Sunday, January 31, 2021

China is providing 300,000 doses of Covid-19 vaccine as grant assistance

 After India, now China has come forward to help Nepal get vaccine against Covid-19 on the request of the government.

Issuing a press note today, the Chinese Embassy in Kathmandu said that China has decided to provide 300,000 doses of Covid-19 vaccine under grant assistance to Nepal. “The Chinese government has decided to provide 300,000 doses of Covid-19 vaccines under grant assistance to Nepal, which will benefit 150,000 Nepalis,” The press note reads, adding that China and Nepal are good neighbours, good friends and good partners. “Facing whatever challenges like the earthquake and the pandemic, the two countries have always supported and helped each other through thick and thin.”

“Despite huge demands for the vaccines both in China domestically and across the world at present, the Chinese government has prioritised Nepal in providing the vaccines, fully demonstrating the great importance it attaches to the China-Nepal friendship," the press note reads, adding that the vaccine to be donated to Nepal is developed by the Sinopharm and has already got conditional marketing approval in China. “After a two-dose inoculation procedure, the vaccine shows 79.34 per cent efficacy against Covid-19, and the seroconversion rate of neutralising antibodies reached 99.52 per cent.”

The safety and effectiveness of the vaccine has surpassed the marketing standards of the World Health Organisation (WHO), and received wide recognition by other countries. “The vaccine has got licenses for marketing or approval for emergency use in 13 countries including Pakistan, the UAE, Egypt, and Hungary.

The embassy is coordinating with Nepali authorities on the registration for emergency use and receipt of the vaccine and would like to deliver the vaccines to the Nepali side at the earliest so as to help Nepal win the battle against the Covid-19 pandemic, according to the press note. “The Chinese side is willing to work together with the Nepali side to build a community of health for all and further strengthen and promote the strategic partnership of cooperation featuring the ever-lasting friendship for development and prosperity between the two countries.”

India has provided 1 million corona vaccine to Nepal as the gift under its 'neighbourhood first' policy.

Thursday, January 28, 2021

BP Highway handed over to Nepal after reconstruction

 Japan government has officially handed over the Sindhuli Road project – popularly known as BP Highway – to Nepal after completing the reconstruction of the road segment, which was damaged by the devastating earthquake of April 25, 2015. The road project is supported by JICA. 

Japan handed over the rebuilt infrastructure to the government through a virtual inauguration ceremony organised at the Ministry of Physical Infrastructure and Transport, according to the ministry. Minister for Physical Infrastructure and Transport Basant Kumar Nemwang, on the occasion, said since long Japan has been providing its value assistance to Nepal mainly in the areas like sanitation, education, peace establishment and agriculture.

Likewise, Japanese ambassador to Nepal Masamichi Saigo said that Japan will be supporting Nepal in achieving development goals as both the countries have been in a friendly relationship. “I am really proud of this achievement, as we were able to complete the project despite the ongoing pandemic and that this road will provide functional benefits to locals and other travelers due to improved accessibility leading to enhanced socio-economic benefits,” he added.

The programme witnessed officers from MoPIT, Department of Roads (DoR), JICA Nepal Office, the consultant Nippon Koei and the contractor Hazama Ando, apart from the minister and the Japanese envoy.

During the ceremony chief representative of JICA Nepal Yumiko Asakuma expressed her belief that, with the completion of the project, the overall goal to secure sustainable and safe traffic along Sindhuli Road will be realised.

The Sindhuli Road is one of the most important roads in Nepal that links Kathmandu City, the capital of the country, with Eastern Terai Plain. The construction of the Sindhuli Road, with a total length of 160-km, started with the Japanese grant aid in the 1996 and was completed in March 2015.

The Sindhuli Road is a milestone project of JICA’s cooperation to Nepal as it is not only the biggest Japanese Grant Aid, but also a technical challenging road encompassing diverse geographic condition including mountains and river valleys.

But the road was damaged in more than 24 places by a major earthquake on April 25, 2015 as well as a major aftershock on May 12, 2015 in Nepal. Among the damaged portions, 5 critical sites, which needed rehabilitation were relevant for Japanese support due to the large scale damage as well as technological challenges, according to a press note issued by the JICA. “Upon request from the Nepal, Japan provided grant aid to rehabilitate the critical damaged portion of the Sindhuli Road based on the Exchange of Note (EoN) between Nepal and Japan governments and Grant Agreement (GA) between Nepal and JICA amounting JPY 1,047 million, which was signed on October 25, 2018.

Rehabilitation of the Sindhuli road will facilitate smooth traffic flow, which will not only result in having a reliable link between Kathmandu and the Eastern Terai but also cater the need of the public by creating better mobility, easier accessibility to health facilities and education, better economic socio-cultural activities, the press note reads, adding that one of the major outcome of the rehabilitation project is the transfer of advanced and effective technology to the Nepali counterparts and engineers, mainly for the slope stabilisation of the mountainous roads.

Expressing his appreciation, Nemwang further added that the modern technological methods used for constructing the roads with the concept of ‘Build Back better’ would be a major learning experience for all its stakeholders reaping sustainable benefits.

Japan completed the reconstruction work in around 18 months from the date of commencement, the press note adds.

Japan started the BP Highway – that offers one of the shortest land routes connecting the capital to eastern Nepal – construction of the 160-km long road stretch in 1996 and completed it in March 2015. But the highway was badly damaged -- due to devastating earthquake – at five locations of the stretch in just two months after it was handed over to Nepal. After the devastating earthquake damaged the highway, Japanese contractor Hazama Ando Corporation started the reconstruction work on July 3, 2019.

Some 28,732 frontline workers receive shot of Covishield today

 Some 28,732 frontline workers received a shot of ‘Covishield’ across the country today, the second day of the vaccination drive against Covid-19.

Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli inaugurated the vaccination drive against Covid-19 across the country yesterday morning.

According to the spokesperson at the Health Ministry Dr Jageshwar Gautam, “Some 3,847 in Province 1, some 2,174 in Province 2, some 11,461 in Bagmati Province, some 4,853 frontline workers in Gandaki Province, some 2,303 in Lumbini Province, some 1,677 in Karnali Province, and some 2,417 in Sudur Pashchim Province received the vaccine against Covid-19 today.”

“The government is inoculating at least 450,000 frontline workers fighting against Covid-19 in the first phase of the vaccination drive,” he said, adding that none of the persons receiving the vaccines have shown any signs of health complications.

India has – under its neighbor first policy’ gifted 1 million doses of Covishield, AstraZeneca-Oxford University vaccine manufactured under license by Serum Institute of India.

On the first day, yesterday, the government inoculated some 9,084 frontline workers across seven provinces. “Some 1,255 in Province 1, some 726 in Province 2, some 2,694 in Bagmati Province, some 1,843 in Gandaki Province, some 733 in Lumbini Province, some 751 in Karnali Province, and some 1,082 in Sudur Pashchim Province received the shot of Covishield vaccine yesterday,” Gautam informed, adding that the frontline workers – including health workers, sanitation workers, ambulance drivers, security personnel and volunteers serving at vaccination centers, people mobilized to manage dead bodies, women health volunteers, health workers and other government employees serving at the border check posts, people living in elderly homes and inmates and security personnel serving in various jails across the country – will get the priority in the first phase of the vaccination drive, according to the government policy.

Tuesday, January 26, 2021

Nyanti becomes the new UN resident coordinator in Nepal

 Sara Beysolow Nyanti has been appointed as the new United Nations Resident Coordinator (UNRC) for Nepal. Nyanti presented her credentials to the foreign minister Pradeep Gyawali today as the UN Resident Coordinator to the Federal Democratic Republic of Nepal. 

“I am truly delighted to start my tenure as the UN Resident Coordinator in Nepal,” she said, adding that it is a crucial time for the UN and the government as it relates to containing the Covid-19 pandemic and ensuring a coordinated response that is not only medical but addresses the socio-economic challenges as well. “I am committed to our joined-up efforts to provide immediate and effective humanitarian support to Nepal in relation to not only the Covid-19 response, but to an overall effective emergency preparedness and response system.”

On behalf of the UN in Nepal, I express my commitment to support the government of Nepal and the stakeholders in pushing the envelope to build back not only better, but greener, and differently, she added.

Nepal’s aspiration of graduation from being a least developed country is one that the UN shares, and our support in this area will remain a priority, Nyanti sid, adding, “With the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) at the heart of everything we do, I would like to reiterate the UN in Nepal’s focus on internalising the SDGs for stronger engagement with provincial and local governments in order to achieve the global agenda with a focus on gender equality.”

Nyanti brings more than 20 years of experience in development and humanitarian work to the position, which she has acquired from assignments around the world with the United Nations and externally, according to a press note issued by the UN in Nepal. “Within the Organisation, she most recently served as Representative of the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) in Yemen, where she set up programmes that provided cash assistance to nine million people, after occupying a similar position in the Gambia,” the press note reads, adding that she also held leadership positions across the UN in Jordan, Namibia, Nepal and Nigeria, working in multiple sectors and agencies on key issues such as Ebola response coordination. “

Prior to joining the United Nations, Nyanti worked as her country’s director of the National AIDS Control Programme in the health ministry. She authored the first Global Fund for AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria funding for the Liberia’s national AIDS response and led the development and subsequent legislation of the national AIDS policy, guidelines and law. She holds a master’s degree in public administration and is a globally accredited Partnership Broker.

Nepal fails to improve human rights record: UN Human Rights Council

 Five years on from Nepal’s last Universal Periodic Review (UPR) and more than 14 years after the end of the country’s decade-long armed conflict, victims continue to wait for truth, justice and reparations, Amnesty International Nepal (AI Nepal) said, as the country’s human rights record was reviewed last week at the UN Human Rights Council.

During the second review in 2015 and the third review in 2021, Nepal claimed there was significant progress on transitional justice. However, there have been no noteworthy efforts to provide truth, justice and reparation to the victims of the conflict whose concerns remain grossly neglected, according to a press note issued by the AI Nepal.

“Nepal has made numerous commitments at international forums but has achieved little in terms of real delivery,” director at AI Nepal Nirajan Thapaliya said, adding, “Since the second review in 2015, there has been no significant progress on transitional justice while there is clear regression on some fundamental human rights issues.”

Successive governments have failed to amend the Enforced Disappearances Enquiry, Truth and Reconciliation Commission Act 2014 as ordered by the Supreme Court in 2014 and 2015, to bring them in line with international standards, the press note reads.

During the review last week, in addition to the unresolved issue of transitional justice, member states also questioned Nepal on many other human rights concerns such as the encroachment on the freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly, the compromise of the independence and effectiveness of the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), discriminatory citizenship provisions, violence and discrimination against Dalits, discrimination against LGBTI individuals, violence against women, the abuse and exploitation of the migrant workers, exclusion and marginalisation of the indigenous peoples, and the widespread practice of torture.

“Nepal must address the human rights concerns raised during the review and make necessary changes to laws, polices and practice,” Thapaliya said, adding that the authorities must repeal the regressive provisions in a series of proposed laws that will likely compromise already guaranteed human rights.

Various forms of freedoms remain under threat in recent years as the government has proposed a series of laws to restrict the right to freedom of expression and to detain individuals critical of the government, the press note reads, adding that journalists have been detained simply for doing their jobs and singers have been imprisoned solely for the content of their songs. “Many individuals have been detained for peacefully expressing their opinions online or criticizing the authorities.”

A series of draft laws including the Media Council Bill, the Mass Communication Bill, the Information Technology Bill, and Nepal Special Service Bill proposed by the government in the past two years contain provisions that threaten to severely restrict freedom of expression and right to privacy, it adds.

In its second review in 2015, Nepal accepted recommendations to address and eliminate caste-based discrimination. Despite enacting legislation to outlaw caste-based discrimination, violence and discrimination against Dalit people are widespread. Despite Nepal’s commitment to address torture and other ill-treatment, torture is widespread and the law is inadequate.  

Existing laws with some protection measures such as the laws on migrant workers’ rights, rights of the Dalits, women’s rights, and provisions relating to torture in the Penal Code have also been poorly implemented, the AI Nepal said.

During the 2015 review, Nepal had committed to ensure the effective functioning of the NHRC in accordance with the Paris Principles, in particular by providing the Commission with adequate levels of funding and guaranteeing its independence and financial autonomy. However, there has been little action on the commission’s recommendations for prosecution of cases related to crimes under international law and human rights violations. On the contrary, in April 2019, the government proposed amendments to the National Human Rights Commission Act 2012 with measures that would undermine the independence and autonomy of the NHRC and limit its jurisdiction. 

The third Universal Periodic Review (UPR) cycle of Nepal was reviewed at the Human Rights Council in Geneva on January 21, as foreign minister Pradeep Kumar Gyawali, led the virtual delegation from Nepal.

Amnesty International submitted list of recommendations on the status of human rights in Nepal prior to the UPR State Review, the rights body said.

The K2 summiteers feted

 The government today feted ten Nepali mountaineers, who assaulted a feat that mountaineers had felt to be impossible – the winter ascent of K2 – the world’s second highest peak and the most difficult and dangerous eight thousander.

Earlier in the morning they received a grand welcome in Kathmandu. From the airport, the team were taken around the Kathmandu city from Tinkune to Naya Baneshwor, Maitighar, Bhadrakali, Sundhara and Kantipath. They were accompanied by a motorcycle rally.

They were felicitated at a function at the Nepal Tourism Board (NTB) at Bhrikutimandap. The welcome ceremony and felicitation programme was organised with the participation of the Department of Tourism, Nepal Tourism Board, Nepal Mountaineering Association and other tourism organisations.

Situated in the northernmost latitude in the Karakoram range, the 8,611 metres (28,251 feet) K2 – known as Chhogori – is the world's second-tallest peak straddles Pakistan and China. The Nepali team climbed the peak on January 16. When the final ascent began in the wee hours of January 16 temperature plummeted to minus-50 Celsius and climbers recounted feeling frozen as they pushed for the summit, according to one of the mountaineers Normal Purja. “Several of the climbers’ fingers were frostbitten.”

Earlier, the climbing team had to remain inside their tents for seven days because of high winds and clouds besides low temperatures. They also faced a multi-day storm, which affected their plans. At Camp 2 situated at 6,760m (22,178 ft), the team was battered by heavy winds. However, overcoming the Nepali team overcome all those difficulties and made history.

Monday, January 25, 2021

ADB calls for far-reaching reforms to build resilient education systems amid Covid-19

 Governments and stakeholders in Asia and the Pacific should initiate far-reaching reforms to strengthen the resilience of education and training systems as they deal with the coronavirus disease (Covid-19) pandemic, according to a new guidance note from the Asian Development Bank (ADB).

“With the right resources, strengthened capacity, and deliberate actions, the region can put its education systems on a new and positive path as we settle into a new normal post-Covid-19,” said ADB Sustainable Development and Climate Change Department chief sector officer Robert Guild. “Powered by knowledge, skills and human capital, the recovery in education will also help to support the recovery in other sectors.”

Covid-19 and Education in Asia and the Pacific calls for developing countries to identify critical policy reforms, such as revamping teacher professional development, and concrete actions to improve the quality, relevance, and inclusion of education systems over the long-term. Framed as the three Rs —Response, Recovery, and Rejuvenation — the note outlines specific responses from the kindergarten level to higher education (K-12), and for technical and vocational education and training.

Education and training systems have experienced unprecedented disruptions due to Covid-19 with an estimated 1.7 billion students affected by school closures worldwide. Technology has enabled distance and personalized learning and will continue to be instrumental to education post-Covid-19. While education technology tools can be a game changer, the note stresses that ensuring students achieve high-quality learning must remain the central objective.

To address inequalities in digital access, the note advocates expanding access to affordable and reliable internet connectivity for households and education and training institutions, including through partnerships with telecommunications providers. Big data can improve teachers’ ability to assess students and introduce greater transparency and accountability by linking education delivery with learning data.

“Developing countries were already grappling with a learning crisis given that students were not learning enough,” said ADB Education Sector group chief Brajesh Panth. “The pandemic has exacerbated inequities and widened learning gaps,” Panth said, adding, “to turn the crisis into an opportunity, we must find new ways of supporting managers, teachers, and parents. We must improve planning, coordination, and partnerships — ensuring quality and resilient education systems and learning for all.”

As governments grapple with the costs of health and economic recovery, it is vital to protect education budgets. Investing in reskilling and upskilling of workers who lost jobs during the pandemic will play a critical role in accelerating the economic recovery by getting people back in labour markets, according to a press note issued by the ADB.

ADB claimed that it 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.

Banks push equity market to a new high

 Fuelled by the banking index, the Nepal Stock Exchange (Nepse) index posted another record high of 2,440.87 points to close the day’s trading. The second trading day of the week, the Nepse index gained 16.04 points to close the trading at 2,440.87 points, according to the Nepse.

The day witnessed almost Rs. 9 billion worth of securities trading where almost all the sectors ended in green zone. Trading sector led the market with the sub-index rallying by 3.14 per cent, whereas others’ and banking sub-indices also saw shot up by 1.63 per cent and 1.39 per cent. Likewise, non-life insurance and mutual fund sub-indices gained but microfinance and hotels sectors lost as they dropped by 1.21 per cent and 1.18 per cent, respectively.

Some 19,285,504 shares traded hands via 72,773 transactions with the trading of 208 scrips being traded today. While the float index gained 1.11 points and closed at 166.49.38, the Sensitive index lost 0.24 points to close the market at 451.82 points.

As always, shares of Nepal Life Insurance continued to lead the list of active stocks. Over Rs 603 million worth of the life insurance shares changed hands, followed by Nabil Bank, NCC Bank and NIC Asia Bank with turnovers of Rs 331 million, Rs 313 million and Rs 297 million. 

Likewise, Citizen Investment Trust (CIT) shot up by 10 per cent for a second straight day, followed by Gurans Laghubitta, Prabhu Life Insurance, Mountain Energy Nepal, National Hydropower Company and Himal Power Partner also rallied more than 9 per cent each. Gurkhas Finance, Rastriya Beema Company, NRN Infrastructure and Development and Nepal Bank are also some of the key gainers.

The Nepse index that has been breaking records and creating new highs almost every day since last couple of months, opened at 2,447.01 but ultimately closed at 2,440.87 points.

Sunday, January 24, 2021

Global investment down by 42 per cent

 Global foreign direct investment collapsed in 2020, falling by 42 per cent to an estimated $859 billion from $1.5 trillion in 2019, according to a report of the UNCTAD. 

The FDI finished 2020 more than 30 per cent below the trough after the global financial crisis in 2009 and back at a level last seen in the 1990s,” the 38th Global Investment Trends Monitor published by UNCTAD today reads.

“The decline was concentrated in developed countries, where FDI flows fell by 69 per cent to an estimated $229 billion,” it reads, adding that flows to Europe dried up completely to -4 billion, including large negative flows in several countries. “A sharp decrease was also recorded in the US (-49%) to $134 billion.

The decline in developing economies was relatively measured at -12% to an estimated $616 billion. The share of developing economies in global FDI reached 72 per cent. But China topped the ranking of the largest FDI recipients. FDI in China, where the early phase of the pandemic caused steep drops in capital expenditures, ended the year with a small increase (+4%), whereas FDI in India rose by 13 per cent, boosted by investments in the digital sector. But FDI in ASEAN – an engine of FDI growth throughout the last decade – was down by 31 per cent.

The fall in FDI flows across developing regions was uneven, with -37 per cent in Latin America and the Caribbean, -18 per cent in Africa and -4 per cent in developing countries in Asia. East Asia was the largest host region, accounting for one-third of global FDI in 2020. FDI to transition economies declined by 77 per cent to $13 billion. 

Looking ahead, the FDI trend is expected to remain weak in 2021 too. Data on an announcement basis, an indicator of forward trends, provides a mixed picture and point at continued downward pressure:

Sharply lower greenfield project announcements (-35 per cent in 2020) suggest a turnaround in industrial sectors is not yet in sight, the report reads.

Saturday, January 23, 2021

Government to dispatch ‘Covishield’ vaccines to all provinces

 The government is dispatching India-gifted ‘Covishield’ vaccines to all provinces from tomorrow.

“The ‘Covishield’ vaccine will be dispatched to all provinces from tomorrow,” confirmed Health Ministry. “A million doses of vaccine that is currently stored at the Central Vaccine Store in Teku in Kathmandu will reach all over the country within a few days,” it said, adding that the government has also appointed coordinators for each province to facilitate in dispatching the vaccines. “The government has appointed three members for each province to facilitate the dispatching procedure.”

The government has planned to inoculate 72 per cent of the country’s total population against Covid-19. 

Two doses of ‘Covishield’ vaccine should be given four to 12 weeks apart to develop immunity against Covid-19, the ministry added. “Once the vaccine reaches every province, the government will give approval to start the vaccination drive.”

India gifted a million doses of the ‘Covishield’ vaccine – manufactured by the Serum Institute of India – On Thursday. The vaccine is jointly developed by Oxford University and AstraZeneca, a British-Swedish pharmaceutical and biopharmaceutical company.

The drug regulator, on January 15, granted emergency approval for ‘Covishield’. The vaccine can be stored for six months at a temperature between two to eight degrees Celsius. 

Friday, January 22, 2021

Japan helps build training center and emergency shelter, and health facility

 Japan has helped Nepal construct building training center and emergency shelter, and also for making sanitary napkins to support the hygiene of poor women in Birgunj Municipality.

The Charge d'Affaires of Japan to Nepal Ypsjioka Yuzo today signed a grant contract with the Community Development Center (CDC) to build a training center and emergency shelter in Rautahat district. The construction is expected to cost approximately Rs 91.5 million, according to a press note issued by the Japanese Embassy in Kathmandu.

The project for building the training center and emergency shelter facility in Rautahat district is funded under the Grant Assistance for Grassroots Human Security Project (GGP) of the government of Japan. 

At the online signing ceremony, Yoshioka said that the project will help to promote the welfare and security of people in Rautahat district.

The Community Development Center was established in 1998 and has been providing trainings related to disaster prevention, vocational training, and that aimed to support education of children in the district. “The Embassy of Japan in its press note said that it believes that the project will also contribute towards further enhancing the friendship that exists between the people of Japan and Nepal.

Meanwhile, Yoshioka today also signed a grant contract with chairperson of Centre for Health and Environment Conservation (CHEC) Nepal Damodar Prasad Yadav for installing a machine for making sanitary napkins to support the hygiene of poor women in Birgunj Municipality.

The project is also funded under the GGP of the Japanese government and involves a grant of about Rs 4 million, the press note reads.

At the online grant signing ceremony, Yoshioka said that he believes the project will support many poor women to access sanitary napkins at low cost, and contribute towards improving their personal hygiene.

CHEC Nepal – established in 2009 – has been carrying out health and hygiene improvement programmes in public schools alongside environmental preservation activities in Parsa district.

“The support will contribute towards further enhancing the friendship between the peoples of Japan and Nepal,” according to the Embassy of Japan in Kathmandu.

Dealers seek FNCCI support for removal of gold import quota

 Gold and silver dealers asked for support from the umbrella organisation of private sector to remove the quota system on gold imports.

During a meeting with the Federation of Nepalese Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FNCCI) president Shekhar Golchha today, the newly elected executive committee of Federation of Nepali Gold and Silver Dealers’ Association (Fenegosida) requested to support their demand of removal of quota system in gold import.

The government has limited the daily gold import to 10 kg per day, currently. “Before the Corona pandemic, the government allowed to import 20 kg daily,” they said, adding that the government has limited it to 10 kg per day even after the pandemic. “We want the FNCCI support in increasing the daily imports of gold quota so that businesses can run smoothly,” Fenegosida president Manik Ratna Shakya said, adding that the government should also make necessary policy arrangements for export promotion. “We want government to set up gold and silver processing centres in the country.”

Responding to Fenegosida team, Golchha vowed to support them to solve their problems. “The FNCCI will always support the legitimate demands of the traders,” he said, adding that the current quota system in the open market is not right.

Thursday, January 21, 2021

India officially hands over Covid-19 vaccines to Nepal

 India today officially handed over the Covid-19 vaccines to Nepal amid a programme organised at Prime Minister’s official residence in Baluwatar.

Indian ambassador to Nepal Vinay Mohan Kwatra formally handed over the ‘gifts’ from the Indian government to Nepal to the Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli. India gifted one million doses of ‘Made in India’ Covid-19 vaccines to Nepal for the immediate requirement of healthcare and front-line workers, according to a press note issued by the Indian Embassy in Kathmandu, today.

Envoy Kwatra, on the occasion, said the vaccines were a gift from the people of India to the people of Nepal and conveyed best wishes for Nepal’s vaccination drive. Prime Minister Oli thanked Prime Minister of India for the generous grant of Covid-19 vaccines to Nepal and said gifts are always a special gesture and the gift of vaccines at the time of crisis adds on to the significance.

“The vaccines were supplied on the request of the government,” the press note reads, adding that the assistance was also discussed during the recently concluded 6th India-Nepal Joint Commission Meeting co-chaired by the two foreign ministers in New Delhi on January 15. 

An aircraft of Air India carrying Covid-19 vaccines landed at the Tribhuvan International Airport (TIA) at 11:30AM local time today. Indian envoy Kwatra and health minister Hridayesh Tripathi received the vaccines on arrival at the airport. Envoy Kwatra, on the occasion, expressed the hope that the arrival of the vaccines would mark the beginning of the end of Covid-19 and reiterated India's steadfast commitment to the people of Nepal in their efforts to defeating the virus. Health Minister Tripathi, on the occasion, said the timely gift of Indian vaccines to Nepal was akin to a parallel roll-out in both countries.

Ahead of today’s supply, India had extended human resource training to Nepal for vaccine roll out at the ground level covering, inter alia, administrative and operational aspects of immunisation, cold chain, and communication and data management, the press note reads, adding that the gratis supply of such vaccines to Nepal fulfills the solemn promise made by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi to use India’s vaccine production and delivery capacity to help all of humanity fight this pandemic. It is also in keeping with India’s ‘Neighbourhood First Policy’. India under the ‘Vaccine Maitri’ initiative is providing vaccines, in aid, to its neighbouring countries. As part of its programme, India had sent the Covid-19 vaccines to Bhutan and Maldives yesterday.

The supply of the vaccines today is in continuation of regular Covid-19 assistance provided by India to Nepal since the onset of the pandemic, covering hydroxychloroquine medicines, RT-PCR test kits, ICU ventilators, Remdesivir medicines and ambulances, it adds.

Nepse index nears 2400 mark

 The share market index (Nepse) today gained 31.87 points to close at 2,374.64 points, the highest closing-ever in the history of domestic equity market.

The Nepse index has been breaking records and creating new highs, which seems not stopping, since a month due to cheap bank loan and lack of investment opportunities.

The market opened at 2,372.86 points today, and index went as high as 2,376.13, ultimately coming down and closing at 2,374.64 points,, according to the Nepal Stock Exchange (Nepse).

Some 18,105,671 shares changed hands via 69,333 transactions today to also record the trading of over Rs 7.79 billion with the trading of some 209 scrips. While the float index gained 2.1 points and closed at 162.44 points, the sensitive index closed at 445.59 points after gaining 2.59 points.

Nepal highlights regional cooperation for healthy and safe tourism

 Close cooperation among the member states and partnership with private business for fighting Covid-19 pandemic to bring all aspects of lives, livelihoods, and economies to normalcy, including the tourism sector, according to foreign minister Pradeep Kumar Gyawali.

Addressing the 17th ministerial meeting of Asia Cooperation Dialogue (ACD) held virtually today under the theme, ‘The New Normal and Safe and Healthy Tourism,’ he also highlighted the urgent need to ensure easy and affordable access to vaccines and other essential medical items to this end.

Stating that the top priority of the Nepal is to protect people’s lives from the disease and hunger, he said that Nepal has scrupulously been executing safety, health and sanitation protocols in all tourism related activities focusing to save jobs and keep the economy afloat. “The development and improvement of quality of infrastructures is a key to build all modes of connectivity in ACD region, narrow the development gap, and achieve equitable and inclusive growth, especially for a landlocked country like Nepal.”

He also emphasised the need to enhance cooperation and collaboration for mitigation and adaption of the adverse impacts of climate change and natural disasters.

Expressing Nepal's full confidence on principles, values and goals of the ACD, the foreign minister said that ACD should play a significant role in strengthening mutual trust, forging common understanding, and promoting cooperation and collaboration among the Member States for peace, stability, shared development, and prosperity of the Asian nations.

The meeting was hosted by the Republic of Turkey, the current chair of the ACD. 

The Nepali delegation led by the foreign minister included foreign secretary Bharat Raj Paudyal and senior officials of the Foreign and tourism ministries.

The Asian Cooperation Dialogue (ACD) was founded some 19 years ago in 2002 with the objective of promoting dialogue, mutual understanding, and interdependence among Asian countries and improving the quality of life of the people in the region.

Ncell takes responsibility for greening of 10.2-km Ring Road stretch

 Ncell Axiata – as a part of its Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) initiative – has taken up the responsibility for building and maintaining the greening of Koteshwor-Kalanki Ring Road stretch in collaboration with the Department of Forest and Soil Conservation (DoFSC).

“With the aim to greatly benefit the people, the greenery around Ring Road will contribute towards an improved environmental quality across the community,” the multinational telecom service provider said in a press note. “The project will cover approximately an area of 10.2-kilometer.”

Under the initiative, Ncell has already begun landscaping and building the green belt area, the press note reads, adding that the project began in November with the completion of the Balkhu-Ekantakuna stretch as a pilot phase already. “The project aims to transform this segment into an exemplary green belt area fostering the clean and green Ring Road.”

The company has also supported the plantation of trees in this stretch. Ncell will also ensure the maintenance of the green belt stretch and take care of more than 6,000 trees for 5 years long-term stewardship, it adds.

“Ncell’s collaboration with Department of Forest and Soil Conservation represents a major change in the way organisations can create impact by working together,” chief executive officer (CEO) of Ncell Andy Chong said. “Our partnership with the DoFSC to roll out the 10.2-km Greening of Ring Road initiative provides a great example of a public-private partnership,” he said, adding that the greening initiative will contribute to a healthy environment for the community as a whole and support to deliver Ncell’s climate action goals. “Greening of Ring Road is one of our efforts to address climate change, along with the need to reduce carbon footprint.”

Furthermore, we aim to contribute towards more sustainable projects that can create larger long-term impacts countrywide, he added.

“It remains the government’s broader priority to drive and promote greening the environment across the country,” director general of the DoFSC Man Bahadur Khadka said. “We are pleased to collaborate with Ncell in coordination with two municipalities for this exemplary project for the greenery development and maintenance of Ring Road’s green belt for the next 5 years,” he said, adding that he is delighted that Ncell has come forward to demonstrate their leadership by contributing to meaningful environmental outcomes on a significant scale during these challenging times as a part of their corporate social responsibility.

The majority stretch of the Koteshwor-Kalanki section of the Ring Road falls under Lalitpur district. Welcoming the collaboration of DoFSC and Ncell in this project, mayor of Lalitpur Metropolitan City ChiriBabu Maharjan said that Lalitpur Metropolitan City is ready to extend any support required for successful implementation of the project as it contributes significantly towards our Green and Blue Campaign aimed at greenery development and environment projection.

As a responsible corporate citizen, Ncell has been placing top priority on climate action and the environment apart from education and health sector to contribute the government towards achieving environment goals under the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), the press note reads, adding that environment is also one of the CSR areas defined by the government in the Industrial Enterprise Regulations for taking up social projects. “Ncell is also implementing a separate project to build a green park at the heart of Kathmandu.”

Earlier, the company had supported reforestation by planting 50,000 trees in 33 hectares of barren areas of Dhanushadham Protected Forest (DPF) and implemented environmental awareness programme in Dhanusha, contributing to awareness and conservation of the environment. After the implementation of the project, DPF was declared as ‘Illicit Felling and Open Grazing Free Zone’ by the government for the conservation and development of the forest.

Trade through Tatopani customs to close for three weeks

 Nepal China trade has again hit a road block as the northern neighbour has started maintenance of the Friendship Bridge at the Tatopani border point.

“Trade through the Tatopani border point has been halted for next 20 days for maintenance of the Friendship Bridge connecting Nepal and China,” confirmed the Tatopani Dry Port Customs Office. “China has is repairing the bridge and it will take almost three weeks to complete repairing the bridge.”

China has begun repairing the Friendship Bridge as it was partially damaged by floods in Bhotekoshi last monsoon. “The flood had slightly damaged the pillars of the bridge,” the customs informed, adding that China has decided to take 20 days at most to repair the bridge. The trade through the Tatopani Customs can be started only from mid-February. No trade will take place during the maintenance period as there is no import from China.

The Friendship Bridge was damaged in the devastating earthquake of 2015 also. Though, the bridge was reconstructed and came into operation in 2016, the trade through the Tatopani Cyustoms was disrupted several times due to several reasons. The checkpoint, which remained completely closed for four years after the devastating earthquake, was re-opened on May 29, 2019 but again to close due to Covid-19.

According to the Customs office, the checkpost – which has been collecting an average of Rs 5 billion in revenue from import and export of some Rs 20 billion to Rs 25 billion annually – kept closing and reopening for eight times due to the Covid-19 pandemic, floods and landslides. It was in continuous operation for three months after the checkpoint was reopened last September.

UNESCAP launches TINA3.0

 The United Nations (UN) Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) today launched the latest update of its Trade Intelligence and Negotiation Adviser (TINA), an online tool designed to assist trade policymakers and researchers in carrying out analytical tasks commonly conducted as part of trade negotiations.

TINA was developed in close consultation with current and former members of trade negotiation teams throughout the Asia-Pacific region, using state of the art methodologies and technologies, according to UNESCAP. “The latest update features a trade agreement text analysis module as well as partial equilibrium impact assessments for tariff liberalisation, least developed country (LDC) status graduation, and tariff preference loss scenarios.”

Many of the intense tasks undertaken for trade liberalisation negotiations require specialised analytical and data management skills and are time-consuming when performed manually. TINA automates many of such tasks, enabling countries with limited resources to benefit from the same level of preparation as those afforded to teams of larger economies.

“As we work together to advance the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, many economies in the region need help in effectively preparing for trade negotiations and assessing the benefits of prospective trade deals,” said UN under-secretary-general and executive secretary of ESCAP Armida Salsiah Alisjahbana at the launch.

“Member states about to graduate from the least developed countries status are in most need of international support measures, as they must negotiate new trade agreements to secure some of the trade preferences they previously received,” Alisjahbana further highlighted.

Since its inception in 2018, TINA has assisted several countries in the region. For example, at the request of the Government of Bangladesh, TINA has been used to help them with the Bangladesh-India trade agreement feasibility study. Bangladesh, Cambodia and Vanuatu have also benefitted from a new key feature of TINA, which evaluates the trade impacts of least developed country status graduation and resulting partial withdrawal of preferences by major trading partners such as the European Union, the United States, China and India. “This feature is significant as it identifies sectors and markets most likely to be impacted, thus drawing policymakers’ attention to accord higher prioritisation to those sectors,” the UNESCAP said.

“One of the most promising features of TINA3.0 is its stated ability to use the partial equilibrium model to identify the most affected sector(s) of an economy when it graduates out of the least developed country status,” secretary at the Ministry of Commerce of Bangladesh Dr Md Jafar Uddin shared, adding that the software promises to help the planners and policy makers understand the overall impact on the graduating economy. “It may be of great use to Bangladesh at this stage.”

While the Covid-19 pandemic has temporarily slowed down some negotiations, trade agreements have continued to grow - in number, scope and complexity. Some 184 trade agreements are currently in force involving at least one Asia-Pacific country, with another hundred either signed or under negotiation as of December 2020.

Banks rollout CorporatePay

 Citizens Bank and Nepal Bank entered into an agreement with Nepal Clearing House Ltd (NCHL) to roll out CorporatePay system as a business payments platform. The more banks are using the CorporatePay platform provided by the NCHL. The system will facilitate the bank’s business customers for initiating digital transactions directly from its bank accounts, according to chief executive officer (CEO) of NCHL Neelesh Man Singh Pradhan.

The banks will provide their business customers with digital platform of CorporatePay that will be used by the businesses to initiate various payment transactions including fund transfer, salary payments, vendor or party payments, government payments and other service payments. “The payments could be bulk or individual with beneficiary credit on real-time or non-real time basis, depending on whether the transactions are processed through connectIPS or NCHL-IPS clearing systems,” Pradhan said, adding that the customers will need to request the bank for enrollment to avail the service, and after the necessary due-diligence, an access to the system is provided based on the approving authority of the users of such institution. “The transactions will then be managed completely by the business institution without manual intervention of the bank within a transaction limit and above the limit it has to be additionally approved by the bank.”

The system also provides a secured mechanism of multi-layer authentication to access the system with multiple approvals for transaction authorisation based on the approving authority provided by the institution. “It also provides facility to link other bank accounts also, through respective banks, that make the CorporatePay system a truly a multi-banking single platform for the business customers,” Pradhan added.

Citizens Bank, and Nepal Bank started this digital platforms for the customers, and others will follow the suit. “With addition of CorporatePay, the banks will help their business customers to digitise their transactions to improve their service delivery, as the need for the customers to approach bank branches will be largely reduced, once the system is fully rolled out,” he said.

Nepalis can go to Israel from next month

 The Israeli labour market has been opened for Nepali youth as Nepal and Israel today signed 'Implementation Protocol' of agreement.

“Nepali migrant workers can go to Israel as an 'Implementation Protocol' has been signed between Nepal and Israel today for the implementation of the agreement related to temporary employment of Nepali workers in the labour market of Israel,” according to a press note issued by the Ministry of Labour, Employment and Social Security.

Nepali ambassador to Israel Dr Anjan Shakya and Israeli Foreign Affairs Minister Gabi Ashkenazi had signed the labour pact five months ago on September 30, 2020.  

The protocol was today signed by the director general of the Department of Foreign Employment Kumar Dahal and Israeli ambassador to Nepal Hanan Godar – on behalf of their respective governments – at a programme organised at the Ministry of Labour, Employment and Social Security.

Expressing belief that diplomatic as well as labour relations between the two countries will be even more cordial in the days to come, labour minister Gauri Shankar Chaudhary said that a new dimension has been added to the bilateral relations between Nepal and Israel with the signing of the protocol.

He also urged the Israeli government to provide opportunities of employment to Nepali youths in other sectors except in caregiver sector.

Likewise, Dahal – after siging the protocol – said that the department will maintain transparency in the process of filling online applications for the implementation of the protocol. Nepali envoy to Israel Dr Anjan Shakya – who was presented virtually on the occasion – said that she was actively involved in opening the labour market of Israel to Nepalis since she reached Israel as the Nepali ambassador.

In the first phase, some 500 Nepalis will be able to go Israel – one of the most lucrative labour destinations – for caregiver job after signing of the protocol, the ministry explained, adding that Nepali youths will get employment as caregivers as well as in hospitals, nursing homes and daycare centers. “They will get perks and benefits according to the laboor related laws of Israel.”

According to the agreement, the Nepali youths will go for employment to Israel through government to government (G2G) arrangements of both countries, and the private sector will not be involved. 

Though, the ministry claimed that the employment in Israel has been made systematic and transparent as much as possible as the government is sending skilled and capable workers to Israel, the private sector still doubts. 

There are some 2,500 Nepalis in Israel currently, according to Nepali Embassy in Tel Aviv, Israel.

Wednesday, January 20, 2021

Japanese assistance for treating severe burns

 The Charge d'Affaires of Japan to Nepal Yoshioka Yuzo signed a grant contract with medical director of Sushma Koirala Memorial Hospital Dr Santosh Bikram Bhandari for installing medical equipment for treating patients with severe burns in Kathmandu district.

The project is funded under the grant assistance for Grassroots Human Security Projects (GGP) of the Japanese government and involves a grant of $90,550 (about Rs 10.57 million), according to a press note issued by the Japanese Embassy in Kathmandu. “The project will support the installation of medical equipment, including two ventilators and micrografting equipment.”

At the online grant signing ceremony, Yoshioka said that he believes the project will help the hospital to respond to the high demand for better services for patients with severe burns. 

The Sushma Koirala Memorial Hospital – established in 1997 – has been offering specialised plastic and reconstructive surgeries, and other medical services including the treatment of burns and post-burn contractures, deformities and plastic surgeries.

The Embassy of Japan – according to the press note – believes that the project will contribute towards improving medical services for patients with severe burns and also contribute towards further enhancing the friendship between the peoples of Japan and Nepal.

Japanese assistance for building Vocational Training Center in Darchula

 Japan is helping construct a Vocational Training Center in Darchula.

The Charge d'Affaires of Japan to Nepal Yoshioka Yuzo signed a grant contract today with principal of Shree Latinath Secondary School Keshab Raj Bist for constructing a vocational training center in Darchula district, according to a press note issued by the Japanese Embassy in Katmandu.

The project is funded under the Grant Assistance for Grassroots Human Security Projects (GGP) of the Japanese government and involves a grant of $82,953 (about Rs 9.68 million), the press note reads, adding that the project aims to develop skills and increase employment opportunities. “The vocational training center will provide a proper environment to deliver trainings related to both.”

At the online grant signing ceremony Yoshioka said he believed that the project will respond to the high demand for better vocational training for the unemployed in the district.

The Shree Latinath Secondary School – a community school – was established in 1955. It offers schooling from the ECD to the 12th grade, and also technical courses. Since 2018 it has also been offering vocational training to unemployed persons in the district.

The Embassy of Japan believes that the project will contribute towards improving the vocational skills of the participants. It also believes that the support will contribute towards further enhancing the friendship between the peoples of Japan and Nepal.

Tuesday, January 19, 2021

Biggest IPO closes with highest volume of applicants

Nepal Infrastructure Bank has closed its primary shares issue – biggest public offering in the history of domestic capital market – from today with the largest applications for the Initial Public Offering (IPO).

NIBL Ace Capital – the issue manager for the IPO issuance and Citizen Investment Trust (CIT) – confirmed the closing of the largest primary share offerings from today. According to the issue manager, in total 15,12,823 applicants have applied for 17,99,31,410 units of shares. “The number might be a little more after the final calculations.”  

After the IPO issuance, the bank’s paid-up capital will be Rs 20 billion from the existing Rs 12 billion. The bank has issued some 8,00,00,000 units worth Rs 8 billion as IPO to the general public from Jan 15.

Out of the offered 8,00,00,000 units, some 0.20 per cent of the shares or 1,60,000 units have been set aside for the employees of the bank and 5 per cent or 40,00,000 units have been set aside for the mutual funds. The remaining 7,58,40,000 units are for the general public, according to the issue manager.

The second annual general meeting of the bank had endorsed and approved the issuance of IPO. The bank established to serve and benefit from investment in significant infrastructure projects like hydropower projects, road infrastructures, was though the largest in terms of paid up capital when it was established, some other commercial banks have also reached around Rs 20 billion paid up capital as of today, making it look smaller.

Nepal Infrastructure Bank's profit declined by 12.43 per cent to Rs 181 million in the first quarter of the current fiscal year 2020-21. The bank’s annualised earning per share stands at Rs 6 and net worth per share stands at Rs 115.

Sunday, January 17, 2021

Nepse crosses 2300 mark

 Nepal Stock Exchange (Nepse) index looked up to record yet another historic high today, the first trading day of the week.

The index climbed by 28.46 points to close the equity market at 2,315.01 points today, making afresh historic high. The Nepse ended in green for the seven consecutive day where it added almost 150 points in total to cross the 2300 mark. Driven by high liquidity and low interest rates in the banking industry, the share market also witnessed a turnover of over Rs. 6.37 billion, according to the Nepse.

Though, the trading sector led the broader market with sub-index shooting up by 9.24 per cent tne development bank, ‘others’ and microfinance stocks also saw strength with the respective averages rallying 4.61 per cent, 3.40 per cent and 3.19 per cent. The finance and life insurance sectors also witnessed a buying pressure. Except the hydropower sector, all other composite sectors ended in green.

In terms of individual stocks, Nepal Telecom led the market with whopping turnover of Rs 581 million, followed by NIC Asia Bank, Civil Bank and Nepal Reinsurance Company with transactions of Rs 229 million, Rs 210 million and Rs 187 million respectively. Likewise, Neco Insurance, Nepal Bangladesh Bank and Prabhu Bank were among other heavily traded stocks.

Salt Trading Corporation led the day’s gain and jumped exactly by 10 per cent, followed by Gurans Laghubitta Bittiya Sanstha, Narayani Development Bank, Corporate Development Bank, Samudayik Laghubitta Bittiya Sanstha, Prabhu Life Insurance and Kisan Laghubitta Bittiya Sanstha also remained closed the trading with hitting a upper circuit limit of positive 10 per cent.

Some 15,035,221 shares traded hands via 50,607 transactions with 208 scrips. While the float index gained 1.4 points and closed at 157.91, the sensitive index closed at 443.42 points after gaining 8.17 points.

A total of 11 companies have technically hit a 10 per cent positive circuit today.

Saturday, January 16, 2021

Nepal under India’s priority to supply COVID-19 vaccines: FM Gyawali

India has kept Nepal under priority to supply vaccines against Covid-19, according to the foreign minister Pradeep Kumar Gyawali

He said that India has expressed readiness to immediately provide vaccines against Covid-19 for essential sectors in Nepal, he said, while talking to media upon arrival today at the Tribhuvan International Airport (TIA) after a three-day official visit to India. “India is ready to supply the vaccines immediately for the essential sector,” he confirmed.

India started vaccinisation from today in a large scale as it is home to the world’s largest vaccine makers. 

Indian authorities on January 4 gave green signal for the emergency use of two vaccines, one developed by Oxford University and UK-based drugmaker AstraZeneca, and another by Indian company Bharat Biotech.

Nepal expects to receive early supply of the Covid-19 vaccines from India. Nepal’s drug regulator yesterday also granted an emergency use approval to a Covid-19 vaccine developed by AstraZeneca and manufactured in India. “The Department of Drug Administration’s decided to grant emergency use authorisation to the Covishield vaccine being manufactured by the Pune-based Serum Institute of India,” according to a press note issued by the department. ““We have given emergency use approval to Covishield,” the department confirmed, adding that the Covishield vaccine can now be imported and administered in Nepal.

Nepal and India also reached an agreement to gradually open the air routes and land routes – that remains closed due to the Covid-19 pandemic – to facilitate the movement of people across the border, added Gyawali, who had reached New Delhi on Thursday leading the Nepali delegation in the sixth Joint Commission (JC) meeting. He also informed that the two countries have agreed to immediately start the construction of Integrated Check Post (ICP) in Bhairahawa, connect a four-lane bridge under construction in Mahakali River with India’s national highway, and build three additional bridges in the Mahakali River. “Nepal and India also agreed to expedite the field location survey related to the Raxaul-Kathmandu Railway line.”

During his stay in New Delhi, the foreign minister was expected to meet Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The meeting could not take place, though the Nepali side had tried to seek time with the Indian prime minister for a meeting. Gyawali, however, today morning met with India’s defence minister Rajnath Singh. "Had a wonderful meeting with the foreign minister of Nepal, today,” Singh wrote on Twitter after the meeting. “India’s relations with Nepal are not limited to governments in both the countries but it is driven by the people of both the nations. India-Nepal relations offer limitless potential.”

The foreign minister’s India visit after the Prime Minister KP Sharma’s House dissolution move has though raised some eyebrows, the visit remained ‘not as expected by the incumbent government. PM Oli has called a mid-term polls for April 3o and May 10, but it seems uncertain as the House dissolution decision has been challenged in the court dividing the political spectrum in the country.

Friday, January 15, 2021

Nepal-India Joint Commission discuss a gamut of bilateral issues

 The sixth meeting of the Nepal-India Joint Commission today reviewed the entire spectrum of bilateral relations that included the important areas of Covid-19 vaccine, boundary and border management, connectivity and economic cooperation, trade and transit, power and water resources, and culture and education, among others, according to a press note issued by the Foreign Ministry.

Held in New Delhi today and co-chaired by foreign minister Pradeep Kumar Gyawali and his Indian counterpart Dr S Jaishankar – as leaders of the respective delegations – the meeting of the Joint Commission also appreciated the close coordination between the two sides in facing the challenges posed by the Covid-19 pandemic, the press note reads, adding that the Nepali side thanked the Government of India for its assistance of essential medicines and medical equipment. “On Nepal’s request for the Government of India’s support in availing Covid-19 vaccines, the Indian side assured that the requirements of Nepal would be in priority consideration after the roll-out of vaccines.”

The meeting discussed the boundary matter and expressed the commitment to early completion of the boundary works in the remaining segments. “It also discussed the review of the Peace and Friendship Treaty of 1950, submission of the report of the Eminent Persons Group (EPG), and air entry routes,” the press note adds.

The two ministers expressed satisfaction over the progress achieved in increasing cross-border infrastructure and connectivity, strengthening of development partnership and expeditious implementation of major ongoing projects and initiatives, including the first cross-border petroleum products pipeline, Integrated Check Posts (ICPs) at major border crossing points, railway links, power transmission lines, upgradation of roads and motorable bridges. The meeting also agreed to further speed up the implementation of the ongoing and planned bilateral projects such as the new Integrated Check Posts (ICP), Inland Container Depot (ICD), including at Dodhara-Chadani, remaining cross border railways, roads, and transmission lines, among others, the press note adds.

The Joint Commission deliberated on the progress in the discussions held between the two sides to review the bilateral treaties on trade, transit and rail services. “Both sides agreed for an early conclusion of the review of Treaty of Trade, Treaty of Transit and the amendments to Rail Services Agreement (RSA) with a view to further strengthen cooperation in these fields. They also discussed on progress in operationalisation of connectivity through inland waterways.

The meeting agreed to expedite the work for 400 Kv Butwal-Gorakhpur cross-border transmission line, it reads, adding that reiterating the importance of Pancheshwar Multipurpose Project and taking note of the positive discussion at the recent bilateral meeting of the secretary-level delegations held in New Delhi, the Joint Commission agreed for early finalisation of the project DPR. “The meeting also deliberated on the inundation problems facing people living in border areas especially due to non-tagging of embankments, interlinking of drains, and inadequate drainage provision.”

The Nepal-India Joint Commission was established in 1987 with a view to review and further strengthen all aspects of bilateral relations.

The Nepali delegation to the meeting included Nepali ambassador Nilamber Acharya, foreign secretary Bharat Raj Paudyal, health secretary Laxman Aryal and the officials of various ministries, departments and the Nepali embassy. Likewise, Indian external affairs minister Jaishanker was accompanied by Indian foreign secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla and India’s ambassador to Nepal Vinay Mohan Kwatra. 

Meanwhile, foreign minister Gyawali today gave a talk at the Indian Council of World Affairs (Sapru House) on ‘Nepal-India Relations’ and interacted with the distinguished audience comprising of former ambassadors, academics, think-tank analysts and media persons. 

The foreign minister reached New Delhi yesterday to participate in the meeting as its co-chair, though back home there is a hearing going at the Supreme Count on either the incumbent government led by KP Sharma Oli is caretaker or not as the prime minister dissolved the House of Representatives on December 20 and declared a mid-term poll, instead of facing no confidence motion in the House. Oli’s House dissolution move has been challenged in the Supreme Court. 

Before today’s Joint Commission meeting, Gyawali and Jaishankar held a one-on-one bilateral talk, sources at the Indian capital said, adding that the minister is also scheduled to hold high-level talks with the Indian authorities.

Friday, January 8, 2021

Private sector suggests postponement graduation from LDC

The private sector has asked the government to postpone the graduation of Nepal to the Developing Country (DC) status from the current Least Developed Country (LDC) status.

Submitting a written recommendation to the Ministry of industry, Commerce and Supplies today, Federation of Nepalese Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FNCCI) president Shekhar Golchha said that Nepal should not hurry to graduate from LDC. If Nepal graduates from LDC, it will not be able to enjoy the benefits including zero tariff and grants from the development partners. The developing country will get loan, and it will also be exempted from zero tariff, provided for LDCs by India, China, US and the EU. “Nepal will also not receive any development grants, if it graduates,” he said,” asking the government not to hurry.

Earlier too, Nepal had postponed its graduation from LDC till 2021, though the country had met two of the three criterion that are necessary to graduate to graduate from LDC. Nepal had fulfilled two criterion – Human Assets Index (HAI) and Economic Vulnerability Index (EVI) – in 2015, which was enough for graduation. The HAI should be 66 or above, EVI 32 and below, and per capita income should be $1,222. Nepal’s HAI and EVI scores stood at 68.7 and 26.8, respectively, which was enough for graduation from LDC, though the per capita income was less. But writing a letter to UNDP, Nepal asked to postpone its graduation as the country wanted to graduate on the basis of per capita income, which is thought to be more sustainable graduation. 

Any country meeting two of the three criterion – HVI, EVI and per capita income – could be graduated from LDC, or a country can graduate, fulfilling only one criteria, if it has $2,444 per capita income.  Nepal’s per capita income currently hovers around $1,000 but in the changed context of coronavirus pandemic, there is a doubt that the per capita income even remains same, as some 6 million Nepalis lost their employment, during the lockdown imposed by the government – from March 24 for 120 days – and subsequent prohibitory orders aimed at containing the spread of Covid-19.

According to the latest UNCTAD report on LDCs too, the world economic crisis brought by the Covid-19 pandemic may affect the previously planned graduation of LDCs that is the exit of some countries from the group of LDCs. 

The LDCs that have better weathered the Covid-19 pandemic from a health policy perspective are those with a broader and more sophisticated base of productive capacities in their economy, the UNCTAD report reads, adding that more generally, the same reasoning also applies to their capacity to respond to other shocks like medical, economic or natural disasters. “Countries that have been able to develop a denser and more diversified fabric of productive capacities have shown greater resilience and have been better prepared to weather different types of shocks.”

The Covid-19 pandemic is estimated to contract the GDP per capita LDCs by 2.6 per cent in 2020 from already low levels, as these countries are forecast to experience their worst economic performance in 30 years, according to the UNCTAD report. “At least 43 out of the 47 LDCs will likely experience a fall in their average income,” it reads, adding that extreme poverty in LDCs is projected to expand by 32 million in 2020 to reach 377 million people. “The poverty rate will rise from 32.5 per cent to 35.7 per cent in 2020, due to the Covid-19-induced economic crisis.”

Meeting the criterion is not only enough for any LDC to graduate, but it also has to prepare a transition plan, so that it keeps sailing above, otherwise, the country could again demoted to LDC. Nepal also has to prepare a transition strategy as it will lose some preferential treatment.

According to a report prepared by the National Planning Commission (NPC) and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) also, the Covid-19 pandemic may have profound impacts on the graduation criteria, with new risks of rising trade and export costs impacting external markets, and the need for more concessional aid, including debt relief, to overcome multiple crises. With new impact analysis, Nepal also need to bring a transitional strategy.

Graduation from LDC status becomes effective three years after the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) takes note of the recommendation made by the Committee for Development Policy (CDP) under the United Nations Economic and Social Council (UNESC) to graduate a country. Though, the government is in hurry to graduate Nepal, Nepal’s graduation will be effective in 2024, if the committee recommends graduation at its next triennial review in 2021. 

Stock market regulator approves T+2 settlement system

 Securities Board of Nepal (Sebon) has reduced the settlement and clearance system time to T+2 from current T+3 to encourage more trading hoping that the exchange will be more dynamic with a faster settlement system.

The move – that was mentioned by the regulator on it’s to-do list of for the fiscal year 2077-78 – is expected to please the stock traders as they will now get paid within the two days of the trading. The regulatory body approved the T+2 due to increasing use of technology in the stock market and international practice, according to the Sebon.

The CDS and Clearing (CDSC) Ltd had submitted a proposal to the regulator to change the current settlement T+3 system to T+2, a press note from the Sebon reads, adding that it has approved the proposal. 

T+3 means that it takes 3 days for the settlement of securities traded as the buyers receive the shares that they buy in about three days. But with the Sebon’s approval of T+2 system, the settlement process for the shares traded will hopefully take lesser time, the press note adds.

It is a frequent complaint from investors that they do not get the shares – in case of buying – and payment – in case of selling – on time. Even under the current system – the T+3 system – the clients have not been able to receive their payment within three days neither have they been able to get paid within a week. However, the authorities have claimed to improve and speed up the settlement system convincing the investors, who still do not believe.

The CDSC said that the T+2 system will be implemented after it issues a public notice addressing all the grievances.

Thursday, January 7, 2021

Nepse inches closer to pshycological 2,200 mark

 Nepal Stock Exchange (Nepse index inches close to a pshycological 2,200 points as it witnessed a double digit growth today to close the last trading day of the week with a new record.

After climbing 15.91 points today, the Nepse index closed at 2,194.49 points, making a new historic high, according to the Nepse. The buying pressure, despite the Constitutional crisis and seemingly political instability, has pushed the total turnover of over Rs 5.87 billion. Of all the sub-indices, trading sector saw considerable strength as it rose by 4.79 per cent, followed by manufacturing & processing sub-index that gained 2.06 per cent. Likewise, non-life insurance, microfinance and finance sectors posted 1 per cent gains each. But the others sector lost, though marginally, the Nepse data reveals.

In terms of market activity, Prabhu Bank’s shares witnessed the highest trading with a turnover of Rs 317 million, followed by Nepal Reinsurance Company (with Rs 274 million) and Chilime Hydropower Company (with Rs 248 million). Nepal Life Insurance Company, NIC Asia Bank and Himalayan Distillery are also the other top turnover stocks today.

However, Multipurpose Finance Company registered the biggest percentage gain of the day as its share price rallied by 10 per cent. Mirmire Laghubitta Bittiya Sanstha, IME General Insurance, Narayani Development Bank and Prabhu Life Insurance Company’s shares also saw notable buying pressure with each of these scrip rallying over 9 per cent, each.

The continuous rise in the share price in the domestic market – despite the Constitutional crisis and political instability – is attributed to the cheap interest rate and lack of other investment instruments. The interest rate in fixed deposit – as of today – hovers around 7 per cent forcing the people to invest in share.

Wednesday, January 6, 2021

World Bank reaffirms economic growth to limit at 0.6 per cent

 The World Bank (WB) reaffirmed its earlier projection of Nepal’s economic growth to be 0.6 per cent in the current fiscal year, though the government has – in the budget that it announced in June – projected a 7 per cent economic growth.

In October too, the development partner had projected Nepal’s economic growth to be remain 0.6 per cent in the fiscal year 2020-21. “The low growth rate is due to the economic impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic in the economy that depends heavily on tourism and travel,” the Global Economic Prospects released today reads, adding that the growth for the next fiscal year could be 2.5 per cent. “The tourism revenue is likely to remain significantly below pre-pandemic levels because of depressed demand as potential tourists remain wary of social interactions and continued restrictions on international travel, although recent vaccine news offers hope.”

With this reason, the recovery is likely to remain modest, it adds.

According to Global Economic Prospects, the South Asian region is projected to grow by 3.3 per cent in 2021. “Weak growth prospects reflect a protracted recovery in incomes and employment, especially in the services sector; limited credit provisioning constrained by financial sector vulnerabilities, and muted fiscal policy support,” it reads, adding that the forecast assumes that a vaccine will be distributed on a large scale in the region starting the second half of 2021 and that there is no widespread resurgence in infections. “In South Asia, Maldives could log the highest economic growth as it has opened up for tourism.”

According to World Bank, the global economy contracted by 4.3 per cent in 2020. But the global economy could expand by 4 per cent in 2021 given that an initial Covid-19 vaccine rollout becomes widespread throughout the year. 

India hands over Rs 306 million chequeto Nepal Reconstruction Authority

 Deputy chief of mission at the Embassy of Indiain Nepal Namgya Khampa handed over a cheque of Rs 306.6 million to chief executive officer (CEO) of National Reconstruction Authority (NRA) Shushil Gyawali today for reconstruction of educational institutions in earthquake affected districts of Nepal.

According to a press note issued by the Indian Embassy in Kathmandu, with this cheque handover, India has reimbursed an amount of Rs 819.8 million to Nepal towards educational sector reconstruction projects. 

Under India’s committed a grant assistance of $50 million towards reconstruction of educational institutions in Nepal, some 71 projects – including the Central Library building of Tribhuvan University (TU) – have presently been taken up by National Reconstruction Authority. “These projects are located in Gorkha, Nuwakot, Ramechhap, Dolakha, Kavre, Dhading, and Sindhupalchowk districts of Nepal,” the press note reads, adding that while 3 schools in Gorkha and 5 in Nuwakot have been completed, construction of 56 schools in five districts is underway and seven schools are in final stage of award of contract. “During the meeting, progress of various Indian government funded reconstruction projects in housing, health and cultural heritage sector were also discussed.”

India has committed $150 million towards reconstruction of 50,000 houses in Gorkha and Nuwakot districts, $50 million for reconstruction of 147 hospitals, and health posts in 10 districts and another $50 million for restoration/reconstruction of 28 cultural heritage sites in 8 districts of Nepal. While housing sector projects are nearly completed and handed over to beneficiaries, projects in education, health and cultural heritage sectors are at various stages of active implementation.

The deputy chief of mission, on the occasion, reiterated continued commitment of Indian government to work with Nepal government towards its reconstruction efforts, therebycomplementing efforts of government and people of Nepal in post-earthquake recovery.

Tuesday, January 5, 2021

Global economy projected to expand by 4 per cent in 2021

 The global economy is expected to expand by 4 per cent in 2021, assuming an initial Covid-19 vaccine rollout becomes widespread throughout the year. A recovery, however, will likely be subdued, unless policy makers move decisively to tame the pandemic and implement investment-enhancing reforms, the World Bank says in its January 2021 Global Economic Prospects.

Although the global economy is growing again after a 4.3 per cent contraction in 2020, the pandemic has caused a heavy toll of deaths and illness, plunged millions into poverty, and may depress economic activity and incomes for a prolonged period. “Top near-term policy priorities are controlling the spread of Covid-19 and ensuring rapid and widespread vaccine deployment,” the World Bank reports, adding that to support economic recovery, authorities also need to facilitate a re-investment cycle aimed at sustainable growth that is less dependent on government debt.

“While the global economy appears to have entered a subdued recovery, policymakers face formidable challenges – in public health, debt management, budget policies, central banking and structural reforms – as they try to ensure that this still fragile global recovery gains traction and sets a foundation for robust growth,” said World Bank Group president David Malpass. “To overcome the impacts of the pandemic and counter the investment headwind, there needs to be a major push to improve business environments, increase labour and product market flexibility, and strengthen transparency and governance.”

'Air pollution emergency' in Kathmandu

 The government warned Kathmandu Valley residents not to come out from their homes for a couple of days as the air pollution has crossed the dangerous level today suddenly witnessing a record worst air quality – with increasing pollution and reducing mercury level – in the world.

Kathmandu’s overall air-quality readings hit the worst, making it the most polluted city in the world, followed by New Delhi, according to AQ AirVisual, a Swiss group that collects real-time air-quality data from around the world.

The air quality of the Kathmandu Valley has been ranked as the worst in the world with fine particulate matter (PM2.5) standing at 401.67 micrograms per cubic meter (µg/m3) Monday midnight. According to the Kathmandu Valley’s Air Pollution Management Action Plan, the authorities can declare a public health emergency whenever AQI readings exceed 300. The Cabinet had endorsed the action plan on February 24 last year. According to the Action Plan, the authorities should declare an air pollution emergency, if the air quality index goes above 300 (µg/m3). But the Ministry of Forests and Environment – that looks after the environment issues – has no plan to declare an emergency. However, it is planning to impose odd-even rules for vehicles in the Valley, if the pollution level sees no improvement.

The air-quality monitoring station at Ratna Park and Phora Durbar, both recorded the worst level of air pollution. According to EPA’s air quality index, air quality levels between 151-200 is considered ‘unhealthy’, and everyone may experience problems, with sensitive groups feeling more severe effects. The levels exceeding AQI 300 are considered ‘hazardous’ for everyone and may prompt emergency alerts.

Air quality remains the worst in the first week of January, according to the scientists. “People need to follow precautionary measures to avoid health hazards by wearing masks while coming out of their homes,” they suggested, adding that the people also need to change their habits in situations like these to stay safe.

The air quality started deteriorated to ‘hazardous levels’ since yesterday evening, when it crossed the 600 mark, fuelling concerns about respiratory complications especially among the elderly, children and Covid-19 patients. 

As the air quality has deteriorated to the worst levels, the scientists and public health experts also recommended to stay indoors, and use mask if they need to go out. “With decreasing mercury level and increasing pollution, the air quality of the Valley has become the worst,” according to the data maintained by Drishti Kathmandu, an organisation that conducts studies on air pollution. “The PM2.5 levels of Kathmandu has been hovering in between 233 (µg/m3) and 401.67 (µg/m3) today,” the date reveals, adding that the PM2.5 levels of more than 150µg/m3 is considered extremely dangerous for human health, and people are recommended to stay indoors. “The overall air quality index of the Kathmandu Valley today stood at 437µg/m3, worst in the world, according to IQAir, a Swiss air quality technology company.

Overall Air Quality Index (AQI) levels haven’t dropped since Monday night while westerly winds have enveloped the country with dense fog. The polluted air seems to stay stagnant on the surface for a longer period of time as Kathmandu is a valley. “If the Valley sees rainfall, then it will wash away the pollution from the air, or it will take a few days for improved air quality,” according to the scientists, who also suggested the government to declare pollution emergency. “Other countries would have already declared air pollution emergency, had air quality deteriorated to the current level of Kathmandu Valley.”

The Department of Environment – late in the evening issuing a press note – urged children and old people in the Kathmandu Valley to stay inside their houses unless it is absolutely necessary to go outside. “People, especially children, elderly and those with respiratory problems, need to adopt proper precautions against the growing air pollution in the Valley while venturing outside,” the press note reads, adding that the air quality in other cities like Nepalgunj and Biratnagar is also deteriorating. “Vehicular emission, forest fires and cross-border industrial pollution too have contributed to the deterioration in Kathmandu air quality.”

Monday, January 4, 2021

Central bank blamed for micromanaging BFIs

 Bank promoters complained the central bank for micromanaging the banks and financial institutions (BFIs).

In a meeting with finance minister Bishnu Prasad Paudel today, the office bearers of Confederation of Banks and Financial Institutions Nepal (CBFIN) complained against the central bank for micromanaging the BFIs. They also blamed the central bank for its undesired intervention in fixing banking service charge and inter-bank service fee.

The umbrella organisation of the chairpersons and directors of BFIs in the country also demanded the government to facilitate Non-Resident Nepalis (NRNs) to bring in funds through banking channels, to provide easy access to small and medium enterprises (SMEs) to get subsidised loans and to allow banks to conduct brokerage business. They also demanded the finance minister to facilitate in reducing corporate tax for banks from 30 per cent to 25 per cent and providing flexibility in spread rate for the financial institutions looking for merger and acquisition.

It’s not the first time, the Finance Ministry has been provoked to step in the central bank’s shoe. Earlier, the then finance minister Dr Yuba Raj Khatiwada was blamed for stepping into the shoes of the central bank. Khatiwada was also blamed for acting as central bank governor rather than finance minister. He tried to fix the interest rate during the interest rate war some three years ago, overtaking the jurisdiction of the central bank. But this time around the banks’ promoters are seeking Finance Ministry intervention in the functioning of autonomous central bank.

Sunday, January 3, 2021

Schools to reopen

 The schools across the country that remained closed for more than nine months due to the Covid-19 wil be reopened soon.

The Covid-19 Crisis Management Committee (CCMC) today decided to let schools, gyms and cinema halls resume their services. However, the CCMC has given the authority of closing these institutions, if necessary, to the District Covid-19 Management Committee.

With the new decision, the schools, gyms and cinema halls are now free to open again after more than nine months. But they have to adopt appropriate Covid-19 safety protocols, the CCMC decided.

Nepse hits yet another historic all time high record

 Despite the political uncertainty and constitutional crisis, the share market is every day climbing another peak. The Nepal Stock Exchange (Nepse) index today also created a record new high as it went up by 4.22 per cent or 88.12 points to the day’s trading with all-time high of 2.175.39 points.

Today – the first day of the trading week – also witnessed a total turnover of Rs 6.34 billion, which was achieved through trade of 14, 026,886 units of shares of 212 listed firms through 54,698 transactions, according to the Nepse.

The change in the leadership of Finance Ministry, who is totally in favour of stock market, and the cheap interest rates fuelled the share market, according to the financial analysts. The interest rates of fixed deposit hover around 7 per cent, which is very low compared to the return on the investment on share. Thus, the changing political scenario has also ne been able to deviate the upward stock market movement.

Along with the Nepse, sensitive index also went up by 4.31 per cent (17.18 points) to close the market at 415.88 points, and float index also increased by 4.1 per cent (5.82 points) to 147.74 points today, according to the date published by the Nepse, the front line regulator. “All the subgroups witnessed growth as trading subgroups gained by massive 9.64 per cent or 221.57 points to 2,520.67 points and others sub-index by 6.19 per cent or 103.44 points to 1775.36 points,“ the Nepse data revealed, adding that banking, manufacturing and life insurance sub-indices also saw growth by above four per cent.

The index has not only successfully broken away from the long-maintained resistance zone at 2,100 levels, it also gained aggressively throughout the day.

Nepal Life Insurance Company Ltd (NLIC) has the highest individual scrip turnover of a little over Rs 509.50 million, whereas the shares of Prime Commercial Bank Ltd (PCBL) traded the most as today was the last chance for investors to grab the shares of PCBL and claim its 15 per cent dividend. Some five listed commercial banks including PCBL’s share will be not traded till their annual general meeting by next week.

Saturday, January 2, 2021

Government to regulate online business

 The government is going to regulate the online business as the complaints against them has been increasing lately.

The online traders could be fined up to Rs 200,000, if they operate online business without taking license and breach the laws of e-commerce platforms, according to a draft ‘Electronic Business Act 2020’, prepared by the Ministry of Industry, Commerce and Supplies. The draft ‘Electronic Business Act 2020,’ also envisions actions against unscrupulous traders for cheating consumers. 

After the government imposed lockdown on March 24 – to contain the spread the coronavirus – many online business platforms came to existence to serve the people. With the increasing scope of e-commerce in the domestic market, the government also felt the need to bring laws to protect the consumers as there are some incidents, where consumers complained to the Department of Commerce, Supplies and Consumer Protection of being cheated by the sellers. “Most of the complaints are related to misleading advertisements, selling of substandard products and problems in returning the sold items,” the department confirmed, adding that in a number of cases, the buyers even had to wait for over a month to get their money back, if in case the goods were returned to the sellers. “The proposed act has sought to make sellers refund money to the clients as soon as possible, if the sold goods are defective or not the same as ones ordered by the buyers.”

“The online business operators should create electronic platform including a website, where they have to clearly mention details including contact number, officials to take complaints of consumers, price of goods, transport cost, service charge and any additional taxes, if applicable,” the draft reads, adding that the operators will be liable to the grievances of the buyers.

According to the draft law, all players in online business – from producers to sellers and service providers – will also have to take separate licenses.

Friday, January 1, 2021

Central bank invites Covid-19-hit firms to apply for refinance loan

 The central bank today invited applications from the business enterprises affected by Covid-19.

Issuing a notice today the central bank asked the firms hit by Covid-19 to apply –within a month – for the refinance service.

The central bank has offered the refinance scheme – through the monetary policy for the current fiscal year – to help the Covid-19 affected businesses. The central bank has, however, received very few applications in the first call, forcing it to again issues second notice with a deadline of one month.

Though, the monetary policy has earmarked around Rs 150 billion – under refinance programme to rescue the coronavirus-affected firms – the central bank has approved refinance applications for around Rs 64 billion by over 40,000 borrowers.

The central bank – after realising that the criterion for the programme has become strict distracting the Covid-19 hit firms to apply – has made easier criterion this time. However, refinancing loans will have a maximum maturity period of one year and will not be renewed.

Earlier the central bank has made it mandatory that a minimum of 70 per cent of the firms should be cottage and small industries, while applying for the refinance loan, but the provision has now been removed.

Under the refinancing loans, banks and financial institutions (BFIs) can issue personal loans and business loans of up to Rs 50 million at a low interest rate of up to five per cent. The central bank has, however, prioritised on firms that are listed under highly-affected and medium-affected groups. Though the central bank itself has been mobilising a refinancing fund, the guideline endorsed in July has provisioned that 70 per cent resources of the refinancing fund should be mobilised through BFIs.