Tuesday, June 30, 2020

Covid-19 causes massive losses in global tourism sector

The coronavirus pandemic will lead to massive losses in the world’s tourism sector, which has been placed at a standstill for nearly four months, according to UNCTAD’s report, ‘Covid-19 and tourism: Assessing the economic consequences,’ to be released tomorrow.
The losses will rise significantly, dealing a huge blow to the global economy, if the break in international tourism lasts for a longer period, it reads, adding that this could have a significant impact on employment and wages, particularly in economies heavily dependent on tourism. “Tourism is a backbone of many countries’ economies and a lifeline for millions of people around the world, having more than tripled in value from $490 billion to $1.6 trillion in the last 20 years.”
But Covid-19 has brought it to a halt, causing severe economic consequences globally.
Prevailing lockdown measures in some countries, travel restrictions, reductions in consumers’ disposable income and low confidence levels could significantly slow down the sector’s recovery. Even as tourism slowly restarts in an increasing number of countries, it remains at a standstill in many nations.

ADB approves $3 million grant to support Nepal against Covid-19

The Asian Development Bank (ADB) has approved a $3 million grant from its Asia Pacific Disaster Response Fund (APDRF) to further support Nepal in its fight against the coronavirus disease (Covid-19) pandemic. 
The grant, which is financed by the Government of Japan, will be used for emergency support for the improvement of quarantine facilities to effectively manage the inflow of returning migrants, especially in the border areas. It will also support the procurement of laboratory and medical equipment, medicines, and infection control supplies.
“This assistance will support the government to better manage quarantine facilities and contain the spread of the virus in the country,” said ADB country director for Nepal Mukhtor Khamudkhanov. “ADB is committed to supporting Nepal to control Covid-19 and will continue to work with the government to minimise the health and economic impacts of the pandemic in the country.”
The new assistance builds on ADB’s previous response to the spread of Covid-19 in Nepal, including a $250 million concessional loan to strengthen the country’s public health systems and mitigate the adverse economic and social impacts of the pandemic, particularly on the poor. ADB’s response also includes a $300,000 grant to purchase emergency medical supplies and equipment for health care staff and others in the frontline.
Since February, ADB’s emergency assistance grants to its developing members have helped ensure the supply of essential medicines and personal protective equipment. In April, ADB announced a $20 billion comprehensive response package to help its developing member countries address the immediate and long-term macroeconomic and health impacts of Covid-19 in the region.
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.

IFC’s $25 million support to NMB Bank to boost green financing and access to credit

The International Finance Corporation (IFC) – a member of the World Bank Group – is providing a $25 million loan to NMB Bank to boost financing for green projects and small and medium enterprises (SMEs).
The investment is expected to help expand NMB’s SME portfolio to over $1 billion by 2025, creating up to 50,000 jobs over the next five years, according to a press note issued by IFC. SMEs have been a key engine of growth in Nepal, contributing 20 per cent of GDP and creating over 60 per cent of jobs in the country. The project is expected to see a doubling in the amount of loans available for SMEs from NMB, creating more jobs in the economy.
The loan marks IFC’s first climate focused lending to a financial institution in Nepal, incorporating the internationally recognised green loan principles. Overall the support for green financing, excluding hydro financing, is expected to contribute towards reducing CO2 emissions in the country. IFC expects the project will also build up NMB’s capacity to identify and evaluate green lending opportunities and increase access to green financing in Nepal over the next five years – trebling the amount of loans available for ‘going green’.
“NMB is focused on financing of sustainable projects in the real sector in alignment with the Government of Nepal's growth plans,” NMB Bank chief executive officer Sunil KC said, adding that the bank’s investments comprise of a balanced mix of real sector exposures which includes hydro power, agriculture, microfinance, infrastructure, tourism, SMEs and green projects that are key drivers of economic growth and sustainability. “In the current Covid -19 scenario, the new investment from IFC adds considerable value in helping us significantly increase our current portfolio and widen the scope for investment in sustainable and green projects.”
Additionally, access to climate finance is limited in Nepal, which is expected to face a further setback due to the reduction in the flow of credit, in the wake of the impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic.
“This investment is supporting SMEs and Nepal’s sustainable development during this economic downtown,” IFC country manager for Nepal, Bangladesh and Bhutan Wendy Werner said, adding that IFC believes in the tremendous opportunity for green growth through mobilising the private sector. “The project will help boost access to finance for small and medium sized enterprises, which have been highly affected by the impacts of the pandemic.”
SMEs will contribute to Nepal’s recovery in the aftermath of the pandemic.
Based on the government commitment to the Paris Climate Agreement, IFC estimates the country’s has climate-smart investment opportunities of $46 billion by 2030. IFC’s own Climate Implementation Plan of April 2016 has an overall target of scaling up climate investments to reach 28 per cent of IFC’s annual financing and catalysing $13 billion in private sector capital annually by 2020. “IFC has invested in NMB since 2015 through a Global Trade Finance Programme (GTFP) facility and in 2018, IFC extended a working capital solution (WCS) loan.”
Since 1956, IFC has invested over $150 million in Nepal in the country’s priority sectors. By the end of June 2020, IFC’s committed portfolio in Nepal is expected to be approximately $500 million – a significant increase from previous year – where it stood at $75 million.

Urgent, accelerated action needed to stop child marriage and son preference: UNFPA report

Every year, millions of girls are subjected to practices that harm them physically and emotionally, with the full knowledge and consent of their families, friends and communities, according to the State of World Population 2020, released today by UNFPA, the United Nations sexual and reproductive health agency.
At least 19 harmful practices across the world, ranging from breast ironing to virginity testing, are considered human rights violations, according to the UNFPA report, which focuses on the three most prevalent ones: female genital mutilation, child marriage, and extreme bias against daughters in favour of sons.
“Harmful practices against girls cause profound and lasting trauma, robbing them of their right to reach their full potential,” according to UNFPA executive director Dr Natalia Kanem.
Nepal has one of the highest rates of child marriage in Asia. Although the legal age of marriage for both sexes is 20, an estimated 40 per cent of Nepali girls are married before the age of 18. While child marriage rates are declining in the country, in the last five years the pace of decline has slowed down significantly. Investing in girls, giving them access to education and health services, and ensuring that they can postpone marriage and prevent early childbearing is essential for girls to have agency.
Also, the preference for sons over daughters has fueled gender-biased sex selection, reads a press note issued by the UNFPA. Nepal has an increasing sex ratio at birth imbalance from 103 male per every 100 female newborns in 2005 to 110 male newborns in 2015. This is a reflection of persistent gender discrimination that undervalues girls combined with the declining fertility rate and high level of son preference, leading to an increase in the practice of sex-selective abortion.
Nepal has ratified international treaties such as the Convention on the Rights of the Child, thus has a duty to end the harm, whether it’s inflicted on girls by family members, religious communities, health-care providers, commercial enterprises or state institutions. The government has progressive laws in place, but laws alone are not enough.
Decades of experience and research show that bottom-up, grassroots approaches are better at bringing change, the UNFPA report reads. “We must tackle the problem by tackling the root causes, especially gender-biased norms,” Dr Kanemsays said, adding that they must do a better job of supporting communities’ own efforts to understand the toll these practices are taking on girls and the benefits that accrue to the whole of society by stopping them.
Economies and the legal systems that support girls must be restructured to guarantee every woman equal opportunities, the report reads, adding that changing laws for property inheritance, for example, can eliminate a powerful incentive for families to favour sons over daughters. “Ending child marriage is possible within 10 years by scaling up efforts to keep girls in school longer and teach them life skills and to engage men and boys in social change.”
While progress has been made in ending some harmful practices worldwide, the Covid-19 pandemic threatens to reverse the gains. A recent analysis revealed that if services and programmes remain shuttered for six months, an additional 13 million girls around the world may be forced into marriage between now and 2030. “The pandemic both makes our job harder and more urgent as so many more girls are now at risk,” Dr Kanem said, adding that they will not stop until the rights, choices and bodies of all girls are fully their own.

Monday, June 29, 2020

ADB approves $200 million concessional loan

The Asian Development Bank (ADB) has approved a $200 million concessional loan to improve power supply and distribution systems in Nepal.
Nepal has made significant progress in electricity supply after years of chronic power shortages. However, its power transmission and distribution systems need further strengthening to increase network capacity, improve quality and reliability, and remove delays between generation hubs and load centers, according to a press note issued by the multinational development partner.
The project will finance, among others, the reinforcement and modernisation of the power supply system in Kathmandu Valley, Bharatpur metropolitan area of Chitwan district in Bagmati Province and Pokhara of Kaski district in Gandaki Province, where supply interruptions are frequent and prolonged, the press note reads, adding that the project also aims to support Province 2, where the quality of electricity supply is poor and about 20 per cent of households are still without access to the national grid.
“The project will help sustain Nepal’s improved electricity supply momentum over the past two years,” ADB Principal Energy Specialist Jiwan Acharya said, adding that it will facilitate meeting future demand from commercial and industrial activities as well as from communities, particularly women, who can now benefit from electricity-based enterprises and focus on productive economic and social activities. “It is also very timely because the project will create employment opportunities for skilled and unskilled labor during the construction phase as the country adopts measures to mitigate the socioeconomic impact of the coronavirus disease (Covid-19) pandemic.”
Complementing ADB’s loan, the Government of Norway is providing a $35 million cofinancing grant for the installation and upgrading of power distribution networks in Province 2 and various substations to evacuate hydropower in the country. In addition, it is providing a $5 million technical assistance grant for capacity development of the Nepal Electricity Authority (NEA) to ensure that gender equality and social inclusion are strengthened, and new technologies are used to make electricity infrastructure resilient.
The project is aligned with the South Asia Subregional Economic Cooperation (SASEC) programme on intraregional power trade through cross-border power exchange. The upgrading of substations in Khimti, Barhabise, and Lapsiphedi to 400 kilovolts (Kv) will facilitate cross-border power exchange with India.
ADB and other development partners have been engaged in Nepal’s power system reform efforts, including the approval of the Nepal Electricity Regulatory Commission Act of 2017, which created the Electricity Regulatory Commission as an independent regulatory body with respect to tariff-setting and consumer protection.
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.

Government extends lockdown until July 22

The government has decided to extend the lockdown until July 22, though according to its earlier plan, it would have to be relaxed under the second phase from July 1.
A cabinet meeting held today evening decided to extend the lockdown in its current form. “Keeping in mind the rising Covid-19 cases, the government decided to continue the lockdown, a minister said, after the cabinet. “The country has witnessed 13,248 cases of Covid-19 including 3,134 recoveries and 29 fatalities.”

MCC funding not open-ended: US Embassy

As the ratification of Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) become uncertain due to ruling political party’s internal feud, the United States Embassy in Kathmandu has clarified that it cannot wait indefinitely for Nepal to take final decision. “The accepting MCC grant is Nepal’s choice but availability of the funding is not open-ended,” reads a press note issued by the United States Embassy in Kathmandu.
The US diplomatic mission said that the United States is aware that Nepal’s parliament has not yet ratified the MCC Compact. “The ratification is the next step needed to proceed with the $500M grant, which the two countries signed in September 2017 and which Nepal committed to ratify by September 2019,” it reads, adding that delaying ratification is delaying the benefits of more jobs and increased economic growth for nearly 23 million Nepalis. “Accepting this grant is Nepal’s choice but availability of the funding is not open-ended, and tangible, near-term steps in Nepal are necessary to ensure the continued viability of the programme.”
The government and MCC have worked together continuously since 2012 under multiple governments, representing all major political parties, to develop the compact programme, it further reads, adding that this compact will build electric transmission infrastructure and perform road maintenance activities, and directly benefit 23 million Nepalis. “The projects funded by the compact are priorities identified by Nepal during the nearly three years of project design to benefit the people of Nepal.”
According to the US Embassy, MCC is a committed partner having successfully partnered with nearly 30 countries worldwide on 37 grant agreements of several hundred million dollars, totaling $13 billion. Every country eligible for a second grant has requested one.
The press note also brushed aside speculations made by a section of people in Nepal that MCC has a hidden agenda. “MCC’s transparency as a development partner is also recognised globally, and this year MCC was once again ranked as the top bilateral development partner in the Aid Transparency Index (AIT).”
The United States and Nepal share a 73-year partnership working together in many sectors successfully and to the benefit of both countries, the Embassy press note reads, “The Nepali-led projects funded by the MCC compact support poverty reduction through economic growth.”
The statement comes in the wake of a section of politicians and others making speculation that the US was exerting pressure on Nepal to accept the grant. 

IMS Group invests in Nepali e-commerce platform SmartDoko

IMS Group – a conglomerate company based in Nepal – today announced that it has entered into a definitive agreement to acquire substantial stake of SmartDoko for an undisclosed amount.
SmartDoko is one of Nepal’s largest e-commerce companies. The company has been serving Nepali market providing ease and convenience to order only genuine goods from authorised companies across 18 different categories and to have it delivered to their customers’ doorstep within hours. According to a press note issued by the company, the ecommerce company has been one of the most preferred online sites due to its various unique selling propositions such as Free Delivery inside Ringroad, Reward Points System, SmartDoko Exclusive Products, Easy return Policy, Discount Coupons, Multiple Payment Option, etc.
“As the new era is shifting towards being digital, where the whole world is just a click away with increasing rate of smartphone and online penetration witnessing huge growth in e-commerce worldwide and nationwide, IMS Group decided to invest in SmartDoko,”
Additionally, when the whole world is being hit by the pandemic, people have been choosing and aggressively practicing online shopping and we see ecommerce skyrocketing in the near future, IMS Group president and chief executive officer (CEO) Dikesh Malhotra said, adding that the company decided to acquire SmartDoko to address the current needs and to keep up with the digital world and provide one click solution. “Post the acquisition of SmartDoko, our primary objective will be to significantly enhance the customer experience of SmartDoko.”
We are very much aware of their feedback, both positive and negative ones and our major effort will be directed towards addressing their queries, he added. “In addition, we will be completely revamping both the existing website and mobile application in order to provide the best user friendly interface and user experience to SmartDoko users.”
Furthermore, as our initial step to rebrand SmartDoko, we would like to take this opportunity to introduce the new logo of SmartDoko, he said, adding that they are confident that the customers – both existing and new – will witness best shopping experience with us.
IMS Group is a local conglomerate, which has over 20 different companies under its banner. IMS is the national distributor of Samsung smartphones in Nepal. It is the first company in Nepal to officially import mobile phones in 1998. The company has grown and diversified over the last twenty- seven years, which can be vividly seen from the number of companies the IMS Group banner holds. The company has also acquired a dealership of luxurious Korean Automobile brand SsangYong and recently acquired dealership of top international brands like Dr Brown’s, Crane, Himalaya, BB Luv, Dreambaby, Energizer and DJI for Nepal. It has also expanded its services towards education, real estates, hospitality, consulting, banking, manufacturing, agriculture, hydropower and many more.

Sunday, June 28, 2020

Himalaya Airlines and Huawei Cloud join hands to form a strategic partnership

Himalaya Airlines and Huawei Cloud, Chinese multinational technology company, signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) for strategic cooperation today during a signing ceremony held at Huawei company office in Kathmandu.
Leveraging its advantages in Information and Communication Technology (ICT) products and solutions, Huawei, a leading global provider of information and communications technology, will provide Himalaya with competitive products and services to enable Himalaya to provide its passengers, better ticketing options and travel experience, according to a press note issued by the company. “The agreement is expected to promote the construction of smart aviation and trans-Himalaya multi-dimensional connectivity to achieve more substantial results, opening up opportunities for Himalaya to be a leading airline in South Asia.”
 The event was virtually graced by Economic and Commercial Counsellor at the Embassy of China to Nepal Zhang Fan, deputy director of the Department of Commerce of the Tibet Autonomous Region Wang Ping and president of Huawei Technology Cloud and AI business group of Asia Pacific Region Zhou Danjin. The MoU was signed by president of Himalaya Airlines Zhou Enyong and chief executive officer of Huawei Technologies Nepal Deng Shuigen.
Congratulating both the parties, Economic and Commercial Counselor of Embassy of China to Nepal Zhang Fan expressed that the collaboration between the two parties is indeed a proactive effort to cope with the new challenges and circumstances of post-pandemic international aviation, international communication and Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) cooperation. He also hoped the two companies as well as the other companies with Chinese investment in Nepal can break the barriers of conventional mindset, adopt more innovative methods to create suitable business models for the post-pandemic period and thereby make meaningful contributions to the BRI cooperation between China and Nepal.
While delivering his remarks, Wang Ping affirmed Himalaya’s contribution to the establishment of an important aviation channel to South Asia for the Tibet Autonomous Region. He also hoped Himalaya will achieve smarter management, operation and win-win development with the help of Huawei's advanced information solutions. He promised that the Tibet Autonomous Region will continue to support the development of overseas investment enterprises.
Addressing the event president of the Himalaya Airlines Zhou Enyong said that he believes the cooperation with Huawei will speed up the digital transformation and informatisation of the company, optimise the ticketing and travelling experience for customers, and will contribute to the overall development of the entire civil aviation industry of Nepal. He also welcomed the third party cooperation based on the bilateral cooperation in software, instruments, and other service areas through united innovation and exploring solutions for betterment of the industry in this region.
Likewise, president of Huawei technology Cloud and AI business group of Asia Pacific Region Zhou Danjin shared that they will take this opportunity to employ Himalaya Airlines’ expertise in aviation field together with their strength in technology to push ahead the process of ‘Intelligentisation]. Through digital transformation for Himalaya and improve its competitiveness to realize the business potential.
Himalaya and Huawei will cooperate in ICT technologies represented by Huawei Cloud and AI, in order to achieve mutual benefits and common development. It will also include building the Cloud platform for Himalaya's sales and finance system, set up Business Intelligent (BI) system, and push ahead the upgrade and renovation of existing ICT equipment. Himalaya also is ready to explore all-round cooperation possibilities with Huawei and third parties in passenger and freight transportation systems in the future.

Saturday, June 27, 2020

Locusts may remain in Nepal for over a month, to hit food security

Experts have projected that the outbreak of locusts in Nepal may last for more than a month, and it may hit food security.
The entry of locust swarms into the country after fall armyworm and the Covid-19 pandemic is going to pose food security in Nepal. Food insecurity has also been compounded by coronavirus containment measures like lockdown, which has disrupted production and supply chains.
“A swarm of adult and premature locusts entered Nepal from Bara district via India yesterday,” former director general of the Department of Agriculture Dr Dilliram Sharma said, adding that it may remain in Nepal for around a month. “A premature locust can survive for a month while a mature one can survive around two weeks.”
“If a matured locust cannot lay eggs, it won’t survive for more than two weeks and it has to fly back to Rajasthan in order to lay eggs,” he added.
Likewise, locust, which usually migrates in large numbers – some 80 to 100 million – and destroys crops voraciously, however has entered Nepal in a swarm of few hundred thousands only. “So it could be controlled using insecticides.”
But the locusts, which had entered Nepal from southern plains are now traveling toward the western hilly regions as well. The swarms of locusts were also sighted in various other districts like Rupandehi, Palpa, Bara, Sarlahi, Parsa, Dang and Kathmandu.
According to the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) of the United Nations (UN), the desert locust (Schistocerca gregaria) is considered the most dangerous of all migratory pest species in the world. It threatens people’s livelihoods, food security, the environment and economic development. They can reproduce rapidly, migrate long distances, devastate crops and pastures and can easily affect more than 65 of the world’s poorest countries. Nepal might be in for a massive food insecurity, if locusts start ravaging crops amid this Covid-19 pandemic.
The FAO report reads that the desert locust has the ability to change its behaviour and appearance, under particular environmental conditions – unusually heavy rains – and transform itself from a harmless individual to part of a collective mass of insects that form a swarm, which can cross continents and seas, and quickly destroy a farmer’s field and his entire livelihood in a single morning.
Before entering Nepal, the locust must have been sighted in India and Nepali experts failed to monitor their movement, and the government also had claimed that the locust will not enter Nepal. But the government estimation came wrong, as it had happened in the case of coronavirus.
After reports of millions of hectares of land under attack by billions of locusts in Africa, China, Pakistan, and India, the government had formed a five-member task force in late May to study the possibility of their arrival in Nepal. However, a preliminary study by the task force had said that locusts are unlikely to invade Nepal.
Experts also said that the movement of the swarms will depend on the direction of the wind. The wind has been blowing west to the north for the last two days.
According to the FAO, an adult desert locust can consume roughly its own weight in fresh food per day that is about two grams every day. “A one square-kilometer size swarm contains about 40 million locusts, which eat the same amount of food in one day as about 35,000 people, 20 camels or 6 elephants,” the FAO report reads.
After sudden attacks from locusts reported in different districts yesterday, the Agriculture Ministry called an emergency meeting, inviting government officials and experts from all seven provinces, and asked them to be on high alert. “Nepal had experienced its first locust attack in 1962,” according to the ministry. “However, the worst locust attack was observed in 1996 when swarm incursions destroyed 80 per cent of crops in Chitwan and partially damaged crops in Makwanpur, Mahottari and Bara districts.”

Friday, June 26, 2020

Nepal, Switzerland join hands to develop small irrigation systems in the Mid-hills

Nepal and Switzerland joined hands to develop small irrigation systems in the Mid-hills in Province 1.
Joint secretary at the Finance Ministry Shreekrishna Nepal and ambassador of Switzerland to Nepal Elisabeth von Capeller signed the agreement to implement Small Irrigation Programme (SIP)-Phase II and exchanged it between them, on behalf of their respective governments, today at the Finance Ministry.
The total budget of the programme is over 49.46 million Swiss Francs (equivalent to Rs 5.69 billion) where Switzerland has agreed to provide grants of 17.60 million Swiss Francs (equivalent to Rs 2.02 billion) and Nepal will contribute 8.86 million Swiss Francs (equivalent to Rs 1.02 billion),” reads a press note issued by the Embassy of Switzerland in Kathmandu. “The Province 1 government and participating local governments will contribute 20 per cent each of the total cost of the civil works, while Water Users Associations will contribute 10 per cent of the civil works,” it reads, adding that the programme will be implemented by the local governments of mid-hills of Province 1 over the next 4 and half years. “The programme will develop around 1,300 small irrigation schemes covering total irrigation area of 20,000 hectares benefitting more than 65,000 small farming households with an aim to double their agriculture income.”
The government has expressed its sincere appreciation to Switzerland for the assistance as well as its continued support in the socio-economic development of Nepal, the press note further reads.

Thursday, June 25, 2020

Unilever Nepal to introduce new vision of beauty

A multinational company is going to change the traditional definition of beauty and dropping the word ‘fair’ from their product ‘Fair & Lovely’ to support global campaign.
Unilever Nepal Limited (UNL) announced today the next step in the evolution of its skin care portfolio, with the rebranding of its brand Fair & Lovely, according to a press note issued by the company. “Taking forward the brand’s journey towards a more inclusive vision of beauty, the company will stop using the word ‘Fair’ in the brand name ‘Fair & Lovely’,” the press note reads, adding that the new name of ‘Fair & Lovely’ will be announced after the necessary regulatory approvals. “Over the last decade, Fair & Lovely’s advertising has evolved to communicate a message of women empowerment.”
In early 2019, the brand’s communication moved away from benefits of fairness, whitening and skin lightening, towards glow, even tone, skin clarity and radiance which are holistic measures of healthy skin, it adds. “UNL also removed any visuals or words on Fair & Lovely’s packaging that could indicate a fairness-led transformation – including the removal of two-faced cameo showing shade transformation, as well as the shade guides.”
UNL upholds principles that no association should be made between skin tone and a person’s achievement, potential or worth.
“We are making our skin care portfolio more inclusive and want to lead the celebration of a more diverse portrayal of beauty,” president for South Asia, Unilever Sanjiv Mehta said. “In 2019, we removed the two faced cameo as well as the shade guides from the packaging of Fair & Lovely and the brand communication progressed from fairness to glow which is a more holistic and inclusive measure of healthy skin,” he said, adding that the company now announce that it will remove the word ‘Fair’ from its brand name Fair & Lovely. “The new name is awaiting regulatory approvals, and the pack with the revised name will be available in the market in the next few months.”
Fair & Lovely is a pioneering technology that has made multiple skin health benefits available to millions of consumers at an affordable price. The brand has a combination of vitamin B3, B6, C & E, glycerine, UVA and UVB sunscreens and allantoin, which are known to improve skin health and protect the skin from external aggressors and environmental pollution. The product works to improve skin barrier function, boost the skin’s microbiome, improve skin firmness and smoothen skin texture to enhance radiance and glow holistically, the company claims. “In addition to the changes to Fair & Lovely, the rest of our skincare portfolio will also reflect the new vision of positive beauty.”

Japan extends grant aid for implementation of economic and social development programme

Japan has extended grant assistance of up to three hundred million Japanese Yen (equivalent to Rs 333 million) to Nepal for the Economic and Social Development Programme.
Ambassador of Japan to Nepal Saigo Masamichi and joint secretary at the International Economic Cooperation and Coordination Division of Finance Ministry Shreekrishna Nepal, signed notes to this effect today.
The Covid-19 infection has rapidly increased over the world and affecting human lives as well as economic and social activities, furthermore the dignity of people, reads a press note issued by the Japanese Embassy in Kathmandu.
Many countries have been trying to use their resources to take steps based on lessons learned in the past and cases of other countries to tackle the virus. Unfortunately, many also face difficulties to provide health and medical services, and this has already severely damaged economic and social activities and wellbeing of the people, it reads, adding that Japan has been working to archive the universal health coverage, however, the current crisis particularly affects countries with vulnerable health systems. “Therefore improvement of the health system of each country is essential.”
Based on awareness for the problems and in response to a request from Nepal, Japan will provide medical equipment to be utilised for taking measures against infectious diseases and the development of healthcare and medical systems.
Japan also intends to cooperate with the international community, including this support, to take a leading and active role to overcome this global crisis, the press note reads. “The Embassy of Japan is confident that the objectives envisaged by this programme will be achieved, and contribute towards further strengthening the relationship, friendship and cooperation between the peoples of Japan and Nepal.”

Lonely Planet ranks Everest base camp as 4th best trek in the world

Though Covid-19 has halted the movement worldwide hurting the tourism industry, Lonely Planet has listed Nepal’s Everest base camp as 4th best trek in the world.
“The Everest base camp trek that passes through Sherpa villages, glaciers and finally to the lap of the world's highest mountain – Mt Everest – has been ranked 4th best treks in the world,” reads the leading travel guide book publisher in the world, Lonely Planet. ‘The 10 best treks in the world’ – updated in June 2020 by the travel guidebook – reads that everybody wants a glimpse of the world’s highest mountain and that’s the reason why the Everest base camp trek has become so popular. “Reaching a height of 5,545m (18,193ft) at Kala Pattar, this two-three-week trek is extremely popular, thanks to its spectacular scenery but also romanticism; successful trekkers are able to proudly say they've stood at the base of the world's highest mountain.”
The trail threads between small, characterful mountain villages en route to the famous campground and is trafficked by Sherpa people of the Solu Khumbu, it further reads, adding that the heights reached during this trek are literally dizzying until you acclimatise to the altitude, and the continuous cutting across valleys certainly has its ups and downs. “Be warned: prime trekking season brings serious crowds.”
Most of the trek is through the Sagarmatha National Park – a UNESCO World Heritage Site as Sagarmatha is the Nepali name for Mt Everest – and a refuge for musk deer, snow leopard, Himalayan tahr, black bear and many spectacular types of iridescent pheasant.
Among the top 10 lists of the world's best trek, Mt Everest base camp trek trails behind the GR20 trail that goes through Corsica, France diagonally from North to South; Inca Trail in Peru and Pays Dogon in Mali, one of Africa’s most breathtaking regions. Other best treks, according to the Lonely Planet, are—Indian Himalayas in India; Routeburn Track in New Zealand; Overland Track in Australia; the Narrows in the US; the Haute Route in France-Switzerland and Baltoro Glacier & K2 in Pakistan.
The travel guidebook reads that these 10 classic treks are amongst the best on the planet; all of them require a sturdy pair of lungs, fit legs and a good amount of preparation. But the reward is an experience that lasts a lifetime.
Mt Everest has captivated intrepid men and women since the 1920s. The exploits of legends including George Mallory, Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay Sherpa put the mighty mountain on the map; thousands have followed, making huge sacrifices – many with their lives – in their own attempts to the summit, according to Lonely Planet.
Popularly known as the ‘Third Pole’, the trek to Mt Everest base camp has become an achievable goal for people from all walks of life who want a glimpse of the world’s highest peak in past few years. “In 2018, more than 56,000 people trekked in the Everest region.”

Wednesday, June 24, 2020

ADB retains top spot in aid transparency index, MCC also transparent

The Asian Development Bank (ADB) retained its first place ranking in the 2020 Aid Transparency Index (ATI), an independent measurement of aid transparency released today at the Brookings Institution in Washington, DC.
In the index, spearheaded by British nongovernment organization Publish What You Fund, ADB’s sovereign portfolio is ranked in the ‘very good’ transparency category of the ATI with the top score of 98. “I take great pride in ADB’s first position in an index that is playing a key role in helping to promote greater transparency and openness among international agencies,” ADB president Masatsugu Asakawa said, adding that ADB has continuously worked to improve the disclosure of its aid data in terms of quality and scope. “Our top ranking reflects the dedication of staff, across the organisation, to ensure adherence to aid transparency standards.”
This is the second time that ADB ranked No 1 in the ATI, which had its pilot run in 2011. The 2020 Index is the seventh full Index report to monitor and encourage progress toward aid transparency. Data collection was carried out from December 2019 to April 2020, and focused on 35 indicators, grouped into five components: finance and budgets, joining up development data, organizational planning and commitments, project attributes and performance. The Index groups donors into five categories based on their overall scores (out of 100).
Ten other organisations among the 47 ranked were this year classified in the ‘very good’ category with a score of at least 80 per cent – the World Bank-International Development Association (WB-IDA), the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the African Development Bank–Sovereign portfolio, the Inter-American Development Bank, the United Nations Children's Fund (UNCF), the US Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC), the Global Fund, UK Department for International Development, the Canada Global Affairs, and the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunisation.
The 2020 Aid Transparency Index reveals an improvement in overall transparency among the world’s major aid agencies. Development partners are publishing more, better quality data in the International Aid Transparency Initiative (IATI) Standard, according to the publishers. All of the development partners, except those in the ‘very poor’ category, are publishing IATI data about their activities and policies, meaning their information is open, timely, comparable and centralised, meeting the international standard for aid transparency.
ADB, based in Manila, is dedicated to reducing poverty in Asia and the Pacific through inclusive economic growth, environmentally sustainable growth, and regional integration. Established in 1966, it is owned by 68 members, 49 from the region.

Tuesday, June 23, 2020

New study finds strong momentum for Green Finance in Nepal

A new report by the IFC-facilitated Sustainable Banking Network (SBN) shows Nepal, Bangladesh and Mongolia have identified green finance as a top priority for sustainably developing their financial sectors.
The report, ‘Necessary Ambition: How Low-Income Countries Are Adopting Sustainable Finance to Address Poverty, Climate Change, and Other Urgent Challenges”, reads these countries face immediate and significant impacts from climate change, pollution, biodiversity loss, and social inequality that require urgent responses.
In the wake of the challenges, the report says in Asia, promoting green finance, such as green bonds and green loans, is particularly a focus in Bangladesh and Mongolia. The two countries, along with Nepal, are also working on developing national sustainable finance roadmaps as part of efforts to reduce market risk and incentivise green finance flows.
Likewise, executive director at the Nepal Rastra Bank (NRB) – the central bank of Nepal – Dev Kumar Dhakal said that the country should develop and implement sustainable finance related policies for a better and safer financial system. “These policies should not be detrimental to development activities, rather should guide the initiatives taken.”
“At a time when low-income countries across Asia and the Pacific are being adversely impacted by Covid-19, it’s all the more vital for countries to embrace sustainable financial development to build resilience for the future,” said IFC’s vice president for Asia and Pacific Nena Stoiljkovic. “The report highlights these Asian countries are resolute in their commitment to promoting sustainable finance and going green in planning for the future.”
Chief executive officer (CEO) and a board member of the Mongolian Sustainable Finance Bankers Association and co-chair of the SBN IDA Task Force, Naidalaa Badrakh said that there is positive evidence of changes in the way banks are managing environmental and social risks, compared to five years ago. In addition to green finance, the report shows the three Asian countries are also exploring ways to expand sustainable finance to other areas such as financing for small and medium sized enterprises and agriculture.
“In the context of a circular economy, resource efficiency is key,” joint director at the Sustainable Finance Department at Bangladesh Bank – the country's central bank – Asif Iqbal said, adding that sustainable finance has a larger role to play in poverty reduction.
Last year, IFC’s green bonds issuance in Asia-Pacific crossed $1 billion, addressing environmental and social challenges in some of the world’s most vulnerable and poorest countries. Last month, Mongolia’s Financial Regulatory Commission and IFC signed an MoU to further develop the market for green finance in Mongolia.

Monday, June 22, 2020

Global trade falls steeply in first half of 2020

The global trade fell sharply in the first half of the year, as the Covid-19 pandemic upended the world economy. However, rapid government responses helped temper the contraction, and World Trade Organisation (WTO) economists now believe that while trade volumes will register a steep decline in 2020, they are unlikely to reach the worst-case scenario projected in April.
The volume of merchandise trade shrank by 3 per cent year-on-year in the first quarter according to WTO statistics. Initial estimates for the second quarter, when the virus and associated lockdown measures affected a large share of the global population, indicate a year-on-year drop of around 18.5 per cent. These declines are historically large, but could have been much worse. The WTO's April 20 annual trade forecast, in light of the large degree of uncertainty around the pandemic’s severity and economic impact, set out two plausible paths: a relatively optimistic scenario in which the volume of world merchandise trade in 2020 would contract by 13 per cent, and a pessimistic scenario in which trade would fall by 32 per cent. As things currently stand, trade would only need to grow by 2.5 per cent per quarter for the remainder of the year to meet the optimistic projection. However, looking ahead to 2021, adverse developments, including a second wave of Covid-19 outbreaks, weaker than expected economic growth, or widespread recourse to trade restrictions, could see trade expansion fall short of earlier projections.
"The fall in trade we are now seeing is historically large, in fact, it would be the steepest on record,” said director-general Roberto Azev√™do. “But there is an important silver lining here: it could have been much worse,” he said, adding that it is genuinely positive news but we cannot afford to be complacent. “Policy decisions have been critical in softening the ongoing blow to output and trade, and they will continue to play an important role in determining the pace of economic recovery.”
“For output and trade to rebound strongly in 2021, fiscal, monetary, and trade policies will all need to keep pulling in the same direction,” he added.
In light of available trade data for the second quarter, the April forecast’s pessimistic scenario, which assumed even greater health and economic costs than what had transpired, appears less likely, since it implied sharper declines in the first and second quarters.
The Covid-19 pandemic and associated containment efforts intensified in the second half of March. Strict social distancing measures and restrictions on travel and transport were fully in effect in most countries throughout April and May, and are now increasingly being relaxed. These developments are reflected in a variety of economic indicators which, taken together, suggest trade may have possibly bottomed out in the second quarter of 2020. Global commercial flights, which carry a substantial amount of international air cargo, were down nearly three quarters (-74 per cent) between January 5 and April 18, and have since risen 58 per cent through mid-June. Container port throughput also appears to have staged a partial recovery in June compared to May. Meanwhile, indices of new export orders from purchasing managers' indices also started to recover in May after record drops in April. It is useful to keep in mind that these rebounds follow historic or near-historic declines, and will need to be monitored carefully before drawing any definitive conclusions about the recovery.
Looking ahead to next year, a slower-than-expected pace of economic recovery would weigh on trade growth, which will see trade growth for 2021 come in at closer to 5 per cent, which would leave it well below the pre-pandemic trajectory. On the other hand, a quick return to its pre-pandemic trajectory would imply trade growth in 2021 of around 20 per cent, in line with the April forecast’s optimistic scenario.
The World Bank, OECD and IMF have all released forecasts showing significant slowdowns in global trade and GDP; all are broadly consistent with the WTO's forecast for the current year. The World Bank's recent forecast would see global output decline by 5.2 per cent in 2020, falling between the WTO's optimistic and pessimistic range. Other international organizations' GDP forecasts for 2020 are also increasingly negative, even as their trade projections stay roughly in line with the WTO's optimistic scenario. These estimates imply a less negative trade response to declining GDP growth than was observed during the global financial crisis of 2008-09.
The responsiveness of trade to changes in income can be measured by the ratio of the growth of merchandise trade volumes to real GDP growth at market exchange rates, also referred to as the income elasticity of trade. The implied elasticity under the WTO's optimistic forecast for 2020 was 5.3 – in line with that seen during the financial crisis. However, if world GDP instead contracts by the World Bank's estimated 5.2 per cent with a trade decline of 13.4 per cent.

Online nomination ICT Award 2020 starts

The online nomination (application) for the fifth edition of the ICT Award – a prestigious award in the information technology field in Nepal – has started from today. The online application for the ICT Award 2020, organised by ‘Living with ICT’ in collaboration with various government and private organisations, will be open till July 31, according to a press note issued by Living with ICT.
The ICT award has been delayed for some time this year due to the crisis and impact caused by Covid-19 pandemic, the press note reads, adding that the award ceremony, which is held on August 17 every year, will be delayed for some time this year. “Final date of the award will be announced after looking at the favourable time and situation after the deadline for online application is over.”
This year, ICT Award will be organised in 11 different categories, according to the organiser. The Innovation Driven Crisis Response ICT Award and the Woman Icon ICT Award categories have been added this year, it said, adding that Startup ICT Award, Product ICT Award, Rising Student ICT Award are the awards categories related to innovations and startups. “Likewise, Pioneer ICT Award, Nepali Diaspora ICT Award, ICT Entrepreneur Award and Media Person ICT Award are given to individuals.”
The Digital Governance ICT Award and Digital Education ICT Award are given to government organisations. The ICT Award – which started in 2016 – has so far honoured more than 30 individuals, organisations, companies and products in various categories, claimed the organiser.
Last year, the Startup ICT Award was received by E-Digital Nepal and the Product ICT Award was received by Mediflow Systems and Services. Similarly, the Rising Student ICT Award was received by Raktadan-Blood Donation Project. Likewise, Mahabir Pun was felicitated with the Pioneer Award, Dr Sameer Maskey with Nepali Diaspora Award, and Amit Agrawal with ICT Entrepreneur Award. The Digital Governance Award was received by the Public Service Commission and the Digital Education Award was received by the Nepal Open University (NOU). The Public Choice Award went to Kitabyatra and the Media Person ICT Award went to Bijay Timalsina.
This year, there are 12 jury members and 10 more jury advisory members to make the selection process of the award systematic and easy. The selection process will take place at different stages. Online and SMS voting will also be conducted by selecting the best 5 from different stages in startup, product, student project and innovation, while in other genres, the jury group will conduct the selection process at different stages.

Sunday, June 21, 2020

CDC Group establishes presence in Nepal, invest more

CDC Group Plc – the UK’s impact investor for Africa and South Asia -- welcomes Rabi Rayamajhi as country representative for Nepal.
Rabi joins CDC from the Department for International Development (DfID) Nepal, where he was a private sector development advisor for four years and led projects in the financial and SME sectors. Prior to his role at DfID, Rabi used to provide advisory support to the Investment Board of Nepal (IBN) in promoting foreign investment and executing large-scale infrastructure projects in waste management, hydropower and cement sectors. He started his career at Standard Chartered Bank and has an MBA qualification from Singapore Management University.
According to a press note issued by the CDC, Rabi will be based at CDC’s representative office in Kathmandu, where he will work closely with CDC teams across Asia.
Over the last 18 months, CDC has made long term commitments to three businesses that will help economically support thousands of Nepalis through jobs, products and services. “We made a direct investment of a $15 million in NMB Bank, one of Nepal’s leading commercial banks,” the press note reads, adding that it was followed by a $12 million investment into a leading internet provider WorldLink, and a subsequent $21.9 million investment into the Upper Trishuli-1 Hydroelectric Project, which will supply clean and reliable electricity to millions of Nepalis.
In 2019 – along with a consortium of lenders – CDC signed a $453 million debt financing package to help build a hydro-electric plant in the Upper Trishuli region of central Nepal. Upper Trishuli is expected to help create over 20,000 jobs in the Nepali economy across multiple sectors. The hydro-electric plant will also increase Nepal’s electricity supply by one-third from today’s levels and provide clean, reliable power to millions of people.
For CDC, the Upper Trishuli commitment in 2019 swiftly followed a $15 million three-year loan to NMB Bank, one of the country’s leading commercial banks. In the same year we invested $12 million of equity in to the country’s largest private sector internet service provider, WorldLink.
Rabi will help accelerate our commitment to invest more capital in Nepal, and support local businesses to advance their commercial success as they work to adopt internationally recognised environmental, social and governance standards. He joins CDC at a time of uncertainty as the pandemic is challenging the lives of people, communities and businesses across Nepal, the press note further reads, adding that as a committed long-term provider of flexible capital to the private sector, CDC has never been more important. “With a mandate that includes providing counter-cyclical financing during financial crises, CDC is playing a role in protecting jobs and businesses.”
The firm’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic has three areas of focus: ‘preserve’, ‘strengthen’ and ‘rebuild’. CDC’s goal is to support the economic stability that will improve the lives of millions of people in Africa and South Asia, read more on its response framework here.
Head of Asia at CDC Srini Nagarajan welcomed Rabi to CDC as the Country Representative in Nepal. “His expertise in private sector development and extensive knowledge of the investment environment in Nepal will boost CDC’s priority of providing increased long-term capital support to businesses and bolstering sector growth in the country,” Nagarajan said, adding that Rabi will be instrumental in strengthening our partnership with businesses and broadening CDC presence in Nepal, as it works to enhance corporate governance, develop environmental and social strategies, promoting skills and job creation that power Nepal’s economy.
Likewise, the newly appointed country representative for Nepal Rabi Rayamajhi, said that he is proud to be representing CDC in Nepal and supporting the execution of the organisation’s mission to bring about lasting development impact and widespread economic growth in Nepal. “In only a short period of time, CDC’s commitment to Nepal’s finance and infrastructure sector has resulted in improved access and connectivity throughout the country,” he said, adding that he is keen to get to work on developing local partnerships that will continue to boost business growth and improve the lives of millions of people.
Welcoming a stronger presence for CDC in Nepal acting UK ambassador and country director for DfID, Nepal Lisa Honan said that the UK continues is committed to playing a strong role in working with the government of Nepal and all development stakeholders to ensure Nepal is ‘open for business’. “While the current Covid crisis has adversely affected Nepal’s economy, there are also opportunities for investments to help ensure Nepal’s recovery is resilient to future shocks and promotes green growth,” Honan added.

Gold price hits historic high of Rs 90,600 per tola

The price of precious yellow metal reached a historic high of Rs 90,600 per tola (11.664 grams) today.
According to the Federation of Nepal Gold and Silver Dealers’ Association (Fenegosida, the price of gold has increased by Rs 700 per tola in two days, as it was priced at Rs 89,900 on Friday.
After remaining shut for almost two-and-a-half months – due to lockdowm imposed by the government to contain coronavirus (Covid-19), domestic bullion market opened with an increased price tag of Rs 10,400 per tola to Rs 87,400. Before lockdown, gold was being traded for Rs 77,000 per tola in March.
After the market opened on June 7, The Fenegosida fixed the price at Rs 87,400 per tola. Since, then the price of gold has been increasing steadily, also due to marriage season and price hike in international market as the global economy continues to be unstable. The increasing price of gold has made people sell their gold jewellary.
The association said that the increased selling has put pressure on the dealers. Thus, gold dealers have requested consumers to limit the selling of gold jewellary as the industry itself is suffering due to the lockdown. The association claimed that there are around 22,000 gold trader with an estimated investment of Rs 60 billion in the country.
An average of 20 kg of gold used to be traded daily before the lockdown but it has come down to almost zero after the market resumption.

Saturday, June 20, 2020

Government apathy leaves share trading uncertain, again

Share trading has become uncertain again as the government and regulatory authority both seems least concerned about the investors.
Nepal Stock Exchange (Nepse) today evening published a notice extending the suspension of share trading activities in the securities market that was going to start trading from Sunday.
A week ago, Securities Board of Nepal (Sebon) has asked the Nepse to do necessary preparations to start share trading from Sunday as the government has relaxed the lockdown since June 15. Earlier, the Nepse had also claimed that it was preparing for the share trading from Sunday. But Nepse suspended share trading – publishing a notice Saturday evening – until further notice.
According to the notice published by the Nepse, the Nepse will remain closed from June 21 onwards until further notice.
The share trading has been halted after the government imposed lockdown – to contain the spread of coronavirus (Covid-19) – from March 24. But the secondary market witnessed trading – after a huge pressure from the investors – for 2 days on May 12 and 13 for two hours each day. As the market continue to drop, Nepse suspended the trading again. “The immature decision of both the Sebon – the regulator – and Nepse is to blame for the longest suspension of the share trade,” the angry investors said, adding that the Finance Ministry treats Sebon as its department not as a regulator of the capital market. “The incumbent finance minister Dr Yuba raj Khatiwada takes share market as unproductive sector, though it is the best vehicle for capital formation for the limited-income people and also for those who have a little savings.”
Citing the board’s decision – as per the instruction of the government agencies to halt mobility for Covid 19 prevention – Nepse has clarified that the suspension will remain in place until there’s any new development, the statement reads.
The investors, however, blame the regulator and government for their apathy towards the share market, and also smell rat. “There has been a talk going around that the share trading has been halted to replace new software in place of current software,” they claimed, adding that the Finance Ministry is hands on globe with the provider of the new software, for whom the share market and investors have been made scapegoat. “A huge policy corruption is been suspected in the Nepse, and Sebon cannot act on its own as it is neither an autonomous regulator like central bank nor has any legal teeth and manpower to play a real regulator because the incumbent government is not share-market friendly.”

Chand-led NCP demands Nepali youths be barred from joining Gorkha Regiment

The outlawed Nepal Communist Party (NCP) today demanded that the Nepali youths be barred from joining the Gorkha Regiment of Indian Army.
Issuing a press note, the Netra Bikram Chand aka Biplov-led political outfit said that the recruitment of Nepali nationals in Gurkha Regiment should no longer be continued, something that the incumbent government used to say around three decades ago as communists in Nepal has interpreted nationalism as protest against the India.
The press note has been issued by the underground outfit at a time of recent border dispute between India and China in the Galwan Valley in Ladakh. “Amid India-China border tension followed by the killing of Indian troops in the Galwan Valley, India has recently asked Nepali nationals in the Gorkha Regiment, who are currently on home leave, to rejoin their duties,” the press note reads, explaining that it means the Indian side is preparing to deploy Nepali nationals in the Indian Army in their battle against China.
Pointing out that the chances of the Gorkha Regiment's deployment in the battle against China on behalf of India, the underground outfit said that Nepal is an independent nation and its youths working for the military of one country should not be used against the other. “This will also be against Nepal's Non-aligned foreign policy,” the Chand-led outfit said, adding that it will not be acceptable to its party. “Both neighboring countries China and India are equally important for Nepal.”
“It’s a matter of shame that our youths are being used as mercenaries in foreign armies,” the press note reads, adding that it is just the continuation of agreements reached between the feudal Ranas and the imperial powers in the past. “We urge the government to bar the Nepali youths from joining the Gorkha Regiment and create employment opportunities at home itself.”
Appealing Nepali youths not to join the Indian Army in the days to come, the outfit also urged the Indian government not to deploy the Gorkha Regiment in its battle against China.

Friday, June 19, 2020

Government restricts movement of people and vehicles in night

The government has restricted the movement of people and vehicles from 10 pm to 5 am except for emergency purposes.
Issuing a new directive ‘Lockdown Security Standards-2020,’ today, the Ministry of Home Affairs said that people will not be allowed to walk outside their homes in the nighttime from 10 pm to 5 am. “The new directive is aimed at maintaining high security alert as the lockdown is being gradually eased,” the directives reads, adding that Nepal Police personnel will be monitoring people's movement from 10 pm to 5 am. “For factories and industries, the government has limited the number of workers to only 10 at a given time,” it adds.
The government has brought the directives after 87 days of lock down to contain the spread of coronavirus (Covid-19). The government imposed the lockdown from March 24, and has been extending it time to time. But from June 15, the government has relaxed lockdown depending on the places and number of cases. The country has lost over Rs 600 billion in the last 87 days, making the government broke as the lockdown halted the revenue mobilisation. One one hand the economy is going to register negative growth and on the other poor people have started dying due to hunger as they have been out of work since last three months. The government's mishandling of the pandemic has also bleed the government coffer as it has no money to pay salary to the government employees from next month. 
A Cabinet meeting on June 10 has tasked the Home Ministry to prepare a security modality to manage the lockdown as it will be gradually eased. The directives is issued as part of government strategy to ease the lockdown in different stages.
From June 15, the government has allowed to operate private vehicles – both two-and-four-wheelers – under odd-even number system in 73 districts – except Sarlahi, Rautahat, Kapilvastu and Dailekh districts – from five in the morning till ten at night.
The directive has also limited the number of people in goods carrying vehicles to only two.
Likewise, the new directive has also barred more than 15 persons to gather for in religious and cultural gatherings, including marriages and funerals, at one place. Likewise, more than 10 persons will not be allowed to gather at one time in factories, manufacturing companies and construction sites, the directives reads, adding that the security agencies and the district administration offices in all 77 districts have been asked to strictly implement the directive. “The ministry has also instructed the concerned agencies to fully implement the 'Health Protocol’ like including physical distancing rule of at least 2 metres between two persons, issued by the Health Ministry while enforcing the rule.”
The ministry directed the authorities to take action against those who violate the rule under the existing laws, including Essential Services Operation Act, 1957, Infectious Disease Act, 1964, National Criminal Procedure (Code) Act, 2017, and Local Administration Act, 1971.

Thursday, June 18, 2020

UN forum calls for greater investments in statistics to ensure no one, nowhere is left behind post Covid-19

Increasing investments in official statistics as well as empowering users will be a crucial factor to support post-pandemic socio-economic recovery in the Asia-Pacific region, underscored delegates at the close of a United Nations (UN) meeting today.
The Asia-Pacific Statistics Week, organised by the UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP), brought together more than 1000 participants representing governments, national statistics offices, central banks, academia and international organisations. 85 papers from 18 countries and eight international organizations were discussed at the four-day virtual forum.
“Official statistics are essential to trust, accountability and transparency,” United Nations under-secretary-general and executive secretary of ESCAP Armida Salsiah Alisjahbana said at the closing session. “Asia and the Pacific is poised to build back better after Covid-19 with stronger, more empowered national statistical offices supporting inclusive societies. “They are innovating and embracing digital transformations.”
“Official statistics provide governments, businesses and civil society with the indispensable information they need to make good decisions,” shared president of the International Association for Official Statistics John Pullinger. “And they give people and their representatives the tools to have informed debates, to make choices and to hold decision makers to account,” he said, adding that the Asia-Pacific Statistics Week is a wonderful example of the reach of official statistics in Asia and the Pacific.
The forum focused on progress made towards the Asia-Pacific Collective Vision and Framework for Action for advancing official statistics for the 2030 Agenda under five action areas. It discussed empowering national statistical systems to meet urgent and evolving statistical needs by strengthening statistical skills, modernising statistical business processes, legal and institutional structures, and engaging users.
While the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development has placed greater demand for a wider scope of statistics, many countries in the region continue to struggle with getting the basics such as population and economic statistics right. Participants highlighted the increasing need for regional substantive support in this area, and for more data integration to support analysis of sustainable development issues. They also underscored the importance of engaging users to make national statistical systems more responsive and able to develop strategies for better-informed policy decisions.
Held annually since 2016, the Asia-Pacific Statistics Week is a key forum in the region that provides a platform for knowledge sharing among practitioners involved in the production and use of statistics.

Wednesday, June 17, 2020

Dolma Impact Fund invests $1 million in Sastodeal

Dolma Impact Fund has made an additional investment of one million dollars in Sastodeal.com.
Founded in 2011, Sastodeal – one of the leading local e-commerce companies in Nepal – has raised $1 million from Dolma Impact Fund alongside other existing shareholders as part of an ongoing fundraising round. The growth investment will be used towards reaching Sastodeal’s milestone target of achieving Rs 1 billion in annual revenues within the next 18 months, according to a press note issued by the company.
One of Nepal’s biggest and most popular online shopping platforms, the company was growing at near-about 300 per cent before Co -19 hit Nepal, the press note reads, adding that during the lockdown, Sastodeal saw new customer numbers spike with e-commerce booming.
“We worked as part of a government taskforce, along with other e-commerce providers, to deliver essentials during lockdown,” said chief executive officer (CEO) Amun Thapa. “Now that the lockdown is easing gradually, we can see there is more demand than ever as new customers are now familiar with online shopping.”
Dolma Impact Fund – the first international private equity fund investing in Nepal – is already a shareholder in Sastodeal. They have now approved a significant fresh investment, alongside some existing local shareholders, to fund the next stage of growth. This will include an expansion of product categories, talent acquisition, core operations, vendor empowerment, and an expansion to other regions in Nepal.
“One thing that was obvious during lockdown was the limitation of catering to customers outside the Kathmandu Valley,” Thapa said, adding that the investment will enable us bring the benefits of e-commerce to both consumers and businesses to a much wider audience.
“This is a high growth industry which performed a vital task during lockdown,” chief executive officer of Dolma Impact Fund Tim Gocher said, adding that the new investment reflects the company’s belief in the Sastodeal team and the company continued investment in Nepal’s technology sector, alongside healthcare and renewable energy investments. “We are delighted to lead this round of financing alongside local partners.”
Dolma Impact Fund is already a shareholder in Sastodeal. They have now approved a significant fresh investment, alongside some existing local shareholders, to fund the next stage of growth. This will include an expansion of product categories, talent acquisition, core operations, vendor empowerment, and an expansion to other regions in Nepal. Sastodeal also has plans to reveal a big partnership with an outside firm in the upcoming days.
“E-commerce is surely an attractive space for investments in India and countries around the globe and we are also witnessing similar trends in Nepal,” Thapa adds.
Sastodeal also has plans to reveal a big partnership with an outside firm in the upcoming days. “The partnership will be a game-changer for Nepal and we hope the announcement will get the entire nation excited,” CCO Amitesh Roy said.
Meanwhile, the company has also stated that Sastodeal is in talks with various local and international investors to close this fundraising round in a few months.

Tuesday, June 16, 2020

Livelihoods of more than 55 million domestic workers at risk due to Covid-19

Nearly three-quarters of domestic workers around the world – more than 55 million people – are at significant risk of losing their jobs and income due to lockdown and lack of effective social security coverage, according to new estimates by the International Labour Organisation (ILO).
The vast majority – some 37 million – of these domestic workers are women. An assessment made at the beginning of June shows that the most affected region was Southeast Asia and the Pacific, with 76 per cent of domestic workers at risk, followed by the Americas (74 per cent) Africa (72 per cent) and Europe (45 per cent).
While domestic workers in both formal and informal employment have been affected, those in informal employment accounted for 76 per cent of those at risk of losing their jobs or working hours.
In countries with strict levels of lockdown, domestic workers, whether formally or informally employed, have been unable to go to work. But while some of those formally employed still had access to unemployment insurance, for domestic workers in informal employment staying home has meant losing their livelihoods with no safety net to fall back on, making it difficult for them to put food on the table.
The pandemic has exacerbated pre-existing issues. Only 10 per cent of domestic workers have access to social security, meaning no paid sick leave, guaranteed access to health care, employment injury benefits or unemployment insurance. Many domestic workers earn as little as 25 per cent of average wages, leaving them without savings in case of a financial emergency.
“The Covid-19 crisis  has exposed the particular vulnerability of informal domestic workers, emphasising the urgent need to ensure they are effectively included in labour and social protection” said ILO technical officer for Vulnerable Workers Claire Hobden said, adding that it disproportionately affects women who make up the vast majority of domestic workers worldwide.
In some regions domestic workers are predominantly migrants who rely on their pay to support their families in their countries of origin. Non-payment of wages and the closure of remittance services has left the families of migrant domestic workers at risk of poverty and hunger.
Live-in domestic workers have mostly continued to work, in confinement with their employers. However, reports suggest they have worked longer hours due to school closures and are carrying out more demanding cleaning tasks.
In other cases employers have stopped paying their live-in domestic workers, due to their own financial circumstances or a belief that domestic workers do not need their salaries since they cannot go out.
In some countries, where migrant domestic workers are required to live with their employers, some have been found on the streets after their employers dismissed them for fear of catching the virus. This puts them at risk of trafficking.
The ILO is working with domestic workers’ organisations and employers’ organisations to ensure the health and livelihoods of domestic workers. It is undertaking rapid assessments of the level and nature of the risks facing them, so that governments can devise policies that guarantee at least basic social security coverage, including access to essential health care and basic income security.
Twenty-nine countries have ratified ILO Convention 189 on decent work for domestic workers, which was adopted nine years ago by the International Labour Conference. Many more have taken concrete measures to extend labour and social protection coverage to domestic workers. The ILO has supported roughly sixty countries to close gaps in coverage.
While these measures have increased the number of domestic workers in formal employment, the overall rate of informality remains high. The ILO has called for efforts to formalise domestic work to be urgently accelerated in order to protect domestic workers from future shocks.

Israel gifts medical supplies to support fight against Covid -19

Ambassador of Israel to Nepal Benny Omer today handed over medical supplies to the Health and Population Minister Bhanu Bhakta Dhakal, at the premises of the Health Ministry, to support Nepal's fight to contain Covid-19.
According to a press note issued by the Embassy of Israel in Kathmandu, the Embassy provided 550 units of Personal Protective Equipment (PPEs), 10,000 units of masks, 50 units of Infrared Digital Thermometers and 5,000 pairs of surgical gloves. “Additionally, hand sanitizers, hand sprayers and disinfectant solutions were also donated amidst a function at the Ministry of Health and Population," it reads.
"A friend in need is a friend indeed. Israel and Nepal are at the same side in the fight against this pandemic of Covid-19 to save lives," ambassador Benny Omer, on the occasion, said.
Accepting the gift of people of Israel, the minister Dhakal thanked on behalf of Nepal government. "I would like to thank the Government of Israel for your solidarity and support during our battle against Covid-19," he said, adding that sending these essential medical goods to ward it off gives a message that the Government of Israel and Israeli friends are with Nepal and Nepalis during this challenging time. "Together we can and we will win against Covid-19.”
This is a gift from people of Israel to the people of Nepal to help protect doctors, nurses and others, who work in the frontline to save lives of the patients suspected and infected with the virus, the press note reads, adding that the cooperation is manifestation of the Nepal-Israel friendship and mutual affinity to help battle against the spread of Covid-19.

15th Asia Clean Energy Forum to focus on role of clean energy in post-Covid 19 recovery and resilience

Greater investment in clean energy infrastructure will contribute to Asia and the Pacific’s recovery from the coronavirus disease (Covid-19) pandemic and make economies more resilient against future shocks, participants at the Asia Clean Energy Forum (ACEF) 2020 heard today.
“It is clear that the Covid-19 crisis has made tackling climate change and other development issues an even bigger challenge,” said Asian Development Bank (ADB) president Masatsugu Asakawa in his opening remarks. “However, the situation offers opportunities and we must now seize the chance to rebuild smartly,” he said, adding that as the region’s leading clean energy event, ACEF is the ideal forum to discuss these opportunities and ensure that clean energy plays a core role in helping Asia and the Pacific emerge stronger than before.
Co-hosted by ADB, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), and the Korea Energy Agency (KEA), ACEF takes place from June 15 to 19 welcoming more than 4,000 delegates to the online-only event, including policymakers, energy specialists, private sector participants, and members of civil society organizations from around the world.
On its 15th anniversary, ACEF is being held as a virtual, livestreamed-only event in response to the Covid-19 pandemic and to ensure energy efficiency. Registered delegates can access all 28 sessions and side events, participate in panel Q&As, and network with other participants through a dedicated web app and state-of-the-art technology. This format ensures participants’ health and safety and reduces the costs and greenhouse gas emissions associated with holding a physical event.
This year’s theme, Vision 20/20: Cross-sectoral Innovations for a Sustainable Future, explores the roadmap for achieving countries’ energy-related nationally determined contributions under the Paris Agreement; innovations at the nexus of energy, transport, and urban development; and building energy sector resilience, particularly in fragile and small island countries.
ADB vice-president for Knowledge Management and Sustainable Development Bambang Susantono welcomed participants to the event and highlighted the forum’s emphasis on energy challenges in Asia and the Pacific amid the Covid-19 pandemic. In his keynote address, International Energy Agency (IEA) executive director Fatih Birol stressed the importance of addressing climate change and air pollution in the recovery. A panel discussion, including Sri Lanka’s permanent secretary of Ministry of Power and Energy Wasantha Perera and International Solar Alliance director general Upendra Tripathy, explored the prospects for development finance and capacity building in the region.
ACEF 2020 will launch a new innovation challenge: Digitising Waste Collection through Handling, Tracking, and Recycling to Disposal. Proposals are invited for digital solutions to improve waste management, reduce the amount of material sent to landfills, and increase sustainability in order to create more resilient communities.
ADB invested more than $23 billion in clean energy from 2008 to 2019. Last year, ADB’s climate financing reached a record $6.56 billion, meeting its target of doubling its annual climate investments from 2014 one year ahead of schedule. Under Strategy 2030, ADB is targeting $80 billion in cumulative climate financing from its own resources by 2030 and for at least 75 per cent of its country operations to feature climate adaptation and mitigation initiatives.
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.

Reduction in remittances can have other major ripple effects on Nepali economy

LORENA LANDO
Chief of Mission
International Organization for Migration – IOM
Kathmandu, Nepal
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Loren Lando is Chief of Mission of the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) in Nepal since September 2019. Prior to her posting in Nepal, she was IOM Chief of Mission to the Republic of Tunisia (2011 – 2019), Deputy Chief of Mission in Sri Lanka (2010 – 2011), Chief of Mission a.i. in France (2009 – 2010), Deputy Chief of Mission in Afghanistan (2006 – 2008). Earlier she also worked in Iraq, Jordan, in the Balkans, Liberia and Central America. Lando has been serving in development and humanitarian field for over 25 years and has been advocating for migrants’ rights, migrants protection, and highlighting the contribution of migration to development during her service with IOM since 2000. Earlier Lando holds an International Post-graduate Diploma in Humanitarian Assistance, Fordham University, New York, USA; Post-graduate Diploma on Civilian Personnel in Peacekeeping Operations, Scuola Sup. Sant’Anna di Pisa, Italy; Certificate in Development Studies, University of London, UK; and BA with Honours in Modern Languages (Maj) and SocioEconomics Studies, University of Westminster, London, UK. An Italian national, Lando speaks English, French, Spanish, and Italian. We talked talks about the current woes of migrants, their evacuation, depleting remittance sent by them, with her on the occasion of International Day of Family Remittances that falls on June 16 ever year.

What is this year's motto and programmes for International Day of Family Remittances, and how has IOM planned to celebrate in such troubled times?
The International Day of Family Remittances (IDFR), which is observed on 16 June every year, is a universally-recognized observance adopted by the United Nations. The day recognises the contribution of over 200 million migrant workers to improve the lives of their 800 million family members back home and to create a future of hope for their children.
The IDFR is fully recognised at global level, and included as one of the key initiatives to implement the newly-adopted Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration, also calling for the reduction of remittance transfer costs, and greater financial inclusion through remittances. The Day is also functional to the pursuit of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. This year, the IDFR will be observed, as you called, in such a ‘troubled times’. Covid-19 has changed the world. Millions of migrant workers are losing their jobs, and many remittance-receiving households are suddenly pushed below the poverty line, bringing to a halt efforts to reach their own individual SDGs.
With estimated 2.4 million Nepalis working in over 100 countries across the globe and contribution of remittances in GDP equivalent to 27.3 per cent in 2019, remittances are a lifeline for over 50 per cent Nepali households.
To mark the day in Nepal, IOM is hosting a webinar on ‘Impacts of Covid-19 in Remittances and Nepalese Economy’ which will bring together regulatory authorities and experts to discuss on the impact of the pandemic and way forward. The webinar is on 16 June starting at 11am. The invitation is open to all. Anybody interested can join through this link.
Similarly a radio episode is being aired on impacts of Covid-19 on remittances and its consequences on migrants’ families and the country through a radio network of over 200 radio stations all over Nepal.   
In addition to that, with the aim to encourage the migrants and their families to convert remittances into sustainable source of livelihoods, IOM, remittance through social media outlets, will be posting testimonies of few returnee migrants who have been successfully running their small-scale businesses back home utilising the.

How has the IOM been collaborating with the Nepal government to bring in the Nepali migrant workers from different labour destination countries?
Sadly, as all other crisis the Covid-19 pandemic has hit the most vulnerable the hardest. The migrants are disproportionately impacted by the negative effects of the pandemic, including soaring unemployment rates and possible loss of income. With nearly all countries worldwide enforcing travel restrictions in an effort to contain the spread of virus, many migrants are unable to return to their countries or origin or reach their intended destinations.
Nepali migrants are certainly no exception. According to various sources, around 450,000 Nepali migrants are projected to lose their jobs and over 127,000 migrants are already in need of immediate assistance in host countries with little or no support and are unable to support their families at home. The Government of Nepal has started repatriation of Nepali migrants beginning last week on priority basis. Most of them have lost their jobs and many are in need of immediate assistance. 
With this evolving situation, IOM, in coordination and partnership with CSOs, other UN Agencies, and development partners, has been supporting the Government in its efforts to address the migrants-related issues. In line with IOM Covid-19 global preparedness and response plan to control further transmission and mitigate the impact of the outbreak, IOM Nepal’s focus initially are on preparedness and response, however, recovery is a major activity to address the socio-economic reintegration of the vulnerable groups. 
IOM has proposed strategic actions to support a coordinated prevention, mitigation and response efforts of stakeholders from federal, provincial and cross-border to control transmission and mitigate negative impact in the society and reduce a huge strain in the health care system, aligned with Health Sector Emergency Plan for Covid-19 pandemic and Joint UN Country Preparedness and Response Plan for Covid-19 pandemic in Nepal.
Currently, IOM has been providing technical support and expertise to Ministry of Health on issues related to migration health during the health cluster coordination meetings.
IOM leads the migrant protection sub-group consisting of government agencies, civil society, development partners and UN, which discusses prevailing the protection concerns of migrants and suggests way forward to address the issues. IOM will identify most vulnerable migrants and provide cash support to address their immediate needs as well as a longer-term reintegration supports to some migrants. 
IOM will be providing Non-food Items (NFIs) to most vulnerable communities of provinces 1, 5 and Sundurpaschim province. Personal protective equipment such as 3000 coverall, 1000 goggles, 3000 gloves, 3000 N95 masks, 25,000 surgical masks, 275 liters of hand sanitizers will be provided mainly for point of entries (PoEs).
IOM has been running various migrants-focused risk communications such as television and radio programmes, audio/visual messages and social media campaigns to raise migrants-related issues and raise awareness among Nepali migrants both in the country as well as in destination countries about preventive measures to help spread of the virus, to mental health issues during the crisis, as well as awareness among general public against anti-migrants discrimination and stigma as spreader of the virus. IOM has also developed a one-stop online information center for migrants with all migration-related information in Nepal such as travel restrictions, work permit, visa, migrant-focused awareness raising messages and so on. 
IOM will be conducting a few separate quick assessments to understand migration and migration health situation, skills and vulnerability of returning migrants.

Has there any role of IOM in evacuating the foreign workers from Nepal also?
IOM is the leading intergovernmental organization to advocate for migrants’ rights irrespective of their migratory status. All migrants are first human – so ensuring their human rights is basic. In this connection, during the current pandemic situation for both foreign nationals residing in Nepal and Nepali migrants in foreign countries, IOM advocates that it’s shared responsibility of both host and government of origin as well as employing company/organization to ensure safety of migrants wherever they are with full respect of their human rights. They should be treated with equality, dignity and respect irrespective of their gender and migration status.
Therefore, IOM keeps a close eyes on migrants’ needs such as evacuation of foreign nationals living in Nepal and the Nepali migrants in foreign countries and handling of the situation by the governments.   

According to the World Bank, the remittance inflow to Nepal is going to plunge by a whopping 14 percent this year, is there any way IOM can do anything in this regard?
That’s right, with job losses as we discussed above as well, the World Bank has projected that remittance inflow to Nepal is going down by 14 percent. Nepal Rastra Bank has also recorded that remittance inflow in past two months mostly after the nationwide lockdown was enforced is less by nearly 50 per cent compared to the same period last year. A reduction in remittances can have other major ripple effects on Nepali economy and communities, resulting in a decrease in productive investment, consumption spending and access to education and health services, ultimately has the potential to hinder the efforts made to achieve the development goals. As such, it is critical that action is taken to ensure that remittances keep flowing including through supporting greater access to and use of digital technologies.
With the view to leaving no one behind in the current crisis, it is essential that all stakeholders - policy makers, private sector and civil society - come together and focus on specific measures we can take in this regard to support migrants and their families. The government policy responses to the Covid-19 crisis need to include migrants in all short, medium, and long-term interventions to support stranded migrants, regularize remittance inflow, recovery supports for migrants’ families who have lost subsistence income, and access to health, house, education and nutrition. A coordinated approach between the Nepal Rastra Bank and migration-related stakeholders, specifically the Foreign Employment Board, to market the Foreign Employment Saving Bond can be conducted. In addition, the private sector can be better mobilized to increase the ownership of programmes targeted to returnees such as the returnee soft loan programme. Returnee migrants should be equipped with business training to help produce viable business plans, and a one-stop center for returnee migrants to access information on available resources and advisory services for potential entrepreneurs and jobseekers should be prioritised.
A mechanism can be established to recognize skills of returnee migrants and the aforementioned one-stop-center can direct and guide them to right field such as agriculture, tourism and small-scale entrepreneurship in any other sector. Now is the time to utilise those human and economic capitals into national development. Collecting data on returnee migrants reflecting their skills should be initiated sooner than later in coordination between all authorities related to foreign employment. This will help in formulating plans and policies for reintegration of returnees as well as overall skill development and employment programmes and plans.

The current Covid-19 situation seems to continue till almost a year now and movement of the migrants also seemed to be curtailed. How can the IOM help promote safe migration? 
IOM Nepal’s ongoing and proposed preparedness and response activities are aligned with IOM’s global preparedness and response plans to control further transmission and mitigate the impact of the outbreak, and aimed to contribute to the efforts of the government. Those activities are responsive to population mobility and cross-border dynamics, and that inclusive approaches which take into account migrants, travelers, displaced populations, and local communities, and counter misinformation that can lead to anti-migrant sentiment, stigma and discrimination are essential in the event of an outbreak.

Finally, do you have anything to say to Nepali migrants stuck in foreign countries due to travel restrictions or anything to overall Nepali people? 
Nepalese people have a proud history of picking themselves up ever stronger after every crisis, for instance the 2015 earthquake. You rebuilt your houses and livelihood again and made Nepal into a more resilient and stronger country than it was before in such short span of time. As in the past, we are together with Nepalis to get through this difficult days as well and your come back is not too distant future.
To the Nepalese who are waiting to come back home from foreign countries, the Nepal government has been in regular contact with the government of your host country to make sure the host government takes care of you, protects you from Covid-19 and ensures your safety. I believe you are in contact with Nepali embassy there and the embassy will coordinate for your flights soonest possible.
Please, do take care of yourself whatever the situation is. Take positive thoughts, try to have healthy and balanced meals, enough sleep and regular physical exercise. Speak to your family and friends through digital technology on regular basis. Do not read, listen or watch too much of negative news about the crisis. Getting an updated information only once or twice a day will suffice. You may visit IOM Nepal social media pages and webpage where you will find useful messages and information for you.

Sunday, June 14, 2020

Nepal continues suspension of flights until July 5

Nepal has extended – for the seventh time – suspension of domestic and international flights until July 5.
The Ministry of Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation today confirmed that all domestic and international flights will remain suspended until July 5. “All domestic and international flights will remain suspended until July 5,” tourism secretary Kedar Bahadur Adhikari tweeted.
The government first imposed the nationwide lockdown on March 24 and suspended domestic and international commercial flights to prevent and control the spread of Covid-19. And the government has been extending the suspension to contain the spread of Covid-19 that has claimed 19 till today.
Nepal today reported one more Covid-19 death and 425 new cases, taking the national tally to 5,760, and death toll to 19 as a 36-year-old man from Gulmi, who was undergoing treatment at an isolation facility in Resunga Municipality, succumbed to the disease on June 13,” according to the spokesperson of Health Ministry Dr Jageshwor Gautam. Addressing a regular press meet today, he said, adding that that the deceased was receiving treatment after tests conducted at the Provincial Public Health Laboratory in Rupandehi showed him positive for Covid-19. His travel history revealed that he had returned from India and was also a cancer patient.

Saturday, June 13, 2020

Government goes bankrupt

Though, incumbent finance minister Dr Yuba Raj Khatiwada – issuing a whitepaper two years ago intending to tarnish the earlier government’s image – claimed that the government coffer was empty and the economic indicators were worse, he has finally succeeded to empty the treasury and worsen the economic indicators further, by himself.
As Khatiwada presented his third budget in a row – the only second lucky finance minister to do so after 1990 – the government has no money to pay salary to its employees because of its failure in mobilising the revenue. “The government is having a cash crunch to manage immediate liabilities due to a shortage in revenue mobilisation also because of nationwide lockdown imposed since last 82 days,” a senior government employee at the Finance Ministry confirmed.
The government has imposed nationwide lockdown since March 24 that has stagnated all the businesses activities across the country. The government needs around Rs 40 billion – every month – to meet mandatory liabilities like regular salary to its employees, but it has been able to mobilise around Rs 15 billion from the major source – customs offices – only in a month, according to the Finance Ministry official. The government coffer has only around Rs 50 billion at present, which is enough for the salary of next month, which is the last month of the current fiscal year,” he said, adding that from the first month of the next fiscal year, the government will not be able to pay regular salaries to its staff also due to Supreme Court move to restrict the government to collect tax during the lockdown. “The Supreme Court has issued interim order to the government not to push the private sector for tax during the lockdown and allow them 30 days after the lockdown, is fully relaxed, to clear tax dues.”
The Finance Ministry has, however, moved to the Supreme Court to vacate the interim order as it will fail to pay salary, if it is not allowed to mobilise tax this month. The government imposed a nationwide lockdown on March 24, closing industries, businesses, suspending ground and air travel, and has asked to pay tax within June 21. Some entrepreneurs went to Apex Court asking an interim order against the Inland Revenue Department (IRD) – under the Finance Ministry – diktat.
According to the Financial Comptroller General’s Office (FCGO), the revenue mobilisation as of today stands at only 58 per cent of the target that is Rs 1.11 billion. Although the government keeps high hopes on gathering a significant amount in taxes in the final month of the fiscal year, it is likely to face a huge shortfall due to Supreme Court’s interim order this time.
The government has an option to transfer the money from various funds into its treasury to meet its necessary liabilities including salary for government workers, pensions for retired employees, social security allowance for the elderly and disadvantaged groups, and payments to be made for internal and external loans.
Citing the adverse situation in revenue mobilisation, the government expects to receive Rs 299.50 billion from external debt and Rs 225 billion from domestic borrowing mainly to meet the recurrent expenditure. But the government capacity to absorb the external debt is limited due to structural and procedural problems, whereas more domestic borrowing will squeeze private sector’s capacity to borrow hurting the economic growth. “Likewise, borrowing to pay salary to the government employees will also send a wrong message as the private sector is also not able to pay salary to its employees,” the official said, adding that more domestic borrowing – for administrative purposes – could also result in an exorbitant rise in market prices.
While presenting his third budget on May 28, Khatiwada claimed that the government will be able to mobilise Rs 827 billion revenue, contain inflation under 7 per cent, and achieve 7 per cent economic growth.