Monday, August 31, 2020

Prince of Bahrain coming to Nepal for mountaineering

 The government has allowed some 18 climbers including the prince of Bahrain to enter Nepal for mountaineering.

A cabinet meeting yesterday decided to allow the high level guests to come to Nepal for mountaineering at the recommendation of the Ministry of Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation (MoCTCA). “Those receiving permission include 15 people from Bahrain including the prince of Bahrain and three others from the United Kingdom (UK), confirmed government spokesperson Dr Yuba Raj Khatiwada today. “They will come to Nepal on charter flights after September 15,” he said, adding said, the climbers will attempt to scale Mt Manaslu and Mt Lobuche. “They will follow the safety measures prepared by the Health Ministry upon their arrival in Nepal.”

The government has opened mountain peaks across the country for climbers but the ban on international flights and international borders, apart from restriction in movement inside the country has hit the tourism sector, though mountaineering activities has resumed in July after a hiatus of nearly five months due to Covid-19.

The government is also preparing a quarantine modality for tourists arriving in Nepal. “The guests will have to mandatorily stay in hotel quarantine for a week and undergo PCR tests before heading to their planned destinations,” according to the safety measures prepared by the Health Ministry.

Government allows some 800 Nepalis to return home daily

 The government has increased the number of homecoming Nepalis number to a maximum of 800 from earlier 500 per day.

The cabinet meeting –yesterday – has decided to allow 800 people to enter Nepal via air route from tomorrow, confirmed government spokesperson Dr Yuba raj Khatiwada. Earlier, the government had claimed to allow only 500 people to enter Nepal. But after the pressure from stranded Nepalis abroad, the government has been forced to increase number by 300.

“International air services, including scheduled commercial flights and repatriation charter flights, are set to resume from tomorrow,” he said, adding that the Ministry of Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation will manage the number of flights and passengers on the basis of availability of hotel quarantines. “The number of passengers brought to Nepal through regular scheduled flights or charter flights should not exceed 800.”

“It requires coordination between a lot of bodies as there were some incidents where flights had to be cancelled last time around,” Khatiwada said. “The flight had to be cancelled due to the lack of availability of quarantine facilities.”

Likewise, the government has decided to allow Non-resident Nepalis (NRNs) to come to Nepal after recommendations by the diplomatic missions in the designated countries. “The embassies in the respective countries will recommend the names of NRNs, if a member of his/her family dies or if he/she has to visit Nepal for serious medical treatments,” the government has decided. “After it is confirmed the individual will be allowed to come to Nepal.”

Likewise, the government has allowed the charter repatriation flights from countries like Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, where PCR tests are not accessible. “The flights will be managed for those, who are willing to come back to Nepal at their own expenses or if their companies pay for them,” he said, adding that international students, who are required to come to Nepal for examinations will also be allowed to enter Nepal, if their teachers and the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology verify their requests. “Such students need to follow all the protocols prepared by the government and produce PCR negative test reports issued within 72 hours at the time of boarding the aircraft.”

Sunday, August 30, 2020

Tour operators urge to save 1.05 million tourism-related jobs

 Nepal Association of Tour Operators (NATO) has – issuing a press note today – called upon the government to chart out a plan to save 1.05 million jobs, which are in danger of being lost.

Tourism stands out as the most hit sector compared to other sectors affected by the Covid-19 pandemic, reads the press note.

The association has also drawn the government’s attention to the fact that tourism-related businesses have now been operating on negative cash flow since March and fears the situation cannot be sustained for long.

The association has also shed light on the fact that 6.3 million people depend directly or indirectly from the tourism sector on a daily basis, assuming that each worker in the travel industry in Nepal supports 6 family members. 

The Covid-19 – that hit the tourism industry worst – might eat the jobs permanently, the association press note reads, fearing that the road to recovery will be long and drawn-out with traveller number reaching 2019 levels only in 2024, if at all, given the government support is provided. “These job losses would be a permanent loss, even when tourism begins to revive and travellers start to come back gradually.”

Government extends long-haul transportation, flights operation schedule

 The government has continued the suspension of the operation of long-distance vehicles and domestic flights till September 16.

A meeting of the Council of Ministers held today decided to extend the suspension from earlier deadline of August 17. Earlier, the government has vowed to resume long-route transportation and domestic flight services from August 17 due to a sharp increase in coronavirus infections. 

Likewise, the cabinet has also decided to continue closure of schools and all other educational institutions across the country until further notice. “But the operation of international flights is resuming tomorrow, a schedule has also been released,” according to a cabinet minister. 

In the meeting, some ministers recommended to increase the number of Nepalis to from current 500 Nepalis per day. “The number has to be increased in case a particular company takes responsibility of sending Nepalis back home bearing all their costs of taking PCR tests, hotel quarantine facility among others,” they recommended.

The cabinet has also decided to grant labour permission to those seeking to go to overseas in foreign employment.

Monday, August 24, 2020

'Safety, Data, and Green' the keywords to transport sector's sustainable recovery from Covid-19: ADB

 The transport sector must emerge from the coronavirus disease (Covid-19) pandemic as a driver of sustainable growth with three critical factors in mind—SDG, which in this case stands for ‘Safety, Data, and Green,’ Asian Development Bank (ADB) president Masatsugu Asakawa said at the 7th Asia and the Pacific Transport Forum 2020 today.

“The pandemic dealt the transport sector a massive blow that will be felt for years,” Asakawa told the online gathering, taking place from August 24 to August 28, with more than 1,200 participants from government, businesses, academia and international organizations across Asia and the Pacific.

“Our work now is to focus on mitigating the negative effects of the pandemic so that economies can adapt to the changed landscape and rejuvenate transport services,” he said, adding that at the same time, issues that existed before the pandemic still require action. “These include transport infrastructure, road safety, and freight and public transport challenges.”

He was speaking at the start of the opening high-level panel on the New Normal for Transport in Developing Asia. The panel was joined by secretary general of the International Transport Forum Young Tae Kim, chief executive officer of the Institute for Transportation and Development Policy Heather Thompson, president sirector of PT Blue Bird Noni Purnomo, and chief of the ADB Transport Sector Group Jamie Leather. The panelists shared their respective views on the pandemic’s effects on the sector, and actions being taken across the region and globe to adapt transport to the new normal.

During the panel discussion, participants heard that as the lockdowns are beginning to be lifted, traffic congestion is returning, especially since a constrained supply and passengers’ anxieties about safety of public transport have sparked a switch to private vehicles.

In the short term, more effort is needed to reassure public transport users of safety and rebuild public confidence, Asakawa said. Second, data are required to fully understand the evolving situation of the pandemic and inform strategic direction for projects. Third, there are many opportunities to develop a greener transport future. For example, app-based delivery systems have become a feature of daily life but risk adding to road congestion and pollution. “To address this, we must promote a green recovery focused on sustainability,” Asakawa said, adding that one option is to support a shift to electric vehicles. ADB also sees opportunities to promote walking and cycling in Asian cities, and to improve the efficiency of logistics and supply chains.”

In the first half of 2020, ADB has invested in a wide range of projects in the transport sector to support its recovery and investment. Those include $235 million for a bus rapid transit system in Karachi, Pakistan, and inter-island transport in Kiribati. ADB is also helping to build a new climate resilient port in Nauru and improve the quality and safety of rural roads in Bangladesh.

ADB vice-president for Knowledge Management and Sustainable Development Bambang Susantono is to deliver closing remarks to the forum on August 28. He will also speak on August 26 at the first workshop on the Implementation of the Asia-Pacific Road Safety Observatory, reinforcing ADB’s commitment to road safety. The observatory will gather data from across the region and help policymakers, engineers, and transport asset managers to improve Asian roads and reduce loss of life.

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.

MSMEs and farmers benefit from more than half a billion dollars in Covid-19 support in Asia-Pacific Region

 Thousands of micro, small, and medium enterprises (MSMEs), and millions of farmers across Asia and the Pacific stand to benefit from the first phase of Covid-19 crisis response funding from IFC, a member of the World Bank Group.

As the pandemic continues to send shockwaves through the global economy, IFC supported 13 companies in the region – over 190,000 employees in the manufacturing, agriculture, services and energy sectors – with $554 million in Covid-19 related funding in the fiscal year ending June 30. Also, IFC deployed $492 million in Covid-19 related trade finance lines in the region. This has helped financial institutions provide liquidity to businesses dependent on trade, especially small and medium enterprises (SMEs).

About 17,500 MSMEs and corporates in the region are also expected to be among the beneficiaries of IFC’s $2 billion Working Capital Solutions (WCS) programme in the fiscal year 2020. The aim of the programme is to help emerging-market banks extend credit so that businesses can continue to operate, stemming job losses. IFC’s first Covid-19 WCS programme in Asia-Pacific was signed in Sri Lanka with the Commercial Bank of Ceylon to help over 1,200 SMEs – nearly 790 of them women led – deal with the crisis. 

“The economic and social impact of Covid-19 will continue to exact a toll on people and businesses, leaving an indelible mark on the region’s economies and private sector” said IFC’s newly appointed regional vice president for Asia and the Pacific Alfonso Garcia Mora. “To address this, we are stepping up efforts to support companies strengthening also our support to the financial sector so that businesses and firms can build resilience on the road to recovery,” he added.

The WCS programme is part of IFC’s $8 billion global Covid-19 fast-track financing facility developed to help businesses cope with the ongoing global slowdown, marked by a collapse in tourism, plunging trade, disruptions to supply chains, and diminished foreign direct investment.

As an early rapid response when Covid-19 first began impacting Asia, IFC expanded trade financing limits for four banks in Vietnam by $294 million to address, in advance, potential trade finance challenges. The move resulted in over 330 export and import transactions by local SMEs valued at over $200 million. 

Since the outbreak, IFC has made efforts to help both small and large businesses in Bangladesh, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, India, and Vietnam. The support to companies focused on agriculture – between 15,000 and five million farmers and SMEs in their supply chain networks – will help boost farmers’ incomes, strengthening agribusiness and contributing to food security.

IFC is now working on the second phase of its Covid-19 response to help financial institutions and companies in the region on their path to recovery, Garcia Mora, who is a Spanish national. Mora has moved to IFC after eight years with the World Bank. Before that, he worked in the private sector for over 12 years, including as Partner-Managing Director at Analistas Financieros Internacionales Consulting Group.

“As part of our bid to advance workable development solutions to the challenges posed by COVID-19, IFC will also step up its engagement with the World Bank in the Asia-Pacific region,” he said, adding that the IFC will focus on its strategy to create markets by working upstream, tackling barriers to spurring the private sector and creating jobs. “This approach is critical to attract investors in the most vulnerable markets.”

The fiscal year 2020 also saw IFC work upstream and with the World Bank on complex projects with potentially transformative impact to deliver power to millions of people in Afghanistan, Nepal, and Pakistan. IFC also advised governments and the private sector in a range of areas from green sustainable finance and gender issues to helping companies and institutions through webinars to cope with Covid-19 impacts.

Overall, IFC committed $6.7 billion in private sector investments in Asia and the Pacific in the fiscal year ending June 30. This includes the $554 million in IFC financing in response to Covid-19 under the new Covid-19 fast-track facility. Just under half of this was for countries classified as poor and fragile and conflict affected. In addition, IFC supported around $ 1.1 billion of cross-border trade in the region through its Global Trade Finance Programme (GTFP). 

Some other examples of IFC’s support in the fiscal year 2020 in Nepal includes the Upper Trishuli-1 (UT-1) project, a 216 MW run-of-river hydropower project, one of the largest foreign direct investments in Nepal’s history, set to deliver improved power to millions of people.

Saturday, August 22, 2020

Oli to continue as Prime Minister, Dahal to get more authority as chairman

 It seems the intra-party feud in the ruling Nepal Communist Party (NCP) is finally coming to an end making the Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli more powerful and another chairman – among the two – Puspa Kamal Dahal ‘Prachanda’, giving an executive power, according to a report submitted to the chairmen duo Oli and Dahal by a taskforce.

The taskforce – formed by the ruling Nepal Communist Party (NCP) to recommend ways to settle the intra-party feud has submitted the report to Prime Minister Oli and the party's chairman Dahal today – also suggested to reshuffle the cabinet. “The cabinet reshuffle will help clean the image of the government as it has been labelled as the most corrupt one due to some ministers’ performances,” said a NCP (NCP) leaders, who was one of the members in the task force. “The reshuffle of cabinet and some chief ministers will also help satisfy senior leaders in the party,” he said, indicating the change of chief ministers of Province 1 Shankar Pokharel and Bagmati Province chief minister Dormani Poudel.

There has been lots of alleged corruption even during the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic while purchasing health equipment. The health minister and defence ministers have been blamed for purchasing medical equipment through their henchmen, and it cost almost double the market price due to commission and corruption. Likewise, the finance minister has also been blamed for his incompetence in reviving the economy during the pandemic, but being involved in policy level corruption through the fiscal policy for the current fiscal year. "The taskforce has suggested inducting new faces in the cabinet and ensuring representation of all sides in the party while making political appointments to ensure appropriate power sharing,” he added.

The party's Standing Committee meeting has been deferred repeatedly after most members sought resignation of Prime Minister Oli from the both the post of prime minister and party chairman. The six-member taskforce was formed after several rounds of informal negotiations between Prime Minister Oli and Chairman Dahal.

The taskforce led by General Secretary Bishnu Paudel submitted the report at the Prime Minister's Official Residence in Baluwatar this afternoon, confirmed Prime Minister's Press Advisor Surya Thapa. The taskforce led by Paudel had Shankar Pokharel, Bhim Rawal, Surendra Pandey, Pampha Bhusal, Janardan Sharma as members.

The report will be discussed in the party's Standing Committee meeting after Oli and Dahal agree on the recommendations, a Standing Committee member said, without wanting to be named. However, he also confirmed that the taskforce has suggested allowing Prime Minister Oli to lead the government for the remaining term of the current parliament and Chairman Dahal to lead the party with full authority until the party's unity general convention to be held in April.

Friday, August 21, 2020

Nepal-Israel sign agreement on visa waiver for diplomatic passports holders

 Nepal and Israel today signed an agreement on visa waiver for diplomatic passports holders.

Ambassador to Israel Anjan Shakya and Israeli foreign minister Gabi Ashkenazi signed an agreement at a special function held at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Israel in Jerusalem, according to a press note issued by the Foreign Ministry. According to the arrangement, diplomatic passport holders of Nepal and Israel can enter each other's countries for 90 days without obtaining a visa.

Ambassador Shakya – after signing the agreement – suggested the Israeli foreign minister to extend the training period of Nepali students from the current 11 months. “The training period for best students, who are currently in Israel under the Learn and Earn Project, can be extended further so that they can gain additional knowledge expertise in their relevant fields,” she said.

Responding her, Israeli foreign minister also informed the resumption of employment opportunities to Nepali youths in the caregiving sector. “More Nepalis will be able to find jobs in Israel in the coming days,” he added.

Government to resume regular international flights from September 1

 The government has decided to resume regular international flights from September 1.

The planned commercial international flights will bring home stranded Nepali nationals abroad, informed finance minister and minister for Communication and Information Technology Dr Yuba Raj Khatiwada, who is also the spokesperson of the government. 

“The cabinet meeting yesterday evening decided to resume regular international flights from September 1,” he said, adding that the regular international flights from the countries where PCR test facility is easily accessible will start immediately.

The schedules of the flights will be prepared by the Ministry of Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation (MoCTCA). “Those wanting to fly back home must produce a PCR test report conducted within 72 hours,” he said, adding that the government plans to bring in 500 Nepali nationals home a day. “All Nepali nationals returning home from such flights must stay in hotel quarantine for seven days upon their arrival in Kathmandu.”

The concerned airline operators should bear the cost of keeping all passengers in quarantine facilities, if passengers, who have not undergone PCR tests, are brought along with other passengers in the same flight, Dr Khatiwada added.

Earlier, Nepal Airlines Corporation (NAC) aircraft – on Sunday – had returned empty from Dubai after the government abruptly suspended all flights on the very first day of the fifth phase of repatriation. The aircraft had carried 235 passengers and 15 tonnes of cargo from Kathmandu to Dubai, while it returned home without any passengers or cargo after the government suddenly imposed the decision on Wednesday. The passengers, who had already booked their tickets, were enraged with the government's abrupt decision after they were left stranded at the airport.

UN, DfID partner to support Covid-19 response and disaster preparedness and response

 The United Nations (UN) in Nepal and the United Kingdom’s Department for International Development (DfID) have strengthened their partnership to enhance the UN’s approach to emergency preparedness and scale-up response to the Covid-19 pandemic in Nepal.

The Covid-19 pandemic is having far reaching impacts globally including in Nepal, which is already vulnerable to natural disasters - the compounded impact goes beyond just the health crisis. This package of support will enable the UN to reach those impacted by Covid-19 and at the same time, prepare for any crisis Nepal may face in the future, in support of the government, according to a press note issued by the UN Kathmandu Office.

n Nepal as of August 20, more than 29,645 people have been tested positive for Covid-19 and 126 people have lost their lives because of the virus. Likewise, as of August 19, floods and landslides triggered by the monsoon rain have killed 241 people 88 have gone missing.

Beyond supporting the Government of Nepal’s response to both Covid-19 and monsoon-related crises, the UN is also working to develop national and local disaster management capacity through its cluster co-leadership role, the press note reads, adding that it is committed to jointly plan and prepare for emergency response in Nepal this year and beyond.

The UK has been a longstanding partner of the UN in Nepal. Under these new programmes, the UK will provide financial and technical support to tackle the outbreak of Covid-19 and scale up the UN’s ability to prepare effectively for future emergencies.

The Key activities will include supporting Covid 19 contact tracing teams, health screening monitoring and data management, supporting telemedicine, providing personal protective equipment for frontline health service providers, ensuring health facilities can continue to provide sexual and reproductive health services, providing psychosocial support to survivors of gender based violence, supporting more than 35,000 children and pregnant and lactating women to prevent malnutrition, provide warehousing at 3 Humanitarian Staging Areas across the country and transport for key supplies, and supporting water and sanitation in health and quarantine facilities, it reads.

“This is a welcome step towards the commitments made by members states, including by Nepal, to the UN secretary-general’s reform agenda which reaffirms the role of the UN Resident Coordinator in country-level coordination to deliver collective responses to the national needs and priorities by bringing the UN system together,” said UN Resident Coordinator Valerie Julliand. “As the UK joins forces with the UN, together we are working on responding to the crisis and also addressing the inequalities and vulnerabilities in social, political and economic systems in Nepal,” she added.

The UK support the UN agencies in preparedness both in Nepal and globally. In addition to this support, the UK endorses the role of the UN Resident Coordinator to lead on coordinating emergency preparedness and response on behalf of the international community with the government in the absence of a presence of the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA). This includes humanitarian advisory capacity, coordination, data analysis and a common service for accountability to affected populations.

“Nepal has suffered a great deal because of natural hazards including the corona virus,” country director for DfID Nepal Lisa Honan said adding that UK funded programmes continue to work with the government to strengthen its response as well as implement a green recovery from the pandemic. “We are confident that our support to the UN will help improve the response to the pandemic in Nepal as well as improve preparedness for future natural hazards.”

Thursday, August 20, 2020

UN forges technological cooperation to tackle Covid-19 in Asia and the Pacific

 Collaboration at the regional level is a critical force for scaling up effective technologies and increasing innovation capacity in the fight against Covid-19, according to high-level officials and key stakeholders at the third session of the Committee on Information and Communications Technology (ICT), Science, Technology and Innovation.

Convened by the United Nations (UN) Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP), the two-day Committee meeting highlighted how digital inclusion and resilient digital networks across the entire region have become the foundation for government measures to effectively stem the worst impacts of the pandemic.

“Digital has taken on a compelling new meaning in the region; people, planet and prosperity are all increasingly dependent on access to digitally-driven technological innovations and seamless connectivity,” said UN under-secretary-general and executive secretary of ESCAP Armida Salsiah Alisjahbana. 

“As we are planning to chart our future in the post-Covid-19 world, we need to address the digital and technology divide with urgency,” she said, adding that they cannot let this divide drive new forms of socio-economic inequalities. “More than half of the region’s 4.1 billion people remain offline and in least developed, landlocked developing and Pacific island countries, less than 5 per cent of the population has access to high-speed and affordable Internet.”

Women and girls, regardless of location, level of income or age, have lower access than men, she added.

“We need to accelerate the digital transformation that has happened before the Covid-19 pandemic,” minister for Research and Technology and Chairman of the National Agency for Research and Innovation of Indonesia Bambang Brodjonegoro sid, adding, “We need to make sure that quality telecommunications infrastructure is made available.”

The committee discussed a set of guidelines for inclusive technology and innovation policies for sustainable development, and committed to developing policies that promote inclusive technology and innovation to ensure that innovations are accessible, relevant and affordable for all, to leave no one behind.

The Committee also underscored the importance of harnessing the entrepreneurial spirit of the private sector to focus on developing innovations to address social and environmental challenges as well as provide economic opportunities. Social innovators and entrepreneurs have stepped up in response to the Covid-19 pandemic. 

A regional launch of the 2020 United Nations E-Government Survey published by the United Nations (UN) Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA) was held on the sidelines of the Committee. The survey finds that among the world’s least developed countries (LDCs) Bhutan, Bangladesh and Cambodia have become leaders in digital government development, advancing from the middle to the high E-Government Development Index group in 2020. At the launch, ESCAP further highlighted the challenges and opportunities of digital government in the Asia-Pacific region and emphasized the use of ICT during all phases of disaster risk management.

Nepal receives Rs 3.29 billion from GCF

 Nepal is getting Rs 3.29 billion funding from Green Climate Fund (GCF) to support climate activities.

The 26th board meeting of the GCF in Sangdo of South Korea yesterday approved Nepal’s proposal for the project ‘Improving Climate Resilience of Vulnerable Communities and Ecosystems in the Gandaki River Basin, Nepal’, according to Ministry of Forest and Environment.

“With the approval of the project, Nepal will get a financial grant of $27.4 million (over Rs 3.29 billion) for implementing the five-year project,” the ministry informed, adding that the project aims at improving the climate resilience of nearly 1.9 million people from 198,016 vulnerable households of the Gandaki River Basin. “The basin falls in 19 districts of three provinces – Bangamti Province (five districts), Gandaki Province (eleven districts) and Province 5 (three districts).”

These districts cover low-lying districts of Nawalparasi and Chitwan to the ones in the high mountains like Mustang and Manang.

The project will be implemented jointly by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) –a GCF accredited entity – and the Ministry of Forest and Environment. The IUCN will work on other components like capacity building, whereas the Forest Ministry will be the lead agency for implementing the project.

The main goal of the project is to protect the ecosystem and enhance communities’ livelihood through nature-based solutions. Watershed management, river conservation, protecting ecosystem services and improving livelihood are the major priorities. Through the project, the government is expected to mainstream the concept that river basins cannot be confined within the political boundary.

“The project is designed to improve the resilience of the communities and ecosystems in the basin area, according to the project,” the ministry claimed, adding that it is the second significant funding Nepal has received within a year from the GCF. “Last year in November, the 24th GCF board meeting had approved the first-ever funding proposal of Nepal.”

Earlier this year, Alternative Energy Promotion Centre (AEPC) – the first and only GCF accredited entity – also signed a contract with GCF for seeking climate finance for Nepal’s climate actions. The AEPC received GCF accreditation in February 2019. The GCF accreditation status means the entity becomes eligible for claiming and accessing financial support of up to $50 million as its climate action partner.

Likewise, Nepal’s other climate finance support of $24 million under the Strategic Climate Fund from the World Bank was approved last month for implementing the Forest for Prosperity Project.

Two more climate change-related projects worth $7 million each from the Global Environment Facility were approved in August 2019 and April 2020. 

For the project, Building Resilient Churia Region in Nepal (BRCRN), to be implemented by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) in partnership with the Ministry of Forest and Environment, Nepal was awarded $39.3million in grant.

Nepal managed to receive the grant out of a tough and competitive process. According to the GCF, a Independent Technical Advisory Panel of the GCF sends queries regarding the project proposals which we have to respond. Then, there are also inquiries during the board meeting, before the project is approved.

For accessing funds from the GCF, a global platform that helps countries in their efforts to fight climate change by investing in low-emission and climate-resilient development, WWF Nepal and UNDP Nepal have also been working on their project proposals.

Wednesday, August 19, 2020

Goods barometer confirms steep drop in trade but hints at nascent recovery

 World merchandise trade likely registered a historic fall in the second quarter of 2020, according to the latest reading of the World Trade Organisation (WTO’s) Goods Trade Barometer, a real-time gauge of trends in global trade.

Additional indicators point to partial upticks in world trade and output in the third quarter, but the strength of any such recovery remains highly uncertain: an L-shaped, rather than V-shaped, trajectory cannot be ruled out.

Released today, the current barometer reading of 84.5 is 15.5 points below the baseline value of 100 for the index and 18.6 points down from the same period last year. “This reading – the lowest on record in data going back to 2007, and on par with the nadir of the 2008-09 financial crisis – is broadly consistent with WTO statistics issued in June, which estimated an 18.5 per cent decline in merchandise trade in the second quarter of 2020 compared to the same period last year,” it states, adding that the exact extent of the fall in trade will only be confirmed later this year when official trade volume data for the period from April to June becomes available.

All of the barometer's component indices remain well below trend, with many registering historic lows, although some have begun to stabilise. Indices for automotive products (71.8) and air freight (76.5) are by far the worst on record since 2007. Container shipping (86.9) also remains deeply depressed. Likewise, export orders (88.4) show signs of recovery as this index has turned upward. Meanwhile, indices for electronic components (92.8) and agricultural raw materials (92.5) have held up relatively well, showing only modest declines.

The WTO's June statistics implied a 14 per cent drop in global merchandise trade volume between the first and second quarters of this year. This estimate, together with the new Goods Trade Barometer reading, suggest that world trade in 2020 is evolving in line with the less pessimistic of the two scenarios outlined in the WTO's April forecast, which projected that the volume of merchandise trade this year would contract by 13 per cent compared to 2019. However, as WTO economists warned in June, the heavy economic toll of the Covid-19 pandemic suggests that the projections for a strong, V-shaped trade rebound in 2021 may prove overly optimistic. As uncertainty remains elevated, in terms of economic and trade policy as well as how the medical crisis will evolve, an L-shaped recovery is a real prospect. This would leave global trade well below its pre-pandemic trajectory.

The Goods Trade Barometer is designed to gauge momentum and identify turning points in world trade growth. Readings of 100 indicate growth in line with medium-term trends; readings greater than 100 suggest above-trend growth, while those below 100 indicate below-trend growth.

In normal times, the Goods Trade Barometer anticipates changes in the trajectory of world trade by a few months. However, the sudden, unexpected nature of the Covid-19 crisis may have profoundly altered economic behaviour and patterns, reducing the predictive value of the standard set of indicators.

Meghauli Serai bags Travelers’ Choice 2020 award

 Tripadvisor has awarded Meghauli Serai with the award Travelers’ Choice 2020 prize.

Tripadvisor – the world’s largest travel platform – recently announced the winners of its 18th annual Travelers’ Choice Awards. The coveted award celebrate destinations, restaurants, attractions and more across the globe – with each award given for terms of service, quality and customer satisfaction. The top list for the Travelers’ Choice 2020 pushes the boundaries of today’s ever critical consumer-reviewed standards. Continue to redefine the definition of luxury experience.

Meghauli Serai has been honoured with the award Travelers’ Choice 2020 accolade garnering recognition to be amongst the Top 10 per cent of Hotels and Resorts Worldwide for Excellence. A note of gratitude from Chief Operation Officer (COO) of of Lifestyle Collective reads that they are honoured and humbled to receive the recognition and would like to thank our guests for continuing to make each season the best one yet and sharing their experience digitally. “And as we are entering the new era of travel, what they can expect is our dedication for excellence and our mission to elevate experiences,” he added.

Meghauli Serai’s Safe Sanctuary features adherence to the latest information, protocols from the world’s leading health experts and government authorities – including the World Health Organisation  (WHO) and Centers for Disease Control – maximising effectiveness of response, the travel magazine reads, adding that Meghauli Serai have taken precautionary measures to ensure guests and employees well-being with stringent practices around food handling, sanitisation, disinfection, and cleaning. “Extra sanitisation extends from all guest areas to supply chain deliveries, culinary preparation areas, and housekeeping procedures.”

Guest wellbeing throughout their stay is also being enhanced by limited contact, social distancing and private experiences – from airport transfers, check-in procedures, wellness and fitness pavilion, safari activities and personalised dining to nutritional farm to table cuisines prepared by seasoned Chefs, it reads.

“From its 12 well-appointed rooms that offer elevated views over the jungle-scape to the 16 independent villas each with their own private plunge pools and the plush Rapti Mahal presidential suite, the lodge takes local traditions to a luxurious setting,” according to the award winning resort. “Meghauli Serai has incorporated local hues into its design and operations for truly sustainable touches,” it reads, adding that from its Newari and Tharu-inspired front doors and the use of natural earthy tones that reflect the landscape, to the locally-sourced ingredients that foreground Tharu tastes in inventive cuisine, the lodge offers a relaxing setting for discovery.

Tuesday, August 18, 2020

Week-long prohibitory order in Kathmandu Valley from Wednesday midnight

 A meeting of security agencies and Chief District Officers (CDOs) of the three districts in Kathmandu Valley today decided to issue prohibitory orders on movement of people and vehicles from Wednesday midnight.

“The prohibitory order has been issued to discourage unwarranted movement of people to control the increasing spread of coronavirus infection in Kathmandu, Lalitpur and Bhaktapur,” according to a press note issued by the CDOs of the three districts of the Valley.

“Movement of all vehicles except those providing emergency and essential services will be halted,” reads the 17-point prohibitory order.

Earlier in the afternoon, a meeting of security agencies representatives and CDOs held in the District Administration Office of Kathmandu district, discussed the current modality of lockdown in Kathmandu Valley.

The government decision comes amid a record number of 1,016 new infections on Tuesday, the highest daily spike in Covid-19 cases, as the national tally reaches 28,257. The Kathmandu Valleyalone reported some 205 new cases, the highest single-day infections, while seven people died due to Covid-19-related complications in a day, today.

The government has already granted discretionary powers to CDOs to impose prohibitory orders or even a curfew in their respective districts to contain the spread of the coronavirus. The CDOs can finalise the modality of the prohibitory order on their own. 

“The chief district officers can also use the provisions of the Local Administration Act-2028,” according to the Finance Minister and government spokesperson Dr Yuba Raj Khatiwada. “The government has decided that the districts, in which a prohibitory order has been imposed, would require both government and public offices to use a minimum number of employees at offices and to make arrangements for the rest of staff to work from home,” he said, adding that the discretionary powers also allow the CDOs to take necessary measures to contain the Covid-19 situation under Clause 2 (2) of the Infectious Disease Act-1964 in coordination with the District Corona Crisis Management Centre. “

On August 14, the local administration offices had imposed restrictions on various activities and services in the Valley due to rising number of coronavirus cases. Restaurants were limited to takeaways and deliveries, while all festivities, gatherings and public functions in open spaces had been banned.

Earlier, on March 24, the government imposed lockdown – to contain the spread of coronavirus – for 4 months, though the economy bleed red. The government was forced to lift the lockdown – after 120 days – to rescue the economy but failed.

Sunday, August 16, 2020

Fifth phase repatriation flights to begin from tomorrow

 The government is starting the fifth phase of repatriation flights for Nepali migrant workers – stranded abroad due to Covid-19 pandemic and subsequent lockdown measures – from tomorrow.

The Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal (CAAN) has allowed more than 40 flights during the repatriation period that will last till August 31, according to the regulatory authority of the aviation sector. “We have allowed Nepal-based international airlines to operate more than 30 repatriation flights during the phase,” the authority confirmed, adding that some 10 flights will be conducted by international airlines, whereas Nepal Airlines will bring – stranded Nepalis home – in 17 flights from Dubai, Qatar, Malaysia, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait. “Himalaya Airlines is scheduled to operate 14 flights to various labour destinations including Malaysia, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Dubai.”

Apart from Nepal Airlines and Himalaya Airlines, CAAN has permitted international airlines including Qatar Airways, Air Arabia, Etihad Airways, Jazeera Airways, Fly Dubai and Turkish Airlines to operate 11 flights. The repatriation flights – for the fifth phase – will be operated between August 17 and August 31.

The government has however decided to bring only 500 passengers a day, half from earlier. 

As the number of coronavirus cases increased, the government has announced the resumption of scheduled international and domestic air services from September 1 only. Earlier, the suspension was supposed to be lifted from August 17 but the decision was revised in view of the increasing number of Covid-19 cases in the country.

More than 50,000 Nepalis have been repatriated from abroad since the government started operating repatriation flights on June 10.

Saturday, August 15, 2020

Himalaya Airlines to start fifth-phase repatriation flights

 The Himalaya Airlines is starting fifth phase of repatriation flights from August 16.

The airlines – authorised by the government to bring back home Nepalis stranded in different countries due to Covid-19 pandemic – will continue its repatriation flights till August 30, a press note issued by the airliner reads, adding that the airfare of the repatriation flights varies from $372 to $465 depending on the destination country. “The airlines will conduct flights on August 16, 18 and 20 to bring back Nepalis from Kuala Lumpur, the capital of Malaysia, whereas Nepalis stranded in Doha will be repatriated via three flights on August 17, 23 and 29.”

Likewise, four chartered flights will be operated to bring back Nepalis from Dammam of Saudi Arabia on August 19, 22, 25 and 27 respectively, the airlines confirmed, adding that it will operate another four flights, one each on – August 24, 26, 28 and 30 – to bring back Nepalis from Abu Dhabi, the capital city of the United Arab Emirates (UAE). “Likewise, there will be one flight on August 21 that will evacuate Nepalis from Kuwait.”

Friday, August 14, 2020

JICA Nepal handover Covid-19 response relief in Sindhupalchowk, Gorkha

 JICA Nepal handed over Covid-19 response relief items to Chautara Sangachowkgadhi Municipality and Helambu Rural Municipality in Sindhupalchowk and Palungtar Municipality and Barpak Sulikot Rural Municipality in Gorkha, four of the pilot local governments supported under its Technical Cooperation Project (TCP) ‘The Project on Participatory Rural Recovery’ (PPRR).

Chief Representative of JICA Nepal Yumiko Asakuma handed over emergency relief materials including food like rice, lentils, cooking oil, personal protection equipment (PPE), gloves, masks and sanitizers, Viral transport medium (VTM), for swabs and bedding sets like mattresses, pillows, and bed sheets etc to mayors and representatives of municipalities during the first and second week of August, according to a press note issued by the JICA Nepal office in Kathmandu.

Currently, Palungtar Municipality and Barpak Sulikot Rural Municipality are operating 4 quarantine facilities respectively, catering to between 40 to 70 people in isolation at any point in time, the press note reads, adding that Chautara Municipality has 2 facilities and Helambu Rural Municipality has one, with about 50 people accommodated.

The emergency relief materials were provided as part of the project's support to strengthen the capacities of local governments and communities not only for building back better from the 2015 earthquake but also for enhancing community resilience against various kinds of disasters including the ongoing global pandemic. 

Thursday, August 13, 2020

Covid-19 crisis may push up trade costs : WTO

 The global trade regime secretariat has published a new information note warning of possible increases to trade costs due to Covid-19 disruptions. The note examines the pandemic’s impact on key components of trade costs, particularly those relating to travel and transport, trade policy, uncertainty, and identifies areas where higher costs may persist even after the pandemic is contained.

The note estimates that travel and transport costs account for as much as a third of trade costs depending on the sector. Pandemic-related travel restrictions are therefore likely to affect trade costs for as long as they remain in place. For example, global air cargo capacity shrank by 24.6 per cent in March 2020, as passenger flights account for around half of air cargo volumes. The resulting increase in air freight prices is likely to subside only with a rebound in passenger transport, according to the report by the World Trade Organisation (WTO). While sea and land transport have not faced comparable shocks, maritime transport has seen a decrease in numbers of sailings, while international land transport has been affected by border closures, sanitary measures and detours. Moreover, business travel, which is important for maintaining trading relationships and managing global value chains, in addition to being a significant economic activity in its own right, is being disrupted. The quality of information and communications technology (ICT) infrastructure and digital preparedness will be important in determining how well economies can cope.

Trade policy barriers and regulatory differences are estimated to account for at least 10 per cent of trade costs in all sectors, the WTO report reads, adding that they include tariff and non-tariff measures, temporary trade barriers, regulatory differences and the costs of crossing borders, as well as other policies that impact trade, such as a lack of investment facilitation or of intellectual property protection.

The report also notes that while Covid-19 has motivated both trade-restricting and import-facilitating changes in tariffs and regulatory practices, these measures have so far affected only a small subset of products. A crisis-induced shift towards the digitalisation of customs and regulatory procedures to reduce physical contact could potentially lower the associated trade costs in the long-term.

The report also points to uncertainty as a factor that magnifies the impact of existing trade-related costs, weighing on trade finance flows and dampening the appetite of businesses to invest in researching new markets, acquiring language skills and prospective partners, and conforming with foreign standards. It notes that in the first quarter of 2020, a widely used measure for the global level of uncertainty registered levels 60 per cent higher than those triggered by the Iraq War and the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) outbreak in 2003. In mid-March, a separate index of financial market volatility came close to highs last seen in 2008 after the failure of Lehman Brothers.

Looking ahead, the report notes that many governments have implemented measures to mitigate pandemic-related disruptions to economic activity, for instance by exempting certain transport crew from travel restrictions, or by enhancing the quality of and the access to ICT. While many of the changes in trade costs can be expected to revert once the pandemic is brought under control, the report observes that some effects may persist. For example, aviation industry consolidation and shifts in passenger appetite for air travel could lead to higher air transport costs. In addition, government policy choices – which could either reduce or increase trade policy uncertainty – will be important in shaping uncertainty-related trade costs in the future.

Key points:

Travel restrictions and border closures have been an important part of the initial policy response to the COVID-19 pandemic, and these measures have directly affected trade in goods and services. They have disrupted freight transport, business travel and the supply of services that rely on the presence of individuals abroad. Transport and travel costs constitute an important part of trade costs, and, depending on the sector, are estimated to account for 15 to 31 per cent. Travel restrictions are therefore likely to account for a substantial increase in trade costs for as long as they remain in place.

Freight transport service performance is crucial to trade costs in manufacturing. Since the beginning of the COVID-19 crisis, maritime and land transport have remained largely functional, although they have registered sometimes considerable delays, but air freight transport has been severely disrupted, with global air cargo capacity shrinking by 24.6 per cent in March 2020. Many governments are trying to do as much as possible to keep trade flowing, but in some regions, travel restrictions have the potential to disrupt regional trade and livelihoods severely.

Tradable services that rely on physical proximity between suppliers and consumers, such as tourism, passenger transport or maintenance and repair services, have been severely impacted by travel restrictions and social distancing and have seen a prohibitive increase in trade costs. The disruption in business travel, which plays important roles in establishing and maintaining trading relationships as well as in managing global value chains, is also likely to affect both business and professional services and manufacturing production, although this will depend on how possible it is to substitute e-interactions for face-to-face communication. The quality of information and communications technology (ICT) infrastructure and digital preparedness will thus be important factors in how well economies cope with the pandemic shock.

Estimates suggest that trade policy barriers and regulatory differences account for at least 10 per cent of trade costs in all sectors. Products essential in the fight against the pandemic have seen the introduction of mostly temporary import-facilitating and export-restrictive measures. The former push down trade costs while the latter raise them. Nevertheless, both types of measures have covered a small share of global trade.

High levels of uncertainty magnify the impact of trade costs on international trade. In the first quarter of 2020, for instance, a widely used measure for the global level of uncertainty was 60 per cent higher than the levels triggered by the Iraq War and the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) outbreak in 2003. Uncertainty reduces the appetite of firms to invest into new trading relationships, and the increase in uncertainty may also result in trade finance contraction that is likely to take a particularly heavy toll on emerging and developing economies.WTO< 

Wednesday, August 12, 2020

Reliance Life to go public

 Reliance Life Insurance is issuing 6.3 million units of ordinary shares to the public from August 20 at Rs 100 per unit. 

The life insurance company is issuing 30 per cent of its issued capital of Rs 630 million worth of shares post which the paid-up capital of the company will be Rs 2.10 Billion. Sanima Capital is the issue manager of the shares.

Out of 6.3 million units of shares to be offered to masses, some 315,000 shares have been set aside for the employees of the company, some 315,000 shares have been set aside for mutual funds approved by Securities Board of Nepal (Sebon) and the remaining 5.67 million shares will be offered to the public.

According to chief executive officer of Reliance Life Insurance Prabin Raman Parajuli, the company is the first to issue Initial Public Offering (IPO) to the public among the last lot of 10 new life insurance companies licensed by Insurance Board (Beema Samiti). “The company has been launching innovative plans at competitive prices as demanded by the market with core focus on quality servicing and digitization which further ensures enhanced service delivery,” he said.

Reliance Life Insurance -- commenced its operations from November 17, 2018 – is promoted by Siddhartha Bank Ltd and prominent business houses. The company has been rendering professional services to the public through its 100 point of sales.

'Cabals and Cartels' running and ruining Nepal

What might have gone behind the walls of Washington DC-headquartered World Bank after the 'allegations' of government mismanagement of Prime Minister Employment Fund that received support by the multilateral development partner, the question naturally comes to a reader's mind after going through the Ken Ohashi 'gone native' saga in Rajib Upadhya’s ‘Cabals and Cartels’.

Upadhya writes, in the book that was launched on Thursday, that Ohashi's 'fierce sense of loyalty to the client – the people of Nepal – ultimately tarnished his own legacy in the eyes of World Bank senior management.' 

It is rather a very strong statement because of its messaging that will help understand role of development partners in Nepal, though over the time many of them have been forced to change, according to the need of Nepal's national interest.

Every chapter of Upadhya's book, ‘Cabals and Cartels’, forces readers to think on how Nepal has been run and ruined by cabals and cartels, not only have the political parties have repeatedly broken their promises but also have they pushed the country back to poverty and underdeveloped stage. 

The book – in it's so strongly crafted and worded language – takes readers to a tour of Nepal of the last decade, from political transformation, to fighting against insurgency, and economic reform to a gamut of issues that could have developed Nepal or at least have made Nepal a better country than it is today.

The current generation of Nepalis witnessed – or it is politically correct to say lived – the fast changing regimes, natural disasters like devastating earthquake, and pandemic but a prosperous life, or even a democratic and economically liberal life, deluded them. “What magic did the developed countries did and Nepalis missed,” asks the author Upadhya in his speech during the book launch.

But economist Bishwo Poudel –a panelist at the book launching ceremony – has a different view on rapidly changing regimes in Nepal. He says the age of democracy is determined by the per capita income of the country. “Countries with less than $1,000 per capita has only 12 years age of democracy," he quoted various studies. And it seems true to Nepal.

Published by Fine Print, the 282-page book – ‘Cabals and the Cartels’ – is not only a memoir of a development professional, but also a deep observation of a Nepali into the bureaucracy, political parties, and of course development partners.

Once one starts reading the book, it is hard to put down, as it is so gripping, and interwoven; the relations between government, political parties, development partners and special interest groups in various colour and costumes make the reading interesting. By the end of the book, a reader can easily come to a conclusion, why Nepal has been politically unstable for so long.

The former journalist and development professional Upadhya, says, in the form of a book that how ‘cabal politics ’and ‘market cartels’, conflict between good public policy and rent-seeking mentality sabotaged Nepali's hope of a prosperous country.

Upadhya also claimed that he wanted to expose readers to the grave risks that the cabals and the cartels pose to democratic stability and equitable prosperity. "I felt I needed to present the evidence as to how they distort the priorities of the state and market institutions and distract us from our national goals,” he said.

“Cabals and Cartels is an outstanding narrative of political and economic transitions," another panelist at the book launching ceremony, a development professional, Hima Bista said. “The book is a must read for anyone, especially for foreign development professionals, who wants to understand Nepal's development scenario.”

Likewise, senior journalist, Kishor Nepal – moderating the panel – said that Upadhya’s book is a vivid portrait of contemporary Nepal. "Many books are written about Nepal in English, but most of them are of touristy type," he said, adding that but the book – 'Cabals and the Cartels' – digs deep into the painful realities of the nation called Nepal that has yet not become a nation state.

Tuesday, August 11, 2020

Airlines operators warn of protest

 Airlines operators today warned the government of staging protests, if they are not allowed to resume operations of aviation services.

Issuing a press note, Airlines Operators Association of Nepal (AOAN) said that they have already completed necessary preparations to resume domestic air services as per the directive by the government. “We will be forced to stage protests, if the government decides to further postpone the resumption of aviation service,” the press note reads, adding that they are fully prepared to implement the criteria set by the World Health Organisation (WHO), and the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) to resume domestic air services.

The government – yesterday – postponed the resumption of aviation service only from September 1, against its earlier decision to resume air services from August 17 due to increasing Covid-19 cases in the last week.

The Airlines Operators Association of Nepal (AOAN) – in its press note – said that they have been incurring a huge loss and reached already on the verge of collapse due to restrictions in the scheduled air services. The government has restricted the airlines – both domestic and international – since March to contain the spread of coronavirus (Covid-19) in the country.

“As the government has listed domestic air service – fixed wing – under an essential service,” the press note reads, adding that it is a primary responsibility of the government to make travelling easier for the needy people. “The suspension of aviation services has affected rescue flights for people affected by floods, landslides, disabled patients and pregnant women.”

Airlines is one of the most affected sectors due to coronavirus not only in Nepal but across the globe.. 

नेपाल विकास नहुनुका कारण ‘कबाल्स एण्ड कार्टेल्स’

पत्रकारिताबाट आफनो करियर सुरु गरेका तर आफनो जीवनको उर्जावान समय विकास साझेदारको संगतमा बिताएका राजीव उपाध्यायले बिहीवार एक कार्यक्रमकाबीच आफनो पहिलो पुस्तक ‘कबाल्स एण्ड कार्टेल्स्’ सार्वजनिक गरे ।

दुई दशकभन्दा लामो समय विश्व बैंकमा काम गर्दा नेपालका राजनीतिज्ञ र कर्मचारीतन्त्रलाई गहिरोसँग अवलोकन गरेका, पुस्तकका अनुसार केहिसंग त अलि बढि नै संगत गरेका, उपाध्यायले पुस्तकमा उक्त कालखण्डको वर्णनमात्र गरेका छैनन, अपितु सचित्र वर्णन गरेका छन ।

फाइनप्रिन्टद्वारा प्रकाशन गरिएको २८२ पृष्ठको अंग्रेजी भाषाको पुस्तकले नेपालको पछिल्लो तीन दशकको वर्णन मात्र गर्दैन, नेपाल किन विकास भएन भन्ने विषयमा बिना पाण्डित्याई सहजै बुझन मद्दत पनि गर्दछ ।

पुस्तकबारे टिप्पणी गर्दै अर्थशास्त्री विश्व पौडेलले उपाध्यायको पुस्तकले नेपालमा बहुदलीय राजतन्त्र, माओवादीको सशस्त्र द्वन्द्वदेखि गणतन्त्रसम्म आइपुग्दाको परिवर्तनलाई सूक्ष्म रुपमा प्रस्तुत गरेको बताए ।

पौडेलका अनुसार कुनै पनि देशमा लोकतन्त्रको आयु त्यस देशको प्रतिब्यक्ति आयदरले निर्धारण गर्दछ । विभिन्न अध्ययनका अनुसार एक हजार अमेरिकी डलरभन्दा कम प्रतिब्यक्ति आय भएका मुलुकमा लोकतन्त्रको आयु १२ वर्षभन्दा कम रहन्छ, उनले भने, ‘यस हिसाबमा मध्यम वर्गको विकास नै लोकतन्त्र दिर्घायुको मापन हो ।’

तर, वितेका दुई शताब्दीदेखि नै नेपालमा उत्पादनको साधनलाई सीमित व्यक्तिले कब्जा गरेको भन्दै उनले क्षमतावान व्यक्ति नहुँदा नेपालको विकास प्रकृयाले गति नसमातेको र विकास साझेदारका कार्यक्रमले समेत प्रभावकारी काम गर्न नसकेको बताए ।

उक्त अवसरमा वुमेन लिडकी कार्यकारी निर्देशक हिमा विष्टले पुस्तक नेपालको राजनीतिक एवं आर्थिक परिवर्तनको दस्तावेज बन्ने भन्दै बितेका तीन दशकको नेपालको अर्थराजनीति र विकास प्रकृयालाई चिहाउने आँखिझ्याल भएको बताइन । नेपाल आउने विदेशीहरुलाई नेपालका बारेमा बुझ्न सघाउने पुस्तक कुन दिऊँ भनेर सधैं दोधार हुने गरेकोमा उपाध्यायको पुस्तकले त्यो दोधार हटाइदिएको दाबी गर्दै उनले विदेशी मात्र नभई नेपाललाई बुझ्न चाहने जोकसैले यो पुस्तक अध्ययन गर्नुपर्ने पनि बताइन ।

यस्तै, कार्यक्रमका मध्यस्तकर्ता एवं अर्का टिप्पणीकार वरिष्ठ पत्रकार किशोर नेपालले नेपालबारे जान्ने उपयुक्त माध्यम उक्त पुस्तक रहेको भन्दै उपाध्यायको पुस्तक समकालीन नेपालको जीवन्त तस्वीर रहेको पनि बताए । विश्व बैंकमा काम गर्दा उपाध्यायले देखेको समाज एवं देश परिवर्तनमा प्रतिष्ठित व्यक्तिहरुको केकस्तो भूमिका थियो भन्ने विषयबारे पुस्तकले प्रष्ट पारेको भन्दै नेपालले पुस्तकले सरल र सहज ढङ्गले नेपालको अर्थराजनीति बुझाएको पनि बताए ।

विमोचन कार्यक्रममा आफना कुरा राख्दै लेखक उपाध्यायले अध्ययन र अनुभवको आधारमा पुस्तक तयार पारेको बताए । नेपालको राजनीतिक अस्थिरता, खिचातानी आदिबारे पाठकलाई बुझाउनु आफनो उद्देश्य रहेको भन्दै उनले पञ्चायतकालदेखि गणतन्त्रसम्म, भूकम्पदेखि अन्य महामारीको साक्षी बन्न पाउनु, अनुभव जुटाउने मौका पाएको वर्तमान पुस्ताले देश परिवर्तनका लागि भने उल्लेख्य केही गर्न नसकेको बताउँदै आफूले देखेको भोगेको आधारमा देशको राजनीतिक भागबन्डा आदिले देशलाई कसरी थिलथिलो बनाएको छ यसैले पुस्तक लेख्न पेरित गरेको बताए ।

यो पुस्ताले धेरै संघर्ष गरेको र परिवर्तन पनि आएको भएतापनि परिवर्तनलाई प्रगतिमा रुपान्तरण गर्ने कुरामा भने नराम्ररी चुकेको बताउन उनले छुटाएनन । विश्वका विकसित देशहरुले त्यस्तो के जादुटुना गरे जसको हामीलाई मेसो नै भएन, उनले भने ।

उपाध्यायले राजनीतिज्ञ र बिचौलिया बीचको अनुचित सम्बन्धले देशको अवस्थामा पारेको असर बारे चित्रण पुस्तकमा गरेको जानकारी पनि दिए । उनले पुस्तकको शिर्षक ‘कबाल्स’ यहुदी शब्द रहको तथा १७ औँ शताब्दीतिर षडयन्त्रकारी, गुप्तचरी सीमित वर्गको शासकको वर्णन गर्दा यो शब्दलाई पर्यायको रुपमा प्रयोग गरिने गरिएको भन्दै ‘कार्टेल्स’ को अर्थ सिन्डिकेटसँग मिल्दो जुल्दो रहको पनि बताए ।

लोकतन्त्रको सवलीकरण र आर्थिक विकासको प्रयासलाई अलग्याएर बुझ्न खोज्नु व्यर्थको अभ्यास हुँने आफनो अनुभव रहेको पनि उनले बताए । ‘आजभोलि विचौलिया वर्गको राजनीतिक पहुँच कहाँसम्म पुगिसक्यो र उनीहरुले संरक्षण कसरी पाउँछन, जरा कहाँसम्म फैलिसकेको छ र यसले कुन हदसम्म नाघिसक्यो भन्ने कुरा पुस्तकमा उल्लेख छ,’ उपाध्यायले भने, ‘हाम्रो पुस्ताले राजनीतिलाई साध्य कहिले ठानेन, साधनको रुपमा प्रयोग गरिरह्यो ।’

‘राजनीतिक अभ्यासलाई जनहित लोक कल्याणकारी विकासको बाटोमा नहिँडाउदा वा नचाहँदा वितृष्णा, आन्दोलन र परिवर्तन अनि दुष्चक्रमा हामी बारम्बार फसिरह्यौँ,’ उनले थपे, ‘दुई चार पुस्ता परिवर्तन हुँदा पनि राजनीतिक पात्र जुगजुगसँग परिवर्तन नहुने अनि आफूलाई लोकतान्त्रिक पनि भन्ने नेपालमा बाहेक विश्वका अन्य देशमा छ जस्तो मलाई लाग्दैन ।’

‘कबाल्स एण्ड कार्टेल्स’ पुस्तक नेपालको राजनीति र व्यवसायबीचको अन्तरसम्बन्ध, अर्थात भूमिगत गिरोह र यीनको मिलेमतोमा राज्यशक्तिलाई नियन्त्रण गर्ने अभ्यासमार्फत राज्य श्रोतको दोहन, आर्थिक सुधार, माओवादी द्धन्द्धकाल र संक्रमणकाल, विकास प्रकृया, तथा विकास साझेदारको नेपालपतिको दृष्टिकोणका बारेमा जान्न चाहनेका लागि अत्यन्त उपयोगी छ ।

EU provides €1.65 million to support victims of the devastating South Asia floods

 In response to severe flooding that have affected South Asia – most notably Bangladesh, India and Nepal – the European Union (EU) is providing €1.65 million in humanitarian aid funding.

The support comes on top of the €1.8 million announced earlier this year to support families affected by a series of disasters, including Cyclone Amphan that ravaged India and Bangladesh in May, bringing the total EU support to victims of disasters in the region to €3.45 million.

The flooding has affected some 17.5 million people, wiping out homes, livelihoods such as livestock and agricultural lands, and destroying vital infrastructure including roads, hospitals and schools. 

“The monsoon rains across South Asia have been particularly devastating this year and this urgent contribution will help our humanitarian partners on the ground in providing crucial support to those who have lost their shelters, belongings and sources of livelihood,” said Taheeni Thammannagoda, who oversees EU humanitarian programs in Asia and the Pacific. “Focusing on the worst affected countries, we are providing the means for people to survive through this difficult time so that they can get back on their feet as soon as possible.” 

Out of the total funding, €1 million will be dedicated to addressing the urgent humanitarian needs in Bangladesh, where over two million people are in need of food assistance, water, sanitation, hygiene and emergency shelter. Some 850,000 remain displaced, a figure expected to increase as rains continue. 

A further €500,000 will be used in India to provide food and livelihood assistance, emergency relief supplies, and water and sanitation services. So far, this year’s monsoon rains have impacted at 10.9 million and has amplified people’s vulnerabilities as they struggle to tackle the consequences of the global coronavirus pandemic. 

In Nepal, €150,000 will be used to address the pressing need for water and sanitation, shelter and essential household items following the displacement of thousands of people after the rains unleashed devastating landslides across the country. 

The funding is part of the EU’s Acute Large Emergency Response Tool (ALERT). Measures to prevent the spread of the coronavirus will be incorporated in all programming.

With the onset of the annual monsoon in June, heavy and sustained rains have caused massive floods and landslides across South Asia, killing hundreds and affecting over 17.5 million people. The disaster has decimated people’s livelihoods and food resources. The poor access to clean water risks increasing the spread of disease - especially worrying during the coronavirus pandemic.

The European Union, along with its member states, is the world’s leading donor of humanitarian aid. Through its European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations (ECHO), the European Union (EU) helps over 120 million victims of conflicts and disasters every year. The acute large emergency response tool (ALERT) is used to respond to large natural disasters where over 100,000 people or over 50 percent of the population are affected. Depending on the type of disaster, the aim is to allocate funds within 24 to 48 hours of the onset of the emergency.

Monday, August 10, 2020

Flights, long-haul transport not to resume until September 1

The government has postponed the resumption of flights, and long-haul transportation for a month.

“A cabinet meeting today has decided to put off August 17 resumption of all flights till the September 1,” according to a minister. “The cabinet meeting has decided that domestic and international flights, long-haul transportation service, and other services that were earlier scheduled to resume on August 17 will remain suspended till September 1,” he confirmed, adding that the Crisis Management Centre (CMC) had recommended the government to postpone resumption of their operations by a fortnight, but the government decided it to postpone them by a month. “The decision has been taken in view of the steady rise in number of Covid-19 cases after the easing of the lockdown.”

The cabinet meeting – held at the Prime Minister's official residence in Baluwatar – has also decided to tighten the movement across the border crossing points due to the rise in number of infections across the border. “The government has fixed 10 border points for crossing from existing 20 to check the unwanted inflow,” he added.

The CCMC meeting on Sunday had decided to recommend to the government not to immediately resume aviation services and long-distance public transport as announced earlier to resume these services from August 17.

The government had partially lifted the lockdown 120 days after it was first imposed on March 24 to contain the spread of coronavirus (Covid-19). While lifting the lockdown – on July 20 – the government had announced to resume long-distance public transportation services, domestic and international flights, training sessions and preliminary stages of international games, student admission, academic and other examinations from August 17. The government had lifted the four-month long lockdown from July 21.

On March 20, the government had banned all passengers – including Nepalis, from entering the country from the European Union territories, including the United Kingdom, West Asia, Gulf countries and countries like Iran, Turkey, Malaysia, South Korea and Japan – four days ago, imposing a nationwide lockdown to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

The cabinet meeting also decided to allow factories and business enterprises to resume their operation only after they fulfill health guidelines and develop separate quarantine facilities for their workers,” he informed.

With 338 new cases of coronavirus recorded in the past 24 hours across the country, Nepal's Covid-19 tally has risen to 23,310 today. A total of 79 individuals have succumbed to this disease so far.

The recent days have witnessed rising number of Covid-19 cases in the Kathmandu Valley. And the government has re-imposed the odd-even rule for both public and private vehicles except those belonging to essential services from Thursday.

Likewise, the Home Ministry has restricted the movement of people between 9 pm and 5 am in the three districts of the Kathmandu Valley to contain the possible spread of Covid-19. All passenger vehicles are also banned from entering the Kathmandu Valley from 7 pm to 7 am.

Sunday, August 9, 2020

India gifts 10 ICU ventilators to Nepal Army

 Indian Army has gifted 10 ICU ventilators to the Nepal Army in order to support its efforts to fight against the prevailing Covid-19 pandemic.

Ambassador of India to Nepal Vinay Mohan Kwatra today handed over the ventilators – in a ceremony held at Nepali Army Headquarters – to Chief of Army Staff General Purna Chnadra Thapa, who is also honourary general of Indian Army.

The ventilators are designed for a broad range of applications to include advanced invasive or non-invasive respiratory support, according to a press note issued by the Indian Embassy in Kathmandu. “They can be used in support of secondary care in hospitals with ICU, tertiary multispecialty hospitals and dedicated ICUs,” it reads, adding that they are portable and handy in transportation of patients requiring intensive care due to their compact nature. “The Indian Army has a long record of extending support to the Nepali Army as a first responder for humanitarian assistance and relief.”

The gifting of ventilators is part of this continued humanitarian cooperation between the two Armies, it adds. During the handing over ceremony, envoy Kwatra reaffirmed India’s commitment to provide all necessary help to the people of Nepal in prevailing over the pandemic.

Friday, August 7, 2020

Pristine Valley bags contract to operate Birgunj ICD

 Pristine Valley Dryport Pvt Ltd has been awarded the contract to manage and operate the Inland Clearance Depot (ICD) at Sirsiya in Birgunj district. Since the inception, the port has been managed and handled by Indian government entity CONCOR through its local counterpart Himalayan Terminals Pvt Ltd. The new management has taken over the operation and management of the dryport at the special function organised within the port premises at Sirsiya in Birgunj today.

“In the 16 years of establishment and operation of the dryport, the management of the dry port has been transferred to a fully private venture for the first time, according to director of Nepal Intermodal Transport Development Board – the regulatory authority of Dryports in Nepal – HM Shahi.

“We are hopeful that the trade will benefit with this new development that has taken place in Nepal’s only rail linked terminal which handles more than 50 per cent of containerised traffic of the country,” he said.

Birgunj Inland Dry Port was constructed between 2000 and 2004 AD, and came into operation to facilitate trade. Established in 38 hectares property, the port has the storage capacity to manage over 4,500 containers and is rail linked with Raxaul in India connecting to harbours in Kolkata and Vishakapatnam via Indian Railways network.

Indian stakeholder of Pristine Valley Dry Port, ‘Pristine Mega Logistics Pvt Ltd’ and its network is managing ICDs in Ludhiana, Kanpur, Siliguri and Patna in India through its own 35 Container railways. The company has over 10 years for intensive experience in managing and handling ICDs in india and have entered the International market for the first time, according to a press note of the company. Nepali counterpart ‘Valley Terminals’ is a sister company of ‘Valley Group’, which works in the logistic sector, the press note reads, adding that Valley group – established 40 years ago – is a business conglomerate with diversified business including in poultry and related products, fast food, automobile, construction material manufacture, Information Technology (IT), and Infrastructure.

The directors of the Terminal Management Company, Pristine Valley Dryport Private Limited Rajnish Kumar and Baburaja Rawal mentioned that they want to use this venture to bring transformation and change in customer experience through efficiency upgradation and capacity building at the dryport. 

“The management transfer occurred during the pandemic of ‘Covid 19’ and the company will face piles of challenges with no definite date for this pandemic to end in upcoming days,” director of the Nepali counterpart company of the venture Madhav Baral said, adding that the port is only handling 35 per cent of its total capacity since the wide spread of Coronavirus, further down trend on export and import will continue. “The group will work on expansion of the port by attracting the road networked imports and export to the dry port and improving the existing in-country transportation services.”

The Management Team also mentioned that they are confident to implement Pristine’s experience and knowledge in Birgunj ICD to enhance the services and to expand the existing capacity of the port and that the venture will take a new height in the upcoming days.

Kathmandu valley suspends all non-emergency services for 15 days

 Kathmandu Valley has suspended all non-emergency services for next one fortnight as the number of coronavirus cases has seen increament.

The three District Administration Offices (DAO) – Kathmandu, Lalitpur and Bhaktapur – in Kathmandu valley today decided to suspend all services except emergency ones for the next 15 days, according to the notice of the Kathmandu District Administration Office.

“A meeting of the Chief District Officers (CDOs) held today decided to halt all non-emergency services in Kathmandu, Lalitpur and Bhaktapur districts as a safety measure to check the rising cases of coronavirus infection in the valley,” the notice reads, adding that the meeting also decided to seal Teku and Mahabouddha areas in Kathmandu following the detection of infection in those areas. The DAOs have decided to seal the areas, where the transmission is high instead of imposing full lockdown in the valley.

The private sector has asked the government not to impose complete lockdown as the economy will bleed red. 

The meeting of the CDOs also decided to strictly enforce health guidelines and take actions against those, who do not use masks and take other mandatory safety measures. “The district administration also decided to strictly implement the odd-even rule for vehicles plying in the valley to control the crowd,” the notice reads, adding that the meeting decided to delegate the authority to concerned office chiefs to suspend services in other government offices in the valley as and when necessary.

The relevant office head can decide whether or not to suspend non-emergency services to contain coronavirus transmission at a time when the infection is increasing among the government offices.

The Valley today reported 106 new cases of novel coronavirus disease (Covid-19) and coronavirus death toll in the country reached to 70.

World breastfeeding week 2020: Focus on access to skilled support

 As the world marks Breastfeeding Week amidst the Covid-19 pandemic spread, World Health Organisation (WHO) and partners are focusing on increasing mother's access to skilled breastfeeding support, calling on governments to protect and promote skilled counselling, a critical component of breastfeeding support.

“Now, more than ever, countries and programmes must make efforts to ensure that every mother and family receive the guidance and support they need to breastfeed their children,” regional director of WHO South-East Asia Dr Poonam Khetrapal Singh said, adding that skilled breastfeeding counselling is key to improving breastfeeding rates and helps extend the duration of breastfeeding and promote exclusive breastfeeding.

As the Covid-19 pandemic continues to evolve and accelerate, WHO has taken decisive actions to promote, protect and support breastfeeding across countries in the South- East Asia Region.

Recommendations on breastfeeding have been provided, with most countries adopting the guidance.  WHO recommends that mothers with suspected or confirmed symptoms of Covid-19 should continue to breastfeed, with appropriate precautions such as wearing a mask and practicing respiratory hygiene. Mother and child should also stay together and practice skin to skin contact including kangaroo mother care, especially immediately after the birth of a child and while establishing breastfeeding – regardless of whether mother or child are suspected of or have confirmed symptoms of Covid-19.

These recommendations have been made considering the potential risks of Covid-19 infection in an infant, as well as the risks associated with not breastfeeding, the inappropriate use of infant formula milk and the protective effects of skin to skin contact. Mothers need to be counselled that the benefits of breastfeeding far outweigh the potential risk of transmission, she added.

“Without sufficient attention to breastfeeding support during the Covid-19 pandemic, the successes gained across these years by countries will not be sustained,” Dr Poonam Khetrapal Singh said, adding that the Covid-19 pandemic has resulted in health workers being diverted to respond to the pandemic and overburdened health systems. “Infection prevention measures are also making it difficult for community counselling and mother-to-mother support services to continue.”

All these factors together are likely to diminish breastfeeding, unless innovative solutions are put in place to support mothers’ she added.

“Countries should invest in making skilled breastfeeding counselling available through training of healthcare workers, with counselling made available as part of routine health service delivery and also through partnerships with civil society,” Dr Khetrapal Singh added.

In South-East Asia Region, WHO  has been advocating to countries to ensure breastfeeding as an essential component of nutrition and maternal care programmes, through initiatives to strengthen health systems by scaling up breastfeeding support in facilities providing maternity and newborn services, ensuring capacity-building of health care providers in being able to provide skilled breastfeeding support and promoting the implementation and monitoring of the Code of Marketing of Breast Milk Substitutes.

The World Breastfeeding Week 2020 is observed from August 1 to 7. This year WHO and UNICEF are together advocating for ‘Support breastfeeding for a healthier planet’.

Thursday, August 6, 2020

Gold price hits Rs 102,500

 The precious yellow metal has made yet another record at an all-time high of Rs 102,500 per tola (11.664 gram) in the domestic market today.

Federation of Nepal Gold and Silver Dealers’ Association (Fenegosida) confirmed an increase of Rs 1,100 per tola on fine gold in a day to hit the historic high price of Rs 102,500 per tola. “The price of tejabi gold stands at Rs 102,000 per tola, which also increased by Rs 1,100.”

The Federation had earlier estimated that the gold price may surge as high as Rs 150,000 per tola by October. The price of silver has also increased to Rs 1,345, showing an increase of Rs 50 per tola, in a day. Prior to this, the silver price had peaked at around Rs 1,300 per tola in 2013.

MDBs' annual climate finance passes $61 billion

 Climate financing by seven of the world’s largest multilateral development banks (MDBs) totaled $61.6 billion in 2019, with $41.5 billion (67 per cent) in low- and middle-income economies, according to the 2019 joint report on Multilateral Development Banks’ Climate Finance.

In addition to its traditional focus on low- and middle-income countries, the 2019 report expands the scope of reporting for the first time to all countries of operations. Some $46.6 billion, or 76 per cent of total financing for the year, was devoted to climate change mitigation investments that aim to reduce harmful greenhouse gas emissions and slow down global warming.

The remaining $15 billion, or 24 per cent, was invested in adaptation efforts to help countries build resilience to the mounting impacts of climate change, including worsening droughts and more extreme weather events from extreme flooding to rising sea levels.

The report combines data from the Asian Development Bank (ADB), the African Development Bank, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD), the European Investment Bank (EIB), the Inter-American Development Bank Group, the World Bank (WB) Group and – for the first time – the Islamic Development Bank, which joined the working group in October 2017. In 2019, the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) also joined MDB working groups, and its data is presented separately in the report.

Additional climate funds channeled through MDBs – such as from the Climate Investment Funds, the Global Environment Facility Trust Fund, the Global Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Fund, the European Union’s Funds for Climate Action, and the Green Climate Fund – also play an important role in boosting MDB climate financing. In 2019, the MDBs reported a further $102.7 billion in net climate cofinancing from public and private sources. This raised the total climate activity financed by MDBs in 2019 to $164.3 billion.

“The growing flow of MDB climate finance shows our joint resolve to take on climate change and, in the face of the coronavirus disease (Covid-19) pandemic, it is more important than ever to ‘build back better’ in a low carbon and climate resilient way,” said the director general of ADB's Sustainable Development and Climate Change Department Woochong Um. “The report shows that climate finance provided by and through the MDBs is providing increasing support for these needed transitions.”

In 2019, ADB committed almost $7.1 billion in climate finance (more than $5.5 billion for mitigation and $1.5 billion for adaptation). This included $705 million from external resources, including multilateral climate funds. Further, ADB mobilized $8.8 billion of climate cofinancing.

The report shows that the MDBs are on track to deliver on their increased climate finance commitments. In 2019, the MDBs committed their global annual climate financing to reach $65 billion by 2025 – with $50 billion for low- and middle-income countries – and that MDB adaptation finance would double to $18 billion by 2025. The MDBs have reported on climate finance since 2011, based on a jointly developed methodology for climate finance tracking.

The 2019 Joint Report on Multilateral Development Banks’ Climate Finance is published in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic, which has caused significant social and economic disruption, temporarily reducing global carbon emissions to 2006 levels.

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.

Wednesday, August 5, 2020

IOM hands over another multipurpose community centre in Bhimeshwor

A newly constructed multipurpose community centre at Bhimeshwor municipality of Dolakha district was officially handed over to the municipal authorities today. This earthquake-resistant building constructed by the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) with funding from the people of Thailand through the Royal Thai government, will be used by the municipality as ‘coordination hub’ in its response to crises like Covid-19 pandemic.
“With the operation of multipurpose evacuation center in the municipality, IOM is hopeful that the disaster risk management can be supported from the grassroot level to encompass all the beneficiaries,” said head of Programmes at IOM Nepal Jitendtra Bohara.
Confirmed Covid cases in Nepal have been increasing daily, although there has been decline partly attributed to declining number of returnees from neighbouring India, while the country saw sharp increase in cases after the Indian government eased its lockdown effective from June 1. Majority of cases in Nepal so far, have been returnee migrants, read a press note issued by the IOM-Kathmandu Office today.
“Having designated open spaces with on-site amenities is certainly much safer and important than setting up tent at random area at the event of disaster,” said the Bhimeshwor municipality mayor Bharat Bahadur KC, inaugurating the building.
On the same occasion, mayor KC also unveiled the ‘Open Space Map Book’ developed by the IOM covering all details of designated ‘open spaces’ in the municipality to be used for humanitarian purposes in the event of a disaster. The map book covers all details of ‘open spaces’ such as Global Positioning System (GPS) location, total area, nearest route for evacuation when disaster strikes, nearest emergency services and so on around the open spaces.
IOM is supporting the government in the identification and protection of ‘open spaces’ in the provinces of Bagmati, Gandaki and Province 5. The 83 open spaces identified in Kathmandu valley with support from the IOM, were found to be useful during the Nepal earthquake 2015 that displaced approximately 2.8 million people. The identified open spaces will be integrated to government’s BIPAD platform, a real time database information management sharing portal that will be related completely to both natural and non-natural hazards.
On the onset of disaster, the building will be used to provide shelter for displaced people with priority given to the most vulnerable, including pregnant women, children, people with special needs and the elderly people. In times when no disasters or emergencies are prevalent, the building will serve as a venue for community and municipal activities, including women and youth groups, community-based trainings, recreational pursuits, information dissemination and income generating activities.
Under the same project, IOM is building similar multipurpose structures in seven other municipalities in earthquake-affected districts namely Kathmandu, Lalitpur, Bhaktapur, Gorkha, Dhading, Sindhupalchowk and Rasuwa, with the structure in Bhaktapur district already completed and handed over to the concerned authority.
The project, part of support from the people of Thailand to the Nepalese people in their recovery efforts from the earthquake 2015, is being implemented under the leadership of the government, mainly the Ministry of Urban Development, Ministry of Home Affairs and the Ministry of Federal Affairs and General Administration.
As co-lead for camp coordination and camp management (CCCM) cluster in humanitarian emergencies, IOM Nepal contributes to government’s efforts in disaster risk reduction and building resilient communities.

Finally, Ncell to go public

Yet another multinational company – after Unilever Nepal – is going public soon.
A private telecom service provider, Ncell Pvt Ltd has converted itself into a public company, in line with the Nepal Telecommunication Authority (NTA) directives.
The company has also been renamed ‘Ncell Axiata Ltd’ from its earlier registered name Ncell Pvt Ltd, giving an indication to float share to the general public. Axiata is its parent company. Axiata is a multinational telecommunications conglomerate listed in Malaysian stock exchange.
Issuing a notice today, the first private mobile operator said that it has renamed ‘Ncell Axiata Ltd’ and got transformed into the public company following a decision of the Office of Company Registrar on Monday.
Earlier in 2016, a leading Asian telecommunication group headquartered in Malaysia Axiata Group acquired Ncell from TeliaSonera and Reynolds Holdings at $1.365 billion. The deal secured Axiata an 80 per cent equity interest and controlling stake in Ncell.
Nepal Telecommunication Authority (NTA) – the regulatory body of mobile service providers – had issued a circular to the licensed telecom service providers to offer their shares to the public. 
Another telecom service provider Nepal Telecom is already listed at Nepal Stock Exchange (Nepse). Ncell will be not only the second multinational company to be listed at the stock exchange but also second telecom service provider to be listed in the stock exchange.

WTO report draws attention to impact of Covid-19 trade disruptions on women

Women make up a larger share of the workforce in the manufacturing sectors, such as textiles, apparel, footwear and telecommunication products that have seen the largest falls in export growth during the first months of the pandemic, according to a global trade body. In the services sector, women also outnumber men in industries that have been directly affected by travel restrictions, such as tourism and business travel services, the World Trade Organisation (WTO) paper reads.
The paper estimates the risk posed by trade disruptions on men and women using employment data from the World Bank (WB) Enterprise Surveys, monthly merchandise exports data and statistics on the mode by which a service is supplied.
The paper furthermore notes that women are disproportionately present in the informal sector in developing and least-developed countries and in activities that cannot be done remotely. It also highlights how the existing gender gap in terms of income, education, information technology skills, access to finance, and childcare responsibilities put women at a further disadvantage during the pandemic.
Maintaining open markets during the recovery period is key to building faster and more inclusive growth, the information note reads, adding that this should be complemented by appropriate labour and education policies as well as legal and social reforms to support women workers, consumers and traders. The paper also points to the recently launched WTO-World Bank report ‘Women and Trade: The role of trade in promoting gender equality’, which highlights ways to ensure women continue to benefit from trade during the economic recovery after the pandemic.
“Women are at risk of suffering more than men from the trade disruption generated by the Covid-19 pandemic,” it reads, adding that one of the reasons for this is that a larger share of women works in sectors and types of firms that have been particularly hard-hit by the pandemic. “Women make up a larger share of the workforce in the manufacturing sectors, such as textiles, apparel, footwear and telecommunication products that experienced some of the largest falls in export growth during the first months of the pandemic.” For example, female employees represent 80 per cent of the workforce in ready-made garment production in Bangladesh, in which industry orders declined by 45.8 per cent over the first quarter of 2020, and by 81 per cent in April alone, it adds.
A larger share of women than men works in services, such as tourism and business travel services, that have been directly affected by regional and international travel restrictions. Likewise, a large share of firms owned or managed by women are micro, small and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs), and lower levels of financial resources and limited access to public funds are placing the survival of such businesses at greater risk. “The economic impact of the pandemic is expected to be particularly significant for women in least-developed and developing economies because fewer women than men are employed in these economies in occupations, which can be undertaken remotely, and a larger share of women is employed in sectors highly exposed to international travel restrictions.”
The joint World Bank (WB) and World Trade Organisation (WTO) report on trade and gender, ‘Women and Trade: the role of trade in promoting gender equality’, published in July 2020, highlights ways in which trade can continue to benefit women in the post-Covid-19 recovery period. “The effects of the pandemic are aggravating existing vulnerabilities,” it reads, adding that many channels through which Covid-19 is having a greater impact on women are those at the heart of gender inequalities, such as lower wages for women, fewer educational opportunities, limited access to finance, greater reliance on informal employment and social constraints. “Limited access to digital technologies and lower rates of information technology (IT) skills further reduce women's opportunities for teleworking and e-commerce, and thus for adapting to the current crisis.”
Many governments have adopted a broad range of support measures to help individuals and businesses. Some of these measures, mainly social protection initiatives adopted by some central or local governments, are specifically targeted at women. “Maintaining open trade during the economic recovery period is key to building faster and more inclusive growth,” according to the report.

Gold price hits ‘historic’ high

The price of precious yellow metal has hit a historic high of Rs 101,400 per tola (11.664 gram) today.
According to the Federation of Nepal Gold and Silver Dealers’ Association, the new price of fine gold today is set at Rs 101,400 per tola with an increase of Rs 1,600 in a day from yesterday.
Gold was traded for Rs 99,800 per tola on yesterday. The price jumped by a whopping Rs 1,600 in a single day.
Likewise, silver is traded at Rs 1,295 per tola today up by Rs 65 yesterday. Its price was Rs 1,230 per tola on Tuesday. The price of silver has seen a consistent rise since the market resumed in June.
“In the international bullion market, spot gold rose in early trade and touched a fresh record of $2,025.76 per ounce, which is 33 per cent higher so far this year,” according to the international market.
Gold price has been continuously increasing in recent months amid the surge in coronavirus transmission. However, the price has crossed the six-digit mark in the local bullion market for the first time in the midst of a faltering global economy. Gold tends to gain when political and economic uncertainties are high, according to the Federation of Nepal Gold and Silver Dealers’ Association former president Tej Ratna Shakya. “Investors have been fleeing to ‘safe haven’ assets as the pandemic shows no signs of abating,” he said, adding that investors around the world pours their money into the precious metal as the fall in demand for oil and stock prices has made them turn to gold. “Even before the pandemic began in January, the trade war between the United States and China had already started pushing gold prices upwards, as returns on investment were becoming uncertain, and gold is considered a safe haven asset.”
The depreciating value of Nepali currency compared to the US dollars has also been attributed for the gold price hike in Nepal.

Tuesday, August 4, 2020

ILO Child Labour Convention achieves universal ratification

For the first time in the ILO’s history, an International Labour Convention has been ratified by all member States. “Convention No 182 on the Worst Forms of Child Labour achieved universal ratification, following ratification by the Kingdom of Tonga,” confirmed a press note issued by the International Labour Organsation (ILO)
Ambassador for the Kingdom of Tonga Titilupe Fanetupouvava’u Tuivakano, formally deposited the ratification instruments with ILO director-general Guy Ryder today, it reads, adding that the Convention is the most rapidly ratified Convention in the history of the organisation, since its adoption 21 years ago by the International Labour Conference.
“Universal ratification of Convention 182 is an historic first that means that all children now have legal protection against the worst forms of child labour,” ILO director-general Guy Ryder said, adding that it reflects a global commitment that the worst forms of child labour including slavery, sexual exploitation, the use of children in armed conflict or other illicit or hazardous work that compromises children’s health, morals or psychological wellbeing, have no place in our society. “Universal ratification of Convention 182 is an historic first.”
Secretary-General of the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) Sharan Burrow welcomed the ratification. “Universal ratification of Convention 182 is a potent and timely reminder of the importance of ILO standards and the need for multilateral solutions to global problems,” she said, adding that child labour is a grievous violation of fundamental rights, and it is incumbent on the ILO’s constituents and the international community to ensure that this Convention is fully implemented, including through due diligence in global supply chains.
“The universal ratification of ILO Convention No 182 on the worst forms of child labour is an historic moment,” said secretary-general of the International Organisation of Employers (IoE) Roberto Suárez Santos. “Throughout the years, the IoE and its member organisations have supported the implementation of this Convention,” he said, adding that the business community is both aware of and acting on the need to do business with respect for children’s rights today. “This is even more urgent in the times of the Covid-19 pandemic.”
We cannot allow the fight against the worst form of child labour to backslide, he said, “Together we can work towards the end of child labour in all its forms.”
This universal ratification is a further step towards making more concrete the aspirations of Nobel Peace Prize laureate Kailash Satyarthi, when he said, “I dream of a world full of safe children and safe childhoods; …I dream of a world where every child enjoys the freedom to be a child.”
The ILO estimates that there are 152 million children in child labour , some 73 million of whom are in hazardous work the ILO press note claimes, adding that seventy per cent of all child labour takes place in agriculture and is mostly related to poverty and parents’ difficulties finding decent work. “Convention No 182 calls for the prohibition and elimination of the worst forms of child labour, including slavery, forced labour and trafficking.” It also prohibits the use of children in armed conflict, prostitution, pornography and illicit activities such as drug trafficking, and in hazardous work.
It is one of the ILO’s eight Fundamental Conventions. These cover the abolition of child labour, the elimination of forced labour, the abolition of work-related discrimination and the rights to freedom of association and collective bargaining. These principles are also covered by the ILO Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work (1998).
Since the ILO’s founding in 1919, child labour has been a core concern. The organisation’s first director, Albert Thomas, described child labour as, “the exploitation of childhood which constitutes the evil… most unbearable to the human heart. Serious work in social legislation begins always with the protection of children.”
It is the focus of one of the ILO’s largest development cooperation programmes – the International Programme on the Elimination of Child Labour and Forced Labour (IPEC+), which has supported over 100 countries in all continents.
The incidence of child labour and its worst forms dropped by almost 40 per cent between 2000 and 2016, as ratification rates of Convention No 182 and Convention No 138 – on minimum age to work – increased, and countries adopted effective laws and policies.
However, progress has slowed in recent years, particularly amongst the youngest age group (5-11 years) and in some geographical areas. With the Covid-19 pandemic, there is a real risk that years of progress will be reversed, leading to a potential increase in child labour for the first time in 20 years, unless appropriate action is taken.
“Ending child labour by 2025 in all its forms” is included under Target 8.7 of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), adopted by all UN member states in 2015. The global partnership, Alliance 8.7, for which the ILO provides the secretariat, brings together over 250 partners and 21 Pathfinder Countries to coordinate, innovate and accelerate progress to end child labour, forced labour, human trafficking and modern slavery. The universal ratification of Convention No 182 demonstrates the will of all ILO member States to ensure that every child, everywhere, is free from child labour and its worst forms.
This landmark achievement comes just months before the start of the International Year for the Elimination of Child Labour in 2021, to be led by the ILO in collaboration with partners. Its aim is to raise awareness of the issue and to help accelerate the pace of progress.