Thursday, October 31, 2019

North Koreans yet to close business operations in Nepal

North Korean businesses defied the government decree and yet to close their operations in Nepal despite the government deadline.
The Department of Industry (DoI) – on September 16 – wrote letters to the North Korean business owners in Nepal to shut down their enterprises and repatriate their investment by October 31.
But defying the government’s notice, they are yet to cease their businesses. “The department is yet to receive formal notice from the North Korean business operators that they have ceased their operations in Nepal,” informed director of the department Binod Khadka.
The North Korean enterprises have not initiated the process of repatriating their investment, for which they need to approach the Finance Ministry and the central bank, he said, adding that the department is, however, planning to hold discussions with Industry, Home and Foreign Ministries for the next course of action. “We are waiting formal letter from the North Korean business owners that they have complied with the department’s instruction, closed their operations and repatriated their investment.”
The North Koreans have been operating nine business enterprises in Nepal – two software companies, a hospital and six restaurants – including  Ne-Koryo Hospital in Tanahun district and Himal Chilbo Technical Solutions in Lalitpur district. “Likewise, they were also operating Hotel Re Min & Restaurant, Pyongyang Akugyan Nepal, Pyongyang Arirang Restaurant, Yong Bong Chand IT Company, Botonggang Restaurant and Bar, Himalayan Soje Restaurant and Minas Restaurant and Bar in Kathmandu district.”
The US had – on June 15 – asked Nepal not to entertain North Koreans in the country stating that Nepal as a member of the UN should respect the decision taken by the global body to impose sanctions on North Korea. The growing business activities of North Koreans in Nepal had become a matter of serious concern in view of the UN Security Council Resolution against Pyongyang.
The Foreign Minister – on July 1 – forwarded the report of UN resolution 2397 related to North Korean sanctions to the Industry Ministry and asked to take appropriate decisions.
Thus – on September 16 – Nepal banned North Korean investment in the Himalayan country and the Department of Industry (DoI) asked the North Koreans to close their businesses by the end of October.
Earlier – on August 9 – too, the department had written a letter to one of the restaurants – Hiamalayan Soju Restaurnet Pvt Ltd – run by North Korean, to close the business as according to the discussion with the business in the presence of North Korean Embassy Deputy Chief of Mission Kim Jong.
“The department had held discussion with the investors from North Korea in presence of North Korean Embassy DCM Kim Jong to close all the businesses run by them by August 15,” the letter reads, adding that the agreement has not been implemented even after repeated telephone calls. “After repeated discussions with the embassy official and North Korean businesses, the department has given them the final deadline of October-end to shut down their enterprises and repatriate their existing investment.”
Nepal had then extended visas of foreign workers employed in the North Korean companies up to October 31 only.

Tourist standard hotels to offer discounts

Hotel Association Nepal (HAN) has announced a discount scheme on room tariff and food bills at its member hotels, resorts and guesthouses to foreigners visiting Nepal next year.
Effective from January – throughout the Visit Nepal Year 2020 to support the national campaign – all member hotels of HAN will offer 30 per cent discount on room tariff and 15 per cent off on food bills to foreigner visitors till the end of December next year, confirmed HAN.
“Almost 2,300 small to five-star hotels of the country are affiliated with HAN,” it claimed, adding that HAN is supporting the government through all means to make the tourism campaign successful. ”Discount on room and food tariff rate is a direct support of HAN to the campaign.”
HAN is also promoting the tourism and Nepali cuisines in different countries targeting the tourism campaign Visit Nepal Year 2020. The government has set a target of bringing in 2 million foreign visitors to the country in 2020.
Established in 1966 with eight hotels as its members, HAN that has chapters in Dhankuta, Biratnagar, Pokhara, Sauraha, Biratnagar, Dhulikhel, and Bhaktapur, is also preparing to introduce other events and packages for visiting foreign tourists in 2020.
Earlier, the Home Stay Association of Nepal (HOSAN) has also announced discount packages for tourists on homestay services throughout 2020. “All member homestays – both private and community-based – will offer 20 per cent discount on their service throughout 2020 targeting the Visit Nepal 2020 campaign,” it said, adding that around 1,006 homestays are members to HOSAN. “Of the total number of homestay facilities, some 628 are community-based homestay services while 378 are private homestay services.”
After two similar mega tourism campaigns in 1998 and 2011, the Visit Nepal Year 2020 (VNY2020) campaign is being hosted with a more ambitious target to bring in two million tourists annually by 2020.

Wednesday, October 30, 2019

WTO members review preferences granted to LDCs’ service suppliers

A dedicated session of the WTO Services Council – held yesterday and today – reviewed how World Trade Organisation (WTO) members are making use of the services waiver that allows them to grant more favourable treatment to service suppliers from least-developed countries (LDCs). Members also discussed transparency issues and cybersecurity measures in a regular meeting of the Services Council today.
The dedicated session on the WTO Services Waiver consisted of a workshop and a formal meeting of the Council for Trade in Services. The workshop provided an opportunity to ‘focus our attention on the task of better integrating LDCs into international services trade’ and of ‘making the trading system more inclusive’, director-general Roberto Azev√™do said in his opening remarks yesterday.
A total of 36 WTO members are classified as LDCs.
The workshop reviewed ways of increasing LDCs' services exports, including through maximising the use of the preferences available, and the challenges lying ahead. The participants noted that LDCs account for 1 per cent of world services and only 0.3 per cent of world services exports. LDCs' exports are expanding rapidly – 11 per cent per year on average – but from a low base. Bangladesh is the leading LDC services exporter, followed by Cambodia and Myanmar, and tourism is the LDCs' most traded services sector. To date, 51 WTO members – both developed and developing countries – have notified preferences under the Services Waiver. “These members together account for 86 per cent of global GDP and 86 per cent of global trade,” a press note from the WTO reads.
A review of the waiver was mandated by the 2015 Nairobi Decision. A services waiver was first established in 2011 allowing WTO members to grant more favourable treatment to LDC service suppliers. The Nairobi Decision extended the waiver until December 31, 2030. The purpose of the waiver is to enhance the participation of the world's poorest countries in world trade.
One theme emerging from the dedicated session of the Services Council was the need for more detailed trade data and for reporting of bilateral trade flows. The European Union (EU) was cited as one of the few members to report on the evolution of its imports of LDC services. It was noted that Bangladesh was one of the few LDCs to publish data about its services exports. The EU was reported as being the top destination for Bangladesh's services exports.
The LDCs also drew attention to the potentially restrictive effect regulations can have on market access for LDC service suppliers, including raising the costs of trade. They called on preference-granting members to tailor their preferences to the collective request tabled by the LDCs in 2014, which calls for, among other things, to end requirements for the recognition of qualifications and market access restrictions, including residence obligation for professionals from LDCs. Strategies on strengthening national capacities for service supply should be tailor-made to respond to the specific capacity constraints LDCs are facing, the group said.
In addition, an overview of the recent improvements to the services-related statistics databases was presented, including the TiVA database – developed by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) and the WTO – that measures trade in value added (TiVA) terms, and the Trade in Services database by mode of supply, which measures services trade by sector.
The dedicated session highlighted the need for efforts from national agencies in charge of statistics for financial resources to collect and compile data and to promote multi-level cooperation. The need for specific technical assistance for LDCs was also emphasized. Improving data collection at the national, regional and international levels will be essential to better capture the progress made on implementing the Services Waiver.
Another issue highlighted, on the occasion, was the regional disparity among LDCs. For example, tourism services are concentrated mainly in Asian countries, and while the share of LDCs' services exports is growing in Asia, it has been declining in Africa since 2005.
The preference-granting members shared recent initiatives and practices to translate the waiver into concrete market share for LDCs. These include easing the granting of visas for service suppliers seeking to access foreign markets, assisting LDCs in building a robust and sustainable tourism sector by helping to build roads and hotels and enhancing presence on the Internet, organising traineeships and organising targeted technical assistance activities. It was also stressed that the waiver should complement other efforts.
Several LDC service suppliers presented their success stories, the challenges they face and made suggestions on how to facilitate their further integration into the global trading system. It was said that certification remains a key challenge for service suppliers from LDCs, especially given its close link with consumer confidence.
LDCs called on members to grant additional preferences and to reduce regulatory barriers.
Improving transparency
In a meeting of the Council for Trade in Services today, WTO members discussed transparency and notification requirements for services-related measures following a communication sponsored by several developing countries. All members that intervened said that they shared the proponents' objective to improve transparency, although many noted the capacity constraints faced by developing countries and LDCs in complying with notification requirements, including internal coordination challenges. Several indicated that they were ready to engage in a conversation on how the transparency of services trade measures could be improved.

Pokhara-Muglin highway to be widened to four lanes

The Asian Development Bank (ADB) has approved a loan of $195 million to improve the highway section between Pokhara and Mugling, which links Pokhara to Kathmandu and to subregional corridors connecting Nepal with India and Bangladesh.
“The project will boost the traffic capacity, reliability, and safety of the main road link from Pokhara,” said ADB transport specialist Johan Georget. “The highway will be widened to four lanes, and this will reduce travel times, lower transport costs, and improve access to domestic markets, jobs, and social services,” he said, adding that the upgraded highway will also open a wider gateway for Nepal to international markets, especially in India, and facilitate the arrivals of tourists to the region of Pokhara and its hinterland.
The project is part of a major trade corridor and feeder roads of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) and the South Asia Subregional Economic Cooperation (SASEC), linking Kathmandu with Dhaka and Chittagong through India.
As a landlocked country, Nepal relies heavily on direct neighbours for international trade, mainly India, which traded 65 per cent of Nepal’s imports and exports. But while roads are the predominant mode of transport in Nepal for more than 90 per cent of goods and passengers, the density and capacity of the road network remains low. This infrastructure deficiency hampers the economy, resulting in high operating costs and travel times, and impeding the development of competitive supply chains, tourism, and regional integration and trade.
Nepal’s economic growth improved to 7.3 per cent a year on average between fiscal years 2017 and 2019, compared with about 3.3 per cent in the previous three fiscal years. The
The 200-kilometer (km) journey from Pokhara – a prime tourist destination at the foot of the Himalayas – to the capital Kathmandu takes more than 5 hours by road. It is currently a two-lane highway that handles about 7,400 vehicles a day. As the number of vehicle registrations has been rising and total vehicles are expected to quadruple by 2029, upgrading national highways is a priority to support economic development.
Under the project, 81-km of the road will be widened to four lanes from Pokhara to Abukhaireni to meet increasing demand. Improvements will be made to the surfacing, structure, and drainage, with safety features like crash barriers, and traffic and other warning light systems installed. A second 8-km section between Mugling and Abukhaireni will be considered for a subsequent project.
The road will be divided by a median, while service lanes in urban areas will improve safety, especially for pedestrians, bicycles, and motorcycle users. This is especially important since the country suffers a high rate of almost 16 deaths per 100,000 people due to traffic. Performance-based maintenance contracts of 5 years will strengthen road management and maintenance. The project will also install a landslide monitoring and management system to strengthen disaster resilience, according to a press note issued by the Asian Development Bank (ADB).
The total cost of the project is $254 million, of which the government will provide $59 million, it reads, adding that the project is due for completion at the end of 2025. “Accompanying the loan is an ADB technical assistance grant of $500,000 to strengthen disaster risk reduction, landslide management, road safety, and procurement in the Ministry of Physical Infrastructure and Transport and Department of Roads.”
ADB is committed to achieving a prosperous, inclusive, resilient, and sustainable Asia and the Pacific, while sustaining its efforts to eradicate extreme poverty. In 2018, it made commitments of new loans and grants amounting to $21.6 billion. Established in 1966, it is owned by 68 members, 49 from the region.

Tuesday, October 29, 2019

Rental charge for factories within Simara GPZ to be reduced

The government is going to review the fee for factories within Garment Processing Zone (GPZ) in Simara as the manufacturers’ showed no interest to invest in the protected zone citing high rental charges.
The SEZ Authority has fixed the rental fee of Rs 20 per square feet per month for investors to establish factories within Simara GPZ. Since the investors seemed not interested in the current rate, the Ministry of Industry, Commerce and Supply (MoICS) has formed a rental fee fixation committee to revise rental rate inside the Simara GPZ.
According to joint secretary at the ministry Chandika Bhatta, who is also the former executive director of Special Economic Zone (SEZ) Authority, the government is going to reduce the rental fee as garment manufacturers have refused to invest – at the current rate – in Simara GPZ.
The SEZ Authority – six months ago in May – had asked for applications from interested garment manufacturers to invest within the GPZ. But not a single investor applied forcing the government to revisit the rate. The garment manufacturers, however, asked the government to reduce the rental fee at Simara GPZ to Rs 5 per square feet per month.
“The committee will soon determine a new rental fee rate to encourage garment manufacturers to invest in the Simara GPZ,” he said, adding that the investors did not express interest to invest within the GPZ, even after repeated notices stating the zone is open due to rental fee. “As the GPZ in Simara was developed to promote production and exports of garments, the government will give ear to the investors and encourage them to invest in the GPZ.”
Once the rental fee is competitive, garment manufacturers are expected to invest in the Simara GPZ, according to the Garment Association of Nepal (GAN).
The government – since long – is planning to start GPZ and SEZ – to promote export – offering the investors basic infrastructure, including internal road, electricity and water supply, sewage system, weighing bridge, waste water treatment plant, petrol pump, banks and insurance service.
After the US government extended zero tariff preference for 66 products – including apparels – into its market through the ‘Trade Facilitation and Trade Enforcement Act’ in February 2016, the government came up with the concept of GPZ expecting to bring down the production and export cost as Nepali garments are relatively higher compared to South Asian countries.
But the services and facilities, apart from rental fee in the GPZ has created dilemma. 
Likewise, the establishment of SEZ in Bhairahawa has already taken more than 18 years but it has not yet been operational hindering the government move to boost the export. 

Monday, October 28, 2019

Kathmandu-Birgunj electric railway to cost around Rs 265 billion

Kathmandu-Birgunj electric railway is going to cost around Rs 265 billion, according to a Preliminary Engineering and Traffic (PET) report prepared by an Indian firm Kanekar Consulting Engineers (KCE).
Initial draft of the feasibility report of the proposed 135-kilometre-long Kathmandu-Birgunj electric railway has been submitted to the Nepal and Indian governments on May 7. After the consideration of the both countries, further process including conducting detailed engineering study and detailed project report of the project will start, according to the Department of Railways (DoRW).
Apart from the passengers, the electric rail will also transport cargo containers, which is expected to significantly minimise the transport cost and ease the trading.
The report has suggested four alternative routes of the railway, according to director general of the department Balaram Mishra. “The alternative routes include 135-kilometre-long Raxaul-Jitpur-Nijgadh-Shikharpur-Sisnery-Kathmandu; 171-km-long Raxaul-Jitpur-Hatiya-Hetauda-Satikhel-Kathmandu; 191-km-long Raxaul-Jitpur-Nijgadh-Hetauda-Satikhel-Kathmandu; and 191-km-long Raxaul-Jitpur-Nijgadh-Shikharpur-Satikhel-Kathmandu,” he said, adding that the India firm has suggested conducting further studies on the first alternative route – the 135-kilometre-long Raxaul-Jitpur-Nijgadh-Shikharpur-Sisnery-Kathmandu – as it will cost less and has the shortest distance among the four alternatives. “The PET report has identified the places along the route, where 42-km-long tunnel, bridges and other necessary railway infrastructure needs to be built, which means around 20 per cent of railway line will comprise of tunnels and bridges.”
The report has also suggested 13 railway stations along the route of the railway project that needs to acquire around 900 hectares of land.
Both the countries had agreed on effective implementation of bilateral initiatives in railway linkages, inland waterways development and agriculture during Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Nepal on May 11 and 12 last year. The Indian prime minister had assured that the entire cost – including establishment of an office, pre-feasibility study, detailed feasibility study (DFS) and detailed project report (DPR) – to construct the railway from Kathmandu to Raxaul will be covered by the Indian government.

Sunday, October 27, 2019

Himalaya Airlines begins Beijing flights

Himalaya Airlines today launched its maiden flight to Beijing, establishing the historical direct connectivity between the capital cities of the two countries.
It will be operating a thrice-weekly flight on Kathmandu-Beijing route, according to the airlines.
The airfare on Kathmandu-Beijing starts from Rs 35,000 for one-way, the airline said, adding that the new flight is the latest move in Himalaya Airlines business strategy of network expansion to boost Nepal’s connection with China, which is the second largest source market of tourists. “The airline’s growth in network follows the revised air services agreement between Nepal and China in July, which opened up five new points in China for Nepali airlines for 2019 and three more for 2020.”
According to the president of Himalaya Airlines Zhou Enyong, the flight will attract more Chinese tourists, especially from North China to Nepal. “The route is expected to ship over 40,000 Chinese passengers a year to Nepal to spend money on travel and, to make investment or have business cooperation, which will create a new engine for the development of the tourism industry chain and for all kinds of economic activities in Nepal.”
During the inauguration, tourism minister Yogesh Bhattarai said that connectivity with China will contribute to Nepal’s target to host 500,000 Chinese travellers as part of Visit Nepal 2020 (VNY2020) campaign.
“Nepal is an important international tourist destination and it is also the first choice for Chinese tourists among South Asian countries,” Chinese ambassador to Nepal Hou Yanqi said, on the occasion.
Bhattarai and Yanqi along with tourism secretary Kedar Bahadur Adhikari and high ranking officials from Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal (CAAN) and Tribhuwan International Airport (TIA) were present for the pre departure inaugural flight cake cutting ceremony organised at the Radisson Airport Restaurant.
“The addition of Beijing route is part of the carrier’s wider commitment to Visit Nepal campaign to attract more Chinese tourists,” vice president– administration of Himalaya Airlines Vijay Shrestha said, adding that in the context of Belt and Road Initiative as well, Himalaya Airlines aims to open up new avenues for the corporate and industrial sector. “Himalaya Airlines is planning to go to three new destinations: Guiyang, Changsha and Nanchang soon to improve access to the Chinese market.”
The Nepal-China joint venture airline is catering the growing demand among the business and leisure passengers between the two countries after the new flight to Beijing that will provide seamless connectivity options for business people as well as tourists from China, offering yet more choice and convenience to our passengers.
Himalaya Airlines – an international air carrier is a Nepal-China joint Venture – established in August 2014 proudly owns the young fleet of three A320-214 series of narrow-body aircraft with the configuration of 8 Business class and 150 Economy class seats and has plans to add two A319 in its fleet in the near future to fly Trans-Himalayan ranges and launch flights to Lhasa.
The airlines is now focusing to build its connectivity with China; with its first flight to Beijing, the airlines will be spreading its wings to Changsha, Nanchang, Guiyang, Chongqing, Ali and Shenzhen.
Meanwhile, Himalaya Airline's Kathmandu-Beijing flight H9 665 landed in Beijing at 17:10 hours, according to the airlines. The first-ever direct commercial flight between Kathmandu and Beijing was welcomed at Beijing's Daxing International Airport by vice chairperson of Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR) of China Luo Mei, ambassador of Nepal to China Leela Mani Paudyal, as well as other high-level dignitaries from the Chinese Government.
Speaking at a function to welcome the flight from Kathmandu, ambassador Paudyal said that the direct flight between the capital cities of Nepal and China will herald a new dawn in strengthening civil aviation cooperation between the two countries, and expressed the hope that it would help promote bilateral relations in trade, investment and people-to-people.
The inaugural flight from Kathmandu to Beijing had 59 passengers, and on the return flight from Beijing to Kathmandu it has 70 passengers.

Saturday, October 26, 2019

18th NAM Summit concludes with Baku Declaration

The 18th Summit of heads of state and government of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) concluded this afternoon issuing the Baku Declaration that calls for resolving to increase the effectiveness of the Movement by making it a dynamic and effective mechanism to represent, coordinate and support the interests and priorities of all of its member states.
The NAM member states have also decided to activate the role of the Movement for making it adequate to new realities in the current geopolitical landscape by promoting and upholding its founding principles which continue to be as much valid and relevant as originally conceived, according to a press note issued by the Foreign Ministry.
The 18th NAM Summit also decided that the member states will remain united and steadfast within the Movement in view of the emerging threats and challenges to international peace, security and development.
The two-day 18th Summit of heads of state and government of the NAM was held at the Baku Congress Centre in Baku, the capital of the Republic of Azerbaijan from October 25 to 26, where the member-states – during the conclusion – also declared that the effective implementation of the NAM Baku Summit Outcome Document and the documents of the previous NAM Summits and ministerial meetings requires the highest commitment and determination of all NAM member states. The NAM member states also decided to consolidate their positions in order to advance the interests of the developing world, build a fair, inclusive, transparent and effective system of global governance. “The member states shall support multilateralism with the UN at its core and give a boost to the central role of the United Nations in the institutional and legal framework of global governance,” reads the Declaration.
In this regard, the member states also decided to call for further strengthening and modernising of the UN, revitalising the UN General Assembly and strengthening its authority as the most democratic, accountable, universal and representative body of the organisation, including in the area of international peace and security.
“All states shall respect the territorial integrity, sovereignty, the sovereign equality, political independence and inviolability of international borders of other states, comply with the principles of non-intervention in the internal affairs”, the Declaration reads, adding that that any attempt aimed at partial or total disruption of the national unity or territorial integrity of states shall be continued to be opposed.
The states also decided to strengthen NAM solidarity in combating terrorism in all its forms and manifestations while stressing that terrorism should not be associated with any religion, nationality, civilisation or ethnic group. A decision was taken to observe the 2021 as the International Year of Peace and Trust and to continue to work towards the full implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, leaving no one behind, remembering that the Agenda is universal and transformative, based on peoples’ needs and interest.
They have also reaffirmed the central importance of the development dimensions in trade negotiations and maintain that a successful conclusion of the Doha Development Round, launched in 2001, can only be achieved, if the outcomes thereof significantly address the imbalances and inequities in the multilateral trading system, in which the interests of developing countries could be reflected.
The promulgation and application of unilateral coercive measures against member states of the Movement was strongly condemned, while demanding the repeal of, such measures, which affect human rights and prevent the full economic and social development of the peoples subjected to them.
They also reaffirmed that climate change is one of the greatest challenges of present time and express profound alarm that emissions of greenhouse gases continue to raise globally.
Reaffirming that the South-South Cooperation is an expression of solidarity and cooperation among the peoples and countries of the South, the NAM member states stressed on ensuring the full enjoyment of all human rights, including the right to development so as to build collective and sustainable peace and prosperity across the world.
The summit also recognised the member states’ primary responsibility to promote durable solutions for internally displaced persons in situations of armed conflict, including their voluntary return in safety and with dignity, as well as to ensure respect, protection and fulfillment of their human rights.
Finally, the member states congratulated President of the Republic of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev for assuming the chairmanship of the NAM and expressed appreciation to the government and people of the Republic of Azerbaijan for hosting the 18th Summit of heads of state and government of the NAM in a grand manner.
Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli led a 21-member Nepali delegation to the 18th NAM summit in Baku. The Prime Minister Oli and the Nepali delegation will leave Baku tonight and arrive Kathmandu on Sunday morning.

Friday, October 25, 2019

CNI, NRNA seal a deal to attract FDI in Nepal

Confederation of Nepalese Industries (CNI) and Non-Resident Nepali Association (NRNA) agreed to jointly promote investment in the country and Nepali products abroad.
CNI president Satish Kumar More and the newly-elected president of NRNA Kumar Panta signed the agreement on behalf of their institutions. More, on the occasion, said that the role of NRNs in bringing in foreign expertise and technology in Nepal’s industrial development is crucial.
Stressing on the need for NRNs and private sector to work together, he said, that Nepal has a high scope for investment in sectors like infrastructure, hydropower, tourism, agriculture and technology. “These are the sectors, where the private sector and NRNs should coordinate in bringing in foreign investment,” More added.
Similarly, CNI also urged NRNA to make its Investment Fund more effective and mobilise it for country’s development as soon as possible.
Likewise, immediate past president of CNI Hari Bhakta Sharma said that NRNs should contribute to the development process of Nepal by sharing the development experience and expertise of foreign countries.
NRNA president Panta, on the occasion, said that the association will work together with the private sector in Nepal to attract foreign investment, especially in the manufacturing sector. The NRNA will work to bring in foreign investment worth billions of rupees into the country,” he said.
Immediately after being elected to the top post of NRNA, Panta had vowed that NRNs would invest Rs 10 billion in various infrastructure development projects in the country this fiscal year.

Nepal to reaffirm its commitment to NAM principles during 18th NAM Summit

The 18th Summit of heads of state and government of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) begins today.
The two-day Summit kicks off with the official opening ceremony at the Baku Congress Centre with participants including heads of state and government as well as senior government officials from 120 member countries, and representatives of the 17 observer countries and 10 observer organisations.
Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli – reached Baku late night on Thursday – leading a 21-member Nepali delegation. He is being accompanied by his spouse Radhika Shakya.
The Nepali delegation includes foreign minister Pradeep Kumar Gyawali, chief adviser to the Prime Minister Bishnu Rimal, foreign affairs adviser to the Prime Minister Dr Rajan Bhattarai, foreign secretary Shanker Das Bairagi, Permanent Representative of Nepal to the United Nations (UN) Amrit Rai and senior officials at the Foreign Ministry.
The Preparatory Ministerial Meeting was held on October 23-24 – as a preceding to the 18th NAM Summit – and senior officials meeting on October 21-22. The Summit will consider the report of the Preparatory Ministerial Meeting, review the progress achieved in the implementation of the outcomes of the 17th Summit held in 2016, and conclude tomorrow with the adoption of the Baku Declaration.
The ministerial meeting of NAM has analysed the present world situation, which reaffirmed the significance of the NAM in the new world order, according to the foreign minister Gyawali.
The two-day ministerial meeting preceding the summit has also drafted the Baku Declaration, which will be the major outcome document of the 18th NAM Summit.
The General Debate of the 18th NAM Summit will be held on ‘Upholding the Bandung Principles to ensure concerted and adequate response to the challenges of contemporary world’. Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli is scheduled to address the general debate of the Summit later today.
The objective of NAM is that the developing counties need to have an independent identity, independent existence and right to develop independently, with a just representation in the world system.

Thursday, October 24, 2019

CDC Group, WorldLink ink investment deal

The UK’s development finance institution CDC Group today announced its investment of Rs 1.35 billion (approximately $12 million) in the private sector internet service provider WorldLink.
The investment is expected to facilitate WorldLink in aggressively expanding its internet network throughout the nation reaching out to the most marginalised areas, according to a press note issued by the company. “CDC Group has made the investment in WorldLink as equity, securing 10 per cent share in the company.”
This marks CDC’s first equity investment in Nepal but also second investment in the country this year. Earlier, CDC Group has injected a three-year loan of $15 million in NMB Bank.
“The investment will help fund WorldLink’s ambitious expansion throughout Nepal, reaching further remote territories and connecting hundreds of thousands of households and small enterprises to the internet,” confirmed the WorldLink that has grown into the country’s largest internet service provider, laying over 8000-km of fibre and reaching some of the most remote places like Chhatrakot Rural Municipality and Ruru Rural Municipality.
CDC’s capital will accelerate its expansion, helping WorldLink to provide even more small businesses and families with a reliable internet source. WorldLink – as claimed by itself – is already a large employer, particularly of young people, with nearly 3000 employees. “CDC’s investment will support the hiring of over 1,000 additional employees,” the WorldLink, said, adding that CDC will also help develop a skills and training programme for all staff and progress health and safety standards.
“We firmly believe in the power of connectivity to help bring communities out of poverty,” managing director and head of Asia at CDC Srini Nagarajan said, adding that advancing the internet to MSMEs across Nepal gives them access to global trade and markets. “It also brings families into contact in Nepal and overseas.”
CDC’s capital will help accelerate this, helping it reach further remote regions.
“We are delighted to be creating long term partnerships in a country where our capital will make a meaningful difference to people’s lives,” he added.
“We feel honoured to be the first CDC equity investment in Nepal,” managing director of WorldLink Dileep Agrawal. “It is a recognition of our 24 years’ hard work and commitment to Nepal’s internet and telecoms industry,” he said, adding that with CDC’s backing, our ambition is to transform Worldlink into a world-class company that will serve as a model and inspiration to other companies in Nepal. “Our partnership will accelerate our pursuit to connect everyone, anywhere, all the time.”
Compared to other countries in Asia, access to digital services remains low in Nepal and presents a real challenge for the development of businesses. Improving access to affordable and quality internet is central to Nepal’s development and economic growth, and a key part of UN Sustainable Development Goal 9 (SDG9).

United Nations in Nepal celebrates 74th UN Day

The United Nations (UN) in Nepal celebrated the 74th UN Day at the City Hall today to showcase some of the work done by the UN in support of Nepal’s development priorities as well as to raise awareness on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
Present at the celebration were the Nepali public including a large number of youth, government officials, development partners and UN staff members. At the margins of the event, UN Resident Coordinator Valerie Julliand said, “I am pleased to see the activity and engagement of such large number of youth with the energy and innovative ideas on how to achieve the SDGs.”
The event was marked by interactive discussions led by young social media influencers like Samriddhi Rai, Sristi KC, Bhrikuti Rai and Saroj Phuyal. The discussion centered around the role of youth in creating an equality and fostering innovations in Nepal.
The heads of various UN agencies also participated in speed mentoring sessions with youths, discussing the issues the mentees chose to raise – be it career questions or development priorities of the UN. One of the young participants in the speed mentoring said that he appreciated the opportunity to meet the senior UN officials in a friendly and more personal environment. 
The United Nations Day highlights the enduring ideals of the UN Charter, adopted 74 years ago on 24 October. Nepal became a member of the United Nations in 1951, and in the same year, welcomed the organization's operational presence in the country. The UN Country Team works closely with the government and other development partners to assist Nepal in achieving nationally and internationally agreed goals, first and foremost the SDGs.

Vistara, SpiceJet and Jazeera to fly to Kathmandu

As the Visit Nepal Year 2020 is going to start soon, more international airliners are flying to Kathmandu to boost the tourist arrivals.
The Tourism Ministry has granted operating authorisation to three international airlines – including two from India – to operate flights to Kathmandu.
According to Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal (CAAN), India’s full-service airline Vistara and budget carrier SpiceJet applied for slots at Tribhuvan International Airport (TIA) after receiving the operating authorisation.
Likewise, Kuwaiti carrier Jazeera Airways has also applied for a slot at TIA. “All the three airlines will begin service from the third week of November,” the CAAN said, adding that Vistara has applied to operate daily flights on the Delhi-Kathmandu route while SpiceJet has applied for daily flights on the Delhi-Kathmandu and Mumbai-Kathmandu routes. “The Kathmandu-New Delhi route will see at least 10 flights per day from November.”
The additional flights on Kathmandu-New Delhi route may ignite fierce competition and benefit consumers. The route is also considered a lucrative sector as flight occupancy reaches more than 95 per cent during the peak season.
After India's Jet Airways suspended its Nepal flights in April, many carriers have been showing interest in the route. The suspension of services by Jet Airways resulted in a 40 per cent reduction in weekly flight capacity. Jet Airways used to fly thrice daily on the Delhi-Kathmandu sector, and twice daily on the Mumbai-Kathmandu sector.

Nepal third competitive economy in South Asia

Nepal climbs one position to become the third competitive economy – out of the eight economies in South Asia behind first-placed India and Bhutan – from the fourth last year, whereas the country has jumped to 94th position – with 63.2 score – out of 190 economies in the World Bank’s ease of doing business rankings due to improved credit information availability, easier cross-border trade, and enforcement of contracts.
Nepal was in the 110th position – with a score of 59.7 points – in the doing business ranking in 2019 World Bank report. The leap of 16 places is also attributed to Nepal’s dissatisfaction over the last year’s ranking. Nepal was ranked 105th in 2018 and slipped five positions to 110 in 2019.
In the Doing Business Report 2020, Nepal scored highest on access to credit information – 37th out of 190 economies – among the 10 indicators used by the World Bank to calculate the ranking as the country has improved access by expanding the coverage of the credit bureau.
Likewise, Nepal also ranked relatively high on cross-border trade – 60th out of 190 economies – as the country has reduced export costs and improved import times by opening the Birgunj Integrated Check Post (ICP), according to the annual report.
However, Nepal has spiralled down in starting a business indicator from 107th to 135th, which reflects all the procedural delays and time-consuming processes that have always deterred investors in Nepal. “Nepal is still poorly ranked in starting a business ranking as the country is in 135th position among the 190 economies as the country has made things more difficult – according to the World Bank – by
Nepal made notable improvements with four reforms, the report reads, adding that the country improved an online e-submission platform for construction permits and enhanced the quality of land administration by publishing official service standards for delivering updated cadastral maps. “Authorities improved the commercial judicial system by introducing time standards for key court events.”
However, Nepal made the process of registering new employees with social security more cumbersome by requiring in-person follow-ups. The country also raised property transfer registration fees, it adds.
Overall, of the 10 indicators that the World Bank evaluates to rank countries, Nepal has improved in five indicators, slipped in three and remained constant in two indicators compared to the previous year, according to the report.
The report measures procedural changes but not the quality and efficiency of the implementation of structural reforms in tax regimens and in starting a business, apart from changes in regulation. Hoever, the report does not account for the level of corruption and the existing level of investor confidence, which are major factors affecting the investment climate.
The index draws data from a questionnaire administered to professionals who oversee or advise on legal and regulatory requirements for doing business. According to the World Bank, most respondents are legal professionals such as lawyers, judges or notaries. In addition, officials of the credit bureau or registry complete the credit information questionnaire. Accountants, architects, engineers, freight forwarders and other professionals answer the questionnaires related to paying taxes, dealing with construction permits, trading across borders and getting electricity. This profile of respondents to the questionnaire perhaps accounts for the report’s focus on regulatory measures over their implementation.
Many South Asian economies kept up a solid pace of business regulatory reforms as India and Pakistan both earned spots among the world’s top ten most improved economies, the World Bank Doing Business 2020 study revealed, adding that it is encouraging to see the steady implementation of reforms in South Asia. According to senior manager of the World Bank’s Global Indicators Group, which produces the study, Rita Ramalho, “Continued and sustained progress is key to improving the domestic business climate and enabling private enterprise.”
Economies in the South Asia region carried out 17 reforms to improve the business climate for domestic small and medium-size enterprises.

South Asian ranking
Afghanistan  – 173
Bangladesh – 168
Bhutan  – 89
India  – 63
Maldives  – 147
Nepal  – 94
Pakistan  – 108
Sri Lanka  – 99
Source: World Bank

First Kathmandu-Beijing flight to take off on Sunday

Marking the first-ever capital-to-capital direct flight between Nepal and China, Himalaya Airlines is starting its flight to Beijing from Sunday.
The flight will depart from Kathmandu’s Tribhuvan International Airport (TIA) at 8:30 am local time and reach Daxing International Airport at 4:10 pm local time, according to the private airliner. “The return flight leaves at 5:40 pm and reaches Kathmandu at 9:45 pm the same day.”
Himalaya Airlines will operate two weekly flights on Tuesdays and Fridays till November 8 using an Airbus A320 jet, it confirmed, adding that from November 10, it plans to operate three weekly flights on Sundays, Tuesdays and Fridays. “The Kathmandu-Beijing flight is 5 hours 30 minutes long.”
Himalaya Airlines, earlier planned to operate Airbus A319 aircraft on the Kathmandu-Beijing route but the plan to lease the plane has been postponed due to new rule in the Foreign Investment and Transfer of Technology Act (FITTA). According to the act, the foreign direct investment (FDI) proposal needs to be approved even for leasing planes. Thus, the airlines is flying Airbus A320 jet on Kathmandu-Beijing route.
“All preparations for the Beijing service have been completed,” said vice-president of administration of Himalaya Airlines Vijay Shrestha. “We have targeted to bring around 40,000 tourists from China annually,” he said, adding that the airlines plans to contribute to the Visit Nepal 2020 campaign.
Along with Beijing, Himalaya Airlines is also preparing to fly to other Chinese destinations including Guiyang, Changsha and Nanchang from November.
Though, five Chinese carriers including Air China, China Southern, China Eastern, Sichuan Airlines and Tibet Airlines operate flights to Nepal, Himalaya Airlines will become the first airlines to fly to China. Nepal Airlines Corporation (NAC) – that used to operate services to the Japanese city of Osaka via Shanghai until 2008 under fifth freedom rights – is also planning to fly to Beijing soon.
Nepal and China – in July – signed a revised bilateral air services agreement, which allows 98 weekly flights between the two countries on a reciprocal basis, an increase from the existing 70 flights per week.
Since tourist arrivals from China witnessed the strongest growth of 46.8 per cent to 153,602 in 2018 also due to increased flight frequencies between the two countries, the flights of Himalaya Airlines and Nepal Airlines Corporation is expected to increase the Chinese tourist arrivals in 2020, when Nepal will celebrate Visit Nepal Year 2020 (VNY2020).  

Wednesday, October 23, 2019

Sustainable mobility could connect 1 billion people, increase GDP by 2.6 trillion, cut 1.9 gigatons of CO2

The Sustainable Mobility for All (SuM4All) initiative launched today the Global Roadmap of Action toward Sustainable Mobility (GRA), a tool to guide country decision-makers on ‘how to’ achieve mobility that is efficient, accessible, safe and green.
The event brought together global leaders in the sector to discuss country and city actions for achieving greener, safer, more efficient, and equitable mobility. The GRA follows the 2017 launch of Global Mobility Report, the first-ever global assessment of the transport sector across all modes.
With growing urbanisation, increasing world trade and new technologies, the global mobility system is stressed. More than 1 billion people, or one-third of the global rural population, lacks access to all-weather roads and transport services, a major barrier to social and economic advancement. The GRA will help tackle this urgency by taking a holistic approach of sustainability and offering concrete policy solutions countries can adapt and adopt to achieve sustainable mobility.
As a tool, the GRA helps countries identify gaps, crucial steps, and appropriate policies to ensure that transport contributes to attain the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by 2030 and improve the sustainability of their transport system.
According to the GRA, globally, one billion more people would be connected to education, health and jobs if we close the transport access gap in rural areas, improvements in border administration, transport and communication infrastructure could increase global GDP by up to $2.6 trillion and an additional 1.6 billion people would breathe cleaner air, if transport pollution was halved.
“The current mobility system takes a heavy toll on our planet and leaves many people behind. In most cases, it is also expensive, inefficient, and unsafe,” Programme Manager of SuM4All and World Bank Lead Economist Nancy Vandycke said, adding that the GRA is the first comprehensive effort to look across the four policy goals of accessibility, efficiency, safety, and green mobility for all modes of transport with a focus on action. “It serves as an important tool for policymakers to act now and turn the vision of sustainable transport into a reality.”
“Global challenges call for global solutions and making freight transportation sustainable is no exception,” secretary-general of UNCTAD Mukhisa Kituyi said, adding that multilateral approaches underpinned by a shared vision, a sense of community and multi-stakeholder collaboration, are the ultimate safeguard against impractical solutions that distort the playing field while leaving behind the most vulnerable and the weakest. “Achieving freight transportation systems that are truly economically efficient, environmentally sound and socially inclusive would otherwise be impossible.”
The GRA report is the outcome of more than 18 months of work by 55 influential organisations, 180 experts, and consultations with 50 public decision makers and 25 private corporations. SuM4All is an umbrella platform supported by 55 public and private organisations with a shared ambition to transform the future of mobility.

Trade deficit narrows

Trade deficit narrowed by 3.1 per cent to Rs 211 billion in the two months of the current fiscal year 2019-20.
While merchandise exports increased by 25.9 per cent to Rs 18.5 billion in the two months of this fiscal compared to an increase of eight per cent in the same period of previous fiscal year, merchandise imports decreased by 1.2 per cent to Rs 229.50 billion, according to the Current Macroeconomic and Financial Situation of Nepal – based on two months’ data of fiscal year 2019-20 – narrowing the trade deficit gap, though in per cent only.
As the government tightened imports of luxury goods, imports of vehicles and spare parts fell by 9.3 per cent to Rs 16.30 billion, the data revealed, adding that oil imports also declined by 8 per cent to Rs 28.46 billion. The export has increased as the country witnessed an export of palm oil, which – according to the economists – is not sustainable.
Nepal’s imports from China, however, went up by 39.2 per cent due to an increased inflow of clothes, fruits and electronic goods for the festival season. Likewise, shipments to India jumped by 46 per cent while export earnings from India dropped by 17.4 per cent in the first two months of the current fiscal year. “Export earnings from third countries increased by less than 1 per cent.”
Likewise, earnings from the export of cardamom, cinnamon, handicrafts and thread to India almost doubled, apart from exports of Nepali lokta paper and its products and other handicraft items which also increased by a notable amount to third countries.
Similarly, the balance of payments (BoP) remained at a surplus of Rs 8.83 billion compared to a deficit of Rs 25.45 billion in the first two months of the previous fiscal year.
Based on the imports of two months of current fiscal year, the foreign exchange reserves of the banking sector is sufficient to cover prospective merchandise imports of 9.6 months, and merchandise and services imports of 8.4 months, according to the report.
However, year-on-year consumer price inflation stood at 6.16 per cent in mid-September against 3.86 per cent a year ago due to increasing price of food. “Food and beverage inflation stood at 6.51 per cent, whereas non-food and service inflation stood at 5.89 per cent in mid-September,” the report revealed.
The government has targeted to contain the inflation under 6 per cent in the current fiscal year, but the increasing price hike has challenged the government target.

Remittance inflow drops despite festive season, high exchange rate

Despite festive season and high exchange rate, remittance inflow to the country has started decreasing for the first time in four years.
According to the Current Macroeconomic and Financial Situation of Nepal – based on two months’ data of fiscal year 2019-20 – remittance inflow from abroad decreased by 0.3 per cent to Rs 153.73 billion compared to the same period in the last fiscal year. Nepal had received a total of Rs 154.2 billion in remittances in the first two months of the last fiscal year. The remittance inflow witnessed a drop of Rs 0.47 billion in the first two months compared to last fiscal years’ two months, despite the festive season, which usually witness increase in the remittance inflow.
“In US dollar terms too, the remittance inflow has dropped by 1.3 per cent to $1.36 million in the first two months – in the months during mid-July and mid-September – of the current fiscal year,” the central bank data revealed, adding that the fall in the number of workers abroad has hit the remittance inflow.
According to the central bank report, the number of Nepali migrant workers – institutional and individuals – has increased by only 0.2 per cent in the first two months of the current fiscal year. “Malaysia remained closed for employment of Nepali workers for almost one-and-a-half years. Its impact is now being reflected in the flow of remittance. Not only Malaysia, some other Mid East countries that are major destinations for Nepali migrant workers are also cutting off their projects and vacancies.
However, economists attribute the fall in remittance inflow to increasing hundi and capital flight but the government claimed that it is too early to predict and worry as it is the figure of only two months. 

IPPAN to organise 7th Power Summit in November

Independent Power Producers' Association Nepal (IPPAN) is organising the 7th Power Summit 2019 in Kathmandu on November 21-22.
The association – issuing a press note – said that the summit will focus on cross border electricity trading, energy markets, regional electricity market regulation, financing, inclusive and sustainable development of power projects, governing and facilitating energy projects, and attracting investments.
It will also feature project showcase to highlight current activities in the sector within and outside the nation, the press note reads, adding that the two-day summit is being organised under the patronage of Ministry of Energy, Water Resources and Irrigation with a tag-line 'Powering the Asian Century'. “Nepal Electricity Authority (NEA) is an associate partner for the event.”
Likewise, Nepal Planning Commission (NPC) and Hydroelectric Investment and Development Company (HIDCL) are also partnering with IPPAN for the event. “The summit will focus on taking stock of the present situation and to look ahead to future possibilities of export and regional integration,” the IPPAN press note reads. “The summit will witness brainstorming on cross-border electricity trading, energy markets, regional electricity market regulation, financing, inclusive and sustainable development of power projects, governing and facilitating energy projects, attracting investments.”
More than 750 participants from India, China, Bhutan, Norway, Korea, Canada, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, the USA, and Japan are expected to take part in the event, which will be inaugurated by Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli.
Besides the technical session, the summit will also facilitate business-to-business (B2B) meeting allowing different parties to engage in business promotion.
The summit will be instrumental in developing appropriate and far reaching policies for the development of energy sector, president of IPPAN Shailendra Guragain claimed, adding that the summit with the theme of ‘Powering the Asian Century’, the association will be signing 18 agreements – including on power trade, environment and social best practices, and women in energy – with different government and private firms during the summit.
Saying that neighbouring countries are important to regional energy connectivity and export, Guragain said that the summit is being organised in association with the Embassy of India in Kathmandu and Embassy of Bangladesh in Kathmandu. Likewise, minister of Water Resources of India Gajendra Singh Shekhawat, and minister of State for Power, Energy and Mineral Resources of Bangladesh Nasrul Hamid will be participating in the summit.

Unequal distribution leaves poor and vulnerable countries behind

There is unequal distribution of the benefits of globalization leaving the poor and vulnerable countries behind, according to foreign minister Pradeep Kumar Gyawali.
Addressing the Preparatory Ministerial Meeting for the XVIII Summit of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) held in Baku, Republic of Azerbaija today, Gyawali said that there is unequal distribution of the benefits of globalisation, which left the poor and vulnerable countries behind. “In fact, these countries had become more vulnerable to the adverse impacts of financial and economic crises,” he said, adding that increasing incidents of terrorism, transnational organised crimes, violent extremism, and hate speeches, among others, have become everyday phenomena.
“The menace of climate change is outpacing our response,” Gyawali added. “Unfortunately, it is the poorest and most vulnerable who are hit hardest by the impacts of climate change despite their negligible emissions,” he said, adding that multilateralism has been under attack due to growing trends of populist nationalism and protectionism. “We must strengthen the multilateral system by upholding and defending the purposes and principles of the Charter of the United Nations and the principles of international law.
According to him, no peace and security can ever be sustained without achieving sustainable development. Similarly, no sustainable development can ever be achieved without sustaining peace and security. Therefore, NAM, as a group of 120 countries, has the special responsibility to use its numerical and moral strength to ensure adequate and predictable resources in preventing conflicts and helping its members achieve peace and stability.
The NAM is an epitome of collective pursuit of member countries for peaceful, just, fair and equitable world order. But he said that drawing its strength from the Bandung Principles, NAM has always led the path towards international solidarity and cooperation in the wake of ever-increasing challenges. “However, at present, our collective efforts to establish a peaceful and prosperous world are hindered by multiple challenges,” he said, adding that poverty and hunger still existed as blemishes on human dignity and achievements in scientific inventions, technological advances, and managerial innovations had not succeeded in soothing the pain of disease and deprivation. “Fair distribution of economic development and prosperity remains a far dream for millions of people trapped in abject poverty.”
The world economy has bounced back from the great recession and has been achieving global growth since 2010, but it has failed to raise the hope of the bottom billion for a better future,” he added.
The NAM membership, in the spirit of solidarity, should support each other in building domestic capacity by sharing their experiences, best practices and resources through the South-South Cooperation mechanism.
The Preparatory Ministerial Meeting is scheduled to make necessary substantive preparation for the XVIII NAM Summit to be held on October 25-26.

Tourism Secretary commits to resolve problems in tourism sector

Tourism secretary promised to resolve the problems faced by the tourism sector.
During a meeting with a delegation of Trekking Agencies’ Association of Nepal (TAAN), who paid a courtesy call on secretary at the Ministry of Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation Kedar Bahadur Adhikari today at the latter’s office the secretary committed to working together with private sector to resolve burning issues in tourism industry.
Responding to the delegation, he said that implementation of single payment system can be operated through a systematic planning of permits. Adhikari also assured to carry out necessary actions for infrastructural development in Ramecchap.
The delegation led by TAAN president Khum Bahadur Subedi also handed over 9-point memorandum to the secretary Adhikari apprising the latter about existing problems faced by the tourism industry. The delegation pointed out the impractical imposition of expensive and double trekking permit fee as well as the need to make it mandatory to have at least two trekkers for trekking.
Stating the importance of TIMS in controlling illegal trekking operation, ensuring trekker’s safety and security and labor welfare, Subedi urged the secretary to take necessary initiations for effective implementation of TIMS and make guide and assistants compulsory for trekking above 3000m.
TAAN, on the occasion, also submitted a record of comments and negative experiences of tourists on Ramecchap–Lukla flight and requested with the secretary to facilitate a hassle-free travel for tourists on Ramecchap–Lukla route, while calling for a complete halt of Kathmandu- Lukla flights.

Tuesday, October 22, 2019

Nepal, Bangladesh talk hydropower development, trade facilitation

Bangladesh has expressed willingness to invest in 20 hydropower projects in Nepal.
During the fourth meeting of the Nepal-Bangladesh Technical Committee for promotion of trade – held in Kathmandu today – both the countries are also positive on simplifying existing issues related to tariff and non-tariff barriers (NTB). Likewise, Nepal has asked Bangladesh to allow the export of local cardamom, yarn and broom grass (amriso) without facing any hurdles to be sold in Bangladesh. “Likewise, Nepal also put forth providing easy access to Nepali agricultural products including fruits to trade in the Bangladeshi market,” according to an official, who took part in the meeting.
“Apart from the trade issues, Bangladeshi officials also shown keen interest in investing in hydropower projects in Nepal,” according to the official.
The power-hungry Bangladesh has been consistently showing interest to invest in Nepal’s energy projects but Nepal has not been able to provide a project despite rounds of talks. However, both the countries agreed to trade power through India's transmission network, in a recently held secretary-level meeting between energy officials in Dhaka. Four months after the secretary-level meeting between Nepali and Bangladeshi energy officials, who agreed to trade power through India's transmission network, the three countries – Nepal, India and Bangladesh – are also holding talks on using the Indian grid to transfer electricity from Nepal to Bangladesh.
The seventh Joint Steering Committee meeting on Nepal-India Cooperation, which concluded last week has decided to hold a tripartite meeting within three months to move forward.
The two countries – during the meeting that is led by joint secretary at the Navaraj Dhakal and joint secretary at the Bangladeshi Ministry of Commerce Sharifa Khan – also discussed easing the movement of passenger vehicles across the borders, operation of direct bus service from Kathmandu to Dhaka as well as cargo supplies between the two SAARC nations. Bangladesh is also positive on providing easy access to Nepali cargo vehicles in the seaport of Bangladesh for third-country trade.
They also discussed ‘air route’ in order to operate air service to Bangladesh from the eastern part of Nepal, though the bilateral trade talks mainly focused on materialising the five memorandam of understanding (MoU) – including the trading of farm products and food items – signed between the two countries earlier, apart from extensive discuss on ways to reduce Nepal’s trade deficit with Bangladesh.
Moreover, trilateral transit agreement between Nepal, Bangladesh and India, harmonisation of sanitary and phytosanitary measures and technical barriers to trade measures between competent authorities of Nepal and Bangladesh were also on the agenda.

Monday, October 21, 2019

Austria to invest in two hydropower projects

Austria has expressed interest in assisting Nepal technically and financially to construct two projects – 635-megawatt (MW) Dudh Koshi Storage Hydroelectric Project and 100-MW Tamakoshi V project – with a total installed capacity of 735-MW.
During the first Energy Mechanism meeting between Nepal and Austria today, joint secretary at the Ministry of Energy, Water Resources and Irrigation Prabin Aryal and adviser of the deputy minister for transport, innovation and technology of Austria Sonja Steeler signed the agreement, on behalf of their respective governments.
Austrian officials are also keen on working together to build the Dudh Koshi and Tamakoshi V projects and help enhance the technical capacity of the Nepal Electricity Authority (NEA), according to the Ministry.
The Energy Mechanism meeting is held in Kathmandu today, five months after the energy ministers of the two countries signed an accord on technological assistance in hydroelectric infrastructure in Vienna in May. Earlier, Nepal and Austria had signed a cooperation agreement on infrastructure and technology in Austria on May 22. At that time, both the governments had agreed to invest in Nepal’s transportation and hydropower sectors.
Currently, detailed project report (DPR) preparation of Dudhkoshi reservoir project’s is underway while the DPR of Tamakoshi V has already been completed and its construction work is expected to begin soon, according to the Ministry that expects an exchange of technology and experience through the joint mechanism. Austria is the first European country to sign a deal with Nepal on assisting the energy sector.
The social impact of the Dudh Koshi project is expected to be less as only 162 households will be severely impacted, while 1,150 households – located along the border of Okhaldhunga and Khotang districts – will be partially affected, according to the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) report that also added that Nepal Electricity Authority (NEA) is collecting necessary suggestions from local levels, affected municipalities/rural municipalities, forest users groups, various organisations, political parties and locals for the EIA report.
The Dudhkoshi project will be spread over an area of 19.8-sq-km in Khotang and Okhaldhunga districts. Likewise, the reservoir dam will be spread across 17-km in Dudhkoshi, 8-km in Rawa Khola and 5.5-km in Thotne Khola.
A joint venture between Italy and Japan – ELC Electro Consult of Italy and NEWJWC Inc of Japan – has been carrying out the DPR of the reservoir project.
The NEA, which plans to build the plant through a subsidiary company, expects the design and preparatory studies to be concluded by December.
Estimated to cost Rs 220 billion ($1.523 billion excluding taxes and other financial costs), the project plans to use tunnel boring machine to dig the tunnel of the project. The feasibility study for the Dudh Koshi Storage Hydroelectric Project recommends building a main underground powerhouse near the Sunkoshi River with four units generating 150-MW each and a small 35-MW hydro unit, near the toe of the dam. The reservoir type project will produce 3,443 gigawatt hours per year, higher than the expected annual output of 3,383 gigawatt hours of the proposed Budhi Gandaki scheme.
Likewise, the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) has agreed to provide finance worth Rs 15 billion for Tamakoshi V project that will be developed at an estimated cost of $150 million. The project is being developed as a cascade project of 456-MW Upper Tamakoshi Hydropower Project.

Top UN official applauds Nepal’s efforts for reproductive health, women empowerment

UN under secretary general and director general of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) Dr Natalia Kanem hailed the efforts made by Nepal in the sector of safe motherhood, reproductive health, family planning, and women empowerment.
“I appreciate policies introduced and investments made in this connection,” Kanem, who is on her two-day visit to Nepal told a press conference held in Kathmandu today. “This has helped bring impactful improvements among the life of Nepali women and girls, however, a lot has yet to be done in the sector,” she said, adding that she was convinced that inclusive provisions incorporated in the Nepali constitution and laws would help in rapid growth in all the sectors.
She – during the press conference organised at UN House at Pulchowk in Lalitpur today – vowed to intensify the support in safe motherhood, reproductive health, family planning, and women violence sector. However, she didn’t disclose the nature of the aid.
The UNFPA has been regularly helping Nepal for safe motherhood, reproductive health, family planning and women violence since 1971.
“As we are observing 50th anniversary of UNFA and 25th of International Conference for Population and Development (ICPD), we are planning to launch new programmes regarding safe motherhood and family planning acknowledging the achievements we have made so far," she added.
ICPD – introduced in 1994 in Cairo of Egypt – has been approved by 179 countries including Nepal. It has now transformed its agenda to match the long-term vision of the Millennium Development Goal (MDG).
“It was my honour to meet with senior government officials including the Prime Minister, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Health, as well as the key stakeholders and partners during this trip,” she said, expressing her belief that Nepal could and would play an instrumental role at the Nairobi Summit, which marks the 25th anniversary of the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) in Cairo.

Nepali Officers to train in India on AML/CFT

The second group of 18 government officers has started their training on ‘Anti-Money Laundering and Countering Financing of Terrorism’ (AML/CFT) at the National Academy of Customs, Indirect Taxes and Narcotics (NACIN) in Bengaluru of Karnataka state in India.
This is a special tailor-made course designed at the request of Nepal for a total of 60 officers,” reads a press note issued by the Indian Embassy in Kathmandu. “It is an example of Government of India’s commitment to enhance the capacities of various agencies of the Nepal,” it reads, adding that the course is fully supported by the Government of India under the Ministry of External Affairs’ Indian Technical and Economic Cooperation (ITEC) Programme. “The training will enhance the capabilities of participating officers to effectively deal with the matters pertaining to Anti-Money Laundering and Countering Financing of Terrorism (AML/CFT).”
The first group of 20 Nepali officers had successfully completed their 6-days training module on August 24. The third batch of 21 officers will undergo training in December.
The NACIN is a premier training institute of Government of India in the field of financial investigations and anti-money laundering matters with state-of-the-art learning facilities. “It is an accredited Regional Training Centre of World Customs Organisation (WCO) for Asia-Pacific Region and also works in collaboration with other international organisations including UNEP, UNODC and SASEC.

Construction of Nagdhunga-Naubise tunnel road starts

Envisioned since 2014, Nagdhunga-Naubise tunnel road has finally started today, after 7 years.
Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli laid the foundation stone of the first of its type project in the country that is expected to ease the traffic in and out of the Kathmandu Valley.
Nepal has now entered into the era of tunnel roads, the premier said, urging the project developer to complete the project within the stipulated time. “Though time overrun of projects has remained a historical challenge in Nepal, the experienced Japanese contractor-led project is different,” he said encouraging the Japanese contractor Hazama Ando Corporation to complete the tunnel project on time.
The government signed an agreement with the Japanes firm Hazama Ando Corporation to construct the tunnel on September 23. Hazama Ando Corporation is expected to start the project construction works in a full fledged manner after Tihar. The contractor will have to complete the project within 42 months from September 23, according to the agreement.
The Japanese construction firm Hajma and Ando JV will hand over the tunnel road to the government after three-and-a-half years.
“The government will soon start a slew of tunnel road construction including the Tokha-Khahare and Betrawati-Syafrubesi tunnel projects,” Oli said, adding that the government is committed to developing new infrastructure projects including roads, tunnels and airports and strengthening the existing infrastructure.
The premier, on the occasion, also boosted that more than 1,600 kilometers of roads have been blacktopped this year and those were not single-lane roads. “Roads of such length had never been built in the history of Nepal,” he said, adding that there will be no road problem in Nepal, if construction keeps up in such pace.
Though the construction of the Nagdhunga-Naubise tunnel road was expected to start in March, it was delayed due to issues like site clearance and land compensation. “Though the project has fully acquired the necessary land in Kathmandu but some landowners still need to be paid compensation for 44 ropanis of land in Dhading district,” informed head of the tunnel project Shyam Prasad Kharel. “As of today, the project has disbursed around Rs 4.5 billion in land compensation in Kathmandu and Dhading.”
Ambassador of Japan Masamichi Saigo and the chief representative of JICA Nepal Office Yumiko Asakuma were also present on the occasion.
Minister for Physical Infrastructure and Transport Raghubir Mahaseth informed that the government is planning to complete the detailed project report of at least seven tunnel projects across the country within this fiscal year. Mahaseth said that overhead bridges will soon be constructed in seven places in Valley including Chabahil, Koteshwor, New Baneshwor, Gaushala, Kalimati, Tripureshwor and Thapathali.
Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) is the development partner of the Nagdhunga-Naubise project and had earlier finalised the evaluation of both the technical and financial proposals that were submitted by the Japanese contractor. JICA is providing loan assistance of $141.41 million (Rs 16 billion) at 0.01 per cent interest rate to the government for the construction of the tunnel project. Estimated to cost around $188.19 million (Rs 22 billion), the government will invest the remaining cost of the project. The government has already allocated Rs 6.27 billion – mostly to be used for land acquisition – be for the project in the budget for the current fiscal year.
The 2.7-km-long double lane Nagdhunga-Naubise tunnel road will connect Sisnekhola and Basnetchhap.

President takes part in Enthronement of Japanese Emperor

The President Bidya Devi Bhandari had meeting with the Prime Minister of Japan Shinzo Abe at the Akasaka Palace, State Guest House of Japan in Tokyo this morning.
During the meeting, substantive views were exchanged on the key aspects of bilateral relations that covered infrastructure development, trade expansion, investment promotion, human resources development, and tourism promotion among others, according to a press note issued by the Foreign Ministry.
The President congratulated the Government and the people of Japan on the happy occasion of the Enthronement of His Majesty the Emperor Naruhito and extended best wishes for peace, prosperity and happiness of the people of Japan in the new Reiwa Era.
President also expressed deepest condolences to the Government and the people of Japan on the loss of people and property caused by the devastating Typhoon Hagibis that occurred recently in different parts of Japan.
The Prime Minister of Japan sincerely thanked the President for accepting invitation to attend the Ceremony of Enthronement and expressed happiness to welcome her as the President for the first time in Japan. The Prime Minister assured of the continuation of Japanese cooperation for socio-economic development of Nepal including in the field of infrastructure. Japanese Prime Minister has also responded positively to help Nepal expand trade and reduce deficit.
Both sides, on the occasion, also expressed views on exchanging high-level visits between the two countries. The President’s entroug includes home minister Ram BahadurThapa ‘Badal’, foreign secretary Shanker Das Bairagi, ambassador of Nepal to Japan Prativa Rana, secretary at the Office of the President Dr Hari Paudel, principal private secretary to the President Dr Bhesh Raj Adhikari and other high-ranking officials of the Office of the President and the Foreign Ministry.

Sunday, October 20, 2019

UNFPA executive director on first-ever official visit to Nepal to accelerate the promise of ICPD

At an especially important time in an important year for the United Nations Population Fund, UNFPA executive director Dr Natalia Kanem has arrived in Kathmandu on her first official visit to Nepal since her appointment two years ago. Dr Kanem is accompanied by UNFPA regional director for Asia and the Pacific Bjorn Andersson and UNFPA chief of staff Pio Smith.
This year, 2019, marks the 50th anniversary of UNFPA and the 25th anniversary of the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD), held in Cairo in 1994, where 179 governments, including Nepal, unanimously articulated a bold vision regarding the relationship between population development and individual rights and choices, with women and girls at the centre of the development agenda. The landmark ICPD Programme of Action commits to universal access to sexual and reproductive health and reproductive rights for all, underpinned by women’s empowerment and gender equality within the broader framework of human rights, as a pathway to sustainable development.
The high-level two-day UNFPA visit is to recognise the significant achievements by Nepal in relation to the Cairo vision and the commitment of the government to its full implementation by 2030 and to invite the government at the highest level to participate in the Nairobi Summit on ICPD25, which will be held on November 12-14, as a champion of reproductive rights.
Since the Cairo conference, access to sexual and reproductive health services including family planning and skilled birth attendants has significantly increased in Nepal. This has resulted in reducing preventable maternal mortality by more than half to 239 per 100,000 live births. However, the pace of progress has been slower in the last decade due to a persistently high level of unmet need for family planning services and one of the highest rates of child marriage resulting in early pregnancy and childbirth in the world, among other factors.
“Nepal has made such momentous strides under the ICPD Programme of Action in the past quarter century, amid formidable challenges,” Dr Kanem noted, adding that now is the time to urgently address the unfinished business. “The Rights to Safe Motherhood and Reproductive Act introduced last year is a remarkable piece of legislation that is forward- looking and will certainly help accelerate efforts to achieve the goals agreed to in Cairo, goals which will be reaffirmed and recommitted to in Nairobi next month as well.”
The Nairobi Summit on ‘ICPD25: Accelerating the Promise,’ is being co-convened by the governments of Kenya and Denmark, along with UNFPA, and will bring together heads of state, ministers, parliamentarians, civil society organisations, young people, faith-based organisations, business and community leaders, and media partners to galvanise partnerships, mobilise political and financial support, and to help foster ideas and commitments to fully realise the ICPD vision and the SDGs by 2030.
While in Nepal, the UNFPA delegation will be meeting with senior government officials, development partners, CSOs and other key stakeholders as well as UNFPA staff. “As we gear up for Nairobi, we’re gratified that Nepal and all our member states have recognised that without achieving ICPD we simply won’t achieve the SDGs that underpin the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda,” Dr Kanem said, thanking Nepal for its valuable partnership and support in working with us towards our transformative results: Zero maternal deaths, zero unmet need for family planning and zero gender-based violence and other harmful practices such as child marriage. “This is critical in fulfilling the vision of ICPD and the SDGs that of leaving no one behind.”

Nepse halts trading of 81 listed companies

Nepal Stock Exchange (Nepse) has halted share trading of 81 listed companies today as they have not yet paid the annual securities renewal fees.
According to the rule, the listed companies need to pay the yearly renewal fee to the stock exchange by October 17 every year for continuous trading of their secondary shares.
According to the Nepse – the front line regulator – share trading of those companies will be reopened only after they pay their renewal fees. “Of the 81 companies that have failed to pay the annual renewal fees, Nepse has said that a majority are microfinance companies.”
Some 19 microfinance companies, three companies from trading subgroup, two each from hotel and others sub-indices, 11 firms from manufacturing and processing sectors,  18 development banks, two firms from life insurance sub-index, 11 finance companies and 13 from hydropower subgroup are restricted from trading their shares, though the investors have been hit hard due to the negligence of the listed companies.
The listed banks have, however, paid their yearly renewal fees before the deadline, according to the Nepse that halted the share trading of the 81 companies.

PM Oli to visit Azerbaijan to participate in 18th NAM Summit

Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli is visiting Baku, the capital city of the Republic of Azerbaijan later this week to participate in the 18th Summit of heads of State and government of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM).
Prime Minister Oli will leave for Baku on October 24 leading a Nepali delegation. The summit is being held from October 25 to 26, where he will address the general debate of the summit on October 26 to be held on the theme of ‘Upholding the Bandung Principles to ensure concerted and adequate response to the challenges of contemporary world’, according to a press note issued from the Foreign Ministry.
Prime Minister Oli will attend the official dinner to be hosted by the President of the Republic of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev, in honour of the heads of delegation on October 25, the press note reads, adding that premier Oli will also hold bilateral meetings with the heads of delegations of different countries on the sidelines of the summit. “The Prime Minister will be accompanied by foreign minister Pradeep Kumar Gyawali, chief adviser to the Prime Minister Bishnu Rimal, foreign affairs adviser to the Prime Minister Rajan Bhattarai, foreign secretary Shanker Das Bairagi and senior officials at the Foreign Ministry, apart from his spouse Mrs Radhika Shakya.”
The 18th NAM Summit will be preceded by the Preparatory Ministerial Meeting on October 23 and 24 and senior officials meeting on October 21 and 22. “The summit will consider the report of the Preparatory Ministerial Meeting, review the progress achieved in the implementation of the outcomes of the 17thSummit held in 2016, and conclude with the adoption of the Baku Declaration,” the press note reads.
Nepal is a founding member of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) and has been actively participating in all NAM Summits since its inception. “Principles of non-alignment constitute one of the basic tenets of Nepal's foreign policy,” the press note reads, adding that the Prime Minister will return on October 26 and arrive in Kathmandu on October 27.

Saturday, October 19, 2019

China to provide Rs 2.4 billion in military assistance to Nepal


China has agreed to provide 150 million RMB (Rs 2.4 billion) to Nepal Army in next three years as part of China’s Provision of Military Assistance Gratis to Nepal.
The deputy prime minister and defence minister Ishwar Pokharel and his Chinese counterpart Wei Fenghe signed an agreement for the assistance in Beijing on Saturday, according to a press note issued by the Defense Ministry. “The assistance will be used for humanitarian and disaster relief works.
China has increased its military assistance, mainly non-lethal assistance, to Nepal Army in recent years.
Earlier, China had announced 150 million RMB (Rs 2.4 billion) in assistance to Nepal Army for humanitarian and disaster relief works as part of its package assistance for post-earthquake reconstruction during the visit of Chinese defence minister and state councilor general Chang Wanquan in 2017.
During his meeting with Fenghe, minister Pokharel said that Chinese President Xi Jinping’s visit has taken Nepal-China relations to new heights. He also reiterated Nepal’s commitment for ‘One-China Policy’.
Fenghe, on his part, praised friendly relations between Nepal Army and the People’s Liberation Army of China, and said that his government was eager to support Nepal Army in capacity building.
The assistance was first announced during Chinese President Xi Jinping’s recent two-day Nepal visit.

Chinese actress appointed tourism goodwill ambassador

Chinese actress Xu Qing has been appointed as a goodwill ambassador of Nepal for the promotion of Visit Nepal Year 2020 (VNY2020) campaign.
Nepal has deep relations with China and a personality with such huge fan following is now the face for the campaign, said minister for Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation Yogesh Bhattarai, speaking at the event.
“Nepal will benefit in terms of number of tourists if Qing, who is also renowned in Hollywood, takes the name of Nepal in the events she attends,” he said, adding that Nepal – with the target of welcoming 2 million tourists – is celebrating VNY2020 campaign throughout 2020. “Nepali tourism fraternity is also expecting the rise in the number of Chinese tourists after the Chinese President Xi Jinping's recent state visit to Nepal.”
Bhattarai believed that the appointment of Xu will contribute to promoting Nepali tourism in the international arena. The minister called actress Xu as the daughter of Nepali princess Bhrikuti, who had got married to the emperor of Tibet Songtsan Gampo centuries back.
The Chinese actress, on the occasion, said that she is very happy to take the responsibility of the goodwill ambassador for the promotion of Nepali tourism.

Government, Germany’s Munich Airport to negotiate, finally

Government is holding a final negotiation with Germany’s Munich Airport for operational management services at the second international airport in Bhairahawa.
A government team is scheduled to hold a final round of negotiation with Munich Airport to provide operational management services at the Gautam Buddha International Airport in Bhairahawa – located in south-central Nepal – according to director general at the Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal (CAAN) Rajan Pokhrel. “The first round of negotiation with the company has been completed and the final negotiation will be held by the end of October,” he said, adding that they have invited the German company for the final round of negotiation. “The final negotiation will conclude the operation management fee and other services that the company will impart at the new airport.”
The much-talked airport – with a 3,000-metre-long and 45-metre-wide runway – is expected to be completed by December-end and conduct test flights by March-end next year.
Pokhrel, who is also a member of the government committee that will deal with the company, said that the committee has also been working on launching an incentive package to attract international airlines at the new airport.
The government will also discuss the incentive package – including monetary incentives – with the Munich Airport, though Pokharel did not elaborate on incentive package – cash or free landing parking and other services – as there are several modalities.
The cabinet – in June – gave the Tourism Ministry approval to appoint international firms for the operational readiness and airport transfer (ORAT) operation of the Gautam Buddha International Airport in Bhairahawa through a government to government (G2G) deal following a proposal from Munich Airport including other international firms.
As only finishing the construction work will not assure operational readiness, operational readiness and airport transfer (ORAT) will play a big role in helping the new facility open on time. The ORAT is the best way to ensure that every aspect of a new facility functions flawlessly right from day one. ORAT consultants work with airport stakeholders to formulate new processes, train staff, and test every single new system and procedure from passenger and baggage handling to airside operations.
Construction work at Gautam Buddha International Airport began in January 2015. The CAAN awarded the Rs 6.22-billion contract to China’s Northwest Civil Aviation Airport Construction Group in November 2013. Though, the airport was initially planned to be completed in December 2017, it is delayed and pushed back the completion deadline several times.

Naghdhunga tunnel road construction to begin from Monday

The government is preparing to lay the foundation stone of the 2.69-km-long Nagdhunga-Naubise tunnel road project on Monday. Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli is planning to lay foundation stone of the tunnel road that is expected to ease travelling in and out of Kathmandu Valley.
The head of Nagdhunga-Naubise Tunnel Road Project Shyam Prasad Kharel confirmed that the preparatory works for laying the foundation stone has been completed. “The government had signed an agreement with Japanese firm – Hazama Ando Corporation – to construct the tunnel project on September 23,” he said, adding that the Japanese contractor will start the construction works after the foundation stone is laid. “Though the construction was expected to start from March, it was delayed due to various issues related to site clearance and land compensation.”
Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) is the development partner of the project that has, though, acquired the necessary land in Kathmandu some landowners still need to be paid compensation for land acquired from them in Dhading district.
JICA is providing loan assistance of $141.41 million for the construction of the tunnel project that has an estimated cost hovering around $188.19 million. The remaining cost of the project will be borne by the government. The government has also allocated Rs 6.27 billion for the project in the budget for the current fiscal year.
The government had signed a loan agreement for the construction of Nagdhunga-Naubise tunnel road project with the government of Japan on December 22, 2016.
The Japanese government has extended a loan assistance of 16.63 billion yen (approximately Rs 15.28 billion) to Nepal to implement the project. The assistance was announced during the visit of Japanese State Minister for Foreign Affairs Nobuo Kishi to Nepal in September 2016.
The project – expected to be complete the project by 2021 – has earlier finalised the evaluation of both the technical and financial proposals that were submitted by the Japanese contractor.

Himalaya Airlines to start direct flight to Beijing from October 27

Himalaya Airlines will be conducting direct flight between Kathmandu and Beijing from October 27.
The Nepal-China joint venture has already made all preparations to start direct flight linking the capital cities of Nepal and China, according to the Himalaya Airlines. “We have completed all necessary preparations in regard to the operation of the direct flight from October 27,” confirmed the airlines.
The airlines will fly Airbus A-320 carrier to Beijing thrice a week, it said, adding that the direct flight between the two capital cities is going to be possible with the operation of the Daxing International Airport in Beijing.
The Airlines aims to consolidate its operation across Chinese cities gradually in consideration of the growing influx of Chinese tourists to Nepal. The Airlines is also hopeful that the direct flight on these routes will help promote the government's Visit Nepal 2020 campaign.
Likewise, Nepal Airlines Corporation (NAC) is also planning to start the direct flight between Kathmandu and Beijing soon. The Himalaya Airlines claimed that it will soon start its operation in three other cities in China including Guan, Changsa and Nanjing, within 2019.

Friday, October 18, 2019

Panta as NRN president

A Germany-based Non-Resident Nepali (NRN) Kumar Panta has been elected the new president of Non-Resident Association of Nepal (NRNA)-International Coordination Committee (ICC) through the association’s ninth global convention. Pant will be the sixth president of the NRNA after incumbent president Bhaban Bhatta. Panta defeated an NRN-based in the United Kingdom Kul Acharya by only 147 votes to secure NRNA’s top post. Panta secured a total of 1,217 votes, whereas Acharya received 1,070 votes.
Panta, after winning the election, said that his first priority will be to end disparity in NRNA and NRNs and unite them. “I will focus on uniting all NRNs under NRNA,” he said, adding that NRNs prioritise Nepal while making investment. “NRNA will encourage the Nepali diaspora to bring in mega investment into the country.”
Panta also expressed his commitment to maintain and uplift the legacy of NRNA in Nepal and among Nepali people, as in the recent times, the image of the Nepali diaspora has been tarnished also due to over politicisation in the association. Panta also assured free membership to NRNs in NRNA and restructure the association during his tenure.
Likewise, the convention has elected Badri KC, Sonam Lama, Mana KC and Arjun Shrestha as vice-presidents whereas Rabina Thapa has been elected as the woman vice-president of the organisation.
The newly elected executive committee of NRNA that has a two-year tenure has Hem Raj Sharma elected as the general secretary, RK Sharma and Gauri Raj Joshi as secretaries of NRNA. “Mahesh Shrestha has been elected as the treasurer and Lok Prasad Dahal won the joint-treasurer’s race.”
Bhoma Devi Limbu has been elected as the woman coordinator of the association, whereas Manakala Thapa Bista and Roshan Thapa are elected as regional coordinators.

13th Godavari Flower Exhibition begins

The 13th Godavari Flower Exhibition kicked off today at Jawalakhel Football Ground in Lalitpur. The four-day exhibition is organised by Floriculture Association Nepal (FAN) targeting Tihar, the second biggest festival of Nepal also popularly known as festival of light and flowers.
Inaugurating the exhibition, agriculture minister Chakrapani Khanal expressed commitment to help promote commercial flower business. “The government is aware about the hurdles for the commercial flower businesses in the country,” he said, assuring that the government will soon bring policies to regulate and develop flower business.
The minister, on the occasion, also requested florists to come forward with their issues and plans on how to promote flower business. “The government is always ready to cooperate with the entrepreneurs to make the country self-reliant in flowers,” he said, again assuring that entrepreneurs need not worry about lack of budget to get their concerns addressed.
Organised to promote floriculture business and increase the production of flowers in Nepal by creating competitive environment among the flower entrepreneurs, Godavari Flower Exhibition will continue till Monday. The exhibition has a total of 44 stalls of flowers and four information centres. The organisers expect around 35,000 foot fall with transactions worth around Rs 5 million.
The stalls also showcase 16 new species of Godavari plant, which were brought from different countries as mother plants. Different types of flower with seasonal flowers like Sayapatri (Marigold) and Makhamali (Gomphrena globosa) are also available in the stalls.
During the inauguration ceremony the minister also handed over prizes to the winners of flower competition. Samjhana Nursery won the title prize of the Godavari Flower Exhibition, TPR Miteri Nursery grabbed second prize and TTR Bangalamukhi Nursery secured the third prize in the competition. Along with the certificates, the first, second and third winners also received cash purse of Rs 10,000, Rs 6,000 and Rs 4,000, respectively.
Likewise, in miniature category Ajima Nursery and in cut-flower category, Srijana Cut Flower Nursery was awarded. Samjhana Nursery has been awarded in four different categories.
According to the FAN, the production of flower is increasing in Nepal as 88 per cent of the local demand is met by local production. The consumption of flowers is highest during the Tihar festivals. “This year for Tihar, Nepal will import 200,000 flower garlands from other countries,” the association informed, adding that the production of flowers is increasing in Nepal due to use of different modern technologies in farming, and most of the people are interested in doing floriculture business due to easy return of investment.