Saturday, November 30, 2019

Government to bring new guidelines for market monitoring

The Department of Commerce and Supply Management is planning to enforce a code of conduct for market inspectors due to increasing complaints that market inspection teams are guided by vested interests.
The new code of conduct will set standards while carrying out market monitoring activities, according to the department that is planning to enforce the code of conduct to make the inspection team members follow certain norms while visiting the market for monitoring. “The code of conduct will also maintain the standards for formation of monitoring teams by including media persons and consumer right activists in the teams,” the department informed.
The government teams – most of the time – adopt ad hoc measures to carry out market monitoring.
The Commission for the Investigation of Abuse of Authority (CIAA) had – sometimes ago – grilled an official of the department for taking bribe to let go the unscrupulous trader. Apart from government officials, consumer right activists – who join market inspection team – were also found defrauding traders in a number of cases.
The department is also drafting a separate guideline to streamline the supply chain of essential goods. Realising that a large number of layers in supply chain was one of the reasons behind exorbitant rise in market price, the department has stepped up to set standard for the market channel.
“Price of many products, especially agri products, go up due to presence of many market players including middlemen,” the department said, adding that the middlemen are exploiting both the farmers and general consumers. “On one hand, producers get low price for their products, and on the other consumers are compelled to pay high price while middlemen pocket a lion's share of the profit.”
The department will finalise drafts of both the standards to the Ministry of Industry, Commerce and Supplies for final approval.

Friday, November 29, 2019

Asia-Pacific countries adopt declaration to advance gender equality and women’s empowerment

Ministers and high-level officials from 45 countries in the Asia-Pacific region have committed to intensifying priority actions towards realising women’s rights and fundamental freedoms for an equal future.
The authorities from the countries in the Asia-Pacific region made the announcement in Bangkok after adopting the ‘Asia-Pacific Declaration on Advancing Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment: Beijing+25 Review’ in Bangkok today, according to a press note issued by UNESCAP.
The declaration was issued after intense negotiations at a three-day Ministerial Conference, organised by the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) and the UN Women Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific this week.
The 25th anniversary of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action is an opportunity for us to take stock of our progress and accelerate efforts, said United Nations under-secretary-general and executive secretary of ESCAP Armida Alisjahbana. “I am delighted member states from across Asia-Pacific have seized it and agreed to an ambitious forward-looking Declaration which strengthens the region’s commitment to action on gender equality and women’s empowerment.”
“The significance of this region being able to adopt this Declaration today, which articulates clear and strategic actions to be taken to address the gender agenda, cannot be overstated,” highlighted the United Nations assistant-secretary-general and deputy executive director of UN Women Anita Bhatia.
While Asia and the Pacific have made remarkable advancements so far, the Declaration notes several emerging megatrends slowing the progress of gender equality and women’s empowerment in the region, such as climate change, intensifying disaster risks, growing digital divide, rapid urbanization, rising inequalities within and between countries, and increasing acts of violence and extremism against women and girls.
The declaration has recognised women as key contributors and vital agents in combating poverty and inequalities and calls upon governments to ensure inclusive social protection systems, public services, and infrastructure.
With its adoption, countries also committed to ensuring women’s economic empowerment and the integration of women into the formal economy. Governments agreed to take appropriate measures and extend legal and social protections to ensure that all women and girls have equal opportunities for education, decent work, favourable conditions of work and financial inclusion. 
Countries further committed to work together with key stakeholders to transform negative gender norms, discriminatory social attitudes and to eliminate structurally unequal power relations that persist between women and men.
They additionally highlighted the need to strengthen gender-responsive national statistical systems and data collection for an enhanced understanding of gender gaps in the region. Governments also called upon ESCAP to continue serving as a regional and sub-regional platform to promote greater dialogue and cooperation among countries.
The declaration mandates ESCAP, in collaboration with other UN agencies, to support relevant national institutions in monitoring and implementing the global Beijing Platform for Action commitments.
The declaration will serve as the regional input to the 64th session of the Commission on the Status of Women on the global review of the implementation of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action in New York next March.
From Nepal, secretary of Ministry of Women, Children and Senior Citizens (MoWCSC) Chandra Kumar Ghimire and joint-secretary Rudra Devi Sharma participated in the conference.

Nepal elected vice chair INBAR

Nepal was elected unanimously as vice chair of the 12th Council Session (2019-21) of the International Bamboo and Rattan Organisation (INBAR) at the 11th Council Session of the intergovernmental body held in Beijing today.
The current vice chair Cameroon was unanimously elected as the chair.
Delivering the country statement at the 11th Council Session ambassador Leela Mani Paudyal said that Nepal is firmly committed to INBAR’s mission, goals and priorities as contained in the INBAR Establishment Agreement as well as INBAR’s Strategy 2015-2030. He also said that it looked forward to working closely with all member states in fulfilling INBAR’s mandate.
Highlighting the contributions of bamboo and rattan as important non-timber forest products in Nepal’s economy, culture and rural livelihood, ambassador Paudyal said, adding that the government attaches high priority to bamboo and rattan resources as a way to promoting environmental conservation, livelihood improvement and sustainable development.
He also informed that in this regard, the government has been implementing several important initiatives like National Plantation Campaign, the National Bamboo and Rattan Strategies, Forestry, Environment and Agriculture Sector Projects, and National Bamboo Resource Assessment and Monitoring System, and expressed Nepal’s willingness to collaborate more closely with the INBAR Secretariat and its member states for common benefit.
He expressed sincere thanks to all INBAR member states for extending their valuable support to Nepal’s application for the position of vice chair of the 12th Council Session.
The 11th Council Session was chaired by minister for Agriculture and Livestock of Ecuador Javier Lazo. Ecuador is the chair of the 11th Council Session, according to a press note issued by the Foreign Ministry.
International Bamboo and Rattan Organisation (INBAR) is an international intergovernmental body established in 1997 with the secretariat located in Beijing. Nepal is one of its nine founding member states. Currently, the organisation has 46 members, the press note reads.

23 Nepalis bag Australia Awards Scholarships

The Australian Government has offered 23 Australia Awards Scholarships to emerging leaders from Nepal to study at Australia’s world-class educational institutions in 2020. “Of the 23 awardees for 2020, 14 are from the public sector and 11 are female recipients,” reads a press note issued by the Australian Embassy in Kathmandu. “One applicant with disability has also been selected for the scholarship.”
These Australia Awards scholars were selected through a competitive process taking into account their academic and professional achievements, leadership qualities and most importantly their potential to drive positive change in support of Nepal’s national development,” said Australia’s ambassador to Nepal Peter Budd, at an event organised to bid farewell to the scholars.
Australia Awards scholars gain a quality education in Australia, advance their knowledge and build networks across a range of areas, including economic development, education, gender equality, disability inclusiveness and social inclusion, governance and water resource management. Many alumni of the Australia Awards go on to hold senior positions in business and government on their return home.
“The degree that I have obtained through Australia Award has enriched my analytical capacity,” an Australia Awards alumna Indu Ghimire said, adding that the award, additionally, has also supported her to expand her horizon of thinking to solve public sector issues by using various method of problem analysis. Ghimire is joint secretary at the Home Ministry.
Scholarships have been a key feature of Australia’s foreign policy since the Colombo Plan of the 1950s. Since then, more than 100,000 men and women from around the world have received an Australian Government scholarship to study in Australia, the press note reads, adding that more than 1,000 Nepalis have pursued study and research in Australia under the Australia Awards Scholarships. “The next cycle of Australia Awards Scholarships will open on February 2020.”

Trade deficit down by 8.9 per cent

Trade deficit fell by 8.9 per cent year-on-year to Rs 414 billion in the first four months of the current fiscal year 2019-20 due to a sharp drop in imports of petroleum products, iron and steel, aircraft and aircraft parts and vehicles.
According to Department of Customs (DoC), imports dropped by 6.92 per cent to Rs 450.29 billion, whereas exports swelled by 23.90 per cent year-on-year to Rs 36.27 billion – totaling the foreign trade to Rs 486.57 billion – between mid-July and mid-November.
The drop in imports – the fourth consecutive month in the current fiscal year – has also resulted in a reduction in the trade deficit though it has hit the revenue mobilisation target of the government. However, there is no cause for celebration as the increase in exports of a single product – palm oil – is not the domestic product as Nepal does not produce palm oil. Palm oil is imported from third country and then re-exported to India as traders are cashing in on the tariff difference between Nepal and India. The data shows that palm oil accounts for nearly one-fourth of the total export.
Imports of iron and steel – the key construction materials – dropped sharply by 33 per cent to Rs 52.65 billion in the first four months, though the drop in the import of iron and steel does not augur well as it shows that construction activities in the country are slowing down.
Likewise, imports of fuel and bitumen also fell by more than 15 per cent as the country imported fuel and bitumen worth Rs 65.21 billion in the first four months of the current fiscal year. Similarly, imports of aircraft and parts also reduced pulling the imports figure down. According to customs data, imports of aircraft and parts dropped by 39 per cent to Rs 10.68 billion, whereas automobile imports dropped by more than 6 per cent to Rs 34.74 billion due to the government’s unfriendly policy towards auto mobile sector.
The central bank has also fixed the down payment for vehicle loans at 50 per cent of the value discouraging the auto imports. In the past, the down payment on a car was as low as 10 per cent.

Thursday, November 28, 2019

Karki bags first annual ‘Krishi Tara Award’

Dipendra Karki from Surkhet was adjudged ‘Krishi Tara’ on the basis of his innovation, technologies, skills, impact and sustainability and awarded a cash prize of Rs 500,000 along with a winner’s certificate.
Karki bagged the award during the ‘Krishi Tara Award Ceremony’, the first annual national-level award, organised by the Embassy of Israel together with Avsar Foundation, an NGO initiated by Khetan Family.
The other top nine nominees were also honoured with ‘Felicitation Certificate’ by secretary at the Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock Development Dr Yubak Dhoj GC, according to a press note issued by the Embassy of Israel in Kathmandu.
The first-of-its-kind award aims to honour deserving Nepali farmers and agri-entrepreneurs, who have been purposefully contributing in agriculture through the use of innovations, technologies and skills learnt in Israel after returning from ‘Learn and Earn (L&E) Programme’.
The Embassy of Israel – in cooperation with Small Farmer Development Microfinance Financial Institute Ltd – started the year-long advanced agricultural training programme in 2013. Since then, around 2,700 Nepali youths associated with the aforementioned institute have already participated and this year, 540 students are partaking in the same programme.
Aiming to encourage local farmers to continue their profession in agriculture by recognising and rewarding their hard work and passion for agriculture, the application was open to the L&E returnees. The 10 best youth farmers were selected among the many applicants.
At the event, the agro products of the nominated farmers were kept on display, while video clips about their farms were also screened.
Congratulating the winner for his outstanding contribution and achievements, GC expressed his commitment, on behalf of the government, to onboard many youth farmers into the programme, to host them upon their return from Israel and to support them with programmes like agriculture subsidy and other measures.
Acknowledging contribution of farmers to the agriculture prosperity, ambassador of Israel to Nepal Benny Omer said, “We should encourage more females to participate in the L&E Programme and to work in the farm upon their return.”
Nepali ambassador to Israel Anjan Shakya, on the occasion, said that Israel has been supporting Nepal in agriculture and many other sectors.
Karki – owner of Karki Cow Farm – said that his farm will continue to be purpose-driven than profit-oriented. His farm produces organic food.
Aiming to encourage local farmers to continue their profession in agriculture by recognising and rewarding their hard work and passion for agriculture, the application was open to the L&E returnees. Among many applications received, the 10 best youth farmers were selected. At the event, the agro products of the nominated farmers were kepton display. The video clips about their farms were also screened during the program.
During the event, vice chair of Avsar Foundation Suman Joshi said that Avsar Foundation is pleased to continue supporting economically and socially deprived community of Nepal to help them engage in income generating activities.
The Embassy of Israel and Avsar Foundation claimed that they are privileged to be a part of this celebration wherein famers’ indispensable contribution to existence is being admired and awarded. “We hope to continue such a programme in the future as well to boost the morale of Nepali youth farmers to continue their engagements in agriculture, cultivate more agricultural talents as agriculture remains the central to the livelihood of Nepalis and economic development of Nepal."

Central bank forces BFIs to issue subsidised loans

After receiving lots of complaints that targeted groups have not received concessional loan, the central bank today instructed commercial banks to disburse subsidised loans to at least 500 borrowers by mid-July 2020.
Likewise, the central bank – in its circular – instructed that the ‘B’ class development banks require to float such concessional loans to a minimum of 200 borrowers, whereas ‘C’ class financial institutions need to disburse such loans to 100 borrowers by the end of the current fiscal year.
The scheme aims to give access to cheaper credit to different groups, including educated self-employed youths, returnee migrant workers, dalits, women entrepreneurs, earthquake survivors and youths.
“The banks and financial institutions, however, cannot count borrowers under commercial agro and livestock farming as beneficiary of concessional loans,” the circular reads, adding that the banks and financial institutions that do not meet the requirement by the deadline will face the central bank’s fine.
The government has announced – through the budget speech for the current fiscal year 2018-19 – interest-subsidised loans to targeted groups. Under the scheme, the government subsidises a certain per cent of the interest costs. The government bears five percentage points of interest rate on these loans, while the interest subsidy for loans for women-run enterprises is 6 percentage points, which means, if loan is floated at 13 per cent to a woman entrepreneur, the government will bear 6 per cent interest while the remaining 7 per cent will have to be paid by the borrower.
Though, some of the borrowers have received commercial farming and livestock loans under the scheme, there are not much who have benefited from the subsidised-interest loans on other six categories. According to the central bank, the outstanding concessional loans extended to 18,805 borrowers for selected agriculture and livestock businesses stands at Rs 38.20 billion as of mid-October 2019. “The concessional loan outstanding to other headings remains Rs 1.10 billion utilised by 1,854 beneficiaries.”
While the commercial agriculture and livestock farming scheme was introduced few years ago, the government has added six other categories in the last fiscal year. Other categories include Rs 700,000 loan for educated self-employment youth, Rs 1 million for business projects promoted by returnee migrant workers, Rs 1.5 million for women-run enterprise and Rs 1 million for business promoted by members of ‘Dalit’ community. Earthquake survivors (up to Rs 300,000 to rebuild their houses) and youths (up to Rs 500,000 for higher, technical or entrepreneurship education) can also borrow from BFIs at subsidised interest rates.

Government vows to support SMEs

The government, as usual, promised to support small and medium enterprises (SMEs).
Finance Minister Dr Yuba Raj Khatiwada today assured that there will not be any shortage of budget for small and medium scale enterprises and entrepreneurs.
Inaugurating 17th Handicraft Trade Fair kicked off here today – organised by the Federation of Handicraft Associations of Nepal (FHAN) – he said that the government is planning to provide subsidised loan to handicrafts entrepreneurs to prevent shortfall of investments in cottage and small enterprises. “The small and medium enterprises have a crucial role to drive the country’s economy, and thus they will remain the primary priority of the government while allocating the budget.”
“Every bank has an SME desk,” he said, adding that the government has also directed banks to promote and prioritise issuance of subsidised loans. “The SMEs are a sector with the highest export potential and thus, the government and banks and financial institutions (BFIs) should keep SMEs under due priority.”
But he asked entrepreneurs to come up with proper plans on their production target, potential market before seeking support from BFIs and government. The entrepreneurs should be clear about the nature of subsidy they seek from the government.”
Urging handicraft entrepreneurs to set up handicraft centres across major tourist areas in the country in coordination with the government to promote Visit Nepal Year 2020 (VNY2020) tourism campaign, he asked entrepreneurs to set up a few such centres inside and around Dasharath Stadium also targeting the flow of foreigners during the South Asian Games that starts in Kathmandu from Saturday.
The exhibition is showcasing a wide range of handmade products including metal craft, pauva painting, thangka painting, outfits made of pashmina, dhaka and allo fibers, and handmade paper, and wood products – produced across the country.
The five-day fair has altogether 200 stalls including seven pavilions, according to the federation. “India, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Pakistan are participating at the fair,” according to a press note issued by the FHAN.

Amnesty International Nepal launches Write for Rights 2019 campaign

Amnesty International Nepal (AI Nepal) today launched the Write for Rights 2019 campaign, Amnesty's annual letter-writing campaign, whereby supporters worldwide write letters for people whose rights are under threat or are being violated.
This year Amnesty International is throwing its might behind the children and young people who are fighting some of the world's biggest crises. Many have stepped in where adults have failed to lead and are facing terrible danger as a result.
Write for Rights 2019 will see Amnesty supporters stand in solidarity with young individuals from Belarus, Canada, China, Egypt, Greece, Iran, Mexico, Nigeria, Philippines and South Sudan.
Among others, Amnesty International Nepal is campaigning for Yasaman Aryani, a young Iranian activist, who was sentenced to 16 years in prison for defying the country's forced veiling laws; Sarah Mardini and Sean Binder, two humanitarian workers, who were charged with 'people smuggling' by Greek authorities for participating in a rescue operation of refugees and are now facing up to 25 years in prison, and 17-year-old Magai Matiop Ngong of South Sudan, who was sentenced to death in November 2017 while still a child, in contravention of both South Sudanese law and international law.
Additionally, as part of its ‘Violence against Women’ campaign, Amnesty Nepal supporters will also collect petitions demanding the government implement the 2017 Supreme Court order on regulating sale of acid. The petitions will be delivered to home minister Ram Bahadur Thapa.
"Incidents of acid attacks, which mainly target young girls, have been on the rise in the country,” executive director of Amnesty International Nepal Nirajan Thapaliya said, adding that it's time for the government to take this issue seriously and regulating the sale and distribution of acids, which are currently easily available in the market can be a good first step.
The Write for Rights campaign this year will run from November 28 to December 20.
Every year, Amnesty International runs Write for Rights, a campaign that encourages supporters around the world to write messages of solidarity to people whose rights have been violated just because they dared to stand up against injustice. Supporters are also invited to write letters to the authorities on behalf of these courageous individuals.
Amnesty International's first Write for Rights campaign was launched in 2002. Since then, millions of actions have been taken by activists around the world. Every year, these actions lead to real change. In March, two ex-police officers were arrested for the killing of Brazilian politician and activist Marielle Franco who was gunned down in her car in 2018.  More than half a million people had written letters demanding justice for Franco as part of Amnesty's Write for Rights campaign.

Wednesday, November 27, 2019

Indian Women’s Association hands over two electric vehicles to PADT

President of the Indian Women’s Association (IWA) Namrita Puri today handed over two 8-seater electric vehicles (EV) with high end Lithium ion batteries to member-secretary of Pashupati Area Development Trust (PADT) Dr Pradip Dhakal at the premises of Pashupatinath Temple.
“These eco-friendly vehicles are manufactured by an Indian Company Gayam Motor Works,” according to a press note issued by the Indian Embassy in Kathmandu.
Puri, on the occasion, said that these eco-friendly vehicles will be helpful for the pilgrims visiting the holy Pashupatinath temple especially for elderly anddifferently abledpeople, women and children. “These vehicles will also create employment opportunity for two women,” she said, adding that handing over of e-vehicles will be another milestone in strengthening cultural and religious ties between people of India and Nepal and bringing people of the two countries closer.
Indian Women’s Association (IWA) – an organisation of Indian Women under the patronage of Embassy of India in Kathmandu with the aim to provide friendly meeting ground for Indian Women resident in Nepal – provides a forum for interaction with Nepali women and works to promote goodwill and friendship between the Indian and Nepali community. It organises philanthropic activities to benefit women and children in Nepal. Recently, it has organised charitable events with Nava Indradhanus English Boarding School in Kathmandu, Koseli Foundation, Bal Sarathi, Nepali Snehi Kaakha and Bhaktapur Cancer Hospital.
Pashupati Area Development Trust (PADT) is established to conserve and operate the Pashupatinath Temple and adjoining Area, which is enlisted as UNESCO’s World Heritage Site.

World Bank supports employment and education programmes

Despite huge criticism the government is borrowing Rs 13.73 billion from the World Bank to finance politically motivated employment programme.
The government and the World Bank today signed two separate agreements today to improve employment services and labour market outcomes for Nepali youth and continue support for the government’s flagship School Sector Development Programme (SSDP). According to a press note issued by the World Bank (WB), finance secretary Dr Rajan Khanal and the World Bank country manager for Nepal Faris H Hadad-Zervos signed the agreements today at the Finance Ministry.
“Human capital development and creation of jobs within the country for young people, especially women, is a top priority of the government,” Khanal said, adding that the support for promoting social security and quality education is an important contributor for achieving effective service delivery under Nepal’s new federal structure and our goal of a Prosperous Nepal and Happy Nepali.
The Youth Employment Transformation Initiative (YETI) is a new project of $ 120 million (approximately Rs 13.73 billion) that aims to strengthen the systems and services for employability including programmes like the Prime Minister Employment Programme (PMEP). The project is expected to benefit 100,000 young people, especially women, and will be implemented by the Ministry of Labour, Employment and Social Security over a period of five years.
Though, experts have been criticising the government for borrowing money to be spent on a politically potivated programme – that became controvercial in the last fiscal year too – the YETI will support the 753 Employment Service Centers (ESCs) at the local level to increase access to employment opportunities by providing employment promotion and employment support services for registered job seekers. “It will also support a holistic National Employment Management Information System (NEMIS) for effective and efficient management and monitoring of the services provided by the project and PMEP, management of data on job seekers and job-related opportunities, and evidence-based employment policy formulation,” reads the press note.
Last year also, the government was criticised for misusing the public purse – in the name of Prime Minister Employment Programme (PMEP) – for temporary jobs that neither created wealth nor helped capital formation. But the government is implementing the PMEM this year with the borrowed money from World Bank.
Amid worries that the money could end up on handouts as has been widely reported last year about instances of doling out funds for works like gardening and cleaning, Hadad-Zervos said that there are enough safeguard measures to make sure that the project meet its purposes. “The system and processes designed not only at the center, but also at the local level, ensure that proper people will be identified that need this type of job opportunities, transparency in payment and sustainability of jobs,” he said, claiming that the funding will ultimately help development projects at the local level.
The World Bank also claimed that the project is expected to create temporary employment opportunities in the maintenance of public assets and provision of services to engage up to 35,000 vulnerable individuals and yield about 3.5 million work-days annually. “The temporary employment opportunities will be complemented by on-the-job and life skills trainings of up to 50 days per individual to improve the employability of young people in the long run and ensure sustainability, following the updated PMEP guideline,” the press note reads, adding that the project is also expected to also support capacity building initiatives to facilitate effective service delivery and coordination in the new federal structure while creating synergies with the private sector and existing projects to promote employment and employment-related services.
Likewise, Additional Financing (AF)of $23.958 million (approximately Rs 2.74 billion) was made available through the Global Partnership for Education (GPE) Grant to support Nepal’s School Sector Development Programme (SSDP). The SSDP annually benefits over 7 million students and over 180,000 teachers and early childhood education development (ECED) facilitators in more than 30,000 community schools and ECED centers across the country.
The additional financing will maintain support for the government’s SSDP to improve quality, equity and efficiency within the school education sector. It will also safeguard and maximize SSDP’s development impact during the ongoing federal transition. The additional financing will explicitly focus on education service delivery, especially for the most disadvantaged and setting strong foundations for the decentralised education systems. “It will help mitigate risks to education quality and access given heterogeneity in capacity and quality of governance at the local level,” the press note reads.
The GPE AF follows the results-based financing used in the parent IDA School Sector Development Programme to build on the existing momentum and results-focus by directly incentivising the government’s ownership and implementation of critical reforms and policies. It also offers more flexibility to tailor interventions to local contexts, which aligns well with the federal transition.
“Once children and young people are given the opportunity to access quality education, skills and meaningful employment, the potential for Nepal’s development can be truly unlocked,” World Bank country manager for Nepal Faris H Hadad-Zervos said, adding that the World Bank is committed to invest in people to contribute to Nepal’s growth trajectory as a trusted partner of Nepal.

Equality beyond reach for many women and girls in Asia-Pacific

Over 500 ministers, senior policymakers, UN officials, civil society, youth and private sector representatives from across Asia and the Pacific region today gathered in Bangkok to chart out priority actions to support accelerated progress on gender equality and women’s empowerment.
The three-day Asia-Pacific Ministerial Conference on the Beijing+25 Review, organised by the United Nations (UN) Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) and UN Women Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific, will provide a platform for countries to explore policy options and innovative strategies, towards addressing barriers to gender equality and realising women’s rights for an equal future.
2020 will mark 25 years since the adoption of the Beijing Platform for Action, a milestone global agreement for advancing gender equality. While the Asia-Pacific region has made remarkable progress in areas such as closing the gender gap in primary education and halving maternal mortality rates, progress remains slow and uneven in other areas. Persisting gender norms and stereotypes as well as limited investments in addressing gender equality are among critical bottlenecks.
“When guaranteed equal opportunity, choice and access to resources, women’s full participation multiplies the capacity of society as a whole. Gender equality and women’s empowerment are fundamental to the progressive realisation of human rights,” said United Nations under-secretary-general and executive secretary of ESCAP Armida Alisjahbana at the opening session. “They are pre-conditions for successfully achieving the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.”
“Greater financing for gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls, together with full political commitment, is essential to realising the vision of the Beijing Platform for Action and the Sustainable Development Goals," shared United Nations assistant secretary-general and deputy executive director of UN Women Anita Bhatia.
Based on an analytical review conducted by ESCAP and UN Women in 2019, governments identified three priority areas for action in coming years: eliminating violence against women and girls, improving the political participation of women and promoting women’s economic empowerment. Despite the adoption of laws and policies in these areas, countries underscored the need to shift focus towards their effective and just implementation.
Speaking at the opening, United Nations special rapporteur on Violence Against Women Dubravka Šimonovic further highlighted, “We are now seeing a lot of progress around the world but violence against women is still widespread and persistent. It is present in all countries and remains one of the greatest obstacles to achieving gender equality and the empowerment of women.”
On the sidelines of the conference, ESCAP and UN agencies will also launch a report titled ‘Pathways to Influence: Promoting the Role of Women’s Transformative Leadership to Achieve the SDGs in Asia and the Pacific’. The report highlights the journeys of 17 women leaders, who have inspired change in their diverse areas, and proposes key pathways to ensure a greater presence of transformative women leaders in the region.
The conference is expected to conclude with a declaration to realise women’s rights for an equal future, which will also serve as the regional input to the 64th session of the Commission on the Status of Women on the global review of the implementation of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action next year.
The Conference was preceded by a Civil Society Organisation (CSO) Forum held from November 24 to 26. The Forum brought together grassroots representatives from across Asia and the Pacific to celebrate achievements and identify concerns on regressions on gender equality and women’s empowerment, as well as to facilitate intergenerational dialogue and solidarity between the diverse constituencies represented. CSO inputs from the Forum will be consolidated into the regional and global review processes.

Nepal to ferry cargo vessels on the Ganges

Nepal and India today finalised the operation modality for allowing Nepal to operate its cargo vessels on three inland waterways of India paving the way for Nepal to ferry its cargo vessels with its flag.
Concluding the two-day Nepal-India Transit Treaty Review meeting in Kathmandu today, India agreed to allow operation of Nepali vessels on the Ganges River that runs parallel of Nepal’s southern border, according to a press note issued by the Ministry of Industry, Commerce and Supplies.
According to spokesperson of the ministry Navaraj Dhakal, the two countries signed the standard of procedures during the joint secretary level bilateral meeting. “Once the provision come into effect, Nepal can ferry any suitable size cargo vessels along the prescribed water routes,” he said, adding that Nepal has been seeking to use three inland waterways on Ganges River that include the Kolkata-Kalughat-Raxaul, Kolkata-Sahebgunj-Biratnagar, and Kolkata-Varanasi-Raxaul routes. “India has developed a waterway on the Ganges River, connecting Varanasi and the seaport of Haldiya, Kolkata.”
By utilising these water routes Nepal can expand its transit options to the sea to carry out the third country trade,” said Dhakal, who led the Nepali team, whereas joint secretary of the Department of Commerce at the Indian Ministry of Commerce and Industry Bhupinder Singh Bhalla led the Indian delegation in the bilateral meeting.
“The Indian authority at the meeting expressed commitment to start groundwork to start trade via these waterway routes as soon as the two governments ink agreement on the new and modified Transit Treaty,” he said, adding that the Indian authority has said Delhi will allow Nepal to use ships of maximum capacity as per feasibility in the finalised waterway routes.
Nepal and India are revising the transit treaty – that was revisited by two countries earlier in 1999 – in almost two decades. “Only small amendments were made to some clauses of the treaty over the time,” the press note from the ministry reads, adding that the treaty will be automatically renewed from January 5, 2020 till 2027.
Likewise, the meeting has also finalised two new routes for bulk cargo transportation. According to the existing provision, bulk cargo is allowed to enter only from Raxaul (Birgunj) but the two sides have agreed to allow bulk cargo movement to Nepal also from Jogbani (Biratnagar) and Nautanwa (Bhairahawa), the press note reads. “The technical teams of two countries also signed agreement to allow Nepal to use railway-based transportation of bulk cargo from Kolkata and Vishakhapatnam seaports of India to Jogbani and Nautanwa near Nepal-India border.”
Along with the provision, the Indian side has also agreed to allow Nepal to carry out transshipment service via the electronic cargo tracking system (ECTS) in transit routes other than Vishakhapatnam-Birgunj. At present, only Nepal-bound cargo released from Vishakhapatnam port are permitted to use ECTS under the transshipment facility. “The provision is in pilot implementation for cargo brought via Kolkata port,” the press note reads.
The multimodal facilities are expected to help reduce transit costs and make Nepali products more competitive in the international market. However, the provisions will come into effect once the revised treaty is signed at the higher level.
Dhakal also informed that the two sides also discussed on Nepal’s proposal to use two Indian seaports – Dhamra in Odisha and Mundra in Gujarat – for third-country trade. “But India will first carry out detailed feasibility before deciding whether to let allow use to use these ports to Nepal.”

Tuesday, November 26, 2019

Gaddi Baithak opens to the public

US ambassador Randy W Berry and minister for Culture, Tourism, and Civil Aviation Yogesh Bhattarai today jointly opened the recently restored Gaddi Baithak to the public for guided tours, during a ceremony in Kathmandu Durbar Square.
Since 1908 Gaddi Baithak Palace has been a hallmark of the square, but this is a historic first. The Palace has never before been opened for the general public, according to a press note issued by the US Embassy in Kathmandu. Guided tours of the main hall will be available and the ground floor of the Palace will house a museum. The museum, which will open later this year, features rare artifacts of Nepali history and culture. Pre-registration at a designated entry check-point is required to participate in the guided tours. These tours will allow both Nepalis and foreign tourists to enjoy Gaddi Baithak just in time for Visit Nepal 2020 (VNY2020).
As part of the US government’s continued commitment to post-earthquake recovery efforts, the US government’s Ambassadors Fund for Cultural Preservation (AFCP) awarded two grants, totalling $900,000, to structurally strengthen Gaddi Baithak and the Gateway Building, the press note reads, adding that both buildings have not only been restored to their original grandeur but are now more resilient in the event of future natural disasters and can be enjoyed by generations to come.

Viber launches Nepal's first horoscope bot ‘HamroRashifal’

The popular messaging app Viber has partnered with HamroPatroRashifal to launch the HamroRashifalchatbot - a customised user-friendly, text-based feature that will cater to the user’s requirement anytime, anywhere.
Nepali consumers can now avail horoscope at their fingertips with Viber, according to a press note issued by the HamroPatro. “The instant calling and messaging app seeks to create new experiences and build a loyal base of enthusiastic and avid users of the platform,” it reads, adding that Viber will bring HamroPatro’s expertise and credibility to the fore and aims to provide deep value to users via this services. “Viber users can now receive, explore and share daily, weekly, monthly and yearly horoscope updates via direct subscription free of charge and there will be no additional fee attached with this service.”
Announcing the collaboration founder and chief executive officer of HamroPatro Shankar Uprety said that the company constantly strives to offer services on its platform that enables its users to receive vital information for their day-to-day activities and remain engaged with the community.
“As a pioneer of the Nepali Mobile-App industry,” he said, adding that the company is happy to partner with Rakuten Viber and enable its users from across the country to receive their horoscope predictions and updates on the Viber app.
Likewise, commenting on the collaboration, senior director at the Rakuten Viber Anubhav Nayyar said that Astrology is an intrinsic part of Nepal’s culture and we are honoured to work with HamroPatro and bring horoscope to the fingertips of our Nepali users. “Nepal is an important market for us and this initiative is aimed at further strengthening our position,” he said, adding that the company wants to create experiences that are relevant and contextual for its users. “We are certain that the latest addition will bring additional and meaningful value to our users on the platform.”

Nepal, China agree to conduct feasibility study of Kathmandu-Kerung railway service

Nepal and China agreed to start feasibility study of the Kathmandu-Kerung railway service.
The authorities from the two countries decided to start the feasibility study of the much-hyped cross border transportation project during a meeting in Kathmandu today. “The two countries had decided to expedite the process of constructing the railway line during the state visit of Chinese President Xi Jinping to Nepal in October,” according to a press note issued by the Foreign Ministry.
“A 21-member Chinese team arrived Kathmandu yesterday to implement the decision taken during Xi’s visit,” the press note reads, adding that the authorities of the two countries signed an agreement during today’s meeting to start the feasibility study.
The representatives of the Ministry of Physical Infrastructure and Transportation and visiting officials from China’s National Railway Administration – on the occasion – divided the responsibilities during the meeting.
“The Chinese side will conduct aerial mapping and geographical study, while the Nepali side will prepare the environment impact assessment report and provide security to the Chinese team,” informed the director general of the Railway Department Balaram Mishra. “The Chinese side will also prepare the detailed project report at its own expense,” he said, adding that the Chinese side has, however, maintained that it needs to study the project in detail as it is being constructed in one of the most challenging terrains in the world.
The Chinese side has, though not in clear words, been repeatedly saying that construction of much-hyped Kathmandu-Kerung railway is not a cake walk rather a challenging task, and takes long time.

Rani Pokhari to be restored by mid-January

Reconstruction of the historic Rani Pokhari could be completed by mid-May 2020.
According to the Kathmandu Metropolitan City, the reconstruction of the historic pond located in the heart of the capital city been expedited with works like laying black soil, constructing the wall and rebuilding the Balgopaleshwar temple situated in the middle of the pond.
The reconstruction works have been sped up after the National Reconstruction Authority (NRA) has been given the responsibility of reconstructing the heritage site, which was completely destroyed by the devastating earthquake of 2015, the metropolis informed, adding that reconstruction of various structures – including the Balgopaleshwar temple – at this site were delayed by three years due to confusion over jurisdiction of Kathmandu Metropolitan City, the Department of Archaeology and NRA to undertake the reconstruction of this historical heritage site.
The reconstruction was also delayed due to confusion over the style of Balgopaleshwar temple. Claiming that reconstruction works have been expedited to meet the deadline, the reconstruction authority said that the works of constructing the wall around the pond and laying black soil on its bed will be completed by January 14, 2020. “Twenty per cent of reconstruction of the temple has been completed and wood works of the temple were under way.”
According to heritage expert Rajuman Manandhar at the reconstruction authority, some 85 per cent construction of the wall has been completed whereas 40 per cent work on the pond has been over.

Banks resume payments through RTGS system

The real time gross settlement (RTGS) system – which has stopped functioning immediately after it was launched in banking sector on September 16 – has resumed once again from today.
Though service was halted due to some technical glitches, all commercial banks have adopted and started RTGS system in a full-fledged manner from this week, according to the central bank. RTGS is a new payment settlement system adopted in the banking sector. As it is new to everyone, the system was halted for some time.
All the 28 commercial banks have adopted payment through this system from this week. The central bank said it is committed to ensuring uninterrupted implementation of this system. But bankers reverted to the previous system for making payments after the new payment system introduced by the central bank became dysfunctional. The RTGS system is intended to ease inter-bank cheque payments, wherein customers had to wait for a day for the settlements.
Earlier in September, central bank governor Dr Chiranjibi Nepal and Lord Mayor of London (UK) Peter Estlin had jointly inaugurated the high-value cheque payment system in real-time in Nepal. The UK Aid is technically supporting Nepal for implementation of the RTGS, which ensures payments without issuing cheques.
The central bank has – as of now – made RTGS voluntary for transactions of above Rs 200,000, while transactions of above Rs 2 million is mandatory through the system. The central bank will gradually make RTGS mandatory among other banks and financial institutions (BFIs) in the near future.

India to allow Nepal to use three inland waterways

Nepal is likely to get access to more ports of India for overseas trade as India may allow Nepal to use inland waterways in three routes and movement of bulk cargos via railway from Indian seaports to major Nepal-India border points.
“India has expressed its consent during Nepal-India Transit Treaty Review meeting that kicked off in Kathmandu today,” according to a press note from Ministry of Industry, Commerce and Supplies.
The government teams from both the countries discussed various issues relating to simplifying Nepal’s transit routes via India. The bilateral meeting will conclude on Wednesday.
Nepal has been seeking to use three inland waterways – Kolkata-Kalughat-Raxaul, Kolkata-Sahebgunj-Biratnagar, and Kolkata-Varanasi-Raxaul routes – on Ganges River expanding its transit options to the sea.
During the talks in New Delhi last October, the Indian side had agreed on principle to allow Nepal to use these inland waterways. India has developed a waterway on the Ganges River connecting Varanasi and the seaport of Haldiya in Kolkata. Access to the Indian waterways is expected to facilitate efficient movement of cargo imported from third countries to Nepal.
According to the joint secretary of Ministry of Industry, Commerce and Supplies Nabaraj Dhakal, India is also positive toward facilitating railway-based transportation of bulk cargo from Kolkata and Vishakhapatnam seaports of India to Jogwani and Nautanwa, Sunauli, at the Nepal-India border. “Bulk cargo includes fertilizers, sugar, soybean, salt, animal feed and raw plastic materials among others,” he said, adding that the bulk cargo items currently brought from third countries via Kolkata, Haldiya and Vishakhapatnam ports are imported to Nepal only through Birgunj border point. “Nepal at present has been using West Bengal’s Kolkata and Haldiya ports as well as Visakhapatnam Port of Andhra Pradesh.”
Dhakal is leading the Nepali team whereas joint secretary of the Department of Commerce at the Indian Ministry of Commerce and Industry Bhupinder Singh Bhalla is leading the Indian delegation.
The two countries might ink the deal tomorrow, if everything goes smoothly.
According to former joint secretary at the Ministry of Industry, Commerce and Supplies Ravi Shankar Sainju, the use of additional ports will facilitate Nepal’s overseas trade. “Dhamra Port of Orissa can be an alternative to the infrastructural hurdles at Kolkata Port and the long distance to Visakhapatnam Port,” the government officials opined, adding that Dhamra Port is 1806-km from Nepal’s Krishnanagar. “This new port is 400-km near than Visakhapatnam Port and 300-km near than Kolkata.”
Dhamra Port, which is operated by private sector, provides modern facilities and can accommodate up to 25,000 metric tonnes of goods.
Traders believe this port would be useful for the bulk of Nepal-bound goods from third countries. According to traders, Nepali importers can benefit from Mundra Port of Gujrat as well since it is connected to railway network right up to Krishnanagar.
They have long been demanding to allow diversifying the bulk cargo transport as it often takes more than a month for bulk cargos to reach Birgunj due to various hassles. Citing a lack of railway infrastructure, India had been saying that it was difficult to provide bulk cargo facility at other border points.
In 2012, the Nepal-India Inter-government Committee had agreed to expand the bulk cargo facility to Biratnagar and Bhairahawa border points. The agreement, however, was not implemented as the letter of exchange was not issued.

13 years on, no justice for conflict victims in Nepal

Nepal has made no real progress on questions of justice, truth and reparations for victims of gross human rights violations and abuses during its 10-year conflict, according to International Commission of Jurists (ICJ), Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch (HRW) and TRIAL International.
The Comprehensive Peace Agreement – to end the war – was signed on November 21, 2006.
While two commissions have been set up to address conflict-era atrocities, they have not been effective and impunity and denial of access to justice to victims remain prevalent, according to a joint statement issued by them. “The four human rights organisations are particularly concerned about the recent moves that suggest that the government will go forward with the appointing of commissioners without making necessary reforms to the legal framework.”
“Last week marked the 13th anniversary of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement that ended the conflict in Nepal,” ICJ’s Asia-Pacific director Frederick Rawski said, adding that it is astonishing that so little progress has been made in responding to the clearly articulated concerns and demands of conflict victims. “These demands have included a transparent and consultative process for the appointment of commissioners, and a genuine good-faith effort by political leaders and lawmakers to address serious weaknesses in the existing legal framework.”
On November 18, a five-member committee formed by the government to recommend names for commissioners to be appointed to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) and the Commission on the Investigation of Enforced Disappearances (CIED) published a list of candidates. Concerns have been raised by victims and civil society that the government will simply re-appoint past commissioners or make political appointments that will not be adequately impartial and independent.
“It is deeply disappointing that the government has repeatedly attempted to appoint the commissioners without adequate consultation and transparency,” South Asia director at Amnesty International Biraj Patnaik said, adding that the commissions will not gain the trust of the victims and the international community, if the political parties continue to interfere in the appointment process.
Importantly, the move suggests that the commissions will be re-constituted without amending the legal framework governing the transitional justice process and ensuring its compliance with international human rights law obligations, as directed by Supreme Court and demanded by civil society and victims.
Victims and civil society organisations (CSO) have issued public statement making it clear that they oppose any appointments prior to the amendment of the legal framework. Notably, the National Human Rights Commission, in its statement commemorating 13th anniversary of CPA, stated that “…the commission will not support any decision, work or activities that might hurt the sensitivity of the conflict victims…”.
“The government’s move has not only undermined victims’ role in the transitional justice process, but has also once again brought into question its commitment to uphold its international law obligations and ensuring justice for conflict-era crimes,” said TRIAL International’s Nepal Programme Manager Tomás Ananía.
The ICJ, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and TRIAL International have repeatedly expressed concern that effective transitional justice mechanisms require strong legal foundations consistent with international law and good practices, and the political will to address the concerns of victims of the conflict. All four organisations reiterated their calls to amend the the 2014 Transitional Justice Act to make it consistent with the Supreme Court’s rulings and international human rights standards, as well as for the initiation of a genuine consultative and transparent process for the appointment of commissioners.
Concerns raised about the existing, and proposed, legal frameworks include: disparities between the definitions of specific crimes under international law and human rights obligations and violations under national, and international law; inadequate provisions to ensure that serious crimes under international law are subject to criminal accountability (including punishment proportionate to the seriousness of the crimes); and a reliance on compensation at the expense of other forms of reparation and remedy for conflict survivors and their families.
Under the principle of universal jurisdiction states may make it possible for their domestic criminal justice system to investigate and prosecute crimes such as torture, committed by any person, anywhere in the world.
It means that a citizen of any country, including Nepal, suspected of such crimes faces the risk of arrest and prosecution for these crimes in countries that apply universal jurisdiction. This is more likely if the Nepali authorities do not appear able and willing to prosecute those responsible for such crimes, the organisations said.
“After initial pledges to ensure truth, justice, and reparations for conflict victims, it appears that the government is once again determined to protect those responsible for the crimes,” South Asia director at Human Rights Watch Meenakshi Ganguly said, adding that the international community should remind Nepal that whitewashing egregious crimes will not help to dodge universal jurisdiction.
The Comprehensive Peace Agreement signed by the government of Nepal and the country’s major political parties, including the then Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) on November 21, 2006, called for a transitional justice process to address the human rights violations committed during the conflict. The Agreement ended a decade long armed conflict in which some 13,000 people were killed, including the widespread and systematic practice of enforced disappearance, torture and ill-treatment, and other gross human rights violations and abuses
The Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) and the Commission on Investigation of Disappeared Persons (CIDP), both established in February 2015, have failed to address the many thousands of complaints brought to them by victims and their families, and have yet to publicise their findings. In February, the tenure of the commissions was extended to 2020, though the terms of the commissioners were left to expire on April 13, 2019. On March 25, the government formed a five-member committee to recommend appointments in these two commissions.
In 2015, the Supreme Court had ruled that the 2014 Act creating the legal framework for the Commissions was unconstitutional, due in part to the inclusion of provisions that could be used to grant amnesty to those respected of having criminal responsibility.

Monday, November 25, 2019

Regional UN meeting presents new research on market dynamics of agriculture mechanisation

Experts at a regional meeting in Chitwan unveiled new analysis on the links between agricultural mechanisation and the market with implications on reducing rural poverty in the Asia-Pacific region.
The preliminary findings of research – discussed at the fifth member meeting of the Regional Council of Agricultural Machinery Associations in Asia and the Pacific (ReCAMA) and co-organised by the Centre for Sustainable Agricultural Mechanisation (CSAM) of the United Nations (UN) Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) with the Nepal Agricultural Machinery Entrepreneurs’ Association (NAMEA) – also included a research paper Mechanisation of Agriculture: Market Dynamics of Selected Member Countries of ReCAMA commissioned in 2019. The study leverages expertise on both sustainable agriculture and commerce to analyse market dynamics and forecast needs for agricultural machinery, in order to optimise agricultural production and innovation in the region.
The meeting also brought together policymakers, academics, researchers and private sector and industry association representatives to make concrete decisions on the council’s direction promoting the availability, adoption and sustainable use of agricultural machinery in the region through a demand-driven model.
Commenting on the event, head of CSAM Li Yutong said that sustainable and balanced development of agricultural mechanisation requires programmes, incentives and assistance from both national associations and the private sector. “Of vital importance is an enabling policy landscape as well as a network and close-knit community where information is shared, partnerships are developed, and valuable cooperation is catalysed, which can optimise the engagement and contribution of all entities towards advancement of sustainable agricultural mechanisation.”
The continuing work of ReCAMA through regional cooperation and agricultural development has emerged as an important channel for CSAM to contribute towards Sustainable Development Goal 2 (Zero Hunger), Goal 8 (Decent Work and Economic Growth) and Goal 17 (Partnerships for the Goals).
ReCAMA was established in 2014 as the outcome of the first Regional Forum on Sustainable Agricultural Mechanization in Asia and the Pacific held in 2013. The ReCAMA aims to enhance the exchange of knowledge and information, strengthen the capability of agricultural machinery associations at both regional level and national level, and conduct capacity building programmes to promote the idea of sustainable agricultural mechanisation. ReCAMA has 20 member associations from 14 countries till now.

Nepal improves prosperity ranking over a decade

The 2019 Legatum Prosperity Index shows that Nepal is currently ranked 115th in the world for overall prosperity, a rise of 13 places since 2009 when it was ranked 128th. “Nepal is 22nd out of the 29 countries in Asia Pacific, which is the most improved region of all seven regions of the world,” reads the report released today globally.
“Over the last one decade, Nepal has seen the biggest improvement in safety and security, in which it rose from 158th to 78th globally, and it has also seen improvements across the other institutional pillars of Personal Freedom and Social Capital,” it reads, adding that despite an improvement in its economic quality, the openness of the economy in Nepal has stagnated, and consequently it has fallen from 117th to 130th in the world rankings in the last 10 years. “Likewise, Nepal is ranked 142nd – the lowest – in the market access and infrastructure category among the eight pillars that ranks the economies.”
The London-based Legatum Institute’s 2019 Prosperity Index released today analyses 167 countries around the world on 12 different measures of prosperity from economic metrics to safety and security, personal freedom, health, education and living conditions.
“Nepal’s peace process, and freedoms guaranteed in the new constitution have positive factors, but Nepal needs to work on improving its investment climate and protecting its environment, “said director of the Metrics Team at The Legatum Prosperity Index Shaun Flanagan.
As personal freedom is important for a country to be prosperous, Nepal improves its ranking to 67th in the world. “The Personal Freedom pillar incorporates elements like freedom of assembly and association, freedom of speech, absence of legal discrimination, and social tolerance,” he said, adding that Personal Freedom is Nepal’s strongest pillar.
The 2019 Legatum Prosperity Index also reveals that global prosperity is at its highest ever level, with 148 out of 167 countries experiencing higher levels of prosperity than a decade ago, mostly in the Asia-Pacific. This increase has been driven by more open economies and improved lived experiences due to better health, education, and living conditions around the world. However, weaker personal freedom and deteriorating governance are holding back further improvements in prosperity.
The Index also reveals that global prosperity continues to improve, but the gap between the strongest and weakest performing countries continues to widen, economies are more open due to improvement in the investment environment and digital connectivity, as well as a reduction in administrative burdens. “Stagnating institutions are holding back further improvements to global prosperity,” it reads, adding that people are more tolerant, but there is less freedom to speak, associate, and assemble.

Nepal, Russia eye strong economic partnership

Nepal and Russia underlined the need of building a strong economic partnership commensurate with the bond of friendship they have been cherishing since the establishment of diplomatic relations in 1956.
They – during the meeting between visiting foreign minister Pradeep Kumar Gyawali and his counterpart Sergey Lavrov in Moscow today – also agreed to explore ways and means for enhancing economic and trade relations for mutual benefit. Through his Russian counterpart, Gyawali encouraged Russian entrepreneurs to invest in Nepal in view of an investment-friendly environment.
According to a press note issued by the Foreign Ministry, the two leaders – on the occasion – also shared their perspectives on important global agendas, including maintenance of international peace and security, disarmament and peacekeeping. They – reads the press note – expressed their commitment to multilateralism and the centrality of the United Nations (UN) to deal with international issues.
During the bilateral meeting – held in a cordial atmosphere – the two ministers exchanged views on various aspects of bilateral relations and importance of the exchange of high-level visits, including the judicial, parliamentary and business exchanges.
Minister Gyawali, on the occasion, handed over the invitation of President Mrs Bidhya Devi Bhandari to the President of the Russian Federation to pay a state visit to Nepal, apart from invitation of the Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli to the Prime Minister of the Russian Federation.
During the visit – in the gap of 14 years since the last visit from the Nepali side – the ministers also  agreed to harness the immense potentials to enlarge the scope and enrich the substance of the bilateral cooperation especially in the areas of investment, trade, tourism, education, energy, infrastructure development, and culture and people-to-people relations.
Inviting Lavrov to participate in the Sagarmatha Sambaad to be held in Kathmandu in April 2020, Gyawali also asked Russian investors to invest in Nepal as the country has huge potentials to develop organic agro-products such as tea, coffee, ginger, cardamom, which can be exported to Russia.
Nepal is currently a ‘dialogue partner’ of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) since 2015 and hopes to connect with the Central Asia and beyond through its framework of cooperation. The Russian Federation – as the Organisation’s founding member – on the occasion expressed its readiness to extend cooperation within the scope of the organisation, reads the press note.”The framework for the deeper engagement of Nepal with SCO is wide and Nepal believes that the partnership can be upgrade to a full membership.”

Intensify action to eliminate violence against women

Violence against women is a serious threat to women’s health and well-being. Globally, an estimated 35.6 per cent of all women experience physical and/or sexual intimate partner or non-partner violence in their lifetime.
In the WHO South-East Asia Region, the figure is almost five percentage points higher, at 40.2 per cent of all women. Violence against women can significantly impact mental health, leading to anxiety disorders, depression, substance abuse and suicide. All forms of violence against women, including rape, can cause adverse sexual and reproductive health outcomes such as sexually transmitted infections, unwanted pregnancy, low birth weight and pre maturity, a press note of the World Health Organisation (WHO) reads.
The health sector has a key role in responding to violence against women and informing the quest to eliminate it. Health workers are likely to be the first professional contact of survivors of physical and/or sexual intimate partner or non-partner violence. Ensuring appropriate post-violence care is accessible to all women and girls – including adolescents – is an important part of achieving universal health coverage, which is one of the Region’s eight Flagship Priorities. WHO is working with member states in the region to fully implement WHO’s global plan on addressing interpersonal violence, in particular against women and girls. WHO is also supporting member states to make full use of the WHO-co-developed RESPECT women framework for preventing violence against women, which several UN agencies and development partners launched earlier this year, the press note reads.
As a first step, health systems should adopt standard, gender-sensitive guidelines and protocols on the provision of post-violence care. All health facilities and health workers should have the capacity to implement them. Services for injuries and sexual and reproductive health are crucial, as is mental health support. WHO’s clinical guidelines on responding to intimate partner violence and sexual assault are an important resource for health workers at all levels. Region-wide, they should be fully leveraged, including as part of pre-service and in-service training.
It is imperative that health systems have clear procedures for identifying and documenting cases of violence against women. Surveillance of the problem is key to better understanding its prevalence, especially among different groups of women. That in turn informs cross-sector prevention efforts such as behavioral change campaigns, economic empowerment initiatives or legal and justice reforms. Research and evidence-building is crucial to designing locally appropriate, high-impact preventive interventions.
To advocate for intensified action at the highest levels, the health sector should join forces with other sectors that prevent or respond to violence against women. High-level political buy-in will help secure the resources needed to increase awareness and modify behaviors. It will also help empower women’s organisations working at the grassroots, in addition to building society-wide coalitions that can address the problem at its source.
In the wake of the Nairobi Summit earlier this month, which marked 25 years since the UN’s landmark International Conference on Population and Development, global momentum to empower women and advance gender equality is at a premium. The WHO South-East Asia Region is no exception. WHO reiterates its continued support to Member States to ensure health systems have the capacity to effectively respond to violence against women and can inform action to prevent it. Women’s rights are human rights. Together we must intensify action to eliminate violence against women and girls, the press note reads.

VNY to be inaugurated from Dasharath Stadium

The government is inaugurating Visit Nepal Year 2020 (VNY2020) campaign from the Dasharath Stadium on January 1.
Addressing the fifth meeting of the main organisation committee of the VNY campaign today, tourism minister Yogesh Bhattarai confirmed that the campaign will be inaugurated from the Dasharath Stadium by President Bidhya Devi Bhandari in active participation of Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli along with ministers, chief ministers of seven provinces, national and international diplomats, tourism ministers from 40 countries, chiefs of international airline companies.
The meeting also decided to include 15 other institutions in the main organisation committee for the effective implementation of the VNY 2020.
The meeting also decided to celebrate the inaugural ceremony for two days – December 31 and January 1 as pre-event day and the main event. On December 31, street festivals will be organised in Thamel, while pictures of different tourist locations of the country will also be displayed on Ghantaghar through hightech light projector as a pre event.
Likewise, the main organising committee will light 2020 lamps at Swoyambhunath, Pashupatinath, Janakpur, Boudhanath Stupa and Lumbini to commemorate the event.
On January 1 – according to the committee – some 108 conch-shells will be blown together at Pashupatinath and monks will organise a chanting session at Swoyambhunath in the morning. The tourists travelling to Nepal – on the first day – will receive surprise gifts at Tribhuvan International Airport (TIA), while welcome souvenirs will be provided to tourists at domestic airports across the country.
Requesting the stakeholders to come up with attractive packages for tourists during the campaign period, Bhattarai – on the occasion – asked all tourism organisations and associations to submit their one-year plan for VNY 2020 within a week.
The government is easing entrance fee for tourists in different destinations across the country, he said, adding that the government will arrange different packages and royalty discounts for the climbers to encourage mountaineers to attempt virgin peaks. “The meeting also decided to provide language and behavioural training to 1,000 taxi drivers in the valley.”
Committing to enact new laws and amend the existing ones to address genuine demands of tourism entrepreneurs, Bhattarai also said that talks were being held with international airline companies to increase the number of flights to Nepal.
Addressing the meeting, coordinator of VNY campaign committee Suraj Vaidya said that the events being prepared for VNY will not only target one year but will be effective even after that.

Contractors stage protest in front of PM's official residence

Wearing black armbands, the contractors today staged a sit-in in front of the Prime Minister's official residence at Baluwatar against the state’s repressive policy towards them.
The Federation of Contractor's Association Nepal (FCAN) is agitating against some of the provisions of the recently-issued Public Procurement Regulations-2076.
The contractors have put forth their 25-point including extending contracts to development projects, according to FCAN chair Rabi Singh. “We are forced to launch an agitation after the government failed to honour the commitments made in the past,” he said, adding that PM KP Sharma Oli himself had vowed to fulfill our demands. “We will boycott the government bidding, if our demands are not met as per the previous understanding reached with the prime minister.”
He also warned the government of halting the construction of development projects, if their demands were not met.
Singh also blamed the government for being repressive towards contractors in recent months by putting all the blames on them for every delay in projects. “The tendency of directly blaming contractors for delay in a project regardless of any cause has increased in recent times,” he said, adding that the government policy is discouraging them instead of supporting contractors and the construction industry.
Before going to premier, the FCAN also claimed that they asked Ministry of Physical Infrastructure and Transport (MoPIT) and also at the Public Procurement Monitoring Office to solve their problem but they were reluctant to address the issues.

Tibet-Nepal Economic and Trade Fair starts

A four-day ‘China's Tibet-Nepal Economic and Trade Fair’ started at the United World Trade Center in Kathmandu today.
The fair – jointly organised by the Nepal-China Chamber of Commerce and Industries, Tibet Border Trade Chamber and Trade Development Bureau of Ministry of Commerce of China – aims at exhibiting and studying the market potential of both Nepali and Chinese products.
Addressing the inauguration of the fair, secretary at the Ministry Commerce and Supplies Baikuntha Aryal said that the ballooning trade deficit between Nepal and China should be reduced, and such trade fair will help decrease the trade deficit.

Sunday, November 24, 2019

Future of compassion in the context of Artificial Intelligence and Technology

Artificial intelligence is a method of calculation and not a being and hence no element of experience, according to a monk.
In a series of debates and talk programmes designed to stimulate thinking and get the ideas and knowledge flowing, a joint event was organised by the French Embassy in Nepal and beed Knowledge Center on the ‘Future of Compassion in the context of Artificial Intelligence and Technology’ in which the French Buddhist monk and writer Matthieu Ricard – who was in conversation with economist Sujeev Shakya – highlighted that a common platform, even before religion, is goodness and a good heart which is most needed for people to come together despite the challenges of technology. In Ricard’s point of view, artificial intelligence is a method of calculation and not a being and hence no element of experience.
During the conversation, Ricard also admired the resilience of Nepali people as they get through everything in life. “There has not been lasting hatred and believes that it is a part of the Nepali culture,” he added.
Sujeev, on the occasion, emphasised that, technology has encroached our life in an unprecedented level, resulting a conflict with our notion of a shared world and a shared future. For Sujeev, a lot of evolution has taken place over the years and although Buddhism and science have evolved to come together, it has always been about the human mind and people. 
The conversation started with the French ambassador to Nepal François – Xavier Leger giving the opening remarks in the event, where the attendees included heads of Mission and representatives from various embassies, researchers, students and people from the private sector.

Fossil fuel still accounts for one fifth of total import bill

Despite smooth electricity supply, country’s dependency on fossil fuel has not decreased. “The share of import bills of petroleum products still accounts for 20 per cent of the total import bill worth Rs 207.41 billion,” according to the central bank.
According to Current Macroeconomic Situation of three months, Nepal paid Rs 41.36 billion – during mid July-mid October of the current fiscal year – for petroleum import, Rs 8.22 billion less, from Rs 49.58 billion in the same period of the last fiscal year 2018-19.
But the import bill of petroleum products drop is not due to less consumption rather due to falling price in the international market that determines the price in the domestic market. Nepal spent 16.6 per cent less in import of petroleum products – in the first three months of the current fiscal year 2019-20 compared to the same period last fiscal year – though the import value has increased by 7 per cent.
Though, the import bill – in monetary value – has dropped, the consumption volume has gone up, according to the data of Nepal Oil Corporation (NOC) that revealed that the import volume of fuel including petrol, diesel, kerosene, air turbine fuel and cooking gas increased to 789,144 kiloliters (kl) from 736,105 kl in the same period of the last fiscal year.
The import value is down also due to the variation of the exchange rate of the Nepali currency against the US dollar. The price of the petroleum products depends on the price in the international market.
According to the NOC, price of crude oil in the international market had swelled to $86 per barrel in October from $65 per barrel last July. However, the petroleum prices in the same period this year dropped to around $67 per barrel.
Though, the monetary value of import is less, the volume – especially of diesel – has not gone down. Demand for diesel is rising in the recent days due to construction-related works in hydropower projects unlike the demand from industrial sectors earlier, according to state oil monopoly. “In the first quarter, import of petrol increased to 183,026 kl from 160,846 kl, diesel increased to 412,563 kl from 393,601 kl while import of cooking gas also surged to 127,628 tonnes from 116,546 tonnes in the same period of the last fiscal year,” the NOC data revealed.

Buddha Air to operate Biratnagar-Pokhara flights

Buddha Air is operating a transit flight from Biratnagar and Bhadrapur of Province 1 to Pokhara from January 1.
Chief Minister of Province 1 Sherdhan Rai – at a meeting today – announced that flights will operate from Biratnagar and Bhadrapur to Pokhara with transit in Kathmandu. Biratnagar is the capital of Province 1 whereas Bhadrapur is former headquarters of Jhapa district.
The inter-province flights were being initiated by Province 1, he said, adding that the flights will make travelling to Muktinath and other places easier for tourists from eastern Nepal and different Indian provinces. “Though there will be transit flights for the time being, there will be direct flights in the future.”
Rai also hoped these flights to contribute to the development of tourism sector.
Likewise, minister for Industry, Tourism, Forest and Environment Jagadish Kusiyat – on the occasion – asked Buddha Air to operate direct flights. The tourists from Province 1 and different Indian cities want to visit Pokhara, Muktinath and other tourist destinations in huge numbers, he said, asking the airline to operate mountain flight from Biratnagar and regular flights from all airports of Province 1.
Tourism entrepreneurs also asked Buddha Air to start Biratnagar-Delhi flights as well to promote Visit Nepal Year 2020 (VNY2020).
The number of people travelling from Biratnagar to Delhi is huge and direct flight to the destination is possible, they said, adding that entrepreneurs and tourists travel to Delhi through Bagdogra International Airport currently.
On the occasion, managing director of Buddha Air Birendra Bahadur Basnet said that the Biratnagar-Pokhara transit flight is being operated as a test flight. Informing that the test flight will be operated for six months, he said that Buddha Air will take the responsibility of food and accommodation of the passengers travelling in the transit flight from Biratnagar and Bhadrapur, if the flight to Pokhara does not take off due to delay or bad weather. “Direct flight from Biratnagar to Pokhara will be operated only after 6 months of test flight.”
Buddha Air is also preparing to start transit flights to all provinces from Biratnagar.

Saturday, November 23, 2019

Onion prices hit record Rs 200 per kg

Onion prices touched a record Rs 200 per kilogram (kg) in the markets.
The four times price hike of the onion – in the last three months – is attributed to the short supply from the northern neighbour. Nepal is dependent on imported onions from India due to inadequate domestic production. But India imposed a ban on the export of onion – last month – due to lack of adequate supply back home.
Onion is one of most important vegetables imported from India as Nepal has imported Rs 5.62 billion worth onions from India in the last fiscal year. Nepal imported onions worth Rs 1.3 billion during the first three months of the current fiscal year beginning mid-July compared to Rs 1.2 billion in the same period in the last fiscal year, according to the Department of Customs.
“There is no sign of prices cooling down any time soon,” according to the vegetable sellers. Likewise, the consumers have also started skipping the onion from their daily meals as the prices have increased beyond their imagination.
The prices in India have shot up due to a shortage triggered by unseasonal rainfall leading to crop damage in the main onion growing zones in Maharashtra of India, the Indian media reported, adding that traders fear a further spike in onion prices as a high amount of crops have been damaged by the unseasonal November rains.
But in Nepal, some traders have started importing onions from China to meet the short supply. “But Chinese onions are not as tasty as Indian onions,” according to the consumers.

Friday, November 22, 2019

Nepal bags country of the year award

Nepal received the country of the year award 2019 for being recognised the Asia’s Best Nation For Mountaineering Adventures at the Top Asia Corporate Ball 2019 organised by Research House of Asia (RHA) Media in Malaysia.
Nepal received the award after being confirmed by carrying out various research surveys on Asian Countries among 5 shortlisted countries for the category of ‘Asia’s Best Nation for Mountaineering Adventures’.
The award was presented by deputy minister of Tourism, Arts and Culture of Malaysia YB Tuan Muhammad Bakhtar bin Wan Chik to ambassador of Nepal to Malaysia Uday Raj Panday, amidst a special ceremony at Shangri-La Hotel in Kuala Lumpur today.
The Top 10 of Asia is an English language magazine owned and published by Research House of Asia (RHA) Media. The magazine is all about celebrating beautiful stories of successful businesses, people, and inspiring lifestyles across the entire fabric of Asian life.
Present at the occasion were ministers, members of the royal family, chief executive officers (CEOs) of reputed companies, business owners, and many more.

Almost half of quake-affected private houses not built

As the mandate of National Reconstruction Authority (NRA) is expiring on December 25, 2020, around half of the quake-affected private houses are yet not built.
“Reconstruction of 62 per cent of private houses that were damaged during the 2015 earthquake has been completed, while 24 per cent of such houses are being rebuilt,” NRA chief executive officer Sushil Gyewali said, presenting the post-earthquake reconstruction progress at the Parliamentary Development and Technology Committee today. “The reconstruction of 479,545 houses has been finished till date while reconstruction of 189,141 such houses is ongoing,” he added.
Gyewali, on the occasion, also claimed that reconstruction progress can be put at 86 per cent of quake-affected houses, if houses that are currently being reconstructed are also taken into account. “The NRA had inked housing grant agreement with 776,427 households,” he said, adding that under three tranches – Rs 100,000, Rs 150,000 and Rs 100,000 – the NRA is providing altogether Rs 350,000 as housing grant for the beneficiaries to rebuild their houses. “Some 99 per cent of housing grant beneficiaries have taken the first tranche of the housing grant from the government, while 80 per cent have taken the second tranche of housing grant and only 67 per cent of the beneficiaries have taken the third tranche of housing grant from NRA.”
The NRA has resettled 4,204 vulnerable settlements – out of 4,929 identified vulnerable settlements after the earthquake – to secured places. “The reconstruction of 71 per cent of 7,553 quake-affected schools has been completed, while 24 per cent of them are under construction,” he added. “The reconstruction of 58 per cent of 1,197 health institutions affected by the earthquake has been completed, whereas reconstruction of 14 per cent of affected health institutions is underway.”
Likewise, the reconstruction of 51 per cent of 753 cultural heritage sites – affected by the earthquake – across seven most affected districts has been completed, while reconstruction of 16 per cent of such cultural monuments is underway, according to the NRA. “Reconstruction of Ranipokhari, Dharahara, Singha Durbar and Kastamandap is ongoing at a good pace.”
Asking the NRA and the government to give due priority to enhance livelihood of quake-affected people and ensure availability of subsidised loan facilities to the quake victims, chair of the Parliamentary Development and Technology Committee Kalyani Khadka directed the NRA to give high priority to reconstruction of damaged houses.

Reconstruction update
Household surveyed – 1,036,568
Eligible for household grants – 820,610
Retrofitting beneficiaries identified – 69,973
Agreement signed with beneficiary – 776,427
Private houses reconstructed – 479,545
Private houses being rebuilt – 189,141
Vulnerable settlements identified – 4,929
Vulnerable settlements resettled – 4,204
Source: NRA

Call to raise investment in hydropower

Calling to raise investment in the hydropower sector, the two-day Power Summit 2019 concluded here today.
The seventh edition of the Power Summit – organised by the Independent Power Producers’ Association-Nepal (IPPAN) with the theme of ‘Powering the Asian Century’ – witnessed call from the government to raise investment in the hydropower sector and commitment from domestic and foreign investors to unleash hydropower potential.
The participants – on the occasion – also asked the government facilitates investment through friendly policies.
Addressing the summit, finance minister Dr Yuba Raj Khatiwada said that it is the appropriate time for investors to invest in Nepal’s hydropower sector. Citing that development works in Nepal are being carried in line with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), he also urged investors to invest in renewable energy and reap the benefits. “The government wholeheartedly welcomes investors in the hydropower and other sectors and assures that investors will be facilitated by all means.”
Amid rumours that Nepal does not have enough market for the surplus energy that the country will produce in the near future, Khatiwada said that the government will make sure that the generated power will not have any problem to find market. “The domestic consumption of energy will be increased through different means including electric vehicles that the government is promoting, and encouraging people to increase electricity consumption in household activities.”
“The government is also focusing on external market for surplus energy to export,” Khatiwada added.
Likewise, transport minister Basanta Kumar Nembang – addressing the closing ceremony – said that bilateral and multilateral coordination in the power sector in the South Asian region is crucial to assure necessary market for energy produced in Nepal. “Nepal aims to produce 10,000 megawatts of electricity in the future, and the government is seeking a regional market for power export through political and government-to-government dialogues,” he said.
During the closing ceremony, Indian government-owned NHPC Ltd and Hydroelectricity and Investment Company Ltd (HIDCL) of Nepal reached two different agreements on investing in the power sector, according to the IPPAN. Likewise, Indian Energy Ltd and IPPAN also shared a memorandum of understanding (MoU) to invest in the hydropower sector of Nepal. On the occasion, various other agreements were inked between power producers of Nepal and from India, Bangladesh and Bhutan.

Government calls for application for the top job of Sebon

The government has started the process of selecting new executive chairman of Securities Board of Nepal (Sebon), the capital market regulator.
Issuing a public notice today, Finance Ministry called for applications within 15 days from eligible candidates to fill up the vacancy of the executive chairman through open competition in line with the ministry’s new working procedure.
The post of capital market regulator’s chairman has remained vacant since October 17, after the then chairman Rewat Bahadur Karki completed his four-year tenure.
Though, it is said that the open competitive process for the recommendation of the executive chairman of Sebon indicates an end to a practice of handpicking favorites by the finance minister with political patronage, the practice is yet under question as regulator has not yet got independent status.
The government has formed a three-member committee – led by a member of the National Planning Commission (NPC) including finance secretary and an expert in the field of securities – will recommend three short-listed candidates based on the open competition, the notice reads, adding that the recommendation committee will forward the shortlisted candidates to the Finance Ministry that will present to the cabinet, which pick one of them for the top post.
Earlier today, Finance Ministry introduced the new working procedure for the recommendation of the executive chairman of the Sebon, putting 40 per cent weightage on the action plan presented by the shortlisted candidates.
According to the ‘Working Procedure on the Recommendation of the Chairman of Securities Board of Nepal (Sebon)-2019’ released by the Finance Ministry, the eligible applicants should also submit his/her action plan as the chairman of the Sebon that should include the national and international outlook of the national and international capital and commodities exchange market and business plan for the board. “The action plan carries 40 per cent weightage for the evaluation of the applicants in addition to 20 per cent on the presentation of the plan,” according to the procedure that add,”remaining 10 per cent weightage for the score will be based on the academic qualification and 30 per cent for the interview.”
The candidate must have at least master’s degree and at least seven years of experiences in the field of stock exchange management, capital market development, economics, finance, commerce, management or law to become eligible for the chairman of the Sebon, according to the Securities Act-2007.

Thursday, November 21, 2019

Inflation outpaces government target

The consumer price rise has outpaced the government’s target, though budget has vowed to tame inflation at 6 per cent in the current fiscal year 2019-20.
According to ‘Current Macroeconomic and Financial Situation of Nepal – based on three months’ data of 2019-20 – released by the central bank today, the average inflation, as measured in consumer price index (CPI), stood at 6.44 per cent in the first three months of the current fiscal year.
According to the central bank data, the year-on-year consumer price inflation jumped to 6.21 per cent in mid-October 2019 compared to 4.68 per cent a year ago. “Food and beverage inflation stood at 7.04 per cent whereas non-food and service inflation stood at 5.55 per cent in the first quarter of the current fiscal year,” it reads, adding that vegetable inflation rose by 16.83 per cent, while meat and fish prices jumped by 8.31 per cent.
The rising consumer prices in India has added the inflationary pressure to domestic market as Nepal imports everything including inflation from India. The consumer price inflation has reached a 16-month high of 4.62 per cent in India.
Likewise, rising salary and wages have also driven up inflation in recent months. “The year-on-year salary and wage rate index increased by 12.07 per cent in the first quarter compared to 8.73 per cent a year ago,” the report reads, adding that salary index and wage rate index increased by 13.56 per cent and 11.67 per cent, respectively.

Remittance inflow drops by 4.9 per cent

Remittance inflows decreased by 4.9 per cent year-on-year to Rs 230.24 billion in the first quarter of the current fiscal year. “In the first quarter of the last fiscal year, remittance inflow had increased by 37.3 per cent year-on-year,” according to the central bank.
According to the central bank, the number of Nepali migrant workers leaving for foreign employment decreased by 3.7 per cent year-on-year in the first three months. During the same period in the last fiscal year, departures had decreased by 34.8 per cent year-on-year. 

Quality of electricity access in Nepal shows remarkable progress

A World Bank survey has showed that 95 out of 100 households in Nepal have access to electricity. Likewise 72 out of 100 have access to reliable, affordable and uninterrupted access to electricity for a significant part of the day, marking remarkable progress over the past decade, according to a first-of-its-kind national survey conducted by the World Bank in 2017.
Despite progress on the coverage and quality of electricity access, about the same number of households – 70 out of 100 – continue to use firewood and other polluting and harmful fuels for cooking in Nepal, the survey reveals.
Providing access to high-quality energy services to each and every person in Nepal is one of the high priorities of the government, according to secretary at the Ministry of Energy, Water Resources and Irrigation Dinesh Kumar Ghimire. “We are working to achieve 100 per cent energy access by year 2023.”
About 67 per cent of households had uninterrupted access to electricity for at least eight hours a day, where supply is affordable, reliable and conducive for the use of household appliances like fans and televisions. Overall, about 71.7 per cent of households drew electricity from the national grid, while 23 per cent were connected to off-grid sources like micro or mini-hydro and solar power, the survey shows.
“Since this 2017 survey, Nepal has made further progress by increasing grid electrified population from 72 per cent to 78 per cent,” according to World Bank country manager for Nepal Faris H Hadad-Zervos. “The country has been load shedding free since 2018,” he said, adding that the World Bank celebrates these achievements made by Nepal and is very proud of being a partner with the government in further improving the quality of energy services for lighting and clean cooking and better the life of the people in Nepal.
The Nepal national household-level survey is part of the Global Survey on Energy Access, which relies on the Multi-Tier Framework (MTF) approach piloted by the World Bank with the support of the Energy Sector Management Assistance Program (ESMAP). This is the first time a survey has tracked the quality of electricity access across households in Nepal, compared to a more conventional, binary approach.
Despite progress on the quality of electricity access, clean cooking remains a challenge for Nepal. Firewood, which is polluting and causes a myriad of heath issues particularly for women and children, remains the most widely used source of cooking fuel. About 73.5 per cent of households said that they cook with firewood, animal waste, crop residue or plant biomass. “Less than 2 out of 10 households – about 17.5 per cent – have access to modern cooking services, according to the survey.
The survey suggests that for better quality of electricity access, households that access electricity through the grid, micro-hydro and mini-hydro sources must have electricity available for longer hours, particularly between 6:00-10:00pm, where supply is reliable with fewer, unexpected interruptions and voltage fluctuation issues. Households using solar devices and other low capacity sources of electricity will need to switch over to the grid or high-capacity off-grid solutions in the medium to long terms. For last mile connections, households with no electricity can be offered low-cost renewable electricity with flexible payment options as an interim solution.
The survey also suggests that for households to switch to clean fuels such as electric stoves or biogas in the long run, Nepal requires a multi-pronged approach. First, markets need to come together and target users through private sector involvement and strategies including results-based financing. In addition, Nepal must develop a decentralized testing and labelling regime for quality assurance and monitoring and also involve local governments by building local capacity and bringing them into the policy-making process.
The report was launched at the seventh edition of the Power Summit – organised by the Independent Power Producers Association of Nepal (IPPAN) – in Kathmandu today.