Thursday, December 9, 2021

Remittance help reduce poverty not government policy: UN human rights expert

Nepal's poverty has reduced not due to government policy rather with the help of remittance inflow, according to a UN expert.

"Poverty reduction owes more to remittances than to proactive government anti-poverty policies," the UN special rapporteur and extreme poverty and human rights, Olivier De Schutter, said today after conducting an 11-day official mission.

"A quarter of the decline in poverty can be attributed to outmigration only, with estimates showing that, without remittances, poverty would have increased in Nepal,” he said, adding that remittances in Nepal were 10 times larger than foreign aid and 2.5 larger than total exports only in 2017. "It is clear that much more needs to be done by the government to meet its own target of reducing multidimensional poverty to 11.5 per cent by 2023-2024,” the expert said, suggesting the government to ensure its skills and training programmes reach the poorest families. "While public works programmes such as the Prime Minister’s Employment Programme (PMEP) have considerable potential, in practice the programme has yet to deliver on its promise of providing 100 days of work per person per year. "In the country, 80 per cent of workers are informal, which exposes them to higher rates of abuse, largely because the government lacks the ability to enforce minimum wage legislation in the informal sector.|

Although informal workers should also contribute to and benefit from the Social Security Fund (SSF), there is currently no plan to include them in the programme, he added.

Nepal has one of the most progressive constitutions in the world, but many of its promises still are to be fulfilled, De Schutter, said, adding that Nepal has succeeded in reducing multidimensional poverty by 12.7 per cent between 2014 and 2019, and its Human Development Index (HDI) has improved, as have indicators related to health and education. "But significant gaps remain."

"Women are still lagging on a number of indicators," he said, adding that though banned, caste-based and ethnicity-based discrimination remain a reality in social life, and it is a major factor explaining the perpetuation of poverty. "Land issues remain unresolved, despite the efforts to accelerate the rehabilitation of former bonded labourers and to ensure landless Dalit benefit from land redistribution."

De Schutter’s fact-finding mission began on December 29, just weeks after the UN General Assembly voted a resolution inviting Nepal, along with Bangladesh and Lao People’s Democratic Republic, to prepare for graduation from the status of Least Developed Country (LDC) to that of an emerging economy. Nepal will benefit from a five-year transition period. “Graduation from LDC status is a major milestone for Nepal,” De Schutter said, adding that poverty reduction must be at the heart of the country’s transition strategy to ensure that no groups are left behind."

The UN expert met with communities who suffer from intersecting forms of deprivation. Most were landless daily wage labourers working in agricultural or informal jobs and struggling to send their children to school. Many were from historically disadvantaged and discriminated groups including Dalit, Madhesi, and Indigenous people, as well as women. “The stark inequalities resulting from the deeply entrenched norms and values of the Nepali caste system continue to perpetuate disadvantage today,” De Schutter added.

Women suffer the brunt of a historically patriarchal society, earning almost 30 per cent less than men, suffering from higher rates of informality, owning only 19.7 per cent of homes and land, and enduring a 17.5 per cent literacy gap compared to men, the UN poverty expert noted. "Nepal can and must do better,” he said.

Children experience the worst forms of deprivation because of the poverty their families face, he added. Over one million children work in Nepal, and in rural areas over a fifth of children do.

"During my mission, I met with countless families whose children, especially girls, engaged in agricultural or domestic work,” De Schutter said. "Wealth inequality is a major factor: over 20 per cent of children in poverty work, compared to only five percent of children from rich families."

“The government must take child poverty seriously and take the necessary steps to end child marriage and labor and improve quality of and access to education,” he added.

During his mission, the special rapporteur visited Bagmati, Karnali, Lumbini provinces, as well as Province 2. He met with nine ministries, including six ministers, as well as local and provincial authorities, people affected by poverty, civil society organisations, and development cooperation and UN agencies.

Monday, December 6, 2021

World Bank highlights resource gap to maintain federalism

The World Bank (WB) has concluded resource gap to maintain the three-tier government. Releasing a report, 'Public Expenditure Review (PER) Report on Fiscal Policy for Sustainable Development', the multilateral development partner also said the government should also introduce five key reform measures to support fiscal sustainability and its transition towards green, resilient, and inclusive development.

The World Bank, in its report, has also identified five top priority reform measures. It has suggested on encouraging the update of sub-national spending responsibilities through the intergovernmental grants system.

Supporting exports and job creation through reforms to import duties, strengthening domestic revenue including a review in VAT exemptions, enhancing public capital spending by rolling out the National Project Bank and providing fiscal incentives for a green growth transition are among measures that World Bank has recommended to achieve the goal.

The World Bank has also stated that Nepal has made significant strides in implementing fiscal federalism but excessive dependency of the sub-national governments on the intergovernmental transfers and revenue sharing, which accounts for around 30 per cent of the annual budget, to fulfill their financial demands.

“While federalism is helping bring policymaking closer to the people, it has also increased fiscal spending and exacerbated by the Covid-19 pandemic led to a sharp rise in fiscal deficits and public debt,” the report reads, stressing the importance of strengthening investment processes and fiscal policies for green growth, and fiscal policy reforms to enable Nepal to use its green electricity surplus to mitigate air pollution to protect the health of people and the economy.

With the country’s transition to federalism, expenditure responsibilities have been devolved to subnational governments that are predominantly financed through intergovernmental transfers and revenue sharing. These now account for between 8 per cent and 9 per cent of GDP per year (or close to 30 per cent of the annual budget). 

“This report provides an analytical basis to inform our reform efforts to strengthen federalism and create fiscal space to support our new focus on a green, resilient, and inclusive development (GRID) model,” finance secretary Madhu Kumar Marasini said, adding that it complements our ongoing efforts to refine the fiscal transfer system put in place the systems for monitoring and reporting for a more results oriented and accountable delivery of local services.”

Likewise, World Bank country director for Maldives, Nepal, and Sri Lanka Faris Hadad-Zervosthis said that the human development PER, both of which will help inform the design of World Bank support to Nepal, including through our ongoing support through our various Development Policy Credits."

Friday, December 3, 2021

JICA to support strengthening of seed production, supply and quality control system

JICA signed Record of Discussions with the government for the technical cooperation project 'Strengthening Seed Production, Supply and Quality Control System Project'.

The implementation period of the project is for 5 years (starting from March 2022 to March 2027) and the executing agency is Seed Quality Control Center (SQCC), Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock Development (MOALD), Nepal Agricultural Research Council (NARC), and Ministry of Land Management, Agriculture and Cooperatives (MoLMAC) of province No 1, according to a press note issued by the JICA.

The project shall be implemented in Province 1, mainly Jhapa, Morang, Sunasari and Udayapur districts, it reads, adding that the purpose of the project is 'to strengthen Rice seed production, supply and quality control system' to improve productivity of rice by means of dissemination of quality improved seeds in Province No 1 and to strengthen the implementation of the rice seed production, supply and quality control system in Nepal. 

Rice is fundamental crop of Nepali agriculture. Everyone eats it, and farmers gain income out of it. In order to make crop tasty, nutritious, and productive, the most important factor remains the quality of rice seeds.

Even though rice farming contributes around 15 per cent to the gross domestic production (GDP) of Nepal, there is still possibility to increase its yield therefore usage of improved seed and increasing the replacement rate of seed are the key.

According to the statistic, seed replacement rate of rice in Nepal is around 20 per cent now, therefore, the government has the strategy to raise the percentage to 25 per cent. And it is estimated that the use of improved seeds with good quality will increase its yield by 15 per cent. However, there are several processes before farmers can use the improved seeds with good quality, it is necessary to improve of the quality of the system and capacity to produce the quality seed in Nepal. In this context, holistic support for improving seed production was requested to JICA.

The project is expected to contribute for sustainable social and economic development of Nepal during and after the implementation period of the project.

Friday, November 26, 2021

Monetary Policy quarterly review gives continuity to CD ratio provision

The central bank has stressed on policy stability in the first quarterly review of the Monetary Policy 2021-22.

Releasing the review report today, the central bank has kept the cash reserve ratio (CRR), statutory liquidity ration (SLR) and widely critisised 90 per cent cap on credit to deposit (CD) ratio unchanged. The CD ratio has been blamed for current credit crunch. The bankers were asking the central bank and finance minister to revert to the earlier system of CCD ratio. The central bank, through Monetary Policy for the current fiscal year 2021-22, has scrapped the provision of credit to core capital plus deposit (CCD) ratio and mandated CD ration to be kept at 90 per cent. Most of the commercial banks have CD ratio over 90 per cent, restricting them to further lend. But the review has asked the banks to prepare a plan to contain CD ratio within 90 per cent by the end of this fiscal year, and submit it to the central bank.

Nepal Rastra Bank (NRB) has, however, tried to tighten the imports, which has seen whopping growth since last couple of months as the Covid-19 infection has been weak. The alarmingly rising imports has eaten up the foreign exchange (Forex) reserve as it has been depleting fast since last couple of months.

In a bid to address the declining forex reserves, the central bank has adopted different measures to discourage imports like making cash margin mandatory when opening LC, limit import of silver and simplify the process of bringing in deposits from Non Resident Nepalis (NRNs), reads the review.

Likewise, the central bank has also introduced a provision whereby commercial banks can issue collateral for loans in foreign currency for commercial agriculture, manufacturing industries, tourism and projects.

Projecting the pressure on external sector stability to continue, as the demand for credit is increasing due to economic recovery process and a large portion of such credit is being spent on import payments at a time when remittance inflow is also not decreasing, the central bank has tried to stop the forex reserve depletion.

Despite a huge pressure to lift cap from margin-type lending, the central bank has not reviewed 40 million and 12 million cap. The fall in share market has been attributed to the central bank's policy to put cap of Rs 40 million (for one financial institution) and Rs 12 million (from the overall financial system) in margin type lending. The provision was also brought in the Monetary Policy for the current fiscal year 2021-22. The share investors have been asking the central bank to revert the decision. However, the central bank, in the review, said that the provision will help financial sector stability and is necessary as the margin type loan has been projected to create bubble in stock market.

Likewise, the central bank has also projected that expenditure on local elections in the current fiscal year will further expand the demand for credit and put pressure on prices. It has also projected the economy to recover wisely citing that the impact of Covid-19 has been gradually diminishing, the availability of vaccines has increased, the number of people going for foreign employment has started increasing, foreign tourist arrivals have increased and that the export of electricity has started.

UML’s 10th national convention kicks off in Chitwan

After 7 years and 3 months from its 9th national convention, the main opposition party CPN (UML)'s started its 10th national convention in Chitwan today, though the law directs the political parties to regularly hold their national convention every five years.

The 3-day convention will conclude on Sunday by electing new leadership for the next five years.

Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba alongwith key leaders of various political parties were present at the inaugural session of the convention chaired by the party chair KP Sharma Oli.

Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist Centre) chair Pushpa Kamal Dahal did not attend the meeting, and sent his aide Lilamani Pokharel to attend the convention of UML, which has not invited CPN (Unified Socialist) chair Madhav Kumar Nepal, who formed his own party after splitting from the UML following a long-standing dispute with the party chair Oli.

The convention is also being attended by some 15 foreign delegates from 16 political parties of various countries including India.

Party chair Oli inaugurated the 10th congress, where Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba also attended.

Though, Nepal's political parties have been blamed for their heavy expenses without any source of income, the CPN (UML) has claimed that it has collected Rs 100 leby from its 850,000 members. "Rs 100 donation from each of our 850,000 members has totalled to Rs 85 million," the party claimed, adding that the expenses will be met from the collection.

The Election Commission, has however, yesterday asked all the political parties to make their expenses transparency. "The EC has developed a format for all the political parties to keep their expenses transparent according to Political Parties Act-2073, article 40," the constitutional body said in its notice yesterday. "The EC has approved some 8 forms for the political parties to keep their accounts transparent," the notice reads, adding that all the political parties must keep accounts according to the prescribed format also for the uniformity. "It will help maintain transparency in all the political parties."

The political parties have been questioned for their heavy expenses, as they have no definite income sources.

Thursday, November 25, 2021

After 50 years, Nepal to graduate from LDC

After being in a category of least developed country (LDC) for five decades since 1971, Nepal is finally graduating to the developing country category as the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) on Wednesday approved a proposal of Nepal's graduation to a middle-income developing country by 2026.

The 40th plenary of the 76th Session of the UNGA unanimously adopted a resolution endorsing the graduation of Nepal from the LDC category with the preparatory period of five years, according to press note issued by the Permanent Mission of Nepal to the United Nations in New York.

"As a result, Nepal will graduate from the LDC category by December 2026 and until then will continue to receive all concessions and support measures as LDC,” the press note reads.

In addition to Nepal, the graduation of Bangladesh and the Lao People’s Democratic Republic has also been endorsed by the UNGA.

Nepal now needs to prepare smooth national transition strategy, with the support of the UN system and in cooperation with their bilateral, regional, and multilateral development and trading partners. After the graduation from LDC category, a country will not get grant, and also loses preferences it is getting as LDC, thus pressuring for strong domestic production base.

After the adoption of the resolution, permanent representative of Nepal to the UN Amrit Bahadur Rai reiterated Nepal’s commitment to making all-out efforts for a smooth graduation with the enhanced level of support from the development partners, including the UN system. "Nepal graduating from LDC status in 2026 is a great milestone, indeed," he added.

But Nepal should make efforts that it won't slip backwards. Rai also pledged for Nepal to do its best to undertake all required procedures for its structural changes for the same within the next five years. "The Government of Nepal has completed strategic efforts for the graduation," he said, adding that it is an opportunity for the country to raise its image in the international forum by creating structures for its economy within the next five years. "We have also urged for addressing challenges that may emerge after 2026, and will reach a conclusion to this effect after holding a dialogue with development partners."

Nepal has twice deffered its graduation due to devastating earthquake in 2015 and lack of preparation in 2018. Usually, graduation from LDC status becomes effective three years after the UNGA takes note of the recommendation made by the Committee for Development Policy under the United Nations Economic and Social Council to graduate a country. But due to Covid-19 pandemic, this time, the countries have been given five years of preparatory period on an exceptional basis.

The five-year preparatory period, however, is provided for a smooth transition, recognising the effect of the Covid-19 pandemic and the resulting need to implement policies and strategies to reverse the pandemic’s damage to the economic and social sectors, the press note reads.

The resolution has mandated the Committee on Development Policy, a subsidiary body of the Economic and Social Council, to analyse the adequacy of the preparatory period at its 2024 triennial review and recommend further extension, if necessary, the press note adds.

In the last two triennial reviews conducted in 2015 and 2018, Nepal had met two of the three criterion related to the human asset index (HAI) and economic vulnerability index (EVI), though it couldn’t meet the per capita income (PCI) criteria. A country must have HAI more that 66 to graduate from LDC. But Nepal has scored 68.7 in 2015, 71.2 in 2018, and 75 in 2021. Likewise, a country must have EVI less than 32 to graduate. Nepal has scored 26.8 in 2015, 28.4 in 2018, and 24.2 in 2021.

A country becomes eligible to graduate from LDC after meeting two of the three criterion but a country can also graduate on the basis of per capita income alone, if it can meet the PCI creteria. The gross national per capita income of a country needs to be at least $1,222 for it to be accorded developing country status, according to the UN. But Nepal’s per capita income stands at $1,027 in 2021, whereas it had $745 in 2018, and $659 in 2015, according to National Planning Commission (NPC) data presented at the UNGA.

Australian ambassador hands over medical equipment to Bir Hospital

Australia’s ambassador to Nepal Felicity Volk provided medical equipment worth Rs 4.2 million to the Covid-19 Unified Central Hospital at Bir Hospital under the National Academy of Medical Sciences (NAMS).

The equipment, including Intensive Care Unit beds and other equipment, will be used to establish an emergency ward in the Covid-19 Unified Central Hospital, according to a press note issued by the Australian Embassy in Kathmandu. "As the Covid-19 vaccination campaign continues in Nepal, the Australian government is committed to supporting health security under our Covid-19 Development Response Plan," Volk has been quoted in the press note. "The plan focuses on providing assistance to the most vulnerable. With Nepal responding to multiple challenges simultaneously, the needs of marginalised communities are more evident than ever."

"Australia’s contribution of equipment through the Lutheran World Federation Nepal will strengthen Nepal’s health system and serves as a reminder of a close friendship over six decades, throughout which Nepal and Australia have supported each other," she added.

In May, the Australian government provided Aus$7 million to NGOs including the Lutheran World Federation Nepal (LWF Nepal) to boost Nepal’s ability to address Covid-19, including through the procurement of essential equipment and health supplies for hospitals and personal protective equipment for health workers.

Vice Chancellor of NAMS Prof Dr Dev Narayan Shah, acting chief executive officer of Covid-19 Unified Central Hospital, Prof Dr Bhupendra Kumar Basnet, and LWF Nepal country director Dr Bijaya Bajracharya were present on the occasion.

‘Kahile Kahi Hoina, Kahile Pani Hundaina’ campaign against gender-based violence and child marriage starts

The Zonta Club of Kathmandu today launched a campaign to raise awareness on the importance of speaking up against domestic violence, work and public place harassment, and child marriage. The initiative coincides with the United Nations (UN)  16-Day of Activism against Gender-Based Violence from November 25 to December 10.

Women continue to make up the bulk of victims of abuse but often do not report it due to stigma and fear of not being believed and supported, according to Zonta that has produced four short films deliver the vital campaign message –Kahile kahi hoina, Kahile pani hundaina (it’s never ever okay).

"Very often we hear people justify violence by saying it happens sometimes, so let it be. These short films deliver the vital message that violence/harassment and child marriages are never okay - not one time, NOT EVER and one must speak up," president of Zonta Club of Kathmandu Seema Golchha said, adding that the video will encourage victims to seek help and let them know of the helpline options where they can safely call and speak up.

As part of the initiative, Zonta will also stage a series of street plays in public places in Kathmandu starting December 1. "We will continue to promote the campaign message of speak up against gender-based violence and child marriage through street plays as it is a very effective medium in spreading social messages," a member of Zonta Kathmandu advocate Ratna Karki said.

Zonta Kathmandu has been working with different partners to support girls and women victims of violence and has also tied up with Lalitpur Metropolitan Police 100 helpline. Zonta and the National Commission for Women have also created a 1145 helpline to provide legal counselling and support to the victims of domestic violence and workplace sexual harassment.

Sunday, November 21, 2021

PATA Nepal organises 'Nepal- Bangladesh Tourism Promotion and B2B Exchange' programme

PATA Nepal Chapter, in collaboration with the PATA Bangladesh Chapter, has successfully concluded the 'Nepal-Bangladesh Tourism Promotion & B2B Exchange' Programme from November 16 to November 21.

The joint collaboration between PATA Chapters of Nepal and Bangladesh was organised as the post-pandemic tourism recovery initiative to help in promoting each other's destinations through mutual tie-ups and collaboration for both inbound and outbound tourism between the two neighbouring nations.

PATA Nepal Chapter, with the support of its member and partner organisations, hosted the PATA Bangladesh Delegation of 17 members; including the deputy director and secretary of Bangladesh Tourism Board, chairman and secretary-general of PATA Bangladesh, 10 tour operators, 2 media and 2 students from PATA Bangladesh Dhaka University Student Chapter.

The exchange programme included the familiarisation visit to Pokhara for Bangladeshi delegates from November 17 to November 19, wherein a 'Tourism Networking and Interaction Session' was organised in collaboration with Pokhara Tourism Council and NTB Pokhara on November 18. The Tourism Networking Programme in Pokhara witnessed the enthusiastic participation of 70 plus tour operators and service providers from the tourism fraternity, according to the PATA Nepal Chapter.

The formal function and B2B session held on November 20 at Park Village Resort included the presentations on destinations insights and business meetings and networking between 12 Bangladeshi tour operators and 14 Nepali tour operators and tourism service providers.

The formal function kicked off with the welcome remarks from PATA Nepal chairman Bibhuti Chand Thakur, who emphasised the immediate focus must embrace the promotion of 'regional travel', as an action plan, for reviving tourism which would be the most appropriate and convenient for travellers and destination management organizations or service providers.

"Since the long haul travel might take a little longer to recover," he said, adding that the nearby destinations, preferably accessible by road or short-haul flights, have more opportunities to build back their tourism. "Nepal-Bangladesh being so close to each other with less than one-hour flight, we through this collaboration expect unveiling a new way forward to strengthening our mutual inbound and outbound tourism business potentials."

Chief executive officer of Nepal Tourism Board (NTB) Dr Dhananjay Regmi and  deputy director and secretary of Bangladesh Tourism Board Mohammad Saiful Hasan, on the occasion, shared their destination insights and thoughts on the prospects of tourism exchange between Nepal and Bangladesh. The head of Department (Brand and Service Improvement) at Himalaya Airlines Ujjwala Dali also presented the operational plans of Himalaya Airlines to Bangladesh as well as other sectors in the region and beyond.

Addressing the formal function,  chairman of PATA Bangladesh Shahi Hamid said that he got fascinated with the warm hospitality of Nepal, and there are many alluring tourism products and services in Nepal to attract many Bangladeshi travellers. He also said that Nepal used to welcome about 26,000 Bangladeshis yearly before the pandemic and this can be easily penetrated double with effective promotion and marketing initiatives.

The chief guest of the programme, secretary of Ministry of Culture, Tourism, and Civil Aviation Yadav Koirala, on the occasion, expressed his thanks to PATA Chapters of Nepal and Bangladesh for undertaking the needful and timely initiative to promote regional tourism. He also recommended that Nepal needs to enhance its collaborative marketing and promotional events, organise FAM Trips, improve infrastructures (especially road connectivity), and develop extended tour packages for the tourists to Bangladesh and Nepal to flourish tourism in both countries. He further assured that the Tourism Ministry will facilitate the necessary cooperation and support at the government level to increase the tourism engagements between Nepal and Bangladesh.

The event was promoted by Nepal Tourism Board and Bangladesh Tourism Board; and supported by  Himalaya Airlines and Buddha Air (Airlines Partners), Pokhara Tourism Council (Organising partner), The Royal Mountain Travel (Transportation partner),  and Hospitality Partners including- The Everest Hotel, KGH Group of Hotels, Aloft, Radisson, Siddhartha Hotel, and The Old Inn.

Bangladesh Tourism Board, along with PATA Bangladesh Chapter, has extended an invitation and will be hosting Nepali counterparts in Bangladesh soon to further explore exchange and expand the mutual prospects of tourism development between both countries.

Friday, November 12, 2021

International rights groups call for protection of judicial independence and integrity

 The independence and integrity of the judiciary in Nepal is being jeopardised by the crisis at its Supreme Court, according to the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ), Human Rights Watch (HRW) and Amnesty International (AI).

"To uphold human rights and the rule of law, it is essential to resolve the crisis in a way that maintains and enhances the court’s credibility and independence," a press note jointly issued by the three international rights bodies issued today reads.

In an unprecedented move, 18 out of 19 justices have refused to sit on Supreme Court benches unless Chief Justice Cholendra Shumsher Rana steps down.

Boycotting a full court meeting called by Chief Justice Rana on October 25, 2021, the justices demanded Rana's resignation for allegedly undermining the integrity and independence of the judiciary. The justices pointed specifically to allegations of a relationship between Rana and the executive branch. They also cited allegations concerning the allocation of cases for hearing to specific justices, and the failure to list for hearing a number of writs against constitutional appointments that he had participated in making.

“The Supreme Court has a crucial role in upholding human rights and the rule of law in Nepal, which makes this crisis extremely worrisome for the justice process,” South Asia director at Human Rights Watch Meenakshi Ganguly said.

Following the boycott by the Supreme Court justices, the Nepal Bar Association (NBA) also called for the chief justice’s resignation. The NBA said it would call a nationwide protest, if the chief justice does not resign. On November 11, some members of the NBA were reportedly injured when police prevented them from staging a protest within the Supreme Court premises. In response to this incident, the NBA on November 12 (today) staged a sit-in at the gate of the Supreme Court.

The current crisis comes amid increasing calls for judicial reform. In July, a committee established by the Supreme Court and led by Justice Hari Krishna Karki submitted a report identifying a number of problems in the judiciary However, the Supreme Court is yet to make the full version of the report public, or to present a plan to carry out its recommendations.

"Without judicial integrity and independence, the role of the Supreme Court will be weakened significantly, making it unable to uphold its constitutional obligation to protect human rights and the rule of law,” said ICJ senior international legal adviser Mandira Sharma. "The allegations against the Chief Justice must be investigated and address through fair process consistent with the rule of law."

Under Article 101 of the constitution, if one quarter of the House of Representatives files a motion for impeachment, an 11-member impeachment recommendation committee of House members will investigate whether grounds exist for moving forward with the impeachment.

"An independent judiciary is the foundation of a rule of law-based system and respect for human rights,” said director of Amnesty International Nepal Nirajan Thapaliya. "As envisioned by the constitution, the parliament should ensure a robust, transparent, and effective investigation on the allegations faced by the chief justice to protect the integrity of the Supreme Court and to ensure public trust in the judiciary."

Tuesday, November 9, 2021

हजारको नोट छाप्न बन्द गरौं, अर्थतन्त्र सफा गरौं

भनिन्छ, हरेक समस्या तथा चुनौतीमा विज्ञ तथा व्यावसायिक मानिसले समाधान देख्छ, तर राजनीतिज्ञले हरेक समाधानमा समस्या देख्छ । नेपालमा यो भनाइ हुबहु मिल्छ, किनकि हरेक विषयलाई नेपालमा राजनीतीकरण गरिन्छ । नागरिकका दैनिन्दिनी समस्यामा पनि राजनीति हुने भएकाले मुलुकले राजनीतिक प्रणाली फेरिसके पनि आर्थिक क्रान्तिको जग बसाउन सकेन । यसबीच प्रचण्ड बहुमतको स्थिर सरकारले पनि अर्थतन्त्रलाई सुधार गर्नुको साटो झन् बढी बिचौलियाकरण गरेर छोड्यो । वर्तमान सरकारले अर्थतन्त्रको समस्या बुझ्ने मेसो नपाउँदै मुलुक विकराल समस्यातर्फ उन्मुख देखिन्छ । त्यसैले सरकारले आफ्नो दृढ इच्छाशक्तिको प्रदर्शन नगर्ने र यथास्थितिमा नै चल्ने हो भने अर्थतन्त्रको बिचौलियाकरण बढ्नेमात्र देखिन्छ । यसका समाधान खोज्न आवश्यक भइसकेको छ । सरकारी तथ्यांक तथा बजारको तालमेल छैन । सरकारी बेवास्ताका कारण उपभोक्ता बजारमा हरेक दिन लाखौं रुपैयाँ ठगिन्छन् । किनकि महँगी बढ्नुमा लाचार उपभोक्ताहरू जिम्मेवार छन् नै, तर प्रमुख जिम्मेवार भने बिचौलिया हुन् र उनीहरूको पहुँच सरकारसम्म छ । मूल्यवृद्धि नियन्त्रण नहुँदा मुलुक असफल राष्ट्रतर्फ उन्मुख हुन्छ । तसर्थ, सरकारले उपभोक्ताको हित गर्ने तथा अर्थतन्त्रको सुधार गर्ने, कालोधनलाई नियन्त्रण गर्ने, भ्रष्टाचार अनि कालोबजारी नियन्त्रण गर्न पनि डिजिटल अर्थतन्त्र कार्यान्वयनमा ढिलाइ गर्नु हुँदैन ।

हजारजस्ता ठूला दरका नोट छाप्न बन्द गरेर ठूला कारोबार बैंकिङ च्यानलमार्फत मात्र गर्ने तथा साना कारोबारमा मात्र नोटको प्रचलनमा ल्याउन प्रोत्साहन गर्ने हो भने एकातिर उपभोक्ता हित संरक्षण हुन्छ भने अर्कातिर यसले डिजिटल अर्थतन्त्रमा फड्को मार्न मद्दत गर्छ । कोरोना महामारीले विश्वभर पढाएको पाठ नेपालले सिक्दै डिजिटल अर्थतन्त्रलाई कार्यान्वयनमा ल्याउन ढिलाइ गर्नु हुँदैन । यो अवसरको सदुपयोग गरौं । यसबाट मुलुकको दीर्घरोग भइसकेको भ्रष्टाचार तथा कालोबजारी एवं कालोधनको ओसारपसार एवं अनौपचारिक अर्थतन्त्रलाई पनि औपचारिक अर्थतन्त्रभित्र ल्याउन सहज हुन्छ ।

पछिल्ला चार वर्षमा नेपाली अर्थतन्त्र झन् बढी अनौपचारिक तथा छाया अर्थतन्त्रमा रूपान्तरण हुँदै गइरहेको छ । सरकारले नै नीतिगत रूपमा अर्थतन्त्रलाई अनौपचारिक तथा छाया अर्थतन्त्रमा रूपान्तरण गर्ने भूमिका खेलेको छ । त्यसैले अब सरकारले आफ्नो नीतिगत गल्तीलाई सुधार गरी अर्थतन्त्र सफा गर्ने अवसर आएको छ । यो मौका किन पनि महŒवपूर्ण छ भने कालोधनविरुद्धको नेपालको आफ्नो प्रतिबद्धताको अब आउने केही महिनामा नै परीक्षण हुँदै छ । त्यसमा नेपालले आफ्ना कानुनी तथा नीतिगत सुधारका फेहरिस्त प्रस्तुत गर्नुपर्नेछ । क्षेत्रीय सञ्जाल एसिया प्रशान्त समूह (एपीजी) मार्फत नेपाल पनि एफएटीएफको सदस्य रहेकाले सम्पत्ति शुद्धीकरणका विषयमा उसले नेपालको मूल्यांकन सार्वजनिक गर्नेछ । त्यसमा नेपालको कानुनी, प्राविधिक र संस्थागत संरचनाका विषयहरूमा मूल्यांकन हुनेछ, जसमा नेपाल अझै खैरो सूचीमा पर्ने सम्भावना रहेको छ । यसअघि पनि नेपाल निगरानीमा परिसकेको हुनाले नेपालले कालोधनविरुद्धको आफ्नो प्रतिबद्धता यसपटक व्यवहारमा पनि देखाउन आवश्यक छ । तसर्थ ठूला नोट छाप्न बन्द गर्ने, ठूला कारोबारलाई बैंकिङ प्रणालीमार्फत मात्र प्रोत्साहित गर्ने जस्ता कार्यले नेपालको कालोधनविरुद्धको अभियानमा विश्वले विश्वास गर्ने वातावरण बन्छ । घरजग्गालगायत विविध कारोबारमा न्यून मूल्य देखाएर गरिने करछलीलगायतका सरकारलाई राजस्वमा भइरहेको नोक्सानलाई पनि यसले सम्बोधन गर्न सक्छ । अझ महत्वपूर्ण विषय त नेपाल डिजिटल अर्थतन्त्रको युगमा प्रवेश गर्नेछ । साथै, एक तथा दुई रुपैयाँका साना नोट प्रशस्त छाप्दा बजारमा भइरहेको खुद्रा मूल्यवृद्धिलाई पनि नियन्त्रण गर्न सकिन्छ । हाल बजारमा अनुभव भइरहेको मूल्यवृद्धि र नेपाल राष्ट्र बैंकको तथ्यांकमा आउने मूल्यवृद्धिको फरक पनि घटाउन मद्दत गर्नेछ । तसर्थ, हजारको नोट छाप्न बन्द गरौं र एक, दुई, पाँच, दस, बीस, पचास, सय र पाँच सयको नोट मात्रै छापौं ।

Sunday, November 7, 2021

Bhat-Bhateni operates fully automated vertical parking system

 Bhat-Bhateni Supermarket (BBSM) has started its fully automated vertical parking system at its Tangal outlet from today.

According to the super store, the parking system contains 11 storey, which can accommodate up to 44 four-wheelers at a time. The first in its kind of system in the country has machines that lift to-be-parked vehicles and settle them systematically at proper space inside the infrastructure automatically, according to a press note issued by the BBSM.

The chain super store that has been expanding its outlets across the country invested around Rs 70 million to construct the infrastructure.

Friday, November 5, 2021

Malla receives UN Woman Police Officer of the Year award

 The United Nations Department of Peace Operations announced that Superintendent Sangya Malla of Nepal, currently serving in the United Nations (UN) Organisation Stabilisation Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO), will be awarded the 2021 United Nations Woman Police Officer of the Year. Superintendent Malla will be presented the award by UN secretary-general António Guterres at a virtual ceremony on 9 November.

Superintendent Malla currently serves as the chief of the MONUSCO Police Health and Environment Unit, which she helped establish in the country’s capital, Kinshasa. The unit is responsible for implementing policies and procedures concerning the health and well-being of personnel as well as UN Police environmental initiatives, according to a press note issued by the UN. "Her contributions have added direct significance in the Democratic Republic of the Congo in light of the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic and past outbreaks of Ebola virus disease, as well as natural and humanitarian crises such as the volcanic eruption in Goma last May, during which her unit alerted the local population and UN staff of precautionary measures."

"She helped establish and now leads MONUSCO’s Health and Environment Unit, enhancing the safety and welfare of our peacekeepers by mitigating the risks from Covid-19 and other threats,” said UN Secretary-General António Guterres. "And she represents something far larger — the many contributions of women police officers in advancing peace and security around the world," he said, adding that through her work, Superintendent Malla embodies the best of the United Nations.

A medical professional by training, Superintendent Malla helped develop guidance for preventing and mitigating the spread of Covid-19. She has organised over 300 awareness sessions this year on Covid-19 prevention as well as environmental protection for the local population, Congolese authorities and UN staff. As the MONUSCO Police’s focal point on Covid-19, she also been disseminating information about the vaccines and promoting vaccination efforts.

“I am honoured to receive this award, and I hope it will encourage more young women in my country and around the world to pursue careers in policing, which is still too often viewed as “man’s work’,” said Superintendent Malla.

The United Nations Woman Police Officer of the Year award was established in 2011 to recognise the exceptional contributions of women police officers to UN peace operations and to promote the empowerment of women.

“Like many peacekeepers during this challenging time amid the pandemic, Superintendent Malla has gone above and beyond the call of duty to serve local communities,” said UN Police Adviser Luis Carrilho. “Together with her team, her efforts to raise awareness about public health and natural risks have ultimately made her colleagues and the Congolese people safer—a core function of policing.”

Superintendent Malla’s previously served with the UN Stabilisation Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH) from 2016 to 2017, where she was a member of the Formed Police Unit’s medical team. She joined the Nepal Police in 2008 as an inspector.

The award will be presented during the 16th United Nations Police Week which falls on November 8-12. At this annual event, heads of UN Police components and police experts from peacekeeping operations, special political missions and regional offices and UN senior leadership discuss performance, conduct and discipline, protection of civilians, conflict prevention, sustaining peace and other topics and priorities affecting UN policing.

About 7,300 UN police, almost 27 per cent of whom are women, are currently deployed in 14 UN  peace operations around the world, where they work to enhance international peace and security by supporting host countries in conflict, post-conflict and other crisis situations.

As of today, UNPOL has already achieved the 2025 targets set out in the Department’s Uniformed Gender Parity Strategy for all categories of personnel. Women police officers comprise 30 per cent of individual police officers and 15 per cent of members of Formed Police Units. Women police hold 40 per cent of professional posts at UN Headquarters and 33 per cent in the field.

Women also lead half of UN Police components in UN peace operations.

DRI files cases against 17 firms accused of revenue leakage

 The Department of Revenue Investigation (DRI) today filed cases at the Patan High Court against the proprietors of 17 firms accused of being involved in revenue leakage seeking to recover Rs 2.36 billion from them.

According to a press note issued by the department, it has filed cases against traders associated with Shangrila Trade and Suppliers, Mahalaxmi Trade Concern, Chandan Suppliers, Hanuman Suppliers, Delight Enterprises and GM Import and Export. "Ansar Manjeel Traders, PR Nirman Sewa, New Dip International, DN International, Himalayan Nepal Suppliers, RP Traders and Infratech are also under scrutiny of the department," it reads, adding that the department also filed cases against Nitesh Impex, Morgan Trade Link, Rise Auto Trade and trader Shakir Ali. "Of the accused, the department has sought to recover the largest amount of Rs 1.07 billion from trader Flot Raut Ahir of Shangrila Trade and Suppliers.

Finance Minister vows to resume construction of Chandragiri-Chitlang section of Ganeshman Singh Highway soon

 Finance Minister Janardan Sharma has vowed to resume the construction of Chandragiri-Chitlang section of Ganeshman Singh Highway soon.

Addressing a festival celebration reception here in Kathmandu today, Sharma said that he had heard that stone supplies were taking place from the section, and if true, such act will be instantly suspended and road construction would be resumed. "I have heard that the ‘stone quarry business’ is taking place along the Chandragiri-Chitlang section of Ganeshman Singh Highway, which I will stopped immediately," he said, promising to do his best for the development of Chandragiri as well. "The construction of a bus park and a community hospital is also in plan," he said, admmitting to materialise the dream of Sankhadhar Sakhwa, who had freed the people from the debt and commenced the era of Nepal Sambat.

The campaign that Sakhwa had started 1142 years ago is yet to be completed, the minister claimed, adding that people are yet to be liberated from the vicious cycle of poverty and to support them to be self-sufficient, according to the Finance Minister.

The then Krishna Prasad Bhattarai-led government had announced Sankhadhar Sakhwa as the national hero and the Pushpa Kamal Dahal ‘Prachanda’-led government had recognised the Nepal Sambat as the national calendar.

Wednesday, November 3, 2021

Japan to confer highest medal to Himalaya SJB Rana

 The Government of Japan has announced the foreign recipients of the 2021 Autumn Imperial Decorations naming Himalaya Shumsher Jung Bahadur Rana as one of the recipients.

"Founding governor of the central bank of Nepal and former finance secretary Himalaya Shumsher Jung Bahadur (SJB) Rana was awarded the Order of Japan (The Order of the Rising Sun, Gold and Silver Star) among foreign nationals among this year’s 2021 Imperial Decorations conferred by the Government of Japan, according to a press note issued by the Embassy Of Japan in Kathmandu.

Rana was recognised for his efforts to initiate economic ties between Japan and Nepal after he had visited Japan and witnessed Japan’s rapid economic recovery form World War II devastation, the press note reads, adding that he had also successfully persuaded the board of central bank to open the bank account at the Bank of Japan (BoJ) in 1960s, believing that could lead to the activation of economic relations between the two countries. "The Nepal Rastra Bank was the first foreign central bank that had opened an account at the BoJ."

Rana’s great grandfather Dev Shumsher Jung Bahadur Rana, the Prime Minister of Nepal in 1901 had decided to send the first Nepali students to study in Japan. People to people contacts between Japan and Nepal began with the visit of Japanese monk Kawaguchi Ekai to Nepal in 1899 and with the travel of eight Nepali students to Japan in 1902.

Rana tried to make this fact known to Nepali people at every opportunity, including at the symposium on the centennial celebrations of Nepali students in Japan in 2002, and he had delivered a lecture on the same theme at the annual meeting of the Japan University Alumni Association of Nepal (JUAAN), the press note further reads.

The Embassy, in the press notes, also congratulated Rana on being conferred with the Order of Japan. Next year will be the Japan Southwest Asia Exchange year and marks 120 years after the first batch of eight Nepali students had travelled to Japan in 1902. Japanese decorations are conferred upon foreigners twice a year, on 29th April and 3rd November, concurrently with the conferment of decorations and medals on Japanese nationals. The Order of the Rising Sun is bestowed upon individuals of merit, in recognition of their outstanding contributions to the nation or public.

The award is also conferred upon foreign nationals, who have made notable contributions to the promotion of relations between Japan, and other countries for excellence in politics and diplomacy, research and education, medicine and social welfare, economy and industry, and culture and sports, the embassy press note adds.

Tuesday, November 2, 2021

New Rs 100 and Rs 500 denominations bank notes to have security threads

 At the time, when the central bank has to prioritise reprinting Re1 and Rs 2 denomination bank notes to check the spiraling retail price inflation, it is planning to introduce new bank notes of Rs 100 and Rs 500 denominations.

"The new notes of Rs 100 and Rs 500 denominations will be identified by even the visually-impaired people by touching," the central bank confirmed. "Earlier the central bank had introduced Rs 1,000 denomination bank notes."

The new notes of Rs 100 and Rs 500 will have a highly-secure security thread that could be verified by machines, the central bank said, adding that the new bank note with security thread is also expected to reduce the distribution of fake banknotes in the market.

According to the Currency Management Department under the central bank, the central bank has already printed Rs 100 denomination bank notes worth Rs 400 million this year, while banknotes of Rs 500 denomination, worth Rs 190 million, will be printed out by November 17.

The central bank has also signed an agreement to print more bank notes of Rs 1,000 denomination, with security thread, for seven years under the same rate in case more notes need to be printed out, though it is high time the government should stop printing Rs 1000 denomination bank notes, also to check corruption, flow of black money and rise in retail inflation in the market that is not reflected in the central bank's data at present.

It will also encourage the people to shift to the digital banking for larger transaction,

The central bank is going to implement every safety measure when it comes to keeping the Nepali bank notes safe and secure with added safety measures.

Wednesday, October 27, 2021

Global wealth has grown but at the expense of future prosperity: World Bank

Global wealth has grown overall—but at the expense of future prosperity and by exacerbating inequalities, according to the World Bank’s new 'Changing Wealth of Nations' report released today.

Countries that are depleting their resources in favour of short-term gains are putting their economies on an unsustainable development path, the report reads. While indicators such as Gross Domestic Product (GDP) are traditionally used to measure economic growth, the report argues for the importance of considering natural, human, and produced capital to understand whether growth is sustainable.

The 'Changing Wealth of Nations 2021' tracks the wealth of 146 countries between 1995 and 2018, by measuring the economic value of renewable natural capital (such as forests, cropland, and ocean resources), nonrenewable natural capital (such as minerals and fossil fuels), human capital (earnings over a person’s lifetime), produced capital (such as buildings and infrastructure), and net foreign assets. The report accounts for blue natural capital—in the form of mangroves and ocean fisheries—for the first time.

“A deeper and more nuanced understanding of the sustainability of wealth is crucial to a green, resilient, and inclusive future,” said World Bank managing director for Development Policy and Partnerships, Mari Pangestu. “It is essential that renewable natural capital and human capital are given the same importance as more traditional sources of economic growth, so that policymakers take steps to enable long-term prosperity."

Tuesday, October 26, 2021

Listed companies now must deposit cash dividend with a detail to bank accounts

The capital market regulator today directed all the listed companies to deposit cash dividend with a clear detail at the shareholders’ bank accounts.

The Securities Board of Nepal (SEBON) -- issuing a directives -- asked the listed companies to deposit cash dividend at the shareholders account with details, because only the share registrar's name is mentioned in the bank statement currently. But the regulator directed the companies to mention with a details including name of the company, fiscal year and the rate of the dividend.

The shareholders have been repeatedly complaining with the regulator about the lack of clear information while receiving the dividends in the bank account.

"The company must have to clearly include the name, income and amount while paying cash dividend to the shareholder's bank account by itself or through its share registrar," the directives read.

Monday, October 25, 2021

Imports increased by 68.13 percent in first quarter

Imports increased by 68.73 per cent to Rs 543.57 billion in the first three months of the current fiscal year.

According to the data from Customs Department, the import expenses surged by 63.73 per cent to Rs 478.52 billion in the first quarter, though the export volume has doubled. However, the export earning in the first quarter that stood at Rs 65.52 billion is almost enough to pay a single commodity -- petroleum products -- bill. "The trade deficit stood at 

The country had imported merchandise worth Rs 292.26 billion in the first quarter of the last fiscal year, due to restriction in trade because of Covid-19 pandemic. 

The worsening trade balance has, however, added pressure in foreign currency reserves, which has been going down in recent months also due to drop in remittance earnings. The forex reserve has depleted pushing the balance of payments (BoP) -- one of the key macroeconomic indicators -- into the red zone. The BoP recorded negative in the past few months also due to a whopping rise in imports along with slow rate of remittance inflows.

Nepal imported Rs 23.32 billion worth diesel, Rs 12.86 billion worth petrol, and Rs 12.18 billion worth cooking gas, apart from kesosene, which comes to around the country's total export earning.

Apart from petroleum products, Nepal imported Rs 11.07 billion worth gold, and Rs 10.17 billion worth silver in the firts quarter of the cirrent fiscal year, despite the government's increament in customs of the silver.

Remittance inflow drops for the second straight month

Remittance inflow to Nepal has dropped for the second straight month in the current fiscal year.

Nepal’s remittance income declined by 6.3 per cent to Rs 155.37 billion during the first two months of the current fiscal year, according to a report published today by the central bank.

In the same period last fiscal year, remittance inflows had increased by 8.1 per cent, the central bank report added. But the remittance inflow started dropping from the beginning of the current fiscal year due to massive decline in Nepali migrant workers outflow since last 18 months due to Covid-19 pandemic.

According to the two months’ report ‘Current Macroeconomic and Financial Situation of Nepal’, published today by the central bank, the country’s receipt from remittance declined despite a notable rise in the outbound workers, though in the last month. The Nepali migrant workers outflow starting picking from last month, and it will take at least 6 to 8 months for them to start sending remittance back home. During mid-July and mid-September this year, the number of Nepali workers (institutional and individual-new and legalised) taking approval for foreign employment stood at 38,492, almost 100 times more than the same period in the last fiscal year.

Likewise, the number of Nepali workers (Renew entry) taking approval for foreign employment increased significantly to 22,976 from mid-July and mid-September compared to a decline of 86.5 per cent in the same period of fiscal year 2020-21.

Sunday, October 24, 2021

Floods damage ready-to-harvest paddy worth Rs 8.21 billion

Farmers lost an estimated Rs 8.21 billion worth paddy due to floods triggered by the torrential rain after monsoon last week.

A preliminary study report of the Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock Development (MoALD) has estimated some 269,842 tonnes of paddy across the country. According to the ministry, the 19 districts of six provinces lost their produce.

According to the ministry, Lumbini Province suffered the largest amount of loss by the disaster as it lost 161,223 tonnes of ready to harvest paddy that is worth Rs 4.51 billion. Likewise, Kailali and Kanchanpur districts of the Sudurpaschim Province also lost an estimated Rs 1.91 billion worth paddy. "The flood damaged 68,400 tonnes of paddy in the province," according to the ministry.

Province 1 also suffered a damage of some 28,469 tonnes of the paddy as the farmers in Morang, Jhapa and Sunsari districts of the province were hit hard by the disaster. "These three districts lost an estimated Rs 800 million worth paddy crop," the ministry confirmed, adding that the Province 2 lost Rs 560 million worth paddy, whereas Gandagi and Karnali province each lost Rs 130 million worth paddy crop.

IPPAN warns government to not discourage power producers

The power producers today blamed the government for restricting private sector from getting survey licenses, production licenses and power purchase agreement (PPA) for hydropower projects.

Organising a press meet in the Valley today, The Independent Power Producers' Association Nepal (IPPAN) also demanded the government to revert the decision. According to them, a meeting chaired by the chief secretary on September 23 decided not to provide any survey licence to the private power producers. They also blamed the government for taking unilateral decision.

IPPAN also expressed its serious concern over the directive on non-life insurance fee recently endorsed by the Insurance Board. According to IPPAN, these provisions will discourage potential investors in the hydropower sector.

Demanding the government to adopt a flexible policy for the private sector power producers, under an open electricity trade policy, IPPAN president Krishna Prasad Acharya, on the occasion, said that the government should distribute electric stoves at concessional rates to increase electricity consumption, increase the use of electric vehicles and provide cheap electricity to industries.

IPPAN, on the occasion, also urged the government to formulate a cross-border electricity trade policy, expand quality transmission lines to sell and distribute electricity to neighbouring countries and formulate proper policy on transmission billing fees.

Nepal to get over 100,000 Pfizer vaccines tomorrow

Nepal is receiving as many as 100,620 doses of Pfizer vaccines tomorrow, according to the US Embassy in Kathmandu.

The US embassy in Kathmandu today informed through twitter that the Pfizer-BioNtech Covid-19 vaccine -- donated by the United States through COVAX, the international vaccine sharing scheme backed by the United Nations -- will arrive by Monday. "The vaccines are provided by the US to help control the spread of Covid-19 pandemic as well as to accelerate vaccination drive in Nepal," according to the twitter.

The US has already provided 1.53 million doses of J&J vaccines to Nepal in July.

The ministry has decided to provide the vaccines from 22 hospitals throughout the country to the people with compromised immunity.

The Pfizer-BioNtech Covid-19 vaccine will be the fourth vaccine to be used in Nepal. Nepal has so far received AstraZeneca vaccine manufactured in India, Japan and Europe; Vero Cell vaccine manufactured by Sinopharm of China; and the single-shot Janssen made by Johnson & Johnson in the United States.

This is the first time Nepal is getting Pfizer vaccines. Pfizer-BioNtech, the first mRNA-based Covid-19 vaccine, is developed jointly by the US-based Pfizer and the German firm Biontech uses a copy of a molecule called messenger RNA (mRNA) to produce an immune response.

It is said that the Pfizer-BioNtech vaccine was 95 per cent effective at preventing laboratory-confirmed infection with the coronavirus.

Nepal has received 18,857,590 doses of Vero Cell, AstraZeneca and J&J vaccines till today.

Friday, October 22, 2021

India hands over Jaynagar-Kurtha cross-border rail section

India today handed over the Jaynagar-Kurtha cross-border rail link, built with government of India assistance, to the government of Nepal.

Ambassador of India to Nepal Vinay Mohan Kwatra and minister for Physical Infrastructure and Transport Renu Kumari Yadav witnessed the occasion, according to a press note released by the Indian Embassy in Kathmandu.

The executing agency for the project, IRCON International Ltd (on behalf of Government of India) handed over the assets of the section to Nepal Railway Company Ltd (on behalf of Government of Nepal) during the event.

Under the grant assistance of Government of India, the gauge conversion of 34.9-km narrow gauge section into broad gauge, from Jaynagar in India to Kurtha in Nepal, has now been completed, the press note reads, adding that the 34.9-km Jaynagar-Kurtha section is part of 68.72-km Jaynagar-Bijalpura-Bardibas rail link being built under Government of India grant assistance of Rs 8.77 billion. "This section was earlier a narrow gauge rail link between Jayanagar and Bijalpura."

There are total 8 stations and halts on the Jaynagar-Kurtha section, which include the historically important city of Janakpur.

Once operationalised, it would be the first broad gauge cross-border rail link between India and Nepal, and would further boost trade and commerce activities as well as people to people linkages between the two countries, the press note adds.

Cross-border rail linkages are an important facet of India-Nepal Development cooperation, which include Jaynagar-Bijalpura-Bardibas rail link and Jogbani-Biratnagar (18.6-km) rail link, both being constructed under Government of India grant assistance.

However, the government has not been able to bring Railway Act, and also lacks manpower to operate the railway service. Nepal has brought two modern trains from India last September. Though, it was supposed to run between Jaynagar in Bihar and Kurtha in Dhanusa district from last December, marking the beginning of the first broad-gauge railway service in Nepal, the two modern Diesel-Electric Multiple Unit (DEMU) trains have been lying idle.

The Konkan Railway had delivered two modern DEMU trains, manufactured by Integrated Coach Factory, Chennai with modern amenities and latest AC-AC propulsion technology, to the Nepal Railway.

International conference on reconstruction in December

The National Reconstruction Authority (NRA) is going to organise an international conference on reconstruction in Kathmandu on December 7-9.

The authority has successfully completed most of the reconstruction and rehabilitation work of the damage caused by the devastating earthquake on April 25, 2015, and the subsequent aftershocks, informed the chief executive of the authority Sushil Gyawali.

The authority has handed over the remaining responsibility to the concerned body. The experience and learning of the post-earthquake reconstruction and rehabilitation work has laid the groundwork for fulfilling the national goal of making Nepal safe from disasters, he claimed, adding that an international conference on reconstruction will help Nepal share the experience and learning in post-earthquake reconstruction and rehabilitation.

With the slogan 'From Reconstruction to Upliftment', the conference will include research-based presentations on various aspects of private housing reconstruction, cultural heritage reconstruction, public infrastructure reconstruction, livelihood and economic rehabilitation, and good governance, as well as thematic seminars.

According to the authority's executive committee member and International Conference organising committee coordinator Dr Chandra Bahadur Shrestha, local and foreign guests, experts and representatives of various organisations have been invited to participate in the conference.

Requesting to register online to participate in the conference, he also informed that a website of international conference has also been launched.

Wednesday, October 20, 2021

Platform for collaboration on tax strengthened support to countries during the Covid-19 pandemic

The Platform for Collaboration on Tax (PCT) – a joint initiative of the IMF, OECD, UN and the World Bank (WB) – enhanced its support to countries in the area of domestic resource mobilisation during the Covid-19 pandemic, according to the PCT Progress Report 2021.

The report, released today, highlights that the PCT Partners are committed to deepening their tax collaboration further with a revamped work program to help countries develop resilient tax systems and better fiscal policies in response to the crisis.

The PCT Progress Report 2021 examines activities that the PCT has undertaken in five focus areas since July 2020: medium-term revenue strategies (MTRS), Covid-19, tax and sustainable development goals (SDGs), international taxation, and coordination. The new workstreams reflect the changing global tax landscape and the challenges of the pandemic for governments and policymakers as countries around the world try to balance the increased spending and lower revenues due to the Covid-19 crisis.

During this period, the PCT Partners increased their support to countries through the release of joint knowledge products, technical assistance concerning tax-related responses to the crisis, and workshops on critical issues, as the report reveals. The PCT released the final versions of two toolkits on Transfer Pricing Documentation and Tax Treaty Negotiations with virtual consultations and public workshops, hosting over 1,300 participants from governments and other stakeholders.

Additionally, the PCT Secretariat collaborated with the African Tax Administration Forum (ATAF) and the Asian Development Bank (ADB) to hold three regional workshops on MTRS, which provided 53 governments from Africa, Asia and the Pacific with a platform to exchange information on how the MTRS can benefit their tax system reform in the face of the pandemic. The PCT Partners also raised awareness on the role of taxation in promoting gender equality and growth through a joint blog and a public workshop.

The report illustrates that the PCT website continues to serve as a global resource on international taxation for tax officials from developing and emerging economies with its enriched content. The MTRS resource page, the e-learning calendar of the PCT Partners’ tax-related courses and the regularly updated Online Integrated Platform, which is the public database of domestic resource mobilisation activities and projects of the Partners, are among the new and existing products that provide countries with capacity-building support and transparent information.

Looking ahead, the PCT Partners will, in the coming months, focus on areas where coordination brings the most value by identifying new priorities and activities for their work in light of the recent developments in the global tax agenda. Further activities on the interconnection between tax and SDGs, more and improved resource pages on the PCT website and expanded engagement with countries on the PCT toolkits and MTRS are among the future PCT initiatives that aim to offer tax officials more capacity-building tools and resources.

The Platform for Collaboration on Tax (PCT) is a joint initiative of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), the United Nations (UN) and the World Bank Group (WBG). The PCT Secretariat is generously supported by the governments of France, Japan, the Netherlands, Norway, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom, according to the IMF.

Code Rush calls for a new batch of 'Code Like Her' Fellowship-2021

After the huge success of first national level fellowship in Nepal, Code Rush is back again with ‘Code like her Fellowship programme-2021’.

The programme is organised by Code Rush in association with Kina, targeted mainly to provide industry-focused training programs to recent IT, Engineering graduates, according to a press note. "Code Rush, a female-led IT company in Nepal was established to support the digital transformation of other businesses through consultation, website development, and digital marketing by employing only female staff."

With an objective to bridge the gap between the technical sector and the participation of women in the industry, Code Rush aims not only to increase female participation in the industry but also help them thrive, it claimed, adding that Code Rush, till date, has conducted multiple events, programmes, competitions to provide a headstart for women to excel in their careers.

The first fellowship incorporated 16 females from all over Nepal, most of which are currently employed in reputed companies of Nepal as Software Engineers.

According to founder and chief executive of Code Rush Astha Sharma, she represents 10 per cent of the females in the class, which is true for most of the engineering colleges. "Even though the number of girls pursuing technical fields is increasing in Nepal, the retention rate is still low due to the challenges like pressure to start a family, career sacrifices,  and a lower average age of marriage than men," she said, adding that the only way to disrupt and change these facts is to provide women with a head start early on.

Code Rush has already announced its call for applicants for the fellowship programme-2021. The training programme starts on December 12, and like the previous one, it will also be organised virtually.

The programme is a four-month-long fellowship programme and is designed for passionate and enthusiastic fresh graduates seeking a career in full-stack development. The participants of the fellowship will get the opportunity of coding Bootcamp that combines lectures, workshops, projects, and more to help them master the practical skills—both technical and professional.

"An applicant is required to fill up a lengthy form that consists of questions on personal information, educational background, areas of interest, motives, and expectations of the applicant," according to the organiser. "After which enthusiastic candidates will be notified to appear on a written exam focused on basic programming knowledge and problem-solving skills followed by an interview."

Some 18 candidates will be finally selected for the Code Like Her Fellowship. The selected fellows will get hands-on knowledge and skills on UI/UX, NodeJs, ReactJs and Postgres, and GitHub along with various additional interpersonal skills development sessions by experienced and expert mentors.

"I am more confident and have gained insights regarding problem-solving. Breaking down problems into parts and working on a part of a problem without fearing the complexity of the entire problem is the major change that I feel in myself," one of the previous fellows Bisikha Subedi, currently a junior developer at Infinity Development Agency, said.

Tuesday, October 19, 2021

Government doctors pay and perks to increase

The government is planning to increase pay and perks of the doctors working in government hospitals.

Minister of State at the Office of the Prime Minister and Council of Ministers Umesh Shrestha today confirmed that the government is preparing to increase the perks and benefits of the doctors working at government hospitals. "The government is planning to increase the pay and perks of the doctors in the government hospital so that they do not have to work at private hospitals and clinics," he said, speaking at a programme organised after the monitoring and inspection of Shivanagar Primary Health Center.

"The government is trying to prevent doctors working in government hospitals from serving in private sector hospitals and clinics," he said, adding that the government has formed a committee to study and recommend the pay and perks.

Stressing that hospitals should be built in a place where people can get services easily and where doctors can go and stay, he said, adding that the construction of municipal level hospitals is underway in 753 municipalities and rural municipalities across the country. "But a proper planning is needed while constructing hospitals."

Rainfall damages paddy crops

The incessant rainfall since Sunday destroyed the harvest-ready paddy crops in several districts across the country.

As the paddy contributes largest chunk in the agriculture gross domestic production (AGDP), the damage is also going to hit the economic growth, apart from the food shortage looming large due to unseasonal rainfall. It was predicted to have a good paddy harvest this season due to adequate monsoon rainfall but the recent rains is going to hit rice output.

Some farmers have just recently cut the paddy crops and was planning to thresh them before the rainfall damaged the crops, while others were planning to harvest, and the crops are submerged in rainwaters, damaging the crops. 

Districts in Sudurpaschim, Lumbini, Karnali and Gandaki provinces are hit hard by the unseasonal rainfall. The rainfall also damaged paddy crops in Baitadi, Kapilvastu, Banke, Bardiya, Rupandehi, Dang, Jumla, Surkhet, Kaski, Nawalparasi (East), Syangja, Parbat and Tanahun, whereas many districts in province 2 also have been flooded, displacing the locals.

China to provide an additional two million Covid-19 vaccines to Nepal

 China is providing additional two million doses of Covid-19 vaccines -- Vero Cell vaccines manufactured in China -- to Nepal under grant assistance.

During a telephonic conversation with foreign minister Narayan Khadka, Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi announced to provide an additional vaccine, according to a press note from the Foreign Ministry.

The two foreign ministers -- during an hour-long telephone conversation -- discussed entire gamut of the bilateral relations between the two countries, including vaccine cooperation, trade and commerce, development cooperation and border management, the press note reads, adding that the two foreign ministers also talked about progress of different development projects, return of Nepali students to China for continuation of their studies, increasing the number of containers of fertilisers and other goods and their shipment through Tatopani-Zhangmu and Rasuwagadhi-Kerung border ports and resumption of regular air services between Nepal and China. "The two leaders agreed to work closely on issues of common interest and to further promote friendly and long-standing bilateral relations and cooperation between the two countries."

China is the largest provider of vaccines to Nepal, both under grant and commercial deals.

The state councilor and foreign minister Yi also extended an invitation to foreign minister Dr Khadka to visit China at a mutually convenient date.

ADB to give priority for accessible energy to marginalised people for sustainable growth

Asian Development Bank (ADB) has sought to promote cleaner cooking and heating solutions to the people from developing member countries (DMCs), who are living without access to modern energy systems.

The multilateral lending institution in its proposed 2021 Energy Policy has planned to expand its investment in the sector. "The proposed policy is consistent with Strategy 2030 and its seven operational priorities," said the ADB in a press note.

Progress on access to energy has been rapid across developing Asia and the Pacific, reaching an overall electrification rate of 96 per cent in 2019, which is a 16 per cent increase since 2010. However, the electrification rates of individual DMCs vary widely and many power systems continue to be hampered by unreliable supply.

Currently, about 940 million people in Asia and the Pacific still experience frequent interruptions, about 350 million people do not enjoy an adequate supply, and about 150 million people still have no access to electricity. The issue of how to achieve adequate, reliable, and affordable universal access will therefore remain on the agendas of governments as well as national and international development financing institutions.

According to ADB, persistent and widespread unequal access to energy services makes it imperative to prioritise support to all disadvantaged and vulnerable groups—women, the poor, racial and ethnic minorities, indigenous peoples, people with disabilities, older persons, and other marginalized people. To achieve its objectives, the ADB has targeted to focus its energy sector operations in five policy principle areas.

In its first policy principle, ADB will support efforts to bring affordable, reliable, sustainable, and modern energy to all, so as to eradicate extreme poverty and reduce social inequalities. The second policy principle will be targeted for providing support to its DMCs to tackle climate change, enhance environmental sustainability and build climate and disaster resilience.

In the third policy principle, ADB will support the institutional development, financial sustainability, and good governance of energy sector institutions and companies as well as private sector participation. It will also assist in creating the policy frameworks needed to manage the energy transition. Promotion of regional energy cooperation and the integration of energy systems to strengthen energy security and increase cross-border access to cleaner energy sources will be among its key priorities, the press  note reads.

Similarly, ADB has sought to give continuity to combine finance, knowledge, partnerships, and its country-focused approach to deliver integrated solutions with comprehensive and magnified development impacts.

Central bank intervenes after banks raise interest rates on savings

 Though its wrong principally to interfere in the free market, the central bank has interfered in the banks and financial institutions asking them to return the interest rate imposed on savings from October 18.

Claiming that the banks have increased the interest rates arbitrarily to attract deposits from other financial institutions Nepal Rastra Bank (NRB) has issued a three-point directive tonight. Most of the banks and financial institutions (BFIs) termed the central bank's move as a 'micromanagement' in the financial market.

According to the free market principle, the central bank cannot interfere in the interest rates of the BFIs. "But some banks have created fake deposits and others have tried to lure the deposits by offering higher interest rate, which is going to hit the economy," a central bank official claimed, adding that the banks have given no space but to intervene in the interest rate due to their cut throat competition to literally 'snatch' deposit. "The central bank wishes the interest rate to remain in the single digit."

But according to the banks, they are facing lonable fund crunch also due to central bank's policy to scrap credit to core capital plus deposit ratio (CCD) and implement credit-deposit ratio (CD) -- through the Monetary Policy 2021-22 -- which means banks can lend Rs 90, only if they have Rs 100 deposit. 

Most of the banks increased interest rates on savings and term deposits with effect from October 18 as is the practise of announcing the interest rate on the monthly basis, under the regulatory compliance. Some banks offered more than 11 per cent interest rates -- on personal and institutional deposits -- which is more than 30 per cent increment from the interest rate a month ago.

According to the directive, banks and financial institutions can change -- upward or downward -- the interest rate of any type of deposit by only 10 per cent of the previous month’s interest rate.

Likewise, the interest rate on institutional term deposits (including bidding) should be at least one per cent lower than the maximum interest rate on term savings to the public, the directives reads, asking the banks and financial Institutions to republish the new interest rate on its website by Wednesday and in national daily newspapers within Friday.

One banker said that the central bank has always been micro-managing the banks and financial institutions, and the current directive is only a step forward.

Wednesday, October 13, 2021

IMF cuts global economy forecast amid Delta surge, vaccine divide

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) yesterday slightly revised down its global economic forecast amid the Delta variant-fueled Covid-19 surge, highlighting the 'great vaccine divide', supply bottlenecks and inflation risks.

"The global recovery continues but momentum has weakened, hobbled by the pandemic," IMF chief economist Gita Gopinath told a virtual press conference during the annual meetings of the IMF and the World Bank Group.

In its newly released World Economic Outlook (WEO), the IMF projected the global economy to grow by 5.9 per cent in 2021, down by 0.1 percentage points from July's forecast, while noting that the 'modest headline revision' for the global economy 'masks large downgrades' for some countries.

Noting that overall risks to economic prospects have increased and policy trade-offs have become 'more complex,' Gopinath said the outlook for the low-income developing countries, in particular, has 'darkened considerably' due to worsening pandemic dynamics.

Low-income developing countries are on track to grow by 3 per cent this year, down by 0.9 percentage point from July's forecast, the report showed.

Stressing that a 'dangerous divergence' in economic prospects across countries remains a major concern, Gopinath said these divergences are a consequence of the 'great vaccine divide' and large disparities in policy support.

"We are very concerned -- about the vaccine divide -- and we are doing everything that we can to make the case to be clear on the numbers, which are troubling,"  deputy director of the IMF's Research Department Petya Koeva Brooks said, adding that about 60 per cent of the population in advanced economies is fully vaccinated and about a third in emerging markets, whereas the corresponding number for low income countries is below five percent of the population.

The IMF urged the global community to step up efforts to ensure equitable vaccine access for every country, overcome vaccine hesitancy where there is adequate supply, and secure better economic prospects for all.

Recent pledges by China, the Group of Seven (G7) industrialised nations, and other countries in that direction are 'welcome' steps, though donations should be accelerated to rapidly fulfill the commitments, according to the report. "the advanced economies are on track to grow by 5.2 per cent this year, down by 0.4 percentage point from July's forecast, which reflects more difficult near-term prospects, in part due to supply disruptions."

The United States and the euro area are projected to see economic growth of 6 per cent and 5 per cent respectively.

While investors still expect recent price pressures to moderate and then gradually subside, they have also highlighted the possibility that supply chain disruptions and shortages of labor and materials may be 'more persistent than currently anticipated,' leading to an unmooring of inflation expectations, according to the IMF's Global Financial Stability Report released on Tuesday.

Looking ahead, the IMF urged central banks to provide 'clear guidance' about the future stance of monetary policy to avoid an unwarranted tightening of financial conditions and minimise the risk of market volatility.

The multilateral lender projects that headline inflation will likely return to pre-pandemic levels by mid-2022 for the group of advanced economies and emerging and developing economies. There is, however, considerable heterogeneity across countries with upside risks for the United States, Britain, and some emerging market and developing economies.

Emerging market and developing economies are projected to grow by 6.4 per cent in 2021, up by 0.1 percentage points from July's forecast, which is in part due to the upgraded projections for some commodity exporters on the back of rising commodity prices, the report added.

ADB raises climate finance to $100 billion

 The Asian Development Bank (ADB) today announced it is elevating its ambition to deliver climate financing to its developing member countries (DMCs) to $100 billion from 2019 to 2030.

“The battle against climate change will be won or lost in Asia and the Pacific,” ADB president Masatsugu Asakawa said, adding that the climate crisis is worsening daily, prompting many to call for increased climate finance. "We are taking action to meet this call by elevating our ambition to $100 billion in cumulative climate finance from our own resources by 2030."

In 2018, ADB committed to ensuring at least 75 per cent of the total number of its operations support climate action and its own climate finance resources reach at least a cumulative $80 billion by 2030. Today’s announcement elevates the ambition of this financing.

ADB expects the cumulative climate financing from its own resources in 2019–2021 to reach about $17 billion.

The expanded climate finance ambition is a key element of ADB’s efforts to support its DMCs. Facing the interconnected challenges of the coronavirus disease (Covid-19) pandemic and the climate crisis, many DMCs are taking bold action to promote a green, resilient, and inclusive recovery, the mulyilateral development partner said.

The additional $20 billion will provide support for the climate agenda in five main areas:

First, new avenues for climate mitigation, including energy storage, energy efficiency, and low-carbon transport. ADB expects its cumulative climate mitigation finance to reach $66 billion.

Second, a scale-up of transformative adaptation projects. Projects in climate-sensitive sectors, such as urban, agriculture, and water, will be designed with a primary purpose of effective climate adaptation and enhanced resilience. ADB expects its cumulative adaptation finance to reach $34 billion.

Third, an increase in climate finance in ADB’s private sector operations. This includes creating more commercially viable projects for both ADB and private investors. The expansion will be underpinned by improvements in operational efficiencies, a post-pandemic recovery in market demand for financing, new technologies and innovations in climate financing, and new areas of business for private sector climate operations. ADB intends to support these initiatives with $12 billion in cumulative private sector climate finance from its own resources and anticipated crowding in of an additional $18 billion to $30 billion.

Fourth, support for a green, resilient, and inclusive recovery from Covid-19, including through innovative financing platforms such as the ASEAN Catalytic Green Finance Facility and Green Recovery Platform, which are expected to leverage funds from capital markets and private sector investors for low-carbon infrastructure.

Fifth, support to advance reforms in DMCs to unlock actions through policy-based lending to support policies and institutions for enhanced climate resilience and climate mitigation.

Across these areas, ADB will continue to expand access to new, climate-focused technologies and mobilize private capital toward climate finance.

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.

Tuesday, October 12, 2021

Goldstar goes to the USA

 Kiran Shoe Manufacturers (KSM) has officially started selling Goldstar shoes through its authorised outlets in the US market.

The manufacturer of Goldstar shoes has inaugurated the official launching of its products amid a special function organised in New York, USA, on Monday, according to a press note issued by the footwear company. "We are hopeful to expand our business also in the US market with our attractive products," KSM chair Amir Pratap Rana said, adding that the manufacturer has collaborated with a US-based company, for the distribution of the Goldstar shoes across the US market. ""We are proud to bring the designs from the top of the world to the US."

Goldstar has been widely known as an everyday brand, he added. "People from all walks of life, regardless of economic strata have chosen Goldstar as an affordable brand."

Started its business some three decades ago, the footwear company has been expanding its hold in the domestic market with its wide variety of products. Goldstar footwear has also been a source of revenue as it has been exporting shoes to Indian and Australian markets as well.

Goldstar footwear products are popular among people due to its high quality products at cheaper prices.

According to the company, currently, more than 3,000 people are employed directly in five different operating units in Kathmandu, producing more than 75,000 pairs daily. The company has also been facilitating women in particular to manufacture its products, according to the company that has been producing Hathi brand hawai slippers. The company also claimed to be the biggest footwear producer in Nepal maintaining an annual growth of 25 per cent to 35 per cent since the last 5 years. "The company’s portfolio comprises more than 150 footwear products," Rana informed.

Late Noor Pratap Rana started the Kiran Shoes Manufacturers, after the democratic movement that gave economic freedom to Nepalis.

The company envisioned Goldstar to be part of people’s lives in every continent of the world by 2025.

Japan hands over health training center and emergency shelter

 Japan has handed over a newly-built Health Training Centre and Emergency Shelter to the Nona Koirala Smriti Pratisthan in Biratnagar, Morang district today.

The new building was built with grant assistance of $107,860 under the Grant Assistance for Grassroots Human Security Projects (GGP) of the Japanese Government, according to a press note issued by the Japanese Embassy in Kathmandu.

On the occasion, ambassador of Japan to Nepal Kikuta Yutaka sent a message congratulating everyone, who was involved in the project. Appreciating all who worked together with the Embassy to complete the project, he hoped that the health training centre and shelter would become a community asset and serve the local people which is all the more important in the Covid-19 pandemic.

Biratnagar lies in a flood prone area but lacks adequate emergency shelter facilities, causing many people to suffer from infectious diseases. The newly-built facility is also expected to contribute towards improving local knowledge of health and sanitation and serve as a shelter during floods and other calamities.

The Embassy of Japan in Kathmandu said that it is confident the project will further strengthen the bilateral relations between Japan and Nepal, deepen the people-to-people friendship between the peoples of the two countries.

GGP that was established to implement projects directly benefiting the people at grassroots level for the socio-economic development of the country, and over 200 projects have been implemented in Nepal since 1991.

Monday, October 11, 2021

Low-income country debt rises to record $860 billion

Governments around the world responded to the Covid-19 pandemic with massive fiscal, monetary, and financial stimulus packages. While these measures were aimed at addressing the health emergency, cushioning the impact of the pandemic on the poor and vulnerable and putting countries on a path to recovery, the resulting debt burden of the world’s low-income countries rose by 12 per cent  to a record $860 billion in 2020, according to a new World Bank report.

Even prior to the pandemic, many low- and middle-income countries were in a vulnerable position, with slowing economic growth and public and external debt at elevated levels. External debt stocks of low- and middle-income countries combined rose by 5.3 per cent in 2020 to $8.7 trillion, according to the new International Debt Statistics 2022 report, which encompasses approach to managing debt is needed to help low- and middle-income countries assess and curtail risks and achieve sustainable debt levels.

"We need a comprehensive approach to the debt problem, including debt reduction, swifter restructuring and improved transparency," World Bank Group president David Malpass said, adding that sustainable debt levels are vital for economic recovery and poverty reduction.

The deterioration in debt indicators was widespread and impacted countries in all regions, it reads, adding that across all low- and middle-income countries, the rise in external indebtedness outpaced Gross National Income (GNI) and export growth. "Low- and middle-income countries’ external debt-to-GNI ratio (excluding China) rose to 42 per cent in 2020 from 37 per cent in 2019 while their debt-to-export ratio increased to 154 per cent in 2020 from 126 per cent in 2019."

In response to the unprecedented challenges posed by the pandemic and at the urging of the World Bank Group and the International Monetary Fund (IMF), in April 2020, the G20 launched the Debt Service Suspension Initiative (DSSI) to provide temporary liquidity support for low-income countries. The G-20 countries agreed to extend the deferral period through the end of 2021. In November 2020, the G20 agreed on a Common Framework for Debt Treatments beyond the DSSI, an initiative to restructure unsustainable debt situations and protracted financing gaps in DSSI-eligible countries.

Overall, in 2020, net inflows from multilateral creditors to low- and middle-income countries rose to $117 billion, the highest level in a decade. Net debt inflows of external public debt to low-income countries rose by 25 per cent to $71 billion, also the highest level in a decade. Multilateral creditors, including the IMF, provided $42 billion in net inflows while bilateral creditors accounted for an additional $10 billion.

"Economies across the globe face a daunting challenge posed by high and rapidly rising debt levels,” senior vice president and chief economist of the World Bank Group Carmen Reinhart said, adding that policymakers need to prepare for the possibility of debt distress when financial market conditions turn less benign, particularly in emerging market and developing economies.

Greater debt transparency is critical in addressing the risks posed by rising debt in many developing countries. To facilitate transparency, International Debt Statistics 2022 was expanded to provide more detailed and disaggregated data on external debt than ever before. The data now gives the breakdown of a borrowing country’s external debt stock to show the amount owed to each official and private creditor, the currency composition of this debt, and the terms on which loans were extended, according to the World Bank. "For DSSI-eligible countries the dataset was expanded to include the debt service deferred in 2020 by each bilateral creditor and the projected month-by-month debt-service payments owed to them through 2021."

International Debt Statistics (IDS) is a longstanding annual publication of the World Bank featuring external debt statistics and analysis for the 123 low- and middle-income countries that report to the World Bank Debt Reporting System (DRS).

Since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, the World Bank Group has deployed over $157 billion to fight the health, economic, and social impacts of the pandemic, the fastest and largest crisis response in its history. The financing is helping more than 100 countries strengthen pandemic preparedness, protect the poor and jobs, and jump start a climate-friendly recovery. The bank is also supporting over 50 low- and middle-income countries, more than half of which are in Africa, with the purchase and deployment of Covid-19 vaccines, and is making available $20 billion in financing for this purpose until the end of 2022.

Central bank bars BFIs from auctioning collateral for up to six months

 The central bank has directed the bank and financial institutions (BFIs) not to auction the collateral of borrowers, if the loan amount remains overdue for six months only.

Revising the unified directives today, Nepal Rastra Bank (NRB) has revised the provision to give respite to the borrowers, who have been adversely affected by the Covid-19 pandemic. Currently, most of the BFIs have been taking into auction the debtors’ property even, when the payment is delayed by just a month.

The central bank has also intervened in the financial market earlier this year, after many BFIs hav been found threatening the borrowers to make public their profiles in daily newspapers or blacklist them as loan defaulters due to delayed payment. According to the new provision, the BFIs can initiate auction, only if the loans fall in ‘doubtful’ category.

The central bank, through revised unified directives, has also revised the list of businesses highly affected by the pandemic. The list of highly affected business by the pandemic now includes private and residential schools, higher secondary schools, colleges and universities, vocational training institutes, preschool and child care. Similarly, land transport, beauty parlors, cosmetic surgery and related businesses, consultancies and health centers, and fitness centers are also categorised as highly affected businesses due to pandemic. Earlier, those businesses were listed under the medium-affected group.

Friday, October 8, 2021

Industry Ministry gets temporary minister

Though, the cabinet gets full shape today, nearly three months after formation of new government, the Industry Ministry gets a temporary minister.

Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba has expanded his cabinet, after 88 days from his assumption of the office following the Supreme Court's ruling. Deuba assumed office on July 13 as per a Supreme Court’s order on July 12, which had also ousted KP Sharma Oli as prime minister and restored the House of Representatives, which was dissolved by Oli on May 21.

But Deuba has appointed Gajendra Bahadur Hamal, who is not a parliamentarian, as the minister for Industry and Commerce Ministry. Hamal’s name had courted controversy over allegations that he was picked from the quota of Chief Justice Cholendra Shumsher Rana. Since Hamal is not a member of the Federal Parliament, he can be minister only for six months.

According to the Constitution, any Nepali can become a minister for six months but then one has to be the member of federal parliament -- either lower or upper House -- to continue as the minister. Thus, Hamal can be industry and commerce minister for only six months. The business community has been waiting for a ministry on whom it can trust but the incumbent government led by Sher Bahadur Deuba has appointment a temporary minister, who needs to boost the confidence of the private sector. The private sector has lost its confidence due to prolonged Corona pandemic.

The coalition cabinet, which had previously inducted only four minister, three from the Nepali Congress (NC) and two from the CPN-Maoist Center, has now members from CPN-Unified Socialist and Janata Samajwadi Party Nepal.

The prime minister also reshuffled the portfolios of some ministers in his cabinet. Gyandendra Bahadur Karki has been shifted to Ministry of Communication, Information and Technology from the Ministry of Law, Justice and Parliamentary Affairs, whereas state minister for health Umesh Shrestha has been shifted to the Office of the Prime Minister and Council of Ministers.

Prime Minister Deuba has appointed 16 new ministers and two state ministers, according to a press note issued by the Office of the President.

President Bidya Devi Bhandari has expanded the Cabinet according to the recommendation of the prime minister under Article 76 and its sub-article (9) and Article 78 and its sub-article (1), the press note issued by the Office of the President reads.

Nepali Congress (NC)

Ministry of Home Affairs: Bal Krishna Khand

Ministry of Foreign Affairs: Narayan Khadka

Ministry of Communication and Information Technology: Gyanendra Bahadur Karki

Ministry of Law, Justice and Parliamentary Affairs: Dilendra Badu

Ministry of Women, Children and Senior Citizens: Uma Regmi

Ministry of Defense: Minendra Rijal

Ministry of Water Supply: Umakanta Chaudhary

Ministry of Industry, Commerce and Supplies: Gajendra Hamal

Janata Samajwadi Party (JSP)

Ministry of Federal Affairs and General Administration: Rajendra Shrestha

Ministry of Physical Infrastructure and Transport: Renu Yadav

Ministry of Forest and Environment: Ramsahay Yadav

Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock Development: Pramod Shah

CPN (Unified Socialist)

Ministry of Health and Population: Birodh Khatiwada

Ministry of Culture, Tourism and Aviation: Ram Kumari Jhankri

Ministry of Labor, Employment and Social Security: Krishna Kumar Shrestha

Ministry of Urban Development: Prem Ale

Minister of State for Health and Population: Bhawani Prasad Khapung

CPN (Maoist Center)

Ministry of Finance: Janardan Sharma

Ministry of Education, Science and Technology: Devendra Poudel

Ministry of Energy: Pampha Bhusal

Ministry of Land Management, Cooperatives and Poverty Alleviation: Shashi Shrestha

Ministry of Youth and Sports: Maheshwor Gahatraj

Thursday, October 7, 2021

Economy to grow by 3.9 per cent: World Bank

The World Bank (WB) has projected that the Nepali economy will grow by 3.9 per cent in the current fiscal year, an improved average from 2020-21, as theh country is lifting containment measures due to vaccination picks up and tourism and migrant worker flow recover.

A week ago, the Asian Development Bank (ADB) revised its projection for Nepal to 4.1 per cent from earlier 5.1 per cent, though the government, through its replacement budget has targetted to achieve some 7 per cent economic growth.

Unveiling its latest South Asia economic focus, 'Shifting Gears: Digitisation and Services-Led Development,' today, the multilateral development partner attributed an improved economic growth largely to an expansion of the services sector.

In Nepal, the pandemic has accelerated the growth of digital services, with the use of electronic payment transactions increasing by double digits, the report reads, adding that the growth in the service sector as a whole is expected to drive Nepal’s recovery, despite structural constraints like slow domestic job creation, the country’s high vulnerability to natural disasters and climate change, and large infrastructure gaps.

The World Bank country director for the Maldives, Nepal, and Sri Lanka Faris Hadad-Zervos said that the pandemic provides an opportunity for a number of South Asian countries to craft a recovery path that draws lessons from the crisis. He also praised Nepal for stepping up for green development.

"Nepal has recently adopted the Kathmandu Declaration as a joint commitment of the government and development partners towards the country’s Green, Resilient and Inclusive Development (GRID)," he said, adding, "mobilising the private sector through green investment and support for small and medium enterprises with job growth potential in the services sector is a key part of Nepal’s GRID strategy."

According to the World Bank, in South Asia, recovery continues as global demand rebounded and targeted containment measures helped minimise the economic impacts of the recent waves of Covid-19. But the recovery remains fragile and uneven, and most countries are far from pre-pandemic trend levels. "In Nepal, recovery is vulnerable to risks, and will rely on the continued gradual resumption of economic activities alongside social distancing and an effective vaccination rollout this year," it adds.