Wednesday, July 31, 2019

Yogesh Bhattarai becomes tourism minister

Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli has appointed Nepal Communist Party (NCP) lawmaker Yogesh Bhattarai as a new minister for Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation today.
President Bidya Devi Bhandari administered the oath of office and secrecy to newly appointed minister amid a ceremony at the Sheetal Niwas. Since the then minister Rabindra Adhikari was killed in a chopper crash in Taplejung district on February 27, the Ministry remained without leadership. The tourism portfolio had been vacant after the demise of Rabindra Adhikari on February 27 in a helicopter crash in Taplejung. Since last five montsh, Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli had been handling the responsibility of Tourism Ministry.
Tourism Ministry is one of the most important portfolios in the current administration as the country is celebrating Visit Nepal 2020 to host one million tourists. But the campaign has been delayed also due to absence of the minister.
Bhattarai assuming his duties, soon after the oath, said that he will sincerely follow up on the pending workloads of the ministry. “Late minister Adhikari would have done much in this sector, if not for his untimely demise,” he said, adding that he will do his best to continue the work.
The newly appointed minister will have though many challenges but making VNY 2020 a success, apart from completing construction of Gautam Buddha International Airport in Bhairahawa – before the new deadline of December – and completing Pokhara Regional Airport and starting second international airport in Nojgadh, are few of the challenges that he has to face.
Likewise, turning around the loss-making Nepal Airlines Corporation (NAC) is yet another challenge that he has to pass, apart from removing Nepali aviation sector from European Union (EU) blacklist.
Bhattarai (52), who has elected from Taplejung, has been overseeing the publicity department of the Nepal Communist party (NCP). Given Bhattarai’s experience heading the UML’s publicity department, many had predicted that the Ministry of Communication and Information Technology would fall into his lap.
During the electoral campaign in 2017, Oli had promised the people of Taplejung that Bhattarai would be elevated to a minister, if they elected him. But Bhattarai could not find berth in Oli’s Cabinet because he belonged to the Oli’s opponent Madhav Kumar Nepal faction.
In 1995, Bhattarai was elected as president of the UML’s student wing, the All-Nepal National Free Students’ Union (ANNFSU). Soon after, he was elected central member of the party during the eighth national convention, held in Butwal. In 2014, after a successful stint in student politics and leaving his mark as a central committee member, Bhattarai was elected a secretary at the ninth national convention. Following the merger of the UML with the Maoist Centre last May, Bhattarai became one of the party’s 45 standing committee members.

Tuesday, July 30, 2019

Japan extends grant aid for the scholarships to government officers

Japan has extended grant aid for the scholarships to the government officers.
Japanese ambassador to Nepal Masamichi Saigo and finance secretary Rajan Khanal today signed and exchanged three sets of Notes, on behalf of their respective governments, to implement the implementation of Japanese Grant Aid for Human Resource Development Scholarships (JDS).
These Notes are for extending Japan’s Grant Assistance up to ¥250 million (or equivalent to Rs 254.7 million) and ¥378 million (or equivalent to Rs 385.2 million) for the implementation of JDS Phase I and Phase II, respectively. The third note relates to assistance of ¥300 million (or equivalent to Rs 305.7 million) for the implementation of the School Sector Development Programme (SSDP).
Likewise, chief representative of the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA Nepal) Yumiko Asakuma and joint secretary of the International Economic Cooperation and Coordination Division (IECCD) under Finance Ministry Shreekrishna Nepal have also signed and exchanged a Grant Agreement for the implementation of the scheme, according to a press note issued by the Japanese Embassy in Kathmandu.
The JDS Project Grant is designed to support human resource development of friendly nations through accepting highly capable, energetic, and young government officials into Japanese universities and strengthening the partnership between recipient countries and Japan by utilising human relation chains to address future global needs, the press note reads. “Phase I of JDS is in the final completion stage under which 60 Nepali government officers have already been dispatched while 20 are in the process of pursing their studies in Japanese universities.”
In the meantime, Phase II of JDS is in the implementation process with the addition of an infrastructure development component and doctoral degree programme as per the request of the government of Nepal.
Similarly, Japan has also been assisting in the implementation of the School Sector Development Programme (SSDP) from 2016. “Education is an investment in human capital and the foundation for a nation’s sustainable social and economic development,” said Japanese envoy Saigo, after signing the agreement. He also stressed that through education the cycle of poverty could be eradicated in the long term. SSDP is considered as an important vessel to enable Nepal to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and to become a middle-income country by 2030.
Envoy Saigo hoped that the SSDP would improve the quality of education, school management and institutional capacity and the access to education for children in marginalized communities, based on SDGs policy ‘No one left behind’.
The Embassy of Japan also expressed its firm belief that the objectives being envisaged by above Projects will be achieved, thereby further strengthening the existing cordial relationship of friendship and cooperation between the people of Japan and Nepal.
Japanese Grant Aid for human Resource Development Scholarship (JDS) was established by the Government of Nepal with the assistance of the Government of Japan in 2015. The JDS is funded by the Government of Japan through Official Development Assistance (ODA) supported by Japanese tax payers. The JDS Grant is designed to support human resource development of friendly nations through accepting highly capable, energetic, and young government officials in designated Japanese universities as JDS fellows. These officials are then expected to engage in formulation and implementation of socio-economic development plans and programmes, and are also expected to be future leaders or engines for development in their respective countries. Yet another objective of the JDS Scheme is to strengthen partnerships between recipient countries and Japan by utilising human relation chains to address future global needs, the press note explains.

Monday, July 29, 2019

Nepalis consume 245-KW of electricity every hour

Due to regular supply of the power, a Nepali household consumes 245 kilowatts (KW) of electricity every hour in 2018-19 – some 38 per cent more than in the fiscal year 2017-18 when they used to consume 117 KW – according to a study. The government has, however, aimed to increase the per capita electricity consumption to 700 KW per hour by the fiscal year 2021-22.
The study ‘Energy Progress Report,’ also revealed that the increased use of gadgets and electrical appliances lately has also fuelled the power consumption of the Nepali households.
Earlier, demand for electricity was concentrated only during peak hours but with the regular supply of electricity, the consumer behavior has also changed, it reads, adding that the electricity network has expanded and upgraded projects connecting 420,000 new households to the national grid in the fiscal year 2018-19 leading to hike in power consumption.
Though, hydropower projects with a combined capacity of 195 megawatts (MW) were concluded in the fiscal year 2018-19, only 78 MW was added to the national grid and some 117 MW is in the testing and commissioning phase. The electricity demand as of Tuesday stood at 1,061 MW against the generaton of 1,073 MW in the fiscal year 2018-19. The government has, though, targeted to add 760 MW in the last fiscal year it could add only 10 per cent of the target to the national grid by the end of the fiscal year.
The Nepal Electricity Authority (NEA) expects to connect around 43 hydropower projects with a combined capacity of 1,150 MW to the national grid in the current fiscal year.
The hydropower projects promoted by the state generated some 420 MW, whereas private hydel plants generated 434 MW, imports from India stood at 207 MW, and the power utility exported 50 MW, the NEA report claimed, adding that with increased power generation, transmission lines also were expanded in the last fiscal year. “The government has been able to add more than 600 kilometres of transmission lines and 30 new distribution substations – domestically and cross border electricity transmission network – in the last fiscal year,” the report reads adding that the electricity has reached 95.5 per cent of the population. “Some 99 per cent of urban population enjoys access to electricity but some 95 per cent of rural people are receiving power through a mix of grid and off-grid systems.”
In 2010, only 65 per cent of the population had an electricity connection, according to the report, “Some 1.3 million – out of the 29 million Nepalis – remain to be connected to the electricity supply at present.”
The NEA also claimed that Nepal’s access to electricity has also increased at an annual rate of 4.3 per cent, which is much higher than the global average of 0.8 per cent. But it’s not surprising as Nepal had the least access to electricity compared to global access to electricity. Nepal has been recently starting to connect to the electricity. The NEA has targeted 100 per cent access to electricity within a few years, well ahead of the target year 2030 set by Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 7.
Currently, only eight districts – Bajura, Humla, Jumla, Kalikot, Mugu, Dolpa, Rukum (East) and Solukhumbu – remain to be connected to the national grid, out of the 77 districts, the NEA added.

New cargo tracking system increased freight forwarders’ cost

Freight forwarders today complained that the electronic cargo tracking system has raised transportation costs by 25 per cent despite minimising documentation costs also due to reduction of transportation time, detention and demurrage charges for Nepali traders.
“Despite government’s assurances that the new system will make shipping cheaper due to reduction of transportation time to almost four times, the shipping companies at Indian ports have been imposing additional surcharges under different headings increasing the cost against the government’s claim, they complained.
The government has recently launched the electronic tracking that uses the Global Positioning System (GPS) – a satellite-based radio navigation system – and allows the shipper to keep track of consignments. Nepal has received transshipment privileges from Indian authorities – along with the system – under which goods imported from third countries undergo customs clearance directly at the customs points on the Nepal-India border.
The government has been implementing the electronic tracking and the transshipment on Nepal-bound cargo released from Kolkata, Haldiya and Visakhapatnam ports in India since mid-February. The system permits electronic documentation that has been claimed to make shipping cheaper apart from reducing time of transportation to five days from earlier 21 days, saving demurrage and detention charges.
The traders – to use the system – need to pay Rs 4,200 extra per container as fitting charge for electronic tracking device. However, the freight forwarders complained that they are forced to pay higher consignment charges. “Shipping companies hiked the cost of cargo handling by Rs 25,000 to Rs 125,000 from Rs 100,000 per container,” according to past president of Nepal Freight Forwarders Association (NFFA) Rajan Sharma. “Shipping lines give only a four-day concession period for empty containers to be returned from Birgunj to Kolkata after they are unloaded,” he said, adding that the companies charge an additional $100 per container per day, if there are delays. “The limited capacity of Sirsiya Dry Port in Birgunj to handle containers has pushed the costs up.”
Apart from congestion at Sirsiya Dry Port in Birgunj, the rising labour cost and the need to train manpower at the ports have also contributed to the hike in the price, according to the incumbent president of the association Prakash Singh Karki.
Karki also suspected intervention of customs agents behind the hike in freight charges. “When the system was launched in February, customs handling agents at Indian ports had disrupted the movement of Nepal-bound cargo,” he said, adding that they used to earn by using the manual system but upset by the loss of income, the agents protested by halting the movement of Nepal-bound cargo.
Currently, six shipping lines are providing services to Nepali traders. Among them, Maersk Line handles around 60 per cent of the cargo destined for Nepal. The small number of companies handling Nepal-bound cargo is also one of the reasons for increasing the cost due to the monopoly.
The association has suggested the government to use more shipping companies to check such malpractices.

NAC introduces promotional airfare for Osaka flights

Nepal Airlines Corporation (NAC) has introduced a promotional airfare for flights to Osaka in Japan.
As the national flag carrier has already announced its plan operate regular flights to Osaka from August 29, the NAC has offered a promotional airfare for marketing purpose. According to the corporation, passengers flying to Japan can buy one-way ticket at Rs 36,999 – under the promotional scheme – while the charge for round-trip passengers has been set at Rs 72,814, including value added tax (VAT).
Earlier, NAC had fixed Rs 45,000 for one-way and Rs 77,000 for round-trip for Osaka flight.
“The promotional airfare has slashed the normal fare by Rs 8,000 for passengers travelling in Kathmandu-Osaka route, the airlines said, adding that the promotional airfare for the Kathmandu-Osaka route is being offered for a limited time only.
The promotional airfare will last till the festival of Dashain. After that the airfare will be revised again, he added. The national flag carrier is preparing to operate Osaka direct flights three days a week — Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays. It takes around six-and-a-half hours to reach Osaka from Kathmandu.
Earlier, NAC had initially planned to operate Osaka flights from July 14 but the commencement date was postponed to August due to poor response from passengers.
NAC had, earlier, operated commercial flights in Kathmandu-Osaka route twice a week in between 1994 and 2007. But iut was halted due to lack of aircraft and human resources.
The NAC is also resuming direct flights to Osaka of Japan after a hiatus of 12 years. Japan Civil Aviation Bureau (JCAB) permitted the NAC to resume its flight to Osaka after Nepal and Japan signed Exchange of Notes on revising the Air Service Agreement (ASA) earlier this year.
The NAC has been operating scheduled flights to New Delhi, Doha, Dubai, Hong Kong, Kuala Lumpur, Bangkok, Mumbai, and Bangalore with the fleet of two Airbus A320-200s and two Airbus A330-200.

Nepse starts process of awarding broker licence to banks

Nepal Stock Exchange (Nepse) and CDS and Clearing Ltd (CDSC) have started to homework to provide brokers licence to commercial banks after receiving the direction from the capital market regulatory authority. 
On July 15, Securities Board of Nepal (Sebon) has directed Nepse to provide broker licence to the banks’ subsidiary companies according to the recommendation of a team of experts that was formed by Finance Ministry last year. Last December, a team of experts led by central bank deputy governor Shiva Raj Shrestha had suggested the board that banks should be allowed to establish subsidiary brokerage firms. Following the suggestion from the central bank, the capital market regulator carried out a study to implement the recommendation. The Nepse has also the started the homework to provide the brokers licence to the commercial banks.
The Sebon has also directed Nepse to conduct a study on ways to make stock market circuit breaker more contextual.
According to Sebon, before issuing the broker licence, Nepse needs to determine the number of subsidiary companies of commercial banks, minimum capital of such firms, necessary human resources, physical infrastructure, and their number of branches across the country. Nepse and commercial banks will have to jointly determine financial feasibility before its establishment outside the Valley.

Sunday, July 28, 2019

Kathmandu Marriott hotel inaugurated 'Edamame'

Kathmandu Marriott Hotel marked the opening of its restaurant 'Edamame' with an inauguration ceremony attended by ambassadors from Thailand and India. Kathmandu Marriott Hotel held an exclusive elite sit down dinner for eminent guests on this occasion. The dishes served were a contemporary interpretation of Thai, Japanese and Chinese cuisines.
Edmame is a relaxed, upscale, Modern Asian specialty restaurant offering a vibrant array of Japanese, Chinese and Thai delicacies that oscillates between innovative and modern culinary arts, reads a press note from the hotel. “The restaurant also features a yakitori grill, live sushi bar, dim sum station and a bar that serves Asian inspired cocktails,” it reads, adding that Edamame takes one into realms of Asia with its stunning décor, intricate patterns, plush fabrics, and exotic Asian art. “The design gives an ancient world sense with a tad of mystery and the space is alienated into aesthetically distinct cosmoses to offer an inimitable dining experience.”
At Edamame executive chef Sanjeev Ranjan and chef Ninja ensure that every ingredient is sourced from best quality produce and holds its place and purpose, it is treated with the utmost care to highlight its purest flavor using their mastered culinary skills to ensure every experience is memorable.
Speaking on the launch programme, general manager of Kathmandu Marriott Hotel Jean Louis Ripoche said that at Edamame the hotel showcases a cuisine that goes beyond creating signature dishes, as it is our passion to source for the very best produce for original dishes that are full of vibrant flavours and will be a memorable experience for all diners.

Himalayan Bank, Bank of Kathmandu may get their guarantee money back soon

Himalayan Bank Ltd (HBL) and Bank of Kathmandu (BoK) might get their guarantee amount against the Chinese company back soon as a Chinese high court has today decided to review the earlier district court decision.
Henan Province’s People’s High Court ordered the review of the February 15 decision of district-level Zhengzhou Intermediate Court – in favour of China Construction Bank (CCB) – for which HBL and BoK had given counter guarantee in the Melamchi Drinking Water Project.
Himalayan Bank said that the decision of the Chinese high court to review the case is a positive step, and it is optimistic about receiving the counter guarantee amount soon.
Earlier on February 15, the Zhengzhou Intermediate Court had decided in favour of the Chinese contractor in the lawsuit filed against China Railway 15 Bureau, citing violation of underlying contract between China Railway and Melamchi Drinking Water Project.
HBL had issued $6.665 million as performance guarantee, while BoK had issued $6.2 million and 1.40 million euros as advance payment guarantee to Melamchi Water Development Board to provide the counter guarantee to CCB. The CCB was the guarantor for the project contractor China Railway 15 Bureau Group.
According to the international law, the guarantee provided to both Nepali banks by CCB is an independent and unconditional obligation. The bank should receive the money back from China as per the international law and practice, but the Chinese company has been delaying due to court procedure.
The China Railway 15 Bureau Group had been contracted to build a 27-km-long tunnel for the Melamchi project, before appointing the Italian contractor Cooperativa Muratori and Cementisti di Ravenna.
The agreement between Melamchi Drinking Water Project and China Railway 15 Bureau Group was cancelled after the Chinese contractor demanded more funds than agreed in the bid document to complete the work after missing the completion deadline.

Manpower agencies threaten to launch protest

The outsourcers have threatened to protest as the government has failed to resume issuing work permits to Malaysia-bound Nepali workers.
The recruiting agencies have warned to stage protest, if the government does not start issuing Malaysian work permits within Tuesday. “The government is not serious towards resuming the permit for Nepali workers to Malaysia,” Nepal Association of Foreign Employment Agencies said, adding that the association will start protest programmes from Wednesday.
Urging the government to immediately start issuing work permits to Malaysia, the association said it will start the protest by picketing at Department of Foreign Employment (DoFE) on Wednesday.
The Ministry of Labour, Employment and Social Security claimed that a meeting of a joint technical team of both the governments of Nepal and Malaysia will soon sort out issues as the supply of Nepali workers to Malaysia has been halted since last May. After the government cracked down on Immigration Security Clearance and One Stop Centre that had been levying additional charges on Nepali migrants, the supply of Nepali migrant workers have halted.
The two governments also had inked a bilateral labour pact last October to resume the outflow of Nepali migrant workers to Malaysia but the delay in finalising the medical-related issues by both governments has made it difficult for the outsourcers to resume the outflow.

Trade deficit balloons to Rs 1.32 trillion

The total trade deficit of the country jumped by 14.26 per cent to Rs 1.32 trillion in the last fiscal year 2018-19, according to the Department of Customs (DoC).
The country imported commodities worth Rs 1.42 trillion whereas its exported merchandise worth Rs 97.11 billion only widening the trade deficit gap to Rs 1.32 trillion that is equal to the budget of the same fiscal year.
Ballooning trade deficit has been raising concern about external sector stability of the country though the imports grew by 13.93 per cent in the last fiscal year compared to a fiscal year ago whereas exports grew by 19.36 per cent.
Nepal’s exports to imports ratio fell to 1:14.6 in the last fiscal year from 1:15.3 per cent a fiscal year ago. It means Nepal imported Rs 14.6 worth of goods for every rupee worth of export earnings.
Likewise, Nepal registered trade deficit with 134 countries – out of a total of 157 trading partners – whereas the country maintained positive trade balance with 23 countries only. But the trade surplus Afghanistan (Rs 14.29 million), Central African Republic (Rs 275.85 million) and Maldives (Rs 6.2 million) are negligible to the whopping imports of the country.
Nepal suffered the highest trade deficit with India at Rs 855.19 billion followed by China at Rs 203.04 billion. “Nepal exported goods and commodities worth Rs 62.73 billion to India, whereas the country imported goods and commodities worth Rs 917.92 billion with the largest trading partner,” the department data revealed, adding that trade deficit with China ballooned to Rs 203.4 billion in the last fiscal year. “Nepal exported goods worth Rs 2.1 billion to China, while it imported goods worth Rs 205.52 billion.”
Though the government has curtailed the imports of luxury goods to retain the trade deficit, the widening trade deficit has become a headache to the government. The increasing purchasing power fuelled by the remittance has enlarged the country’s import bill.

Saturday, July 27, 2019

Yeti adds new ATR

Yeti Airlines announced the addition of a fifth ATR72-500 aircraft MSN 740 to its fleet. The aircraft with Nepali Registration no. 9N-ANG arrived at Tribhuvan International Airport (TIA) in Kathmandu today, after it’s ferry flight from Bangkok, Thailand.
With the acquisition of our fifth ATR72-500 aircraft, the airliner will increase its flight frequencies to certain destinations and also add some new ones, it said, in a press note. “We hope it will help Nepal achieve the target of 2 million tourist arrivals for the ‘Visit Nepal 2020’ year,” the release reads, adding that the ATR72-500 is a twin-engine turboprop aircraft manufactured by the French-Italian consortium ATR. “With it’s superior build and performance the ATR72 has now become the most successful regional carrier in the world, steadily expanding and entering into new global markets.”
The ATR72-500 is powered by two Pratt & Whitney PW127 engines and are equipped with Hamilton Sundstrand composite blade propellers. These high-tech engines and propellers ensure exceptional performance, fuel efficiency, remarkably low noise and low greenhouse gas emissions.
Well known global operators of the ATR72-500 aircraft are Air New Zealand, Aer Lingus, SAS, HOP!, Azul, Bangkok Airways, Indigo, MalindoAir etc.
Yeti Airlines started it’s flight operations from 1998.
Besides the ATR72-500s, the domestic airliner also operates a fleet of five BAE Systems Jetstream 41 aircraft. Tara Air, it’s sister airline, which operates two Dornier Do228 and four DHC6 Twin Otter aircraft, Yeti Airlines operates the widest network of flight routes in Nepal.

Friday, July 26, 2019

US reports investment barriers in Nepal

The US Department of State has reported a gamut of investment barriers in Nepal.
The department’s ‘2019 Investment Climate Statements: Nepal’ has critisised Nepal’s business climate claiming various institutional and procedural impediments. “Nepal offers opportunities for investors willing to accept inherent risks and the unpredictability of doing business in the country,” the report reads, adding, “Significant investment barriers remain, while Nepal has established some investment-friendly laws and regulations.”
Questioning the government’s capacity to implement reforms including newly enacted laws including the Foreign Investment and Technology Transfer Act, Industrial Enterprise Act, Special Economic Zone Act intended to attract increased foreign investment, the report has expressed serious doubt over the delivery.
The government has lined up around 3 dozen Acts and Policies in parliament to amend them to encourage and attract investment but the private sector has been confused as the amendmends are more regressive than progressive according to the recent business environment.
The domestic investors have also blamed that the laws pose impediments and restrictions to foreign investment, despite the amendments to attract foreign investment. The government, in a move to discourage the petty foreign investment and attract bigger ones, reduced the minimum threshold on foreign investment but failed to minimise business risk.
“Three laws directly impacting foreign investment were hurriedly revised and passed by Parliament ahead of the 2019 Investment Summit,” the report reads, adding that it left little time for consultations or transparency in the process. “The ‘petty bureaucracy’ based hindrances have impeded smooth conduct of business and the issues remain unaddressed in the absence of pay-offs or personal interventions with cabinet-level officials.”
Rather than systematic and routine processes, many foreign investors note that Nepal’s regulatory system is based largely on personal relationships with government officials, the report further reads, quoting a World Bank official as saying that corruption in Nepal was 'endemic, institutionalised, and driven from the top'. “Corruption takes many forms but is pervasive in the awarding of licences, government procurement, and revenue management,” it adds.

China agrees to designate eight new destinations for Nepali airlines

Though, the northern neighbour has not yet allowed Nepali aircraft to fly to its cities till date, China has again agreed to designate eight new destinations for Nepali airlines, in addition of existing seven.
According to a press release issued by Embassy of Nepal in Beijing, both the countries today signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) ensuring Nepali aircraft to fly to eight additional destinations will be specified by Nepal at its own discretion.
According to the press release, the deal was reached during a two-day meeting between the representatives of the aeronautical authorities of Nepal and China earlier today.
Though Nepal has not been given slot to fly to China, Nepal can currently also fly its carriers to seven destinations including Beijing, Shanghai, Lhasa, Guangzhou, Kunming, Chengdu and Xi’an. China has been currently operating 56 flights to Nepal per week. The Nepali side – during the meeting – urged the Chinese side to extend necessary support and assistance to Nepali airlines to operate flights to destinations in China as currently there are no flights originating from Nepal to mainland China.
“The Chinese side responded positively and agreed to extend necessary support and facilitation to Nepali airlines," the press release reads, adding that the two sides – revising the Air Service Agreement (ASA) – also agreed to raise the frequency of flights to 98 flights per week from each country, from the existing 70 flights, according to previous agreement of last five years.
“For flights operated by China-designated airlines, some 21 out of the agreed number of frequencies will be reserved for Gautam Buddha International Airport (GBIA) and Pokhara Regional International Airport (PRIA), and will come into effect once those airports come into operation.”
Nepal Airlines Cooperation used to operate few flights a week before 2007. However, it discontinued because of decrease in number of aircrafts with the corporation. But Nepal and China has revised the ASA without providing any assurance of allowing Nepal Airlines Corporation to fly in Chinese skies. The Chinese aviation authority has prevented the national flag carrier from flying to Chinese cities citing ‘safety concerns’ raised by the European Union (EU).
However, the Chinese side also agreed to expedite the process of issuing authorisation of Nepal Airlines and Himalaya Airlines, which have applied to operate flights between Kathmandu to Guangzhou and Beijing. Though Chinese authorities have agreed to allow NAC to operate flights on Kathmandu-Guangzhou route, the national flag carrier will first need to meet the criteria of the safety audit to be conducted by China.
A team from Civil Aviation Administration of China will come to Kathmandu in October for the safety audit, which will determine whether NAC is permitted to operate flights to China. If NAC fails the test, it won’t be allowed to fly to Guangzhou or any other city of China.
The meeting led by joint secretary at the Ministry of Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation Suresh Acharya and deputy director general of Civil Aviation Administration of China Bai Wenli also reached an understanding that after the development of adequate technical facilities at Gunsa Airport in Tibet, flights of Nepali airlines would be allowed to land there while circumnavigating Mt Kailash as part of the mountain flight. They also agreed to explore opportunities in the field of civil aviation between the two countries through joint collaboration. “Both the sides agreed to intensify mutual co-operation on promoting bilateral connectivity and to further utilise and expand the opportunities in the civil aviation sector between the two countries through joint collaboration,” the release reads.
China has opened Nepal as a tourist destination from 2002. Currently, Chinese tourists visiting Nepal are the second highest after Indians.

Economy to grow at 6.02 per cent

Against the government projection of 8 per cent, the economy is projected to grow at 6.02 per cent in the fiscal year 2018-19 and 5.77 per cent in the current fiscal year.
The Institute for Integrated Development Studies (IIDS) – a research wing of Kathmandu University (KU) – projection of economic growth is not only lower than government but also the projections of development partners including World Bank (WB), Asian Development Bank (ADB) and International Monetary Fund (IMF).
The World Bank has projected Nepal’s economy to grow at 6.4 per cent in the fiscal year 2018-19, while ADB and IMF both have forecast a 6.3 per cent growth. The IIDS growth – based on the current macroeconomic scenario – forecast for the fiscal year 2020-21 is also lower compared to World Bank – that has projected the economy to grow at 6.5 per cent during the year. But the IMF has projected Nepal’s economy to grow at 4.5 per cent in fiscal year 2020-21.
The IIDS – releasing Nepal Economic Outlook 2018-19 today – also claimed that the growth rate will moderate in the current fiscal year, and is expected to decline in the next fiscal year 2020-21.
Speaking at a panel discussion – after launching the Nepal Economic Outlook 2018-19 – former finance ministers emphasised on the need to focus on policy implementation, project execution, corruption control, good governance and enhancing bureaucratic capacity to foster desirable economic and development growth.
Accusing the government of failing to lay the economic foundation for sustainable development, they also said that the government has not succeeded in attracting investment adequate enough to achieve double-digit growth target though economic development is its top priority. They said that internal and external investment and infrastructural development are important factors to ensure sustainable economic development in Nepal.
On the occasion, former finance minister Dr Ram Sharan Mahat said that the government has yet to formulate a plan needed to achieve the objective of sustainable development. Urging the government to emphasise institutional capacity building to ensure sustainable economic development, he advised the government to focus on implementing policies, generating employment opportunities, establishing a culture of respect for labour, developing infrastructure and enhancing the capacity of the three tiers of the government so that the country can achieve competitive development and economic growth, rather than being populist.
Likewise, another former finance minister Prakash Chandra Lohani, on the occasion, said that the government should primarily address the issue of corruption and maintain transparency to develop the economy and the country. “For this, the government should immediately endorse the Transparency Law, which was drafted many years ago,” he added.
Meanwhile former finance minister and leader of the ruling Nepal Communist Party (NCP) Surendra Pandey said that efforts should be made to bring informal businesses and activities into the formal economy. Pandey also claimed that sustainable economic development in Nepal has not taken place due to lack of political reform. He said that the country could achieve its objective of sustainable economic development only after making reforms in political, administrative and educational systems.
The IIDS report has, meanwhile, projected inflation to remain at 4.76 per cent in the current fiscal year and 4.7 per cent in the next fiscal year against the World Bank, ADB and IMF projection of 4.7 per cent, 5.1 per cent and 6.5 per cent inflation, respectively in the current fiscal year. In the next fiscal year 2020-21, the IMF and World Bank have projected inflation to reamin at 6.2 per cent and five per cent, respectively. 

Bangladesh, Bhutan, Nepal and Thailand achieve Hepatitis B control: WHO

Bangladesh, Bhutan, Nepal and Thailand have become the first countries in WHO South-East Asia Region to achieve Hepatitis B control, with prevalence of the deadly disease dropping to less than one per cent among five-year-old children, the World Health Organisation (WHO) announced today.
“Unwavering determination to reach every child, everywhere, every time, with life-saving Hepatitis B vaccines through childhood immunisation, has made this achievement possible,” according to regional director at the WHO South-East Asia Dr Poonam Khetrapal Singh. “These successes are a testimony of the countries’ commitment to health of their people, and the untiring efforts being made by health workers and communities for the well-being of children,” she said, adding that WHO Goodwill Ambassador for Hepatitis in the Region, Amitabh Bachchan’s, advocacy added impetus to efforts against hepatitis.
The Expert Panel for Verification (EPV) of Hepatitis B Control in WHO South-East Asia Region recommended verification of Bangladesh, Bhutan, Nepal and Thailand, after reviewing childhood immunisation data that showed consistent over 90 per cent coverage with Hepatitis B vaccine doses provided during infancy for past many years. Studies conducted among five-year old children in these countries corroborated the high immunisation rates, and that Hepatitis B prevalence in these four countries among children was less than one per cent. 
Children across 11 countries of WHO South-East Asia Region get three doses of Hepatitis B containing vaccines in their first year of life under national immunisation programme. Eight countries also administer Hepatitis B vaccine birth dose crucial to prevent mother-to-child transmission of the disease.
Preventing Hepatitis B infection in infancy substantially reduces chronic infections and cases of liver cancer and cirrhosis in adulthood.
Hepatitis B control through immunisation gained momentum in the WHO South-East Asia Region with countries endorsing it as a target by 2020, as part of the South-East Asia Regional Vaccine Action Plan.
These achievements come days before the World Hepatitis Day which focuses this year on ‘Invest in eliminating hepatitis’, Singh said, adding, “Hepatitis can be easily prevented and also treated.”
Member countries must continue to spread awareness about Hepatitis and scale up other preventive measures such as safe injection, safe blood and infection prevention and control,” the regional director said.
Though preventable, viral hepatitis kills 410 000 people in WHO South-East Asia Region every year, mostly people in their productive years. Nearly 90 million people suffer from chronic liver disease that is driving rates of liver cancer and cirrhosis in the region.

Thursday, July 25, 2019

Chinese, Nepali firms seal deal to develop Tamakoshi 3 hydel project

Two Chinese and a Nepali company joined hands to develop Tamakoshi 3 hydropower project, after a Norwegian company backed out from it some three years ago.
China's YEIG International, Shanghai Investigation, Design and Research Institute (Sidri) and TBi Holdings have signed a framework agreement today to invest around $500 million to develop the project, after Norwegian utility Statkraft backed out of the hydel project failing to search market out of Nepal.
YEIG International – a Chinese government company based in Yunan province – that has developed energy projects in many countries including in South East and South Asia, Sidri – yet another Chinese government company that has developed some 22,000 MW of energy – and TBi Holdings – promoted by Non-Resident Nepali Association (NRNA) president Bhaban Bhatta – inked a joint venture development framework in the presence of the energy minister Barsha Man Pun and vice governor of Yunnan Province Zhang Guohua, along with Chinese bureaucrats, in Kathmandu today.
Pun, on the occasion, said that cooperation can bring experiences achieved by Yunnan in the field of hydropower to Nepal. Expressing best wishes to the joint venture, he said that the hydel project can work as a symbol of friendship and cooperation in the hydropower sector between the two countries.
Noting that Yunnan Province is an important green energy base and electricity relay hub, the vice governor Zhang, on the occasion, said that the signing of cooperation document will encourage more cooperation and exchanges in hydropower. “In 2018 alone, trade between Yunnan Province and Nepal amounted to $10 million, a growth rate of 341 per cent compared to a year ago.”
If everything goes as planned, the much-delayed hydropower project is expected be started in early 2020 and will be completed in three and half years, Bhatta said, adding that the project can be a milestone in the Sino-Nepal relations.
The framework agreement has has also in-principle jointly pledged $500 million for the project, Bhatta informed, adding that the company is yet to finalise the detailed studies and designs of the power plant that has been in news for last one decade for all the wrong reasons.
Though, Xinhua – a Chinese government media – reported that the project is being developed with an installed capacity of 200 MW, Bhatta clarified that the capacity will be confirmed only after the survey and wider consultation between the ministry and Nepal Electrictity Authority (NEA).
TBi Holdings had received the license from the Department of Electricity Development on October 12, 2017. According to the licensing provision, it had to complete the survey in two years.
Statkraft had initially designed Tamakoshi 3 for 880 MW but the project was not feasible as it could submerge Sukute Bazar – a popular market settlement along the Tamakoshi river – forcing the Norwegian company to reduce the installed capacity of the the project to 650 MW. The Statkraft and its Indian partner Tata Power had planned to sell the power to India but their plan could not be materialised as then Nepal and Indian had not entered into the Power Trading Agreement (PTA), and the Tata Power also backed out of the project citing technical reason.
The government and Statkraft had entered into an agreement – in 2007 – to build the Tamakoshi 3. Statkraft had also investment Rs 1 billion in survey for the 650 MW plant. However, the Norwegian company dropped its plans to construct the export-oriented project due to disturbing political situation – that led to back out of Tata Power – between Nepal and India after the 2015 economic blockade.
Statkraft also left the project because, according to the government policy, no one can construct the project with installed capacity of 650 MW for domestic consumption. According to the policy, the Nepal Electricity Authority (NEA) – the sole buyer of the power generated by all the developers – will not sign Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) in Q20 design in which Statekraft was planning to develop 650 MW. The NEA will sign PPA with developer only in Q40 design that will further reduce the installed power of the project between 315 MW and 220 MW.
The dispute of project’s actual installed power has also created tussle between the Investment Board-Nepal (IBN) – that looks after the hydropower projects above 500 MW – and the Department of Electricity Development under Energy Ministry. The department looks after the power projects under 500 MW.
The dispute also took nasty turn as the department awarded the power generation licence to the TBi Holdings, and not the board as it had put the project in its basket exercising its rights over hydel projects above 500 MW. The board had earlier planned to develop Tamakoshi 3 under a public-private-partnership (PPP) model with a mix of domestic and international investment. The board was also planning to go for global competitive bidding in 2018. However, the department under the Energy Ministry – in October 2017 – issued a survey licence to TBi Holdings, a day after the company filed an application at the department, before the board could execute its plan.
An anti-corruption crusader moved to Supreme Court accusing Energy Ministry of violating the Public Procurement Act, Investment Board Act, Good Governance Act and other constitutional provisions by awarding the survey licence directly to TBi Holdings, and also seeking the suspension of the licence as it was awarded without competitive bidding and also encroaching the Investment Board’s right. Acting on a writ seeking a stay order against the government’s decision to award the project to TBi Holdings, the Supreme Court ordered the government to suspend the survey licence issued to TBi Holdings. But, the Supreme Court – after a month of its preliminary stay order – quashed its order paving the way for TBi Holdings to go ahead with the preparatory studies to develop the project.

Cabinet green signal to split CAAN

The Cabinet has directed Ministry of Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation (MoCTCA) to frame separate acts to split the Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal (CAAN) into two autonomous bodies; regulatory body and air navigation service provider.
The Cabinet meeting on Monday has principally agreed to split the CAAN and directed the ministry to draft regulatory body act and air navigation service provider act for the two separate entities, informed the spokesperson of Cabinet and minister for Communications and Information Technology, Gokul Baskota, today.
The ministry had proposed creating three pieces of legislation to run the country’s aviation body – Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal Act, Nepal Aviation Service Act and Civil Aviation Act – but the Cabinet has given approval to draft two out of the three proposed acts. “A proposal to draft the third bill will be tabled at the Cabinet soon.”
Earlier on September 22 also, the Cabinet meeting had given permission to the ministry to divide CAAN into two different bodies as has been recommended by the European Commission (EC). Both the ministry and CAAN had prepared an act implementation committee, after the permission to split the aviation regulatory body. The ministry and civil aviation regulator both have also jointly prepared two separate drafts of the two necessary acts that are expected to eliminate conflicts and contradictions at the CAAN.
The ministry will now forward the drafts of the acts to the Finance, Law, Justice and Parliamentary Affairs, Foreign Affairs, Home Affairs and Physical Infrastructure and Transport Ministries for feedback and further suggestions. The government plans to table the two bills at the ongoing budget session of Parliament for final endorsement. After the approval from the Parliament, the new law will replace the current Civil Aviation Act 1959 and the Nepal Civil Aviation Authority Act 1996.
Though, the government had formally announced – in 2012 – to split CAAN into two separate autonomous entities, the agenda has been put at the back burner due to various reasons.
Established some 21 years ago CAAN has its own Civil Aviation Act, which gives it the authority to work on aviation services and safety, air transport and surveillance as well as the development of airport infrastructure. After splitting CAAN, the aviation safety and security is expected to be at par with the global standards.
Lack of improvement in safety oversight by the aviation regulator has led the European Commission (EC) to continue its ban on Nepali airlines from flying within the 28-nation bloc of the European Union (EU).
The EC blacklisted Nepal, placing restrictions on Nepali airlines, for the first time in 2013 immediately after the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) raised significant safety concerns accusing the CAAN of ignoring the precautionary measures aimed at reducing aviation-related disasters.
The ICAO, however, removed Nepal’s aviation sector from its safety list in July 2017. But the EC has not yet lifted its ban on Nepali aircraft to fly to Europe as according to European Aviation Agency, there has been no change in Nepal’s six-year-old status as far as air safety is concerned.
The EU had insisted that Nepal bundle the CANN into civil aviation regulatory and operating body.
“There were concerns that the aviation regulatory body and airport operating body shouldn't be the same,” Baskota said, adding that the Cabinet nod for the two bills is aimed at addressing the security concern of the EU. “The government wants to promulgate CAAN Act and Nepal Airport Authority Act.”
After bundling, CAAN will issue license to airlines, scrap the license, monitor the aviation sector and take action against operators violating the rules, whereas the new Airport Authority will be responsible for aerodrome operations, air navigation services, air traffic control and training.
The Asian Development Bank (ADB) has also agreed to fund the study on splitting the services being provided by CAAN. The ADB has offered to provide $5 million to conduct study on bundling services and capacity building of the CAAN. In 2014, Spanish consultancy Ineco prepared the first draft with a $4.2 million funding from the Asian Development Bank following approval from the board of the CAAN in 2010.
The government can also include the private sector in ground handling – both domestic and international – in the facilitator unit, though CAAN will solely control the aviation sector regulator unit.

Yeti to fly directly from Pokhara to Bhairahawa

Yeti Airlines today announced the launch of direct flights from Pokhara to Bhairahawa, Bharatpur and Nepalgunj – though on charter basis only – on it’s Jetstream 41 aircraft. In addition the airliner will also operate daily scenic mountain flights ‘Annapurna Express’ from Pokhara, a press note issued by the company reads, adding that it will operate daily flights from Pokhara to Bhairahawa from August 1, Pokhara to Bharatpur from September 1 and the Annapurna Express mountain flights from September 15. “Charter flights will also be available from Pokhara to Nepalgunj.”
Saying that Yeti Airlines will be connecting the Golden Triangle of Kathmandu-Pokhara-Bharatpur by air, it said that the airliner will also connect the two cities Pokhara and Bhairahawa via a convenient 20 minute flight at an affordable fare, the press note further reads. “Yeti Airlines will also operate ‘Annapurna Express’ – a 30 minutes daily mountain flight from Pokhara Airport from September 1 – that will showcase breathtaking close up views of the Fishtail peak and the Annapurna and Dhaulagiri mountain ranges.”
Established in 1998, Yeti Airlines currently operates a fleet of 5 ATR 72-500 and 5 Jetstream 41 twin turbo propaircraft fromit’s main hub, Tribhuvan International Airport (TIA), in Kathmandu.
It’s sister airline Tara Air operates a fleet of specialised STOL aircraft – 4 Twin Otters and 2 Dornier Do228 – that operate to high mountain airports like Jomsom, Lukla, Dolpo, Simikot, Jumla and Rara. Yeti Airlines is Nepal’s first carbon neutral airline.

BRI should be utilized for two countries' benefits

Nepal’s joining of the belt and road initiative (BRI) will benefit both Nepal and China, according to vice president Nanda Bahadur Pun.
“It was a matter of pride for Nepal to join the BRI launched by the Chinese president Xi, he said addressing a meeting with deputy governor of Yunnan Province of China at his residence, Green House, today.
The vice president reminded that Nepal had moved ahead with the campaign of 'prosperous Nepal, happy Nepali' and foreign investment was imperative for Nepal's development. “We expect maximum investment from Chinese companies," he said, adding that modernisation of agriculture, infrastructure development for tourism, excavation of minerals and processing of herbs are some of the potential areas for investment in Nepal.
The visiting deputy governor, on the occasion, said that China and Yunnan Province are happy to have cooperation with Nepal in various sectors. “The Chinese President has stressed that Yunnan could be made a center for the expansion of relations with South Asian and South East Asian countries,” he added.

Wednesday, July 24, 2019

Central bank makes merger optional not forceful

Against the popular assumption, the central bank has made the merger optional rather than forceful, though it has announced a gamut of incentives and facilities for bank and financial institutions (BFIs) pursuing merger to promote consolidation in banking sector.
Releasing 'Monetary Policy for the current fiscal year 2019-20' today, the central bank governor Dr Chiranjivi Nepal said that the central bank will offer various benefits for BFIs going for amalgamation in line with the government's policy of encouraging 'big' merger in the banking sector. The government in the fiscal policy has also said that it will encourage the merger.
Against recent indication from Dr Nepal that the Nepal Rastra Bank could pursue a 'carrot and stick' approach on merger and acquisition (M&A), the monetary policy has taken a softer line of encouraging them rather than forcing them to go for the merger. “Commercial banks that complete their M&A and start joint operation by mid-July 2020 will get a relaxation in the deadline for maintaining priority sector lending requirement and interest rate spread,” the Monetary Policy reads, adding that it means the merged entity will have to maintain directed sector lending requirement and interest rate spread by mid-July 2021. “The commercial banks going for the merger will get waiver on cooling period for board directors, CEOs and deputy CEOs.”
After the merger, board directors, CEO or deputy CEO will not be barred from joining another bank before six months as is the case for other BFIs, against the current directives of six months cooling period, it reads. “The BFIs will not require merged entity to get its approval for expansion of branches.”
Another benefit for banks is that the extension of the deadline on the new requirement to float debentures worth 25 per cent of their paid-up capital will be until mid-July 2021, according to the Monetary Policy.
Likewise, the merged entity will also get up to mid-July 2021 to reach the 4.4 per cent spread rate. “The consolidation of BFIs will be accorded priority to enhance the capacity of banking sector in mobilising resources and increase people's access to finance,” Dr Nepal said, unveiling the Monetary Policy. The Policy has also announced that the central bank will make an arrangement to send BFIs with crossholding of shareholders in more than one institution into M&A.
Bankers are elated by the Nepal Rastra Bank’s policy on not forcing banks to merge, except in the case of cross holding, in which an individual is in the board of directors of two institutions. They said that incentives and facilities offered by the central bank could encourage banking institutions to go for amalgamation.
“The incentives and facilities, particularly on interest spread, seem tempting for banks to go for merger, if they have to maintain profitability,” according to banking expert Anal Raj Bhattarai.

Nepal is the chair of EIF board

Nepal is nominated – by consensus – for the first time from Asia, as the chair of the Enhanced Integrated Framework (EIF) board for the year 2019-2021. Earlier, Benin, Sierra Leon, Ethiopia and Lesotho have assumed the role as a chair of the EIF board. Nepal’s ambassador and permanent representative at the Permanent Mission of Nepal in Geneva Mani Prasad Bhattarai represents the country for the position. The handover takeover will take place in September.
Established in 2007, the EIF is the World Trade Organisation (WTO)-initiated multilateral partnership mechanism, which is exclusively working for the least developed countries (LDCs) to support their better integration into the multilateral trading system.
The EIF mechanism is the partnership of 51 countries – some 47 LDCs and 4 graduating LDCs), 24 donors and 8 partner agencies working closely with governments, development organisations and civil society – to assist LDCs to use trade as an engine for development and poverty reduction.
EIF extends technical and financial support to LDCs and works as a platform to leverage further resources in collaboration with other development partners and government ministries in trade sector.
In Nepal, EIF has supported for trade mainstreaming, human resources development, institutional and productive capacity building. Three projects – Pashmina Enhancement and Trade Support Project (PETS), Ginger Projectand Medicinal and Aromatic Plants (MAPs) Project – are underway under EIF since 2012 in Nepal.

Central bank aims at easing loanable fund crunch through Monetary Policy

With focus on addressing loanable funds crunch and credit growth in priority sector, the central bank has brought Monetary Policy for the fiscal year 2019-20, using all the possible monetary instruments.
Released by central bank governor Dr Chiranjibi Nepal today, the Monetary Policy includes a slew of measures to ease the existing shortage of loanable funds at banks and financial institutions (BFIs), lower interest rates and borrowing costs for private sector, though the private sector doubts the implementation of the policy and reduction of interest rates.
Through the Monetary Policy, the Nepal Rastra Bank (NRB) has lowered the general refinance rate to three per cent from current four per cent as part of the efforts to make loans cheaper for priority sectors. “With the general refinance funds to BFIs at 4 per cent, borrowers in priority sectors like manufacturing, tourism and energy will not be charged more than 7 per cent interest rate,” the governor said, adding that the central bank has but barred BFIs from levying more than 7 per cent interest rate to SMEs borrowers for such loans, compared to 10 per cent being levied at present.
The central bank – to address the liquidity issue – has also said that it will introduce provision to allow commercial banks to borrow in convertible currency from foreign institutions, including pension funds and hedge funds. The central bank has also allowed BFIs to collect fixed deposits in foreign currency from organisational foreign depositors and Non-Resident Nepalis (NRNs). However, such deposits should have maturity period of at least two years, and BFIs can disburse cent per cent of such deposits as loans in Nepali currency, the Monetary Policy reads, adding that the move of widening of the sources for external borrowings by the BFIs is expected to ease the crunch of loanble fund. “The new measures will also help lower interest rates apart from addressing the shortage of loanable funds.”
The Monetary Policy has reduced the refinance rate, tightened calculation of the interest rates spread formula – according to the Financial Sector Development Strategy (2016-17 to 2020-21) that envisions bringing the spread rate down to 4.4 per cent by fiscal year 2020-21 – and lowered the bank rate to help make borrowing cheaper, though the private sector is not very much excited about the reduction of interest rates as the central bank move will , according to them, not help reduce the interest rate.
The central bank has also barred BFIs from adding more than two per cent interest premium on their base rate while fixing the lending rate on loans up to Rs 1.5 million disbursed in agriculture, entrepreneurship and business promotion sectors. Moreover, the central bank has barred BFIs from taking any type of service charge from borrowers on such loans. More importantly, the central bank has also made it mandatory for BFIs to approve such loan demand within seven days of the submission of application from borrowers. The BFIs have now been barred from charging additional fees from customers while making transactions through Point of Sales (PoS) machines.
“The measures prescribed by the Monetary Policy is not adequate for making borrowing easier and cheaper,” the Federation of Nepalese Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FNCCI), said, adding that managing liquidity more efficiently and maintaining interest rate stability is key to private sector borrowing that can fuel economic growth.
The Monetary Policy has also made it mandatory for the commercial banks to float debentures, corporate bonds equivalent to 25 per cent of their paid-up capital by the end of fiscal year. The central bank – through the Monetary Policy – also claimed to introduce necessary mechanism to ensure the funds raised through corporate bonds will be used to disburse loans. The move, according to the central bank, is expected to diversify the source of liquidity for banks that rely largely on deposits to disburse loans. “The requirement of debentures, which tend to be of long-term nature will help address the loanable funds shortage,” the central bank adds. The mismatch in the assets and liabilities – as banks used to provide long-term loans from short-term deposits – has been blamed for shortage of loanable fund currently, leading banks to engage in an interest rate war that has fuelled interest rates.
Thus, the Monetary Policy has also tightened the spread rate and effectively implementing the interest rate corridor to address the problem of interest rate volatility.
Similarly, the central bank has projected that money supply growth to be limited to 18 per cent and private sector credit growth to 21 per cent in the current fiscal year. In the last fiscal year 2018-19, the central bank had projected 20 per cent private sector credit growth. “The Monetary Policy has also projected domestic credit growth at 24 per cent for the current fiscal year – against 22.5 per cent estimated in the last fiscal year – to achieve government’s ambitious growth target of 8.5 per cent for the fiscal year 2019-20,” the policy reads.
Speaking at the launching central bank governor Dr Chiranjibi Nepal said the expansion of credit to both government and the private sector could boost the availability of funds to invest in productive sectors. “The government will need to invest Rs 450 billion while the private sector needs to inject Rs 1.25 trillion in order to achieve the government’s targeted economic growth of 8.5 per cent,” he said, adding that the policy has made it mandatory for micro-finance firms to disburse one-third of their total loan in the agriculture sector to raise credit flow in the agriculture industry. “The NRB will fix the upper limit of Debt Service to Gross Income ratio in non-business loans including individual loans, home loans and hire-purchase loans being issued by BFIs.”
The NRB has also made PAN mandatory for seeking loans of above Rs 5 million from BFIs, from current above Rs 10 million, the policy reads, adding that the central bank is also introducing policies to facilitate citizens to keep gold in banks as deposits.
Similarly, the Monetary Policy 2019-20 has – in line with fiscal policy – targeted keeping inflation within six per cent and maintaining foreign exchange reserve (forex reserve) to sustain the prospective import of goods and services for seven months.
This time, however, the central bank has not revised the cash reserve ratio (CRR) and statutory liquidity ratio (SLR) for BFIs, though they are also key monetary tools to ease the banks’ liquidity position, though the bankers have suggested the central bank to revise the CRR downwards. Likewise, the policy is also silent when it comes to revising the threshold in the credit to core capital-cum-deposit (CCD) ratio, which bankers have been pressuring the central bank to address through the monetary policy.
Currently, the CCD ratio imposed for banks and financial institutions stands at 80 per cent, which means a bank cannot extend more than 80 per cent of its deposit and core capital as loans.

Cash Reserve Ratio (CRR), Statutory Liquidity Ratio (SLR) left unchanged
Average annual inflation to be contained at 6 percent
Banks required to issue debentures equivalent to 25 per cent of paid-up capital
Policy to be made for BFIs to open branches abroad
Maximum limit for debt service to gross income ratio to be fixed for home loans, hire purchase
Policy to be made for foreign currency payments for social media ads
BFIs barred from selling bankassurance
Gold can be parked in banks as deposits

NAC reopens booking for Osaka flights

Nepal Airlines Corporation (NAC) has opened bookings for Kathmandu-Osaka-Kathmandu flights. The national flag carrier is launching its scheduled flight to Osaka from August 29, though it had earlier announced to start Osaka flights from July 5 but had to postpone the flight citing poor bookings.
NAC is planning to operate Osaka flights three times a week – on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays – according to NAC that has fixed one-way flight fare at Rs 45,000 and Rs 75,000- Rs 90,000 for a round trip.
NAC is resuming direct flights to Osaka of Japan after aninterval of of 12 years. Although the nationa flag carrier carrier had started flying to Osaka via Shanghai in 1994, it had suspended the flight in 2007 citing shortage of aircraft. NAC had used Boeing 757 aircraft for Osaka flights at that time but now it is planning to fly with Airbus A330-200 aircraft.
Japan Civil Aviation Bureau (JCAB) permitted NAC to resume its flight to Osaka after Nepal and Japan signed Exchange of Notes on revising the Air Service Agreement earlier this year.
NAC has been operating scheduled flights to New Delhi, Doha, Dubai, Hong Kong, Kuala Lumpur, Bangkok, Mumbai, and Bangalore with two Airbus A320-200s and two Airbus A330-200.

Tuesday, July 23, 2019

Shrinkhala Khatiwada summits Mont Blanc

Shrinkhala Khatiwada – the Goodwill Ambassador for the 70th anniversary of Nepal-France diplomatic relations – reached the summit of Mont Blanc, the highest peak in Western Europe today.
Accompanied by two Nepali filmmakers, Sisan Baniya and Prajwal Thapa Magar, and was guided by the legendary skier and alpinist, Anselme Baud, she also raised the two national flags, of Nepal and France, on the occasion.
The climbing of Mont Blanc was organised by the French Embassy in Nepal and is part of a year long celebrations of 70 years of diplomatic relations between the two countries, according to a press note released by the French Embassy in Kathmandu.
This was also the occasion to recognise the role played by the French city of Chamonix – located at the bottom of Mont Blanc – French National School of Ski and Alpinism (ENSA) and the ‘mountain community’ of Chamonix towards strengthening the people to people relation between the two countries in the domain of mountaineering, the press note reads, adding that it also expresses the potential cooperation in the field of mountain tourism and hospitality. “Many Nepali high mountain guides and paragliders have benifitted from the internships and training offered by the ENSA and various French associations active in Nepal.”
The cooperation in the domain of mountaineering and people to people exchanges are one of the pillars of the bilateral relations between Nepal and France, it adds.
After summitting successfully Mont Blanc, Khatiwada would join the second last stage of the world renowned cycle race, Tour de France, where she would be a guest of honour and interact with the cyclists and organisers. She will also take part in the closing ceremony of Tour de France in Paris on July 28. “The goodwill visit to France, by the Goodwill Ambassador, was put in place with an objective of spreading a positive message of friendship between Nepal and France and promote Nepal in France,” the embassy release adds.

Government plans counselling sessions for migrants

The government is planning to start special counselling sessions for Nepali migrant workers going to foreign employment.
Though, South Korea is considered a ‘safe’ and most lucrative destination, the number of Nepalis committing suicide or suffering from depression in the host country has been on the rise, said Minister for Labour, Employment and Social Security Gokarna Bista, addressing a second ‘Workshop on the Role of the Private Sector in the Economic Development of Korea,’ organised by South Korean Embassy, here today. “The government is planning to start special counselling sessions, in collaboration with Korean government, for Nepalis going to work in South Korea,” he added.
South Korean envoy Park Young-Sik, addressing the event organised to support the successful settlement of workers who returned from Korea, suggested the returnee migrants to implement the skill and technology they have learned in Korea, back home. “The embassy is happy to help returnee migrants by supporting them in seting up of their businesses in Nepal,” he said, explaining how the South Korea has developed itself over the period of time.
"Even in Korea, under EPS Programme, about 35,000 Nepalis are working now in South Korea and more than 20,000 Nepali workers have already returned to Nepal," he said, highlighting the immense contribution that migrant workers, including from Korea, have made to the Nepali economic development. "Nepal’s foreign exchange reserve is healthy because of remittance as migrant workers sent remittance of $7.26 billion in the fiscal year 2017-18."
"That is about 25.1 per cent of the nation’s GDP," he added. "The healthy foreign exchange reserves obtained mainly from remittance allows Nepali people to buy foreign goods and services."
That's why Nepali economy is called as remittance-dependent and import-based one but the migrants’ money is mostly being spent on consumption which is the main reason for huge trade deficit, the envoy said, "Nepal government data shows that saving was only 15 per cent of the country’s total earnings in fiscal year 2017-18, while 85 per cent was spent on consumption for food, education, luxury goods, rent and so on."
If we include remittance, Nepal’s national savings would increase to 45 per cent. "Therefore, Nepal must make the best use of remittance," the envoy added.
However, the social cost of labour migration is troubling, particularly in terms of breakdown in the family, divorces and parenting void for the children who are left behind, according to dean of Asian Culture Centre in South Korea Kim Yong Kuk.
In a number of cases, Nepali migrants have taken their lives in South Korea due to mismatch in their expectations and the ground reality in the foreign land, work pressure, among other issues, director of EPS Korea Section under Department of Foreign Employment Krishna Prasad Khanal.
Likewise, economist Bishwo Poudel, on the occasion, emphasised on the need for the government to come up with policies for proper utilisation of remittance and capitalisation of skills of returnee migrants.
The returnees tend to blow their money on luxury goods and unproductive sector, which will land them in a difficult position when they get old, though the government is planning to ‘manage’ the remittance to secure the future of migrant workers, according to the participants.
However, the returnee migrants from South Korea are not only disciplined but also doing fairly better compared to the returnees from other destination countries, said Editor of Karobar National Economic Daily Kuber Chalise, presenting a paper on ‘Policy suggestion in creating employment for returnee migrants.’ “Out of the five returnee migrants, who were awarded by the government last week, three of them were from South Korea.”
Tracing back the history of Nepali migrant workers, Chalise said that the formal labour migration from Nepal started in 1814-1816, after the Nepal-British India war. “A total of 4,650 Nepali youngsters were recruited to the British Armed Forces as a British-Gurkha regiment after the conclusion of the war and signing of the Treaty of Sugauli in 1816.”
However, migration picked the pace during the course of time and so has the inflow of remittance, the outflow has seen whopping increase after the Maoist insurgency in Nepal.
According to the World Bank record, Nepal had received $55 million in 1993, which increased by 15 times to $771 million in a decade in 2003. “In 2013, Nepal received $5589 million, and in 2019 Nepal is going to receive more than $8000 million.”
But the remittance inflow is fueling consumption, and killing entrepreneurship and productivity in the country, Chalise, said, adding that the government realising the mistake – it has been committing due to various reasons including conflict, uncertainty and political transition – is trying to correct it by launching a soft loan scheme for returnee migrants.
However, some 18,767 – some 893 women and 17,874 men – have applied for up to Rs 1 million soft loan at subsidised interest rate for 5 years, the government data revealed, adding that the highest applicants are from Province 3 – some 13,566 – and lowest are from Province 6 – some 294 – and the government is soon going to finalise those who will get the soft loan.
Emphasising on the technologies, skills and management methods learned in Korea were important factors for their success, the members of Korean Association of Returned Workers (ANKUR) – on the occasion – also made presentations about their enterprises.

Nepal fails to check illegal North Korean activities

Though, the United Nations (UN) has imposed strict sanctions on North Korea for its involvement in haphazard productions and tests of nuclear weapon, they are not only working illegally in Nepal but also without the labour permit since long under the political pressure. Nepal is also a party to the UN and it has to follow the UN resolution but the North Koreans working in Nepal have also been suspected to be involved in the illicit activities.
However, Nepal Medical Council (NMC) has recently taken action against a hospital ‘Ne-Koryo’ operating in Damauli, as the North Korean doctors have been found operating the hospital without labour permits, though they have landed in Nepal on a tourist visa. The Ne-Koryo Hospital has been closed down but the North Korean diplomats are lobbying with the incumbent government to reopen the hospital.
Likewise, another restaurant named ‘Himalayan SoJe Restaurant’ operating at Sanepa in Lalitpur has employed some six North Korean illegally. “Out of them, three North Koreans are staying in Nepal on tourist visas, while the other three do not have labour permits to work in Nepal.”
Though, the restaurant has been registered with the Department of Industry on September 5, 2018, in the name of two North Korean citizens – Ju Ok Hwang and Il Hyang Kang – with an address of Lazimpat, Kathmandu, they are operating in Sanepa without informing the department.
In April 2018, a special team from the Metropolitan Police Crime Division (MPCD) arrested some 11 North Korean nationals – illegally working in Nepal – from the Durbar Marga-based Pyongyang Okryugwan Restaurant operated by North Korean nationals.
They were handed over to Department of Immigration but the department released them due to political pressure, and they continued their work at the restaurant.
According to the Department of Industry, five restaurants have been registered with 100 per cent ownership of the North Koreans, over the period of one decade. But the Embassy of the United States in Kathmandu has recently reminded the Prime Minister K P Sharma Oli and his ministers about the UN sanctions against North Korea and the international obligation of Nepal to follow the UN resolutions. Understanding the gravity of the situation, the government has also stopped entertaining the North Korean diplomats.
The secretary of the US Michael Richard Pompeo had expressed his displeasure about the illegal activities of North Koreans in Nepal with foreign minister Pradeep Kumar Gyawali in the meeting in Washington DC last year. Gyawali assured Pompeo that Nepal government will not allow the Nepali land for any illegal activities by any country against any other country.
Pompeo also wrote an official letter to Prime Minister K P Oli reminding him once again his failure to take any actions against the illegal activities being carried out in Nepal despite the assurance given by foreign minister.
The North Korean Ambassador to Nepal Jo Yong Man has been trying to fix time to meet either the Prime Minister Oli or party Chairman Puspa Kamal Dahal to lobby, but he has not been able to get their time as both of them cautiously rejected his plea.

Chinese UnionPay International gets license of payment system operator in Nepal

UnionPay International can now provide electronic card network and card clearing services in Nepal as the central bank has provided a license for the payment system operator to the Chinese company to facilitate transactions with business sectors located in China.
Chinese envoy to Nepal Hou Yanqi twitted – making public the information of licencing of UnionPay International – congratulating the Chinese company for obtaining the first payment system operator license for an international company. “We expect and encourage more Chinese companies to come to Nepal to conduct business under the premise of compliance," she twitted.
According to the central bank, the license has been provided to the UnionPay International Company Limited – registered at Shanghai Administration for Industry and Commerce, Shanghai China – in line with the Licensing Policy for Institution, Mechanism Operating Payment Related Activities, to carry out ‘Electronic Card Network and Payment Switch’ related activities under the direction, terms, and conditions issued by the Nepal Rastra Bank (NRB).
Unlike earlier, the transaction done by UnionPay International – that claims to offer the payment service in 174 countries – will now be recorded in Nepal’s banking system, now on wards. Earlier, some 2 months ago, the central bank had banned the use of Chinese digital wallets WeChat Pay and Alipay in Nepal saying that Nepal was losing foreign income due to illegal use of those payment applications by Chinese tourists.
Payment system providers are systems established with the objective of processing, routing, switching, operation, control and clearing of payment related activities. They can also help settle cross border transactions via an electronic system.
The central bank has already provided similar license to four domestic payment sevice providers including Prabhu Technology, Nepal Clearing House, SmartChoice Technologies and Nepal Electronic Payment Systems.

Nepali team departs to China for revision of ASA

Nepal and China is scheduled to hold discussions – on Thursday and Friday – on revising the air services agreement (ASA).
A Ministry of Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation (MoCTCA) team – led by joint secretary Suresh Acharya – left for China today to hold discussions on revising the ASA, according to the ministry that has prepared to ask the northern neighbour to allow Nepali airliners to fly to Chinese cities.
Currently, Chinese airlines have direct flights to Nepal, whereas not a single Nepali airline flies to China directly, though the number of Chinese flights coming to Nepal has reached 70 per week. Nepal Airlines Corporation (NAC) has started the process to operate flights to China, whereas Himalaya Airlines also unveiled its plan to fly to China. Howvere, they have not got any slots to fly to China against the ASA between the two neighbours.
Earlier, the two countries had signed bilateral ASA in 2014, under which both countries were allowed to operate 56 flights a week in any airport of the respective countries. Due to the agreement, Chinese airline companies including Air China, China Eastern, China Southern, Sichuan Airlines and Tibet Airlines are operating direct flights to Nepal from China, but Nepali Airlines have been ‘barred’ technically to fly to China.
The national flag carrier – a month ago – had submitted all the required documents to the Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC) to operate direct flights to Guangzhou Baiyun International Airport in China. But the Chinese authorities had mentioned that they will first need to conduct a safety audit before permitting NAC to operate flights to the northern neighbour.
The NAC is ready for safety audit as a Chinese team is coming to Kathmandu in October for the safety audit.
Though, China is a very significant market for the Nepali tourism industry, failure of the Nepali Airlines to fly to China has hit the number of Chinese tourists – who are the second largest travellers to Nepal – also in the wake of Visit Nepal 2020.

Monday, July 22, 2019

Nepal, Georgia agree on free visa

Nepal and Georgia today – during the first-ever bilateral consultations between two countries – agreed on free visa.
The delegation – led by the host foreign secretary Shanker Das Bairagi and visiting guest team led by deputy minister of Foreign Affairs of Georgia Alexander Khvtisiashvili held at the Foreign Ministry in Kathmandu – also reviewed diverse aspects of bilateral relations and exchanged views on further promoting cooperation between the two countries at bilateral, regional and multilateral levels.
According to a press statement released by the ministry today, both countries agreed to waive visa fees for diplomatic and government passport holders of both countries. “An agreement on visa waiver for holders of diplomatic, official or service passports was also signed on the occasion,” the Foreign Ministry press note revealed.
Following the consultations, the visiting deputy minister Khvtisiashvili called on foreign minister Pradeep Kumar Gyawali, and discussed matters of mutual interest between the two countries.
The Georgian delegation consisted of ambassador of Georgia to Nepal Archil Dzuliashvili, director of the Department of Asia and Pacific of the Georgian Foreign Ministry David Kereselidze, senior counsellor at the Georgian Embassy in New Delhi Nana Gaprindashvili as well as the Honorary Consul of Georgia in Kathmandu Shiv Ratan Sharda. 

Paddy plantation completed on 64 per cent of arable land

Though, the Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock Development (MoALD) has been claiming the production will not be affected, paddy plantation has been carried out on 63.79 per cent of 1.37 million hectares of arable land across the country as of today.
According to the ministry, the plantation data is over eight percentage point less than that in the same period of last year. “Paddy plantation has been completed on 71.96 per cent of arable land during same period of last year,” the ministry informed, adding that this year, late monsoon and heavy rainfall hit the paddy plantation hard. “The paddy plantation has been carried out across 56.13 per cent of arable land in Province 1, some 50.48 per cent in Province 2, some 69.18 per cent in Province 3, some 79.28 per cent in Gandaki Province, some 63.48 per cent in Province 5, some 90.13 per cent in Karnali Province and some 86.62 per cent of arable land in Sudurpaschim Province.”
Paddy plantation has been completed across 75 per cent of arable land in the high-hills, some 72.86 per cent in mid-hills and some 60 per cent of arable land in the Tarai, the ministry claimed; adding that this year the government is more focused on increasing productivity rather than the quantity of production.
Paddy productivity stands at 3.76 tonnes per hectare currently, though the government has targeted to increase it to four tonnes per hectare this year. “The ministry had signed a five-year work plan (2018-2023) with International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) of the Philippines to work jointly in seven sectors and 16 major projects for development of agricultural sector.”
Paddy contributes to over 20 per cent to the total agricultural production, whereas agriculture sector contributes to around 27 per cent to the national gross domestic product (GDP).

Japan extends grant aid for SSDP

Ambassador of Japan to Nepal Masamichi Saigo and finance secretary Rajan Khanal today signed, and exchanged three sets of Notes, on behalf of their respective governments to help nepali education sector.
These Notes are for extending Japan’s Grant Assistance up to 250 million Japanese Yen, equivalent to Rs 254.7 million, and 378 million Japanese Yen, equivalent to Rs 385.2 million for the implementation of JDS Phase I and Phase II respectively, according to a press note issued by the Japanese Embassy in Kathmandu. “The third note relates to assistance of 300 million Japanese Yen, equivalent to Rs 305.7 million, for the implementation of the School Sector Development Program (SSDP).”
Likewise, Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA Nepal) chief representative Yumiko Asakuma and joint secretary of the International Economic Cooperation and Coordination Division (IECCD) under the Finance Ministry Shree krishna Nepal have also signed and exchanged a grant agreement for the implementation of SSDP, the press note reads.
The JDS Project Grant is designed to support human resource development of friendly nations through accepting highly capable, energetic, and young government officials into Japanese universities and strengthening the partnership between recipient countries and Japan by utilising human relation chains to address future global needs. Phase I of JDS is in the final completion stage under which 60 Nepali government officers have already been dispatched while 20 are in the process of pursing their studies in Japanese universities. In the meantime, Phase II of JDS is in the implementation process with the addition of an infrastructure development component and doctoral degree programme as per the request of Nepal.
Japan has also been assisting in the implementation of the School Sector Development Programme (SSDP) from 2016.
Saigo, on the signing occasion, said that education is an investment in human capital and the foundation for a nation’s sustainable social and economic development. He also stressed that through education the cycle of poverty could be eradicated in the long term. “SSDP is considered as an important vessel to enable Nepal to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and to become a middle-income country by 2030.”
The envoy also hoped that the SSDP would improve the quality of education, school management and institutional capacity and the access to education for children in marginalised communities, based on SDGs policy ‘No one left behind’.

€8.5 million humanitarian aid for South and South East Asia

The European Commission (EC) has mobilised a new humanitarian funding package worth €8.5 million to help the most affected communities in South and South East Asia hit by natural disasters and humanitarian crises. This includes €1.5 million in emergency aid for the victims of ongoing monsoons in India and Bangladesh, reads press note from the EC. “The remaining funds will be provided in Nepal and the Philippines as well as for disaster risk reduction initiatives in the region.”
“The countries in South Asia are facing an increasingly worse monsoon season,” according to Commissioner for Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Management Christos Stylianides.
“Heavy rains and flooding have created a large-scale humanitarian situation in India and Bangladesh,” Stylianides said, adding that EU solidarity makes a difference its support will reach those most in need providing water, sanitation and essential supplies, during these difficult times. “In the wider region, the EU is also supporting Nepal and the Philippines to be better prepared for natural disasters and get aid to those most in need.”
EU funding for monsoon victims will be distributed between India and Bangladesh, where more than 500,000 people have been displaced. The situation has affected mainly the states of Assam and Bihar in India and the North of Bangladesh. Cox's Bazar in Bangladesh where almost 1 million refugees live in the world's largest camp, is also affected.
The support comes on top of €2 million allocated to support several regional disaster risk reduction initiatives in South and Southeast Asia, and an additional €2 million dedicated to Nepal to improve both national and local response capacities in the events of fire, floods and earthquakes, particularly in cities.
Since 1998, the European Commission has invested over €88 million to fund Disaster Risk Reduction and preparedness programmes in South and Southeast Asia, supporting – among others – initiatives like the building of flood-resistant infrastructures and the reinforcement of Early Warning Systems.

Implementation of CGT becomes complex

Though, the government has slashed capital gains tax (CGT) on sale of shares from 7.5 per cent to 5 per cent, the complexity of calculation – that came into effect from last Wednesday – has hit the implementation as neither regulator not players know how to implement the new tax calculation method.
The new calculation requires the share investors personally visit brokerage firms to self declare the amount of capital gains by taking the weighted average of the shares they had purchased on different dates. But the tax authority has also not fixed the cutoff date to calculate the cost price of purchased shares. The diktat from the tax authority is not only impractical but also traditional, as the investors need not visit the brokerage firm to sell or buy the share, instead they can order online from home or office.
The share investors, brokers and even the regulatory authority have no idea how to implement the government's new policy as according to the new rule, investors have to take the sum of prices of all shares that they purchase at different prices and divide the total amount by the number of shares to get the cost price, which is deducted from the current share price of the particular company to estimate the amount of capital gains.
Capital gain tax refers to the tax on profit that arises from the sale of shares, or any property.
The Stockbrokers’ Association of Nepal has asked investors to appear with evidence to estimate the cost price while selling shares as under the new rule, sellers have to consider the prices of all shares – even though they intend to sell only a portion of the shares they hold – to settle CGT as only the investors can self-declare the CGT after calculating their share cost.
The investors, thus, threatened the Finance Ministry to launch a protest, if the government does not resolve the problem as soon as possible. “The government must simplify the rule for computing capital gain tax.”
Similarly, the Securities Board of Nepal is also not clear about how to implement the new CGT calculation. Since the issue is related to tax, the capital market regulator can also not take any decision without prior approval from the Finance Ministry.
According to the Nepal Investors’ Forum, investors could not be present at their stockbrokers’ office, every time they sell shares as they have made to bear an extra burden by the new law.
The Forum also complained that the tax authority has also not fixed the cutoff date to calculate the cost price of purchased shares. Earlier, the government had been levying tax by considering the reference price of shares on January 15, 2016 to calculate capital gain.

FNCCI inks MoU with A2J Project

The umbrella organisation of private sector and Ministry of Law, Justice and Parliamentary Affairs (MoLJPA) signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU).
The MoU has been signed between the Federation of Nepalese Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FNCCI) and Enhancing Access to Justice through Institutional Reform (A2J) Project to collaborate in organising a province-level dialogue on business and human rights in all seven provinces, according to a press statement issued by the FNCCI.
“The A2J Project is being implemented under the leadership of Ministry of Law, Justice and Parliamentary Affairs (MoLJPA), with support of United Nations Development Programme (UNDP),” the press note reads, adding that the project has been partnering with different key stakeholders that include business organisations, civil society and academia to raise awareness on business and human rights issues in Nepal with particular emphasis on UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights. “FNCCI president Bhawani Rana and national project director and joint secretary of the MoLJPA Phanindra Gautam signed the MoU on behalf of their respective organisations.”
According to the MoU, FNCCI will lead the overall management of organising province-level dialogue on business and human rights in all seven provinces, while A2J will provide all needful technical support.
Rana, after signing the MoU, expressed commitment for effective implementation of the programme in coordination with FNCCI’s province chapters and its network. “The initiative will be a milestone in coordination and cooperation between both the organisations in the days to come,” the FNCCI press note reads.
Likewise, UNDP Nepal Resident Representative Ayshanie Medagangoda-Labe, on the occasion, highlighted importance of this collaboration among the UNDP, the government and private sector in the areas of business and human rights. She also shared her conviction that this initiative would support in implementing Global Compact principles.

Sunday, July 21, 2019

Nepal participate in the ministerial meeting of NAM

Nepal participated in the ministerial meeting of the coordinating Bureau of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) held yesterday and today in Caracas, Venezuela.
Speaking at the general debate organised under the theme of ‘Promotion and Consolidation of Peace through Respect for International Law’,  ambassador and permanent representative of Nepal to the United Nations in New York and the head of Nepali delegation Amrit Bahadur Rai expressed Nepal’s resolve,  as a founding member of NAM, to play an active and constructive role to strengthen and revitalise the NAM in upholding its principles, principles of international law and charter of the United Nations (UN) for sovereign equality, peace and prosperity in the world. While highlighting the success of Nepal’s home-grown peace process, ambassador Rai stressed the importance of dialogue for the pacific settlement of disputes.
Earlier yesterday, Nepali delegation also participated in the opening session of the ministerial meeting which was chaired by minister of the People’s Power for Foreign Affairs of Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela Jorge Arreaza. In the capacity of the presidency of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) since 2016, president of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela Nicolás Maduro addressed the plenary session of the ministerial meeting yesterday afternoon. Also, in the presence of Maduro, the plenary session of the ministerial meeting adopted the ‘Caracas Final Document’ and the ‘Caracas Political Declaration’, which were negotiated in New York.
Later yesterday, Nepali delegation attended a dinner programme hosted by the minister of the People’s Power for Foreign Affairs, Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, in honour of the heads of the delegations to the meeting.
The ministerial meeting was preceded by the senior officials’ meeting of the NAM held on July 18 -19 also in Caracas. The two-member Nepali delegation to the ministerial and senior officials’ meetings was led by ambassador and permanent representative of Nepal to the United Nations in New York Amrit Bahadur Rai and included counsellor at the Permanent Mission of Nepal to the United Nations in New York Surendra Thapa.

BFIs barred from charging prepayment penalty for loans below Rs 5 million

After repeated complaints from the customers, the central bank has restricted bank and financial institutions (BFIs) from arbitrary charging service, administrative and other fees.
Issuing a circular, the central bank also told BFIs that the difference of administrative service charge, prepayment penalty and commitment fee between clients while floating loans of same type should not be more than 0.25 percentage point.
The new consumer protection move against the BFIs’ that are charging their clients exorbitant fee under various headings will end discrepancy in various fees that BFIs charge, the cntral bank circular reads, adding that the fees, except administrative service charge, prepayment penalty and commitment fee that a BFIs levy on borrower, must be adjusted in the interest rate. “The central bank has also barred BFIs from collecting any prepayment penalty while repaying loans in advance from their clients with loan limit of Rs 5 million.”
The move will give some respite for the borrowers, who want to repay their loans before the schedule. Currently, the BFIs collect up to 2 per cent of penalty from borrowers, who repay loans before the predetermined schedule. “If a borrower wants to repay loans higher than Rs 5 million, including project-based financing, because of the changes in interest rates or conditions agreed during the loan disbursement, the bank will not be allowed to charge the prepayment penalty,” the circular reads.
Likewise, the BFIs can levy commitment fee, only if the borrower utilizes less than 60 per cent of sanctioned loans annually, the circular further reads, adding that the BFIs will not be allowed to collect any hidden fee from borrowers.
The central bank has also asked to complain, if any BFI imposes any charge higher than what has been prescribed. “The clients can file complaints at the Nepal Rastra Bank (NRB), and the central bank will help get refund of such charges, apart from charging the BFIs fine and taking other actions.”

Himalayan Airlines to begin Kathmandu-Dhaka flight from tomorrow

The Himalayan Airlines – one of the private carriers in the country – is going to start its Kathmandu-Dhaka flight from tomorrow.
The Airlines, which has a fleet of three new Airbus 320-200, will start its direct flight in the route to facilitate the influx of Bangladeshi tourists visiting Nepal. According to Himalaya Airlines' vice-president Bijaya Shrestha, there would be three Kathmandu-Dhaka flights in a week.
According to him, the Himalayan Airline's aircraft with H9 678 call sign will fly from Kathmandu at 11:10 am local time and will land at the Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport at 13:10 pm according to their local time.
The same day aircraft with call sign H9 679 will fly from Dhaka at 2:10 pm local time of Bangladesh and will land at the Tribhuvan International Airport (TIA) at 3:20, he said, adding that the Airlines will operate its A320-214 narrow-bodied aircraft in the Kathmandu-Dhaka route with 150 economy class and eight premium economy class seats.
The airlines have offered 25 kg of free checked-in baggage allowance in the economy class and 20 kg in the premium economy. It is currently operating regular flights to three destinations in Qatar as well.
A total of 26,255 Bangladeshi tourists visited Nepal in 2018 while the number of Bangladeshi tourists visiting Nepal in 2017 stood at 29,060, according to the Nepal Tourism Board (NTB).