Sunday, February 28, 2021

Businessman Saurya Rana no more

Former chair of Nepal-India Chamber of Commerce and Industry (NICCI) Saurya Shamsher Rana passed away today morning.

Rana underwent heart surgery at Mediciti Hospital in Kathmandu four days ago. His last rites were performed at Pashupati Electric Crematorium today afternoon.

Rana, who was associated with Sipradi Trading, the authorised distributor of Tata vehicles in Nepal, since almost 25 years after returning to Nepal from working in India and England. He is remembered by his collegues as a soft spoken but with deep knowledge of India-Nepal trade and tourism issues. He is survived by his wife, a daughter and a son.

The Nepal-India Chamber of Commerce (NICCI) – issuing a press note – condoled Rana's untimely death.

The new 'investment subgroup' fails to push Nepse

The new subgroup created by the Nepal Stock Exchange (Nepse) that came into practise today failed to push the share market index as the market came under selling pressure.

Nepse closed the market with 79.74 points lower to 2,474.39 points from Thursday's closing, a 3.12 per cent drop on the first day of the trading week.

The stock market has added one more subgroup -- making the total 13 subgroups -- from today shifting some four companies from the others subgroup. The new subgroup 'investment' has Citizen Investment Trust (CIT), Hydroelectricity Investment and Development Company (HIDCL), Nepal Infrastructure Bank (NIFRA), and NRN Investment and Development Company (NRNA).

The Nepal Infrastructure Bank was traded under development bank subgroup on the first day, and was shifted to others subgroup, the very next day. However, after a week, today it was traded under the investment subgroup. The 'indecision' by the Nepse has always given room to suspect Nepse index and total market capitalisation, as they have also not been transparent in calculations. Though, Nepse claims that the regrouping and adding the subgroup will not impact the Nepse index, the index and market capitalisation has been under scanner since long.

The Nepse has also renamed the hotels subgroup to hotels and tourism, and shifted Chandragiri Hills to the subgroup that already has Soaltee Hotel, Oriental Hotels (Radisson), Taragaon Regency Hotel and Yak and Yeti Hotel, though the Yak and Yeti Hotel had long ago asked itself to be delisted,

Though, the share market has 13 subgroups, and it produces 17 indices everyday from today, the market crumbled to below 2,500 points level for the first time since early February. However, the total turnover stood at Rs 8.35 billion today.

All the major sectors closed the day with notable loss, except hotels and tourism sector that gained due to Chandragiri Hills. The investment sector fell the most -- by 4.2 per cent -- in its maiden trading day today, whereas others, manufacturing and processing and life insurance sector fell over 3.5 per cent. 

Shikhar Insurance Company was traded the most after the non-life insurer called for its annual general meetings (AGMs) for the years 2018-19 and 2019-20. Approval of bonus shares, issuance of right shares and increment of its authorised capital lured the investors. Of the total Rs 8.35 billion trading of shares today, Shikhar Insurance Company witnessed over Rs 1 billion worth of its stocks being traded. Likewise, Nepal Infrastructure Development Bank saw a turnover of Rs 635 million, followed by Global IME Bank (Rs 340 million), Nepal Reinsurance Company (Rs 286 million) and Nepal Life Insurance Company (Rs 257 million), according to the Nepse. 

Restoration of Seto Machindranath temple starts

 Ambassador of India to Nepal Vinay Mohan Kwatra, chief executive officer of National Reconstruction Authority (NRA) and mayor of Kathmandu Metropolitan City today jointly did the bhoomipooja to mark the starting of work of conservation and restoration of Seto Machindranath temple.

The conservation work of Seto Machindranath temple is first of the 28 cultural heritage conservation and restoration projects being under taken with a reconstruction of Rs 5,800 million committed by government of India for the cultural heritage sector, according to a press note issued by the Indian Embassy in Kathmandu. "All the 28 sites were identified by government and both India and Nepal signed MoU in this regard in August 2017," it reads, adding that the Central Level Project Implementation Unit (Building) of NRA is the implementing entity has been identifying agencies for the restoration works as per be conserved as per Ancient Monument Preservation Act.

The Seto Machindranath Temple will be conserved as per Nepal’s Ancient Monument Preservation Act, and Department of Archaeology’s Basic Guidelines and Manual for conservation and reconstruction of heritage affected by devastating earthquake of 2015, using material close to the original building material at the time of its construction as per the traditional ethos, local traditions and values that sustains and enriches such living heritage sites in Nepal.

The decorative art surfaces and features such as repoussé work, decorative and non-decorative woodworks including timber members with traditional polychrome arts will be documented and conserved through minimal interventions. Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (INTACH)  has been engaged to provide technical support during the conservation and restoration work as per the Detailed Project Report approved by the government.

Believed to have been built in 10th Century AD during Malla era, the temple was damaged during the devastating earthquake of 2015. The temple located in the heart of Kathmandu city is visited by Hindus and Buddhist devotees to worship Seto Machindranath is considered to be one of the Protectors of the Kathmandu Valley.

Saturday, February 27, 2021

Nepal to graduate in 2026 to developing country

The United Nations Committee for Development Policy (CDP) has recommended for Nepal’s graduation from the Least Developed Country (LDC) category with preparatory period of five years. "This means that the graduation of Nepal would be effective in 2026," according to a press note issued by the Permanent Mission of Nepal in New York. 

The CDP – in its triennial review held from February 22 to 26 – made the recommendation as Nepal had met the criteria for graduation for three consecutive reviews. Out of three indices which the CDP considers while deciding on the question of graduation – GNI per capita, Human Assets Index (HAI), and Economic and Environmental Vulnerability Index (EVI) – Nepal met the thresholds for the latter two, thus being eligible for graduation.

Though Nepal had met the graduation criteria for the first time in 2015, the CDP in its 2018 triennial review recommended to defer the graduation on the request of the government considering the setback on Nepal’s economy by the 2015 earthquake and other disasters in the following years.

Nepal  – seeking a sustainable growth and graduation  – had requested the UN to delay the graduation till 2021. The then vice chair of the National Planning Commission (NPC) Dr Swarnim Wagle recommended the government to delay the graduation as Nepal has long way to go to meet the GNI per capita requirement, which is considered the milestone for a sustainable graduation. The government – led by prime minister Sher Bahadur Deuba  – wrote letter to the UN seeking postponement.

This time too, due to the extraordinary challenges posed by the Covid-19 pandemic and based on the request of the government, the normal preparatory period of three years has been extended to five. In addition to Nepal, Bangladesh and Lao People’s Democratic Republic have also been recommended for graduation by the CDP.

The CDP’s recommendation is an important milestone in Nepal’s development trajectory towards the national ambition of ‘Prosperous Nepal, Happy Nepali’ and the nation’s development aspirations as reflected in the fifteenth Periodic Plan, claims the press note. 

The recommendation needs to be endorsed by the United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) which shall then be ‘noted’ by the UN General Assembly later this year. Nepal will continue to have access to all LDC-specific support measures until 2026. The preparatory period of five years is given to provide adequate time for a smooth transition during which Nepal would be enabling itself to offset the loss of support measures exclusive to the LDCs. But a section of Nepal's business fraternity is still reluctant as they think that without improving the capacity and trade logistic cost, the loss of LDC-specific support measures will hit the country's economy. 

"Nepal scored 72.1 in the HAI but the threshold being above 66, and 25.5 in the EVI, the threshold being below 32, whereas Nepal has $1027 Gross National Income, while the threshold is $1230. "The government is planning to announce $1400 as the gross national income on the basis of revised indices," according to National Planning Commission. 

The private sector is however not comfortable with graduation. Though graduation will increase Nepal's reliability and credibility in the international arena for keeping its words, the country will lose the benefits it is getting due to least developed country (LDC).

Nepal currently enjoys duty free and quota free access to the Canada and US markets due to its LDC status. With graduation -- in five years -- Nepali will lose competitiveness in the international market as it has to compete with the goods produced by the great manufacturing giants.

Likewise, Nepal also has to face a gamut of challenges to make the recommendation irreversible during the review. With the current unstable politics and economy, Nepal must chart out a national level strategy to make Nepali produce more competitive. The planning commission, however, claimed that it is charting out the five-year strategy to bring the policy shift. But the government needs to be serious in dcreasing the cost of trade and private sector be serious on market competition. The resource crunch country will find it difficulty to even prepare the budget, as it is going to lose large chunck of aid from development partners apart from dutyfree quotafree market access.  

Nepal should start negotiations with the EU, India, China, Japan and other countries so that the trade will not be hampered. But with the right strategy and planning during these five years, Nepal could mitigate the challenges. According to the National Planning Commission, Nepal also needs to conduct a fresh review of the scheduled graduation plan considering the impact Covid-19 pandemic and must prepare a transition strategy in cooperation with trade and development partners to avoid adverse impacts from the country’s graduation as it risks losing preferential treatment and as the Covid pandemic has had a profound impact on global economy, 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.

Friday, February 26, 2021

First chartered accountant Kuber Sharma passes away

 Nepal's first chartered accountant (CA) and former tourism minister Kuber Prasad Sharma passed away today evening.

Sharma died of a heart attack in Kathmandu while undergoing treatment. He was associated with Nepali Congress for long before he founded Hariyali Nepal Party. Being close to the leaders like BP Koirala, Ganeshman Singh, and Krishna Prasad Bhattarai, he was a true socialist. But rising corruption and nepotism in the Nepali Congress distracted Sharma from the old party and in 2053 BS he founded Hariyali Nepal Party.

Sharma, who has a BCom and FCA, is Nepal's first chartered accountant apart from president of Rotary Club Kathmandu, chairman of the school management committee of Ratna Rajya Higher Secondary School, Baneshwor, and many more institutions.

He is survived by his wife and three daughters.

India to fund Rs 530 million for reconstruction of health posts

 Head of Development Partnership and Reconstruction wing of the Embassy of India in Kathmandu and Project Director of Central Level Project Implementation Unit (Building) of National Reconstruction Authority (NRA) today signed four Memorandum of Understandings (MoUs) for reconstruction of total 25 health posts in Nepal.

Some 12 health posts are located in Dhading district and 13 are located in Sindhupalchowk district, a total of 25 health posts damaged during the 2015 earthquake will be reconstructed at a cost of Rs 530 million, according to a press note issued by the Indian Embassy in Kathmandu. 

On the same occasion, four contract agreements, award the work to successful bidders were also signed between CLPIU (Building) and Contractors, the press note reads, adding that the Central Building Research Institute (CBRI)-Roorkee -- a premier institute of India in the field earthquake-resilient reconstruction -- will be providing technical assistance during for the reconstruction. "These 25 health posts are the first batch of 147 health sector projects being reconstructed by NRA under the government of India reconstruction grant of $50 million for health sector in ten districts of Nepal."

The remaining projects are in advanced stage of tender process, it claimed. "The Central Building Research Institute (CBRI), Roorkee, a premier institute, will provide technical hand-holding for construction of these health facilities." The health facilities will have OPD, dispensary, medicine store rooms, ante/post-natal room, bedrooms for duty doctors/ medical staff, kitchen and disable friendly sanitation facilities. 

The Indian Embassy in Kathmandu also claimed that the government of India has been engaged with government of Nepal in strengthening the infrastructure facilities in the health sector. "Under government of India funded Small Development Projects (SDP) scheme, over 40 health posts, and health camps have been completed in Nepal since 2003." it claimed, adding that the government of India has also gifted over 823 ambulances to governmental, non-governmental, non-profit making organisations in Nepal since 1994. 

The Embassy press note also claimed that the government of India remains committed to continue its development partnership with Nepal which is long-standing, unwavering, unmatched and multidimensional in nature.

Wednesday, February 24, 2021

Nepal, World Bank sign innovative financing agreement on forests and climate change for building back greener

 The government today signed a landmark agreement with the World Bank’s Forest Carbon Partnership Facility (FCPF), unlocking up to $45 million to support Nepal to decrease carbon emissions from deforestation and forest degradation through 2025. With this Emission Reductions Payment Agreement (ERPA) in place, Nepal is expected to reduce 9 million tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions in the Terai Arc Landscape, according to a press note issued by the World Bank.

The agreement was signed by the secretary of the Ministry of Forests and Environment Dr Bishwa Nath Oli on behalf of the government and the World Bank country director for Maldives, Nepal and Sri Lanka Faris Hadad-Zervos.

“This scale of results-based payments for emission reductions is a first for Nepal,” said finance secretary Sishir Kumar Dhungana, after the signing ceremony.

"Nepal’s Emission Reductions Programme builds on more than three decades of successful community forestry,” said World Bank country director for Maldives, Nepal, and Sri Lanka Faris Hadad-Zervos. "The emissions reduction purchase is one pillar of a strategic programme on forest landscapes and climate action in Nepal," he said, adding that the innovative financing agreement will address the drivers of deforestation and forest degradation, helping incentivize further community action across the country.

Nepal’s Emission Reductions Programme in the Terai lowlands aims to lower rates of deforestation and forest degradation across 2.4 million hectares of land rich in natural resources, including 20 per cent of the country’s forest cover. The Terai region supports some of the most productive forests, richest biodiversity and most significant protected areas in Nepal. The region also has the highest population growth, urbanisation, and economic development in the country, especially agriculture. As a result, natural resources in the Terai face significant threats that the emission reduction program helps address.

The initiative will also focus on improving community-based forest management, transferring user rights for national forests to local communities, improving integrated land use planning, promoting alternative sources of energy and strengthening capacity for protected area management, claimed the multilateral development partner.

“Forests in the Terai region provide ecosystems services that are critical for climate resilience, including watershed protection, and drought and flood mitigation,” secretary at the Ministry of Forests  and Environment said, adding that the programme will help Nepal to protect the forests that are inextricably linked to the well-being of many communities here and across the country.

The programme also leverages support from other World Bank support on sustainable land management and social inclusion, and builds on complementary efforts financed by the Climate Investment Funds’ Forest Investment Programme and the Dedicated Grant Mechanism for Indigenous Peoples and Local Communities, according to the World Bank.

Nepal is the fifth country in Asia-Pacific and twelfth globally to reach such a milestone agreement with the FCPF, which together have unlocked over $600 million in results-based financing. Emission Reductions Payment Agreements are innovative instruments that incentivise sustainable land management at scale and help to connect countries with other sources of climate financing. Funding from the FCPF supports new opportunities to conserve and regenerate landscapes and biodiversity while simultaneously supporting more resilient, inclusive, sustainable and efficient economic growth – key for Nepal to build back better, and greener.

The World Bank’s Forest Carbon Partnership Facility (FCPF) is a global partnership of governments, businesses, civil society, and Indigenous Peoples' organisations focused on reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation, forest carbon stock conservation, the sustainable land use management, and the enhancement of forest carbon stocks in developing countries, activities commonly referred to as REDD+. Launched in 2008, the FCPF has worked with 47 developing countries across Africa, Asia, and Latin America and the Caribbean, along with 17 donors that have made contributions and commitments totaling $1.3 billion.

Tuesday, February 16, 2021

Share market gains 15.5 points to close at a new historic high

 Domestic share market is on fire as it is scaling new high every day.

Today – the third day of transaction in this week – the Nepal Stock Exchange (Nepse) index gained 15.50 points to close the market, above the psychological 2,600 mark, at 2601.51 points which indicates that bulls still have more legs for upside movement.

The index opened at 2,615.36 points and went on to make an intraday as high as at 2,631.37 points but the index also went down as low as 2,584.14 points, ultimately closing at 2,601.51 points.

“Some 17,732,765 shares traded hands through some 76,493 transactions,” according to the Nepse that recorded trading of 208 scrips, with a total market turnover to a little over Rs 10.03 billion. “While the float index gained 1.68 points and closed at 179.04 points, the sensitive index closed at 473.53 points after gaining 4.09 points. 

The domestic equity market rallied on banking sector, which ended 2.08 per cent higher, followed by mutual fund, others and development bank sector, but manufacturing and processing, hydropower and trading, hotels, finance, non-life insurance, microfinance and life Insurance segments lost.

Though, the investors continued to show notable buying enthusiasm in the market, the total turnover could not cross yesterday’s. Today the total turnover crossed Rs 10 billion mark, little less than yesterday’s. Tuesday saw shares of Nabil Bank and Global IME Bank being traded the most. Over Rs 544 million and 425 million worth shares of these banks changed hands, followed by Nepal Bank Neco Insurance, NIC Asia Bank and Shikhar Insurance, with turnovers of Rs 391 million, Rs 373 million, Rs 336 million and Rs 305 million, respectively. Likewise, Himalayan Distillery, Siddhartha Bank, NMB Bank and Kumari Bank are other heavily traded scrips Tuesday.

Likewise, Chandragiri Hills, Nepal Infrastructure Bank, Mirmire Microfinance Development Bank, Corporate Development Bank, Sunrise First Mutual Fund and Himalaya Urja Bikas Company locked in the upper circuit limit with above 9.5 per cent each, according to the Nepse.

Meanwhile, shares of Sadhana Laghubitta Bittiya Sanstha came under pressure and dropped by 6.15 per cent, followed by Panchthar Power Company, Barun Hydropower Company, Swabhimaan Laghubitta Bittiya Sanstha, which witnessed 5 per cent lower trade.

Monday, February 15, 2021

लोकतन्त्र, चुनाव र अर्थतन्त्रको सम्बन्ध

लोकतन्त्रको एउटा सुन्दर पक्ष आवधिक चुनाव हो । सचेत नागरिकले आवधिक चुनावमार्फत नयाँ र पारदर्शी राजनीतिक दल तथा नेता छान्न पाउँछन् । तर, लोकतन्त्र भनेको आवधिक चुनाव मात्रै होइन । कसैको लहडमा गरिने संविधानको मर्म बाहिरको कुनै मध्यावधि चुनाव त हुँदै होइन । यदि आवधिक चुनाव मात्रै लोकतन्त्र हुन्थ्यो भने नेपालमा तत्कालीन राजा ज्ञानेन्द्रले पनि चुनाव गराएका थिए । निर्वाचन आयोग पनि त्यही नै हो, फेरि पनि चुनाव गराउन सक्ला । यसै पनि पछिल्ला समय निर्वाचन आयोगलगायत सबै संवैधानिक निकायहरू भर्तीकेन्द्र भएकै छन् । संविधानको मर्म र नागरिकको अधिकारको रक्षाका लागि खडा गरिएका संवैधानिक निकाय सत्ताका प्यारा मान्छे भर्ना गर्ने केन्द्र भएपछि यस्ता संस्थाहरूले नागरिकको स्वार्थमा, राष्ट्रको स्वार्थमा कति काम गर्छन्, लोकतन्त्रको संरक्षण कसरी गर्न सक्दैनन्, इतिहासले प्रमाणित गरिसकेको छ । लोकमानसिंह कार्की धेरै पुरानो दुर्घटना हैन । एकात्मक सत्ताको विद्यालयमा पढेर हुर्किएकाहरू जतिसुकै लोकतन्त्रवादी देखिए पनि लोकतन्त्र कमजोर बनाउन संस्थाहरू भत्काउन चाहन्छन्, स्वाभाविक हो । यस्ता संस्थाहरू भत्किएपछि लोकतन्त्रमाथि प्रहार गर्न सहज हुन्छ । भर्खरै अमेरिकामा पनि यस्तो कोसिस गरिएको देखियो । तर, त्यहाँ यस्तो प्रयास सफल भएन, किनकि त्यहाँ लोकतान्त्रिक संस्थाहरू बलिया छन् ।

संसारभर सबै तानाशाह राज्यस्रोतको दोहन गरेर नै शक्ति सञ्चय गर्छन् । त्यसैले लोकतन्त्रको संरक्षण गर्न न्यायपालिका, कार्यपालिका तथा व्यवस्थापिकाको आआफ्नै भूमिका र शक्ति पृथकीकरणको सिद्धान्त जन्मेको हो । तानाशाहहरू लोकतन्त्रको आधारस्तम्भ संस्थाहरू भत्काएर प्रणाली ध्वस्त पार्छन्, जसले गर्दा आफ्ना व्यक्तिगत सपना लाद्न सहज हुन्छ, कहिले राष्ट्रवादका नाममा तथा कहिले विकासका नाममा । र, कहिले चुनावका नाममा ।

पहिलो जनाआन्दोलन, २०४६ पछि, नेपालमा सबैभन्दा लामो समय गिरिजाप्रसाद कोइरालाको प्रधानमन्त्रीत्वकाल २०४८ साल जेठ १२ गतेदेखि २०५१ साल मंसिर १४ गतेसम्म जम्मा १ हजार २ सय ८४ दिन रह्यो । यस्तै, नेपालको इतिहासकै सबैभन्दा शक्तिशाली तथा करिब दुइतिहाइको सरकारका नेता प्रधानमन्त्री केपी शर्मा ओलीले २०७४ फागुन ३ गतेदेखि २०७७ पुस ५ गते संसद् भंग गर्दासम्म १ हजार ४० दिन शासन गरे । पुस ५ यताका दिनमा उनको सरकारको हैसियत स्पष्ट नभए तापनि त्यो पनि जोड्दा ओलीको शासन ११ सय दिन हाराहारी हुन आउँछ । सोमबार प्रधानमन्त्रीले तामझामका साथ आफ्नो सत्तारोहणको तेस्रो वर्षगाँठ मनाउँदै गर्दा उनले घोषणा गरेको वैशाख १७ र २७ मा चुनाव नहुने वातावरण बन्दै छ । तर मानौं चुनाव भयो भने पनि त्यसपछि आउने अर्को प्रधानमन्त्रीले उनले झैं तीन वर्षपछि मध्यावधिमा जाने निर्णय गरे के हुन्छ । प्रधानमन्त्रीको कार्यकाल पहिलो दुई वर्ष त वर्तमान संविधानले ‘लक’ गरिदिएको छ । त्यसपछि आफ्नै दल वा अन्य दलको दबाब खप्न नसकेर प्रधानमन्त्री चुनावमा जान चाहन्छन् । अर्थात्, प्रत्येक तीन वर्षमा अब नेपालमा चुनाव हुन्छ । के नेपालीले यस्तै राजनीतिक स्थिरता चाहेको हो ? होे भने संविधान संशोधन गरेर प्रत्येक तीन वर्षमा चुनाव गराउने व्यवस्था गर्दा के फरक पर्छ ।

अथवा मानौं, वर्तमान सरकार नै चुनावमा विजयी भयो । सत्तामा बसेर राज्यस्रोत दोहन गरेर चुनाव लड्नुको आफ्नै मजा छ । त्यसमाथि राज्यस्रोतको दोहन गरेर, राज्यकै पैसा खर्च गरेर वृद्धभत्ता ५ हजार बनाएर, वैध–अवैध पैसाको खोलो बगाएर चुनाव जित्न सकिन्छ भन्ने आकलन पनि देखिन्छ । यस्तै सांसदले आफ्नो निर्वाचन क्षेत्रमा खर्च गर्न पाउने रकम पनि सरकारले नागरिकले तिरेको करबाट दिने जुन गलत प्रथा बसालियो, त्यो पनि राज्यस्रोतको दोहन हो । नागरिकले तिरेको करबाट कुनै एउटा अमुक दलको कुनै अमुक नेताले जस लिनु तथा भोट तान्न गरिने यस्ता क्रियाकलापलाई स्थानीय पूर्वाधार साझेदारी कार्यक्रमजस्ता नाम दिँदैमा जायज हुँदैन । यसरी जबसम्म राज्यस्रोत प्रयोग गरेर चुनाव भइरहन्छ, तबसम्म चुनावी अंकगणित तलमाथि पार्न सहज हुन्छ । किनकि प्रजातन्त्रमा चेतनशील नागरिकको पनि एक भोट हो र नेताको हातबाट भोजभतेर तथा नगद लिएर हालिने पनि एउटै भोट हो । त्यसमाथि अशिक्षित तथा गरिब नागरिकका लागि तत्कालको नगद महत्वपूर्ण हुन्छ । किनकि उसलाई को नेता जितेर कस्तो नियम कानुन बनाउँछ भन्ने कुराले तत्काल कुनै सरोकार राख्दैन । त्यसैले कुनै पनि शासक आफ्ना नागरिकलाई गरिखाने बनाउन चाहन्नन्, गरिबीमै राख्न चाहन्छन् । नेपालमा बहुसंख्यक नागरिक गरिब नै रहिरहनु सत्ताको लागि फाइदाकारक छ । नारा ‘समृद्ध नेपाल : सुखी नेपाली‘ भए तापनि चुनाव जित्न ‘गरिब नेपाल :दुःखी नेपाली‘ फाइदाजनक हो । चतुर शासकले यति नबुझ्ने त कुरै भएन । राजनेता तथा शासकबीचको फरक पनि यही नै हो । शासक सत्तामा बसेर नागरिकले तिरेको कर दुरुपयोग गरेर नागरिकलाई नै प्रताडित गर्छ, संवैधानिक निकायमा आफ्नै सेवकहरू विराजमान गराउँछ, चुनाव जित्न राज्यका स्रोत तथा शक्तिको दुरुपयोग गर्छ, राष्ट्रभक्तिको गान गाउँछ, अनि आफू र आफ्नाको मात्रै विकास गर्छ । तर, राजनेता राष्ट्र कसरी बन्छ भन्ने चिन्तन गर्छ, सबै नागरिकको गरिखान पाउने अधिकारको संरक्षण गर्छ । संविधान तथा लोकतन्त्रको मूल्य–मान्यतामा एक इन्च पनि तलमाथि हुन दिँदैन । त्यसैले, लोकतन्त्र भनेको आवधिक चुनाव मात्रै होइन ।

मानौं चुनावपछि नेपाली कांग्रेसले दुइतिहाई ल्याएछ । त्यसपछि सभापति शेरबहादुर देउवाले अर्का वरिष्ठ नेता रामचन्द्र पौडेलले काम गर्न दिएनन् भनेर तीन वर्षमै मध्यावधिमा जाँदैनन् भन्ने कुनै ग्यारेन्टी छैन । वर्तमान प्रधानमन्त्री केपी शर्मा ओली र नेपाली कांगे्रसका सभापति तथा पूर्वप्रधानमन्त्री शेरबहादुर देउवा एकै सिक्काका दुइटा पाटा हुन् । त्यसकारण नेपाल अस्थिरता तथा अनिश्चितताको एउटा अर्को दुश्चक्रमा फस्दै छ । त्यसैले पनि यस पटकको सर्वोच्च अदालतको एउटा निर्णयले नेपालको इतिहासमा नै दूरगामी प्रभाव राख्ने देखिन्छ :

भनिन्छ, राजनीतिको अभीष्ट नागरिकको आर्थिक, सामजिक राजनीतिक विकास हो । सत्ता अंकगणितीय खेलमात्र हो । तर, नेपालका राजनीतिक दलहरूमा अझ विशेषतः केही नेतामा सत्ताको लोभ यति धेरै छ कि सत्ताका लागि देशलाई बन्धक बनाउने चलनमा क्रमभंगता आएन, नियमितता आकस्मिकताजस्तै भयो । हरेक नेता आफ्नै इच्छामा चुनाव गराउन चाहन्छ । मानौं चुनाव नै एउटा ब्रह्मास्त्र हो, लोकतन्त्र बचाउने । तर, चुनावको खर्च, तयारी तथा यसको विश्वसनीयता तथा पारदर्शिताका विषय झन् पेचिला छन् । चालू आर्थिक वर्षको बजेटमा सरकारले चुनाव गर्न खर्च छुट्ट्याएको छैन । किनकि चुनाव खर्च अरू खर्चजस्तो वर्षभरि भइरहने खर्च होइन, एउटा निश्चित अवधिमा अर्थात् एक–दुई महिनामा ह्वात्तै एकैपटक हुने खर्च हो । कोरोनाले थिलथिलो पारेको अर्थतन्त्र उठ्न कोसिस गर्नै लाग्दा सरकारले संसद् भंग गरेर चुनावको घोषणा गरेको छ । राजस्वले जेनतेन सरकारी कर्मचारीको तलब खान पुग्ने मुलुकमा विकास साझेदारहरूको सहयोगबिना हालसम्म कुनै चुनाव भएको छैन । विकास साझेदारहरू पनि यस्तो अनिश्चित समयमा आफू गाल पर्नबाट जोगिन खोजिहाल्छन् ।

सरकार आफूले घोषणा गरेको पुनरुत्थान कार्यक्रमअन्तर्गत कोभिड प्रभावित व्यवसायलाई पुनर्जीवन दिन ५० अर्ब तथा भ्याक्सिन खरिद गर्न करिब ४५ अर्ब थप रकमको खोजी गर्दै छ । आन्तरिक ऋण सरकारले पहिलो चौमासिकमै उठाइसकेको छ भने वैदेशिक अनुदान वा ऋण विगत केही वर्षदेखि घट्दै गएको छ । त्यसैले अन्त्यमा चुनावको करिब २५ अर्ब खर्च सरकारले विकास बजेट जबर्जस्ती रकमान्तर गरेर गर्छ । तर, नियमानुसार रकमान्तर सजिलो प्रक्रिया होइन, किनकि पुँजीगतमै रकमान्तर गर्नुपर्ने हुन्छ । स्थानीय तथा प्रदेशलाई दिइएको बजेट फिर्ता लिई निर्वाचन गर्न सकिन्छ, तर त्यो बजेट फिर्ता लिन पनि कानुनी कठिनाइ तथा बन्देजसरह नै छ ।

यसका साथै, नेपालमा पछिल्ला वर्षहरूमा चुनाव महँगो हुँदै गएको छ । चुनावका लागि टिकट पाएका तर खर्च गर्न नसकेर उम्मेदवारहरू चुनावमा जान नचाहेका अघिल्लो चुनावमा पनि देखिएको थियो । उम्मेदवारले गर्ने चुनाव खर्चको स्रोत अज्ञात छ । जसका कारण नीतिगत भ्रष्टाचार तथा अर्थतन्त्रमा विकृति बढेको छ । चुनावले बजारमा पैसा आउँछ, विदेशबाट रकम भित्रिन्छ, दूरदराजका गरिब परिवारसम्म पैसा पुग्छ, त्यसैले मध्यम तथा निम्न वर्गका लागि यो राम्रो अवसर हो भन्ने तर्क पनि गर्न सकिएला ।

तर, दुई–तीन महिनाका लागि बजारमा ह्वात्तै आउने पैसाको भेलले महँगी बेस्करी बढाउँछ र अन्त्यमा फेरि गरिब तथा विपन्न नै मारमा पर्छन् । हुन त गरिब र विपन्नको जीवनस्तर नसुध्रे पनि प्रधानमन्त्रीले आफ्नो तीनवर्षे कार्यकालको फेहरिस्तमा अर्थतन्त्रले गति लिन थालेको, आर्थिक क्रियाकलाप बढेको जस्ता कारणले चालू आर्थिक वर्षको आर्थिक वृद्धिदर ५.५ प्रतिशतको हुने र अर्काे वर्ष १५ औं योजनाले लक्ष्य लिएअनुसार १० प्रतिशतको हुने दावी गरेका छन् । कुनै समय ‘एकां लज्जां परित्यज्य, सर्वत्र विजयी भवेत्’ भनिन्थ्यो होला, तर आजकाल लाज त्याग गरेपछि मानव नै रहिन्न, हेक्का रहोस् ।

Hydropower stocks to rain share market

 Though, the hydropower sector is not yet dominant in the share market, some 10 more hydropower companies are going public soon.

According to the Securities Board of Nepal (Sebon), some 15 companies – including 10 hydropower companies are issuing their Initial Public Offerings (IPOs) worth Rs 5.15 billion. “Among the 15 companies in the pipeline to issue public shares, some 10 are hydropower companies, one life insurance company, one merchant bank and 3 other companies.”

Though, the domestic share market is dominated with the banks and financial institutions, there are noticeable large number of hydropower companies floating their shares and listing in the secondary market recently. As the demand for shares in the market has doubled, the price of hydropower share has also increased recently. 

According to the Sebon, Madhya Bhotekoshi Jalabidhyut, Nyadi Hydropower, Bindhyabasani Hydropower, Sahas Urja, Emerging Nepal, Himalayan Hydropower, Buddha Bhumi Nepal Hydropower, Samling Hydropower, Dish Media Network, CBIL Capital, Terhathum Power Company, Shuvam Power, Mallung Khola Jal Bidhyut, Jyoti Life Insurance, and CEDB Hydropower Development are floating share soon.

Inauguration of Singha Durbar rebuilt 70 months after 2015 Gorkha earthquake

 Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli today inaugurated the three facades of Singha Durbar after the restoration of the building. The post-earthquake reconstruction of Singha Durbar that serves as the main administrative hub has been completed recently. The power seat was damaged by the devastating 2015 April earthquake. The prime minister KP Sharma Oli, on the occasion, also appraised about his three years of achievements.

The reconstruction that was carried out by the National Reconstruction Authority (NRA) cost Rs 870 million, according to the Office of the Prime Minister and Council of Ministers. The office will now be shifted to the renovated building, it confirmed, adding that after the April 25 devastating Gorkha earthquake, the office has been functioning from the then Ministry of Local Development. “Singha Durbar was massively damaged by the 2030 BS huge inferno and was restored to its original structure in 2037 BS through a new technology.”

Now the reconstructed building has an emergency and fire extinguisher mechanism and also well-equipped with the air conditioning facility.

According to NRA's Central Project Implementation Unit's Project, the renovation works were carried out in two phases through a tender. “The north, south and east sections were retrofitted keeping their original structure unchanged with the use of a new technology and construction materials including cement, sand, iron rod and bonding chemical,” it informed, adding that the reconstruction of the west face, which had remained unaffected by the 2030 BS inferno is going on by using traditional technology and construction materials. “This sub-project began on October 14, 2019 and has been completed almost half.”

The Sharma-Gauri Parbati-New Technical JV company has been contracted to undertake the retrofitting with a total budget of around 468 million, except the value added tax (VAT). It is estimated to be completed by mid-July this year.

विकास बजेट घटाएर उच्च आर्थिक वृद्धिको दाबी

 प्रधानमन्त्री केपी शर्मा ओलीले शासन सम्हालेका विगत तीन वर्षमा लगातार विकास बजेट खर्च घट्दै जाँदा पनि प्रधानमन्त्रीले भने आफ्नो तीन वर्षे कार्यकालमा तीब्र आर्थिक वृद्धि भएको बताएका छन् । सोमबार आफ्नो कार्यकाल तीन वर्ष पुगेको अवसरमा सरकारको नेतृत्व गरेपछि गरेका विभिन्न कामहरूको विवरण नै राखेर कोरोनाका कारण केही समय अर्थतन्त्र प्रभावित भएपनि मुलुक पुनः उच्च आर्थिक वृद्धिको बाटो समात्ने गरी चलायमान भइसकेको प्रधानमन्त्रीले दावी गरे ।

प्रधानमन्त्रीले आगामी वर्ष १० प्रतिशतको आर्थिक वृद्धि हुने संकेत देखिएको दावी गर्दै विगत ३ वर्षमा २९ प्रतिशतले सार्वजनिक खर्चमा वृद्धि भएको, ९ लाखभन्दा बढी जनसंख्यालाई निरपेक्ष गरिबीको रेखाबाट माथि उठाइएको दावी गरे । यस्तै, नेपालमा गरिबी नबढेको, भोकमरी नबढेको, सबै स्थानीय तहमा वित्तीय सेवा पुगेको, व्यावसायिक आयकरको दायरा ५२.२ प्रतिशतले बढेको, बिमा सेवाको विस्तार २२.७ प्रतिशत पुगेको तथा कोभिडको महामारीमा पनि ५ प्रतिशत मात्रै मूल्यवद्धि भएको तथ्यांक उनले प्रस्तुत गरे ।

तर, अर्थविद्हरू भने उनको दावी विश्वास गर्दैनन् । अर्थविद् केशव आचार्यका अनुसार विगतका तीनै वर्ष विकास खर्चको विनियोजन घट्दै गएको छ । सरकारी र निजी लगानी वृद्धि नभइकन कसरी आर्थिक वृद्धि हुन्छ भन्ने प्रश्न गर्दै आचार्य भन्छन्, “निजी क्षेत्रको ७० प्रतिशत र सरकारको ३० प्रतिशत लगानी भएको अवस्थामा सरकारले १ रुपैयाँ खर्च गर्दा निजीक्षेत्रले २ रुपैयाँ ५० पैसा खर्च गर्दछ । तर जब सरकार खर्च गर्न असमर्थ हुन्छ निजीक्षेत्रको लगानी पनि घट्छ ।” चालू आर्थिक वर्षको ६ महिनामा विगतको एक दशकमा नै सबैभन्दा कम विकास खर्च भएको उल्लेख गर्दै आचार्य प्रश्न गर्छन्, “अनि कसरी आर्थिक वृद्धि हुन्छ ?”

सरकारले चालू आर्थिक वर्ष २०७७-७८ को अर्धवार्षिक समीक्षामार्फत गत सातामात्रै बजेटको आकार १४ खर्ब ७४ अर्ब ६४ करोड रुपैयाँबाट १ खर्ब ३० अर्बले घटाएर १३ खर्ब ४४ अर्ब ६८ करोडमा झारेको थियो । २०७४ मा प्रतिनिधिसभाको निर्वाचन भएसँगै मुलुकमा आएको करिब दुइ तिहाइको स्थिर सरकारले बजेटको आकार घटाएको यो तेस्रोपटक हो । आर्थिक वर्ष २०७६÷७७ मा लक्ष्यअनुसार खर्च गर्न नसक्ने भएपछि सरकारले १५ खर्ब ३२ अर्ब ९६ करोड ७१ लखको बजेटको अकार घटाएर १३ खर्ब ८५ अर्ब ९६ करोड ३६ लाख रुपैयाँ कायम गरेको थियो भने आर्थिक वर्ष ०७५÷७६ को १३ खर्ब १५ अर्ब बजेट रहेकोमा संशोधन गरी ११ खर्ब ९९ अर्ब झारिएको थियो ।

अर्का अर्थविद् डा. विमल कोइराला पनि लगानी नबढी आर्थिक वृद्धि हुने सरकारको दावी गलत रहेको बताउँछन् । “सरकार तथा निजीक्षेत्र दुबैको लगानी घट्दो अवस्थामा रहेका कारण आर्थिक वृद्धि हुनु असम्भव हो,” उनी भन्छन् । करिब दुई तिहाईको सरकार बनेपछि स्थायित्वको आशामा जागेको समाजिक ऊर्जालाई अर्थिक उत्पादकत्व बढाउन प्रयोग गर्नुपर्नेमा सरकार सम्पूर्ण शासनव्यवस्था राजनीतिकरण गर्नतर्फ लागेर नागरिकमा सेवा प्रवाह तथा सुशासनको प्रत्याभूतिमा चुकेको पनि उनको भनाइ छ ।

यता प्रधानमन्त्रीले भने आफूले सरकारको नेतृत्व लिने बेलामा अर्थतन्त्र अस्तव्यस्त, छरिएको, भद्रगोल र अन्योलमा रुमलिएको अवस्थामा रहेकाले र आफूले त्यस किसिमको अर्थतन्त्रलाई सम्हालेको दावी गरे । उनले आफूले सरकारको नेतृत्व सम्हालेको पहिलो वर्ष मुलुकले ७ प्रतिशत, दोस्रो वर्ष ७ प्रतिशतभन्दा माथिको आर्थिक वृद्धि हासिल गरेको तथा सातवटै प्रदेशको आर्थिक वृद्धि ६ प्रतिशत भन्दा माथि रहेको दावी पनि गरे ।

विगतको तीन वर्षमा ८९ नया कानुन निर्माण भएको, संविधानसम्मत नभएका सयौ कानुनहरू संशोधन भएको तथा केन्द्र र प्रदेशस्तरीय वित्तीय व्यवस्थापनका लागि आवश्यक कानुन, कार्यविधि निर्माण भएको जानकारी पनि प्रधानमन्त्रीले दिए । यस्तै, प्रधानमन्त्री ओलीले भूकम्पले क्षति पु¥याएका सरकारी भवनहरूको पुनर्निर्माणको काम ९५ प्रतिशत सम्पन्न भएको भन्दै निजी निवास, सरकारी निवास, सरकारी भवन, सुरक्षा निकायका भवन, स्वास्थ्य संस्थानका भवन, धार्मिक एवं पुरातात्विक महत्वका भवन पुर्ननिर्माणको क्षेत्रगत विवरण पनि प्रस्तुत गरे ।

मुलुकभरका कालोपत्र सडकको विद्यमान अवस्था र निर्माणको विस्तृत विवरण पनि प्रस्तुत गर्दैै तुईन विस्थापित भएर झोलुङगे पुल निर्माण भएको, निर्माणको अनुपात हेर्दा प्रत्येक दिन ५ किलोमिटर सडक कालोपत्र भएको र हरेक दिन १ भन्दा बढी झोलुङगे पुल निर्माण भइरहेको पनि उनले दावी गरे ।

आफ्ना कामको लामो सूची पढ्दै प्रधानमन्त्रीले हुलाकी राजमार्ग, रेल आयोजना, मध्यमार्ग, लोकमार्ग, उर्जा उत्पादन तथा वितरण, हाईड्रोपावर आयोजना लगायत क्षेत्रभएको विकास र विस्तारको विवरण पनि सुनाए । प्रधानमन्त्री कृषि आधुनिकीकरण बार्षिक अनुदान १० अर्बभन्दा माथि पु¥याइएको, दूध, माछामासु, तरकारी लगायत उत्पादनको वृद्धि अनुपात प्रस्तुत गर्दै उनले बैदेशिक लगानी, उद्योगधन्दाको विस्तार, इन्टरनेट, टेलिफोन, विमानस्थल निर्माण तथा विस्तार शिक्षा स्वास्थ्य तथा खानेपानीको क्षेत्रमा नेपालले ठूलो प्रगती हासिल गरेको दावी गरे ।

प्रधानमन्त्रीले झुटा नक्कली बिजक बनाउने, विदेशी विनिमय अपचलन गर्ने, राजस्व चुहावटलगायत यसवर्ष अख्तियार दुरुपयोग अनुसन्धान आयोगले इतिहासमै सबै भन्दा धेरै मुद्दा दायर गरेको तथा मुलुकका विभिन्न स्थानका सरकारी जग्गाहरू सरकार मातहत ल्याउने काम भएको दावी गरे । तर, अख्तियारजस्ता संवैधानिक निकायलाई राजनीतिकरण गरेका कारण नागरिकको सेवा प्रवाहमा समस्या रहेको डा. कोइरालाको भनाइ छ ।

“देशमा केही हुन नसकेको भन्ने गुनासोको स्थिति देखिए पनि खासगरी यो विभिन्न प्रकारका विरोधी हल्लाहरूले र भ्रमहरू श्रृजनाले त्यस्तो देखिएको हो,” प्रधानमन्त्रीले भने, “विश्वस्तरीय प्रतिवेदनहरूले पछिल्ला वर्षहरूमा नेपालले आर्थिक र सामाजिक विकासको क्षेत्रमा उल्लेख्य प्रगति भएको देखिएका छन् ।”

Saturday, February 13, 2021

Government plans to increase senior citizen allowance to Rs 5,000 per month

 The government is planning to increase allowance of senior citizens as it is preparing to hold election.

While addressing his party gathering organised at Chishankhugadhi in Okhaldhunga today, deputy prime minister Ishwor Pokhrel today confirmed to increase the allowance of senior citizens to Rs 5,000 per month.

Though, the Nepal Communist party (NCP) – during the election – had promised to increase the allowance in its election manifesto, the government lacks resources due to shrinking revenue base. However, Pokharel also blamed the breakaway faction – in his own words – of ruling party opposed the plan to implement in the last fiscal year. He however, did not mentions who opposed the government plan.

But the idea of distribution of state resources – to take political benefit by any party – is the misuse of the tax paid by the people. The government is expected to bring such distributive programmes to attract more votes in the election that is has proposed for April and May. The minister also argued that the government decided to seek a fresh mandate of the people as it was cornered and barred from working smoothly. He reiterated that the government is committed to work for the development and prosperity of people.

Friday, February 12, 2021

Rural Municipal chair threatens chief administrative officer for refusing to pay for government rally

 Chair of Shailung Rural Municipality threatened chief administrative officer as the later refused to pay fare for the bus that was hired to ferry people to take part in the government rally organised last week by the Oli-led faction of the ruling Nepal Communist Party (NCP) in Kathmandu.

Shailung Rural Municipality chair Bharat Dulal abused and threatened chief administrative officer Raju Prasad Shah after Shah refused to pay the fare of the bus used to ferry people from Dolakha to Kathmandu. Chair Dulal threatened Shah to leave the rural municipality, if he will not follow the order. Lately both the factions – Dahal-Nepal and Oli faction of ruling NCP (NCP) are competing in gathering huge mass to show their strength. They have been bringing the people from nearby districts to flex their muscle on the Kathmandu streets as the locals are not attracted towards the pro-and anti-government protests.

After he got threatened Shah filed a complaint at District Administration Office at the Dolakha district. Shah complained that chair Dulal misbehaved with him after he refused to pay bus fare that was not used for the official purpose. Most of the local governments have been misusing the funds supposed to be spend on the development activities, on their petty political interests. The tax-payers money have been lately misused in the political interest raising the question in the annual report of Office of Auditor General (OAG). The political rallies have become costly as both the factions have been ferrying people from outside the Valley in buses, and daily wage, and also lodgeing and fooding. Lack of transparency and accountability towards the people is leading towards financial indiscipline, which will also encourage the informal economy. 

On February 5, PM Oli-led faction of the NCP (NCP) had staged a mass gathering in Kathmandu bringing peoples from all over the country promising them of free two-way fare, lodgeing, fooding and also Pashupati tour. The bus had carried peoples from Dolakha district to Kathmandu for the mass gathering organised in Durbarmarg on February 5. Musing the government coffer, the Oli-faction had organised a mass gathering at DurbarMarg in Kathmandu on February 5, and yet organising another mass gathering in Butwal tomorrow.

Thursday, February 11, 2021

Government to have 5 per cent share in Rs 10 billion NRNA Investment Fund

 The government has promised to join hands with the Non-Resident Nepalis (NRNs) in setting up Rs 10 billion infrastructure fund.

In a meeting at the Finance Ministry today, the government announced its plan to invest five per cent in the fund according to its earlier agreement. On the occasion, finance minister Bishnu Prasad Poudel asked the NRNs to complete the registration process within a week. He also assured to provide necessary assistance, including additional financial support, so that the fund can be brought into operation immediately. 

The Non-Resident Nepali Association (NRNA) has been pushing the idea of setting up of a fund of Rs 10 billion to invest in the infrastructure sector. The Nepali diaspora has also started process of registering a separate company in Nepal for the purpose.

On the occasion, president of the NRNA Kumar Pant said that the process of registration of the company is underway. “The fund will start operating after the registration,” he said, adding said the NRNA will have 10 per cent share in the company and individual Nepalis living abroad will have 85 per cent. “The public offering will be floated for investment by NRNs.”

The NRNsA has started getting proposals for the investment sectors, Pant added.

The idea of investment fund was, though not the new one, the immediate past president (IPP) Bhawan Bhatta has pushed the process of registering the fund, and incumbent president Pant is completing the process.

The meeting was attended by minister for Industry, Commerce and Supplies Lekhraj Bhatt, finance secretary Shishir Kumar Dhungana, revenue secretary Ram Sharan Pudasaini, central bank governor Maha Prasad Adhikari, economic adviser to the finance minister Prakash Kumar Shrestha, chief executive officer (CEO) of the Investment Board-Nepal (IBN) Sushil Bhatt and others.

Wednesday, February 10, 2021

Nepal Railway proposes Rs 75 fare for Kurtha-Jayanagar rail service

 Nepal Railway has proposed Rs 75 fare for the Kurtha-Jaynagar railway.

According to Nepal Railway Company Ltd, it has sent a proposal to the Ministry of Physical Infrastructure and Transport. “As the preparation is going on to operate the railway service on Kurtha-Jayanagar section, we are waiting for the ministry’s green signal to fix the fare,” the general manager of the Company Guru Bhattarai said, adding that the company has proposed Rs 75 for the 35-kilometer route from Kurtha of Dhanusha to Jayanagar of India. “The fare of deluxe seat will cost five times to Rs 375 compared to the fare of general seat.”

Though, the company has been repeatedly claiming that it is ready to operate the railway, the two modern Diesel – Electric Multiple Unit (DEMU) train sets – bought and brought from India on September 18, 2020 to operate rail service, are being kept under special security of APF since last almost five months.

Tuesday, February 9, 2021

Nepal France plan promotion of common agenda

 Nepal and France today stressed the importance of the high-level visits and interactions to promote the agendas of common interest.

During the second meeting of Nepal-France Bilateral Consultation Mechanism – virtually held with France as the host – that concluded today, both the nations also held a wide range of matters relating to bilateral relations and cooperation between the two countries.

The two sides also exchanged views on the overall state of bilateral relations between the two countries since the official visit of the Prime Minister of Nepal to France in June 2019, according to a press note issued by the Foreign Ministry.

“The meeting discussed ways and means to promote bilateral trade and investment, transfer of technology and tourism for mutual benefit,” the press note reads, adding that the centuries-old cultural exchange and the ever-increasing people-to-people contacts were also discussed during the meeting. “While highlighting the efforts at the national and international levels towards addressing the adverse impacts of climate change, the two sides also shared their national experiences as well as commitment to continuing mutual cooperation in the context of Covid-19.”

The two sides also discussed possible cooperation in mutually beneficial areas at multilateral level, according to the Foreign Ministry.

The Nepali delegation led by joint secretary for Europe and the Americas at the ministry Nirmal Raj Kafle and also comprised officials from the finance, industry, commerce and supply, forest and environment, and tourism ministries.

Head of Asia and Oceania division at the French Ministry for Europe and Foreign Affairs Bertland Lortholary led the French delegation. Ambassadors in both the capitals were part of their respective delegations. The French delegation also comprised of French ambassador to Nepal François-Xavier Léger, and deputy chief of Mission Leela Devaradjalou, whereas the Nepali delegation comprised of senior officials from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Ministry of Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation, the Ministry of Finance, the Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal (CAAN).

White Paper on cyber safety for children

 Observing the Safer Internet Day 2021, ChildSafeNet and UNICEF Nepal published a white paper on protecting children and young people online today.

The white paper includes a comprehensive assessment on children and young people's internet use, online risks for them and their vulnerability to online abuse and exploitation, claims a press note issued by the UN agency.

The white paper was developed by ChildSafeNet – an organisation working to make the internet safer for children and young people – in collaboration with UNICEF Nepal. The white paper also includes review of the policies, plans, response mechanisms and gaps related to protection of children and young people online. 

Over the past decade, internet use has seen a rapid increase in Nepal. According to Nepal Telecommunications Authority (NTA), some 80.07 per cent Nepalis have access to internet, whereas only 2.65 per cent people were connected to internet in 2010. As stated in a report of survey, conducted by ChildSafeNet and UNICEF Nepal, one in four children and young people spend more than ten hours online after the Covid-19 outbreak.

“Despite this exponential rise, awareness levels on internet safety still remains very low,” founder and president of ChildSafeNet Anil Raghuvanshi said, “As a result, children and young people, are at an increased risk to online risks such as online sexual abuse and exploitation, cyberbullying, cyber grooming and phishing.”

Raghuvanshi informed that, in order to prepare the white paper, ChildSafeNet conducted a desktop review of over 120 research reports, policy documents, laws and international instruments related to protection of children and young people online. Likewise, inputs and recommendations were collected from six virtual workshops and 21 key informant interviews with child online protection experts and stakeholders.

“The white paper is expected to help in filling the gaps in knowledge on online safety for children and young people in Nepal and make the gravity of the issue more visible,” chief at the Child Protection, UNICEF Nepal, Inah Fatoumata Kaloga said, speaking at the virtual launch of the white paper.

Human rights lawyer and lecturer at Kathmandu Law School Kapil Aryal reviewed the policies and laws related to protection of children and young people in Nepal and contributed as a content writer of the white paper. According to Aryal, the Electronic Transactions Act 2063 is being used in all cases related to cybercrimes, which does not define cybercrimes against children. “Moreover, the Kathmandu District Court remains the only court designated to hear cases filed under this Act.”

Since The Act Relating to Children 2075 prohibits exploitation children from online sexual abuse and exploitation and defines online offences against, Aryal suggested using this Act for the cases related to online offences against children. “Moreover, the Criminal Code 2074 can also be used, which, penalises cybercrimes, online harassment, threatening, insulting and improper behavior.”

“The white paper is an evidence-based tool,” Kaloga said, adding that It is expected to contribute in policy development, programme planning and advocacy to increase engagement of the government, civil society, private sector, parents, teachers and other stakeholders to make the internet safer.

The white paper provides a set of actionable recommendations to the government, civil society organisations, private sector, parents, teachers, children and young people in order to make the digital technologies safer for children and young people.

Sunday, February 7, 2021

Nepse suspends shares trading of 11 firms

 Frontline regulator of the share market, Nepal Stock Exchange (Nepse), today suspended some 11 companies from their shares being traded.

According to a decision taken today by the board of the Nepse, the trading of shares of 7 hydropower companies, one life insurance company, one development bank, and two microfinance companies has been suspended. “The trading has been suspended in response to the letter sent from Securities Board of Nepal (Sebon), the capital market regulator,” confirmed the Nepse.

The Nepse suspended the trading of shares of Nepal Hydro Developer Limited (NHDL), Panchakanya Mai Hydropower Limited (PMHPL), Panchthar Power Company Limited (PPCL), Radhi Bidyut Company Limited (RADHI), Universal Power Company Limited (UPCL), Rairang Hydropower Development Company Limited (RRHP), Union Hydropower Company Limited (UNHPL), Gurans Life Insurance Company Limited (GLICL), Karnali Development Bank Limited (KRBL), Kalika Laghubitta Bittiya Sanstha Limited (KMCDB) and National Microfinance Laghubitta Bittiya Sanstha Limited (NMFBS), according to a press note issued by the Nepse.

The listed companies must submit their annual reports to Nepse and Sebon within the specified time frame. “The listed companies that fail to submit the necessary documents on time can be suspended from trading by Nepse,” the press note reads, adding that the 11 companies that are suspended as they failed to submit their respective annual report of the fiscal year 2075-76 to the regulatory body on time.

Thursday, February 4, 2021

Japanese grant assistance for DRR Project in Chitwan

 The government of Japan has extended $707,953 (around Rs 82.6 million), to Shapla Neer - Citizens’ Committee in Japan for Overseas Support, under the grant assistance for Japanese NGO Projects Schemes. Shapla Neer – an international NGO based in Japan – will work with a Nepali partner NGO, Rural Reconstruction Nepal (RRN), to implement the Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) Strengthening Project in Chitwan District, according to a press note issued by the Japanese Embassy in Kathmandu.

A grant contract relating to the project was signed and exchanged on February 5, 2021 by ambassador of Japan to Nepal Saigo Masamichi and country representative of Shapla Neer Nepal Office Katsui Hiromi, at the Embassy of Japan in Kathmandu, the press note reads, adding that the grant assistance will be used to strengthen community resilience to disasters in Madi Municipality, a flood prone area in Chitwan district.

The project will coordinate closely with local government, stakeholders and community members to achieve capacity development of local government and communities, establishment and maintenance of infrastructure, and DRR public awareness activities.

“The project – under capacity development of local government and communities – plans to develop the capacity of local institutions such as the Local Disaster Management Committees (LDMCs), Ward Disaster Management Committees (WDMCs) and Community Disaster Management Committees (CDMCs) on disaster risk reduction, and facilitate the cooperation between these committees and other stakeholders,” it reads, adding that the project will – under establishment and maintenance of infrastructure –establish and maintain infrastructure. “The project will support construction of river widening, gabions, and embankments, as well as retention walls and drainage systems.”

CDMCs will establish the maintenance system to keep the structures functional.

Likewise, under DRR public awareness activities, the project will prepare and distribute a self-learning brochure on DRR among government bodies, stakeholders and other NGOs, it added.

The Embassy of Japan in Nepal claimed that it expects the project to contribute towards improving DRR in the local communities in Chitwan and will develop as a good practice for DRR in other districts in Nepal. It is also confident that the project will contribute towards furthering the cordial friendship between the peoples of Japan and Nepal.

Wednesday, February 3, 2021

Election Commission seeks Rs 7.79 billion to hold elections

 The Election Commission (EC) sought Rs 7.79 billion from the government to conduct the midterm elections scheduled for April 30 and May 10.

Writting a letter to the Finance Ministry, the commission today demanded the money to prepare for the mid-term poll announced by the incumbent government led by the Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli.

“A meeting of the commission yesterday estimated that they will need Rs 7.79 billons to conduct the midterm election of the House of Representatives (HoR) scheduled for April 30 and May 10,” a press note from the commission reads, adding that the commission demanded Rs 374 million to arrange measures necessary for the safety of the Covid-19 pandemic also. “The commission does not plan to buy any new equipment and vehicles for the midterm polls as the equipment and vehicles that it has at its disposal can be operated after necessary maintenance,” the press note reads, adding that it has developed a work procedure to hold the election and manage other election-related expenses in an economic manner in view of the fact that the midterm election is being held in the immediate aftermath of the Covid-19 pandemic that left the country’s economy paralysed.

The economists, however, claim that the elections will cost the country five times more than the commission has asked for. “Since the election also will have other huge costs, the overall expenses of the elections will come to around Rs 35 billion,” said economist Dr Chandramani Adhikari.

The elections have become costly as the constituencies are bigger than the previous polls, he said, except the expenses for the commission, there are other costs for the candidate and also the political parties. “The elections have lately been very costly due to larger constituencies, and also our electoral system.”

Though the Election Commission has fixed an upper limit of the expenses for a candidate of all the political parties, the candidates must spend more than the fixed amount to win the elections, he said, adding that the mid-term polls expenses will put pressure on development expenses. “Since the government is unable to spend the development budget due to coronavirus pandemic, the Finance Ministry will be forced to transfer the unspent development budget for the elections.”

The government has – in the budget for the current fiscal year – not allocated budget for the elections in the budget as the elections will be hold every five years, and this is not the election year. However, premier Oli dissolved the House and announced the mid-term poll – against the spirit of the Constitution of the country – due to his personal rivalry with another chair of the ruling political party NCP (NCP) Puspa Kamal Dahal ‘Prachand’ and senior leader Madhav Kumar Nepal, both the former prime ministers.

Monday, February 1, 2021

Nepal becoming self-reliant in energy, claims Prime Minister

 Though, Nepal has been importing, more than half of the electricity it consumes, from India at present, Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli today claimed that the country is heading toward becoming self-reliant in the energy sector.

Inaugurating the 400 kV substation at Dhalkebar in Dhanusha today, Oli claimed that the infrastructure will serve as the main gateway to import and export electricity to India. The substation was constructed with joint investment by the government of Nepal and Nepal Electricity Authority (NEA), the sole government power utility.

“We are becoming self-reliant in the energy sector,” the prime minister said adding that Nepal will be able to export electricity with the completion of Dhalkebar substation. “At present, we are self-reliant only in the rainy season,” he said, showing confident that Nepal will be completely self-reliant in the energy sector round the year in a couple of years.

The substation – constructed under the ‘National Electricity Development Decade’ programme enables NEA to exchange 1,000 MW to 1,200 MW of electricity with India via the Dhalkebar-Muzaffarpur cross-border transmission line, according to the NEA.

On the occasion, energy minister Top Bahadur Rayamajhi and minister for Urban Development Prabhu Shah were also present 

The 400 kV Dhalkebar substation has officially come online from today. The government has targeted to increase the electricity production to 3,000 MW in the current fiscal year, though its not possible in practical. Given the existing domestic demand of around 1,400 MW, there will be a surplus energy, if the government’s target is met. However, Nepal is importing 680 MW electricity from India at present. Within a couple of weeks, Nepal will add 100 MW more import – making a total of 780 MW import – from India to meet the domestic consumption.

But according to the government, it has also planned to develop 10,000 MW of electricity by 2025. In this context, the Dhalkebar-Muzaffarpur cross-border transmission line is considered the most strategic infrastructure for power trade with neighboring countries. It is also expected to help materialise the proposed energy banking between Nepal and India, the NEA claimed, adding that it had charged the substation in November with the completion of its construction. “The infrastructure now enables the NEA to also send electricity produced from Upper Tamakoshi to east and west for domestic consumption, apart from exporting energy to India.”

Nepal hopes to see democratic and constitutional process restored soon in Myanmar

 Though, government itself is under scrutiny for its unconstitutional move, it has expressed hope that the democratic and constitutional process in Myanmar will be restored soon.

Issuing a press note in response to the military takeover in Myanmar today, the Foreign Ministry said that Nepal has been closely following the recent developments in Myanmar. “We believe that all parties involved will respect the will of the Myanmar people and hope that the democratic and constitutional process will be restored soon,” the press note reads, adding that Nepal is equally concerned about the safety and wellbeing of the detained civilian leaders including president U Win Myint and State Counsellor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi. “We call for their immediate release.”

Suu Kyi, along with other leaders of her National League for Democracy party, were detained by the military in early morning raids.

The army, however, claimed that it had carried out the detentions in response to ‘election fraud’, handing power to military chief Min Aung Hlaing and imposing a state of emergency for one year, according to a statement on a military-owned television station. 

Governments and international organisations immediately denounced the military coup, saying it sets back the limited democratic reforms Myanmar has made. The United Nations said the developments (in Myanmar) were a ‘serious blow to democratic reforms’ and urged all leaders to refrain from violence and respect human rights. The United States, Britain, Australia and the European Union condemned the military’s coup and detentions and its declaration of a state of emergency. India also said it expresses ‘deep concern’ over the reports of an unfolding military coup in Myanmar. However, China said it ‘noted’ what happened in Myanmar.

The Military coup in Myanmar today, however, comes as a grim reminder for Nepalis of a royal coup exactly 16 years ago on February 1, 2005, when the then king Gyanendra had assumed absolute power, declared himself the chair of the council of ministers and put political party leaders in house arrest. Then King Gyanendra had also cut off telephone and internet connections and declared a state of emergency like the Myanmar military ruler did today. The media was also put under military censorship and army men took over the newsroom of the media houses in Kathmandu.

Apart from media censorship, Myanmar’s military has also taken control of the country under a one-year state of emergency. The announcement on military-owned Myawaddy TV cited Article 417 of the country’s constitution, which allows the military to take over in times of emergency. The announcer said the coronavirus crisis and the government’s failure to postpone November elections were reasons for the emergency. The military drafted the constitution in 2008 and retains power under the charter at the expense of democratic and civilian rule. Human Rights Watch has described the clause as a ‘coup mechanism in waiting.’

The constitution also reserves key cabinet ministries and 25 per cent of the seats in Parliament for the military, a portion that limits the power of a civilian government and rules out amending the charter without military support. 

In November elections, Suu Kyi’s party captured 396 out of 476 seats in the combined lower and upper houses of Parliament. The state Union Election Commission has confirmed the result but the military claimed there were millions of irregularities in voter lists in 314 townships that could have let voters cast multiple ballots or commit other ‘voting malpractice.’

Immediately after the coup notice, residents flocked to ATMs and food vendors, while some shops and homes removed the symbols of Suu Kyi’s party, the National League for Democracy, that typically adorn the streets and walls of the city.