Sunday, June 30, 2019

Nepal in 109th position to park money in Swiss Banks

Nepal is at the 109th position with on the list of foreign nations whose nationals have parked money in the Swiss banking system, a report released by the Swiss National Bank states.
Last year Nepal was in 112th position, and with the political stability and historically strong two-third majority government instead of improving governance, black money outflow has increased to pull the Nepal’s ranking down by 3 places. 
As for Nepal’s neighbours, India is positioned at the 74th rank in terms of money parked by Indian individuals and enterprises, whereas Pakistan is on the 82nd, Sri Lanka 141st, Bangladesh 89th, Myanmar 187th and Bhutan 193rd.
Meanwhile, the United Kingdom, followed by the United States, has accounted for more than 26 per cent of the total foreign funds. Likewise, other countries in the top five are France, West Indies, and Hong Kong.
According to the Swiss National Bank — the central bank of Switzerland — the amount parked in Swiss banks from across the globe and funds parked in Swiss banks by Nepalis increased by nearly four-fold between 2008 and 2017. In 2008, Nepalis had parked 86.22 million Swiss francs in Swiss banks, while till the end of 2017 such funds rose to 322.88 million Swiss francs. And it has increased again to…
Nepalis are not allowed to transfer funds to foreign bank accounts. But it has seen not stopping. In 2008, Nepalis had parked 86.22 million Swiss francs in the Swiss bank and at the end of 2017 the amount rose to 322.88 million Swiss francs.
Swiss banks maintain strict privacy of account holders, making it difficult to identify individuals parking funds in Swiss banks, but it is assumed that Nepali business people and politicians have been holding such accounts in Swiss banks.
Obviously, the money parked by Nepalis in the Swiss Bank was siphoned off illegally through hundi, over-invoicing in imports and other ways.
Among the top-ranked jurisdictions, the UK is followed by the US, West Indies, France and Hong Kong in the top five, according to the report that states that these countries alone account for more than 50 per cent of the aggregate foreign funds parked with the Swiss banks, while the top-10 account for nearly two-thirds. “The top-15 countries account for nearly 75 per cent of all foreign money in Swiss banks, while the contribution of the top-30 is almost 90 per cent.”
The top-10 countries also include Bahamas, Germany, Luxembourg, Cayman Islands and Singapore.
Among the five-nation BRICS block of emerging economies, India is ranked the lowest while Russia is ranked the highest at 20th place, followed by China at 22nd, South Africa at 60th and Brazil at 65th place in terms of amount of money parked by their residents and enterprises at the end of 2018.
The countries ranked higher than India also include Mauritius (71st), New Zealand (59th), the Philippines (54th), Venezuela (53rd), Seychelles (52nd), Thailand (39th), Canada (36th), Turkey (30th), Israel (28th), Saudi Arabia (21st), Panama (18th), Japan (16th), Italy (15th), Australia (13th), UAE (12th) and Guernsey (11th).
The total money held in Swiss banks by foreign clients from across the world fell by about 4 per cent to 1.4 trillion Swiss Francs in 2018.

Black Money Outflow 
Year -- Funds parked by Nepalis
2008 -- 86.22 million Swiss francs
2009 -- 68.89 million Swiss francs
2010 -- 97.15 million Swiss francs
2011 -- 74.66 million Swiss francs
2012 -- 125.96 million Swiss francs
2013 -- 84.86 million Swiss francs
2014 -- 102.22 million Swiss francs
2015 -- 314.43 million Swiss francs
2016 -- 310.66 million Swiss francs
2017 -- 322.88 million Swiss francs

Poverty to be reduced through job creation: PM

Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli today said that the government’s top priority is to alleviate poverty through employment generation.
Addressing the two-day National Labour and Employment Conference 2019 – which kicked off in the capital today – he stressed on the need to reform the current education system and modernise the agriculture sector to help create more job opportunities and bring down the rate of poverty.
“Our agricultural system is still traditional and we have not been able to switch to mass production through the use of modern technology,” he said, adding that
Likewise, access to market is yet another problem that farmers have been facing today,” Oli added.
Lamenting those who prefer to go abroad for work, he said, that employment opportunities are gradually being created in the country. “It is necessary that every job gets respect and everyone gets a minimum wage, which is scientific to retain people in the country itself,” he said, stressing on government’s move to strictly implement minimum wage in every sector.
Archaeological sites are Nepal’s precious assets that could promote both tourism and job creation, the premier added.
Ministry of Labour, Employment and Social Security is organising the two-day ‘National Labour and Employment Conference’ starting from today with an objective to identify opportunities and gaps for employment creation and develop a dialogue-led consensus towards tackling pertinent labour and employment issues in Nepal.
“Earlier, foreign employment was our compulsion, now it has become a necessary compulsion,” said former labour minister Ramesh Lekhak, addressing the conference.
Lekhak also urged the government to focus more on implementation of development projects than just talking about development also to create jobs at home. “The concept of work has changed drastically,” he said, adding that discussions and meetings are no longer considered to be work. “It’s only the results that matter.
As some 11.6 per cent Nepalis are unemployed and 30 per cent semi-employed, the government aims at promoting an environment conducive to employment generation in the country, according to 2017-18 Labour Force Survey that further states that only 37 per cent of the workforce is engaged in the formal sector whereas 62.2 per cent is engaged in the informal sector. In the informal sector, the wage is very low calling for focus on regulating the informal employment sector. But there is a huge mismatch between the jobs in the market and available manpower.
“The skills and qualification of the people should be linked with possible opportunities in the employment market,” labour minister Gokarna Bista said, adding that formal channels should be ensured for sending Nepali people abroad, if they wanted to go for foreign employment.
Bista, on th occasion, also said that the government has initiated different programmes, including the Prime Minister Employment Programme targeted at generating employment opportunities in the country itself.
Representatives and experts from the government, private sector, trade unions, development partners, and non-governmental organisations are taking part in the conference that discusses on labor and employment policy, future of work, information technology, employment and wage, productivity, and national economy.
The conference also aims at exploring the avenues for labour and employment, strengthening worker-employer relationship, attracting Nepali youths towards domestic labour and ultimately strengthening the country’s economy. The organisers are hopeful that the recommendations furnished by the experts in the conference will help launch more strategic programmes in the labour and employment sector.
The first day of the conference today witnessed discussions and deliberations on ‘labour environment in the country’, and ‘existing labour-related policies and other opportunities’.

Sebon to host international conference on financial consumer protection

The capital market regulator is organising a two-day ‘Conference and Roundtable on Financial Consumer Protection and Education in Asia Pacific’.
The Securities Board of Nepal (Sebon) in collaboration with International Network on Financial Education (INFE) under the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) is organising the conference that will discuss on the measures to promote financial literacy in developed and developing countries, financial inclusion, consumer protection and demographic changes, executive chairman of Sebon Dr Rewat Bahadur Karki said at a press meet today.
The conference and roundtable will help in identifying challenges and opportunities for Nepal on financial inclusion, he said, adding that the event will provide an opportunity for the country to develop the relationship with regulatory agencies of other countries and forge relationship with them in the future for regulatory cooperation. “A total of 125 participants including 40 foreign delegates representing regulatory bodies and other organizations from the financial sector including OECD, Securities and Exchange Board of India, and Australian Securities and Investments Commission are joining the conference and roundtable.”
According to the organiser, the conference will hold roundtable – on the second day – with representatives of central banks, Sebon, Beema Samiti, and other regulatory bodies to discuss financial consumer protection. The conference and roundtable is scheduled to be inaugurated by finance minister Dr Yuba Raj Khatiwada.
The Sebon has acquired the full membership of the OECD’s INFE in January. The OECD/INFE with 86 organisations from 64 countries as full members and 172 organizations from 95 countries as regular members promotes and facilitates international co-operation between policy makers and other stakeholders on issues related financial education worldwide.

Saturday, June 29, 2019

23 local units lack banks

Some 23 local units are still devoid of a bank branch despite the central bank dictate to establish a branch of commercial banks in each of the 753 local bodies.
Commercial banks have opened their branch offices in 730 local units as of now, out of the total 753 units, according to the central bank.
Though it has been over two years since the country went into a federal structure, there are still 23 local bodies without commercial banks that can work as treasury of the local governments. As each of these local governments has their own consolidated fund, a branch of commercial bank is needed to operate such fund, according to the central bank. In the absence of the bank branch, local unit officials have to travel to far-away district headquarters for bank-related works. 
While the 28 commercial banks have divided the local units, themselves, for establishing branches two years ago, bankers said that lack of basic infrastructure including buildings, internet connectivity, road, electricity and security have delayed in reaching all the local bodies across the country, though the local governments have shown their commitment to help banks in setting up their branches.
The central bank has offered various incentives and facilities to encourage banks to open their branch in line with the government’s policy to have presence of commercial bank in each local unit. The central bank also provides interest-free loan of Rs 10 million per branch for one year to those banks establishing branches in the designated local levels. Likewise, the banks will also enjoy their monopoly in the local units where they reach first.

Friday, June 28, 2019

भारतका पूर्वोत्तर राज्यसँग नेपालको आर्थिक साझेदारी

गान्तोक (सिक्किम)-नेपाल तथा भारतका पूर्वोत्तर राज्यबीच आर्थिक साझेदारी बढाउने संस्थागत प्रयास सुरु भएको छ । भारतका पूर्वोत्तर राज्यसँग नेपालको साझेदारी बढाउने सम्बन्धमा शुक्रबार आयोजित कार्यक्रममा दुवै मुलुकका विज्ञहरूले लगानीकर्ताबीच एकआपसमा विभिन्न तहमा सहकार्य गर्नुपर्ने धारणा राखेका छन् । उनीहरूले वस्तुको ओसारपसार तथा मानिसको सहज आवागमनका लागि हाल रहेका व्यवधानहरू हटाउन पहल गर्नुपर्ने एवं एक आपसमा नयाँ लगानीका अवसरहरू खोज्नुपर्ने धारणा राखे । शुक्रबार भारतको सिक्किम राज्यमा आयोजित गोष्ठीको उद्घाटन गर्दै सिक्किमका मुुख्यमन्त्री प्रेमसिंह तामाङले विस्तृत क्षेत्रीय साथै उपक्षेत्रीय आर्थिक सहयोग र सहकार्यका निम्ति संयुक्त पहलका अवसरहरूबारे आफ्नो भावी दृष्टिको विस्तृत जानकारी गराएका छन् । यसैगरी, भारतका लागि नेपाली राजदूत निलम्बर आचार्यले पर्यटन, कृषि एवं खाद्य प्रशोधन, ऊर्जा, पूर्वाधार, स्वास्थ्य स्याहार, शिक्षा, कौशल विकास तथा स्टार्टअप र सेवालगायतका क्षेत्रमा ‘पूर्वी सम्पर्क’को सक्रिय अनि उत्कृष्ट पहलमार्फत् विकासको अपेक्षित लक्ष्य हासिल गर्न भारत र नेपालबीच साझेदारीलाई अझ व्यापकता दिनसक्ने जनाए । लगानीका अवसरहरू खोज गर्दै भारतको पूर्वोत्तर राज्यहरू तथा नेपालको आर्थिक विकासमा सहभागी बन्न पीएचडीसीसीआईअन्तर्गत भारत नेपाल केन्द्र (आईएनसी) र राज्य विकास परिषद् (एसडीसी)द्वारा नेपाली राजदूतावास नयाँदिल्लीको सहयोगमा ‘भारत नेपाल आर्थिक साझेदारी शिखर सम्मेलन’ आयोजना भएको हो । सम्मेलनमा विभिन्न वक्ताहरूले पर्यटन, कृषि एवं खाद्य प्रशोधन, ऊर्जा, पूर्वाधार, स्वास्थ्य स्याहार, शिक्षा, कौशल विकास तथा स्टार्टअप र सेवा क्षेत्र लगायतका क्षेत्रमा ‘पूर्वी सम्पर्क’को सक्रिय अनि उत्कृष्ट पहलमार्फत् नेपालको आर्थिक विकासको अपेक्षित लक्ष्य हासिल गर्न भारत र नेपालबीच साझेदारीमाथि केन्द्रित हुनुपर्ने जनाए । यस क्षेत्रको नीति निर्णयमा महत्वपूर्ण प्रभाव राख्ने नीति निर्माताहरूको सक्रिय अन्तक्र्रियामा उनीहरूले लगानी तथा व्यापारका लागि बृहत् अनि प्रामाणिक सम्भावनाहरूबारे अवगत गराउँदै सिक्किम र नेपालबीच दुईतर्फी लगानीको अवसरको खाका पनि प्रस्तुत गरिएको थियो । उक्त अवसरमा सिक्किमका मुख्यसचिव आलोक श्रीवास्तले व्यापारका निम्ति सहायक अनि प्रगतिशील रहेको सिक्किमको विकासीय रूपरेखाको जानकारी दिए । अतिरिक्त सचिव तथा उद्योग एवं वाणिज्य विभागका सचिव थोमस चाण्डीले नेपाली उद्यमीहरूलाई स्वागत गर्दै विशेषगरी पर्यटन र जैविक खेतीको क्षेत्रमा सहकार्यको नयाँ अध्याय सुरु गर्न आह्वान गरे । जवाहरलाल नेहरू विश्वविद्यालयका प्रोफेसर तथा विघटिछ ईपीजी सदस्य प्रो. महेन्द्र पी. लामाले सिक्किम र नेपालबीच आर्थिक सहकार्य विस्तारको निम्ति महत्वपूर्ण ऐतिहासिक साथै समकालीन तथ्यहरूबारे प्रकाश पारे । नेपाल एसबीआई बैंकका सीईओ अनुकुल भटनागरले लगानीको निम्ति नेपालमा उपलब्ध वित्तीय सुविधाहरूबारे अवगत गराए । उनले नेपालमा लगानीको प्रशस्त सम्भावना रहेको भन्दै लगानीको लागि आह्वान पनि गरे । 
यसैगरी, कारोबार राष्ट्रिय आर्थिक दैनिक मिडिया पार्टनर रहेको उक्त गोष्ठीमा पीएचडीसीसीआई अन्तर्गतको भारत नेपाल केन्द्रका अध्यक्ष तथा नेपालको निम्ति भारतका पूर्वराजदूत केभी राजनले आर्थिक सहकार्यलाई गति प्रदान गर्न भारत र नेपालबीच सामाजिक सांस्कृतिक सद्भावलाई संस्थागत बनाउनुपर्ने आवश्यकतामाथि जोड दिए ।पूर्वराजदूत केभी राजनद्वारा अध्यक्षता गरिएको सम्मेलनको पहिलो प्राविधिक सत्रमा ‘नेपालमा औद्योगिक प्रवर्तनः द्विदेशीय कारोबार नीतिको पुनरावलोकन तथा उपक्षेत्रीय सहकार्यको विस्तार’ सत्रमा सीमा क्षेत्र विकास तथा बीबीआईएनमाथि छलफल भएको थियो । उक्त सत्रमा नेपाल राजदूतावासका आर्थिक सहचारी तीर्थ पौडेल, सिक्किमका पूर्व लोकसभा सांसद पीडी राई, सूचना एवं जनसम्पर्क विभागका सचिव श्रीमती शेराब सेंगा, आईसीएफएआई विश्वविद्यालय, सिक्किमका उपकुलपति डा. जगन्नाथ पटनायक, केन्द्रीय कृषि विश्वविद्यालयका उपकुलपति डा. पीपी डब्राल, सिक्किम विश्वविद्यालयका डीन त्रिलोक देवान, आन्ध्र प्रदेशका पूर्व मुख्यसचिव, जीटीएका सल्लाहकार एवं पूर्व प्रधान सचिव, दार्जीलिङका पूर्वविधायक, सिक्किम सरकारका पर्यटन सल्लाहकार राज बसुले सहभागिता जनाएका थिए । यसैगरी, ‘नीतिगत सुधार तथा नेपालमा कारोबार गर्न सहजता, नेपालमा क्षेत्रगत सम्भावनाः नेपाल तथा पूर्वोत्तरमा (सिक्किमको विशेष सन्दर्भमा) औद्योगिक विकासको निम्ति निवेशको प्रवाहीकरण’ विषयक दोस्रो सत्रको समन्वय भारत नेपाल केन्द्रका उपसचिव एवं समन्वयकर्ता अतुलकुमार ठाकुरले गरेका थिए । उक्त सत्रमा इन्टरस्टेट मल्टीमोडल ट्रान्सपोर्ट (प्रा.) लि अन्तर्गत फ्लिट लजिस्टिकका कार्यकारी निर्देशक विकास रौनियार, अन्तर्राष्ट्रिय कारोबार विशेषज्ञ डा. पानु पाजो, पूर्वाधारका सल्लाहकार कर्णल मणि गहतराज, शिक्षाविद् गायत्री राई, कृषि तथा खाद्य परिशोधन उद्यमी अभिमन्यु ढकालले नेपाल तथा उत्तर भारतीय राज्यको बीचमा कसरी लगानी तथा उद्यमशीलता विकास गर्ने भन्ने बारेमा छलफल गरेका थिए । यस्तै, कारोबार राष्ट्रिय आर्थिक दैनिकका सम्पादक कुबेर चालिसेले सम्मेलनको समापन गर्दै नेपाल भारत सीमामा संयुक्त विशेष आर्थिक क्षेत्र स्थापना गर्नुपर्ने तथा सीमामा व्यवस्थित हाटबजारको स्थापनाले दुुवै देशका लगानीकर्ताा तथा कृषकहरू लाभान्वित हुने बताए ।

Nepal and North-Eastern Indian states plan economic partnership

Nepal and Northeastern states of India are planning to start economic cooperation institutionally.
During 'India-Nepal Economic Partnership Summit' organised at Gangtok in Sikkim today experts suggested to work on various level of cooperation to strengthen the ties to deepen regional and sub-regional economic cooperation. They also discussed on easing the current barriers in free flow of goods and people.
Nepal can meet desired development goal from the ‘Looking East’ policy of India, said Nepali ambassador to India Nilambar Acharya, addressing the programme 'India-Nepal Economic Partnership Summit' organised by Progress Harmony for Development Chamber of Commerce and Industry (PHDCCI) – under aegis of its India-Nepal Centre (INC) / State Development Council (SDC) in association with the Embassy of Nepal in New Delhi – today at Gangtok of Sikkim state of India.
He also pointed on the sectors where India-Nepal co-operation can be further boosted through proactive and sublime 'East Connection' to achieve the desired goals for economic development of various sectors.
Likewise, inaugurating the summit as chief guest, Chief Minister of Sikkim Prem Singh Tamang, on the occasion, shared his perspectives on the opportunities that are at place and about the need of having the collaborative efforts, for making a framework of comprehensive regional and sub-regional economic co-operation.
Economic Minister at the Embassy of Nepal in New Delhi Krishna Hari Pushkar urged the investors to Indian investors in Nepal, whereas the chief secretary of Sikkim Alok Srivastava, on the occasion, gave an overview of Sikkim’s developmental profile and policies which are progressive and supportive to the businesses. Similarly, additional chief secretary at the Department of Commerce and Industries, Government of Sikkim Thomas Chandy welcomed the Nepali entrepreneurs’ to engage with Sikkim and start a new chapter of collaboration in particularly two areas; Tourism and Organic Farming.
Likewise, Prof Mahendra P Lama, member of the EPG on Nepal-India Relations, touched on historical and contemporary facts that are crucial for further expansion of economic cooperation between Sikkim and Nepal.
Chairman at the India-Nepal Centre under PHDCCI and India’s former ambassador to Nepal K V Rajan shared his reflections on the need of institutionalising the socio-cultural goodwill and shared ties between India and Nepal for accelerating the economic cooperation, whereas MD and CEO of Nepal SBI Bank Anukool Bhatnagar, on the occasion, outlined on the financing facilities available in Nepal for doing business.
Charing the summit’s first Technical Session 'Promoting Industry in Nepal: Revisiting Bilateral Trade Policies, Expanding Sub-regional Cooperation, Border Area Development, MSMEs, Destination Sikkim, SAARC, BBIN’, ambassador K V Rajan explained the opportunity for both the countries. Likewise, economic counsellor at the Embassy of Nepal in New Delhi Tirtha Poudel, former MP at the Lok Sabha of Sikkim and Leader of SDF P D Rai, secretary at the Department of Information and Public Relations Sherap Shenga, vice chancellor at the ICFAI University of Sikkim Dr Jagganath Patnaik, Dean at the Central Agriculture University of Sikkim Dr P P Dabral, former chief secretary at the Andhra Pradesh and also former principal secretary and advisor of GTA, former MLA of Darjeeling Trilok Dewan and tourism advisor of Government of Sikkim Raj Basu took active part in the first session.
Likewise, the concluding session on 'Policy Reforms and Ease of Doing Business in Nepal: Sectoral Possibilities in Nepal, Channelising Investment (both-ways) for Industrial Development in Nepal and Northeast (with special reference to Sikkim)' moderated by deputy secretary and coordinator, SDC / India-Nepal Centre (PHDCCI) Atul K Thakur, witnessed executive director of Interstate Multi-Modal Transport (P) Ltd and Fleet Logistics (P) Ltd Bikas Rauniar, International Trade Expert Dr Panu Pazo, Consultant – Infrastructure Col Mani Gahatraj, educationist Gayatri Rai, agri and food processing entrepreneur Abhimanyu Dhakal.
Editor of Karobar National Economic Daily – the media partner of the summit – Kuber Chalise, on the occasion, summed up the session by proposing to establish a joint Special Economic Zone (SEZ) and a Haat Bazaar at the border so that the investors and farmers from across the border can take benefit.
The PHDCCI has been closely working with the Government of Nepal and the leading industry bodies of Nepal to promote bilateral economic development. The summit also focused on the sectors where India-Nepal co-operation can be further boosted through proactive and sublime 'East Connection' to achieve the desired goals for Nepal’s economic development. The summit – that aimed at exploring the trade and investment opportunities and to participate in the economic development of both India’s Northeast region and Nepal – hosted some of the key policy-makers, who significantly influence the decision-making of the region. It also hosted two-ways investment opportunities between Sikkim and Nepal through sensitising the industry captains and investors to come in term with the strong possibilities that both the places offer unwaveringly for businesses and investments.

Only 13 per cent pass EPS-TOPIK

The Employment Permit System (EPS) under the Department of Foreign Employment (DoFE) published the result of Proficiency in Korean (TOPIK) today. Out of the total 92,376 candidates, who filled up the form, only 13 per cent passed the exam, EPS section of the department informed. “The total number of passed candidates is 12,009 for this year.”
Out of the successful candidates, who appeared in the exam, 23.94 per cent passed the test for agriculture sector and 76.05 per cent for manufacturing sector,” it informed, adding that number wise, some 9,133 candidates passed for manufacturing sector, whereas 2,876 passed for agriculture sector. The first level of language test for this year was held on June 8 and June 10,
“The candidates will be further shortlisted and the selected ones will get a job by January 2020,” according to the department that further informed that there will be skill based examination which is going to be scheduled by mid-September. “The candidates will be allowed to fill up Employment Arrangement Form after that, which will be followed by medical test and police report of the shortlisted candidates.”
The selected ones will, finally, reach South Korea by January 2020.
Some 8,996 candidates had passed the test last year. Since the result is valid for two years, the exact data of candidates of a particular year who went to Korea could not be counted. However, some 3,300 candidates from 2018 and 2017 batches reached Korea in 2019. But till now some 62,000 candidates have already reached South Korea – the most lucrative destination for Nepali migrant workers – through EPS that is a government-to-government system which ensures safe migration for workers and also strengthens basic rights of foreign workers and restricts discrimination against them.
The EPS Korea Section was established under the Ministry of Labour and Employment and Department of Foreign Employment with a purpose of easing the process to send Nepali workers to Korea after Nepal entered into EPS in 2007.

SAARC reaffirms commitment to promote agriculture and rural development

The fourth meeting of the SAARC agriculture ministers – held yesterday Bhutan – reaffirmed its commitments to further strengthen regional cooperation by promoting cooperation in agriculture and rural development for enhancing food, nutrition and livelihood security of the region.
According to a press release issued by the secretariat of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC), the inaugural session of the meeting yesterday was attended by foreign minister of Bhutan Tandi Dorji as the chief guest.
SAARC would – in the rapidly changing regional and global state of affairs – need to align itself to the emerging priorities and assured the unwavering support and commitment of the Royal Government of Bhutan to the SAARC processes, he said, while addressing the meeting.
Likewise, agriculture minister of Bhutan Lyonpo Yeshey Penjor and SAARC secretary general Amjad Hussain B Sial also addressed the inaugural session.
The meeting also adopted a 19-point Thimphu statement on the agriculture and rural development with regional pledges and strategies, to deal with the emerging challenges being faced by the region in agriculture and allied sectors and to advance the agricultural sector of the region.
During the meeting, the ministers agreed to promote multi-sectoral approaches to attain a higher level of food safety and nutrition security, promote climate resilient agricultural strategies and technologies, expand agro-processing and building competitive agricultural value chains, according to the press note.
The meeting also agreed to facilitate gender mainstreaming and attracting youth and women in agriculture, intensify agricultural research, development, and innovation through higher public investment and public-private partnership, adopt appropriate measures for addressing the issues related to trans-boundary animal diseases, the release reads, adding that the ministers also adopted a statement on SAARC’s Cooperation on Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR) with some specific directives to tackle this menace, recognising the increasing challenges, posed by Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR) to animal and human health in the region.
Hosted by Bhutan yesterday, the fourth meeting of the SAARC agriculture ministers was preceded by the meetings of the SAARC senior agriculture officials, Technical Committee on Agriculture and Rural Development and Third Multi-stakeholders’ Dialogue.
Nepal will host the fifth meeting of the SAARC agriculture ministers.

Thursday, June 27, 2019

Central bank seeks commitment from commercial banks for mergers

Central bank today asked the commercial banks to work-out for 'big' merger and acquisition, as the Monetary Policy for the next fiscal year is going to encourage banks and financial institutions to go for Merger and Acquisition (M&A).
Summoning chairpersons and chief executive officers of all the 28 commercial banks, the central bank governor Dr Chiranjibi Nepal urged them to contemplate on the possible merger partner and inform the central bank about the potential amalgamation. He told the bankers to submit names of banks that they wanted to partner with or submit a commitment letter for merger to the central bank before the Monetary Policy that is going to be announced in mid-July. A banker – who was in the meeting – informed that the central bank has asked them to inform about their merger plan by July 4.
Presenting the budget speech for the fiscal year 2018-19 on May 29, finance minister Dr Yuba Raj Khatiwada had said that the government will take a policy of encouraging big' merger among BFIs. Thus the Nepal Rastra Bank (NRB) has urged the banks to submit written commitments in line with the budget. The banks that have already found partners for merger or acquisition should submit their confirmation with the partner’s name and those seeking partners can submit their commitment, according to the central bank.
The central bank brings Monetary Policy every year to support the fiscal policy after discussion with the banks and financial institutions. Thus, the central bank also collected recommendations for the Monetary Policy from the bankers.
The government has also announced to grant tax exemption for one year to encourage BFIs to opt for M&A, the central bank – the government’s financial advisor – said. “M&A among BFIs will contribute to safety and soundness in the banking sector,” the central bank said, against the popular myth of ‘too big to fail.’
The commercial banks are though positive towards merger, they complain that the time is too short. “Choosing a partner for business is also a matter of taking risk,” according to a banker, who said that it will difficult to complete the whole process of M&A by the time the Monetary Policy is announced in next fifteen days.
Earlier, the central bank had – couple of years ago – asked banks to raise their paid-up capital to Rs 8 billion from Rs 2 billion to encourage consolidation in the banking sector. But the decision could not help decrease the number of commercial banks as the central bank could not restrict them to float rights and bonus shares to meet the four-times paid up capital.

10 digital solutions for women entrepreneurs win support from UN FinTech Innovation Fund

A crowdfunding platform for women farmers, online marketplaces for women-produced goods and services, and e-wallet enabled lending were among ten of the winning business models which will be co-funded by the United Nations (UN) to improve access to finance for women-owned, managed or led micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) in the region.
Launched by the UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) and the United Nations Capital Development Fund (UNCDF) in March 2019, the Women Fintech MSME Innovation Fund will support the implementation of the winning private sector FinTech and digital business solutions for women entrepreneurs in Bangladesh, Cambodia, Fiji, Myanmar, Nepal, Samoa and Viet Nam.
“We received over 100 innovative proposals from businesses registered in more than 20 countries around the region,” ESCAP deputy executive secretary Hongjoo Hahm said, adding that the breadth of proposals received was impressive. “It is encouraging to see how digital finance and digital solutions can be used to address some of the barriers women-led MSMEs face in accessing finance and advancing their business.”
“ESCAP is grateful to the Government of Canada for their support to this initiative,” Hahm added.
MSMEs are a vital source of employment and a significant contributor to the GDP. However, more than 45 per cent of MSMEs in Asia and the Pacific experience financial access constraints. Socio-cultural norms mean women-led enterprises have to overcome gender-specific barriers to access institutional credit and other financial services.
“To address the issues that female business owners face, we need entrepreneur-centric solutions that will allow her to grow her business and reach her full potential,” said senior advisor at the Fintech and Financial Inclusion at the Dutch development Bank (FMO) Andrew Shaw.
The Women MSME Fintech Innovation Fund provides risk capital and technical assistance to pilot technology enabled financial service solutions for women-led enterprises. Out of the 110 applications received, the top 30 proposals were asked to pitch their ideas to an independent investment committee made up of industry experts and regulators.
Over the next year, ESCAP and UNCDF will provide financial and technical support to the ten winning companies as they develop and pilot their business initiatives. In the short-term, the initiatives aim to support more than 9,000 women led MSMEs in Bangladesh, Cambodia, Fiji, Myanmar, Nepal, Samoa and Viet Nam.

Rajan Pokharel appointed as CAAN director general

Government has appointed Rajan Pokharel as the director general of Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal (CAAN). The meeting of the Council of Ministers today promoted Pokharel, who was the officiating director general at the regulatory body of the aviation.
Pokharel committed to the improvement in air service, making efforts to ensure air safety and infrastructure building. “My priority is the operation of under-construction international airports, and upgrading of the domestic airports,” he said, adding that the CAAN would work in cooperation with the companies providing air service. He also has the challenge to reform the CAAN and bifurcate the regulatory authority as recommended by the European Union (EU) to make Nepal’s aviation sector more safe. 

Average tourist spending drops

Average tourist spending has dropped against the government’s plan to bring in quality foreign tourists with high-spending capacity.
“The average spending of foreigners dropped by 22.73 per cent in 2018,” according to the Nepal Tourism Statistics-2018 that revealed that the average per day spending of a foreign tourist in Nepal was $54 in 2017 but it came down by  $10 to $44 per day in 2018.
Nepal Tourism Statistics 2018 – prepared by the Ministry of Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation (MoCTCA) – revealed that not only the number of high-spending tourists in Nepal is declining in recent years against the government’s plan to increase the inflow of such travelers but also the average length of the tourists has been decreasing. “The average length of stay of foreign tourists in Nepal also dropped to 12.4 days in 2018 from 12.6 days in 2017,” the statistics revealed.
The government’s three-year development plan (2016-2018) that aimed at increasing the length of stay of foreigners to 14 days by 2018 – which ranged from eight to 13.5 days in the past – has failed despite the increasing number of the tourists.
Nepal can offer products suitable for both backpackers and high-end tourists, according to president of Pacific Asia Travel Association (PATA) Nepal Chapter Sunil Shakya. “The historical, cultural, natural and spiritual products on offer could cater to a variety of guests as per their need,” he said, adding that most of the trekkers and travellers are backpackers, who spend money on our roadside shops and local markets that could actually uplift the livelihood of people living in rural areas.
Currently, almost 65 per cent tourists travelling to Nepal are backpackers, he added. “Backpackers may be good for growth of numbers, but in terms of revenue, we have to develop good strategies to bring in high-end tourists.”
“Nepal needs to develop ample tourism packages beyond major cities like Kathmandu and Pokhara to increase the length of stay of tourists and their spending,” according to the vice chair of the Hotel Association Nepal (HAN) Binayak Shah.

Trade deficit hits at Rs 1.21 trillion

On soaring import bills, the trade deficit is going to equalise the annual budget in the current fiscal year as the trade deficit has widened by 17.40 per cent to Rs 1.21/9 trillion – surpassing the revised annual budget of Rs 1.2 trillion for the current fiscal year – in the first 11 months of the current fiscal year compared to the deficit of Rs 1.03 trillion in the same period of the last fiscal year. The trade deficit totalled Rs 1.16 trillion in the last fiscal year 2017-18.
A trade deficit is the difference between a country's export earnings and import expenses. According to the Department of Customs (DoC), Nepal’s foreign trade reached Rs 1.38 trillion – in the 11 months between mid-July and mid-June – which is an increase by 17.50 per cent compared to Rs 1.18 trillion in the same period of previous fiscal year. “The imports have a 93.7 per cent share in the total foreign trade whereas exports have only 6.3 per cent share,” the department data revealed, adding that Nepal imported goods worth Rs 1.29 trillion – some 17.45 per cent more than the imports in the 11 months of last fiscal year when it had imported Rs 1.10 trillion – whereas compared to imports, the ratio of exports is very low. “In the 11 months of the current fiscal year, Nepal’s export earnings swelled to Rs 87.83 billion as it is an increase by 18.18 per cent compared to the same period of the previous fiscal year.”
According to the department, Nepal exported merchandise worth Rs 74.32 billion in the 11 months of the last fiscal year. “The import-export ratio at the moment stands at 1:14.8, which means for every rupee of goods exported, Nepal imports goods worth Rs 14.8.”
The import-export ratio stood at 1:14.9 in the same period of last fiscal year, the department data revealed.
According to the customs statistics, Nepal enjoyed a trade surplus with only 21 countries among its 155 trading partners. However, among the 155 trading partners, the trade deficit is highest with southern and northern neighbours. Nepal faced a trade deficit worth Rs 785 billion with India in the first 11 months as it imported goods worth Rs 841 billion from India and exported only Rs 56.5 billion to the southern neighbour. Likewise, the trade deficit with China stands at Rs 184 billion as it imported goods worth Rs 186 billion from China and exported only Rs 1.96 billion worth goods to the northern neighbour in the 11 months of the current fiscal year.
Petroleum is the largest import of Nepal as usual. The country imported Rs 231.72 billion worth petro products including mineral oils, bitumen and mineral waxes. Likewise, the iron and steel import bill came to Rs 132.30 billion and Nepal paid Rs 109.87 billion on importing machinery and mechanical appliances, the department report revealed, adding that imports of vehicles and parts and electrical equipment stood at Rs 84.42 billion and Rs 81.71 billion, respectively. “Nepal imports cereals worth Rs 47.97 billion.”
Similarly, Nepal's largest exports were animal or vegetable fats and oils and related products worth Rs 10.99 billion. Export earnings from man-made fibres including acrylic yarn totalled Rs 9.03 billion, and revenues from the export of coffee, tea and spices amounted to Rs 7.61 billion. Exports of woolen carpets and flooring materials were worth Rs 7.05 billion whereas Nepal earned Rs 5.43 billion from the export of iron and steel.

Wednesday, June 26, 2019

Some 149 local governments miss budget presentation deadline

At least 149 local governments missed the deadline – fixed by the Local Government Operation Act – to present their annual budget for the next fiscal year.
According to Section 71 of the law, local governments must table the annual budget at the municipal assemblies by Asar 10 (June 25 this year) after endorsing the estimation of annual income and expenditure from the municipal executive, according to the the Ministry of Federal Affairs and General Administration (MoFAGA).
Out of the total 753 local governments, some 565 presented their annual budget at their respective municipal assemblies yesterday, whereas the status of 39 local bodies still remains unknown.
The ministry has have received budget updates from 714 local units within office hours today. “The record shows that some 565 local governments have presented their budget yesterday –abiding by the law – whereas some 149 have not yet,” the ministry spokesman Jaya Narayan Acharya said, adding that the ministry had issued a circular to all local governments to unveil their budget by Asad 10 (June 25 this year) and endorse it within the deadline. “The local government law has made it mandatory to endorse annual budget of local governments from the municipal assembly by end of Asar (July 16).”
But the expenditures made by the local units without having endorsing such expenditures from the respective municipal assemblies are shown under unsettled accounts, according to the Office of the Auditor General (OAG). Local governments must spend their budget only after annual planning and budget allocation, and if they breach the process, the expenditures will be shown under unsettled arrears, according to OAG.
Some rural municipalities like Balan-Bihul Rural Municipality in Saptari district presented the budget for the current fiscal year in December 2018, which was endorsed by assembly only on April 13 this year, due to differences over allocation of budget among different wards. The rural municipality failed to present the budget for the next fiscal year 2019-20 as well.
According to the Intergovernmental Fiscal Arrangement Act, the local government must present their budget by Asad 10 (June 25 this year), but the law is being violated in a number of local governments since elected representatives assumed office after the 2017 local elections. Although the federal government had warned of cutting the grants to the local governments for failing to present the budget on time, it has not taken such step yet.
Delay in presenting the budget in time will hit the development projects at the local level, as the responsibility of the development of the local level has been on the local governments, under the federal structure. 

Nepal to lobby to keep Kathmandu on heritage site list

Nepal is set to lobby for maintaining the world heritage site status of Kathmandu valley, after the UNESCO’s World Heritage Committee proposed to list the valley as ‘World Heritage in Danger’. The authorities will make a presentation at the WHC’s 43rd session to be held in Baku, Azerbaijan, from June 30 to July 10.
The WHC had listed Kathmandu valley as ‘property proposed for inscription on the List of World Heritage in Danger’. But once a site got formally listed as ‘World Heritage in Danger’, it would be difficult to regain its previous status, and chances of getting it removed from UNESCO’s World Heritage Site would increase, according to the Department of Archaeology.
The department has prepared a comprehensive report to lobby for removing Kathmandu valley from proposed ‘World Heritage in Danger.’
This is not the first time that WHC has proposed to list Kathmandu valley as ‘World Heritage in Danger.’ Kathmandu valley had been in the proposed list after the 2015 devastating earthquake for the reason that ‘Nepal may not rebuild the heritage destroyed by the earthquake.’
But the department is confident that the committee will vote in Nepal’s favour after hearing the success story of rebuilding the heritage sites, into their original forms by complying with the standard archaeological principals. The decision made by majority – out of the representatives of 21 WHC member countries taking part in the conference – will be final regarding enlisting sites as ‘World Heritage in Danger.’
A team led by secretary of Ministry of Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation Mohan Krishna Sapkota and Department of Archaeology chief will participate the WHC’s forty-third session in Baku.

Walk to raise awareness of education inequity in Nepal

Lace up your sneakers and get ready to step out to help raise awareness about education inequity. Teach For Nepal (TfN) Walkathon supported by Nabil Bank is being held on Saturday. An estimated 1,000 young professionals and students from 50 different colleges and universities, who have raised money to support the work of Teach For Nepal in ending education inequity in Nepal, will take part in the Walkathon.
The event was to raise awareness about the persisting education inequity, especially in the rural villages in Nepal and get more people to take the pledge to become the champions of improving public school education in Nepal, the organisers said, adding that the registration for the walk begins from 11 AM and the walk will officially begin from Labim Mall thereafter. “After the flag off from Labim Mall, Lalitpur passes through Thapathali, Maitighar, Bhadrakali, Sundhara, Tripureshwor, Kupandole and ended back in the Labim Mall.”
The Walkathon will then merge and end with a closing ceremony that featured a musical and artistic performance from artists from around Kathmandu’s colleges. Charity walk has been designed for the general public to experience the pain of over 6 million students, attending public schools, who walk hours to get to a school but are still deprived of quality education.
Teach For Nepal Fellows are currently teaching in 65 schools across seven districts – Lalitpur, Sindhupalchowk, Dhanusa, Parsa, Dang, Tanahun, and Lamjung – in Nepal reaching the lives of more than 10,000 students.

Tuesday, June 25, 2019

Local governments present budget for next fiscal year

Following the federal and provincial budgets, most of the local bodies presented their budgets in the municipal assemblies today. A few urban and rural municipalities have presented their budget ahead of the final deadline that is today.
According to the provision of the Intergovernmental Fiscal Management Act, local governments must announce their budgets in their respective assemblies by Asadh 10 of the Nepali calendar, some 20 days before the beginning of the new fiscal year. Based on the law, most of the metropolises, sub-metropolises, urban and rural municipalities have presented their budgets in the municipal assemblies today.
The Ministry of Federal Affairs and General Administration (MoFAGA) – in coordination with the Finance Ministry – had forwarded a circular to all the local bodies to present their budget by Asadh 10. But some 100 municipalities failed to present their budget by today’ deadline, according to the law. In the current fiscal year some 25 municipalities have failed to bring the budget, some 40 local governments had announced their budget without presenting ‘Programmes and Policies’.
Those municipalities, which were unable to present their budget today’s deadline will face problems in receiving the grant provided by the Finance Ministry, according to the joint secretary at the Federal Ministry Jaya Narayan Acharya.
Among six metropolis, Kathmandu Metropolitan City has presented a budget of Rs 15.50 billion – which is the largest among all the 753 local governments – for the next fiscal year. Likewise, Pokhara metropolis has presented a budget of Rs 7.54 billion, Lalitpur Rs 5.17 billion, Biratnagar Rs 5.12 billion, Birgunj Rs 4.48 billion and Bharatpur has presented a budget of Rs 3.37 billion for the next fiscal year. Likewise, Hetauda sub-metropolitan presented a budget of Rs 1.81 billion for the fiscal year 2019-20.
The local governments will finance their budgets through their own revenue, grant transferred from the federal and provincial governments, revenue shared from the federal government and provincial governments and through internal debt, according to the Constitution.
The total of 753 local governments will be able to mobilise revenue – shared from the divisible fund and calculated according to the formula prepared by the National Natural Resources and Fiscal Commission – worth Rs 65.45 billion for next fiscal 2019-20. They will directly get 15 per cent of the total value added tax (VAT) and internal excise, apart from 25 per cent royalty collected from mountaineering, electricity, forest, mines and minerals, water resources and other natural resources, according to the Constitution.
Likewise, the federal government will transfer a total of Rs 89.93 billion as equalisation grant and Rs 123.87 billion as conditional grant to the local governments. The provincial governments will also transfer grants to the local governments, under fiscal transfer.
Grants from the federal government are transferred in four tranches – every quarter – from the beginning of the fiscal year in mid-July. The federal government has increased grant amount to local bodies by Rs 18.77 billion to Rs 213.82 billion for fiscal year 2019-20.
The federal government transfers 40 per cent of the conditional grant in the beginning of the fiscal year and the remaining amount is transferred based on the performance of the expenses.
According to the National Natural Resources and Fiscal Commission, equalisation grant has been allocated based on the need of development in local governments including multidimensional poverty, socioeconomic discrimination and status of infrastructure development in local units.
The National Natural Resources and Fiscal Commission is the constitutional body that recommends required fiscal transfer to sub-national governments and manages the utilisation of natural resources in an undisputed manner but this year, according to the commission sources, the Finance Ministry has overruled the commission’s authority in budgetary process. 

Kathmandu metropolis presents Rs 15.5 billion budget

The Kathmandu Metropolis has brought a budget of Rs 15.50 billion – the largest budget among the metropolis – for the fiscal year 2019-20.
Metropolis deputy mayor Hariprabha Khadgi Shrestha presented the budget in the fifth convention of the Metropolis' Council today. “The budget for the coming fiscal year is an increase by 19 per cent compared to the current fiscal year's budget of Rs 13.2 billion budget,” she said, adding that the Metropolis has aimed at raising Rs 7.56 billion as its internal source, which is 52.58 per cent of the total budget. “Under the expenditure, Rs 1.55 billion is allocated for capital expenditure.”
The budget has prioritised infrastructure development as it has allocated Rs 7.43 billion, some 39 per cent of the total budget, to the sector.
Likewise, Kathmandu metropolitan city expects to raise Rs 7.5 billion – which is 52.58 per cent of the total budget – through revenue from its internal sources. “The budget has targeted to generate Rs 3.6 billion from local tax revenue, Rs 2.4 billion from non-tax revenue and Rs 1.5 billion as revenue sharing,” the deputy mayor said, adding that the metropolis has allocated Rs 594.3 million for office operation, and Rs 1.41 billion to pay salaries and allowances for its staff.
The budget has allocated Rs 1.34 billion for education sector, Rs 1.52 billion for social development, Rs 123 million for the public health sector, she added. “Similarly, the metropolis has allocated Rs 50.4 million for the Prime Minister Employment Programme.”
Likewise, deputy mayor said that a 'Mayor Ujjyalo' programme will be launched for maintaining lights on the major intersection of the valley roads. “Some major activities planned for the coming fiscal year,” she said, “are flyover, overhead bridges, construction of Metropolis Elderly Citizen Hospital, modernisation of Balaju Garden, production of energy from the waste collected in the Metropolis, cleaning of rivers.”
Deputy mayor Khadgi said the metropolitan city has not been able to meet its revenue target because it has not been able to bring big taxpayers under the tax net due the delay in formulating laws.
Thus, the Kathmandu Metropolitan City has proposed increasing the tax net in the new fiscal year 2019-20 rather than increasing the rates of taxation. 

Gold hits record high of Rs 65,500 per tola

The price of gold climbed to record a high of Rs 65,500 per tola (11.664 grams) in the domestic market today. The precious yellow metal was traded at Rs 65,000 per tola yesterday.
Gold price has been rising continuously in the domestic market for the last few days also due to rise in the price in the global markets.
The international market is turning to gold for investment because of US-China trade war and US-Iran conflict among other reasons, according to the gold traders.
Also the government, through the budget for the fiscal year 2019-20, has decided to increases customs duty on gold to Rs 500,000 per kg from Rs 80,000 at present. “The customs have started levying new duty immediately after the budget was announced on May 29,” according to the Federation of Nepalese Gold and Silver Dealers Association (Fenegosida). “It has also contributed to rise in the price of gold.”
According to Fenegosida, the price of gold has gone up by Rs 2,500 per tola in a week from June 19 to 25. Gold was traded at Rs 63,000 per tola last Wednesday. But the price climbed up by Rs 1,000 per tola on Thursday and remained unchanged till Monday, before going up by Rs 500 per tola today.
According to central bank, Nepal imported gold worth Rs 32.2 billion in the fiscal year 2017-18, up from Rs 27.43 billion worth of gold in fiscal year 2016-17. “Import bill of gold has reached Rs 29.04 billion in the first ten months of the current fiscal year 2018-19,” the data revealed.
The government has allowed import quota of 20 kg per day for gold. The central bank allows commercial banks to import gold and sell to dealers. But the dealers complained that the gold trade has come down to more than half due to rising price. “The trade has come down to 12 kg per day from almost 25 kg per day,” the Fenegosida said, adding that the number of consumers visiting jewelry shops to sell gold in their stock is higher than those approaching to buy.

Monday, June 24, 2019

Nepal-India partnership summit to promote cross border trade

Progress Harmony For Development Chamber of Commerce and Industry (PHDCCI) and Embassy of Nepal in New Delhi is organising ‘India-Nepal Economic Partnership Summit’ on Friday at Gangtok in Sikkim.
PHDCCI – under aegis of its India-Nepal Centre (INC) / State Development Council (SDC) and in association with the Embassy of Nepal in New Delhi – is organising ‘India-Nepal Economic Partnership Summit’ to explore the trade and investment opportunities and to participate in the economic development of both India’s Northeast Region and Nepal, according to the organizer.
The summit will focus on the sectors where India-Nepal co-operation can be further boosted through proactive and sublime ‘East Connection’ to achieve the desired goals for Nepal’s economic development  from tourism to agriculture and food processing, energy, infrastructure, healthcare, education, skill development  and start-ups to services, according to deputy secretary and coordinator SDC, India Nepal Centre, Atul K Thakur.
The summit aims at hosting the key industry and government stakeholders from both the countries who are either already involved with the industrial development of Nepal or have genuine urge to be part of it. “Also, the Summit will facilitate two-ways investment opportunities between India and Nepal through sensitising the Indian industry and investors – especially those located in India’s Northeast and neighbouring countries – and Nepalese counterparts to come in term with the strong possibilities that Nepal offers unwaveringly for businesses and investments,” he added.
PHDCCI has been closely working with the Government of Nepal and the leading industry bodies of Nepal. Likewise, PHDCCI’s India-Nepal Centre promotes two-way bilateral economic and business relations between India and Nepal.
Former Indian Ambassador to Nepal K V Rajan is the chair of India-Nepal Centre and Atul K Thakur is its coordinator, whereas vice president of the Confederation of Nepalese Industries (CNI) Nirvana Chaudhary is the chair of Centre’s Nepal Chapter.
The summit also aims at bringing closer the policymakers in government and industry captains to discuss and ideate for the way forward and broaden the base of Nepalese economy through next-wave of economic and governance reforms. It will also explore the potential of road, railway and air networks in Nepal and ‘common factors’ and leveraging on the same for attracting investment from Northeast and India at large, Thakur said, adding that the summit will also bring-in to notice the hidden potential in Border Area Development Programme and paving the way for India’s major involvement in helping the infrastructural facelift of Nepal’s bordering districts in West Bengal and Bihar – and making them the gateways of Northeast-Nepal Trade Connection. “It will also discuss and ideate for making Cluster-based Economic Zones across Nepal.”
Through the summit, the efforts are being made to create and sustain a framework of deeper regional and sub-regional economic cooperation, informed Thakur.
The summit – that has Karobar National Economic Daily as its media partner – will also have sessions on 'Promoting Industry in Nepal, Revisiting Bilateral Trade Policies, Expanding Sub-regional Cooperation, Border Area Development, MSMEs, Destination Sikkim, SAARC, BBIN and BCIM' and 'Policy Reforms and Ease of Doing Business in Nepal, Sectoral Possibilities in Nepal, Channelising Investment (both-ways) for Industrial Development in Nepal and Northeast (with special reference to Sikkim).

Sunday, June 23, 2019

Chinese technical team to conduct petroleum exploration work in Nepal

China is going to conduct petroleum survey in Nepal from next week.
A team of Chinese geological survey experts, who have arrived in Nepal yesterday will examine the potential of petroleum extraction. They are going to conduct geological and petroleum survey to identify spots for drilling works to identify the type and quantity of petroleum reserve in Nepal from June 28, according to the Department of Mines and Geology. “A technical team from China Geological Survey has arrived Nepal yesterday for the petroleum exploration according to the agreement signed between the two countries on February 28 this year in Beijing,” the department said, adding that the Chinese team will visit two locations – Dailekh in western Karnali Province and Tansen in Province 5 – to conduct the technical study as a part of exploration work.
Dailekh and Tansen were among the 10 locations where a joint technical team from Nepal and China had conducted a feasibility study on exploration petroleum products in May 2016.
On August 17, 2017, Nepal and China had formally agreed on exploring petroleum products in Nepal. Likewise, in April 2018, a team from China Geological Survey had observed and conducted a feasibility study in Surkhet, Dailekh and Palpa districts and also in the Chatara-Barahachhetra area of Sunsari district. The government had earlier separated 10 blocks – Dhangadhi, Karnali, Nepalgunj, Lumbini, Chitwan, Birgunj, Malangwa, Janakpur, Rajbiraj and Biratnagar – for exploration of petroleum products in Nepal.
The Cabinet meeting on January 13 had approved a proposal titled ‘Implementation Agreements of China on Oil and Gas Resources Survey Projects in Nepal’ with China. The agreement subsequently paved the way to begin exploration works for petroleum products in the country.
Then, in February, the Department of Mines and Geology had signed an agreement with China Geological Survey – considered as one of the excellent oil mining institutions in the world – to carry out the examination within next three years. “The Chinese experts will divide themselves into three groups to conduct the geological and petroleum survey in both locations – Dailekh and Tansen – and identify the drilling spots,” the department confirmed. “Finding drilling spot is an important part of exploring the petroleum reserves in Nepal as there have been talks of having petroleum resources in Nepal.”
As per the initial study, the team needs to drill to a depth of at least four kilometres to locate any petroleum reserves. However, it has yet to finalise the exact place for the drilling.
After the identification of the spots by the Chinese team, the drilling works will be conducted in the second phase and the type and quantity of petroleum products will be identified in a report to be submitted in the third phase. “The task will be completed in three years and China will cover all costs of the examination,” according to the agreement between the two neighbours.
Nepal's economic growth will get a huge boost, if the commercially viable petroleum products are identified during the drilling.

Government to conduct gross happiness survey

The government is planning to conduct happiness survey of Nepalis on the basis of the latest census, agricultural census and other surveys.
The government is conducting gross happiness survey – based on the slogan of KP Sharma Oli government, ‘Prosperous Nepal, Happy Nepalis’, according to Central Bureau of Statistics (CBS) that has allocated budget to complete the survey within the next fiscal year.
“Detailed procedure will be prepared about how to do the survey soon,” the CBS informed, adding that the survey result wil be made public in the fiscal year 2077-78. 

Government bans import of energy drinks and flavoured synthetic drinks

The government has banned the import of energy drinks including Red Bull and flavoured synthetic drinks in a move to check widening trade deficit.
Though the importers have expressed serious concern over the ban, the Ministry of Industry, Commerce and Supplies published the notice to ban the import of energy drinks and flavoured synthetic drinks in the Nepal Gazette on June 17.
The notice reads that the government has completely barred import of caffeine mixed energy drinks after the cabinet’s approval of National Working Guideline-2019 that has been brought to minimise the trade deficit.
The importers have expressed serious concern over the ban claiming that the ban is against the norm of international trade. “It will hit sales of Red Bull, one of the most popular energy drinks in Nepal,” according to the Indian agent of Red Bull. The agent today has written a letter to the Nepalese Embassy in India to clarify the government’s move to restrict the import of the energy drink.
According to advisor of Indian company of Red Bull energy drinks Deepak Mishra, unless and until the product is proven to harm human health and the environment, such restriction measure is unlawful.
The ministry, however, said the Department of Supply Management and Protection of Consumers Interest has been working on the technicalities over the restriction of specified energy drinks, though the ministry’s new move is only the revised provision of the order issued on November 2, 2009.
“The government can impose such restriction on any product, if it is found to pose a health risk to the public,” according to the ministry.
But trade experts claim that the move could send a negative message about Nepal in the international market. The government can adopt alternative measures to reduce the volume of import rather than imposing a direct restriction, according to the trade experts.
Likewise, Mishra also warned that the importer could seek legal recourse, if the government moves forward with the import ban.
Red Bull sells their products in 160 countries including in Nepal. Nepal imports the drink from India and Thailand.

Thegana, a new address system in Nepal

Thegana Services has announced the launch of Thegana – a mobile phone App – that’s compatible with both iOS and Android operating systems.
“Android version is available now and iOS will be coming in a week,” chief executive officer of Thegana Services Bishal KC said, adding that ‘Thegana’ is a re-engineered address system which divides the surface of Nepal into 858 million squares that are (14m x 14m) each, and every one of them identified with unique fixed codes. “The codes give addresses to everyone everywhere, allowing them to receive deliveries, access emergency services, register the address to a bank account, navigate to and from, and more.”
The main goal of ‘Thegana’ is to provide everyone with an electronic address, a press note issued by the company reads. ‘Thegana’ code is more accurate than the existing physical street address, it reads, adding that the people can pinpoint a specific location anywhere in Nepal and communicate with it more quickly and easily than any other method. “One of the key features of ‘Thegana’ App is that it works offline.”
In order to ascertain a user’s location, ‘Thegana’ code is composed of 9 characters – the first 3 corresponds to a district and the latter 6 to a specific location in that district. For example, ‘Thegana’ address for General Post Office, Sundhara, Kathmandu is KTM-P82746 (KTM for Kathmandu district). Likewise, the address for Ashoka Pillar in Lumbini is RUP-F79GV6 (RUP for Rupandehi district). The last 6 characters can also be customised to one’s liking by registering it with the app, the press note reads, “For example, Thegana has customised its office address to KTM-HELLO.”
‘Thegana’ will provide users with greater working flexibility by integrating and digitising existing addresses and assigning unique ‘Thegana Codes’ to them, KC said, adding that ‘Thegana’ has worked hard to roll out the initial release Nationwide so everyone from every corner of the country. “As we know, the addressing system in Nepal is poor, thus and we have incorporated crowdsourcing mechanism to collect, verify and digitise existing addresses.”
In times of natural disasters, for example, ‘Thegana’ can provide the simplest way to communicate with a specific location, which can be critical to effective disaster response, which ‘Thegana’ is able to address effectively. “The App also comes with turn-by-turn navigation option.”
Thegana Services has already partnered with few local authorities to provide a much-needed proper addressing system, he said, “Bouddha Ward No. 6, Kathmandu has taken that first step in addressing the need of proper addressing system by working with ‘Thegana’.
“We have been talking about ‘Smart Cities’ for quite some time now, and smart addressing system is the foundation of making the rest of the features of ‘Smart City’ truly smart, as address is one of the basic elements of communication between individuals, businesses and public institutions alike,” according to KC. “The lack of a complete, accurate and proper addressing system constitutes a major socio-economic challenge in Nepal,” he said, adding that without an address, we might as well be non- existent, let alone calling oneself a citizen of a smart city. “Thegana App has been designed to work seamlessly with our other services, enabling a rich user experience made with modern mobile framework to meet user needs wherever and whenever they need.”

Saturday, June 22, 2019

Japan to hire only nurses from Nepal this year

Japan is hiring only nurses this year, though, number of nurses that Japan will hire has not yet been ascertained.
The Japanese government is going to hire only nurse this year, though there has been talk about Nepali foreign job aspirants will be able to go to Japan to work in 14 different sectors.
The language and skill test will be conducted in October for those aspiring to go for nursing jobs in Japan, according to director general of Department of Foreign Employment Bhishma Kumar Bhusal.
The government and concerned Japanese authorities will jointly conduct the tests, he said, adding that the bilateral talks between Nepal and Japanese government has finalised to take tests for aspiring nurses, who wants to go to Japan, in October. “From next year, Nepalis who want to join other professions listed by Japan will be able to go to the destination.”
According to the bilateral labour agreement signed with Japan – on March 25, 2019 – the Japanese government will hire Nepali migrants in 14 different sectors, including nursing.
The nurses will have to sit for the 20-minute Japanese language test and one-hour skill – related to the jobs – test but the department has alerted the youth not to go to any institutions and pay money in a false assurance of a job in Japan.
There are some institutions that have been taking money and guaranteeing people of jobs in Japan, he said, alerting the job aspirant not to fall for such scams. “The government will take necessary action against such firms.”

Nepalis require visa to enter India via China, Pakistan

Nepali nationals must have visa, if they are entering India from Pakistan, China, Hong Kong and Macau, according to a notice issued by the Nepali Embassy in New Delhi.
Likewise, Nepalis travelling to Gulf countries – including Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Kuwait, Oman, Bahrain and Lebanon – are required to acquire No Objection Certificate (NOC) from the respective Nepali Embassies, it reads, adding that a traveller is required to submit an application to the respective embassy along with relevant documents, including employment permit to get the NOC. “A citizen of Nepal must have a visa for India, if he or she is entering India from China, Macau, Hong Kong and Pakistan.”

Friday, June 21, 2019

Indian state of Rajasthan to pay for Pashupatinath trip

Indian state of Rajasthan has decided to pay for airfare of its senior citizens – above 65 years – coming on pilgrimage to Pashupatinath in Kathmandu.
According to Indian media, “The Rajasthan government has decided to fly its senior citizens free of cost to three more pilgrimage destinations, including Pashupatinath Temple in Nepal, an official statement said Thursday.”
The three new locations have been added by the Ashok Gehlot government in the list of 6 existing destinations, the media reported, adding that the Indian state of Rajasthan has been bearing pilgrimage expenses of senior citizens under the ‘Senior Citizens Pilgrimage Scheme’.
Pashupatinath Temple – listed in the UNESCO World Heritage Sites list in 1979 – has been a prime destination for Hindu pilgrims across the globe. Indian nationals top the visitors’ number every year due to religious tourism during February, when Maha Shivaratri, a major festival dedicated to Lord Shiva, is celebrated.
The latest decision of the Indian state government is likely to help promote Visit Nepal Year 2020 campaign too. 

Nepal, Bangladesh agree to make joint investment in Nepal's hydropower

Nepal and Bangladesh – during a meeting held in Dhaka – agreed to jointly invest in the feasible hydropower project in Nepal.
A meeting of the energy secretaries from both the countries today in Dhaka also decided to use the existing setup of Indian transmission lines to trade power in the short run, though they had decided to study the prospect of building dedicated power lines in the long term.
Agreeing to make a joint investment in the projects based on the whitepaper issued after the last meeting, the secretary level meeting between energy officials of both countries today agreed to form a committee to study the prospect of transferring solar power technologies available in Bangladesh to Nepal.
According to energy secretary Dinesh Kumar Ghimire, the meeting has agreed for the joint investment on hydropower, collaboration, and cooperation on alternative energy and electricity export to Bangladesh. The agreement was signed by energy secretary Dinesh Ghimire and his Bangladeshi counterpart Ahmad Kaikaus during the Joint Steering Committee meeting in line with the Memorandum of Under-standing signed by the two countries on ‘Cooperation in the Field of Power Sector’ last August.
Discussions on the use of Indian transmission lines passing through the Siliguri Corridor – popularly known as Chicken’s Neck – emerged in the wake of recent amendments to the cross-border energy trading regulations by India. India has relaxed earlier provisions and given explicit recognition to tripartite arrangements in cross-border electricity trade. “The Transmission Planning Agency of India in consultation with the Transmission Planning Agency of the neighbouring country shall grant access to the Participating Entities to use Cross Border Transmission Link for cross border trade of electricity,” reads India’s Cross Border Trade of Electricity Regulations, 2019.
During past meetings, Nepal and Bangladesh pledged to make their best efforts in devising such trilateral arrangements.
Meanwhile, Bangladesh has formulated a policy to import 9,000 MW electricity from Nepal by 2040 as Bangladesh being one of the fastest growing economies – aided by its manufacturing sector – is an energy-hungry nation which makes it a lucrative market for power produced in Nepal.
The authorities from both countries have also planned to study and invest in 20 major hydropower project proposed in the white paper released by the energy ministry in May 2018. The proposed projects include four storage and other major hydroelectric power plants including Upper Arun, Dudhkoshi, Sunkoshi 2, Sunkoshi 3, West Seti and Phukot Karnali. Out of the 20 projects, the Nepal Electricity Authority (NEA) is currently evaluating the detailed project report (DPR) of the 800 MW Dudhkoshi Hydropower project and the recent project optimisation of Upper Arun, which revised its installed capacity from 725 MW to 1040 MW. The estimated annual cumulative output of the proposed and under-study projects stands at 42713.18 GWhr, nearly 11 times current total annual output.
Nepal’s power generation is expected to surge in the next fiscal year as some 43 projects with installed capacity of 1149 MW are expected to be joined in the national grid. Due to power surplus estimation in future, the government has focused on construction of high capacity substations at cross-border trade points and finalise the modalities for developing the 400 kV Butwal-Gorakhpur Transmission Line to facilitate cross border power trade.

Experts dwell on BRI opportunities and challenges

Experts from South Asia and South East Asia have highlighted the various opportunities and challenges associated with the China-proposed Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) during a two-day international conference that was concluded in Kathmandu today.
Delivering her presentation during the ‘Fourth International Conference on Belt and Road for development and prosperity of South Asia’, Centre of International Relations and Strategic Studies under the Foreign Service Institute of Philippines Darlene V Estrada said that her country has remained very receptive towards China's BRI since it joined in 2017. “We are aligning our development plans with China's BRI even though there are some geopolitical, financial and legal risks," she said, adding that it is important for any country to maximise its national interests through BRI. “The Philippines has formulated a mechanism to avoid potential risks from the extreme debt under the BRI.”
Research Associate at the East Asian International Relations of Malaysia Nur Shahadah Jamil, on the occasion, said that the new Mahathir administration has continued engagement with China for economic cooperation though it scrapped some projects under the BRI which were agreed during the previous Najib administration. “We cannot abandon our strong economic partnership with China though we have scrapped some projects under the BRI after the new government came,” she said, adding that the Chinese investment is growing rapidly at present in Malaysia.
Likewise, macroeconomic expert of the Laos government Vanxay Sayavong shared that his country is taking huge advantage from the connectivity projects including China-Laos railway built under the framework of the BRI. Suggesting the participating countries to address the concerns of local communities while executing projects under the BRI, he said that the projects built under the BRI may face strong protests at the local level like in Laos in the recent past, if the concerns raised by local communities are not addressed.
Director at the Institute of South Asian Studies under the Xizang Minzu University of Tibet Autonomous Region of China said that China and Nepal have been expanding their economic cooperation in recent years. “We are determined to execute the cross-border railroad connectivity though it may take some time," she said, adding that India's hegemonic behaviour towards Nepal is thwarting China-Nepal relations at times. “Nepal needs to pursue an independent foreign policy and deepen its close ties with next-door neighbour China.”
The head of China Study Centre at Sustainable Development Policy Institute of Pakistan Hina Aslam, on the occasion, said that Pakistan has been benefitting from the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) by constructing energy plants, seaport, railroad connectivity projects and special economic zones. “However, hostile relationship with India over Kashmir issue and worsening security situation of Afghanistan may bring some problems in CPEC," she added.
Explaining how Bangladesh is bilaterally working with China as the Bangladesh-China-India-Myanmar (BCIM) corridor is not moving ahead as expected, Mahfuz Kabir from Bangladesh highlighted Bangladesh-China cooperation under the BRI. “As South Asian countries are heavily dependent on China for trade and investment, they need strong railroad connectivity with China,” he added.
A member of National Planning Commission (NPC) Krishna Prasad Oli said that the BRI is offering various economic opportunities for Nepal. “We want to enhance railroad connectivity with China," he added.
The conference, organised by Nepal-China Friendship Forum, witnessed the participation of scholars and experts from Nepal, China and other Asian countries including India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Laos, Malaysia and the Philippines.

Nepal, Finland establish bilateral consultation mechanism

Nepal and Finland established a bilateral consultation mechanism to hold regular consultations alternatively – in Kathmandu and Helsinki – and to review bilateral relations and identify new areas of cooperation between the two countries, as well as exchange views on regional and international issues of mutual interest.
A Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) – to establish the bilateral consultation mechanism between Foreign Ministries of Nepal and Finland – was signed by joint secretary and head of Europe America Division at Foreign Ministry Ghanshyam Bhandari and ambassador of Finland to Nepal Pertti Anttinen signed the MoU on behalf of their respective governments, at the Foreign Ministry in Kathmandu today.
Nepal and Finland established diplomatic relations in 1974. They have been enjoying cordial relations based on mutual respect, cooperation and trust but the bilateral relations needs to be taken to new height, the ministry press note reads.

IFC joins hands with Nepal to raise environmental and social standards in hydropower projects

International Finance Corporation (IFC) – a member of the World Bank Group – has signed an agreement with the Forest Training and Research Centre (FTRC), under Ministry of Forests and Environment, to improve adherence to environmental and social standards in hydropower development in Nepal.
Under the pact, IFC will provide advisory services to increase private sector compliance with environmental and social standards by improving development and implementation of regulatory frameworks for hydropower sector, including trainings in all seven provinces. The programme will also facilitate investments in hydropower sector by providing guidance on environmental and social standards and supporting inclusive development of hydropower in Nepal.
As a part of its support, IFC will focus on development and adoption of best practices, including capacity to implement the new Hydropower Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) Manual, released last year by the ministry and supported by IFC.
“To implement the EIA manual, we need to train our staff at all levels. This support will help us build our capacity as an oversight agency for environmental impact and to ensure effective compliance with environmental standards,” director general of FTRC Deepak Kumar Kharalsaid.
Given the vast environmental and social challenges Nepal faces, capturing the impacts and risks associated with hydropower development remains critical to ensuring sustainable development in the country.
“This will enable both the public sector as well as the private sector to have a clear guidance on what is expected to identify risks and manage the impact associated with hydropower projects as well as assess cumulative the impact while managing river basins holistically, particularly where multiple hydropower projects are being planned,” IFC’s resident representative in Nepal Mohammad Rehan Rashid said.
The programme, funded by the governments of Australia, Japan and Norway, has a strong social inclusion component focused on building resilience in communities affected by hydropower projects.
IFC – a sister organisation of the World Bank and member of the World Bank Group – is the largest global development institution focused on the private sector in emerging markets. In fiscal year 2018, we delivered more than $23 billion in long-term financing for developing countries, leveraging the power of the private sector to end extreme poverty and boost shared prosperity.

New international labour standard to combat violence, harassment

The International Labour Conference  (ILC) has today adopted a new Convention and accompanying Recommendation to combat violence and harassment in the world of work.
The Violence and Harassment Convention-2019, and Violence and Harassment Recommendation-2019 were adopted by delegates on the final day of the Centenary International Labour Conference, in Geneva. For the Convention, 439 votes were cast in favour, seven against, with 30 abstentions. The Recommendation was passed with 397 votes in favour, 12 votes against and 44 abstentions.
The Convention recognises that violence and harassment in the world of work ‘can constitute a human rights violation or abuse…is a threat to equal opportunities, is unacceptable and incompatible with decent work.’ It defines ‘violence and harassment’ as behaviours, practices or threats ‘that aim at, result in, or are likely to result in physical, psychological, sexual or economic harm.’ It reminds member states that they have a responsibility to promote a “general environment of zero tolerance”.
The new international labour standard aims to protect workers and employees, irrespective of their contractual status, and includes persons in training, interns and apprentices, workers whose employment has been terminated, volunteers, job seekers and job applicants. It recognises that “individuals exercising the authority, duties or responsibilities of an employer” can also be subjected to violence and harassment.
“The new standards recognise the right of everyone to a world of work free from violence and harassment,” according to the ILO director-general Guy Ryder. “The standard covers violence and harassment occurring in the workplace; places where a worker is paid, takes a rest or meal break, or uses sanitary, washing or changing facilities; during work-related trips, travel, training, events or social activities; work-related communications (including through information and communication technologies), in employer-provided accommodation; and when commuting to and from work,” he said, Welcoming the adoption, that recognises that violence and harassment may involve third parties, Ryder said that the new standards recognise the right of everyone to a world of work free from violence and harassment. “The next step is to put these protections into practice, so that we create a better, safer, decent, working environment for women and men.”
The Convention will enter into force 12 months after two member States have ratified it. The Recommendation, which is not legally binding, provides guidelines on how the Convention could be applied.
This is the first new Convention agreed by the International Labour Conference since 2011, when the Domestic Workers Convention- 2011 (No. 189) was adopted. Conventions are legally binding international instruments, while Recommendations provide advice and guidance.
The ILO, the UN’s agency dealing with world of work issues, is marking its 100th year in 2019.
The Centenary ILC – the 108th meeting of the Conference – was attended by more than 5,700 delegates, representing governments, workers and employers from the ILO’s 187 member States. The Conference is also expected to adopt a landmark ILO Centenary Declaration, focused on a human-centred approach to the future of work.

Responsible business a crucial factor in keeping region on track to achieve the SDGs

Businesses are well-positioned to offer innovative solutions to key sustainable development challenges, particularly in meeting the infrastructure and connectivity needs of rural and urban communities, concluded the annual Asia-Pacific Business Forum (APBF) in Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea today.
Organised by the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (UN-ESCAP), the government of Papua New Guinea and the Papua New Guinea Investment and Promotion Authority, with the support of the Business Council of Papua New Guinea, the Forum showcased bold, innovative and truly sustainable business solutions in sectors such as infrastructure, green financing, financial inclusion, climate and disaster resilience, as well as trade and investment.
The two-day APBF focused on the theme of ‘Global Goals, Local Opportunities’. Senior policymakers, business leaders and emerging entrepreneurs discussed the roles and responsibilities of businesses to work with the public sector to mitigate the impacts of climate change and support the development of non-urban Pacific communities.
“Connectivity is especially relevant in the Pacific context, where the challenges associated with geographic isolation and remoteness have hindered trade and investment among Pacific island countries and with major international markets. Enhancing connectivity in this subregion demands increased investments in transport networks and ICT infrastructure,” said UN under-secretary-general and executive secretary of ESCAP Armida Salsiah Alisjahbana in her opening remarks.
Alisjahbana called upon public-private sector partnerships to support SME growth and women’s entrepreneurship in the region. “Unlocking the potential of women-owned business represents a powerful opportunity for greater economic growth and leadership in our economies,” she said, adding that a stronger Asia and the Pacific demands novel strategies to overcome entrenched barriers to women owned and led businesses and entrepreneurships.
Prime Minister of Papua New Guinea James Marape, on the occasion, said that the priority is to empower our local business women and men. “We have set a goal of growing our local SME spaces so that 10 per cent to 20 per cent of our citizens are anchored in the SME sectors,” he said, adding that aligned with the focus of the APBF, the key priority sectors for SME growth are agriculture, tourism and marine resources. “We are keen to work with foreign investors to sustainably develop these industries and our SMEs in them.”
“To implement the 17 Sustainable Development Goals by 2030 is not a simple task.”
One condition for success is to engage the private sector well. For businesses to work towards the SDGs, we need platforms such as the Asia-Pacific Business Forum to bring together world business leaders,” the president of the ESCAP Sustainable Business Network (ESBN) George Lam said.

Sebon brings new AML guidelines

The capital market regulator has introduced new guidelines on anti-money laundering (AML) listing out five dozen transactions of companies in the securities and commodities market that should be notified to the Financial Information Unit (FIU) of the central bank as suspicious transactions.
The new guidelines on prevention of money laundering and terrorist financing released by the Securities Board of Nepal (Sebon) today requires companies – licensed by the capital market regulator – that are termed as reporting entities and include stock brokerage firms, merchant bankers and stock and commodity exchange company, to flag any suspicious transaction to the FIU for further investigation.
The suspicious transactions range from investment that seems to be made from tax-evaded money to discrepancies in the address of any client and transactions from another person's name, according to the guidelines. “The reporting agencies should send suspicious transaction report to the FIU within three days,” the new guidelines reads, adding that it aims at implementing the Asset (Money) Laundering Prevention Act, 2008 and prevent and discourage the money and asset laundering and financing of terrorist activities through the abuse of the securities and commodity market. “Any transaction that seems unusual in terms of size, value, nature and source, should be reported.”
The reporting agencies are also required to send each transaction report to the FIU above the value of Rs 1 million, apart from the suspicious transaction reports, the new guidelines read.
According to the new guidelines, reporting entities in the securities and commodities market are also required to categorise their clients under high-risk, risk and general risk for further scrutiny and reporting of their transactions. “Some of those who fall under high-risk are the clients who carry out transactions without coming at the fore, non-residential clients, high ranking politicians, business persons and officials in social and financial sectors; and transactions carried out with firms, companies and organisations who do not have their regulators,” it further reads, adding that the FIU forwards the cases to the respective law enforcement and investigation agencies for further investigation after analyzing and assessing the information based on the information and reports from the reporting entities.
The capital market regulator has also warned that those reporting agencies who fail to comply with the anti-money laundering laws, regulations and guidelines will have to face stern action. “Those violating the provision risks facing the fine up to Rs 50 million and cancellation of the license,” the guidelines further reads.
Nepal is currently under scanner of the global agency that looks after the AML/CFT as the Financial Action task Force (FATF) will review the country’s status in 2020. Almost all the regulatory authorities have been very serious on implementing the anti money laundering law to keep Nepal out of the black list of the FATF.

Gautam Buddha International Airport completion deadline to be extended again

The Chinese contractor company has sought an extension to the completion deadline of Gautam Buddha International Airport (GBIA) by six months, though this is the third time that the completion deadline of GBIA is being extended.
Though, the completion deadline will be extended, the investment amount will not be increased and remain the same at Rs 7 billion, according to the GBIA Project Chief Prabesh Adhikari.
The second phase of the construction – technically called ‘ICB 02’ – is still to begin, which is why the contractor has asked for deadline extension, he said, adding that currently the project is in the final phase of ICB 01 and the work of ICB 02 will begin only after completion of this phase. “The project has been divided into two phases — ICB 01 that includes infrastructural work and ICB 02 that includes installing the equipment – by contractor Northwest Civil Aviation Airport Construction Company.”
It will take at least six months to complete the work of ICB 02,” GBIA Project Chief said, adding that the process of selecting the company to purchase equipment for communication navigation and surveillance system has already begun. “Thus, we have proposed to extend the deadline.”
Under the first phase – ICB 01 – the installation of lights and marking on the runway, taxiway and apron remain to be completed. “The project has submitted the proposal for deadline extension to the Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal some two weeks ago,” Adhikari said. “We are also awaiting a response from Asian Development Bank.”
The upgradation of GBIA was started in January 2015, targeting to complete it by December 2017. But conflict between contractors, Tarai-Madhesh movement, and also lack of construction materials after earthquake of 2015 consequently pushed the completion deadline to June 15, 2018.
GBIA is expected to play a major role in making the Visit Nepal 2020 campaign a success.

Japan hands over Mediation Centers

The ambassador of Japan to Nepal Masamichi Saigo today handed over three mediation centers, one at the Patan High Court, and one each at Lalitpur District Court and Bhaktapur District Court, for the improvement of the efficiency of legal assistance in urban areas.
The Project for the ‘Establishment of Mediation Centers in the urban cities of Nepal’ is funded under the Grant Assistance for Grassroots Human Security Projects (GGP) of the Government of Japan. The grant assistance amounts to $38,388 (approximately Rs 3.9 million), according to a press note issued by the Embassy of Japan in Kathmandu.
In the increasingly populated urban cities in Nepal, people sometimes have to wait for several months to receive legal services from the courts, it reads, adding that the mediation centers that have been established next to the courts will offer legal consultations by professional lawyers so that simple civil cases can be solved before going to court. “In this way, both the courts and citizens can find efficient solutions for issues.”
The Nepal Bar Association, established in 1956, has been offering trainings and education related to legal matters, and conducting activities to promote justice and human rights.
The Embassy of Japan hopes that this project will strengthen the bilateral relationship between Japan and Nepal.

Thursday, June 20, 2019

South Asia can benefit from BRI

Minister of Foreign Affairs Pradeep Kumar Gyawali today said that South Asian states could benefit immensely from the Chinese-led Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).
Highlighting BRI’s emphasis on connectivity, he said the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor and the Bangladesh-China-India-Myanmar Economic Corridor under the BRI could play an instrumental role in boosting connectivity in the region.
“Connectivity is also important for a land-locked country like Nepal,” he said addressing the fourth international conference on ‘Belt and Road for Development and prosperity of South Asia’ in the Capital. “The BRI assistance could prove crucial in realising Nepal’s target of graduating to a middle-income country by 2030,” he said, adding that Nepal believes BRI is a reliable and result-oriented platform for cooperation. “Nepal expected capital investment and transfer of modern technology under the BRI projects.”
Our development efforts are constrained by inadequate financial resources and the BRI can be a remedy to it,” he said, adding that Nepal hopes to get benefited from the BRI investment, cooperation and exchanges. Gyawali also said that the BRI had become a fact of the present time due to its inherent policy of cooperation, collaboration and connectivity in diverse sectors.
“Economic integration in the South Asia and with China is weak, so there is a need of massive expansion of development cooperation and collaboration in trade, investment, tourism and culture,” he stated, pointing towards the need of mega infrastructure to increase connectivity to facilitate the movement of people and goods.
About 50 countries and 29 international agencies are connected with the BRI.
Chinese ambassador to Nepal Hou Yanqi, on the occasion, said that BRI is a platform for all participants. She also added that it could help boost economic and social development in the South Asian region. “The BRI aimed at delivering sustainable development results,” she said, appreciating Nepal for its support to and cooperation in the initiative. “BRI has attracted more partners, businesses and friends from which all the member countries and organisations can get benefit.”
China has become Nepal’s largest source of the Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) and tourists which is having positive impact on economic growth, she added.
Presenting the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), cross-sea bridge in the Maldives, Hambantota port in Sri Lanka and China-Afghanistan cooperation as the successful BRI projects, she said that they were benefitting both the partner countries. “Sooner or later India will also join the initiative.”
“BRI is open, inclusive and transparent and does not include any hidden geopolitical agenda,” she said, dismissing the doubt of BRI being taken as a debt-trap by some of the experts in Nepal.
Urging China to extend support in developing key infrastructure, former vice chair of the National Planning Commission (NPC) Dr Shankar Prasad Sharma, on the occasion, said that Nepal had given priority to infrastructure development. “Energy, trade, technology transfer, tourism and connectivity are critical for economic development of the country. But in case of Nepal security for energy and trade is critical,” he said, warning that it will be very challenging for Nepal to get benefits from the business as usual scenario as the export from Nepal to China has been declining since the last couple of years while the import is going up significantly. “The maintenance of infrastructure projects was also equally important as their development.”
Delivering a key note speech, member of the Parliament and president of Jatiya Samajtantrik Dal of Bangladesh, Hasanul Haq Inu highlighted the priorities of foreign policy of Bangladesh. He said that Bangladesh has been engaged in regional and multilateral forums like BRI, Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC) and South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC), and these forums are important to promote regional and bilateral connectivity among the countries.

Development partners promise to help 2015-earthquake reconstruction

The development partners – during a meeting of National Reconstruction Authority (NRA)’s Foreign Aid Coordination and Facilitation Committee today – have expressed their will to extend support to the revised programmes and financial plan for the five-year plan for post-disaster reconstruction and rehabilitation that costs Rs 630 billion.
Showing their readiness to support Nepal in post-disaster reconstruction and rehabilitation efforts in the meeting with NRA, they also appreciated the progress in reconstruction.
Acting Country Manager of the World Bank Kene Ezemenari appreciated the progress in reconstruction, whereas head of Cooperation at the European Union (EU) delegation to Nepal Ovidiu Mic said that the EU would continue to provide support to Nepal in reconstruction.
Deputy Chief of Mission at the Embassy of India in Kathmandu Dr Ajaya Kumar, on the occasion, said that India is working to provide the support it committed in the past. Likewise, representative from the Embassy of China in Kathmandu expressed Chinese commitment for necessary support in the future. Likewise, the Department for International Development (UK), USAID, Asian Development Bank (ADB) and Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) also showed their readiness in helping Nepal in the post-quake reconstruction and rehabilitation.
According to NRA’s new estimation, the total reconstruction cost for the properties damaged by the devastating earthquake in 2015 stands at Rs 630 billion about Rs 308 billion less than the primary estimates made in the immediate aftermath of the quake. “Rs 630 billion is the budget that is implemented by the NRA alone,” according to NRA chief executive officer (CEO) Sushil Gyawali.
The reconstruction authority – in consultation with the Finance Ministry in 2016 – had published the revised estimates of the total reconstruction cost at Rs 938 billion, which the NRA has revised downwards.
Gyawali, on the occasion, said that the new estimates were made after reducing the budget of the infrastructure like water supply, roads and bridges that would be built by the government and reconstruction of private houses and other structures by the national and international Non-Government Organisations (NGOs).
The NRA statistics revealed that about Rs 291 billion will be spent by the end of the current fiscal year 2018-19. Finance Minister Dr Yuba Raj Khatiwada has allocated Rs 141 billion budget for reconstruction related works for the next fiscal. “There is a financial gap in reconstruction and rehabilitation,” Gyawali said, adding that the NRA is, in consultation with the Finance Ministry and development partners, in an effort to arrange funds.
The NRA had urged the development partners to extend additional support in implementing economic and livelihood programmes, localizing the disaster management work, and rebuilding of heritage settlement and urban structure.
The meeting has emphasised amending the National Building Code and implementing it to the local levels.
Nepal, meanwhile, is holding an international conference to impart the knowledge, experience and learning it earned during the post-quake reconstruction and rehabilitation to the international community.