Monday, September 30, 2019

Securities Board to lower stockbrokers’ commissions

As the investors have been repeatedly complaining of the highest stock brokerage commission in Nepal among South Asian countries, the capital market regulator is mulling to lower stock brokers commission.
According to the Securities Board of Nepal (Sebon), it has formed a four-member study team to revise the commission rate of brokerages to give relief to investors. “An increased trade volume on the Nepal Stock Exchange has prompted the regulator to rethink brokerage commissions,” the regulator said, adding that the implementation of a full-fledged online system has also helped reduce the administrative cost of brokerage companies substantially.
The revision in commission will help attract more investors in the secondary market, the board claimed.
Currently, the board allows brokerage companies to charge 0.4 per cent to 0.6 per cent of the total trading amount as commission. But the investors have been asking the government to lower the rate of brokers’ commissions as according to them, Nepali stock brokerage firms are charging the highest commission among the South Asian countries.
The brokers can charge 0.6 per cent commission on a trading amount of up to Rs 50,000; 0.5 per cent on the trading amount of Rs 50,000 to Rs 500,000; and 0.4 per cent if the trading amount exceeds Rs 500,000.
The capital market regulator had previously too slashed the brokerage commission. Before July 2016, the stock brokerage firms used to charge from 0.7 per cent to 1 per cent commission. The stock brokers had – following the regulator’s move – halted trading for a day to protest the lowering of the commission.
Currently, also the stock brokers seem not happy with the regulator’s move to lower the commission as according to them, the transaction volumes have shrunk due to the bearish trend in the market.
Though, the regulator has claimed that the implementation of online system has reduced the cost of operation of the brokerage firms, the brokers donot agree with the regulator. “With the implementation of the online system, stockbrokers have to bear the extra cost,” Stock Brokers Association-Nepal (SBAN) president Bharat Ranabhat said, adding that depending on transaction volume, a broker has to pay at least Rs 50,000 per month in fees for access to the data centre being operated by YCO.
Nepal Stock Exchange has launched a new platform named ‘NEPSE Online Trading System’ last November, providing direct access to individual investors and allowing them to invest in shares themselves. YCO – a vendor company – developed the online software for the Nepse. The system has replaced the traditional system of stock trading which needed a lot of paperwork but charges the brokers fee on the basis of the transaction volume.
Likewise, the stockbrokers also have to pay a levy charge to the regulator. “Out of the net profit, brokers pay 15 per cent TDS – tax deduction at source – to the government, 20 per cent to Nepse and 0.6 per cent to the board.
According to the regulator, it has started implementing the 58-point recommendations forwarded by the Finance Ministry last December. The recommendation has suggested the regulator introduce policies to ensure better transparency in the secondary market and address its multiple structural and operational issues, apart from enforcing the rule for brokerage companies to spend one per cent of their net profit on investor literacy. 

Accelerate health equity for older people and advance universal health coverage

Populations across the WHO South-East Asia Region are ageing. Whereas in 2010 older people accounted for 8 per cent of the Region’s population, by 2017 they accounted for 9.8 per cent. That number will continue to rise, with older people expected to make up 13.7 per cent of the population by 2030 – or 289 million people – and a significant 20.3 per cent by 2050. Though the proportion of older people in the region is projected to remain below global levels, the speed of the region’s demographic transition is faster.
Action is needed to ensure all older people can access the health services they need, when they need them, without financial hardship. The health issues older people face are diverse. In addition to the increased risk of noncommunicable diseases (NCDs), older people encounter challenges around mental health – including dementia – and greater incidence of injuries and disabilities due to declining functional ability. As the number of older people grows, the demand for primary care services that can screen, assess and manage clinical and functional comorbidities is increasing. That is likely to continue as urbanization proceeds and family structures change. 
As the Region strives to achieve universal health coverage, which is one of eight Flagship Priorities, there is a clear need to accelerate health equity for older people. To do that, the Region’s Framework on Healthy Ageing must be fully leveraged, with a focus on several priority interventions.
First, health authorities should strengthen the capacity of primary level services to respond to the health needs of older people in an integrated manner. WHO’s Integrated Care for Older (ICOPE) People training manual provides comprehensive guidance on how primary health care providers can screen, assess and manage a range of health problems, including diseases, mental health issues and functional impediments. It is imperative the ICOPE is fully harnessed.
Second, when older people encounter complications or limits to their mobility due to falls, NCDs, dementia or nutrition-related problems, access to key services – including specialised care – is needed. While the focus should be on ensuring older people can stay independent and healthy in their homes, long-term care that is close to where they are from should be accessible and of adequate quality. The provision of palliative care, including end-of-life care, should be enhanced as a matter of priority.
Finally, to promote healthy ageing, advocacy campaigns should be developed and rolled out Region-wide. As people grow older they should be reminded that they can do so in a way that allows them to continue to contribute to society. In addition, increased focus should be given to building age-friendly infrastructure that promotes older people’s independence.
On the International Day of Older Persons, we must reflect on the need to accelerate health equity for older people and ensure their right to health is respected, protected and fulfilled and that society continues to benefit from their participation and input. WHO is committed to supporting the region’s member states achieve both outcomes and advance their quest to achieve universal health coverage and leave no one behind.

Nepal and Australia sign air service agreement

Nepal has signed air service agreement (ASA) with Australia to operate direct flight service making it the 40th international country for Nepal having such ASA.
With the signing of Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on air service at the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) headquarters in Montreal of Canada, Nepali aircraft are allowed to operate flights different destinations of Australia, according to the Tourism Ministry press note.
The air service agreement with Australia was signed by joint secretary at the Tourism Ministry Suresh Acharya and executive director of the Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Cities and Regional Development Jim Wolfe. “With the signing of agreement, now airline companies of both countries can operate seven flights a week,” according to the agreement. “Nepali airline companies have received permission to fly to four Australian cities including Sydney, Melbourne, Canberra and Perth to operate seven flights a week, while flights to airports located in other cities are unlimited.”
Likewise, Australian airline companies can operate seven flights a week to Tribhuvan International Airport (TIA), whereas they can operate 28 flights a week to other airports – after their completion – like Gautam Buddha International Airport and Pokhara Regional International Airport. Meanwhile, there is no restriction for cargo services. “The pact permits unrestricted cargo movement between the two countries besides third country code share with a provision for domestic code share,” the ministry informed.
The designated airline companies of Nepal can use any two intermediate points in South East Asia, South Asia and the Middle East for flight operations, according to the Tourism Ministry, “Likewise, any two points in New Zealand can also be used to operate flights.”
According to the ministry, one of the most important features of the agreement is the ‘principal place of business’ that normally facilitates foreign direct investment (FDI) instead of the traditional ‘principle of airline substantial ownership’ that is currently in practice.
A team led by Tourism Minister Yogesh Bhattarai had departed for ICAO headquarters in Montréal in Canada on September 20 to participate in the ICAO assembly. Nepal has already signed ASAs with a total of 39 countries across the world. However, flights are being operated to a very few destinations, including India, Dubai, Malaysia, Hong Kong, Thailand, Qatar and Japan. The ASA is expected to support Nepal Airlines Corporation as it has been trying to operate direct flights to Australia since very long.
Currently, NAC, Buddha Air and Himalaya Airlines are operating international flights from and to Nepal.

Government fixes price for goats, mountain goats

The government has today fixed the price – Rs 100 per kg less than the current market price – for live goats and mountain goats for Dashain and Tihar festivals.
Nepal Food Management and Trade Company (NFMTC) has set the price of live goats at Rs 550 per kg, whereas the price for mountain goats and sheep at Rs 730 per kg. Last Dashain, the government entity had sold live goat at Rs 510 per kg and mountain goat at Rs 710 per kg.
The government provides live goats and mountain goats at a lower rate compared to the private traders considering the convenience of consumers at the festive season. “But only one goat will be provided per family for the festive season.”
The private traders have been selling live goats, mountain goats and sheep at Rs 650 per kg.
According to the state-owned company, the government is planning to sell around 2,500 goats for the festive season through NFMTC that has started importing goats. “Likewise, the company will also sell around 2,500 mountain goats.”
“Around 3,000 goats and mountain goats have already arrived in the valley and will be available in fair price shops of NFMTC from tomorrow,” according to the Department of Commerce, Supplies and Consumer Protection.
Nepal imports around 40,000 to 50,000 goats during the festive season. While on an average, around 20,000 to 25,000 goats are supplied to the market through local production, the number is expected to rise this year.
Currently, around 500 to 600 goats are being supplied daily in the market, according to former president of Nepal Livestock Entrepreneurs Association Deepak Thapa.
Goat import from India has stopped in the past five months with the strict enforcement of quarantine measures but the situation has been eased ahead of Dashain, he said, adding that domestically goats are brought from Taplejung, Sankhuwasabha, Rolpa, Rukum, Mustang, Salyan, Pyuthan, Dhangadhi, Jhapa, Morang, Panchthar, Bara and Khotang districts.
During the festivals, consumption within the valley alone hovers around 1,800 goats, mountain goats and sheep per day in Dashain. “More than 75,000 he-goats, mountain goats and sheep are required to fulfil the Kathmandu Valley's demand for meat during the Dashain festival,” according to the state-owned company.
Nepal’s annual per capita meat consumption is estimated at 12 kg. It was 9.8 kg in 2008 and 9.7 kg in 2000. Despite the growth, Nepal is still far behind other developing countries, according to the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO). “Mutton accounts for 20 per cent of Nepal’s meat consumption.”

ITEC Day 2019 celebrated

The Embassy of India celebrated 55th anniversary of Indian Technical and Economic Cooperation (ITEC) Day in Kathmandu today.
Minister for Federal Affairs and General Administration of Nepal Lalbabu Pandit was the chief guest of the celebrations. Ambassador of India to Nepal Manjeev Singh Puri, on the occasion, noted that the ITEC programme has been pivotal in training senior officers and other officials from various ministries and departments of Nepal at India’s most premier institutions. “The programme has tremendously contributed towards skill up-gradation and human resources development in Nepal,” he said.
About 150 ITEC alumni attended the celebrations. ITEC Programme is fully funded by the Government of India to share India’s developmental experience with 161 friendly developing countries, including Nepal.
The training courses are in the fields of computers, engineering, information technology, journalism, banking, legislation, power, remote sensing, manpower research, education, empowerment of women, hydrology, law enforcement, business planning and promotion, accounts and finance.
A number of Nepali institutions have benefitted from special tailor-made ITEC course designed based on their specific needs. For example this year, 62 officials of Finance Ministry participated in a Public Finance Management course at the Institute of Government Accounts and Finance (INGAF) in New Delhi. Similarly, another special tailor-made ITEC course on Investigation and Control of Revenue Leakage was held in 2 batches for 50 Department of Revenue Investigation (DRI) officials at National Academy of Customs Excise, Indirect Taxes and Narcotics (NACIN) in Faridabad in March 2019. Similarly, 60 Nepali officials are currently being trained on Anti Money Laundering and Countering Financing of Terrorism at NACIN. In addition, a total of 34 Nepali water resources experts are pursuing their MTech in the fields of irrigation water management, Hydrology, Alternative Energy and water resources development at the prestigious IIT in Roorkee.

Sunday, September 29, 2019

Nepal signs programme implementation agreement with MCC

Nepal has signed a programme implementation agreement with the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) representing the US Government, taking the implementation of the $500 million MCC Compact a step forward. The signing of the agreement comes in the wake of criticisms from some leaders of the ruling party over a plan to ratify the compact agreement in the parliament.
According to the Millennium Challenge Account Nepal (MCA-Nepal), finance minister Dr Yuba Raj Khatiwada and vice president of the Department of Compact Operations, MCC Anthony Welcher signed the agreement amid a ceremony at the Finance Ministry today.
The signing ceremony witnessed finance secretary Dr Rajan Khanal, joint secretary and head of International Economic Cooperation Coordination Division (IECCD) Shreekrishna Nepal, executive director at the Millennium Challenge Account-Nepal (MCA-Nepal) Khadga Bahadur Bisht and other MCC and MCA-Nepal representatives,
Under the compact programme, the US is providing Nepal the highest amount of grant, which will be spent for the implementation of Electricity Transmission Project (ETP) and Road Maintenance Project (RMP).
The programme implementation agreement is an important step toward implementing the Compact as it further specifies the terms for implementing the compact and its activities in Nepal including details of the implementation arrangements, fiscal accountability and disbursement and use of MCC funding, among other matters, according to the MCA-Nepal that is the entity established by the government to implement the MCC Compact programmes.
With its signing, Nepal has met one of the key conditions precedent to the June 30, 2020 entry into force (EiF) date after which the five-year clock to implementation of the Compact will start. The EiF date is crucial as the projects financed under the MCC compact must be completed within five years, according to the MCA-Nepal. “Other key conditions were the declaration of the ETP as a national pride project, passage of legislation related to the Electricity Regulatory Commission and formation of the commission and ratification of the compact agreement from the parliament.”
The condition for the ratification of the compact agreement from the parliament has drawn criticisms from some leaders and members from the ruling party Nepal Communist Party (NCP), raising concerns over the fate of the largest grant from the US.
Under the compact, the MCC will provide $500 million in grant while the government will chip in $130 million for the implementation of Electricity Transmission Project (ETP) and Road Maintenance Project (RMP). Altogether 318-km transmission lines of 400kV and three large-capacity substations will be built under the ETP, while the RMP is focused primarily on the maintenance of 300 km of strategic roads.
In September 2017, the US Government’s Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) signed the compact with Nepal. The compact aims to increase the availability and reliability of electricity, improve the quality of the roads network and facilitate power trade between Nepal and India, helping to spur investments and accelerate economic growth that will benefit all Nepalis, according to the MCC.

Five-star Everest Hotel reopens

The Everest Hotel in Baneshwor reopened, though partially, from today, after four years. The five start property was shuttered after the hotel was damaged due to devastating earthquake on May 12, 2015.
The hotel – that is yet to clear outstanding dues to the government, renew its operating licence and conduct an environmental impact assessment study – though has informed the Department of Tourism to start process to prepare an environmental impact assessment.
According to director general of the department Danduraj Ghimire, the hotel has submitted some documents. “The department is in the process of reviewing them,” he said, adding that the hotel has informed the department that it has started the process to prepare an environmental impact assessment report. “It has also said that currently 35 rooms have been renovated.”
An environmental impact assessment – a procedure performed in order to define the environmental impacts of the project – is mandatory for all new and old hotels with more than 100 beds.
The hotel has also to comply with several operational requirements, including the engineering and design that needs to be approved by Kathmandu Metropolitan City as well, before starting the complete operation.
“Until the hotel fulfills the requirements, its operating licence will not be renewed,” Ghimire said adding that as the hotel has committed to fulfill all the requirements, the department cannot abruptly prevent it from operating. “It has invested millions of rupees to renovate the property.”
The hotel has to come with valid documents to show it is ready for commercial operation to get the operating licence renewed.
On May 26, 2015, the 160-room five-star property was given a ‘red sticker’ by a government inspection team, declaring the building unfit to live in following the powerful aftershock on May 12 that severely damaged three main pillars in the hotel’s lobby.
A red sticker means that the structure has been damaged to the extent that it is dangerous to live.
The government team had also suggested the management to retrofit the building. But considering that the five-star hotel must have adequate safety measures, the hotel pulled its shutter down for retrofitting.

Himalaya Airlines changes share holdings, launches new brand identity

With the change in shareholding, Himalaya Airlines has launched its brand identity with a new logo sporting a soaring eagle amidst the Himalayan peaks.
The Nepal-China joint venture private international carrier is preparing to transfer the Chinese ownership of the company. Currently, Tibet Airlines has 49 per cent share in the company, while Yeti World Investment Pvt Ltd has 51 per cent share. But the company is preparing to transfer the share of Tibet Airlines to Tibet Civil Aviation Development and Investment Company – a fully Chinese government-owned undertaking – vice president of Himalaya Airlines Vijay Shrestha said, adding that the new Chinese firm will have 65 per cent share while Nepali company will hold 35 per cent share in the company with the new organisational structure.
“The deal with Tibet Civil Aviation Development and Investment had been completed, and that the formal process to obtain foreign direct investment approval from the Department of Industry has started,” he added. “Although the Nepali company will have 35 per cent share at the moment that ratio is likely to be revised in the coming days.”
The remaking of brand is founded on Himalaya’s key guiding principles of Safety, Performance, Customer Service, Winning Spirit, and Proper Practice as well as its ongoing efforts to expand its network in the Asian region, Shrestha explained during a press meet in Kathmandu today.
“The new corporate logo comes after a well-thought out strategic planning, he claimed, adding that Himalaya Airlines has been thriving to excel in all aspects of the business since its establishment in 2014. “Having started with one aircraft and one destination, the airlines has progressively moved its way to three A320 and five destinations in a span of three years.”
The Airlines has strong presence in the Middle East connecting to Abu Dhabi, Dammam and Doha. Likewise, it launched Kathmandu-Dhaka flights just two months ago on July 22, 2019 and is intent to consolidate its operation on this route. “As a part of the evolution process, it is now changing its corporate logo to a brand new design symbolising its strength, harmony and peace,” said Himalaya Airlines president Zhou Enyong and vice president Vijay Shrestha, unveiling the new logo in at the press meet.
“Over the past five years, we’ve built a reputation for safety and reliability,” Shrestha said, adding that the idea of the brand refresh emerged through some significant changes within the company, leading to evolve company’s existing logo giving a new face.
“We have worked tirelessly to bring new changes and meaningful improvements in the organisation to provide the best services to our passengers,” Enyong – on the occasion – said, adding that the company has been continuously giving its best efforts to establish Himalaya Airlines as a leading airline not only in Nepal but also in Asia. “As a result of our relentless efforts, we shall soon be adding Lhasa, Beijing and other prominent cities of China to our ever evolving network.”
“We will begin direct services between Kathmandu and Beijing on October 27,” Shrestha said, adding that the private Nepali carrier plans to operate three weekly flights to Beijing Daxing International Airport. “Himalaya Airlines also plans to resume flights to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia on October 27.”
The airlines is also hopeful of operating services to the Indian capital.
Starting with one aircraft and one destination the airlines quickly moved its way to three aircraft and 5 destinations in a short span, informed Himalaya Airlines that is also planning to add two A319 in its fleet in the near future.

Nepal plans to sign ASA with Australia, Canada

Nepal and Australia are planning to sign an air service agreement (ASA) at the ongoing 40th session of the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) Assembly in Montreal of Canada, permitting domestic code sharing in Nepal and direct flights between the two countries.
Under the domestic code-share agreement, Australian carriers will be free to enter into code-share agreements with Nepali domestic carriers to any point in Nepal, according to Tourism Ministry. The cabinet – last Thursday – had approved the Tourism Ministry's proposal to sign the air service agreement with Australia. “The government is also planning to sign ASA with Canada.”
The Australian government has expressed willingness to permit seven weekly flights to key cities including Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and Perth, according to the Tourism Ministry. “But the Australia has proposed providing unlimited flights to other destinations.”
Nepal will also allow seven weekly flights by Australian carriers to Tribhuvan International Airport (TIA), the ministry informed, adding that Australian carriers will be permitted to operate another 28 weekly services to new airports in Bhairahawa and Pokhara.
Nepal is the third largest source of foreign students to Australia after China and India. Kathmandu is currently Sydney’s largest unserved market globally, with 93,000 people travelling between Nepal’s capital and Australia's largest city annually. But Nepalis are flying via somewhere else. Thus Nepal has been making efforts to sign an ASA with Australia for the last three years. The Tourism Ministry had requested the Australian government to allow 14 weekly flights with any type of aircraft. Sydney-Kathmandu is 5,253 nautical miles or 9,728 kilometres.
Nepal Airlines is also planning to fly to Australia after acquiring two long-range Airbus A330-200s as the current aircraft will not be able to fly non-stop to Australia. “But Nepal Airlines can fly to Australia through a third party code-share agreement,” the Ministry added. “The third party code share is rights granted through a bilateral agreement under which the code is shared between an airline of the bilateral partners and an airline from a country other than the bilateral partner.”
The preferred route between Nepal and Australia is through Guangzhou, China.
The direct flight will also help bring more Australian tourists to Nepal. Nepal received 38,429 Australian visitors last year, up from 33,371 in 2017, according to the data. “In 2014 before the earthquake, some 24,516 Australian tourists visited Nepal.”
Since 1963, Nepal has signed air service agreements with 39 countries, with Cambodia being the latest signatory. On Saturday, tourism minister Yogesh Bhattarai and UAE Minister for Economy Bin Saeed Al Mansoori signed the revised ASA on behalf of their respective governments in Canada on the sidelines of the 40th session of the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) Assembly being held in Montreal.
Nepal and the UAE had signed the ASA in 1999 for the first time.
Likewise, the government is also in the process of negotiating with the Thai government to revise the old ASA, which was signed in 1971 to operate daily flights to Thailand. 

Nepal Telecom to start 4G service in 50 cities

Nepal Telecom (NT) is bringing 4G services into operation in 50 urban areas throughout the country from Wednesday.
The telecom service provider is announcing the expansion of the 4G service by organising a programme – in Kathmandu – which would be addressed by Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli, according to the Nepal Telecom spokesperson Pratibha Baidya. “The BTS towers have been installed at more than 110 places to roll out the 4G service,” she said, adding that the number of BTS towers will reach 150 by Wednesday.
The 4G service will be started in Chandragadhi, Birtamod, Damak, Biratnagar, Inaruwa, Dharan, Dhankuta, Janakpur, Jesleshwar, Malangawa, Bara, Parsa, Simara, Kalaiya and Gaur. Similarly, the service will also be expanded to Dhading, Kavrepalanchok, Sundhupalchok, Bidur, Manthali, Bhimeshwar, Sindhulimadhi, Parbat, Kushma, Baglung, Chitwan, Sauraha, Taulihawa, Butwal, Devdaha, Tulsipur, Ghorahi, Nepalgunj, Kohalpur, Surkhet, Bhimdattanagar, Jhalari, Pipaladi, Chaumala and Attariya.
The 4G service is reaching more than 50 places at the same time, according to the Minister for Communications and Information Technology Gokul Prasad Banskota’s directive.
“The goal is to expand the 4G LTE service throughout the country by February 12, 2020,” she added.

Saturday, September 28, 2019

Nepal-UAE sign revised ASA

Nepal and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) signed a revised Air Service Agreement (ASA) in Canada today.
Tourism Minister Yogesh Bhattarai and finance minister of UAE Sultan Bin Saeed Al Mansoori signed the agreemnent on the sidelines of the 40th session of the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) Assembly being held in Montreal, Canada.
Nepal and the UAE had signed the ASA in 1999 for the first time.
According to the Tourism Minister, Nepal is also planning to sign ASA with Canada and Australia. “The ASA with Canada and Australia will help Nepal attract more tourists from these countries.  

Five government officials bag Integrity Icon Award 2019

Five government officials were awarded Integrity Icon-2019 by Accountability Lab Nepal at a public event yesterday.
The officials, who have been honoured for their integrity are, section head under the Ministry of Forest and Environment’s Project Facilitation Section Gyanendra Kumar Mishra, food investigation officer at Department of Food, Technology and Quality Control Iswar Subedi, chief administrative officer of Chulachuli Rural Municipality in Illam Kajiman Rai, a teacher at Shree Bhanu Secondary School in Dhumsichaur of Tanahun Prem Bahadur Darai and senior Auxiliary Nurse Midwife at Mugu District Hospital Punya Prabha Devkota.
The award was handed over by chairperson of the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) Anup Raj Sharma, according to the Accountability Lab, which is an organisation that works to strengthen accountability system in various countries.
Congratulating those who had received the awards, Sharma said awards like Integrity Icons will be instrumental in promoting integrity. “When we look back into history, we can observe that people with integrity have always been the real change makers,” he said, adding that he looks forward to seeing these icons continue their journey of being change agents in public service.
Accountability Lab has been organising this global campaign every year since 2014.
The chief executive officer (CEO) and co-founder of Accountability Lab Nepal Narayan Adhikari, on the occasion, said that the time has come to empower young local leaders, who could lead the new generation and make them responsible leaders.

India builds school building

Deputy chief of Mission at the Embassy of India in Kathmandu Dr Ajay Kumar inaugurated the school building of Kuleshwor Awas Secondary School located in Kathmandu-14 today.
The new school building constructed with the Government of India’s grant assistance of Rs 38.60 million is a three-storey building comprising 20 classrooms, separate sanitation facilities for boys and girls on each floor, underground water tank, septic tank and furniture. “The project was implemented by Kathmandu District Coordination Committee (DCC), according to a press note issued by the Indian Embassy in Kathmandu.
Chairman of DCC Shiva Sundar Raj Vaidya, chairman of the ward-14 Shova Sapkota and District Coordination Officer Pitamber Adhikari, along with political and community leaders also participated in the inaugural ceremony.
Kuleshwor Awas Secondary School – established in 1989 by Kuleshwor Awas Pariwar Kalyan Sanstha – is run with community support. At present, over 800 students are enrolled in the school out of which over 50 per cent are girls. Most of the students come from marginalised communities.
The newly built infrastructure is expected to boost the learning environment of students, the press note reads, adding that India is happy to be associated with the project which compliments effort of Nepal in augmenting infrastructure in the field of education.

Friday, September 27, 2019

Nepal, India agree to review trade treaty

Nepal and India today agreed to review the bilateral trade treaty.
During the two-day commerce joint secretary level-talks that ended today, both sides agreed to review issues related to bilateral trade and commerce.
According to minister for Industry, Commerce and Supplies Matrika Yadav, both the nations have agreed to take steps like comprehensive review of the existing bilateral trade treaty, to further boost two-way commerce. “The bilateral talks focused on enhanced cooperation to stop unauthorised trade in both nations,” he said, adding that officials of the two countries sat down for the third round of talks to review the bilateral treaty of trade in New Delhi on Thursday and Friday. “The talk is expected to prepare groundwork and other provisions to review the trade treaty.”
The nine-member committee – led by joint secretary at the Ministry of Industry, Commerce and Supplies Nabaraj Dhakal – comprised of representatives from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Department of Customs and Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock Development had left for New Delhi on Thursday to hold talks with joint secretary of the Department of Commerce under Ministry of Commerce and Industry of the Government of India Bhupinder Singh Bhalla led Indian delegation at the joint secretary-level meeting. “Nepal and India also finalised the draft of a mutual recognition agreement in the trade of agricultural goods,” he said, adding that after the agreement goes into effect, the two countries will recognise the quality certificates issued by each other.
The ministry has informed that officials also discussed on possible ways to address Nepal’s ballooning trade deficit with India and introduce and amend provisions in the trade treaty to ease bilateral trade.  Meanwhile, it has been agreed upon to include possible concerns raised by both Nepal and India in the revised treaty.
“India has agreed to address Nepal’s concerns related to simplifying trade with the southern neighbour by addressing both tariff and non-tariff barriers,” Yadav said, adding that he would, however, disclose the details of the agreement after the negotiating team submits its report to him. “The meeting also was positive on addressing Nepal’s agenda to drop the zero-tariff facility on Indian agricultural goods and some other primary products.”
Earlier, officials from both the nations had held two meetings on reviewing the bilateral trade treaty in New Delhi on August 9 last year and in Pokhara on February 7 and 8.
Likewise, the February 8 meeting in Pokhara had agreed to declare inland waterways as ‘trade route’ in Nepal-India Trade Treaty. India has principally agreed to allow landlocked Nepal to use three inland waterways, which will help expand Nepal’s transit options to the sea. “Nepal can even operate its own vessels on the Ganges River that runs parallel to the southern border.”
A draft of the letter of exchange on the inland waterways was finalised during the bilateral trade talks,” Dhakal informed.
Nepal and India had issued a joint statement on establishing new connectivity through inland waterways during Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli’s visit to New Delhi in April 2018. Earlier, India has also consented to grant access to the Kolkata-Kalughat, Raxaul; Kolkata-Sahebgunj, Biratnagar and Kolkata-Varanasi-Raxaul routes during the trade talks.
Last March, the two countries formed a joint technical team to study the possibility of operating waterway transportation over various routes. The technical team identified the three routes via Haldia port as the most viable routes for inland waterway transportation between the two countries.
India has developed a waterway on the Ganges River connecting Varanasi and the seaport of Haldia, Kolkata. Access to the Indian waterways will facilitate efficient movement of cargo imported from third countries to Nepal, though the idea seems too far fetched despite Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli’s dream of ferrying ship in Nepal.
The provision could get legitimacy, after it is signed at the next Inter-Governmental Committee meeting.
India currently grants duty-free access to Nepali products with at least 30 per cent value addition. “India has agreed in principle to implement policy considering Nepali products from the customs tariff headings to the customs tariff subheadings, ensuring flexibility in the goods imported from Nepal,” the ministry informed. “Revising duty-free access for agricultural goods, revising the agriculture reform fee imposed by Nepal on Indian farm products, and removing Indian quotas on four Nepali products were among the major items on the agenda.”
Nepal has been asking India to lift the quantitative restriction on the import of acrylic yarn, copper utensils, vegetable ghee and zinc oxide, which has been in place since 2002.

Japanese assistance for construction of a Childbirth Centre

The ambassador of Japan to Nepal Masamichi Saigo signed a grant contract for the construction of a Childbirth Center in Dang District with the director general of the Family Planning Association of Nepal (FPAN) Krishna Prasad Bista.
The project for building the childbirth centre is funded under the Grant Assistance for Grassroots Human Security Projects (GGP) of the Japanese government. The support adds up to a total of $91,920 (approximately Rs 10.03 million), according to a press note issued by the Japanese Embassy in Kathmandu. “The project will support the construction of a new childbirth centre and installation of medical equipment at the Health Clinic in Ghorahi Municipality of Dang District.”
At the signing ceremony, ambassador Saigo said that he hoped this assistance will enhance medical services for mothers and babies in Ghorahi Municipality and the surrounding areas.
FPAN – established in 1959 – has been offering family planning services, including gynecological services, counseling, HIV/AIDS examinations and treatment across 37 districts. The demand for delivery from mothers has been high to the clinic, however it was difficult to serve everyone’s need due to a lack of space in the facility.
The Embassy of Japan hopes that the project will contribute towards enhancing health services for women and also contribute towards extending the friendship between Japan and Nepal at the peoples’ level.

Visit Nepal 2020 collaborates with Seep Challenge Fund

Visit Nepal 2020 Secretariat and the UKAid Skills for Employment Programme (Seep) have collaborated for 'better skilling and up-skilling initiatives' in the tourism sector, as announced at an event held in Kathmandu today.
Speaking on the occasion, national coordinator of Visit Nepal Year 2020 Suraj Vaidya said that the country needs to think and take tourism mindset and efforts beyond Mt Everest, Pokhara or Chitwan. “For us at the VNY2020 campaign, the success metric is not just bringing in 2 million tourists but also creating new investments, new jobs, and new opportunities for enterprising Nepalis, especially our migrant returnees coming back with skills and resources,” he said.
Addressing the occasion private sector development advisor at the Department of International Development (DFID) Nepal Rob Clark said that this year's theme of 'Tourism and Jobs: A Better Future for All' was apt and timely for both Nepal and the UKAid Seep in the context of VNY2020.

Central bank unveils commemorative coins to mark Guru Nanak’s 550th birth anniversary

The central bank has unveiled three coins – the Rs 100, Rs 1,000 and Rs 2,500 denominations – to mark the 550th birth anniversary of Guru Nanak, the founder of Sikhism and the first ten Sikh Gurus.
Central bank governor Dr Chiranjivi Nepal and Indian ambassador to Nepal Manjeev Singh Puri jointly unveiled the commemorative coins at a programme in the Capital today.
The central bank releases such commemorative coins to mark certain important occasions. Earlier this month, the central had released similar commemorative coins in the denomination of Rs 100, Rs 1,000 and Rs 2,500 to mark culture expert and historian Satya Mohan Joshi’s hundredth birthday.
Both Nepal and Puri, on the occasion, also released ‘Sikh Heritage of Nepal’, a book which attempts to highlight the major Sikh connection to Nepal, published by BP Koirala India Nepal Foundation under Embassy of India in Kathmandu.
Prominent leaders of the Sikh community from India, representatives of Nepal’s Sikh community and people from different walks of life attended the programme, according to a press note issued by the India Embassy in Kathmandu.  

Thursday, September 26, 2019

World Bank and United Nations team up for road safety in Nepal

In an official visit to Nepal, World Bank vice president for the South Asia Region, Hartwig Schafer, and UN Secretary General’s Special Envoy for Road Safety, Jean Todt, underscored the urgency of action on road safety to save lives and boost economic growth.
During their visit, Schafer and Todt met with minister of Physical Infrastructure and Transport Raghubir Mahaseth, and senior officials at the Ministry and Road Safety Council. The meetings deliberated on Nepal’s road safety agenda and important progress being made with the drafting of the Road Safety Bill, formation of the National Road Safety Council, and updating of the Road Safety Action Plan. A meeting with civil society organisations was also held, with fruitful discussion on bicycle and women’s road safety.
“We are encouraged by the commitment of the government of Nepal to address road safety issues,” Hartwig Schafer said, adding that it is important to expedite the enactment of the Road Safety Bill and fully empower the Nepal Road Safety Council, so it is adequately staffed and sustainably financed.
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO) global estimates, every year about 1.35 million people lose their lives on the road, and millions more sustain serious injuries that often result in permanent disability. Nepal has one of the highest rates of road deaths in the region, with roughly 16 road deaths per 100,000 people a year. According to the WHO 2015 estimates, road traffic accidents in Nepal also result in an annual cost of 0.8 per cent of GDP.
“The geographic landscape of Nepal makes its challenges special,” Jean Todt said, adding that the basic foundations that need to be in place to effectively manage road safety everywhere: strong governance, safe infrastructure, good road user behavior, safe vehicles, and effective post-crash care. “I encourage Nepal to join and fully implement the key UN road safety conventions, which help countries address the major causes of road crashes through a strong regulatory framework.”
Nepal has pledged its commitment to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), including the ambitious target of halving the number of global deaths and injuries caused by road crashes. While Nepal firms up its legislation and institutional frameworks to ensure road safety, implementation will be key to bring to fruition the country’s commitment towards safe, affordable, accessible, and sustainable transport systems.
“I appreciate the government’s efforts to update the National Road Safety Plan with clear ambitious targets, complemented by a strong empowered road safety agency for effective coordination in implementation,” Todt said, adding that it is only through concrete actions that the UN will achieve its Sustainable Development Goal of significantly reducing the number of road fatalities. “I look forward to our further joint efforts.”
It is estimated that South Asia will need an extra $118 billion for road safety in the coming decade. To help close the gap, the World Bank-hosted Global Road Safety Facility has been mobilising resources from donor governments and foundations, while the recently created UN Road Safety Fund will have a strong focus on improving national road safety systems. It has also been estimated that for South Asia as a whole, a 50 per cent reduction in road deaths is expected to generate a gross benefit of about $1.2 trillion, making the case for road safety investment stronger than ever.
“In Nepal, the World Bank’s engagement in road infrastructure started in 1970 where road safety has been an integral part of our connectivity projects,” Schafer said, adding that the World Bank, jointly with the United Nations, look forward to partnering with Nepal to make its traffic safer and help accelerate growth, reduce poverty and promote shared prosperity.

Tourist arrivals surge by 9 per cent

Foreign tourist arrivals to Nepal rose by 9 per cent to 742,600 in the first eight months of this year, according to Nepal Tourism Board (NTB).
Some 619,765 visitors came by air, whereas some 122,835 came overland, a press note issued by the NTB reads, adding that tourist arrivals from India increased by 6.1 per cent to 142,286 from January to August. “The overall arrivals from SAARC countries registered a growth of 6.2 per cent to 204,192 in the first eight months.”
But the arrivals from China seconds India in the chart. “Some 106,050 Chinese tourists – up by 9.8 per cent – visited Nepal in the first eight months. Likewise, visitors from Thailand and Japan have also increased significantly by 38.9 per cent and 12.8 per cent, respectively compared to the same period last year, the press note reads, adding that arrivals from Europe surged with 136,198 total arrivals. “Visitors from the UK, Germany and France were 36,972, 20,362 and 16,324, respectively.”
The total number of US visitors to Nepal has been recorded at 58,621 – an increase of 6 per cent over last year – whereas the number of Australian visitors increased by 8.1 per cent to 20,819.

Japanese assistance for the installation of medical equipment

The ambassador of Japan to Nepal Masamichi Saigo signed a grant contract with chairperson of Sudur Paschimanchal Samudayik Aspattal Anand Prasad Bhatta for a project to install medical equipment at the Community Hospital in Godawari Municipality of Kailali District.
The project for the Installation of medical equipment at the Community Hospital in Kailali District is funded under the Grant Assistance for Grassroots Human Security Projects (GGP) of the Japanese Government, according to a press note issued by the Japanese Embassy in Kathmandu. “The total grant assistance amounts to $116,413 (about Rs 12.7 million).”
The project will support installation of medical equipment such as patient monitors, electrocardiogram (ECG) machines, microscopes, a chemiluminescence immunoassay (CLIA) machine, ICU beds, an x-ray with computed radiography (CR) systems, and video endoscopy at the community hospital, the press note reads.
Speaking at the signing ceremony, ambassador Saigo said that he hoped the assistance would enhance the overall medical services of the municipality and the district.
Sudur Paschimanchal Samudayik Aspattal, established in 2016, has been offering treatment to more than 4,000 patients each year in Godawari Municipality.
The hospital also organises free health check-ups for senior citizens, although because of the lack of medical equipment, it was difficult to identify diseases and provide timely treatment for patients. The project is expected to change this situation and contribute to improve the medical services of the area.
The Embassy of Japan – in the press note – hopes that the project will contribute towards improving hospital services for the people in Kailali District and that the support will contribute towards enhancing the friendship between the peoples of Japan and Nepal.

Nepal, Ghana establish formal diplomatic relations

Nepal and Ghana established formal diplomatic relations today.
As part of making diplomatic relations as wider as possible, foreign minister Pradeep Kumar Gyawali and his Ghanaian counterpart Shirley Ayorkor Botchwey signed a Joint Communiqué to that effect. With the agreement, the number of countries Nepal has established diplomatic relations has now reached 168.
The two ministers also held a bilateral meeting prior to the signing of the Communiqué. They also shared the confidence that the diplomatic ties will help bring the two countries and peoples closer on the bilateral front, while continuing their collaboration at multilateral forums, according to a pess note issued by the Permanent Mission of Nepal to the UN in New York.

Infrastructure gap in LLDCs high

The infrastructure gap in Landlocked Developing Countries (LLDCs), compared to other countries, is the highest, according to a minister.
Foreign Minister Pradeep Kumar Gyawali – addressing the annual Ministerial Meeting of the LLDCs today in New York – also highlighted the need of building connectivity, including through durable and effective partnership between and among LLDCs and their transit and development partners.
The foreign ministers and other high-level representatives of LLDCs and transit as well as development partners and UN system entities attended the meeting.
Gyawali, on the occasion, held separate bilateral meetings with his counterparts of Bahrain, Norway, Saudi Arabia and Venezuela on the sidelines.
In the meeting with minister of Foreign Affairs of Bahrain Khalid bin Ahmed Al Khalifa, the two sides discussed various matters of common concerns, from labour relations to promotion of trade, tourism and investment. The two ministers, on the occasion, agreed to expedite pending agreements and further work closely for more cooperation and collaboration, including through exchanging high-level visits.
Likewise, discussing with minister of Foreign Affairs of Saudi Arabia Dr Ibrahim bin Abdulaziz Al-Assaf, Gyawali focused on strengthening bilateral relations through more cooperation and collaboration between the two countries. The two ministers also agreed to expedite finalising agreements that are currently in the pipeline.
The Nepali delegation – led by Gyawali – to the 74th session of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) took part in a series of high-level meetings on the sidelines.
During the meeting with the Norwegian minister for International Development Dag Inge Ulstein, Gyawali focused on areas of cooperation, including in investment as well as collaboration at multilateral forums like the UN. They also shared their views on various international issues, particularly climate change.
Similarly, the foreign minister and his Venezuelan counterpart Jorge Alberto Arreaza Montserrat exchanged views on various matters of mutual interest.
Later in the evening today, the minister participated in a ‘High-level Dialogue on Peace Operations: Enhancing Partnerships between the UN and International, Regional and Sub-Regional Organisations’ organised by the International Peace Institute (IPI) and expressed Nepal’s commitment to continued participation at UN peace operations with a view to further contributing towards global peace and stability.

Japanese assistance for Children’s Home

Ambassador of Japan to Nepal Masamichi Saigo today signed a grant contract for the construction of a Children’s Home in Humla District with the chairperson of the Rural Empowerment and Development Initiative, Humla (READI, Humla) Rakesh Shahi.
The Project is funded under the Grant Assistance for Grassroots Human Security Projects (GGP) of the Japanese government and involves a grant assistance of $124,267 (approximately Rs 13.5 million), according to a press note issued by the Japanese Embassy in Kathmandu. “The project will support the construction of a new children’s home to accommodate up to 30 orphans and children in difficult situation within Humla District.”
At the grant signing ceremony, ambassador Saigo said that he hoped the assistance would contribute to provide a safe environment for disadvantaged children of the district, for their study and daily lives.
READI Humla – established in 2008 – has been managing a children’s home at Simikot in Humla, and has been supporting children to give a safe environment for study and live. The demand for accommodation and education is high, however, the organisation could not provide services to all the children in need.
The project is expected to assist children in difficult situations, and aims to contribute to poverty reduction and to improve the quality of life for children in the district, reads the press note.
The Embassy of Japan also expects the project to contribute to providing a safe environment, and enhancing the quality of education for the children of Humla District. The Embassy also expects the project to contribute towards enhancing the friendship between the peoples of Japan and Nepal.

NEA to build 50 charging stations

Nepal Electricity Authority (NEA) is planning to establish 50 charging stations across major cities and highways as the country is witnessing continuous rise in the use of electric vehicles (EVs) lately.
The state-power utility – publishing a notice today – asked property owners, including commercial complexes, cinema halls, supermarkets, parks, universities, government authorities, hotels, hospitals, among others, to make land available for the NEA to construct charging station, preferably wide parking spaces. After finalisng the places, the NEA will publish a tender to set up the charging stations. “It hopes to complete the construction works within six months after the tender is awarded.
The NEA is planning to set up 15 charging stations across Kathmandu Valley within the next six months, the notice reads, adding that it is – at the moment – finalising the places. “NEA also plans to set up such charging stations across different places in Pokhara, Nepalgunj, Chitwan and Biratnagar, after the Valley.”
The NEA is planning to establish the EV charging stations every 100 km to 200 km along the highways where vehicles usually stop for refreshment. “The charging stations will be able to charge at least three EVs at a time, according to the NEA. “As the NEA is planning to pay for the land, the property owners, who make land available for the charging stations will earn extra income.”
The government has been giving priority to EVs with growing concerns of pollution, and also the huge imports of petroleum products, for which the total export amount is also not enough.
The state-power utility estimates that there are almost 600 electric four-wheelers and 10,000 electric two-wheelers plying on the Valley’s roads. But the owners of electric vehicles are forced to charge their vehicles at home due to lack of charging stations.

SMEs relying on ancestral property for investment

A report revealed that the Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) predominantly rely on ancestral property for initial investments.
The SMEs are largely dependent on the ancestral property of their proprietors for the initial investment to start their businesses, revealed a study ‘SMEs Financing in Nepal’ released by the central bank. “The SMEs on an average get 33 per cent of their initial capital from the ancestral property of their proprietors,” reads the report that highlights the hardship for the entrepreneurs, who want to start SMEs in the lack of ancestral property or savings. “Despite implementation of various facilities, refinancing, concessional loan and credit guarantee schemes to promote SMEs financing, they have not been able to mobilise financial resources.”
“Difficult process, high interest rate and lack of collaterals to take loan are some of the problems that the SMEs have been facing,” the report reads, adding that the SMEs find it easier to obtain loans from cooperatives despite higher interest rates. “The SMEs have been paying interest rates as high as 18 per cent per annum.”
SMEs find it easier to obtain loans from cooperatives despite high interest rates, according to the report that shows that SMEs have been paying in an average 12.51 per cent of interest rates to BFIs in addition to one per cent of service charge.
“While majority of the SMEs have to wait for an average of 38 days to receive a loan, many firms from Karnali province are compelled to wait for a year,” according to the report that revealed that the SMEs operating in Province 3, including Kathmandu Valley, which is the most accessible area, had to wait for 240 days to receive a loan. “But in an average, it takes 38 days for a SME for the loan processing in bank. There are 275,433 SMEs registered across the country as of the end of fiscal year 2017-18.”
Likewise, over reliance on house and land collateral, lack of long-term lending, unstable, and high interest rates and low banking capacity are also some other factors that have held many SMEs to tap bank credit for the investment, according to the study report that revealed some 26 per cent of initial capital is sourced from the saving of the income of the proprietors, whereas 16 per cent is financed from bank and financial institutions (BFIs). “Other sources of investment include informal borrowing (8 per cent), remittance income (7 per cent), loans from cooperatives (6 per cent) and venture capital (0.5 per cent) but neither of any SMEs are mobilising capital by issuing its shares.
The report also reflects the interventions of the government have not become effective yet, and most of them are not even aware about the refinancing facility for SMEs. The government has introduced a number of schemes including subsidised interest loans to SMEs. However, the efforts to channelise financial resources to the SMEs have largely failed, according to the findings of the report.
Bank loans – a major source of financing in business sectors – to the SMEs is also very low, the study report indicates, adding that nearly 50 per cent of SMEs have borrowed from BFIs. “As of mid-July 2019, the outstanding credits of BFIs to SMEs excluding agriculture, energy and tourism sectors stand at 3.26 per cent.”
According to the report, some 85.9 per cent of SMEs were approved of loans after showing land and houses as collateral. “SMEs receiving loan on movable assets accounts for only 6.4 per cent while 1.3 per cent were loans using machines and equipment as collateral,” it reads, adding that only 19.2 per cent of small industries have access to subsidised loans.
The report has also recommended coordination between various policies and programmes scattered over various agencies like the Industry Ministry central bank and other institutions.

Wednesday, September 25, 2019

Economy may grow above 6 per cent: ADB

The economic growth will remain strong at 6.3 per cent in the current fiscal year, according to the Asian Development Bank’s (ADB) Nepal Macroeconomic Update 2019 released today.
The strong growth, despite poor performance of the agriculture sector caused by late paddy transplantation, is though less than the government projection of 8.5 per cent.
The economy can expand further, if the execution of public capital expenditures, including at sub-national levels, improves substantially and private investment remains strong, according to the report.
“Near normal monsoon this fiscal year, efforts to accelerate the implementation of large infrastructure projects, and increase in tourist arrivals will support high growth,” said ADB country director for Nepal Mukhtor Khamudkhanov.
The floods in early July damaged paddy saplings in many parts of the country, which could lower agriculture growth compared with last fiscal year’s figures, the report reads, adding that the industry sector is expected to expand by 7.9 per cent in the current fiscal year, buoyed by improved electricity supply and efforts to improve investment, including in major infrastructure. “The services sector will likely grow by 6.9 per cent in the current fiscal year with the expansion of wholesale and retail trade, financial intermediation, and travel and tourism subsectors.
The Manila-based development bank – in its report – also said that the gross domestic product (GDP) expansion in the fiscal year 2018-19 that ended on July 16 exceeded the Asian Development Outlook 2019 forecast achieving a growth rate of 7.1 per cent, with growth in all sectors. Agriculture sector grew by 5 per cent on a favourable monsoon that brought a record 8.3 per cent increase in paddy production, it reads, adding that industry advanced by 8.1 per cent on increased electricity production, accelerated earthquake reconstruction, and strong consumer demand. “The services grew at 7.3 per cent as higher remittances supported retail trade and as higher tourist arrivals favoured hotels and restaurants.”
On the demand side, growth in private consumption markedly accelerated in the last fiscal year on higher remittances and agricultural income, contributing to two-thirds of GDP expansion, it reads, “Fixed investment moderated from a year earlier.”
Private investment spending, mostly in energy and services, grew by 27 per cent to account for 29 per cent of the GDP in the last fiscal year. Likewise, public investment increased by 5.5 per cent from the high level achieved in the last fiscal year, but the construction of national pride projects suffered delays, the report reads. “However, floods in early July 2019 delayed paddy planting, which probably means lower growth in agriculture this fiscal year but an increase by almost half in the current budget for capital expenditure promises to offset that shortfall, if realised in actual spending.”
Likewise, inflation slightly exceeded the 2018-19 projection as food inflation accelerated from 2.8 per cent in the fiscal year 2017-2018 to 3.1 per cent on account of flooding and landslides in July that affected some supply channels and a delay in food supply owing to strict tests along the India-Nepal border over concern about pesticides.
“Inflation will likely to rise in the current fiscal year, assuming a somewhat smaller harvest, a marked pickup in government expenditure, and a moderate rise in inflation in India, the main supplier,” the report reads, adding that the inflation is projected to rise to 5.5 per cent in the current fiscal year from 4.6 per cent in the last fiscal year.
However, the fiscal deficit moderated to 5.1 per cent of gross domestic product (GDP) in the last fiscal year, down from 6.7 per cent of GDP in the fiscal year 2017-18, on lower-than-planned capital expenditures. “Likewise, execution of capital expenditures at 75.9 per cent in the fiscal year 2018-99 was less than that of fiscal year 2017-18 at 81 per cent. “Bunching of capital expenditure continued in the last fiscal year 2018-19, undermining the quality of investment.”
The current account deficit, forecast to widen, narrowed substantially instead as implementing large national pride projects experienced delays and markedly curbed import growth. “Export growth exceeded expectations but earnings remained small, allowing the trade deficit to widen by 4.6 per cent.”
Nepal increasingly faces the risk of external sector instability due to large trade and current account deficits, the report reads, adding that the current account deficit moderated to 7.7 per cent of GDP, down from 8.2 per cent in the fiscal year 2017-18, on implementation delays of large national pride projects and markedly curbed import growth. “The current account deficit will slightly narrow to the equivalent of 7.6 per cent of GDP in the current fiscal year 2019-20 from 7.7 per cent of GDP in the fiscal year 2018-19.”
Likewise, merchandise export growth exceeded expectations, but with low export base, earnings remained small, widening the merchandise trade deficit by 4.4 per cent, whereas remittance has shown healthy growth, a substantial rise in the near future is unlikely to offset the rise in the trade deficit.
The growth in workers’ remittances was at 7.7 per cent in the last fiscal year, sufficient to keep the current account deficit stable at $2.3 billion. With financing inflows somewhat down from a year earlier, foreign exchange reserves fell by 5.8 per cent to $9.5 billion, the second year of decline nevertheless leaving import cover for 7.8 months.
The current account deficit is now forecast to be much narrower than projected in the last fiscal year as it continues to shrink in response to measures that curtail imports of low-priority goods, as well as higher hydroelectricity production, which will replace fuel imports for generators, and more workers going to high-income destinations like Japan, the report reads.
Downside risks to outlook in the current fiscal year 2019-20 centers on challenges to the smooth implementation of federalism. “Adequate human resources, mainly technical staff, and capacity in the relatively new sub-national governments coupled with necessary legislative frameworks are required for the smooth implementation of federalism,” it adds.
The theme chapter of this edition of ADB report sheds light on existing implementation challenges of Special Economic Zones (SEZs) in Nepal and suggests measures to overcome them. “SEZs can play a key role in developing economies like Nepal to expand exports, bridge the huge trade deficit and mitigate pressure on external stability,” it reads.

NAC operates chartered flight to Tokyo

Nepal Airlines Corporation (NAC) is operating first of its two chartered flights to Narita International Airport of Tokyo in Japan today evening.
According to the national flag carrier, NAC’s Airbus A330-200 aircraft will leave Tribhuvan International Airport (TIA) in Kathmandu for Tokyo at 9:30 pm and return to Kathmandu at 9:30 am tomorrow.
The second chartered flight has been scheduled for October 2, the NAC informed, adding that the two chartered flights have been taken as the national flag carrier’s preparation to fly to Narita International Airport in Tokyo. “NAC has initially showed interest to operate scheduled flights to Tokyo Narita but it launched flights to Osaka after it couldn’t get approval for Tokyo flights.”
The NAC has got at least 100 tickets booking for Narita flights as of today evening.
The national flag carrier currently is operating two flights a week to Osaka due to low passenger turnout. The NAC has launched its first direct flight to Osaka on August 29 with a fixed airfare at Rs 36,900 for one way and Rs 72,814 for a round trip. The national flag carrier had initially launched three flights a week on the sector but it is operating only two flights a week – on Tuesday and Saturdays – currently due to low passenger turnout.
The national flag carrier operates Airbus A330-200 aircraft that can carry 274 passengers per flight but it has around 100 passengers on Kathmandu-Osaka flight.

Police foil international racket planning to steal money from Nepali banks

Just weeks after the biggest ATM heist by Chinese nationals, more than Rs 15 million has been stolen from the Agricultural Development Bank Ltd (ADBL). But the Police arrested a dozen youth for their alleged involvement in masterminding this huge financial racket.
Metropolitan Police Crime Division (MPCD) Teku today revealed that a foreign national residing in India had been planning – for a considerable time – to steal over Rs 5 billion from various banks and financial institutions of Nepal via hacking, and using Nepalis. According to the Police, Peter – also known as Kale –currently residing in Mumbai of India has been involved in masterminding the huge financial racket with the help of Nepali nationals. “We have arrested some twelve persons for their alleged involvement in the case,” the Police said, adding that a special investigation team from MPCD arrested them from various areas within and outside Kathmandu Valley. “They were involved in stealing the money through the process of ‘credential hacking’ from various banks and financial institutions, including Agricultural Development Bank and Panas Remit,” the Police confirmed, identifying the arrestees as Lawang Tamang (43) of Meghang Rural Municipality-4 of Nuwakot district; Sanjay Ghale of Kavresthali, Tarkeshwar Municipality-2 in Kathmandu; Laxmi Lama Tamang (40), Nirmala Tamang (20), Nima Tamang (18), all from Naukunda Rural Municipality-5 of Rasuwa; Pushparaj Khadka (42) of Hariban Municipality-2 in Sarlahi; Bidyasagar Lamichhane (23) of Dordi Rural Municipality-3 in Lamjung; Shravan Kumar Shrestha (38) of Bhanu Municipality-9 in Tanahun; Sunita Shrestha (32) of Thimi Municipality-4 in Bhaktapur; Shubankar Panja (30), permanent resident of Kolkata in India, currently residing in Tebahal, Kathmandu; Bijay Sah (22), and Chandara Bahadur Budha (45), both from Bhajani Municipality in Kailali district.
According to the Police, the preliminary investigation indicates that a sum of Rs 47,396,000 was hacked from Agricultural Development Bank Ltd (ADBL). Likewise, a sum of Rs 1,200,000 was stolen from Panas Remit in New Baneshwar.
Spokesperson at the ADBL head office in Kathmandu Him Lal Poudel, however, claimed that the incident occurred due to misuse of password. He suspected that it was not a case of hacking. “The amount stolen by the perpetrators ranged between Rs 15 million and Rs 20 million,” he said adding that the bank has started an internal investigation into the incident alongside police.
“Further investigation is going on to determine the total amount hacked,” the Police also informed, disclosing that Peter used to contact the Nepalis, call them to India for meetings, and then asked them to carry out the fraud offering commission ranging from 15 per cent to 35 per cent. “Peter then made them send the remaining sum to India via hundi.”
Suspecting the illegal transactions on September 22, staffers of Panas Remit asked the Police to investigate, which led to the arrest of 12 Nepalis.
Some Rs 6 million has been collected by different people in a day from the financial institution. The remittance sender was shown to be the same person, an employee of the company, which has raised suspicion that someone has hacked the employee’s account to send the same sum of money multiple times. “The Police started a full-fledged investigation after the staffers from the Panas Remit complained of the suspicious transactions,” the Police said, adding that the same mastermind also manipulated user-id and IP address of Agricultural Development Bank Ltd (ADBL) to transfer the money into the accounts of 11 different persons. “Further investigation into the case is going on.”

Tuesday, September 24, 2019

Transboundary river basins in South Asia disaster hotspots

A recent UNESCAP disaster risk-focused report has identified transboundary river basins in South Asia as disaster hotspots. One such area in the Hindu Kush Himalayan region is the Koshi basin. Covering approximately 75,000-sq-km across the borders of China, India, and Nepal, the Koshi basin directly supports over 40 million people and hosts a rich biodiversity. It is, however, also highly prone to disasters – glacial lake outburst floods (GLOFs), landslides, and floods, among others – that are transboundary in scale and have trans-border implications. “There is also a gap between research, policies and its implementation on disaster risk reduction, the report reads, adding that as climate change is expected exacerbate extreme weather events in the region developing plans and policies with the future outlook become critical. “Thus collaboration between upstream and downstream communities as well as different sectors for evidence based planning for disaster risk reduction is needed for the Koshi Basin.”
Against this backdrop, a two-day country level consultation ‘Koshi Disaster Risk Reduction Knowledge Hub (KDKH) Nepal country consultation: Building a resilient Koshi basin’, was organised yesterday and today in Kathmandu to bring together representatives from the government, public, private, and development sectors in Nepal and discuss strategies to improve disaster risk reduction (DRR) within the Koshi basin. The KDKH aims to strengthen a basin perspective while creating space for interaction between researchers, policy makers, and practitioners for informed policy making. This KDKH country consultation in Kathmandu marked an important milestone by bringing forth Nepal’s perspectives on DRR-related challenges, issues, and good practices in the basin that can contribute to improved transboundary collaboration.
The country consultation discussed the formation of a country-level chapter that will form working groups on topics such as GLOFs, floods, landslides, and sedimentation, and community-based disaster risk management. Under the leadership of the government and with support from public, private, and development partners, a technical working group will work on the country chapter’s structure. “The National Planning Commission supports the formation of the country chapter for the KDKH,” asserted Dil Bahadur Gurung, Member, National Planning Commission (NPC).
Speaking during the country consultation, chief of the National Operation Emergency Center at the Ministry of Home Affairs Shambu Regmi highlighted the Disaster Risk Reduction National Strategic Plan of Action (2018–2030), which has defined priority actions for comprehensively understanding disaster risks and improving collaboration. Joint secretary at the Ministry of Energy, Water Resources and Irrigation Ram G Kharbuja, spoke about leveraging the KDKH to expand DRR across the Koshi basin.
“The KDKH can play an important role in contributing to trust building among countries within the basin, as well as utilizing diplomatic channels in the region by leveraging ICIMOD.”
The KDKH’s seven working groups presented on ongoing initiatives on floods, landslides, sedimentation, and other areas and identified priorities areas for future action in the Koshi basin. On the occasion, joint secretary at the National Planning Commission (NPC) Biju Shrestha noted that such working groups reduce gaps between research and policy making and implementation. “The development plan and DRR must go in hand-in-hand,” joint secretary at the Ministry of Forests and Environment Badri Dhungana said, adding that the KDKH can function as a think tank that can support development in the Koshi basin, in partnership with stakeholders in Nepal and its neighbours.
In a session on identifying priorities of the government with respect to DRR, secretary at the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Law, Province 2 Krishna Hari Pushkar, pointed out that technical publications are readily accessible to the Ministry but that the KDKH could work with them to apply this information into action. “Federal–provincial–local level representatives spoke about a host of challenges, ranging from greater communication among ministries to access of relevant information for at-risk communities.”
“The Koshi basin has unique challenges in the upstream and downstream, so solutions need to be tailor made,” remarked Ward Chairperson of Khumbu Laxman Adhikari. Commenting on the remoteness of the region, Adhikari said that along with area-specific DRR plans, benefit sharing from DRR is also essential. In his view, motivating communities to be part of the DRR process is essential in making any risk reduction planning a success.
Chairing the session on the possible operational structure of the KDKH’s country chapters to support the priorities of the working groups, joint secretary at the NPC Kiran Rupakhetee noted that an effective structure is required to provide useful knowledge for decision making at different levels.
Addressing the event, resident representative at the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Ayshanie Medagangoda Labe emphasised the need for collaboration and trust among all partners to build a resilient Koshi and region as a whole. Highlighting a UNDP and ICIMOD study (under review), which identifies 42 potentially dangerous glacial lakes in the Koshi basin, Labe said that UNDP’s commitment towards GLOF risk reduction and enhancing the livelihoods of vulnerable downstream communities.
The Nepal country consultation was organised by the Koshi Basin Initiative (KBI) at ICIMOD, in collaboration with the NPC. It was supported by the Central Department of Hydrology and Meteorology (CDHM) under Tribhuvan University; Disaster Preparedness Network–Nepal (DpNet-Nepal); the International Water Management Institute (IWMI); Lutheran World Relief (LWR); UNDP; and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF). A similar national stakeholder event was held in Bihar, India, in July 2019.

Business opportunities between Nepal and Romania discussed

Nepali and Romanian business people today discussed in searching the business possibilities and also to develop bilateral relationship between business persons from the two countries.
A total 11 business persons including the president of Chamber of Commerce IASI Romania, which is the second largest city of Romania, and different business organisation’s representatives with youth, entrepreneurs and business persons from Nepal also took part in the ‘Bilateral Business Opportunities between Nepal and Romania’ organised here today.
The programme – chaired and moderated by chairman of organising company Technovation Future Care Pvt Ltd Prakash Ghimire – also witnessed consulate general of Romania Narayan Bajaj, vice president of Nepal Chamber of Commerce (NCC) Naresh Shrestha, senior manager of Nepal Tourism Board (NTB) Sunil Sharma, entrepreneur and JCI Nepal past president Senetor Raju KC, entrepreneur and coordinator of Romanian delegate Marius Alexa, president of Chamber of Commerce IASI Paul Butnariu.
On the occasion, 5 entrepreneurs and business persons from Romania presented their business presentations.
Likewise, consulate general of Romania Narayan Bajaj, on the occasion, said that he had just started his role as honorary general consulate since the month of May. He has also committed to enhance the relationship between two countries. “We will also prioritise in promoting Visit Nepal 2020 (VNY2020) and request to promote visit Nepal 2020 in Romania,” he said, emphasising that Nepal has good time for economic growth and to become a developing countries because now Nepal has political stability with the two-third majority government.
Nepal Chambers of Commerce (NCC) vice president Naresh Shrestha, on the occasion, said that Nepal is not a poor country. “Nepalis have high purchasing capacity,” he said, inviting the Romanian entrepreneurs to invest in Nepal.
On the occasion, the past National president of Nepal Jaycees Raju KC presented his presentation on ‘Foreign Investment in Nepal’. “Investment in Nepal can be highly profitable and two largest populated countries India and China also will be the possible sales market from Nepal,” he added.
Presenting economic profile of IASI city, the president of IASI chamber of commerce, Paul Butnariu said that they have so many business opportunities as well as investment plan in Nepal. “We want to take skilled and non skilled manpower in the field of hospitality management, construction, information technology, food production and services and students for higher education in so many universities and colleges,” he said, adding that they are ready to promote Nepali tourism in Romania and invite Nepali delegates to visit Romania very soon.
During the programme, Romanian entrepreneurs and business persons presented their products and services from HR consultancy, management and education consultancy, food industry and services, IT, modern printing solution, travel/tourism management, healthcare and beauty products.
The Romanian delegates are now in Nepal from September 22 to October 1. Apart from Kathmandu, they will also visit Bhaktapur, Gorkha, Pokhara, Lumbini and Chiwan.
The Technovation Future Care Pvt Ltd of Nepal and SC Arhipelago Interactive SLR of Romania have already signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) to promote bilateral visits and to develop business relationship.
In the near future, Nepali delegates will also be visiting Romania.

Kathmandu hosting WFTU conference

Kathmandu is hosting World Federation of Trade Union (WFTU) Asia Pacific conference today and tomorrow with a slogan of ‘Ensure basic needs of working class and social security, generate more investment on productive and employment sector’.
Some 12 countries, 25 National Trade Unions, 49 International delegates and 8 Trade Union Confederation with their 160 delegates are taking part in the conference that is chaired by presidential council member of WFTU and coordinator of WFTU CC Nepal Premal Kumar Khanal.
Focusing for the investment in productive and employment sector, minister for Labour, employment and social security Gokarna Bista, on the occasion, said that every worker should be facilitated by minimum labour standard wages and social security.
Nepal government has brought a social security scheme based on contribution, though there are some reservations from the private sector employees as they find it impractical compared to the government retirement schemes.
Likewise, deputy general secretary of WFTU and in charge of Asia Pacific region H Manadevan, delivering his speech, said that WFTU has been always fighting against the exploitation of labour. “The FWTU is heading forward for the fulfillment of basic needs including food, housing, education, medicine, fresh drinking water including employment and social security,” he said.
The conference will conclude with the Kathmandu declaration tomorrow evening.

Japanese assistance for building rehabilitation center for Muscular Dystrophy sufferers

The Ambassador of Japan to Nepal Masamichi Saigo today signed a grant contract with the Muscular Dystrophy Foundation-Nepal (MDF-Nepal) to build a rehabilitation center for people with muscular dystrophy in Kathmandu District.
The construction is expected to cost approximately Rs 10 million. The project for building the rehabilitation center for people with muscular dystrophy is funded under the Grant Assistance for Grassroots Human Security Projects (GGP) of the government of Japan.
At the signing ceremony, ambassador Saigo said he hoped that the grant would contribute towards improving health care services for people with muscular dystrophy in Nepal.
MDF-Nepal was established in 2003 by parents, who lost their children to muscular dystrophy. At present, MDF-Nepal does not have enough space for rehabilitating patients and the project will enable it to provide more effective services to patients.
The Embassy of Japan – in its press note claims that – believes that the project will contribute towards enhancing the friendship that exists between the peoples of Japan and Nepal. 

Inflation at almost three-year-high

Spike in food price has pushed inflation up to an almost three-year-high of 6.95 per cent in the first month of the current fiscal year, the first time since September 2016. During the same month of the last fiscal year, inflation stood at 4.19 per cent only.
The government has set a target of containing the inflation at 6 per cent in the current fiscal year but the rising food price has made the government target seem impossible.
Earlier, the annual inflation stood at below five per cent in the fiscal years 2016-17, 2017-18 and 2018-19, due to stable food prices but since June, inflation has once again started to spiral upwards.
In mid-June, inflation shot up to 6.2 per cent and stood at six per cent in mid-July.
Consumer prices are lately going up due to a jump in prices of food items, according to the central bank. “Prices of vegetables shot up by 23.38 per cent in mid-August compared to the same month a year ago,” according to the Current Macroeconomic and Financial Situation report of the first month of the current fiscal year published by the central bank. “In mid-August, prices of fruits and spices also increased by 20.2 per cent and 13.2 per cent, respectively, compared to the same month of the last fiscal year.”
Overall, food prices, which contribute 43.9 per cent to the inflation basket, increased by 8 per cent in the first month, it reads.
According to the central bank, prices of vegetables, fruits, spices, meat and fish spiked in the review month. “Among the nonfood and service groups, prices of items in housing and utilities, clothes and footwear, and education sub-groups rose significantly.”
The jump in salary and wage rate index has also fueled price rise in the market as the year-on-year salary and wage rate index increased to 13.44 per cent in mid-August 2019 compared to 7.4 per cent a year ago, according to the central bank.
Though Nepal imports inflation with the food items from India, the Inflation stood at 3.2 per cent in India in August, which is 3.7 percentage points lower than in Nepal. The inflation difference between Nepal and India has largely been widening since June also due to lack of tighten market monitoring and government’s failure in discouraging middlemen from taking undue benefits. The market is flooded with the middlemen that take high profit margin due to lack of stringent market inspection.
The rising inflation will, however, hit the fixed wage earners as most of their income is spent buying food items.
But the traders have attributed the surge in inflation to pressure in the supply of essential goods, including food and vegetables, rise in labour cost and upward trend of consumer price in India.

BoP records Rs 6 billion surpluses after over a year

The Balance of Payments (BoP) recorded a surplus of Rs 6.05 billion in the first month of this fiscal year – from mid-July to mid-August – compared to a deficit of Rs 24.77 billion in the same month of last fiscal year, according to the central bank.
The BoP has recorded a surplus for the first time since July 2018, due to increase in export volume and reduction in import, though the ballooning trade deficit has not seen any remarkable reduction. The Current Macroeconomic and Financial Situation report of the first month of fiscal year 2019-20 also revealed trade deficit has declined by 11.5 per cent due to higher export earnings and a steep fall in imports, though the transformation in import and export patterns seems ‘unusual’ because the government’s policy adjustments has nothing to do with the change.
“The merchandise imports contracted by 11.5 per cent to Rs 106.73 billion against an increase of 54.3 per cent in the same period of the last fiscal year, whereas merchandise exports rose by 27.7 per cent to Rs 8.84 billion compared to an increase by 3.2 per cent – in the first month of the last fiscal year – largely due to huge quantity export of refined palm oil. Nepal started exporting refined palm oil a few months ago as it imports crude palm oil. “The crude palm oil is refined and then exported again,” according to the traders, who were surprised to find out the increasing export of palm oil in recent months.
However, the government claimed that its policy to discourage import of luxury four-wheelers has bring the imports down. The government has doubled the excise duty on imported vehicles through the budget for the fiscal year 2018-19. The down payment on auto loans has also been jacked up to 50 per cent of the value of the vehicle. The central bank statistics revealed that imports of vehicles and spare parts during the review period fell by 20.3 per cent year-on-year to Rs 6.56 billion.
The reduction in the trade deficit has brought down the country’s current account deficit to Rs 9.37 billion, down from Rs 25.16 billion in the first month of the last fiscal year. “In US dollar terms, current account deficit remained at $84 million in the review period compared to $228.5 million a year ago,” the report reads, adding that the remittance inflows, though marginal, increased by two per cent to Rs 75.40 billion against an increase of 33.1 per cent in the first month of the last fiscal year.
Similarly, the country witnessed an increase in the gross foreign exchange reserves to Rs 1,064.64 billion in mid-August from Rs 1,038.92 billion in mid-July this year.

Monday, September 23, 2019

NEA to check distribution losses

The Nepal Electricity Authority (NEA) aims to bring down distribution losses to 8.5 per cent within this fiscal year by checking the electricity pilferage.
According to NEA managing director Kulman Ghising, the NEA has shifted its focus to improve the reliability of energy supply, adopting stern governance measures at consumer touchpoints, and enhancing financial discipline at distribution centres. “We plan to achieve the reduction targets by optimum utilisation of sealed conductor cables in loss-prone areas, upgrading overloaded transformers and coordinating with the local administration to investigate cases of meter tampering and electricity pilferage,” he said, adding that the country has witnessed energy leakage of 11.28 per cent – in the fiscal year 2018-19 – resulting in financial losses amounting to millions, though the pilferage has come almost half down in last five fiscal year. “In the fiscal year 2014-15, the NEA had recorded some 19.87 per cent energy leakages due to weak power delivery infrastructure including substations and transformers.”
To check the pilferage and meet the new target to curb it, the state power utility has issued circulars to eight distribution centres and its division offices asking them to upgrade the capacity of transformers and balance the power load. The NEA has asked Janakpur, Attariya, Nepalgunj, Biratnagar and Butwal centres – that have recorded high distribution losses – to reduce more losses – whereas Hetauda, Kathmandu and Pokhara distribution centres – with low losses – have received low targets.
Likewise, the Province 1 office at Biratnagar with 24 distribution centre has been asked to bring down system losses to 8.8 per cent from the existing 12.15 per cent. The Province 2 office with 23 distribution centres has been directed to cut back losses from 23.36 per cent to 10.97 per cent. Similarly, the Butwal wing of the power utility with 11 distribution centres is expected to reduce losses to 9.26 per cent from 12.36 per cent. “And the Attariya office with 12 distribution centre is expected to bring losses down to 10.69 per cent from 14.39 per cent.”
Though, a 10 per cent reduction in energy loss has resulted in an increase in revenue of Rs 7 billion, the NEA has been able to reduce transmission and distribution losses to 15.32 per cent, according to the Distribution and Consumer Service Directorate of the NEA. “We aim to cut losses by strengthening the network, upgrading the capacity of the transformers, bringing new substations into operation to balance the load and keep tabs on electricity pilferage,” he said, adding that the reduction of distribution losses is considered by energy officials to be a fundamental effort consistent with achieving Sustainable Development Goal 7 (Sustainable Energy for All) and Nepal’s Nationally Determined Contributions for the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.
Nepal has added more than 600 kilometres of power lines to domestic and cross-border electricity transmission network, and built 30 new distribution substations in the last fiscal year. The NEA plans to spend more than 50 per cent of its budget for the current fiscal year on increasing the capacity of transmission lines and power distribution infrastructure as the old system cannot manage the increasing power supply and distribution.
The NEA needs to overhaul current distribution system and existing substation, apart from new transmission lines construction with distribution grids in strategic industrial zones, the reliability of electricity transmission throughout the grid could be improved.
According to a report by the Asian Development Bank – the financier of the Power Transmission and Distribution Efficiency Enhancement Project – Nepal's power supply is expected to increase rapidly during the next several years because of commissioning of the 456 MW Upper Tamakoshi hydropower project and an additional 1,635 MW from multiple hydropower projects with planned commissioning by 2022.
The ADB has provided $150 million as a 32-year term concessional loan at 1 per cent interest during the eight-year grace period and 1.5 per cent interest after the grace period under the distribution enhancement project.

The lost electricity 
Fiscal Year – Distribution Loss (per cent of available energy)
2014-15 – 19.87 per cent
2015-16 – 19.80 per cent
2016-17 – 16.83 per cent
2017-18 – 14.82 per cent
2018-19 – 11.28 per cent

Government shortlists developer for Nijgadh airport project

The government today shortlisted developers for the construction of three mega projects including Nijgadh International Airport, Lower Arun Hydropower Project and Kathmandu Outer Ring Road Project.
A meeting of the Investment Board Nepal (IBN) chaied by Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli today shortlisted the Swiss company Zurich Airport International AG to develop Nijgadh International Airport Project and decided to seek extensive proposal from it to construct the second international airport in Bara, according to a press note issued by the board.
“Though some seven firms submitted their proposals for for the construction of second international airport, only Zurich Airport International AG is qualified for the project as its LoI matched the eligibility criteria set by the board,” chief executive officer of the board Maha Prasad Adhikari confirmed. “The remaining six companies failed to meet the criteria.”
The other firms including Matrix Enterprises of Nepal, China Airport Construction Group and China State Construction Engineering Company from China, GMR of India, Qatar Airways and Vinci Group of France were disqualified due to lack of eligibility criteria.
Construction modality of the airport project had remained a major conflict between the government, political parties and the private sector. While calling for EoI for the development of the project, the government had sought proposals from interested firms to build the airport project either under the build, own, operate and transfer (BOOT) or public private partnership (PPP) modality.
The estimated cost of the airport project stands at Rs 400 billion ($3.45 billion), according to the board. “The airport will be built in three phases; the first phase will cost $1.21 billion, the second phase $1.12 billion, and the third phase $1.12 billion.
The government had decided to develop Nijgadh International Airport, one of the most ambitious projects, in 1995. But the timeline for the new airport was pushed back on multiple occasions due to financing and legal issues over its environmental impact. The Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) report approved by the government shows that more than 2.4 million small and large trees will have to be cut down to build the long-awaited modern international airport in Nijgadh that will have a 4,000-metre runway.
The meeting also went through the proposal to construct Lower Arun Hydroelectric Project. According to the board, three firms – SJVN Ltd of India, a joint venture between Nepal’s HIDCL and Power Construction Corporation of China Ltd, and a joint venture between Nepal’s Green Resources Pvt Ltd and Electric Power Development Company (J Power) of Japan – submitted proposal to develop 679-megawatt Lower Arun Hydropower Project that is estimated to cost Rs 670 billion. “All the three proposals on Lower Arun meet the board’s eligibility criteria so ‘the board is preparing to ask them for detailed proposals,” Adhikari said, adding that the board will evaluate their proposals and pick a firm for the development of the public-private partnership project.
The Lower Arun Hydropower Project has been in limbo since 2016, when the government revoked the licence of a Brazilian company, Brass Power. The government had issued the licence to the Brazilian company in 2012. The Brazilian company had even planned to export more than 50 per cent of the energy generated to India but Brass Power did not show interest in developing the project after there was no progress in the power purchase agreement (PPA) with India.
After revoking the licence, the government had kept the project in its basket and was looking for a builder.
Likewise, the board has also received four proposals for the construction of the Kathmandu Outer Ring Road Project, but three proposals did not meet the eligibility criteria. “A Chinese construction company, China Communication Construction Co, has been shortlisted for the development of the Kathmandu Outer Ring Road Project,” the board informed, adding that the 72-kilometer Outer Ring Road will be constructed at a cost of Rs 212.3 billion. “If the detailed proposal, which has yet to be received from the shortlisted Chinese firm, is found satisfactory, then the project will be awarded.”
As per the initial study report in 2008, the cost of construction of the project was expected to hover around Rs 70 billion.
However, since the price of land has skyrocketed in the intervening years, the project construction cost is expected to shoot up. The project was initially proposed 14 years ago in the budget for the fiscal year 2005-06. The initial cost estimate for the project stood at Rs 6 billion.
The much talked Outer Ring Road will be 50 meters wide with eight lanes, cycle tracks, green belts and pavements on both sides along with flyovers at major intersections, according to the board.
“The companies that have been shortlisted for all these projects will submit their detailed proposals and the board will evaluate them,” Adhikari said adding that the contracts will be awarded to those that fulfill all the requirements.
According to the World Bank, Nepal needs to spend 10 per cent to 15 per cent of the gross domestic product (GDP) annually on infrastructure for the next 10 years. To boost investments, the government earlier this year in March had organised Nepal Investment Summit 2019, which saw investment proposals worth about $17.5 billion from both domestic and foreign investors. All the three projects were showcased during the Investment Summit 2019 in March.

SAARC Chamber organises three-day Startups Boot Camp

The SAARC Chambers of Commerce and Industry (CCI) 3-day boot camp for starts up kicked off in Male, Maldives today. It is aimed at providing support to innovative companies to access new markets and grow their businesses by integrating flexible electronics technologies into advanced products and services. The third camp – an initiative of SAARC CCI Startups’ Boot Camps series – is being organised by SAARC Chamber of Commerce and Industry (SAARC CCI) in partnership with the Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Freedom (FNF).
Minister of Economic Development of Republic of Maldives Fayyaz Ismail will grace the inaugural session of the camp as chief guest and will address the entrepreneurs. Minister of State for Economic Development of Maldives Neeza Imad, President of Maldives National Chamber of Commerce and Industry (MNCCI) Ismail Nooradeen and vice chair of SCWEC Ms. Shaira Saleem will also grace the occasion.
The selected thirty-two startups, who qualified for the SAARC CCI’s Startup Boot camp ‘Strengthening Startup Ecosystems in South Asia: Cross-Border Boot Camps for Innovative Entrepreneurs Maldives’, will be mentored with leading mentors from India and Maldives by sharing their own experiences, helping teams to address their weakness in business and economic knowledge. Mentors usually have experience working through the same or similar problems and can build a sort of a ‘case study’ for the mentee to think about and work through. Mentors then help the mentee examine and solve their own problem, but the emphasis is always on helping the mentee come up with their own solution.