Thursday, December 31, 2020

Nepse posts yet another historic record

 Despite the political instability, the share market witnessed yet another historic record.

The Nepal Stock Exchange (Nepse) index today – the last regular trading day – registered a gain of 25.21 points to end the last trading session of the year 2020, and closed at 2,087.28 points breaking the earlier record of 2071.02 points of 2 December.

Though the index once crossed 2,100 level in the morning, it settled down to 2,087.28 points. 

Among the sub-indices, Trading sub-index gained 8.89 per cent, Banking sub-index rose by 1.97 per cent, whereas Others’ and Life Insurance sub-indices also saw over 1 per cent gain. All other sub-indices, except Non-Life Insurance sub-index gained. The Non-Life Insurance sub-index lost 1 per cent today.

The market also witnessed trading of over Rs 5.7 billion today, whereas this week, the average daily trading stood at around Rs 4 billion against the share investors expectation of more trading amount after the regulator reduced the broker commission. The Securities Board of Nepal (Sebon) slashed the broker commission as the investors claimed the lower commission rate would help increase trading amount.

The day also witnessed shares of Himalayan Distillery traded the most ahead of its book closure for the annual general meeting (AGM). Over Rs 468 million worth of the beverage manufacturer changed hands on the ex-dividend date. Nepal Life Insurance Company, Citizen Investment Trust and Nepal Telecom shares were also actively traded with the scrips posting turnovers of Rs 371 million, Rs 288 million and Rs 285 million, respectively, according to the Nepse. “Likewise, NIC Asia Bank, Shivam Cements and Everest Bank were the other active stocks today.”

Similarly, Salt Trading Corporation gained the most as its stock hit the upper circuit limit of positive 10 per cent. Everest Bank and Goodwill Finance followed with gains of around 6 per cent each.

Himalaya Airlines fulfills its annual CSR commitment

 As a part of its annual Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) commitment of 2020 towards Prayas Nepal, Himalaya Airlines, a Nepal-China joint venture, yet again extended its support to the children of the organisation under its CSR banner. 

The Airlines donated yearlong supply of notebooks on the New Year Eve, according to a press note issued by the airlines. “Considering the ongoing pandemic, the airlines this year prudently added the Covid-19 essential supplies as well to the contribution,” it reads.

During a brief visit to Prayas Nepal on December 31, the officials of Himalaya Airlines handed over the educational and medical supplies to Prayas Nepal office bearers maintaining all the Covid-19 safety protocols. “The contribution included 1,650 notebooks, two infrared thermometers, 24 bottles of hand sanitizers and 1,000 surgical face masks,” the press note reads, adding that with its continuous contribution of essential educational and snack, grocery supplies over past 3 years, Himalaya has been able to make a difference in lives of Prays Nepal children. “Many of the students have been able to successfully continue their educational pursuit.”

This year too, a total of 27 students aged between 8 and 20 years will be receiving the yearlong school necessities to follow their academic courses, it adds. “The additional supply of Covid-19 essentials is aimed to safeguard the children from Covid-19.”

“2020 has been a year of uncertainty and dampened spirits, especially for children all over,” according to head of Department – Brand and Service Improvement – Ujjwala Dali. “Fear of Covid-19 spread and social distancing has hit hardly to schools and colleges,” she said adding that however with vaccines around the corner, there’s a light at the end of the tunnel and educational institutions are now gearing up to reopen. “With our persistent pledge to make meaningful contributions, we thought this is the right time to fulfill our annual commitment to Prays Nepal and we are determined to continue our support to the organisation’s efforts to groom the children in all walks of life.”

“We are sincerely thankful to Himalaya Airlines for their continual support to our children, since 2017,” president of Prayas Nepal Mani Joshi said while expressing gratitude on the occasion. “Himalaya’s contribution every year has not only helped in boosting morals of our children in this pandemic year but has also inspired us to ardently strive for the better upkeep of our children,” she said, informing that Prayas Nepal is a non-profit social organisation providing shelter especially to orphan, abandoned, abused and physically challenged children from different parts of Nepal, continuously striving to provide education and skillful trainings.

Himalaya Airlines, an international air carrier is a Nepal-China joint venture, has been established in August 2014.

Wednesday, December 30, 2020

ADB, government sign Rs 18.25 billion loan to improve electricity grid system

 Asian Development Bank (ADB) and government today signed a loan agreement worth Rs 18.25 billion ($156 million) for upgrading the electricity grid system in Nepal.

Joint secretary of the Finance Ministry Shreekrishna Nepal and officer-in-charge at Nepal Resident Mission of ADB Rudi Louis Hendrikus Van Dael signed an agreement on behalf of their respective institutions at a programme today, according to a press release issued by the Finance Ministry.

The development partner is providing loan to support the Electricity Grid Modernisation Project to be implemented by Nepal Electricity Authority (NEA). “Of the estimated total costs of Rs 22.81 billion, the government and the power utility will jointly invest the remaining Rs 4.56 billion of the project, it reads, adding that the project has targeted to improve electricity transmission and distribution systems and reduce power leakages.

“The objective is to improve the power transmission and distribution system of the Electric Grid Modernisation Project, to make the power supply sustainable and reliable by modernising the power grid and to develop and strengthen the capacity of NEA,” the press note adds.

The total cost of the Electric Grid Modernisation Project is about Rs. 22.81 billion and Rs 18.25 billion will be borne by the ADB and the remaining Rs. 4.56 billion will be invested by the Government and Nepal Electricity Authority.

The Finance Ministry has stated that the energy saved from the power grid modernisation project can be exported to the neighboring countries by minimizing the energy loss due to power leakage and this will also make a positive contribution to the economic activities.

Sunday, December 27, 2020

Government promises to provide fertilizer by mid-January

 Though, it has failed repeatedly, the government has promised to bring chemical fertilizer from Bangladesh by mid-January.

Agriculture Inputs Company Ltd (AICL) today claimed that it will import chemical fertilizers – which Bangladesh is providing to Nepal on a refundable basis – by mid-January. 

Last week, on December 20, the two governments reached an agreement for the purchase of 50,000 metric tonnes of chemical fertilizer through the G2G mechanism. The state-owned enterprise – after several failed attempts – reiterated that it opened a letter of credit (LC) last week to import fertilizers. “The company has already selected Gentrad FZF Company of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) to transport chemical fertilizers from Bangladesh,” according to a press note issued by the company. “The AICL – through international bidding on September 19 – awarded the shipping contract to the company.”

The company is purchasing fertilizers at the $259.19 per metric tonne, according to the company that has promised the farmers to provide fertilizers for winter crops.

Earlier, the companies – that had bagged contract – failed to deliver fertilizer. “The government had contracted Shailung Enterprises of Lalitpur and Honiko Multiple of Kathmandu, to supply chemical fertilizers for last rainy season,” according to the company. “However, they had failed to deliver fertilizer.”

After their failure, the government started process to import fertilizers from Bangladesh with a promise to refund it later. But as the export company failed to provide fertilizer forcing the government to sign government-to-government contract to import the fertilizer.

NOC’s profit increases by Rs 4 billion despite the pandemic

 Welcome to the journey towards socialism as the state-owned entity earns hefty profit – where consumers get nothing – and private enterprises are directed to share their profit and spend in corporate social responsibility (CSR).

The state-owned Nepal Oil Corporation (NOC) has earned Rs 12.87 billion profits in the last fiscal year 2019-20 – compared to Rs 8.75 billion profit in the fiscal year 2018-19 – though consumers get nothing from the hefty profit of the state-oil monopoly.

The corporation last fiscal year paid Rs 66.88 billion as revenue – by trading fuel – to the government. It has last fiscal year imported 2.5 million kiloliters (kl) of fuel worth Rs 205 billion, which is 11 per cent less than a fiscal year ago. “Of the total collected taxes under different headings, the NOC has collected Rs 4.99 billion from consumers as road maintenance charge in a period of five years. Likewise, Rs 2.94 billion has been collected as pollution tax and Rs 13.98 billion as infrastructure development tax, which all went to the government coffer.  

The state-oil monopoly attributed increase in profit to savings in transportation cost by importing fuel from cross country petroleum pipeline – the first one in the South Asia – and also earnings from the interest on the previous year's profit.

Most of the trade and businesses were hit by the corona pandemic as the country came to a standstill for four months, and subsequent prohibitory orders then after for almost one month to follow with restriction on vehicular movements till last month, the NOC pocketed decent profit.

The corporation – technically bankrupt couple of years ago – has started making profit since the fiscal year 2017-18 due to the fall in fuel prices in the international market and also the implementation of automatic pricing system. The corporation claimed that it saved Rs 0.47 billion by pumping diesel through the pipeline, whereas it has earned Rs 1.77 billion from interest in last year's profit from the banks alone.

Encouraged by the first cross border pipeline, and its benefits, the corporation is also planning a second cross border pipeline project. The corporation is also planning to increase in storage capacity in all the seven provinces from the profit. Likewise, the corporation has prepared a balance sheet according to the Nepal Financial Reporting Standards (NFRS) for the first time, the NOC claimed, adding that the corporation has also increased its paid up capital from Rs 290 million to Rs 11 billion in the fiscal year 2018-19.

Despite lack of fertilizer, paddy production increases

 Compared to last year, paddy production has increased by 70,000 metric tonnes due to favourable weather and timely plantation this year, though the government failed to provide chemical fertilizer on time for paddy plantation. Despite increased paddy production, Nepal has imported Rs 18 billion worth rice in the five months of the current fiscal year.

According to the Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock Development (MoALD), some 5.6 million metric tonnes of paddy has been produced in the current fiscal year 2020-21. A fiscal year ago, in 2019/20, some 5.51 million metric tonnes of paddy was produced, the ministry claimed, adding that the plantation area of paddy has also increased to about 1.5 million hectares.

Agriculture contributes to about 27 per cent to the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP), whereas paddy contributes about seven per cent to that. “Paddy production has increased due to timely rain and plantation,” the ministry assumed, adding that farmers were able to plant paddy on time due to timely rains since May. “Had the government been able to provide fertilizers, the production would have been increased even more.”

The year that witness timely rain automatically sees increased agriculture production as almost all agriculture largely depends on rain water due to the lack of an efficient irrigation system in the country. But paddy is cultivated in Kachankawal in Jhapa at an altitude of 60 meters to Chumchaur in Jumla at an altitude of 3,050 meters, in Nepal.

The government has been running a fine and fragrant paddy production promotion programme to increase production since years. Likewise, the government has set up paddy pockets zones and super zones in different districts under the Prime Minister Agriculture Modernisation Project (PMAMP).

Paddy production could be increased by even 15 per cent to 25 per cent, if government ensures high quality seeds, chemical fertilizers and adequate irrigation in time, according to the farmers.

Friday, December 25, 2020

Sebon reduces brokerage commission

 The Securities Board of Nepal (Sebon) has reduced the brokerage commission, though nominal.

“The board has reduced the commission rate charged by brokers by 33 per cent,” according to a press note issued by the regulator of the securities market.

Until now, brokers have been charging 0.40 per cent to 0.60 per cent commission from investors while buying and selling shares but the investors have been asking the regulator to reduce the commission to 0.25 per cent as the secondary market has been witnessing stock trading of Rs 9 billion, lately.

“The Sebon has reduced brokerage commission by 33 per cent, from lowest 0.268 per cent to a maximum of 0.402 per cent,” the press note reads, adding that the decision will come into effect from Sunday. 

The brokers will charge 0.40 per cent up to the transaction amount of Rs 50,000, while 0.37 per cent up to the amount greater than Rs 50,000 but less than Rs 500,000, the press note reads, adding that stock trading amount higher than 500,000 and less than Rs 2,000,000 will be charged 0.34 per cent, and trading amount greater than Rs 2,000,000 but less than Rs 10,000,000 will be charged 0.30 per cent. “Finally, the amount higher than Rs 10,000,000 will be charged 0.27 per cent.”

This is the second time, the regulator has revised the brokerage commission downwards. Earlier, some four-and-a-half years ago, the Sebon had reduced the commission that has been charged till today. Luckily, some four-and-a-half years ago, when the brokerage commission was reduced, the ffinance minister was Bishnu Prasad Poudel, and currently also Poudel has been instrumental in reducing the commission.

The Sebon claimed that the commission rate of stock brokers has been reduced as the operation costs of the brokerage companies has come down due to an increasing use of online transactions. The Sebon – issuing the press note today – asserted that out of the total transactions in the secondary market, more than 85 per cent is being carried out via online trading platforms. Likewise, the regulator also attributed a notable rise in the daily transaction volume for revising the rate of brokers’ commissions.

Claiming that it has revised the rate of stock brokers’ commission in line with the government policy to boost the stock market through attracting as many investors in the secondary market as possible, the Sebon also reduced the commission to up to 0.1 per cent for government bonds and securities. Likewise, the maximum threshold has also been fixed at 0.15 per cent for the mutual fund scheme and other types of capital market instruments, though the commission of Sebon and Nepal Stock Exchange (Nepse) has not been reduced. 

JICA’s Rs 12 billion Emergency Housing Reconstruction Project completes

 The Emergency Housing Reconstruction Project (EHRP) funded by Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) has been successfully completed earlier from the targeted completion date.

On this occasion, a closing ceremony was organised virtually today, according to a press note issued by the development partner. “The ceremony was attended by National Reconstruction Authority (NRA) chief executive officer Sushil Gyewali, NRA secretary Suresh Acharya, ambassador of Japan to Nepal Masamichi Saigo, JICA chief representative Yumiko Asakuma and several other high ranking officials from NRA, Central Level Project Implementation Units and District Level Project Implementation Units,” the press note reads, adding that the EHRP is a Japanese ODA loan project amounting Japanese Yen 12 billion (equivalent to about Rs 12 billion). “Main objective of EHRP was to restore and improve the living condition of the victims of the devastating earthquake of 2015, by reconstructing the destroyed and damaged houses using an adequate seismic standard of construction.”

With the principle of Build Back Better (BBB), EHRP provided technical assistance to more than 95,000 housing reconstruction beneficiaries in the target areas of Gorkha and Sindhupalchok districts. The EHRP also provided financial assistance to the government for providing housing grant. The housing grant was provided to about 34,000 beneficiaries who successfully completed earthquake-resilient houses.

As of November 2020, almost 90 per cent of beneficiaries have already completed their house construction in JICA’s target area. The Community Mobilisation Programme (CMP) was one of key factor for success of housing reconstruction which optimized the power of community and promoted mutual support, the press note claimed, adding that it also created job opportunity to over 500 mobile masons, who were instrumental in assisting the house owners for reconstruction.

Speaking on the occasion, Japanese envoy Saigo recalled his field visit to EHRP area, where the mobile mason, house owner, technical support staff and the whole community were working together in a well

organised way and shared his observation on the reason behind of completing the project successfully before the original schedule.

Likewise, chief representative of JICA Nepal Asakuma highly appreciated NRA's initiatives of documenting the learning from reconstruction and passing it to the new agency responsible for DRR, the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Authority for institutionalization of the practical learning.

On the occasion, NRA chief executive Gyewali highly acknowledged the CMP, which was highly effective to synergise the well-grounded Nepali culture of mutual help saying that the CMP not only was instrumental in expediting reconstruction but also in strengthening the social capital of community cohesion.

Housing reconstruction will still continue to materialise leave-no-one-behind, even though EHRP funded by JICA is closed, the press note added.

Prabhu Life Insurance allots IPO

 Prabhu Life Insurance allotted its primary shares to the investors today.

Though the life insurance company has issued 6 million units of primary shares – that is equivalent to Rs 600 million – some 5 per cent that is 300,000 units have been allotted to the public, whereas some 300,000 units have been set aside for mutual funds, according to the company. “The remaining 54,00,000 units are floated for the public.”

The Life Insurance company had received a record applications from 10,49,047 applicants for a total of 2,78,21,160-unit of shares. “The issue was oversubscribed by more than 5.15 times,” the company confirmed. “A total of 5,40,000 applicants were allotted 10 units each via lottery, and the remaining 5,09,047 applicants returned with empty hands.”

Likewise some 3,00,000-unit was allotted to the company staff and some 3,00,00-unit was allotted to mutual funds.

Prabhu Life Insurance has issued its Initial Public Offering (IPO) from Mangsir 29 to Poush 2.

Thursday, December 24, 2020

Air India resumes Delhi-Kathmandu flight after nine months

 Air India resumed Delhi-Kathmandu flights from today.

The airlines – that had restricted flights to Kathmandu following Covid-19 spread – has fixed a minimum fare of Rs 9,277 for Nepali passengers, according to a press note issued by the airlines. “Air India conducted a Delhi-Kathmandu flight with more than 50 per cent today, according to the Air India’s office at the Tribhuvan International Airport (TIA). “The narrow body aircraft Airbus 320 of Air India from Delhi landed at TIA at 11:07 am this morning with 99 passengers and returned Delhi with 92 passengers,” it confirmed.

Though, the Nepali national flag carrier has resumed Kathmandu-New Delhi flight a week ago – under air bubble rule – the Indian airlines was yet to start the flight. Both the governments have halted the sir service between two countries, after the outbreak of coronavirus in March.

Wednesday, December 23, 2020

Private sector calls for political stability

 The private sector called foe political stability in the country as the recent political developments have pushed the country towards the instability.

Expressing serious concern over the recent political developments in the country, they also issued a joint press note urging the political parties to take a restrained decision. “The recent developments will not benefit the country’s economy,” the three private sector associations including Federation of Nepalese Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FNCCI), Nepal Chamber of Commerce (NCC) and the Confederation of Nepalese Industries (CNI), said in the joint press note. 

Expressing their concern over current political developments, the private sector associations reiterated that the political stability can lead to policy stability, create conducive environment to set up new industries, for new businesses to flourish, jobs to be created, new investment to be attracted and the economy as a whole to be able to move forward.

The economy that is hit hard by the coronavirus, is going to be in turmoil following the political instability, they fear, adding that the consequences of the recent political developments could be even more serious. The country that has come out of political instability – after almost three decades – deserves to push for economic development instead of political wrangling, according to an entrepreneur, who claimed that the politicians have always pushed the economic agenda to the back bench, despite promising economic revolution after the country wrote the republican constitution through the Constitutional Assembly some five years ago.

Nepal imports Rs 5 billion rice in a month

 Despite claiming to be an agricultural country, Nepal has imported Rs 5 billion worth rice only in a month, revealed the data of Department of Customs (DoC).

According to the data of Department of Customs, the country imported Rs 18.20 billion worth rice only in five months of the current fiscal year 2020-21. “In the four months, the country had imported Rs 13 billion worth rice.”

Though, the government claims to have been encouraging the agriculture production in the country with various programmes, Nepal has imported Rs 33.03 billion worth food items – in the five months of the current fiscal year – including rice, as the domestic production fell short to meet the growing demand for food in the country. “In the four months, the country had imported Rs 25 billion worth food items.”

The country neither has manpower – due to flooding of youth to the foreign employment – nor has it adopted to the mechanisation in the agriculture to boost the production and productivity, apart from comparatively expensive production cost compared to India. “Nepal has imported rice from India,” according to the department.

The cheap rice from India is making Nepali rice face hard times to get market, and lack of government policy push has made it even worse making Nepal the import economy largely also due to growing dependence on remittance that has fuelled the imports. 

Trade deficit narrows, though export receipt can pay for only 10 per cent of import bill

 Though, the trade deficit in the first five months of the current fiscal year declined by 10.91 per cent compared to the same period last year, the export receipt is enough to pay for only 10 per cent of import bill. “The country's export increased by 5.12 per cent to Rs 50.05 billion, whereas the imports declined by 9.59 per cent to Rs 525.49 billion,” according to the government data.

According to the Department of Customs (DoC), Nepal’s trade deficit came down to Rs 475.44 billion from Rs 533.64 billion – though not remarkable, and also conditional not due to government policy push – during mid-July and mid-December as a result of a fall in import and a rise in export. The fall in imports has provided some cushion to the country’s foreign currency reserve that is being spent to imports merchandise.

Despite the increase in export earnings, the government is going to miss its target of export earnings to more than Rs 100 billion by 2020.

Nepal’s 70.65 per cent of total international trade worth Rs 575.44 billion is with India, the data revealed, adding that in terms of import too, some 65.78 per cent of Nepal’s total import is with the southern neighbour. “Nepal has a trade deficit with 112 of its 136 trading partner countries across the globe, and has a favourable trade balance with the remaining 24 countries in the five months of the current fiscal year 2020-21.”

Tuesday, December 22, 2020

Government, ADB sign $200 million concessional loan agreement

 The government and Asian Development Bank (ADB) signed $150 million concessional loan agreement to finance South Asia Sub regional Cooperation (SASEC) Airport Capacity Enhancement Project and $40 million concessional loan and $10 million grant for the implementation of Priority River Basins Flood Risk Management Project.

Joint secretary at the Finance Ministry Shreekrishna Nepal signed the agreement on behalf of the government whereas officer- in-charge of Nepal Resident Mission at the ADB Rudi Louis Hendrikus Van Dael signed the agreement on behalf of ADB.

According to the agreement, ADB will provide concessional loan worth $150 million for the said Airport Capacity Enhancement Project. The project will enhance the airport capacity by constructing Parallel Taxiway Extension, Hanger Apron, Next Phase work Design of TIA and Construction of second terminal building at Gautam Buddha Airport (GBA), a press note issued by the ADB reads, adding that ADB will provide concessional loan worth $40 million and $10 million grant for said Priority River Basins Flood Risk Management Project. “The project will contribute to improve flood protection infrastructure, enhanced flood forecasting and response system and improve flood prevention and preparedness capacity.”

Addressing the signing ceremony, held in the Finance Ministry, joint secretary Nepal said that the implementation of these programmes will significantly contribute to the national economy by increasing the existing capacity of Nepal's airspace and flood protection infrastructure. He appreciated ADB for its continued support to Nepal’s infrastructure development, which has been crucial for the socio-economic development of Nepal.

He also thanked ADB for its valuable support in the socio-economic development of Nepal and wished the bank to continue its similar support going forward.

Likewise, on his concurrent remarks ADB officer-in-charge Rudi reflected on the necessity of this concessional loan saying, “Both projects can contribute to delivering important results to the people of Nepal.”

The flood risk management project will improve disaster resilience and make lives safe, he said, adding that the airport project will contribute to improve connectivity, leading to economic growth, once the pandemic is stabilized..

The loan agreement is said to be effective after 90 days of the signing of this agreement.

Monday, December 21, 2020

Government, World Bank sign $80 million Rural Enterprise and Economic Development Project pact

 The Government and the World Bank signed a $80 million (around Rs 9.3 billion) project today to bolster Nepal’s agriculture sector by strengthening rural market linkages and promoting entrepreneurship while creating jobs to support post-Covid-19 recovery.

The Rural Enterprise and Economic Development Project (REED) project was signed by finance secretary Sishir Kumar Dhungana on behalf of the government and the World Bank country director for Maldives, Nepal, and Sri Lanka Faris Hadad-Zervos.

“We thank the World Bank Group for providing crucial support with this project which will enhance the access of rural enterprises and small-hold producers to markets and institutional buyers,” Dhungana said, adding that promoting agribusiness competitiveness with sustainable market linkages will be critical to boost Nepal’s post-Covid recovery. 

The project aims at facilitating productive partnerships between rural producer organisations and private-sector buyers to add value, create jobs and foster sustainable inclusion into, and development of, higher-value domestic and foreign value chains.

The project focuses on five economic corridors covering Provinces 1, 2, Bagmati, Gandaki, Lumbini and Sudurpashchim that offer opportunities for successful linkage activities of the rural entrepreneurs to be supported by the project, according to a press note issued by the World Bank. “REED will work with provincial and local governments, intermediary organisations and small and medium enterprises to build capacity in the agriculture sector and strengthen the entrepreneurship ecosystem.”

The project will also finance investments in municipal agriculture centers and value chain infrastructures to ensure the availability of inputs for farming as recovery actions from Covid-19. The project will use labour-intensive Cash for Work mechanism, to the extent possible, in short-term public works.

“The project brings a unique opportunity to transform Nepal’s agriculture sector and spur economic recovery from the pandemic’s fallout by bolstering rural enterprises and creating local jobs and opportunities,”  World Bank country director for Maldives, Nepal and Sri Lanka Faris Hadad-Zervos said, adding, “By fostering meaningful collaboration among various actors, the project can promote Nepali agriculture products globally by stimulating many niche sectors such as coffee, tea, fruit and medicinal products, among others.”

The project supports the government’s Agriculture Development Strategy 2015–2035 that aims to create a sustainable, competitive, inclusive and resilient agricultural sector that drives economic growth with private sector participation.

‘People-to-People’ support is an exemplary contribution towards Nepal’s recovery efforts

 The International Organisation for Migration (IOM) Nepal informed that a project funded by the people of Thailand to support the Nepalis for their recovery and reconstruction efforts from the earthquake 2015 has concluded on an exemplarily successful note. The results of the project were presented today in Kathmandu.

They constructed eight earthquake-resistant multi-purpose community centers at eight districts hit worst by the earthquake; assisted local authorities in identification and mapping of total of 32 open spaces that can be used for life-saving activities at the onset of disaster; and reached out to more than 5,000 local people – including youths and women, and those in decision making positions – to raise awareness about protection of open spaces, according to a press note issued by the IOM.

In the aftermath of the 2015 earthquakes, the government of Thailand and IOM Nepal stepped up in 2018 to support the efforts of the Nepal in sustainable recovery and construction aiming at reducing the challenges the country has been facing due to natural hazards related disasters, the subsequent displacements, while building communities resilient to disasters.

Addressing the event, ambassador of Thailand to Nepal Vosita Vorasaph congratulated IOM for the success of the project. He also underlined the strong ties between Nepal and Thailand and said that the assistance from Thai people to Nepalis in their recovery efforts reflects that Thailand always values its bond with Nepal.

As Nepal is recognised as the 20th most disaster-prone country in the world, it is crucial for us to be prepared to provide humanitarian assistance to displaced populations and to build resilience to better respond at time of natural disasters,” said IOM Nepal chief of Mission Lorena Lando, addressing the event.

“IOM, as the global migration agency, brings a unique perspective and added value to global efforts in reducing disaster risk and building resilience, and IOM stands ready to support all three tiers of government to reduce disaster risks and assist vulnerable communities and migrants in building a disaster-resilient society,” she added.

Likewise, joint secretary of Ministry of Urban Development Surendra Mohan Shrestha thanked the Thailand for its support to Nepal in building communities more resilient to disasters after the earthquake 2015.

The project has also supported creating a module on open spaces into the Building Information Platform Against Disaster (BIPAD), owned by Nepal. BIPAD will display information on open spaces in 13 municipalities, identified and verified by IOM in coordination with local and federal governments in Bagmati Province, Gandaki Province and Lumbini Provinces.

Similarly, the project also conducted trainings for elected and municipal officials on disaster risk reduction and management and technical support in developing a draft disaster management fund mobilisation guideline, the press note reads.

The community centers will prioritise the most vulnerable people affected by a disaster, including pregnant women, children, people with special needs and the elderly. It will provide an immediate safe shelter. In normal times, the center serve as a venue for community and municipal activities - for community-based trainings, recreational pursuits, information dissemination, income generating initiatives and as a safe activity space for women and youth.

The project has delivered 13 publications, including Open Space Map Atlases of identified open spaces in all eight municipalities. Those include details regarding the selection criteria that can be used by the local governments to enhance disaster preparedness and raise awareness on where to resort in case of a disaster.

The project ‘People to People Support for Building Community Resilience through Recovery and Reconstruction in Nepal’ was implemented by IOM under the leadership of the government, mainly the Ministry of Urban Development, Ministry of Home Affairs and Ministry of Federal Affairs and General Administration. 

As a co-lead for camp coordination and Camp Management Cluster in humanitarian emergencies (CCCM), IOM Nepal contributes to the government’s efforts in disaster risk reduction and on building resilient communities.

Sunday, December 20, 2020

राजनीतिले बन्धक बनाएको अर्थतन्त्र

नेपाली अर्थतन्त्र फेरि एकपटक ‘गलत राजनीति’को बन्धक भएको छ । इतिहासमा पटकपटक गरेका तथा भएका अरुका गल्तीबाट नसिकी सहज बहुमतप्राप्त सरकारको अल्पायु मरण रोजेका प्रधानमन्त्री केपी शर्मा ओलीले नेपाललाई राजनीतिक अस्थिरताको भूमरीमा लाँदै गर्दा यसले अर्थतन्त्रमा पार्ने असरको बारेमा आकलन गरेनन् वा गर्न आवश्यकता ठानेनन् ।

कोरोना कहरबाट विस्तारै तङ्ग्रिन लागेको अर्थतन्त्रमा निर्मम प्रहार हुने गरी प्रधानमन्त्रीले आफूलाई पाँच वर्षे कार्यकाल आवश्यक नभएको झैं गरी हठात्् करिब तीन वर्षमा नै संसद् विघटन गरिदिँदा लगानीकर्ताको मनोबलमा पर्ने असरबारे नसोचेको भए पनि वर्तमान सरकारमाथि विदेशी लगानीकर्ताको विश्वास भने पहिले पनि नभएको अर्थशास्त्रीहरूको बुझाइ छ ।

अर्थशास्त्री रामेश्वर खनालका अनुसार विदेशी लगानीकर्ताले यसै पनि वर्तमान सरकारलाई त्यति विश्वास गरेका थिएनन् । “गएको चुनावदेखि नै राजनीतिक स्थिरता भए पनि विदेशी लगानीकर्ताहरू ओली सरकारसँग विश्वस्त हुन सकेका थिएनन्,” उनी भन्छन्, “त्यसैले आइतबारको घटनाबाट खासै थप प्रभाव नपर्ला ।”

खनालका अनुसार स्वदेशी लगानीकर्ताको हकमा भने यदि सरकारले तोकेकै समयमा चुनाव गरे बरु केही राहत हुनसक्छ । चुनावसँग सम्बन्धित खर्च हुँदा बरु रेष्टुरेन्ट, होटेल तथा निर्वाचनसँग सम्बन्धित साना व्यवासायलाई फाइदा हुनसक्छ भन्दै उनी थप्छन्, “चुनावका कारण निर्माण क्षेत्रमा सकारात्मक प्रभाव पर्न सक्छ, किनकी चुनाव जित्न पनि उम्मेदवारले आफ्ना पालिकाका प्रमुखहरूलाई काम गरेर देखाउन दबाब सिर्जना गर्नेछन् ।” यसबाट कोरोनाका कारण भएको निर्माण क्षेत्रको घाटा परिपूर्ति हुनसक्ने उनको विचार छ । 

नेपाली नागरिकको समृद्धिको चाहनामा कुठाराघात गर्दै प्रधानमन्त्री केपी शर्मा ओलीले आइतबार फेरि राजनीतिक अस्थिरताको सुरुवात गरेको भए पनि निजीक्षेत्रलाई यसबाट राहत हुनसक्ने आकलन पनि रहेको छ । 

“सरकार अब चुनावमा व्यस्त हुँदा निजी क्षेत्रलाई काम गर्न सहज हुन्छ,” खनाल भन्छन्, “अझ ओली सरकार निजीक्षेत्रलाई केही राहत दिएरै भए पनि चुनाव जित्नका लागि नीतिगतरूपमा खुकुलो व्यवहार गर्न सक्छ ।” 

तर, चुनाव सरकारले तोके झैं वैशाख १७ र २७ मा नै हुन्छ कि हुन्न, त्यसबाट पनि अर्थतन्त्र कता जान्छ वा लगानीकर्ताको मनोबाल झन् खस्कन्छ कि उठ्छ मेसो पाइने अर्का अर्थशास्त्री विश्व पौडेलको बुझाइ छ । 

पौडेलका अनुसार नीतिगत अस्थिरताले दीर्घकालीन लागानीमा असर पर्छ नै । नीतिगत अस्थिरताले न्यून लगानी भिœयाउने हुँदा सरकारले समयमा नै चुनाव गर्न सके केही राहत हुनसक्ने उनको आकलन छ । “यदि चुनावपछि बहुमतको सरकार बने, फेरि लगानीको वातावरण बन्ला, तर विगतका वर्षहरूमा झैँ मिलिजुली सरकार बनाउने वातावरण बन्यो भने फेरि उत्साहजनक वातावरण भने बन्दैन,” उनी थप्छन् । 

कोरोना कहरका कारण गत आर्थिक वर्षदेखि नै करिब करिब बन्द अवस्थामा रहेका उद्योग विस्तारै खुल्दै गर्दा हठात् राजनीतिक वातावरण परिवर्तन हुँदा निजी क्षेत्र भने किकर्तब्यबिमुढ भएको छ । बदलिँदो राजनीतिक अवस्थाले पार्नसक्ने प्रभावबारे धेरै उद्योगी व्यवसायीहरू बोल्नै चाहन्नन् । 

Buddha Air forms internal probe panel to find out the cause of flight error

 Buddha Air has formed an internal investigation committee to find out the cause of flight error that occurred on Friday.

The private airline – issuing a press note – confirmed said that the committee has been formed to study the cause of the event of misinformation that led to an aircraft land at Pokhara instead of Janakpur. “We are alert to not let mistakes like that happen in the future,” the press note reads, adding that the airline will submit the report to the Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal (CAAN).

A Buddha Air aircraft with passengers headed to Janakpur had landed at Pokhara Airport on Friday afternoon. After landing at the airport, the aircraft was loaded with fuel and allowed to fly to its original destination Janakpur via Kathmandu.

According to the airlines, all the passengers were safely brought to their original destination. However, the mistake has raised a serious air safety and security issue. 

'Constitutional coup' pulls Nepse down

 The share market today witnessed a free fall due to Constitutional coup.

Nepal Stock Exchange (Nepse) today – the first day of the week’s trading – dropped down by 96.88 points to close the market at 1,935.63 points. Although the market took an upward – in the opening hour – swing with additional 64.8 points successively, it observed a free fall and finally closed at 1,935.63 points.

The share market dropped on the back of the political uncertainty created by Prime Minister KP Oli's move to dissolve the federal parliament, according to the investors, who claimed that the market observed a free fall after the President’s notice to dissolve the House and go for fresh election. President Bidya Devi Bhandari dissolved the House of Representatives and fixed new dates for the mid-term general election on April 30 and May 10, 2021, after the cabinet recommended the house dissolution as an unprecedented move due to intra-party rifty in the ruling political party.

The Nepse that opened at 2,046.57 points today morning witnessed a rollercoaster ride before closing almost 100 points low from the opening.

Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli called a cabinet meeting at around 10 am, where he proposed House dissolution, though some of the ministers disagreed to him. Aftre the PM’s move, around 100 Members of Parliaments (MPs) – from the ruling party went – to the Federal House secretariat to register a no-confidence motion against his premiership. They registered the no-confidence motion notice at 10.50, whereas the President approved the Canibet dissolution at around 20’clock, and called for mid-term election on April 30 and May 10, 2021.

Friday, December 18, 2020

Water security a top priority in Covid-19 recovery : ADB Report

 Economies of Asia and the Pacific must put water security at the top of their agenda to recover from the fallout from the coronavirus disease (Covid-19) pandemic and adapt to climate change, according to a new flagship report released today by the Asian Development Bank (ADB).

The Asian Water Development Outlook 2020 describes the status in the region of water security, which measures the availability of safe and affordable water supply, sanitation for all, improved livelihoods, and healthy ecosystems, with reduced water-related diseases and floods.

“The need for water security is even more urgent due to the Covid-19 pandemic because access to water, sanitation, and hygiene offers the primary line of defense against the spread of Covid-19 and other diseases,” ADB President Masatsugu Asakawa said, adding that far too many people across Asia and the Pacific continue to suffer from limited access to these vital services. “The new AWDO edition serves as a tangible and reliable knowledge resource for ADB’s developing members as they address the multifaceted challenges of water security.

Despite achievements in Asia and the Pacific over the last few decades, 1.5 billion people living in rural areas and 600 million in urban areas still lack adequate water supply and sanitation. Of the 49 ADB regional members, 27 face serious water constraints on economic development, and 18 are yet to sufficiently protect their inhabitants against water-related disasters.

The report uses updated methodologies and in-depth analysis of water financing and governance developed in partnership with the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).

The report also stresses that it is imperative that countries drastically increase their investment in water, sanitation, and other water-related infrastructure and services by convening all public, private, and innovative financing to achieve quality growth and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Financing is also needed to enable and sustain a virtuous system of good governance, which requires efficient water-related organisations with sufficient capacity and financial resources to enable them to provide coherent policies, monitor and evaluate progress, and take action when needed, all in interaction with the stakeholders in a transparent way.

Some of the key recommendations in the report include put water at the center of sustainable rural development by promoting water-effective irrigation agriculture, community-based water and sanitation services, and locally resilient disaster risk reduction such as the combination of community protection and farmland flood retention. This will enable a good economic circle of locally affordable investment, income generation, proper management and operation, and an enhanced level of welfare for the people.

Likewise it has also recommended to achieve urban water security by investing in water, sanitation, and disaster risk reduction infrastructure services not only in cities but also in slums and peripheral areas, while following a gender-based approach. It has also asked to provide a healthy environment by drastically reducing pollution, stimulating a circular economy, increasing land protection, and embracing nature-based approaches.

“Increase the resilience of water systems to avoid water-related disasters and to be prepared for climate and other global changes,” it recommended, adding to turn recent lessons of disasters into better practices of tomorrow by rebuilding better. “To improve the region’s water security, ADB has programmed more than $6 billion in financial and technical assistance between 2020 and 2022 to support safe water supply, sanitation, and wastewater measures; and more than $2 billion for flood risk management in the same time period, together with tailored knowledge services that promote innovation and forge partnerships.

ADB is committed to achieving a prosperous, inclusive, resilient, and sustainable Asia and the Pacific, while sustaining its efforts to eradicate extreme poverty. Established in 1966, it is owned by 68 members; 49 from the region.

WHO, EU join together to support Covid-19 response and systems strengthening in Asia

 This week, the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the European Union (EU) agreed to join forces to support eight South East Asian countries in their response to Covid-19 and to strengthen preparedness for future pandemics.

The EU is providing €20 million for a South East Asia pandemic response and preparedness programme, according to a press note issued by the WHO, which will use the funds to continue supporting the governments of Cambodia, Indonesia, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Thailand and Viet Nam.

“The European Union is one of WHO’s major partners, particularly in emergency response,” WHO’s Regional Director for South-East Asia Dr Poonam Khetrapal Singh said, adding that this partnership will go a long way in ensuring that the South-East Asian region builds back better during and after the Covid-19 pandemic and is stronger and more resilient in the years ahead.

In line with the Global Strategic Preparedness and Response Plan and guided by the Asia Pacific strategy for emerging diseases and public health emergencies (APSED III), the programme aims to strengthen health systems and to support the Covid-19 response in the eight South East Asian countries, with a particular focus on reaching the unreached.

The funds will be used to mobilise all sectors and communities to ensure participation in prevention, preparedness and response activities; control sporadic cases, clusters and community transmission;

Suppress community transmission; and reduce deaths from Covid-19.

The programme represents a joint effort between the EU and WHO’s regional offices for South-East Asia – which includes Indonesia, Myanmar and Thailand – and the Western Pacific, which includes Cambodia, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Malaysia, the Philippines and Viet Nam. “To ensure that the interventions in each country will be in line with national priorities as outlined in the national response plans, each WHO region is working closely with the governments of those countries and other stakeholders, including civil society organisations,” it reads.

“These countries have spent more than a decade preparing for events with pandemic potential, by strengthening their health systems in anticipation of an event like the Covid-19 pandemic,” WHO’s Regional Director for the Western Pacific Dr Takeshi Kasai said, adding that this support from the EU will help to build on this work, so that countries across South East Asia are prepared for the next pandemic or health emergency event.

In addition, WHO will use the opportunity provided by the EU funding to engage with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) which includes all eight countries in the programme, to enhance coordination among ASEAN member states and promote a regional approach for responding to Covid-19, where similar challenges are faced.

The contribution of the European Union (EU) is critical to WHO’s efforts to support countries in responding to the ongoing pandemic in South East Asia, and demonstrates its solidarity as well as its continued commitment to global health.

Thursday, December 17, 2020

After nine months, Kathmandu-New Delhi flight resumes

 Kathmandu-New Delhi air services resumed from today after nine months under an air bubble arrangement.

The Nepal-India flight services were suspended for the past nine months due to Covid-19 restrictions. “A narrow body aircraft of the Nepal Airlines Corporation took off carrying some 141 passengers towards New Delhi in the morning and returned with 111 passengers in the evening,” confirmed NAC. “The NAC carrier is scheduled to return to Kathmandu today.”

The national flag carrier has flown to New Delhi with 135 economy class passengers and six business class passengers, it said, adding that the occupancy of first flight that resumed after nine months is encouraging. “Resumption of flights to two other destinations in India are expected to operate soon.”

Nepalis and Indians flying to each other's countries are not required to undergo quarantine, if they have a negative virus test report of less than 72 hours ago the departure, according to the NAC that has been operating international flights at nine destinations of seven countries including three in India.

The domestic carrier flies to two other Indian destinations – Mumbai and Bangalore – apart from New Delhi. But it will take some time to start the flights to remaining two destinations in India.

“As cases of fake RT-PCR reports have been rising, the carrier has made it mandatory for travellers to bring the original report that is stamped or certified by the lab, the national flag carrier informed, adding that Nepalis travelling to India are not required to undergo a two-week quarantine, and Indians coming to Nepal are also not required to undergo a seven-day hotel quarantine, according to the circulars issued by the two governments under the air bubble arrangement. 

After the flights were suspended on March 23, the government had resumed international flights from September 1. But the government has decided to start the Kathmandu-New Delhi flights – two weeks ago – under ‘Transport Bubble Mechanism’. 

According to the guidelines for international arrivals issued by the Indian Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, all travellers should submit a self-declaration form on the online portal at least 72 hours before the scheduled travel or physically after arrival at the respective health counters.

Under the air bubble arrangement which allows airlines of the two countries to operate services between them by complying with safety protocols, two daily flights will be conducted between Kathmandu and New Delhi initially, one each by Nepal Airlines and Air India. While Nepal Airlines began its service today, the Indian carrier has postponed the launch till next week The Air India flights will start from December 24.

According to the air bubble arrangement, flights to India can carry Indians and Nepalis, and Overseas Citizen of India cardholders and Person of Indian Origin cardholders holding passports of any country. Flights from India to Kathmandu can carry Indian and Nepali nationals. “Third country nationals including diplomats intending to travel to India for any purpose and their dependents will also be allowed under certain conditions.”

India has signed air bubble agreements with 22 countries globally. In South Asia, it has air bubble agreements with Afghanistan, Bhutan, Bangladesh and the Maldives, while India has proposed air bubble agreement with Nepal.

Government cancels odd-even rule for public transportation

 After transport entrepreneurs’ pressure to start vehicular traffic, the government today lifted the odd-even rule for the public transportation. The transportation entrepreneurs – including Nepal Transport Workers Association, Nepal Transport Workers Association-Independent and All Nepal Transport Workers Union – have challenged the government to disobey the odd and even rule for vehicular traffic from Friday.

Issuing notices, all the three district administration offices of Kathmandu Valley – Kathmandu, lalitpur and Bhaktapur – today officially announced to end the odd-even system from tomorrow. The decision of lifting odd-even has been made after seeing overcrowding on public transport as people have started moving around with the businesses and offices are also open, the Kathmandu District Office confirmed. “All vehicles can ply in the Valley from tomorrow following health protocols.”

However, the public transportation have not been following the health and safety protocols, though government has been strict on them.

The transport entrepreneurs have been protesting against the government move calling for the lifting of the restrictions as their incomes had been curtailed. The government had imposed nationwide lockdown on March 24 until July 21, forcing the public transport to remain parked in their garages. Transportation is one of the hard hit sector after the government imposed lock down and restriction on movement to contain the coronavirus in Nepal.

Wednesday, December 16, 2020

Police issues arrest warrant against operators of four sugar mills

 The Police today issued arrest warrants against owners of four defaulting sugar mills.

The respective district police offices of Rautahat and Nawalparasi have issued arrest warrants against the owners of Indira Sugar Mill, Annapurna Sugar Mill, Shree Ram Sugar Mill and Lumbini Sugar Mill, confirmed Home Ministry. “The ministry – after a marathon meeting with stakeholders yesterday – decided to take action against the ‘defaulting’ mills owners.”

A meeting of four ministers including Minister for Industry, Commerce and Supplies Lekh Raj Bhatta, Minister for Agriculture and Livestock Development Ghanashyam Bhusal and Minister for Federal Affairs and General Administration Hridyesh Tripathi – chaired by Home Minister Ram Bahadur Thapa – has directed District Administration Offices to take lawful action against mill owners, who have not cleared the dues to the farmers. The government has been blamed for being siding with the mill owners, as the farmers have not been paid since last six years.

Some 300 farmers – from Rautahat, Nawalparasi and many other districts – have been protesting in the capital since Sunday to pressurise the government to get their outstanding payments. They have been demanding that their dues – worth more than Rs 480 million since past six years – be paid at the earliest. 

According to the Ministry of Industry, Commerce and Supplies, Annapurna Sugar Mill of Sarlahi has Rs 170 million outstanding dues, Indira Sugar Mill in Nawalparasi Rs 40.70 million, Lumbini Sugar Mill Rs 80.41 million, and Shree Ram Sugar Mill Rs 350 million. The sugar mill owners though accepted that they have around Rs 550 million in outstanding dues, the farmers are claiming that they have Rs 900 million dues yet to be cleared.

The police was forced to take action after farmers filed complaints in the district police offices of Rautahat and Nawalparasi. “District Police Office in Rautahat has issued arrest warrant against Hitesh Golchha, Bishal Agrawal and Anuj Agrawal of Shree Ram Sugar Mill,” the ministry informed, adding that District Police Office in Nawalparasi has issued arrest warrant against Rakesh Agrawal, owner of Annapurna Sugar Mills in Sarlahi and Indira Sugar Mills in Nawalparasi, and Sushila Goyal, proprietor of Lumbini Sugar Mill.

According to the Criminal Code-2017, anyone found guilty of fraud can be jailed up to seven years. Last January too, the Home Ministry had ordered the arrest of sugar mill owners – after the farmers staged protest in the capital – who had not cleared a large amount of dues owed to sugarcane farmers. Though, no one was arrested. 

The government signed an agreement with farmers last year to clear the dues but failed to implement the agreement signed.

Thus, the protesting sugarcane farmers are not impressed with the government decision this time. They said they will continue their peaceful protest till they get paid.

Generally, sugar mill owners buy sugarcane on credit from the farmers and are supposed to pay them after selling the sugar. But, the mill owners have been failing to pay them since long 

The farmers have also suggested to make the payment from the Prime Minister Relief Fund or any other fund and can recoup it from sugar mill owners with interest afterwards.

Human progress needs to be considered with environmental protection: UNDP

 The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) has underscored the need for redefining human progress that takes into account countries’ carbon dioxide emissions and material footprint on top of traditionally used parameters of human development.

Unveiling the Global Human Development Report (HDR) 2020 today, the UNDP has expressed its concern over widening inequality and environmental challenges that the world is facing while moving forward to achieve human progress. The Covid-19 pandemic is the latest crisis facing the world, but unless humans release their grip on nature, it won’t be the last, according to the report.

“Humans wield more power over the planet than ever before,” UNDP administrator Achim Steiner said, adding that in the wake of Covid-19, record-breaking temperatures and spiraling inequality, it is time to use that power to redefine what is meant by progress, where the carbon and consumption footprints are no longer hidden.

Till the date, the Human Development Index (HDI) considers a nation’s health, education, and standards of living to mark as human progress. But the additional elements – a country’s carbon dioxide emissions and its material footprint – shows how the global development landscape would change if both the wellbeing of people and also the planet were central to defining humanity’s progress.

Currently, the Covid-19 has grappled the world. This has led to more than 50 countries dropping out of the very high human development group, reflecting their dependence on fossil fuels and material footprint. “This shows that no country in the world has yet achieved very high human development without putting immense strain on the planet,” the report reads.

The UNDP has mentioned that it has been projected by 2100, the poorest countries in the world could experience up to 100 more days of extreme weather due to climate change each year, a number that could be cut in half if the Paris Agreement on climate change is fully implemented. “And yet fossil fuels are still being subsidized: the full cost to societies of publicly financed subsidies for fossil fuels – including indirect costs – is estimated at over $5 trillion a year, or 6.5 per cent of global GDP,” the UNDP cited a report published by the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

The Global Human Development Report is a flagship publication of the UNDP. Minister for Foreign Affairs Pradeep Kumar Gyawali launched the report in Nepal, amid a programme.

“For three decades, Human Development Reports have fundamentally shaped the ideas and policy discourse on alternative assessment of development and wellbeing,” he said, awhile launching the report in Kathmandu. “The criteria used for measuring human development have been the basis for advancing social development agenda, including in Nepal,” he said, adding that the contents of the HDR reports have served as useful policy resources for many countries. “Successive human development reports since 1990 have highlighted critical dimensions of human progress and sustainable development, thereby informing, encouraging and assisting the governments and stakeholders to address the impediments in the way of enlarging choices.”

“Nepal strongly supports the implementation of the Paris Agreement and the call to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees,” he said thanking Resident Representative of UNDP in Nepal Ayshanie Labe for the launching ceremony.

Reminding Prime Minister K P Sharma Oli’s address at the climate ambition summit, where he outlined the roadmap for Nepal’s ambition towards a net-zero greenhouse gas emission by 2050, Gyawali said that Nepal submitted it’s updated, more ambitious and progressive Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC-2020). “Nepal has prioritised producing clean and renewable energy as well as promoting e-mobility, low carbon infrastructure and ecotourism.”

By 2030, Nepal aims to maintain 45 per cent of the country’s land under forest cover and aims to extend protected area from 23 per cent to 30 per cent and preserve biodiversity. 

While implementing the NDC, Nepal remains committed to prioritise the issue of gender equality and social inclusion and ensure full, equal and meaningful participation of women, children, youth, indigenous peoples and marginalized communities in all stages of the implementation process.

Tuesday, December 15, 2020

Five ways recommended to enable a data-driven approach in private sector

 With greater emphasis on a digital economy to drive recovery from the pandemic’s impacts, Nepal must ramp up efforts to strengthen the country’s data ecosystem to support business growth and overall development, according to a report.

The report ‘Use of Data in the Private Sector of Nepal: The Current State and Opportunities in Finance, Education, and the Media’, also highlights the importance of data for Nepal’s private sector to innovate, increase their customer base, and scale up. 

The financial sector is one of the most significant contributors to Nepal’s economy, while, the education sector is a pillar of human development and media’s use of data in reporting can serve as a proxy for the effective use of statistics and data in public discourse, the report prepared from the learnings from the sectoral discussions reads, adding that analysis of data use by the three sectors is a good starting point for understanding the use of data in the private sector. 

“Leveraging data can help commercial banks increase financial inclusion, support higher education institutions to better understand student’s needs and prepare them for job markets, and enable journalists to cover in-depth stories, increase accountability, and engage more readers.”

The report, however, notes that across the three sectors, the awareness of the value of data and capacity to analyze it remain low, preventing businesses from tapping the full potential of data use.

Furthermore, low awareness of data privacy policies adds to executives’ concerns about data security risks in producing, using and sharing data.

The report has also made five recommendations to enable the private sector entities in Nepal to use data more effectively. It has recommended to Increase awareness of data opportunities for businesses. “Building awareness among the finance, education and media sectors on the transformational power of data and its business benefits is an important first step,” it reads, adding that the government, business leaders and media can play an instrumental role in increasing awareness by advocating for benefits of data.

Likewise it has also recommended develop and implement a data strategy to increase the availability and usability of government data. “Across all the three sectors studied, there is a demand for government data,” it reads, adding, “Such data, however, is most often either unavailable, outdated or in a format that is not machine-readable, and to bridge this gap, the government could produce and publish timely, quality, and disaggregated data in machine-readable format, and invest in developing human capital of its citizens to use data.”

The report has also recommended to develop and implement a robust open government data programme. “Executives in Nepal note that it it’s difficult to find government data or data is not available in a usable format,” it adds. “Globally, governments have made their data freely available to citizens and businesses by launching open data initiatives,” it reports, adding that implementing such open data programmes in Nepal would allow users to find and use government data easily and freely, potentially raising productivity and improving products and services.

The report has recommended to build a data-use culture by investing in data skills and literacy within the private sector and government. “Together with low awareness, lack of technical capacity is a key constraint in promoting data use for decision making.”

A holistic approach to capacity-building can help enhance data literacy for staff at different levels of an organisation and, in turn, improve production, dissemination and use of data,” it recommending to enact policies that facilitate data sharing and privacy protection. “Data privacy is a key concern, especially for consumers of any private entity that makes extensive use of such data, and encouragingly, steps have been initiated in Nepal to address privacy concerns such as the Nepal Data Privacy Act passed in 2018.”

But the awareness of the Act is low among the executives. For effective implementation of the Act, it is important to help stakeholders understand how the Act would impact them,. It adds. “In addition, crafting a policy on data disclosure and disclosure format would increase data use, and potentially encourage private companies to engage in ‘data philanthropy’ and help fill the data gaps.

While this report was prepared before the pandemic, the findings and the recommendations are equally relevant post-pandemic, especially as more formal businesses in Nepal are found to be using digital platforms to continue operations during the pandemic, it claims. 

The report was prepared after engaging with a group of executives and practitioners from the education, finance and media sectors in Kathmandu to discuss their awareness and practices in using data to support operations and decision-making.

Developers submit DPR of four major projects to investment board

 The developers of four major infrastructure projects today submitted detailed feasibility study report (DFSR) and detailed project report (DPR) of their projects to Investment Board Nepal (IBN) today.

A developer Flash Freight Logistics and International Cargo Pvt Ltd has submitted the DFSR for the Private Freight Terminal and Bulk Handling Facilities Project to be constructed in Birgunj and Bhairahawa. A memorandum of understanding (MoU) was signed between the developer and the board on November 29 last year, according to the board.

Likewise, CG Logistics Pvt Ltd and Sharaf Group – the developers of the Multi-model Logistics Park Project to be constructed in Biratnagar – have also submitted its DFSR to the board. The MoU was signed between the board and the developers on June 17 last year.

Developer of the Damak Clean Industrial Park China-Nepal Industrial Park has also submitted the DPR for the project to board. The 39th meeting of the board held on July 2 last year had approved an investment of $586.1 million for the construction of the project, the board confirmed. “The project is being constructed in Damak of Jhapa with the joint investment of Lhasa Economic and Technology Development Zone Jing Ping Joint Creation Construction Project Development Corporation Co Ltd and Damak Clean Industrial Park.”

Likewise, Muktinath Darshan Pvt Ltd has submitted the DPR of 80.16-km-long Birethanti-Muktinath cable car to the board on November 29. The proposed cable car – from Birethanti along Ghodepani, Tatopani, Lete, Kowang, Tukuche, Marfa, Jomsom to Muktinath – has been

The chief executive officer (CEO) of the board Sushil Bhatta – receiving the DPRs and DFSR, said that these projects will soon enter next phase of development.

Meanwhile, the board has also held discussions with Nepal Electricity Authority (NEA) and officials of Hongsi Shivam Cement to solve the problems in the construction of the power transmission line required for the project.

During the discussion, acting managing director of NEA Hitendra Dev Shakya expressed his commitment to arrange power supply by constructing transmission line for project within May. 

Likewise, CEO of the board Bhatta said that the big projects like this can make a significant contribution to the overall economic development of the country, including employment generation. “The board is making all possible efforts for the necessary facilitation in the implementation of such projects,” he added.

Monday, December 14, 2020

महामारीपछिको आर्थिक पुनरुत्थान

इतिहासका हरेक महामारीले विश्वलाई झन् विकसित तथा बलियो मानव समाजमा रूपान्तरित गर्दै गइरहेको छ । कोरोना कहर अर्थात् कोभिड–१९ ले पनि मानव समुदायलाई स्वास्थ्य, शिक्षा तथा प्रविधिमा थप लगानी गर्नुपर्ने यथार्थ स्मरण गराइदिएको छ ।

कोभिड–१९ ले आर्थिक, सामाजिक, मानवीय तथा विज्ञान र प्रविधिलाई समेत दिएको झट्काले विश्व एकजुट पनि भएको छ । त्यसैका कारण विश्व समुदाय नै कोभिड–१९ विरुद्ध खोपको आविष्कारका लागि एकजुट भएर लागेको छ । विश्वभर करिब ४० वटा निजी कम्पनी र ८ देशले भाइरसविरुद्धको खोपको प्रयोगात्मक परीक्षण गरिरहेका छन् । ढिलोमा एक महिनापछि खोप विश्व बजारमा पु¥याउन कम्पनीहरू तछाडमछाड गरिरहेका छन् ।

संसारभर एकैपटक ठप्प भएको मानव आवागमन एकपटक फेरि चलायमान हुने दिन नजिकिँदै छ र मानव समाजको गति हिजोभन्दा झन् तीब्र हुनेछ । वितेका सय वर्षमा भएका अनेक राजनीतिक, आर्थिक वा सामजिक संकटले एकैपल्ट यसरी विश्वलाई एकैपटक धक्का दिएको थिएन । तर, कोरोना महामारीले विश्व अर्थतन्त्रलाई, अझ नेपाली अर्थतन्त्रलाई राम्रै धक्का दिएको छ । कोरोना कहरले नेपालको सामाजिक जीवन, गरिबी, स्वास्थ्य र शैक्षिक क्षेत्रमा भएका कमीकमजोरी पनि उदांगो पारिदिएको छ । स्वास्थ्य र शिक्षामा लगानी बढाउनु पर्ने देखेरै सरकारले चालू आर्थिक वर्षको बजेटमा यी क्षेत्रहरूमा पर्याप्त नभए पनि बजेट बढाएको छ । 

भलै, एक्कासी आएको महामारीले तीनै तहका सरकारलाई अलमल नबनाएको होइन । तर, स्थानीय सरकारले आफनो बलबुताले भ्याएसम्म क्वारेन्टिन, आइसोलेसन, पीसीआर तथा आरडीटी परीक्षणसम्म गर्न कोशिस गरेर संघीयता किन चाहिएको हो भन्ने सिद्ध गर्ने अवसरको रूपमा बुझाउने प्रयास पनि गरे । तर सबैभन्दा महत्वपूर्ण चाहि कोरोना कहरले आत्मनिर्भर अर्थतन्त्र बनाउन पाठ सिकाएको छ ।

कोरोनाको सुरुवाती चरणमा नेपाल रेमिट्यान्समा आधारित आयातित अर्थतन्त्र भएका कारण रेमिटयान्समा प्रभाव पर्ने आकलन गरियो । हालसम्म रेमिट्यान्समा कमी नआए पनि वैदेशिक रोजगारमा जानेको संख्या बितेका महिनाहरूमा ह्वात्तै घटेका कारण विस्तारै रेमिट्यान्समा प्रभाव देखिने नै छ । तर, कोरोनाका कारण युवाशक्ति वैदेशिक रोजागारीमा जान नपाएपछि तथा धेरै संख्यामा फर्किएका कारण सरकारलाई नेपालमा नै रोजगारी सिर्जना गर्ने अवसर सिर्जना गर्नुपर्ने बाध्यता आइपरेको छ । अन्तर्राष्ट्रिय श्रम संगठनका अनुसार यतिबेला करिब ६० लाख नेपाली बेरोजगार र अर्ध–बेरोजगार छन् । देशभित्रै उद्योग, व्यवसाय, व्यापारको समस्या भएका कारण न त उनीहरू रोजगारी सिर्जना गर्न सक्षम भइसकेका छन् न त स्थापित उद्योग, व्यापारमा रोजगारी पाएका छन् । त्यसैले सरकारले यसलाई अवसरको रूपमा लिएर आत्मनिर्भर अर्थतन्त्र बनाउन पहल गर्न ढिलो भइसक्यो ।

नेपालमा उत्पादनभन्दा सेवा क्षेत्रमा धेरै रोजगारी सिर्जना भएकाले पनि पर्यटक आवागमन स्वतस्फुर्त नभएसम्मका लागि थपिएको बेरोजगारी, बढ्दो गरिबी, त्यसमा पनि सहरी गरिबको संकट, तथा सरकारको अस्पष्ट नीतिका कारण रोजागरी सिर्जना गर्ने निजी क्षेत्रमा पनि असमन्जस्यता छ । 

तर, हरेक संकटले नै आर्थिक, सामाजिक र राजनीतिक रूपान्तरणको अवसर जुटाइदिन्छ । इतिहास साक्षी छ, नेपालमा पनि हरेक संकटपछि अर्थतन्त्रमा एक खालको रूपान्तरण देखिएको छ । जसरी २०४६ को राजनीतिक परिवर्तनपछि उद्यमशीलता, विकास, लगानी, रोजगारी, तथा अर्थतन्त्रमा नयाँ सम्भावनाहरूको खोजी भए । सरकारले पनि साथ दियो । त्यसैगरी, वर्तमान  संकटपछि पनि आत्मनिर्भर अर्थतन्त्र बनाउन सरकार नीतिगतरूपमा स्पष्ट हुनै पर्दछ । यदी २०४६ साल पछि आर्थिक रूपान्तरण गर्न सकियो भने आज किन सकिन्न । 

त्यसैले पहिला, सरकारले यथाशीघ्र पुँजीगत खर्च बढाएर रोजगारी सिर्जना गर्नुप¥यो । विकास निर्माणमा भएको सरकारी खर्चबाट अदक्षदेखि उच्चदक्षसम्मको आम्दानीको सुनिश्चितता हुन्छ । नागरिकको हातमा पैसा भएपछि यसले बजारमा माग सिर्जना गर्दछ । माग सिर्जना भएपछि उत्पादक र सेवाप्रदायकले उत्पादन बढाउन बाध्य हुन्छन् । उत्पादन तथा सेवा बढाउन रोजगारी बढाउनु पर्दछ, रोजगारी थपिन्छ ।

अर्थशास्त्री डा. विश्व पौडेलका अनुसार पनि कोभिड–१९ महामारीका कारण रोजगारी गुमेको विषयमा चर्चा गरिरहँदा रोजगारी सिर्जना गर्न सकिने क्षेत्रबारे धेरै चर्चा नै भएको छैन । उनी भन्छन, “धेरै हिसाबले अहिले आर्थिक उन्नतिको फड्को मार्ने तारतम्य मिलेको छ ।” उनका अनुसार देशभित्र र बाहिर सीपयुक्त र शिक्षित नेपाली जनशक्ति तयार छन्, औद्योगिक विस्तार र प्रविधिका लागि आयात गर्न विदेशी मुद्राको अभाव छैन, त्यसैले अहिलेको सुनौलो मौका समात्न सके देशलाई विकासको पथमा अघि बढाउन सकिन्छ । “महामारीले बर्वादी मात्रै होइन्, देशको अर्थतन्त्रको रूपान्तरण गर्दै उत्पादन सामथ्र्यको विस्तार र व्यापक रोजगारी सिर्जना गर्ने अवसर पनि दिएको छ,” उनी थप्छन् । 

नेपाल राष्ट्र बैंकका अनुसार हाल कोरोनाभन्दा अघि अर्थात् चैत ११ भन्दा अघिको  तुलनामा आधा पनि उत्पादन सुरु भएको छैन । मुलुकमा दैनिक करिब १० अर्ब रुपैयाँको उत्पादन हुने नेपाल उद्योग वाणिज्य महासंघको अनुमान छ । तर, बन्दाबन्दीको समयमा त १० अर्बको करिब ३० प्रतिशत हाराहारी मात्रै उत्पादन हुनसक्यो । उत्पादनमूलक क्षेत्रको कुल गार्हस्थ्य उत्पादनमा योगदान झण्डै १० प्रतिशत पुगेकोमा हाल लगातार ओरालो लागेको स्थिति छ । उत्पादन बढाउन सरकारले तत्काल पहल गर्नुपर्दछ । उत्पादन बढ्दा मात्रै रोजगारी बढ्छ ।   

अन्तर्राष्ट्रिय विकास साझेदारहरू विश्व बैंक, अन्तर्राष्ट्रिय मुद्रा कोष र एसियाली विकास बैक तथा राष्ट्रिय योजना आयोगलगायतले गत आर्थिक वर्ष २०७६÷७७ मा शुन्यदेखि दुई प्रतिशतबिच आर्थिक वृद्धि हुने आकलन गरेका छन् । साथै, गत आर्थिक वर्षको अन्तिम चार महिनाको असर अनि चालू आर्थिक वर्षको हाल करिब आधा आर्थिक वर्षसम्म पनि स्थिति सहज नभइसकेकोले आर्थिक वर्ष २०७७÷७८ मा पनि आर्थिक बृद्धि खासै नहुने देखिएको छ । त्यसैले चालू आर्थिक वर्ष चुनौतीपूर्ण नै छ । अर्थतन्त्र चलायमान बनाउन त्यति सहज छैन तर, विस्तारै आवागमन बढ्दैछ, अन्तर्राष्ट्रिय नाकाहरू खुल्दैछन् अनि भारतलगायत अन्तर्राष्ट्रिय हवाइ सेवा पनि सुचारु हुँदैछन् । यसबाट सेवा उद्योग विस्तारै लयमा फर्कने देखिन्छ ।

सेवा उद्योगपछि सबैभन्दा बढी मारमा परेका तथा धेरै रोजगारी सिर्जना गर्ने साना तथा मझौला उद्यमी पनि विस्तारै आफ्नो व्यवसायमा फर्कंदै छन् । असहज त छ तर उनीहरूलाई सरकार अझ स्थानीय सरकारको साथ भयो भने उनीहरू पनि चाँडै लयमा फर्कने छन् । 

राष्ट्रिय योजना आयोगका अनुसार महामारीका कारण १ खर्ब ९८ अर्ब बराबरको गार्हस्थ्य उत्पादनको नोक्सानी भएको छ । तर, योजना आयोगले अर्थतन्त्रमा करिब २ खर्बको नोक्सान भएको तथ्यांक निकाले पनि अर्थतन्त्र फेरि लयमा फर्कन यसको करिब दोब्बर रकम चाहिन्छ । यूएनस्क्यापका अनुसार नेपालको अर्थतन्त्रको ९ प्रतिशत कोभिड १९ र बन्दाबन्दीको प्रभावबाट बाहिरिन खर्च गर्नुपर्ने आवश्यकता छ । त्यसको लागि सरकारले चालू आर्थिक वर्षको बजेट र मौद्रिक नीतिमार्फत ल्याएका राहत र पुनर्उत्थानका कार्यक्रमलाई अबिलम्ब कार्यान्वयन गर्नु आवश्यक छ । आधा आर्थिक वर्ष बित्नै लागिसकेको हुनाले सरकारले जति छिटो प्रक्रियागत झंभट हटाउँदै जान्छ, त्यति छिटो अर्थतन्त्र पुनरुत्थान हुन्छ ।  

यस्तै, उत्पादन बढाउन कोरोनाले डिजिटाइजेसनको विकल्प पनि दिएको छ । अर्थात् डिजिटाइजेसनमार्फत उत्पादकत्व वृद्धि सरकारको अबको प्रमुख मुद्दा हुनु पर्दछ । नेपाल राष्ट्र बैंकका पूर्वकार्यकारी निर्देशक नरबहादुर थापाका अनुसार पनि डिजिटल अर्थतन्त्रको निर्माण गर्न सरकार, व्यावसायिक कम्पनी र नागरिकबीचको अन्तर–आबद्धतालाई कसिलो बनाउने बेला यही हो ।

साथै, खाद्य सुरक्षामा दिगो, दर्बिलो र आत्मनिर्भर हुन कृषिको व्यावसायिकीकरण र यसबाट उत्पादन, उत्पादकत्व र रोजगारी बृद्धि तथा तुलनात्मक लाभका क्षेत्रमा  लगानी बढाउन सरकारले ढिलाइ गर्न हुन्न । हुन त सधैँ भनिँदै आएको भए पनि सरकारका नीति अस्पष्ट हुँदा नेपालले यसबाट हालसम्म फाइदा लिन सकेको छैन । तर, कोरोनाले सही समय जुटाइदिएको छ । आर्थिक रूपान्तरणका लागि सरकारले जति छिटो पाइला चाल्छ, निजी क्षेत्र त्यति नै छिटो आर्थिक पुनरुत्थानमा होस्टेमा हैँसे गर्नेछ । 

Friday, December 11, 2020

ADB launches $9 billion Covid-19 vaccine initiative

 The Asian Development Bank (ADB) has launched a $9 billion vaccine initiative – the Asia Pacific Vaccine Access Facility (APVAX) – offering rapid and equitable support to its developing members as they procure and deliver effective and safe coronavirus disease (Covid-19) vaccines.

“As ADB’s developing members prepare to vaccinate their people as soon as possible, they need financing to procure vaccines as well as appropriate plans and knowledge to be able to safely, equitably, and efficiently manage the vaccination process,” said ADB president Masatsugu Asakawa. “APVAX will play a critical role in helping our developing members meet these challenges, overcome the pandemic, and focus on economic recovery.”

More than 14.3 million positive cases have been identified in Asia and the Pacific, causing more than 200,000 deaths, according to a press note issued by the multilateral development partner. “As the pandemic persists, economic growth in developing Asia is projected to contract by 0.4 per cent in 2020 – the first regional gross domestic product (GDP) contraction since the early 1960s.

Promoting safe, equitable, and effective access to vaccines is a top priority for ADB’s Covid-19 response efforts. Vaccination programmes can break the chain of virus transmission, save lives, and mitigate the negative economic impacts of the pandemic by restoring confidence in people’s ability to work, travel, and socialise safely.

The APVAX provides a comprehensive framework and resource envelope for supporting developing Asia’s vaccine access, using two complementary components. The Rapid Response Component (RRC) will provide timely support for critical vaccine diagnostics, procurement of vaccines, and transporting vaccines from the place of purchase to ADB’s developing members.

The Project Investment Component will support investments in systems for successful distribution, delivery, and administration of vaccines along with associated investments in building capacity, community outreach, and surveillance. This may include such areas as cold-chain storage and transportation, vehicles, distribution infrastructure, processing facilities, and other physical investments. The component may also be used to develop or expand vaccine manufacturing capacity in developing members.

ADB financing for vaccines will be provided in close coordination with other development partners including the World Bank Group, World Health Organisation (WHO), COVID-19 Vaccines Global Access Facility (COVAX), GAVI, and bilateral and multilateral partners.

APVAX promotes safe and effective vaccines to be accessed in a fair manner, the press note reads, adding that for a vaccine to be eligible for financing, it must meet one of three criteria. “It must be procured via COVAX, prequalified by WHO, or authorised by a Stringent Regulatory Authority.”

Additional access criteria, such as a vaccination needs assessment, a vaccine allocation plan by the developing member, and a mechanism for effective coordination among development partners also help ensure that vaccine support under APVAX can be fairly and effectively implemented.

ADB is also making available a $500 million Vaccine Import Facility (VIF) to support the efforts of its developing members to secure safe and effective vaccines, as well as the goods that support distribution and inoculation. The facility is part of ADB’s Trade and Supply Chain Finance Programme. AAA-guarantees available through the programme’s vaccine import facility will mitigate payment risks and facilitate import of these goods. This will employ the same eligibility criteria on vaccines as COVAX. Cofinancing with private sector partners could result in the Import Facility supporting $1 billion in vaccine and related imports within a year.

In April, ADB approved a $20 billion package to support its developing members in addressing the impacts of the pandemic and streamlined some procedures to deliver quicker and more flexible assistance. ADB has committed $14.9 billion in loans, grants, and technical assistance, including $9.9 billion in quick-disbursing budget support from the Covid-19 Pandemic Response Option (CPRO) and support for the private sector, it added.

In November, ADB announced $20.3 million in additional technical assistance to establish systems to enable efficient and equitable distribution of vaccines across Asia and the Pacific.

ADB is committed to achieving a prosperous, inclusive, resilient, and sustainable Asia and the Pacific, while sustaining its efforts to eradicate extreme poverty. Established in 1966, it is owned by 68 members, 49 from the region.

Nepal-India nears final modality on power trade

 Nepal and India today discussed development of suitable rules and guidelines for allowing access to Nepali power producers to Indian markets.

The eighth meeting – through video conferencing – of Joint Steering Committee (JSC) on Cooperation in Power sector today co-chaired by the power and energy secretaries of India and Nepal today discussed, inter alia, development of suitable rules and guidelines for allowing access to Nepali power producers to Indian markets, development of energy banking mechanism, development of cross border high voltage transmission lines as well as reviewing the progress of the SJVN Ltd- developed 900MW Arun-III Hydro Electric Project in Nepal and agreeing to further facilitate its expeditious implementation.

Both governments have been coordinating closely with each other in this sector, according to a press note issued by the Indian Embassy in Kathmandu.

Consequently, progress made in the last five years in this sector has been exemplary, it reads, adding that it includes completion of South Asia’s first cross border 400 KV transmission line at Muzaffarpur-Dhalkebar, agreement on funding modality for Gorakhpur-Butwal 400 KV line for which the construction will commence soon, and the brisk progress on the 900 MW Arun-III Hydro Electric Project. “Both sides are also close to finalising the regulatory modality for allowing Nepali power producers access to Indian power market which will provide an outlet for Nepal’s surplus power in the coming months.”

The meeting was led by energy secretary Dinesh Kumar Ghimire, who was assisted by representatives of various ministries and departments, while his counterpart Indian power secretary Sanjiv Nandan Sahai led the Indian team that included by ambassador of India to Nepal Vinay Mohan Kwatra and a 17-member delegation drawn from various ministries and public sector undertakings of Indian government including NHPC Ltd, NTPC Ltd and the Indian Embassy in Kathmandu.

The Joint Working Group (JWG) meeting at the level of joint secretaries was held yesterday in preparation of this meeting.

The JSC is the apex bilateral mechanism for enhancing and coordinating various government-to-government led initiatives in power sector. The meeting reviewed progress made on bilateral processes and initiatives in this sector. “Both sides reaffirmed their commitment to further strengthening the power sector cooperation between the two countries, including development of an integrated grid, building of more cross border transmission lines, as required, as well as investing in Nepal’s hydro and solar power projects,” the press note reads, adding that the positive and wide-ranging discussions are expected to further support the expansion in power sector cooperation between India and Nepal.

Nepal and development partners collaborate for green recovery from the pandemic

 The government and a dozen development partners today agreed on a joint statement of support for Nepal’s Relief, Recovery and Resilience (RRR) Plan to enable a green, resilient and sustainable recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic. The green recovery approach recognises the need for investment to protect lives and secure jobs and livelihoods as an immediate priority, and the need to build resilience, further strengthen inclusion, equity, and enhance sustainability in the longer term, according to a press note issued by the World Bank. “Around a dozen development partners including ADB, EU, Finland, France, Germany, INGOs, JICA, KOICA, Norway SDC, UK, UN, USAID, and the World Bank issued a joint statement.”

“The Government of Nepal welcomes this joint development partner approach to support green recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic that is well aligned with Nepal’s 15th development plan,” joint secretary at the Ministry of Forests and Environment Radha Wagle said, adding that it is also very timely as the Prime Minister will be announcing Nepal’s climate ambition at the Global COP 26 Ambition Summit.

“Nepal’s development partners wish to align their support for Nepal’s green recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic to create jobs, stimulate inclusive growth and get Nepal back on track to achieve middle income status by 2030,” World Bank country director for Maldives, Nepal and Sri Lanka Faris Hadad-Zervos.

“Nepal’s development partners are ready to support local, provincial and federal governments to stimulate a green recovery that benefits all,” German ambassador to Nepal Roland Schaefer said, on the occasion.

“As holders of the UN Climate Presidency and hosts for the Climate COP 26 next year, the UK is greatly impressed by Nepal’s climate leadership and ambition in its recently approved NDC,” UK Government Asia Climate Envoy Lisa Honan said, adding that it is only by working together that everyone can tackle the Covid-19 and climate crises and build resilience, create sustainable jobs and stimulate the green growth that Nepal needs to bounce back greener.

The government and development partners have also agreed to work together on a joint green recovery package, which could total an estimated $7.4 billion, and includes both grant and loan support for the initial response to Covid-19, and already approved, pipeline and forthcoming projects that support green recovery. Initial estimates of the scale of development partner support in the five areas identified are:

Up to $840 million for immediate Covid-19 needs including direct health care and vaccine access, and support for livelihoods and vulnerable groups; and

Up to $4.2 billion from restructuring existing and confirmed projects and up to $2.4 billion for new and pipeline projects for supporting green recovery in the four areas of:

Nature-based solutions for growth and job creation in agriculture, forestry and biodiversity and water management, and tackling the impacts of climate change in the Himalayas;

Green and resilient infrastructure, urban development and pollution management, that together create jobs and protect human health; 

Increasing resilience to future shocks such as health, climate and earthquake risks, by strengthening health, social protection, education and disaster management systems; and

Stimulating private sector recovery, and increasing green investment and job creation in finance, tourism, clean energy, waste management, forestry and agriculture.

Thursday, December 10, 2020

National survey of menstrual health and hygiene management of adolescent girls

 In partnership with the national apical body responsible for promoting health research across the country Nepal Health Research Council (NHRC), World Vision released a report today that provides comprehensive analysis of the knowledge, attitude and practice and psychosocial well-being of adolescent girls in menstrual hygiene management.

The study titled ‘Status of Menstrual Health and Hygiene Management among Adolescents Girls in Nepal’ concludes that along with having inadequate knowledge around menstruation, adolescent girls continue to face restrictions during periods ranging from restrictions in religious activities, issues of touchability to food consumption. Surveyed in 3,675 adolescent girls (aged 10-19 years) across the country including differently-abled girls, who had experienced their menarche, the study highlighted mothers as the primary source of information who guides menstrual management as well as major bearers to continue restrictions during menstruation at home.

The NHRC and World Vision’s report also concluded that Chaupadi continues to be practiced in three of seven provinces with Sudurpaschim practicing most. “Staying and sleeping alone in a livestock shed at night is fearful and frightening,” an adolescent girl of Achham in Sudurpaschim Province said, adding that family members can't even find if anything happens to us when they menstruate and it is a major problem.

Results of the report also reveal that menstrual needs of differently abled adolescent girls are largely neglected. Their needs are related to availability of menstrual material and disable friendly WASH beyond home. 

“As menstrual taboos, inadequate knowledge and poor menstrual health and hygiene management can have direct negative impacts on psychosocial, mental health, which in turn leads to further negative health outcomes among girls and women, World Vision calls on the government for making deliberate efforts with provincial and local government for formulation of plans, policies and strategies to overcome the gaps in menstrual health and hygiene management directed towards the target group,” Health and Nutrition Portfolio advisor of World Vision International Nepal Abhilasha Gurung said.

The report also offers recommendations for the government to promote sustainable, low cost, affordable and eco-friendly sanitary materials and its distribution to adolescent girls throughout the country and intensify monitoring and supervision of MHM related government programmes, for example - free pad distribution initiative. It also urges the government to allocate budget to establish girl-friendly (ChhatraMaitri) schools and take empowerment and engendered approach to capacitate adolescent girls, making them self-concerned and confident to speak up for their own menstrual health needs with everyone at school including male students and teachers.

Green recovery policies once in lifetime opportunity to raise climate ambitions in Asia-Pacific

 While much of the attention this year has been focused on protecting populations as well as the socio-economic impacts and recovery needed, high-level officials from across the Asia-Pacific this week called upon countries to address the environmental roots of the Covid-19 pandemic to further protect the health of people and the planet.

Held yesterday and today, the sixth session of the Committee on Environment and Development was convened by the United Nations (UN) Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP). The session shone the spotlight on the region’s environmental challenges in the context of the pandemic.

“As we recover better together, the future of our region is fundamentally tied to the success or failure in stewardship of the environmental system and response to the climate change challenge,” UN under-secretary-general and executive secretary of ESCAP Armida Salsiah Alisjahbana, in her opening remarks. “ESCAP analysis shows that business as usual is likely to drive significant tensions between and within countries, climate mitigation, inequality, and hardship,” she said.

“The destruction of the living world not only undermines our only support system; it makes pandemics more likely,” deputy executive director of UN Environment Programme Joyce Msuya said, adding that yet as nations seek ways to recover from the pandemic, “I see a once in a lifetime opportunity to transform our economies and societies at the scale and speed we need as it is vital countries get this right as the impacts will be felt in the decades to come.”

The Asia-Pacific region is experiencing enormous transformations, characterised by rapidly increasing resource consumption, energy use and CO2 emissions. These changes are negatively affecting biodiversity and the environment. While recent commitments being made by countries across the region to significantly reduce emissions and achieve carbon neutrality are encouraging, they are still not enough.

The Committee highlighted four entry points critical to the region: Raising climate ambition, Safeguarding ecosystem health, Clean air for all, and Cities for a sustainable future. Delegates shared that innovative solutions can be harnessed to address the climate crisis.  These include more ambitious mitigation pathways such as increasing energy efficiency of industry and cities by 60 to 70 per cent; decarbonisation of electricity; deep reductions in agricultural emissions; and advancing carbon capture, carbon storage and sequestration measures.

Discussions also focused on realizing environmental benefits through policy convergence and enhanced regional cooperation. Countries considered opportunities to support and scale up collective work on the environment by strengthening implementation of existing multilateral environmental agreements and processes, and mobilizing the region’s technical expertise.

To this end, the Committee endorsed the establishment of a technical expert group to facilitate the exchange of information among countries and various stakeholders in the region to address environmental issues through enhanced climate action, improve the efficiency of natural resources management, address air pollution and promote sustainable urban planning.

Wednesday, December 9, 2020

UN and EIF launch interactive guide on cross-border paperless trade

 Cross-border paperless trade has great potential to not only grow trade competitiveness but also to address new challenges associated with e-commerce and the digital economy. The United Nations (UN) Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP), in collaboration with the United Nations Commission on International Trade Law (UNCITRAL) and the Enhanced Integrated Framework (EIF), today launched an interactive guide to support readiness assessments on cross-border paperless trade.

The Online Readiness Assessment Guide for Cross-border Paperless Trade is designed to support countries in the region to conduct self-assessments of legal and technical readiness on cross-border paperless trade, according to a press note issued by the UNESCAP. “With the new guide, countries have at their disposal, comprehensive guides on how to conduct readiness assessments, without the need for intensive physical travelling of experts,” it reads, adding that they will also be able to interact virtually with experts for further guidance on conducting readiness assessment on a request basis.

“The guide being launched today is expected to support member states in conducting self-assessments of their legal and technical readiness for cross-border paperless trade, as a first step towards developing a concrete action plan for implementation,” UN under-secretary-general and executive secretary of ESCAP Armida Salsiah Alisjahbana said at the launch.”

The Framework Agreement on Facilitation of Cross-border Paperless Trade in Asia and the Pacific, that the guide is supporting the implementation of, is designed so that countries at all levels of development and digitalisation can participate, leaving no one behind, she said, urging all member states to complete ratification as soon as possible.

“The Online Readiness Assessment Guide for Cross-border Paperless Trade is an important diagnostic tool to identify opportunities for adopting laws and regulations that enable paperless trade,” UNCITRAL secretary Anna Joubin-Bret said, adding that UNCITRAL texts are a core component of that legal environment. “The importance of taking prompt action in this area has recently been highlighted by the discussions on how to mitigate the economic effects of the Covid-19 pandemic.”

“We are pleased to have cooperated with ESCAP and EIF in preparing this Online Guide and look forward to work with all concerned partners to support States in this critical endeavor,” she shared.

“The potential benefits from digitalization of trade processes are substantial,” executive director of the Executive Secretariat for the EIF Dr Ratnakar Adhikari said.

“The online interactive guide on cross-border paperless trade will be instrumental in supporting countries to assess their technical and legal gaps in electronic exchange of trade data and documents with other trading partners,” he said, adding that they look forward to working with the partners, including ESCAP, to support least developed countries in the region to strengthen their institutional capacity and harmonise data standards towards the vision of an Asia-Pacific paperless trading environment.

Readiness assessments on cross-border paperless trade support implementation of the Framework Agreement on Facilitation of Cross-Border Paperless Trade in Asia and the Pacific, which will soon enter into force on February 20, 2021. Five countries – Azerbaijan, Philippines, Islamic Republic of Iran, Bangladesh and China - have thus far ratified or acceded to this UN treaty. In addition, Armenia and Cambodia have signed in 2017, with several more in the process of completing their domestic processes for accession.

The treaty, with its common set of general principles and a dedicated intergovernmental platform, will support countries in building on the bilateral and subregional digital trade solutions they have already developed to achieve greater, region-wide paperless trade. By enabling exchange and legal recognition of trade data and documents, it could reduce trade costs by 25 per cent across the Asia-Pacific region and support more seamless and resilient trade.

Moreover, the policy responses to the Covid-19 pandemic are having a significant impact on the cost of trading goods across borders. Despite measures taken by many countries to keep goods moving across borders, ESCAP research reveals that international trade costs faced by importers and exporters in the region are expected to rise by 7 per cent on average this year, with some facing increases in costs exceeding 20 per cent.

The new guide is relevant to all countries globally, as it can support the implementation of not only the treaty but also the full digital implementation of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA).

The Online Readiness Assessment Guide resulted from strong partnerships and continuous efforts in the Asia-Pacific region and beyond. It is based on legal and technical readiness assessment checklists developed by the Interim Intergovernmental Steering Group on Cross-border Paperless Trade Facilitation at ESCAP and its Legal and Technical Working Groups, with contributions from the United Nations Network of Experts for Paperless Trade and Transport in Asia and the Pacific (UNNExT). It benefited from the legal expertise on e-commerce of the UNCITRAL, as well as support from the EIF under a joint project on facilitating cross-border trade in LDCs for sustainable development. It also incorporates lessons learned from other ESCAP trade facilitation projects funded by China, the Russian Federation as well as the Republic of Korea.

Business environment getting worse, again: FNCCI

 The private sector has complained the Prime Minister that the business and economic environment in the country is getting worse lately. “The entrepreneurs are getting threats for extortion,” they said, adding that most of the industries are still closed.

In a meeting with Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli in his official residence Baluwatar today, the Federation of Nepalese Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FNCCI) president Shekhar Golchha said that they have been receiving complaints of extortion from entrepreneurs operating their business in the districts outside the Valley.

“According to industrialists, in the past few months, they have been pressurised either to provide the extortion amount or close their businesses,” Golchha said, adding that the entrepreneurs are being threatened to meet the demand or else face closure of their businesses. He, however, did not disclose the identity of the group pressuring for extortion.

The FNCCI – issuing a press note – said that the business community is losing the confidence. Golchha urged the Prime Minister to take necessary steps on time to build confidence of the business fraternity.

Only a day before yesterday, a principal has been killed by an illegal outfit led by Netra Bikram Chand, a break-away faction of earlier NCP Maoists.

The government has also called an all-party meeting a couple of days ago after sensing security threat triggered by the activities of the Chand-led outfit, which has been banned by the government last year. Due to growing security threat, a meeting of the Central Security Committee of Home Ministry yesterday also decided to review the activities of the ‘revolutionaries’ and ‘royalists’.

Golchha, on the occasion, also asked the government to help revive economy that has been crippled by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Prime Minister Oli, on the occasion, consoled the private sector and told that the government is with them.

Tuesday, December 8, 2020

Fourth South Asia SDG Forum calls for South Asian cooperation for sustainable and resilient recovery

 The fourth South Asia Forum on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) – organised by the United Nations (UN) Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) and the Maldives' government virtually on December 2-3 – brought together over 450 participants from governments, think-tanks, and civil society organizations from eight South Asian countries.

Preceded by the South Asia People’s Forum on SDGs, the Forum reviewed the status of SDG achievements and the actions taken by the South Asian governments towards resilient and sustainable recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic, including Bhutan and Pakistan that will present their second Voluntary National Reviews (VNRs) at the High-Level Political Forum (HLPF) in 2021.

United Nations under-secretary-general and executive secretary of ESCAP Armida Salsiah Alisjahbana advocated greater action on strengthened social protection and financing economic recovery through innovative financing strategies, accelerating digital transformation and greening recovery through the use of clean technology. She also reiterated the commitment of ESCAP in continuing to work closely with member States and other partners in the region.

Likewise, SAARC secretary-general Esala Ruwan Weerakoon on the occasion, highlighted cooperation initiatives such as the SAARC Emergency Fund to curb the pandemic's impact and urged member states to put SDGs at the center of all policy making and recovery planning. He also complimented ESCAP for its work on Covid-19 and for establishing the portal of the South Asia Network (SANS) on SDGs.

BIMSTEC secretary-general Tenzin Lekphell also emphasised the need for aligning plans with the 2030 Agenda and urged member states in South Asia to work together to address the impact of the pandemic and achieve the SDGs.

The forum serves as a subregional preparatory process for the 8th Asia-Pacific Forum on Sustainable Development (APFSD) to be held in March 2021, on the theme of ‘Accelerating action and delivery of the 2030 Agenda in Asia and the Pacific’. Inputs from the Forum will also feed into the HLPF to be held in July 2021. The forum was followed by a special event on Disaster and Climate Resilience in South Asia with the participation of environment ministers of five South Asian countries.