Tuesday, September 29, 2020

Government issues guidelines for mountaineering and trekking activities

 The government has asked the foreigner to carry with themselves a PCR test report conducted not more than 72 hours ago – for trekking and mountaineering purpose – apart from seven-day mandatory hotel quarantine before they will be allowed to hit the trail. The travelers need to get tested for Covid-19 at the beginning and end of the isolation period, according to the government guideline issued today.

Issuing health protocol today for foreign tourists to follow in order to minimise the possible spread of coronavirus infection while conducting trekking and mountaineering activities, the Ministry of Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation also asked the tourists to secure an entry-visa, or an entry-permit in absence of visa-provision in their countries in co-ordination with respective agencies. “Travellers have to secure visas before they arrive in Nepal,” the ministry said, adding that the government will not issue on-arrival visas at Tribhuvan International Airport (TIA) like before.

If the visitors are unable to secure visas through the Nepal embassies and diplomatic mission abroad, they should make a prior request through their trekking or travel agencies in Nepal. The Department of Tourism that issues mountaineering permits, and the Nepal Tourism Board (NTB) that issues trekking permits, will recommend to the Department of Immigration to issue visas to the applicants.

The government is allowing the foreign trekkers and mountaineers to visit Nepal from October 17.

The tourists must carry with themselves a PCR test report conducted not more that 72 hours ago, attesting that the person has tested negative for Covid-19. “Along with the report, the traveler must have booking-documents for the hotel wherein they will stay for at least seven days in quarantine.”

They must also undergo a PCR test at their own expense on the fifth day of being quarantined. They may proceed for the purported activity at the end of quarantine period only on testing negative for the disease. “If the test results in a positive, the person must stay in quarantine for as long as they do not test negative,” the guidelines read.

The travelers must provide papers proving they have an insurance of $5,000, it reads. “The ministry has also asked the trekking or mountaineering agency to insure travelers from Nepal against coronavirus for a sum of Rs 100,000 prior to applying for permit.”

Apart from the guidelines, the travelers must also abide by all the protocols laid out by the Health Ministry.

However, the travel experts criticised the government guidelines saying that the travelers will not come to Nepal to stay in the hotel for a week. They also requested the government to withdraw the decision.

The government – on March 12, a day after the World Health Organisation (WHO) declared the Covid-19 outbreak a pandemic and urged countries to take precautionary measures – had decided to temporarily stop issuing on-arrival tourist visas to nationals of all countries, and cancel spring mountaineering expeditions including Mt Everest missions.

The government also stopped international flights from March 20 and imposed lockdown from March 24. Though, the lockdown was lifted after 120 days, on July 21, the government continued with the restrictive order with restrictions on movement.

Monday, September 28, 2020

World Bank support for federalism and improved service delivery

 The World Bank approved today a $150 million project to help Nepal strengthen service delivery and institutional capacities in strategic secondary cities, and to support the post-Covid-19 economic recovery. The project is unique in that it puts the municipalities in front and center in project implementation, in full alignment with federalism principles enshrined in the 2015 Constitution of Nepal, according to a press note issued by the multilateral development partner.

“In the context of rapid urbanisation, federalism and Covid-19, providing support to strengthen institutions for effective local service delivery in Nepal’s secondary cities, and extending targeted support to vulnerable groups affected by the impact of the pandemic is critical,” World Bank country director for Maldives, Nepal and Sri Lanka Faris Hadad-Zervos said. “Our support will help build capacity of key municipalities, enhance local accountability, and accelerate Covid-19 recovery by short-term employment for vulnerable groups as well as service delivery,” he added.

The Nepal Urban Governance and Infrastructure Project will support municipalities located in two strategic urban clusters: Eastern-Terai region (Provinces 1 and 2) and Western region (Gandaki Province and Province 5). The selected municipalities in these areas are key to Nepal’s economic development and are centers for commercial and administrative activities. Through the creation of Nepal’s’ first dedicated Urban Sector Grant, the project will finance strategic infrastructure in the targeted cities, based on the priorities of the municipalities and their citizens.

The project will also support capacity building for the municipalities for improved urban management and with strong focus on citizen engagement, enabling targeted municipalities to better plan, manage and execute service delivery and urban management activities. In this way, the project ensures that the capacity of municipalities is built in relation to functions that they perform (learning by doing), and that municipalities are held to account by citizens and national government.

The project will finance small scale labour intensive public works, thus creating temporary jobs for at least 20,000 people across the country, including women and other vulnerable groups. The project also includes a contingency emergency response component to reallocate project funds to support emergency response and recovery.

“The project is a critical milestone in that it is the first World Bank project in Nepal to directly support federalism,” the Project Task Team Leader and Senior Urban Specialist of the World Bank Jonas Ingemann Parby said, adding, “Equally importantly, the project includes best practices in climate resilience, gender equality, social inclusion and citizen engagement, which the federal, provincial and local governments can take on.”

The project is fully aligned with government policies and strategies, including the National Urban Development Strategy, and is harmonised with the overall support provided by the government and development partners towards the implementation of federalism in Nepal.

Government claims Covid-19 risk is beyond prediction

 Minister for Foreign Affairs Pradeep Gyawali – who is also the spokesperson of the government – while addressing a regular press briefing today – said that the risk of novel coronavirus disease (Covid-19) in the country is beyond the prediction of the government.

Since the daily count of new Covid-19 cases is on the sharp rise in the recent week, he said that it is too early to say how long this situation would last as infection rate is escalating at an alarming rate. “At this hour of health crisis, we all should exercise high levels of precaution against this global pandemic,” he said, adding that the restriction imposed on various sectors has been eased not because of low risk of this viral disease, but as an attempt to normalise and balance daily life of people. “As major festivals are just around the corner, we need to be more careful to avoid further spread of this disease.”

The country has seen 120 days lockdown from March 24, and again prohibitory order for another three weeks, bleeding the economy.

Urging the house owners and business enterprises not to force the tenants and employees to undergo PCR tests to diagnose the Covid-19 disease, Gyawali said that it is against the test guidelines formulated by the government.

By today, as many as 74,745 cases linked to the coronavirus have been confirmed in Nepal since the first case was reported on January 24. According to the Ministry of Health and Population (MoHP), a total of 1,351 new cases were reported in the past 24 hours alone. The ministry has recommended the government to impose lockdown if the active coronavirus cases increases beyond 25,000. As of today there are some 20,000 active cases. Kathmandu alone reported some 817 new cases in the past 24 hours alone, taking the total case tally to 22,124.

Nepal, Oman to sign labour agreement soon

 Nepal and Oman ready to sign labour agreement soon.

Nepal’s ambassador to Oman Sharmila Parajuli Dhakal and labour minister of Oman Dr Mahad bin Saeed bin Ali Baouin praised the progress made so far in the labour agreement to be signed between the two countries soon.

Dhakal paying a courtesy call on Dr Mahad – at the latter's office – also congratulated Dr Mahad on his appointment to the post of labour minister of Oman. 

On the occasion, they also expressed commitment to move ahead collaborating with each other in days ahead, according to a press note issued by the Embassy of Nepal in Muscat. “The Omani labour minister shared that Oman is willing to make further collaboration in order to increase the number of Nepali workers there.”

Envoy Dhakal briefed the minister about Oman-related reports submitted by Industry, Commerce, Labour and Consumer Welfare Committee under the House of Representatives after carrying out on-site visits to Gulf countries including Oman in the beginning of 2020.

On the occasion, second secretary at the Nepali Embassy in Oman Somesh Thapa, labour attaché Dinesh Dhakal, and office-bearers of Labour Ministry of Oman were also present.

Sunday, September 27, 2020

Foreign investor walks out of Nepse-listed Soaltee Hotel

 Though the stable government led by Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli is trying to lure foreign investors, one of the foreign investor walked out of the country selling its shares.

Soaltee Enterprises has bought all the shares from an international company InterContinental Hotels Group to make the Nepse-listed Soaltee Crowne Plaza hotel a complete Nepali entity. Soaltee Enterprises – owned by former King Gyanendra Shah and his family – bought some 8.43 million units of shares at Rs 56.06 per unit totaling Rs 472.34 million worth transaction, according to the Nepal Stock Exchange (Nepse) floor sheet. The shares of the Soaltee Hotels is being traded at Rs 190 per unit at the share market currently. According to the Nepse, the bulk shares transfer took place today through broker 33 and 34.

Along with this purchase of shares from InterContinental Hotels Group, the Soaltee Hotel is now totally owned by only Nepali investors, confirmed one of the oldest five-star hotel in Nepal. The Hong Kong-based InterContinental Hotels Group had 10 per cent stake in Soaltee Hotel.

The shares of Soaltee Hotel that were in the ownership of InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG) were transferred to Soaltee Enterprises. After the share transfer, Soaltee Enterprises now owns 50 per cent stake in Soaltee hotel, whereas Oberoi Hotels Pvt Ltd holds eight per cent shares, Nepal Airlines Corporation (NAC) holds 12 per cent shares while the remaining 30 per cent stake is held by the public, as Soaltee Hotel is one of the listed hotels at the Nepal Stock Exchange (Nepse).

Founded by late prince Himalaya Bir Bikram Shah Dev and late princess Rajya Laxmi Devi Shah in 1965, Soaltee Crowne Plaza was formally inaugurated by late king Mahendra Bir Bikram Shah in 1966 with 104 rooms. But today Soaltee Crowne Plaza hosts 282 luxurious guest rooms and seven regal VVIP suites, spread over 12 acres.

In 1969, the Soaltee hotel was incorporated as a private limited company. Oberoi Hotels (India) Pvt Ltd, with its investment in shares capital, was entrusted with operational management of the hotel and rebranded as ‘Hotel Soaltee Oberoi’ in 1969. 

However, the hotel was converted into a public limited company in 1975 with an investment in the shares capital of the company by Nepal Industrial Development Corporation (NIDC), International Finance Corporation (IFC), Oberoi Hotels (India) Pvt Ltd, Nepal Airlines Corporation (NAC), promoters and the public. The shares of the hotel was listed at the share market with a face value of Rs 10 per unit.

Likewise, in 1994 the hotel was again renamed Soaltee Holiday Inn Crowne Plaza Kathmandu and was operated by Holiday Inns China, a fully owned subsidiary of InterContinental Hotels (IHG).

But in 1998, Soaltee Holiday Inn Crowne Plaza was again rebranded as Soaltee Crowne Plaza Kathmandu.

Rahul Chaudhary in Hotelier Power List for the third time

 Managing Director and chief executive officer of CG Hospitality Holdings Rahul Chaudhary has been included in Hotelier India’s Power List 2020, for the third consecutive year.

India's prestigious Hotelier magazine has listed Rahul as one of the 25 most powerful hoteliers, and Rahul had been featured on the magazine’s Powerful Hotelier list in 2018 and 2019. Rahul leads the Hospitality business of Chaudhary Group (CG) and is the youngest member on the list that includes world famous hotel brands like Oberoi Hotels, Hyatt, Hilton, IHG, Marriott, Leela, Accor, Radisson, and Taj Hotels.

‘Hotelier’ recently revealed the list of 25 most successful entrepreneurs in the hospitality sector for the year 2020. The list includes successful entrepreneurs operating and leading hotels and resorts across India.

Rahul is serving as managing director and CEO of CG Hospitality and CG Corp Global from New Delhi, India. According to CG Hospitality Holdings, it has expanded its services to dozens of countries, besides India. “CG has partnerships and investments in established and famous chain hotels like Taj, Fern and Zinc Hotels,” a press note from the CG Hospitality Holdings reads, adding that under the holdings there are 80 hotels and resorts in India alone. “Despite majority of hotels closed during Covid-19 pandemic, CG has been conducting workshops and virtual trainings for its employees to help protect themselves and their families.

Rahul claims that he has successfully made his hotels and resorts safer and more reliable during this ongoing public health crisis. He also believes that challenges provide opportunity and learning. “Covid-19 has offered a chance to re-evaluate the tourism sector,” he said, adding that it has inspired us to rethink the existing business structures. “The pandemic has taught the world to move this sector forward in a sustainable way.”

"CG Hospitality boasts of 135 hotels and resorts in 94 destinations in 12 countries with more than 8,000 rooms,” he added. “Adapting to the current situation, we are now focused on reducing fixed costs and providing delivery service for food and beverages from our hotels in urban areas.”

Our resorts are now offering Covid-19 testing, Rahul said, adding that they are driven by the core mantras – Quality, Safety and Reliability. “Based on this, CG Hospitality has formulated an action plan for the next three years – to hold out, recover and then fly high.”

He remarked that in the current situation the focus will be on providing relaxation, leisure activities and interesting travels to guests.

CG Hospitality Holdings, which operates Vivanta, Summit, Fern and world-class resort like MeghauliSerai in Nepal, plans on setting up hotels in Pokhara and Lumbini, adding more keys in Kathmandu and expanding Hotel Summit in Lalitpur, the company said in the press note.

Chaudhary Group had formally entered the hospitality sector two decades ago, after partnering with Tata Group, IHCL in Colombo (Sri Lanka) and Maldives.

Construction of 40 MW Upper Chameliya Hydropower project starts

 The construction of the 40 megawatt (MW) Upper Chameliya Hydropower project in Darchula district has started. 

The project that will be carried out by Api Power Company will be built with an estimated cost of Rs 7.40 billion, according to the company. “The project is planning to issue rights shares to its stakeholders to secure 30 per cent of the total investment which accounts for Rs 2.22 billion in two phases,” the preee note reads, adding that the company has signed a financing agreement with Himalayan Bank for the financial management for the remaining 70 per cent investment. “A consortium of Employees Provident Fund (EPF), Rastriya Banijya Bank (RBB), Nepal Bank, Nepal Bangladesh Bank and Century Commercial Bank has been prepared to flow loan for an investment of approximately Rs 5.18 billion.”

The company has received approval from the Securities Board of Nepal (Sebon) for the issuance of rights share of Rs 567 million in order to raise the capital from the shareholders for the construction of the project, the press note reads.

The hydel project in Chameliya river that flows through Sudur Pashchim Province, Darchula district, Api Mountain and Marma Rural Municipality will generate 264.1 million units of electricity annually. Of the electricity generated, 30 per cent will be generated in the six months period of winter and the remaining 70 per cent will be generated in the six months period of monsoon, the Api Power Company said, adding that the dam of the project will be constructed at Okhal of Api Himal Rural Municipality and the water from the Chameliya river will be rerouted with the help of a 6-kilometer-long 3.2-meter diameter penstock pipe.

According to the project, a powerhouse will be constructed at Ghattegadh and the generated 40-MW electricity will be brought to Walanch Substation through a 16-kilometer long 132 kV transmission line to connect to the national grid. “The project aims at earning Rs 1.62 billion in the first year by selling electricity and the income will continue to grow at an annual rate of three per cent for eight years.”

Newly appointed EU envoy presents credentials to President

 Newly appointed ambassador and head of the Delegation of the European Union (EU) to Nepal Nona Deprez today presented her credentials to President Bidya Devi Bhandari, at a function held at the President’s Office.

“I am extremely honoured and happy to take up my duties as the EU ambassador to Nepal and look forward to discover the country, to meet the Nepalese and to work closely with all Nepali institutions, civil society, private sector, media, international partners and all relevant political, social and economic stakeholders,” ambassador Deprez has been quoted in a press note issued by the Delegation of the EU to Nepal.

Nepal and the EU have developed more than four decades of diplomatic and friendly relations, the ambassador said, stressing the need to work jointly on global issues in the wake of new challenges such as pandemics, climate change and threat to multilateralism has become an urgency.

The EU has been a reliable development partner and one of the biggest donors to Nepal for around half a century. 

The Delegation of the EU to Nepal – in the press note – said that EU has been cooperating on three priorities agreed with the government of Nepal: rural development, education and finally democracy and decentralization. “Furthermore, the EU supports Nepal in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), in graduating from LDC status and in improving Nepal’s resilience to the adverse effects of climate change,” the Delegation of the EU to Nepal claimed, adding that the total assistance for the current programming cycle – 2014 to 2020 – amounts for Euro360 million, which is around Rs 50 billion. “When the Covid crisis hit Nepal, the EU provided immediate response in mobilising a package of Euro75 million, which is Rs 10 billion.”

The support was closely coordinated with the EU member states working as one in a streamlined ‘Team Europe Initiative’. The EU also helped raise Euro16 billion globally to finance research on vaccines, tests and treatments for the whole world.

Saturday, September 26, 2020

Government launches Tourism Recovery Task Force

 The government today launched Tourism Recovery Task Force (TRTF-Nepal) – along with the ‘visit the country’ campaign – to accelerate the coronavirus-hit tourism industry.

Minister for Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation Yogesh Bhattarai – also marking the World Tourism Day – launched a domestic tourism promotion campaign #DeshDarshan on the occasion. A dedicated website www. trtfnepal.com also went live from today and series of thematic webinars and programmes are in line to support the recovery campaign, Bhattarai said, addressing the launch ceremony. He also appreciated the private sector for coming together to foster collaborative efforts towards tourism recovery and invited the task force to jointly work with the governments at local, provincial and federal levels. 

On the occasion, tourism secretary Kedar Bahadur Adhikari launched a training manual of the ‘Empowering Rural Destinations’ campaign, which is an initiative by TRTF-Nepal to train and build the capacity of rural destinations with new safety protocols, and food safety and hygiene for community health. “TRTF-Nepal is a joint initiative by PATA Nepal Chapter and SKAL Nepal, which has brought together industry veterans, professionals, and leading global tourism organisations as ‘advisors’,” the ministry informed, adding that the prominent tourism associations have been appointed ‘associational patrons’, the key agencies or organisations working in safety and security concerns of travellers are appointed as ‘health and safety patrons’ and the Nepal Tourism Board (NTB) as ‘industry patron’ to intensify the collective efforts for tourism recovery. 

Former chief executive officer of NTB Deepak R Joshi is the coordinator of the TRTF-Nepal, whereas treasurer and HCD-coordinator for PATA Nepal Chapter Khem Lakai will be the spokesperson. The secretariat of the task force will be handled by PATA Nepal chief executive officer Suresh Singh Budal.

TRTF-Nepal has conducted a survey on industry’s preparedness to restart tourism, prepared infographic communication materials about HHS protocols, collecting and compiling information about successful restarting practices adopted by other countries and destinations.

The task force is expected to coordinate for better collaboration and effective communication with key authorities and organisations, ensuring consistency of messaging with updates in source markets through various channels. 

Earlier, Nepal Tourism Board (NTB) had formed a task force under the public private partnership (PPP) model to study the impact of Covid-19 pandemic on the tourism industry. 

Friday, September 25, 2020

Imports drop due to restriction, pull trade deficit down

 The country witnessed drop in imports, not due to government import substitution policy but because of the lockdown and restrictive orders.

“In the first month of 2020-21, merchandise exports increased by 8.9 per cent to Rs 9.62 billion compared to an increase of 27.7 per cent whereas merchandise imports decreased by 19.6 per cent to Rs 85.81 billion against a decrease of 11.5 per cent a year ago,” according to the macroeconomic report released by central bank today.

With imports continue to exceed exports, the total trade deficit also narrowed down by 22.2 per cent to Rs 76.19 billion in the first month of the current fiscal year 2020-21, the report reads, adding that such trade deficit had contracted by 13.9 per cent in the same period of last fiscal year. “The export-import ratio increased to 11.2 per cent from 8.3 per cent in the first month of the last fiscal year.”

Likewise, the balance of payments (BoP) registered a surplus of Rs 51.46 billion in the first month of the current fiscal year, against a surplus of Rs 6.05 billion in the same period of last fiscal year, according ot the central bank report. “The current account also remained at a surplus of Rs 25.41 billion against a deficit of Rs 9.34 billion in the same month of the last fiscal year.”

The central bank’s report also reveals that the gross foreign exchange reserves in US dollar terms increased to $12.02 billion in mid-August 2020 from $11.65 billion in mid-July 2020. “With this, the foreign exchange adequacy has increased significantly.”

The foreign exchange (Forex) reserves – based on the imports of the first month of 2020-21 – is sufficient to cover the prospective merchandise imports of 17.3 months, and merchandise and services imports of 15.6 months, the report reads, adding that the ratio of reserves-to-GDP, reserves-to-imports and reserves-to-M2 stood at 38.1 per cent, 129.7 per cent and 33.8 per cent, respectively, in mid-August 2020. “Such ratios were 37.2 per cent, 105.7 per cent and 33.1 per cent, respectively, in mid-July 2020.”

The coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic has hit the government’s spending and revenue mobilisation hard. The federal government spent – based on banking transactions excluding direct payments and unrealised cheques – Rs 95 billion in the first month of the current fiscal year, against Rs 2.62 billion spending in the same month of the last fiscal year. Likewise, the government has been able to mobilise –based on banking transactions including the amount to be transferred to provincial and local governments – revenue of Rs 58.81 billion, compared to Rs 77.53 billion in the same month of last fiscal year. 

Similarly, the deposit mobilisation and credit disbursement of banks and financial institutions (BFIs) also dropped in the first month of the current fiscal year. “While deposits at BFIs decreased by 0.1 per cent compared to a contraction of 0.4 per cent in the same month of the last fiscal year,” it reads, adding that private sector credit from BFIs decreased by 0.5 per cent compared to a growth of 0.5 per cent in the first month of the last fiscal year.

Remittance surges by 23 per cent in first month of current fiscal year

 Contrary to the expectation, the remittance inflow has increased significantly in the first month of the current fiscal year, according to the macroeconomic report – released by the central bank – today.

Remittance inflows to Nepal has increased by a surprising 23 per cent to Rs 92.71 billion compared to 2 per cent in the same month of the last fiscal year. 

In the last fiscal year, the remittance inflow decreased by a marginal 0.5 per cent in the last fiscal year that ended mid-July due to coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic that has affected the global economy.

According to the Nepal Rastra Bank (NRB) macroeconomic report, in the first month – from mid-July to mid-August – of the current fiscal year 2020-21, Nepal received Rs 92.71 billion in remittance earnings. 

 Nepali migrant workers sent home Rs 875.03 billion in the last fiscal year, which was 0.5 per cent less than a fiscal year ago due to coronavirus (Covid-19) that has left majority of the migrant workers in the labour destinations jobless.

However, Nepal received an all-time high remittance of Rs 100.16 billion in the last month of the fiscal year – mid-June to mid-July – that boosted the overall remittance earnings, though the coronavirus wreaking havoc on the global economy was expected to hit the remittances inflow to Nepal significantly.

The central bank had – after the country had imposed lockdown on March 24 – projected a drop of over 15 per cent in remittance inflow in the last fiscal year 2019-20 whereas the World Bank also had projected remittances to go down by 14 per cent. Likewise, the Central Bureau of Statistics (CBS) had also projected a reduction of Rs 163 billion – or over 18 per cent – in remittance inflow. But the country has witnessed only 0.5 per cent drop in the last fiscal year, whereas the first month of the current fiscal year also recorded a whopping 23 per cent gain in the remittance inflow.

The reduction of informal trade, hundi and other illegal channels – due to lockdown and subsequently the restrictive orders of the chief district officers – have helped remittance come through formal channels, according to the bankers. Likewise, the returnees have also brought back cash in recent months, while they used to splurge on gifts and other personal items earlier.

According to the Covid-19 Crisis Management Centre (CCMC), as of September 25, more than 76,000 stranded Nepalis have been brought home, most of them from labour destinations, whereas the number of Nepali migrant workers leaving for the labour destinations has also decreased. “The number of Nepali workers – institutional and individual-new and legalised – taking approval for foreign employment decreased by 99.2 per cent against the decrease by 19 per cent in the same period of the last fiscal year, according to the central bank, adding that the number of Nepali workers – renew entry – taking approval for foreign employment also decreased by 80 per cent in the first month of the current fiscal year. “In US Dollar terms, remittance inflows increased by 14.5 per cent compared to an increase of 0.7 per cent in the same period of the last fiscal year.”

Consumer price inflation slows to 3.49 per cent

 The four-month long lockdown by the government to contain the coronavirus (Covid-19) has brought down the price hike as the market remained almost closed down for 120 days from March 24.

The year-on-year consumer price inflation stood at 3.49 per cent in mid-August 2020 compared to 6.95 per cent a year ago revealed the central bank’s Macroeconomic Update report – for the first month of the current fiscal year – released today.

Food and beverage inflation stood at 5.38 per cent whereas non-food and service inflation stood at 2.04 per cent in the first month of the current fiscal year, the report reads, adding that the price of pulses and legumes, meat and fish and tobacco products rose significantly compared to mid-July 2019. “The price of vegetables increased by 28.21 per cent in mid-August 2020 compared to a month ago.”

Likewise, Kathmandu Valley, Tarai, hills and mountains witnessed 3.31 per cent, 4.02 per cent, 2.72 per cent and 4.07 per cent inflation, respectively, the report further reads, adding that these regions had witnessed 8.63 per cent, 6.46 per cent, six per cent and 5.57 per cent inflation, respectively, a year ago.

Thursday, September 24, 2020

UN supports in addressing needs of migrant workers

 UN is supporting the government in addressing the needs and concerns of migrant workers, according to a top UN employee.

“We must remember the incredible contribution that Nepali migrants working abroad make to their families, communities and the country large, as well as their undeniable contribution to their destination countries,” resident coordinator Valerie Julliand said, adding that Nepal and Nepali migrants have been hard hit by the Covid-19 pandemic. “As the UN, we support the government in addressing the needs and concerns of migrant workers, particularly those most vulnerable.”

“Providing spaces for young people to express their views and thoughts on migration and the sustainable development goals is so important,” Julliand said, congratulating the winners and thanking all the young participants. “I found their insights informed, thoughtful and inspiring, and what an excellent way to mark the 5th anniversary of the SDGs.

The event marks the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) Action Week September 19 to September 27 especially during the UN General Assembly High-level Week and the UN’s 75th Anniversary, which is being celebrated through dialogues and discussions reaching out to as many people possible including youth across the world.

A virtual discussion was held with selected Nepali secondary level students, UN resident coordinator and heads of International Organisation of Migrants (IOM) and UNDP in Nepal on the topic ‘migration and sustainable development in the context of Covid-19’.

Prior to the event, following call for registration targeting the students of all over the country for selection round of the elocution competition, total of 62 entries – some 52 female and 20 male – from six provinces were received. Then a judge panel consisting of IOM, UNDP and an English language teacher picked up the best three speakers for the event.

The young student speakers, on the occasion, expressed their delight for the opportunity to participate on the SDGs-related dialogues and demanded that migration needs to be managed well so everybody – the migrants, their family, host country, as well as the sending country benefit from it.

“Owing to the pandemic, job opportunities both in destination countries and in home have shrunk making the migrants and communities more vulnerable to unsafe migration, human trafficking, and psychosocial distress,” said IOM chief of Mission for Nepal Lorena Lando.

“Therefore, there is a need to set up an integrated gender-responsive sustainable reintegration package as well as create livelihood opportunities matching their skills which eventually contributes to the country’s economic revival where migration becomes an ‘informed choice’ as envisioned by the SDGs-rooted Global Compact for Migration (GCM), she added.

The event was organised with the aim to bring together young people into discussion on migration issues with its impact on individuals, families and the whole country and thereby contributing to draw attention of all tiers of the government into accelerating localisation of SDGs reflecting on strategy and actions for prosperity and revive from the Covid-19 pandemic.

Government representatives from various relevant ministries, young students from six out of seven provinces of the country, civil society organisations, academia, development partners, and UN staffs attended the event virtually.

Tuesday, September 22, 2020

New IFC report urges companies to take action to boost women’s contribution in the hydropower sector

 Companies and women in Nepal would stand to benefit, if greater action were taken to improve women's participation in and contribution to the hydropower sector, a study carried out by the International Finance Corporation (IFC) – a member of the World Bank Group – reads.

The study of 20 companies is part of the Powered by Women initiative — a time-bound commitment by companies to build the business case for improved gender equality and diversity in renewable energy companies in Nepal. 

The study – released today – was conducted between 2019 and 2020. Over two dozen executives and almost 250 employees working in 20 companies within Nepal's hydropower industry contributed to the research. “Women make up more than half of Nepal's population, yet the study reveals only 10 per cent of all employees in the country's hydropower sector are women," IFC country manager for Nepal, Bangladesh and Bhutan Wendy Werner has been quoted by the IFC in a press note. “Companies need to seize the opportunity to embark on more gender-sensitive and family-friendly policies to help boost staff productivity and attract and retain talent which will ultimately boost their businesses.

“We recognise the need to make conscious efforts to increase the number of women in the power sector,” vice president of Independent Power Producers' Association of Nepal (IPPAN) Ashish Garg said, adding that his organisation has already taken a forward step by making women participation in the executive committee mandatory. “By partnering with IFC on this important initiative, we are committing to championing this cause.”

The study also recommended that companies need to develop and enforce gender-sensitive policies, including mechanisms to address cases of bullying, sexual harassment, abuse and exploitation. More tailored programmes to support professional development opportunities for women, such as more robust recruiting efforts directed at women's advancement into leadership positions and targets for diversity in board representation, are also encouraged.

Meanwhile, at the community level, the study has urged increased support from companies to women-led businesses, including improving their access to finance, and efforts to train women in non-traditional roles within the sector.

The study – spearheaded by IFC's Hydro Environmental and Social Advisory team in partnership with the governments of Australia, Norway and Japan – has shown very few of those employed are in leadership positions, included in corporate boards or occupy non-traditional roles in the hydropower sector.

Despite the considerable scope for women to take up non-traditional roles in the hydropower sector, we found that most companies in Nepal have not yet initiated adequate efforts to realise this,” Asia Environment and Social Governance Team Leader for IFC Kate Lazarus has been quoted in the press release as saying. “While some companies, particularly those led by women entrepreneurs, do show willingness in this regard, there are still challenges in transforming that intent into action on the ground.”

The report has identified gender stereotyping, remoteness of hydropower project sites and a lack of women in science; technology, engineering, and math education as key constraints for women's participation in this sector.

Concerns around initial investment costs and uncertainty over whether there will be a payoff in the short- to medium-term were also inhibiting factors, according to the study. Nepal ranks 105 out of 149 countries on the Global Gender Gap Index 2018 conducted by the World Economic Forum (WEF), indicating that there is still a critical need to focus on gender equality across various spheres.


At present from a study of 20 companies, only 10 per cent of total employees in Nepal’s hydropower sector are women, and very few of those employed are in leadership positions, included in corporate boards or occupy non-traditional roles in the industry;

Various constraints continue to impede women’s entrance into this traditionally male-dominated sector – gender stereotyping, lack of gender-sensitive policies and practices, remoteness of hydropower project sites and a general lack of women in science, technology, engineering, and math education

Adopting targeted and tailored interventions to advance gender diversity and equality have demonstrated net positive impacts in terms of business growth, efficiency and sustainability around the world

At the corporate level, companies are recommended to: adopt policies to improve gender equality and equal treatment for all staff, create more career development opportunities targeted at women, build awareness on gender bias and set targets for diversity in board representation and leadership

These corporate policies should also extend to the project level, where more gender specialists and female staff should be deployed to the field, more emphasis on collection of gender-aggregated data, and investment in opportunities for women to develop skills in non-traditional roles

At the community level, companies should incorporate gender-responsive facilitation and techniques and gender equality tools, strengthen GBV-related reporting mechanisms, support women-led businesses and explore partnerships to train women in non-traditional roles

Indian envoy, NRA chief jointly launch CBRI project website

 Indian ambassador to Nepal Vinay Mohan Kwatra and chief executive officer (CEO) of National Reconstruction Authority (NRA) Sushil Gyewali jointly unveiled – virtually – a dedicated website on government of India-assisted post-earthquake reconstruction projects in the education sector in Nepal.

The website – available in both English and Nepali versions – is a one stop, user friendly window for all information related to education projects under government of India-assisted post-earthquake reconstruction initiatives, according to a press note issued by the Indian Embassy in Kathmandu. “The website is accessible at www.goicbrinepal.com,” it reads, adding that it has been conceptualised and developed by the Central Building Research Institute (CBRI), Roorkee under India's Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR). “The CBRI, Roorkee, is the Design and Project Management Consultant for the project, and a premier National Laboratory under the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR).” 

It is a pioneer in India for research in the field of shelter planning, building materials, structures, foundations and disaster mitigation, the press note claims.

After their role in the education sector projects, the CBRI, Roorkee has also been appointed as the Design and Project Management Consultant for health sector projects under government of India's post-earthquake reconstruction initiative. An Agreement for their role in the health sector was recently signed between the Indian Embassy, on behalf of the Government of India, and CBRI, Roorkee. 

Steady progress has been recorded under the Government of India's commitment of $1 billion for post-earthquake reconstruction projects in Nepal. In the housing sector, over 46,000 out of 50,000 houses have been completed for government of India-supported beneficiaries in Nuwakot and Gorkha districts.

Education, health and cultural restoration projects including 70 schools, 1 library, 147 health facilities and 28 cultural heritage sector projects are under implementation for reconstruction, and retrofitting, the press note reads, adding that Government of India remains committed to continue supporting the socio-economic development of Nepal, including through post-earthquake reconstruction projects in Nepal.

Saturday, September 19, 2020

IOM assists 63 Nepali migrants with voluntary return from Cyprus

 The International Organisation for Migration (IOM) in Nepal and Cyprus, with support from the government of Republic of Cyprus, and in coordination with the government of Nepal, organised the voluntary return of 63 Nepali nationals. The migrants landed at the Tribhuvan International airport (TIA) today, according to a press note issued by the IOM in Kathmandu.

The mixed group of men and women were mainly students no longer able to pay college fees in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, it reads, adding that the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic on the national economy and human mobility as well as travel restrictions compelled many migrants to turn to IOM for daily subsistence and support to voluntarily return to their countries.

“We are glad to extend our support to Nepali migrants in need,” IOM Nepal Chief of Mission Lorena Lando said, adding that an IOM Nepal team was present at the airport to assist them through immigration in coordination with the country’s Covid-19 Crisis Management Centre (CCMC) and other relevant authorities.

Prior to their departure, all returnees were tested for Covid-19. On flight day, IOM Cyprus staff members assisted the migrants with all airport procedures and one-time cash assistance was given to each as a contribution to their initial expenses upon arrival and immediate needs, chiefly onward travel to their home communities, it adds.

Nepal government is ready to receive them and apply all necessary Covid-19 measures as applicable in the country. “Following the migrants’ registration with IOM to voluntarily return – and thanks to the cooperation with government authorities in Cyprus and Nepal – everyone was ready to help the stranded migrants to voluntarily return to their homes,” said head of Office for IOM Cyprus Natasa Xenophontos Koudouna.

During the flight, all passengers were required to wear masks and gloves. Upon arrival in Kathmandu, information material was distributed, explaining Covid-19 measures, reintegration support and how to contact IOM and the respective country offices. IOM Nepal claimed that it has been regularly assisting vulnerable Nepali migrants for their return and reintegration ever since IOM was established in the country in 2007.

Friday, September 18, 2020

ADB vows to be developing Asia's partner for recovery from Covid-19

 The Asian Development Bank (ADB) is committed to partnering with developing economies in Asia and the Pacific to achieve their recovery goals from the coronavirus disease (Covid-19) pandemic, president Masatsugu Asakawa said in an address to ADB’s Board of Governors today.

“ADB will continue to earn your trust as a steadfast partner during the uncertain times we still face in our region as we build for a strong and lasting recovery,” he said, adding, “Our work toward a sustainable, resilient, and inclusive recovery stands on a foundation of mutual trust formed over decades of cooperation with you, our members.”

He was speaking at the opening of the Business Session of the second part of ADB’s 53rd Annual Meeting of the Board of Governors, this year held in a virtual and abbreviated format due to the Covid-19 pandemic. 

ADB – in April – announced a $20 billion package to help its developing members address Covid-19. This included rapid emergency grants and technical assistance to help governments meet urgent medical needs; a new Covid-19 Pandemic Response Option (CPRO), which is supporting countercyclical expenditure programmes; and assistance for the private sector.

ADB has so far committed about $11.2 billion in financial and technical assistance to fight the pandemic. Working closely with development partners, ADB has also mobilised about $7.2 billion in cofinancing.

As the region moves forward toward recovery, Asakawa said ADB will build on its relationship with its members to support them in six key areas.

First, ADB will promote regional cooperation and integration to help members seize the opportunity that renewed globalization can offer in a post-pandemic new normal. “While there are some who suggest that recent border closures and travel restrictions are signs that globalisation has ground irreversibly to a halt, I do believe that globalization will return, but it will take a different shape,” Asakawa said, adding that ADB will work with developing members to secure more diversified value and supply chains, and to promote regional public goods for better collective prevention of disease outbreaks, mitigation of climate change impacts, and enhancement of the regional financial safety net.

Second, since Covid-19 has contributed to an increase in income inequality and absolute poverty, ADB will strengthen investments in health, education, and social protection, which will better ensure safety and opportunities for all, while building the human capital that economies need to thrive in the long term.

Third, ADB will accelerate its efforts to tackle climate change in order to reach the goals established in its long-term Strategy 2030—to reach $80 billion in cumulative climate investments and 75 per cent of the total number of committed operations by 2030.

Fourth, ADB will invest in information technology and data for health; education; financing for micro, small, and medium enterprises; and remote work—while also addressing both the digital divide and cyber security.

Fifth, ADB will help its members strengthen domestic resource mobilisation through international tax cooperation, since all key areas of development require that governments improve their capacity to mobilise financial resources while managing debt sustainability.

And last, ADB will support the efforts of its developing members to secure safe and effective vaccines, and to formulate strategies for equitable delivery. To accomplish this, ADB will continue to strengthen collaboration with the World Health Organisation (WHO); the World Bank (WB); GAVI, the Vaccine Alliance (VA); vaccine experts; and pharmaceutical companies.

Over two days of online annual meeting events, ministers from ADB members, development and industry experts, journalists, and nongovernment organisations have discussed a range of issues confronting Asia and the Pacific. Other events today included the CNBC Debate, Resetting Asia: Technology, Investment, and Sustainability; and the Governors’ Seminar on Developing Asia Beyond the Pandemic.

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.

Thursday, September 17, 2020

World Bank’s $200 million support to strengthen financial sector

 The World Bank approved today a $200 million ‘Finance for Growth’ development policy credit to strengthen financial sector stability, diversify financial solutions, and increase access to financial services in support of Nepal’s Covid-19 resilience and recovery efforts.

“In this era of Covid-19, protecting people’s lives is the priority, but giving a boost to economic recovery is equally urgent,” World Bank country director for Maldives, Nepal and Sri Lanka Faris Hadad-Zervos Faris Hadad-Zervos said, adding that the project and World Bank support will pave the way for the financial sector and capital and insurance markets to strengthen resilience and more effectively contribute to Nepal’s Covid-19 recovery.

The ‘Finance for Growth’ operation will support enhanced supervision of risks confronting the banking and financial institutions, especially in the context of the pandemic’s impacts. The operation will also help build capital, insurance, venture capital and private equity and disaster risk financing markets through regulatory reforms. This will help open new investment opportunities for market actors and crowd-in private financing.

The other critical area of focus is to expand access to finance for households, women and firms through regulatory and other reforms that will attract additional inflows of international finance and mobilise digital services, credit infrastructure and literacy programmes. 

“The project supports the government’s significant reform agenda to enable the financial sector to better respond to the new socio-economic challenges arising from the Covid-19 pandemic,” Project Task Team Leader of the World Bank Peter Mousley said, adding that initiatives to extend access to digital financial services and attract private financing to complement the government’s fiscal resources to address disasters are two innovations that will significantly benefit households and women in Nepal.

Developing countries should invest $1.2 trillion to guarantee basic social protection

 Developing countries should invest approximately $1.2 trillion – on average 3.8 per cent of their GDP – to guarantee at least basic income security and access to essential health care for all in 2020 alone, according to a new ILO policy brief.

Since the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic the social protection financing gap has increased by approximately 30 per cent according to financing gaps in social protection: Global estimate and strategies for developing countries in light of the COVID-19 crisis and beyond. This is the result of the increased need for health-care services and income security for workers, who lost their jobs during the lockdown and the reduction of GDP caused by the crisis.

The situation is particularly dire in low-income countries, who would need to spend nearly 16 per cent of their GDP to close the gap – around $80 billion, the policy brief reads.

Regionally, the relative burden of closing the gap is particularly high in Central and Western Asia, Northern Africa and Sub-Saharan Africa, between 8 per cent and 9 per cent of their GDP. “Even before the Covid-19 crisis – the global community was failing to live up to the social protection legal and policy commitments it had made in the wake of the last global catastrophe – the 2008 financial crisis. “Closing the annual financing gap requires international resources based on global solidarity,” director of the ILO’s Social Protection Department Shahrashoub Razavi said.

Currently, only 45 per cent of the global population is effectively covered by at least one social protection benefit. The remaining population – more than 4 billion people – is completely unprotected. National and international measures to reduce the economic impact of the Covid-19 crisis have provided short-term financing assistance. Some countries have sought innovative sources to increase the fiscal space for extending social protection, like taxes on the trade of large tech companies, the unitary taxation of multinational companies, taxes on financial transactions or airline tickets. With austerity measures already emerging even with the crisis ongoing, these efforts are more pressing than ever, the study reads.

“Low-income countries must invest approximately $80 billion, nearly 16 per cent of their GDP, to guarantee at least basic income security and access to essential health care to all,” director of the ILO’s Social Protection Department Shahrashoub Razavi said, adding that domestic resources are not nearly enough. “Closing the annual financing gap requires international resources based on global solidarity.”

Mobilisation at the international level should complement national efforts, according to the ILO. International financial institutions and development cooperation agencies have already introduced several financial packages to help governments of developing countries tackle the various effects of the crisis but more resources are needed to close the financing gap, particularly in low-income countries.

Asia Pacific health and finance ministers commit to building stronger health systems

 Building on the learnings from the ongoing global Covid-19 pandemic, ministers of health and finance from Asia Pacific countries, including from the WHO South-East Asia Region have committed to build and finance resilient health systems with Universal Health Coverage at the centre of it.

"For every dollar invested in universal health coverage, the return is delivered many times over – first, due to increases in overall population health and well-being and the productivity, jobs and poverty-reduction they promote; and second, because when the quality and reach of health services improves, health systems become more resilient and can better mitigate or manage acute threats while maintaining essential health services’ said WHO South-East Asia Regional director Dr Poonam Khetrapal Singh.

Health and finance ministers from the Asia Pacific Region met at a virtual meeting organised by WHO, the Government of Japan and the Asian Development Bank (ADB) to discuss ways and means to accelerate universal health coverage (UHC) or health for all and mobilise financing for healthcare amidst and beyond the Covid-19 pandemic.

The WHO South-East Asia Region, which was represented by health and finance ministers from several Member countries, has been focusing on UHC as one of its flagship initiatives. The region has adopted two key ministerial declarations on building resilient health systems, the 2019 Delhi Declaration on Preparedness and last week the Region’s Declaration on Collective Response to Covid-19. Both these declarations commit to investing in preparedness and Regional solidarity to make health systems stronger amongst the 11 member countries.

“Across the WHO South-East Asia Region, across Asia and across the world, countries that have made sustained, long-term investments in UHC have health systems that are more resilient, and which have more effectively minimised the spread of Covid-19, maintained essential health services, and mitigated economic shock,” the regional director said.

Since the start of the pandemic almost nine months ago, countries in the region have demonstrated how strong health systems can effectively respond to global health emergencies. Bhutan, the Republic of Korea and Malaysia have provided free testing for Covid-19 and care, which resulted in timely diagnosis and treatment. Bhutan, strongly committed to UHC, has one of the world’s highest testing rates and as of September 17, is yet to report a Covid-19 death. Countries in the region with a strong primary health care infrastructure and human resources have been able to repurpose health workers and respond to the pandemic as well as ensuring continuity of essential health services. Sri Lanka with one of the highest numbers of health workers in Asia has reported only 13 deaths due to Covid to date.

“Countries that are committed to UHC have logistics and supply chains that are more secure, efficient and transparent, and can rapidly meet surge needs, for example by increasing testing capacity, procuring personal protective equipment, or maintaining access to essential medicines and medical products,” Dr Khetrapal Singh said, adding that they are also better able to rapidly roll-out key innovations. “Crucially, countries that are committed to UHC have successfully mobilised the whole-of-government, whole-of-society buy-in required to effectively respond to the pandemic.” Thailand, with a strong investment in public health over the years has managed to keep Covid-19 transmission rates low.

She made a strong plea for prioritising health in government budgets for the short and medium term, for improving investment in primary health care and a better targeting of resources for the poor and the vulnerable, and mobilising domestic revenues for health via pro-health taxes eg on tobacco, alcohol, sugar sweetened beverages.

Nepal makes progress in Human Capital Development

 Nepal has made some progress, though the Covid-19 pandemic threatens hard-won gains in health and education over the past decade, especially in the poorest countries, a new World Bank Group analysis finds. Investments in human capital – the knowledge, skills, and health that people accumulate over their lives – are key to unlocking a child’s potential and to improving economic growth in every country.

The World Bank Group’s 2020 Human Capital Index reveals that pre-pandemic, most countries have made steady progress in building human capital of children, with the biggest strides made in low-income countries.

In Nepal, a child born today will be 50 per cent as productive when she grows up as she would be if she enjoyed complete education and full health. This is higher than the average for South Asia region and higher than average for countries with similar level of income. This is largely due to an improvement in school enrollment and institutionalising the measurement of student learning, reads the analysis.

“Investment in human capital is just as important as investment in infrastructure, if not more, and brings returns in the form of a healthier and more productive workforce in the long run,” World Bank country director for Maldives, Nepal and Sri Lanka Faris Hadad-Zervos said, adding that there is a need for an accelerated push to focus on investing in human capital in the recovery and rebuilding phases after the pandemic. “This requires close collaborations among all three levels of the government in order to bring about large and sustainable changes.”

Due to the pandemic's impact, most children – more than 1 billion – have been out of school and could lose, on average, half a year of schooling, translating into considerable monetary losses in the future. Data also reveals significant disruptions to essential health services for women and children, with many children missing out on crucial vaccinations. The economic impact of the pandemic has been particularly deep for women and for the most disadvantaged families, leaving many vulnerable to food insecurity and poverty.

The 2020 Human Capital Index includes health and education data up to March 2020 for 174 countries covering 98 per cent of the world’s population, providing a pre-pandemic baseline on the health and education status of children.

Today, hard-won human capital gains in many countries are at risk. But countries can do more than just work to recover the lost ground, it reads, adding that to protect and extend earlier human capital gains, countries need to expand health service coverage and quality among marginalized communities, boost learning outcomes together with school enrollments, and support vulnerable families with social protection measures adapted to the scale of the Covid-19 crisis.

In Nepal, it is essential to invest more in the early years, with a focus on those children who have been left behind. This includes safeguarding access to nutritious, safe and affordable diets and providing opportunities for learning and stimulation especially for the poorest and most-affected households, the analysis reads. “Given the current high cost of medical care, resources can be refocused towards ensuring universal access to quality essential primary, emergency and referral health services.”

The World Bank Group is working closely with governments to develop long-term solutions to protect and invest in people during and after the pandemic. In Nepal, it is supporting the development of school safety and hygiene protocols while working with WASH teams to provide basic sanitization and hygiene supplies. The multilateral development partner is also helping strengthen government systems and expand coverage of social security allowances and civil registration to support vulnerable communities. The bank is also supporting the government to strengthen health systems and security and improve the health financing landscape of the country.

Monday, September 14, 2020

Manufacturing is the largest pay master

 Manufacturing sector is the largest pay master in the country, according to the National Economic Census 2018.

The first ever census – conducted by the Central Bureau of Statistics (CBS) – revealed that in terms of annual salary and wages payment ‘manufacturing’ such as tea factories and brick factories is the largest paying sector with Rs. 86 billion accounting for 20.3 per cent followed by ‘education’ such as schools, universities with Rs 68 billion (16.3 per cent) and ‘wholesale and retail trade; repair of motor vehicles and motorcycles’ as shops, supermarkets and department stores pay Rs 66 billion (15.6 per cent). “In Nepal, almost 80 per cent of the entities with paid employees were registered.”

The report on salaries and wages of persons engaged in the entities throughout Nepal – published by the CBS – also revealed that annual salaries and wages of ‘Registered’ entities were Rs 406 billion accounting for 96.4 per cent of the total. “On the other hand, those of ‘Not registered’ entities were 15 billion (3.5 per cent) only,” it reads, adding that the most of registered entities pay salaries and wages. 

The first ever National Economic Census 2018 was conducted with the technical support from Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA). The census covered all fixed and movable establishments that existed in Nepal at the reference date of the census operation that was April 14, 2018. According to the census data, there were 900,924 entities in Nepal where 3,115,112 persons were engaged. 

The economic census collected information on average monthly salaries and wages from the entities with paid employees. There were 219,303 entities with paid employees in Nepal and the number of paid employees stood at 1,709,101, the census data revealed, adding that the annual salaries and wages came out to be Rs 421 billion. 

Nepal had 36,172 entities with paid employees and female managers; and their annual salaries and wages accounted for 8.5 per cent of the total. Looking at the annual salaries and wages of entities with female managers by industry, ‘financial and insurance activities’ was the largest section with Rs 7.2 billion accounting for 20.1 per cent, followed by ‘education’ accounting Rs 6.8 billion (19.0 per cent), ‘wholesale and retail trade, repair of motor vehicles and motorcycles’ accounting 4.1 billion (11.5 per cent).

Looking at the annual salaries and wages by district, Kathmandu – the capital – was the largest district with Rs 141 billion accounting for 33.4 per cent followed by Lalitpur with Rs 32 billion (7.6 per cent), Morang Rs 21 billion (5.0 per cent), Rupandehi Rs 18.5 billion (4.38 per cent), Kaski Rs 18.3 billion (4.35 per cent). There is a huge differences between three districts in Kathmandu Valley and other districts across the country because many head offices and entities with paid employees are located in Kathmandu Valley, and their all financial statements are managed by head office.

Likewise, Rukum East was the smallest district with Rs 100 million accounting for 0.02 per cent followed by Manang Rs 103 million (0.02 per cent); and Rasuwa Rs 173 million (0.04 per cent) in terms of annual salary and wages payment.

Government blacklists Omni for a year

 The government today blacklisted Omni Business Corporate International (OBCI) – that was involved in a controversial procurement deal of medical supplies – for one year.

Issuing a public notice today, the Public Procurement Monitoring Office (PPMO) has said that Omni will not be qualified for any public bidding for the next one year.  

The decision of the Public Procurement Monitoring Office – at the recommendation of the Department of Health (DoH) – came amid allegations that the government has been protecting the ‘controversial company’. The company has been blamed for charging several times more than the actual costs of the medical equipment it supplied to the government.

Earlier, the parliamentary committees had also shown serious concerns over the government's motive behind not blacklisting the Omni.

The Department of Health had – on April 1 – decided to cancel the procurement deal with the Omni after there was huge public opposition as the company – believed to be owned by the relatives of those in the government – was found to have charged exorbitantly high prices for the medical supplies.

The department – under Health Ministry – had reached an agreement with the Omni to procure necessary medical equipment from China, but the decision courted controversy as the contract had been awarded to Omni without any competitive bidding process.

Meanwhile, the Public Procurement Monitoring Office has also blacklisted construction companies including Shree Arun Construction at Maiwakhola in Taplejung for a year and Shree BT/Taudaha/Phasku JV for two years, for their failure to complete the tasks on time.

Sunday, September 13, 2020

US sees significant barriers to investment in Nepal

 Nepal is still considered vulnerable investment destination by one of the development partners and investors, despite the stable and stronger government in the country.

According to a report of the US State Department, there are significant barriers to investment in Nepal. Though, the government has been claiming that it has brought investment-friendly laws and regulations to create investment-friendly environment, it seems the talks do not match government’s action sending the wrong signals to the investors.

The report – ‘2020 Investment Climate Statement: Nepal’ – released by the US Department of State reads that corruption, laws limiting the operations of foreign banks, limitations on the repatriation of profits, limited currency exchange facilities, and the government’s monopoly over certain sectors of the economy like electricity transmission and petroleum distribution, undermine foreign investment in Nepal.

“However, the country offers opportunities for investors willing to accept inherent risks and the unpredictability of doing business in the country, the report reads, adding that the Foreign Investment and Technology Transfer Act (FITTA) and other new pieces of legislation, however failed to resolve many long-standing institutional and procedural impediments to improved business practices. “As the Government of Nepal (GoN) struggles to confront the economic and social effects of the Covid-19 pandemic, it is unlikely a concentrated effort to improve the investment climate will be a high priority.”

The statement also notes that the intraparty feuds and competition for power within the ruling Nepal Communist Party (NCP) government have not delivered to investors the political certainty for which they had hoped. 

“In policy pronouncements, the Government of Nepal welcomes foreign direct investment (FDI) and has passed several laws during the past three years that modestly improve the investment climate,” the report reads, adding that persistent corruption and bureaucratic hindrances remain unaddressed, however, impeding the smooth conduct of business. “While the Government of Nepal’s stated attitude toward FDI is positive, this has not yet translated into practice.”

The report also cites trade unions as a risk to businesses. “Cartels and syndicates masked as business and industry associations actively seek to suppress new market entrants,” it reads, signaling that the industry associations like Federation of Nepalese Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FNCCI) and Confederation of Nepalese Industry (CNI) are creating cartels and syndicates.

The Investment Climate Statement provide country-specific information on the business climates of more than 170 countries and economies. They are prepared by economic officers stationed in embassies and posts around the world and analyse a variety of economies that are or could be markets for US businesses of all sizes, according to the State Department.

While the current government that enjoys a two-thirds majority has pushed through several laws and regulations in recent months, they have failed to attract increased foreign investment.

Some 95 per cent Nepali internet users exposed to disinformation: CMR-Nepal Survey

 Most Nepali internet users are exposed to disinformation, a survey by the Center for Media Research – Nepal (CMR-Nepal) revealed.

The survey results show that 95.5 per cent of internet users receive disinformation, largely through social media sites such as YouTube, Facebook and Twitter. Nepal Twitter Users Survey 2019 was conducted by CMR-Nepal in November 2019 and results are based on 542 valid responses.

“The results have some fascinating, and probably not so surprising, results,” says CMR-Nepal chairperson Rishikesh Dahal. “This is very concerning as almost all internet users are exposed to some kind of disinformation,” he said, adding that it shows there is an urgent need for the stakeholders to devise an effective and multi-layered plan to help citizens distinguish disinformation from valid information.

A huge majority of the respondents, some 95.5 per cent, said they have seen disinformation online in the last seven days. Those who had not seen disinformation online in a week were just a handful.

And, for most of Nepalis, the main platform where they believe say saw disinformation is YouTube. A total of 85.6 per cent said they saw disinformation on YouTube. This validates claims that ‘YouTubers’ are not only sensationalising issues but also feeding misguided and fake information to garner more views, thereby earn more.

Facebook and Twitter are not far behind as more than two-thirds said they also saw disinformation on Facebook and more than half saw disinformation on Twitter. Only 17 per cent saw the disinformation on other websites, many of them stating websites like news websites, and very few, less than half-a-percent saw it in newspapers, the survey reads, adding that there could be a trust factor playing in as people tend to trust newspapers more and probably believe what they see on newspaper are true. 

“In Nepal’s context, many surveys conducted by various organizations in past decade showed mainstream media as most trustworthy institution, up to 90 per cent public ranking media as trustworthy institution,” says Tilak Pathak, who studies public trust on media.

“It’s not that media does not make mistake,” he said, adding that they do make mistake, but they also correct errors and apologize to the public, thus keeping in the public trust. “Therefore, even when there is disinformation in mainstream media, the general public trust it and may have not identified them as disinformation.”

The respondents were also asked whether disinformation is already a problem or will be a problem for our society. More than two-third (some 73.6 per cent) Twitter users believe that disinformation is already a problem for our society and politics, whereas a little more than 12 per cent think it will create problems in the future and further 11 per cent think it may already have been a problem. “In total, 96.5 percent of them think disinformation is or will be a problem for our society.”

Only a very few, some 1.6 per cent, believe it not a problem now and 1.1 per cent believe it will not create a problem in the future. Rest either did not reply to the question or blamed mainstream media for disinformation, the survey revealed, adding that most Nepali Twitter users (some 86.5 per cent) said they are concerned about fake news, misinformation, and disinformation online. “Only five per cent said they are not concerned while 8.5 per cent were neutral.”

Most Twitter users put media and government as the most responsible agencies to tackle disinformation online. About 40 per cent of all respondents put media on the most responsible side whereas 38 percent put the government on the most responsible side. About 32 per cent considered users as most responsible, whereas 30 per cent considered platforms as most responsible.

Those considering civil society as most responsible to tackle disinformation online were 22.5 per cent. Some 9 per cent, considered there are other agencies most responsible. Those also choosing others listed educational institutions, influencers, and fact-checkers.

“Fact-checking initiatives are very important in the infodemic era, but equally important are efforts from government, political parties, media, civil society, and society’s opinion leaders to spread critical thinking and information literacy among the citizens,” said according to the editor of NepalFactCheck.org, an initiative of CMR-Nepal, Umesh Shrestha.

Disinformation is set to pose a big threat of Nepal’s democracy as it could not only impact upcoming elections but also public debate and understanding of political and social issues.

Saturday, September 12, 2020

Nepali migrant workers from Bahrain return

 The government has rescued some 146 Nepali migrant workers via charter flights from Bahrain today.

Those people were stranded in various places of Bahrain due to Covid-19 outbreak and its effect in their job settlement, according to a press note issued by the Foreign Ministry. 

Likewise, some 145 Nepali migrant workers, who were in Bahrain on leave but got stuck for long due to the halt of international flights were also sent back to Bahrain to resume the job, according to Nepali ambassador to Bahrain Padam Sundas.

As many as 1,300 Nepali migrant workers lost their jobs in Bahrain after hotels and restaurants were closed due to pandemic, Sundas informed, adding that the embassy has been working out to send remaining Nepalis back home and also to Bahrain, if they wish to return to their jobs. “A large number of Nepali migrant workers were found aspiring to return to Nepal and they would be sent home soon.”

Friday, September 11, 2020

Covid-19 could reverse decades of progress toward eliminating preventable child deaths, agencies warn

 The number of global under-five deaths dropped to its lowest point on record in 2019, down to 5.2 million from 12.5 million in 1990, according to new mortality estimates released by UNICEF, the World Health Organisation (WHO), the Population Division of the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs and the World Bank Group.

Since then, however, surveys by UNICEF and WHO reveal that the Covid-19 pandemic has resulted in major disruptions to health services that threaten to undo decades of hard-won progress.

“The global community has come too far towards eliminating preventable child deaths to allow the Covid-19 pandemic to stop us in our tracks,” said UNICEF executive director Henrietta Fore. “When children are denied access to health services because the system is overrun, and when women are afraid to give birth at the hospital for fear of infection, they, too, may become casualties of Covid-19,” Fore said, adding that without urgent investments to re-start disrupted health systems and services, millions of children under five, especially newborns, could die.

Over the past 30 years, health services to prevent or treat causes of child death such as preterm, low birth weight, complications during birth, neonatal sepsis, pneumonia, diarrhea and malaria, as well as vaccination, have played a large role in saving millions of lives.

Recent child mortality estimates generated by the UN Inter-agency Group for Child Mortality Estimation (UN IGME) showed that Nepal has demonstrated remarkable progress in reducing the under-five mortality rate. In 2019, it was estimated at 31 per 1000 live births, or a 78 per cent reduction from the level of 1990. Nepal is one of the few countries meeting the targets of the Millenium Development Goal (MDG) 4.

Now countries worldwide are experiencing disruptions in child and maternal health services, such as health checkups, vaccinations and prenatal and post-natal care, due to resource constraints and a general uneasiness with using health services due to a fear of getting Covid-19.

A UNICEF survey conducted over the summer across 77 countries found that almost 68 per cent of countries reported at least some disruption in health checks for children and immunization services. In addition, 63 per cent of countries reported disruptions in antenatal checkups and 59 per cent in post-natal care.

A recent WHO survey based on responses from 105 countries revealed that 52 per cent of countries reported disruptions in health services for sick children and 51 per cent in services for management of malnutrition.

Similarly, in Nepal, rapid assessment conducted by UNFPA in coordination with Family Welfare Division during the initial phase of the lockdown period reported more than 60 per cent decline in antenatal visits and 35 per cent decrease in institutional delivery as compared to before the lockdown. Routine antenatal care and delivery at health facilities is extremely critical for the survival of both mothers and their newborns, according to the report.

Health interventions such as these are critical for stopping preventable newborn and child deaths. For example, women who receive care by professional midwives trained according to international standards are 16 per cent less likely to lose their baby and 24 per cent less likely to experience pre-term birth, according to WHO.

"The fact that today more children live to see their first birthday than any time in history is a true mark of what can be achieved when the world puts health and well-being at the centre of our response,” WHO director-general Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. “Now, we must not let the Covid-19 pandemic turn back remarkable progress for our children and future generations,” Ghebreyesus said, adding, ”Rather, it’s time to use what we know works to save lives, and keep investing in stronger, resilient health systems.”

Based on the responses from countries that participated in the UNICEF and WHO surveys, the most commonly cited reasons for health service disruptions included parents avoiding health centres for fear of infection; transport restrictions; suspension or closure of services and facilities; fewer healthcare workers due to diversions or fear of infection due to shortages in personal protective equipment such as masks and gloves; and greater financial difficulties. Afghanistan, Bolivia, Cameroon, the Central African Republic, Libya, Madagascar, Pakistan, Sudan and Yemen are among the hardest hit countries. 

Seven of the nine countries had high child mortality rates of more than 50 deaths per 1000 live births among children under five in 2019. 

Even before Covid-19, newborns were at highest risk of death. In 2019, a newborn baby died every 13 seconds. Moreover, 47 per cent of all under-five deaths occurred in the neonatal period, up from 40 per cent in 1990. With severe disruptions in essential health services, newborn babies could be at much higher risk of dying. 

In May, initial modelling by Johns Hopkins University showed that almost 6,000 additional children could die per day due to disruptions due to Covid-19.

These reports and surveys highlight the need for urgent action to restore and improve childbirth services and antenatal and postnatal care for mothers and babies, including having skilled health workers to care for them at birth. Working with parents to assuage their fears and reassure them is also important. 

“The Covid-19 pandemic has put years of global progress to end preventable child deaths in serious jeopardy,” said global director for Health, Nutrition and Population at the World Bank Muhammad Ali Pate. “It is essential to protect life-saving services which have been key to reducing child mortality,” Pate said, adding that they will continue to work with governments and partners to reinforce healthcare systems to ensure mothers and children get the services they need.

“The new report demonstrates the ongoing progress worldwide in reducing child mortality,” said director of the Population Division of the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs John Wilmoth. “While the report highlights the negative effects of the Covid-19 pandemic on interventions that are critical for children’s health, it also draws attention to the need to redress the vast inequities in a child's prospects for survival and good health.”

Nepal records highest single-day infections with tally reaching to 51,919

 The coronavirus tally recorded a highest spike – in a day – today to 51,919 as 1,454 new infections were reported in the last 24 hours.

Likewise, a large number of people were also discharged upon recovery in the last 24 hours, according to the spokesperson of the Health Ministry Dr Jageshwor Gautam. 

“So far, some 36, 672 people have recovered from the disease in the country till date,” he said, adding that there are 14, 925 active cases of infection as of today, while 6,078 people are under quarantine. “Likewise, five fatalities – Four men and a woman – were registered today with which the Covid-19 death tally has reached 322.”

Some 110 individuals from Province 2, some 96 from Bagmati Province, some 48 from Province 5, some 35 from Province 1, some 18 from Gandaki Province, some 10 from Sudurpaschim Province, and five from Karnali Province have died of Covid-19 so far, he added. 

On Wednesday, Nepal’s Covid-19 tally had crossed 50,000 mark. 

The Kathmandu Valley also recorded the highest daily coronavirus cases with 696 new infections. “Of them, some 620 were confirmed in Kathmandu, and 38 each in Lalitpur and Bhaktapur districts,” Gautam said, adding that as of today, the number of cases in the Valley has reached 10,708. “The number of active infections in Kathmandu district is now above 5500.”

Kathmandu still remains the district with the most number of live Covid-19 cases in Nepal. The number of infected people continued spiraling, despite the government extended the restrictions until September 17, with some relaxations. 

According to the ministry, as of today, the government has carried out 821,186 PCR tests across the country. “A total of 10,701 PCR tests were carried out in the past 24 hours,” Gautam confirmed, adding that the number of districts with 500+ live cases has decreased significantly. “Some 12 districts had a large number of cases earlier at one point, at present Sunsari, Sarlahi, Kathmandu, Chitwan and Rupandehi are the only five districts with over 500 active infections.”

Likewise, seven districts – Dolpa, Mugu, Humla, Solukhumbu, Myagdi, Mustang and Manang – have zero active infections.

Qatar Airways resumes three weekly flights from Nepal

 Qatar Airways has announced that it has resumed three weekly flights from Kathmandu to various other destinations from September 5 following the government’s decision to ease restrictions on international flights.

The airlines – issuing a press note today – said two state-of-the art Boeing 787 Dreamliner aircraft and Airbus A320 aircraft will resume flights to connect Nepal with other countries, in line with government’s guidelines. 

According to the guidelines of the Ministry of Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation, Nepali citizens, United Nations, specialised organisations, development partners and diplomatic staffs working in Nepal are allowed to travel to Kathmandu. “All passengers must have a negative RT-PCR test conducted within 72 hours of scheduled flight time and must have completed an online entry form,” the press note reads.

Thursday, September 10, 2020

Nepal slightly improves in Global economic freedom

 Nepal has improved, albeit, slightly as it has been ranked 109th out of 162 countries and territories in the ‘Economic Freedom of the World: 2020 Annual Report’.

According to a press note issued today by Samriddhi Foundation – in conjunction with Canada’s Fraser Institute – Nepal climbed one notch up to the rank from last year’s ranking of 110th. The ranking measures and ranks the economic freedom in five areas; size of government, legal structure and security of property rights, access to sound money, freedom to trade internationally and regulation of credit, labour and business.

According to the report that is based on the data of 2018, Nepal stood at 109th place in the global ranking with an overall score of 6.48. “On a scale of 1 to 10, a higher value indicates a higher level of economic freedom,” according to the report. “Nepal had scored 6.49 last year.” 

With a score of 6.53, Nepal had ranked 102nd in 2018.

Hong Kong and Singapore topped the index, continuing their streak as first and second respectively. “New Zealand, Switzerland, the United States, Australia, Mauritius, Georgia, Canada and Ireland were in the list of top 10 performers,” according to the report. 

According to the area-wise ranking, the score on the size of government dropped to 6.92 from 7.2, putting Nepal at the 63rd position in the global ranking. “The score on the legal system and property rights, however, went up to 4.64 from 4.6, placing Nepal at the 104th place in the global ranking,” the report reads, adding that Nepal scored 6.89 in access to sound money and remained at the 137th place in the global ranking. “In terms of freedom to trade internationally, Nepal’s score slid to 6.59 from 6.6 and stayed at 111th position.”

Nepal’s score on regulation of credit, labour and business climbed to 7.36 from 7.2 with the global ranking at 71st. Nepal’s immediate neighbour India ranked at the 105th position while China secured its place at the 124th place, according to the report.

The report, based on 2018 data – the most recent comparable data – also warns that recent events in Hong Kong will likely cause its score to fall as data become available for 2019 and 2020. “Intrusion on the rule of law, the foundation of economic freedom, by the Chinese Communist Party is negatively affecting economic freedom in Hong Kong,” said Dr Michael A Walker research chair in Economic Freedom with the Fraser Institute Fred McMahon.

The 10 lowest-rated countries are African Republic, Democratic Republic of Congo, Zimbabwe, Republic of Congo, Algeria, Iran, Angola, Libya, Sudan and Venezuela. Despotic countries such as North Korea and Cuba can’t be ranked due to lack of data. “Other notable rankings include Japan (20th), Germany (21st), Italy (51st), France (58th), Mexico (68th), Russia (89th), India (105th), Brazil (105th) and China (124th),” the report reads.

According to research in top peer-reviewed academic journals, people living in countries with high levels of economic freedom enjoy greater prosperity, more political and civil liberties, and longer lives. For example, countries in the top quartile of economic freedom had an average per-capita GDP of $44,198 in 2018 compared to $5,754 for countries in the bottom quartile. Moreover, in the top quartile, the average income of the poorest 10 per cent was $12,293 compared to $1,558 in the bottom quartile. Interestingly, the average income of the poorest 10 per cent in the most economically free countries is more than twice the average per-capita income in the least free countries. 

“Where people are free to pursue their own opportunities and make their own choices, they lead more prosperous, happier and healthier lives,” McMahon said.

The Fraser Institute produces the annual Economic Freedom of the World report in cooperation with the Economic Freedom Network, a group of independent research and educational institutes in nearly 100 countries and territories. It’s the world’s premier measurement of economic freedom, measuring and ranking countries in five areas; size of government, legal structure and security of property rights, access to sound money, freedom to trade internationally and regulation of credit, labour and business.

The report was prepared by James Gwartney, Florida State University; Robert Lawson and Ryan Murphy of Southern Methodist University; and Joshua Hall, West Virginia University. It measures the economic freedom including levels of personal choice, ability to enter markets, security of privately-owned property, rule of law by analysing the policies and institutions of 162 countries and territories.

Countries in WHO South-East Asia region sign declaration to fight Covid-19

 All member countries of WHO South-East Asia Region today resolved to collectively fight Covid-19 and strengthen the Region’s response with better equipped health systems to deliver essential health services during the pandemic.

"The spread of Covid-19 has impacted almost every community, overwhelmed health systems and disrupted economies and livelihoods with effects reaching far beyond the health sector,” WHO director-general Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said, adding that it has also disproportionately impacted the most vulnerable. “WHO recently surveyed countries to understand better the priorities in the South East Asia region.” 

At the top of the agenda is maintaining essential health services. Signing the Declaration on ‘Collective Response to Covid-19’ along with ministers of Health and representatives of member countries, regional director of WHO South-East Asia Region Dr Poonam Khetrapal Singh, said that people’s ordinary health needs do not disappear during such extraordinary events. “Health security is not only about building capacity to prevent, prepare for and respond to acute events,” she said, adding that it must also be about building capacity to maintain essential health services for the duration of response and into the recovery.”

The Declaration was signed at the end of a ministerial round table on the second and last day of the Seventy-third Regional Committee Session, hosted by Thailand, and held virtually for the first time ever due to Covid-19 pandemic.

During the roundtable, all member countries shared their various Covid-19 response measures and efforts being made to maintain essential health services and restore those impacted due to the pandemic.

All countries agreed to the importance of universal health coverage and primary health care as a safety net for people to access quality health services - both Covid-19 and other essential services, including the most vulnerable population.  

The Declaration calls for efforts to ensure countries sustain essential health services and public health programs during public health emergencies and use the current pandemic as an opportunity to build back their health systems to be better.

The member countries agreed to allocation of adequate budgets to ensure uninterrupted services during and beyond the pandemic, while prioritising health of the people, a press note issued by the WHO reads. “Countries resolved to strengthen health information systems by leveraging digital technologies which capture timely reporting of outbreaks and sharing information for policy decision.”

With health workers playing a crucial role in the pandemic, member countries pledged to ensure occupational health, safety and wellbeing of health professionals and other related workers.

Speaking to health ministers of the 11 member states Dr Khetrapal Singh said, “Continued efforts should be made to keep health workers safe from infection and violence and to provide mental health and psychosocial support.”

The Declaration also calls for strengthening safety of patients and the people through adequate public health and social measures and access to quality personal protective devices; and strengthening occupational and environmental safety through medical waste management systems and making biomedical and systems research stronger, was also agreed upon.

The member countries agreed to continuing and expanding multi-sectoral collaboration; strengthening regional collaboration for scaling up capacities for preparedness, surveillance and rapid response, field epidemiology training, supply chain management of medicines and medical supplies, and regional stockpiling of essential health resources. They also resolved to identify gaps and strengthen core capacities as required by the International Health Regulations 2005.

All countries in the region agreed to fully engage in global discussion on equitable allocation of vaccines, medicines and diagnostics for Covid-19.

“All people, all sectors, all countries and all partners must come together to strengthen the response and build a recovery and future that is more health secure, and in which all people’s health needs are met as a precondition to achieving the sustainable development to which we strive,” added Dr Khetrapal Singh.

Some 4 million jobs added to Nepal’s economy in the past decade: World Bank

 Nepal’s economy added nearly four million jobs over the past decade, and average job quality increased significantly, according to the World Bank’s recent Nepal Jobs Diagnostic report. But continued job creation, especially of wage jobs, is needed to absorb underutilised workers into better-quality, stable, and well-paid jobs. The economic disruption caused by the Covid-19 pandemic – while not addressed in this report – highlights the importance of increasing stable and secure employment in the post-pandemic recovery period.

Nepal’s economy has been gradually shifting from largely subsistence agriculture to more modern industry and services, and this structural transition is bringing better work opportunities for the labour force, it reads, adding that despite great strides, not all job seekers are able to access quality jobs, especially women. “In the last decade, large numbers of men have entered jobs in construction, manufacturing, commerce and transportation, or have migrated abroad. Even though many of these are informal jobs or temporary wage jobs, they are nevertheless more productive and provide improved livelihoods compared to traditional low-productivity farm work.”

Women, on the other hand, have not transitioned in significant numbers. The share of wage work in Nepal jumped from 17 per cent to 24 per cent of total employment between 2008 and 2018, as nearly half of the jobs added since 2008 were wage jobs.

“The shift toward wage employment signals a fundamental change in Nepal’s economic development and is similar to patterns seen around the world,” World Bank Lead Economist and main author of the report Dr Elizabeth Ruppert Bulmer said, adding that as economies diversify their production activities and increase scale economies, employment becomes more specialized and more productive, and jobs are increasingly based in firms rather than self-employment, and pay more. “Urbanisation amplifies these effects by concentrating economic activities while increasing the variety of products and services.”

Evidence from a combination of data sources – national labour force surveys from 1998, 2008 and 2018, the 2018 Economic Census, and a 2019 survey of 900 SMEs across 6 districts – points to a number of constraints to achieving better labour market outcomes in Nepal. “One key impediment is Nepal’s dramatic topography, which makes access to wage jobs and to product markets costly,” the report reads, adding that most jobs are informal and concentrate in relatively low productivity sectors, while most firms are micro-sized with one or two employees, and target small local markets rather than exporting or connecting to regional or global value chains. “In addition to credit constraints, many SMEs cite tax regulations, high taxes, scarce skills, and bureaucratic inefficiencies as obstacles to growth and therefore job creation.”

Gendered social norms have limited female labor mobility and work opportunities, reflected by the fact that most women remain in unpaid work. Three-quarters of new jobs taken up by women between 2008 and 2018 were in non-wage self-employment or unpaid family work, much of which was farm work. Occupational segregation and social norms contribute to the large earnings gap between men and women, according to the report.

In order to improve job outcomes in Nepal, the report recommends policies focusing on fostering SME productivity and growth; improving the business environment and labor market policies; increasing the individual, family, and economy-wide benefits of international migration; and preparing and connecting women and youth to better jobs, including entrepreneurship.

“While the report does not address the shocks from Covid-19 experienced by Nepal’s economy and its people, it underscores the imminent priority for Nepal to save livelihoods of the most vulnerable workers, including those in subsistence agriculture and urban and rural informal day laborers or self-employed workers who lost their income sources,” World Bank country director for Maldives, Nepal and Sri Lanka Faris Hadad-Zervos, said, adding that the government of Nepal has already initiated programmes including the Youth Employment Transformation Initiative Project to address the immediate labour market challenges, and it is hoped that this analysis will further guide policy interventions to improve job outcomes as part of Nepal’s resilient recovery efforts from the crisis.

ADB releases latest statistical report for Asia and Pacific

 The Asian Development Bank (ADB) today launched the latest edition of its annual statistical report for the region, Key Indicators for Asia and the Pacific 2020, and an update to its online database, Key Indicators Database.

Key Indicators 2020 presents a comprehensive set of economic, financial, social, and environmental indicators, including for the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), for ADB’s 49 regional members covering the years from 2000 to 2019, according to a press note issued by the multilateral development partner. “A key statistic in the report highlights how the region has become the biggest contributor to global gross domestic product (GDP), reaching a 34.9 per cent share in 2019 from 26.3 per cent in 2000.”

“The Asia and Pacific region has made tremendous development progress over the last two decades, becoming the biggest contributor to global GDP while lifting millions of people out of poverty,” ADB chief economist Yasuyuki Sawada said, adding that timely and accurate data enable us to take stock of this progress and areas that require further improvement. “Wide access to data, especially amid the coronavirus disease (Covid-19) pandemic, will continue to contribute to the region’s progress on the path to more inclusive and sustainable development.”

Key Indicators 2020 highlights the expanding influence of Asia and the Pacific in global investment and trade. The region’s economies received more than one-third of total global direct investment in 2019, while the region’s global export share increased to 36.5 per cent in 2019 from 28.4 per cent in 2000.

More than half of the reporting economies in the region recorded a GDP growth rate of 4 per cent or higher in 2019. These gains are threatened, however, by the Covid-19 pandemic, with unemployment rising and income falling as lockdowns cause steep reductions in business operations and people’s activities in general.

The report includes a special supplement looking at how the granularity of poverty estimates can be enhanced by integrating household surveys and censuses with data extracted from satellite imagery. The report identifies practical considerations and technical requirements for this novel approach to mapping the spatial distribution of poverty, while outlining the investments required by national statistics offices to fully capitalise on the benefits of incorporating innovative data sources into conventional work programs.

The Key Indicators 2020 also presents updates on SDG indicators in Asia and the Pacific; regional trends and tables, including indicators across eight themes; people; economy and output; money, finance, and prices; globalisation; transport and communications; energy and electricity; environment; and government and governance; new analysis on trends in changes in developing Asia’s global competitiveness in supplying various products, and updated data on global value chains; and updated individual country tables for the 49 regional members of ADB.

The Key Indicators Database, first launched in September 2019, offers access to more than 1,100 statistical indicators from the year 2000 onwards in a user-friendly and accessible interface.

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.