fiscal year.
According to the report released today during the ‘2019 Spring Meetings of the World Bank (WB) and the International Monetary Fund (IMF)’, the gross domestic product (GDP) of Nepal is expected to grow by 6.5 per cent in the current fiscal year and 6.3 per cent in the next fiscal year 2019-20.
The projection is a reiteration to the recent forecast of its ‘Article IV mission’ that visited Nepal in December last year. Earlier, in its Article IV mission’s report, the IMF had projected the growth to reach 6.5 per cent supported by greater political stability and a more reliable supply of electricity.
But the IMF mission had cautioned Nepal about the risk of higher growth, stating that the current economic expansion also comes with some challenges that need to be carefully managed. The IMF team had proposed a measured tightening of policies to safeguard macroeconomic and financial stability.

French business team discuss investment in Nepal

Nepali and French business person discussed probability of investing in Nepal.
The French Embassy in Nepal in collaboration with Federation of Nepalese Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FNCCI) organised a Nepal-France Business Forum today with the view of increasing trade, commerce, and investment relations between Nepal and France.
At the programme finance minister Dr Yuba Raj Khatiwada and Investment Board Nepal (IBN) chief executive Maha Prasad Adhikari briefed the visiting delegation about the current Nepali business, and investment climate, opportunities, and legal reforms.
Head of Regional Economic Service at the French Embassy in India Jean-Marc Fenet accompanied the representatives of the French companies to Kathmandu. The companies included AETS Consultants, Bureau Veritas, Gemalto, IDEMIA, IN GROUPE, LUMIPLAN ITS India Pvt Ltd, POMA India, Mecamidi HPP India Pvt Ltd, TRACTEBEL Eengineering Pvt Ltd, Thales NSEA PTE Ltd, Thales India Pvt Ltd, L’OPERA and PERNOD RICARD India (P) Ltd.
The French companies – from a diverse background – are from smart city, agro and aviation sectors, according to a press release issued by the embassy today. They also held the business-to-business meetings to explore the investment opportunity in Nepal.
The main objective of the visit, which is a follow up to the recently held Investment Summit 2019, is to explore trade and investment opportunities in Nepal, and is one of the major events as part of the celebration of the 70th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relation between Nepal and France, the press release reads.

UNICEF urges to invest more in human resources

The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) – in its first-ever global report exclusively dedicated to early childhood education – has urged the government to invest more in human resources, infrastructure and equitable expansion, though Nepal has made great strides in expanding access to pre-primary education with enrolment rate having increased from 12 per cent in 2000 to 86 per cent in 2017.
The report, 'A World Ready to Learn: Prioritising Quality Early Childhood Education,' released by the UNICEF today praised Nepal for taking great strides in expanding access to pre-primary education with enrollment rate having increased from 12 per cent in 2000 to 86 per cent in 2017.
It stated that this was one of the fastest improvements in the access to pre-primary education in the last two decades globally, and quoted Nepal among the 'high performers' in the world. The country has formally recognised it as part of Nepal’s free and compulsory basic education and has incorporated one year of pre-primary education into law.
The number of early childhood development centres has increased 35 times in 12 years from 1,038 in 2003 to 35,991 in 2015.
According to a nationwide survey conducted in 2014, children aged 3 to 5 years attending early childhood education programmes in Nepal were 17 times more likely to be on track in their early literacy and numeracy skills even after excluding the effects of numerous socio-economic factors.
However, rapid expansion of early childhood education programmes has not always been accompanied by quality in many countries, including Nepal.
Nepal’s national education budget allocates less than three per cent to pre-primary education, which is inadequate to ensure quality early childhood care and education services including development of a national minimum standards, construction of necessary infrastructure and improvement of the capacity of human resources engaged in early childhood development services.
Nepal spends $14 per pre-primary-age child annually compared with $26 for Tanzania, $25 for Zimbabwe and $24 for Tajikistan from the government’s budget, reads the report.
In the report, UNICEF urged all the governments in the world to commit at least 10 per cent of their national education budgets to achieve the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) of education by 2030. “Nepal has made great progress in expanding early childhood education through an increasing number of children," UNICEF representative to Nepal Tomoo Hozumi said, adding that it can – at the same time – do more by substantially improving its quality for all children regardless of their socio-economic backgrounds. "We must ensure that no child is left behind so that we can walk the talk on ‘leaving no one behind’ principle of the SDGs."

Tatopani customs to reopen on May 29

One of the key trading points between Nepal-China – Tatopani customs point is slated to reopen from May 29. Tatoani customs point was closed for nearly four years due to the devastating earthquakes of 2015.
Both Nepali and Chinese governments have deployed technical experts to reopen the Tatopani customs point – the second largest checkpoint of the country – as soon as possible.
A joint ministerial team from the Office of the Prime Minister and Council of Ministers including transport minister Raghubir Mahaseth and foreign minister Pradeep Gyawali the affected areas today.
The customs point that falls in Sindhupalchowk district is being reopened from May 1, but it will come to full operation from May 29, director general of the Department of Roads (DoR) Keshab Kumar Sharma briefed the visiting dignitaries. "Though the construction works of the Miteri Bridge will take another one-and-a-half months to be completed, the remaining works are almost finished," he said, adding that construction work of the dry port in Larcha and works related to upgradation of the road are also in the final stage. "Chinese Railway Construction Company (CRCC) is doing the work at the dry port and bridge." Work to repair customs office, godown check yard, check posts, bank and residences is also underway, he added.
Likewise, the works related to building retaining walls along the Arniko Highway – the only highway leading to northern neighbour – is ongoing.
Some works in the Nepali side is remaining but the Chinese side has completed upgrading the 9-km-long road from Khasa to Miteri Bridge that was damaged by the devastating earthquake.

Supreme Court orders Ncell, Axiata to pay CGT within three months

The Apex Court ordered Ncell and Axiata companies to pay capital gains tax (CGT) with interest to the government within 3 months after 'necessary evaluation'. Issuing the full text of the verdict on the years-long tax dispute today, the Supreme Court has also ordered the government to halt company’s buyout, sale of shares and distribution of bonus until it pays the CGT.
The full bench of Chief Justice Cholendra SJB Rana and Justices Meera Khadka, Bishwambar Shrestha, Ananda Mohan Bhattarai and Tanka Moktan, on February 7, had issued a mandamus order in the name of defendants Ncell and Axiata to pay the CGT, which they had avoided paying when Ncell shares changed hands three years ago. The Supreme Court had ordered the defendants that it was the responsibility of Ncell and Axiata to pay CGT on February 7.
The Court stated that Section 57 (1) of the Income Tax Act-2058 makes Ncell and the Axiata responsible for paying the CGT and not Telia Sonera, though Ncell has been claiming that the responsibility of paying CGT lies on the seller the TeliaSonera.
In April 2015, Malaysian company Axiata had bought Reynolds Holdings, which held a majority share in Ncell, from TeliaSonera for $1.03 billion. Reynolds Holdings – a wholly-owned subsidiary of TeliaSonera and believed to be registered in the tax haven of Saint Kitts and Nevis – had appreciated to over Rs 105 billion then.
The civil society members, who filed the case, claimed in their writ petition that taxes had been evaded while transferring the management from TeliaSonera to Axiata.
The Court, meanwhile, annulled writ petitions filed on behalf of Ncell and Rhynolds Holdings, claiming that they did not have any further liability to pay capital gains tax.
Ncell has already deposited Rs 23.57 billion in two installments as an applicable tax on the profit generated through the sale of the telecom company. It paid Rs 9.97 billion in May 2016 on the basis of its own calculations. It again paid Rs 13.60 billion on June 4, 2017.
TeliaSonera – a Swedish-Finnish company – has not paid any capital gains tax (CGT) on the sale of its 80 per cent share in Ncell to Malaysian company Axiata in April 2015. The listed company of the country that teaches the world about the transparency and good practice in business ran away without paying the CGT in a poor and third world country Nepal. As of June 17, 2017, the due tax amount was Rs. 60.71 billion. "It will be recalculated CGT and interest including the fines and the actual amount will be decided soon," according to the large tax office (LTO).
The controversy came to surface after the government – particularly the Inland Revenue Department (IRD and its entity LTO, did not assess the tax and also issued conflicting statements on the matter. First the IRD remained silent on who was liable for paying the tax of the profits earned from the business and services generated from Nepal but after TeliaSonera, the Swedish company, went out of the country, top government officials including the then Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal stated that the seller is liable to pay the tax, which meant Ncell wasn’t responsible.
The Court has also asked Office of the Attorney General to submit the court verdict to the defendant and execute the verdict. The Office of the Auditor General, in 2017, concluded that the profits earned from the buyout deal was taxable. It prompted concerns as to why the successive governments were not working sincerely to collect the tax from the companies concerned.

Nepal, China to sign transit trade pact protocol during president’s Beijing visit

Nepal and China are signing the Nepal-China Transit Transport Agreement (TTA) during President Bidhya Devi Bhandari’s visit to Beijing. The signing of the much-hyped and long-awaited protocol is expected to give Nepal alternative ports to the third country trade from the Indian ports.
The President is visiting Beijing to attend the second Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation at the invitation of Chinese President Xi Jinping. President Bhandari is scheduled to leave for China on April 24. Bhandari will address the Belt and Road Forum on April 25. She is expected to return home on April 28.
The protocol – that will pave the way for the implementation of the TTA – is planned to be exchanged between secretary at the Ministry of Industry, Commerce and Supply Kedar Bahadur Adhikari and a Chinese vice-minister on behalf of their respective governments in the presence of Bhandari and Xi.
Nepal and China initialled the protocol of the agreement, which was signed in March 2016 during Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli’s China visit, in Kathmandu on September 7. After few revisions, both the governments have endorsed it for formal signing. The cabinet approved the protocol some two weeks ago and the Chinese government had also endorsed it.
At the time of the protocol’s finalisation in September, the two countries had agreed to formally sign the protocol during a high-level visit.
The protocol of the TTA will allow Nepal to use Shenzen, Lianyungang, Zhanjiang and Tianjin seaports, ending Nepal’s sole dependence on Indian ports for overseas trade. Nepal will also been allowed to use Lanzhou, Lhasa and Xigatse dry ports. According to the protocol, Nepali traders will also be allowed to use any mode of transport – rail or road – to access the seaports for third-country trade.
President's delegation will include Minister of Industry, Commerce and Supply Matrika Prasad Yadav, secretary Adhikari and Nepal’s ambassador to China Lilamani Poudyal.
During the Beijing visit, President Bhandari will meet President Xi and extend him a formal invitation to visit Nepal. Though, Xi has already visited South Asian countries, including India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Maldives, he has yet to visit Nepal. Xi is expected to visit Nepal shortly after Bhandari’s visit to Beijing.