Tuesday, June 29, 2021

South Asia must reform debt-accumulating state-owned banks and enterprises to avert next financial crisis

South Asia’s heavy reliance on state-owned commercial banks, state-owned enterprises, public-private partnerships (PPP) and other national and sub-national public entities conceals its vulnerability to accumulating unsustainable levels of debt, according to a new World Bank report, 'Hidden Debt: Solutions to Avert the Next Financial Crisis in South Asia,' released today.

Claiming that South Asia is more exposed to the risk of 'hidden debt' from state-owned commercial banks (SOCBs), state-owned enterprises (SOEs) and public-private partnerships (PPPs) because of its greater reliance on them compared to other regions, the report offers key areas for policy actions and concrete reforms that can help governments leverage public capital more responsibly through these types of entities to advance economic development.

"The Covid-19 pandemic has highlighted South Asia’s rising levels of public debt," World Bank Vice President for South Asia Hartwig Schafer said, adding that the region is more exposed to the risk of hidden debt because it relies heavily on the governments’ involvement in markets to aid economic development. “But the crisis demonstrates the critical importance of the judicious use of debt-financed public commitments and debt transparency to build back better, more sustainably, and more equitably.”

Hidden Debt studies the trade-offs between addressing development challenges directly through state presence in the markets and the risk of accumulating high levels of debt due to economic inefficiencies of off-balance sheet operations. It focuses on SOBCs, SOEs and PPPs and their contingent liabilities—obligations incurred by governments off their balance sheets that have triggers for payment. Over time, part of the debt is revealed as it hits the central government budget and debt stock, but a large part remains hidden under the radar of existing financial disclosure standards.

"The efficiency of South Asian state-owned banks and other state-owned enterprises is well below the international benchmark,” World Bank chief economist for South Asia Hans Timmer said, adding, "As governments rebuild from the shock of the Covid-19 pandemic and strive to avert future financial crises, they should clearly separate the social and commercial objectives of these enterprises in order to reduce inefficiencies, while maintaining socially beneficial investments.”

Governments often promise SOEs subsidies to run programmes such as advancing access to electricity to underserved populations and small enterprises. SOCBs are asked to run government programmes to promote financial inclusion or lend to under-served or riskier small and medium enterprises, often without compensation for losses that private markets avoid. They are also asked to stimulate economies during downturns or financially support large PPPs that have concentrated risks. These hidden mandates are based on requests that are often made ad hoc and without consideration of risks or costs.

“In episodes of systemic shock—such as the global financial crisis or the Covid-19 pandemic—when many banks experience distress simultaneously, private banks deleverage and curtail lending, while state-owned commercial banks receive capital and debt support from the state to continue or increase lending,” World Bank lead economist and author of the report Martin Melecky said, addinf that this short-term stabilising function but comes at the cost of crowding out other social spending as public funds get spent on bank recapitalization and significant credit misallocation—away from successful firms and especially small and medium enterprises—making for an unequal recovery.

The report estimates that a systemic macro-financial crisis can trigger PPP failures that would cost South Asian countries more than 4 per cent of revenues, and the potential costs from distressed SOEs have been even more overwhelming. In Pakistan, the total liabilities of chronic loss-making SOEs have been 8 per cent to 12 per cent of GDP in recent years, several times more than the country’s public spending on education in the fiscal year 2019-20. In Sri Lanka, liabilities of loss-making SOEs have been around 4 per cent to 5 per cent of GDP. In every country studied, the top 10 loss-making SOEs account for more than 80 per cent of the total losses in the SOE sector.

Distressed public agents at the sub-national level also inflict substantial costs on the real economy and local business. When a subnational government is hit by a contingent liability shock, local investments suffer for several years. For example, local investments in the Indian states fall significantly in the year of a contingent liability shock, continue to decline in the year after, and remain significantly below the trend for three years after the event.

These downside risks of leveraging public capital can be mitigated and the upside benefits enhanced through four key avenues for reform including purpose, incentives, transparency and accountability.

Purpose : Clearly defining the purpose of SOCBs, SOEs and PPPs by spelling out their social versus commercial mandates.

Incentives : Structuring institutions, rules, and contracts in a way that creates proper incentives to perform in a manner consistent with the defined purpose. Importantly, the nature and extent of operational costs for SOCBs, SOEs, and PPPs—which often exceed market costs—need to be determined and linked to the government’s budgetary and debt management frameworks up front so that central governments can enforce greater financial discipline—including through hard budget constraints. 

Transparency : Ensuring debt transparency and data collection so that both central and subnational governments can understand how SOCBs, SOEs, and PPPs shape the fiscal space and contribute to overall public debt—including direct obligations and explicit and implicit guarantees. Economic transparency is also needed, starting with public disclosure of the purpose of SOCBs, SOEs, and PPPs, the theory of change behind their operations, and robust monitoring and evaluation frameworks to demonstrate their developmental impact.

Accountability : Engaging financial markets, industry associations, the media and civil society in demanding the accountability of government for leveraging public capital responsibility in its off-balance sheet operations so it cannot use them for political self-interest or side deals.

Sunday, June 27, 2021

Government and World Bank sign $150 million agreement to support resilient recovery

The government and the World Bank today signed a $150 million (Rs 17.78 billion) concessional loan agreement to support Nepal’s resilient recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic, protect the most vulnerable, and support sustainable growth.

The agreement was signed by the finance secretary Sishir Kumar Dhungana on behalf of the government and the World Bank country director for Maldives, Nepal, and Sri Lanka Faris Hadad-Zervos, on behalf of the multilateral development partner.

"The project will help Nepal build back better and greener through reforms to the tax and customs systems, public investment management, environmental regulations and debt management,” finance secretary Dhungana said, adding that the proposed budgetary support will be utilised in the physical infrastructural projects and economic recovery sectors as per the requirement and priorities of the government.

The first Fiscal Policy for Growth, Recovery and Resilience Development Policy Credit further supports reforms aimed at protecting the most vulnerable and supporting business growth, according to a press note issued by the World Bank. Reforms in this area focus on social protection, the intergovernmental framework, and supporting access to capital for firms, it reads, adding that it will help speed up the ongoing large development projects to create jobs, accelerate markets, and support green recovery. "The financing will be provided to the government through budgetary support."

"The project will help the country achieve sustained growth during and after the Covid-19 pandemic that is inclusive, job-creating and environmentally sustainable,” World Bank country director for Maldives, Nepal, and Sri Lanka Faris Hadad-Zervos said, adding that the World Bank is committed to support the government’s pandemic response to protect lives and stimulate economic recovery in Nepal.

Friday, June 25, 2021

Young Business Executive Forum inaugurated

 The Young Business Executive Forum (YBEF) has been formally inaugurated under the umbrella of Nepal Foreign Trade Association (NFTA). Led by Gaurav Sharda, the forum is the youth department of the association. The association has appointed Sharda as the President of the YBEF, according to a press note issued by the association.

According to the association, the forum aims at developing dynamic young business leaders. "The forum has been formed to create capable youth leadership in the business sector through knowledge exchange, promotion of innovative ideas and practical learning, and exchange of information," president of the association Sunil Kumar Bansal said.

The forum will promote the skills and abilities of young entrepreneurs by teaching them good business practices, the press note reads, adding that the forum believes that it will prepare the leadership to face the challenges of the dynamic corporate world.

Sushil Gupta is the advisor of the forum.

The association has also informed that Jayant Agrawal is the vice president and Sumit Kumar Banshal (Dhanuka) is the general secretary of the forum. Likewise, Saloni Sethia has been given the responsibility of bilateral trade and relations. Pravesh Agrawal has been given the responsibility of the Import and Export Trade Promotion Department and Kushal Sundar Shrestha has been given the responsibility of the network and membership campaign.

The forum has unveiled its banner and made the forum public at a function held in Kathmandu today.

Italy extends support to Nepal to fight Covid pandemic

A consignment of medical equipment and supplies from Italy arrived early today morning to support Nepal fight the second wave of the pandemic through the EU Civil Protection Mechanism.

Italy is among the 12 EU member estates – Spain, Finland, France, Belgium, Germany, Slovenia, Austria, Malta, Denmark and Ireland – responding to Nepal’s call for assistance. More support is expected soon from Lithuania and Germany, according to a press note issued by the EU Office in Kathmandu.

"In these challenging times, Italy is at the frontline of the fight against coronavirus, as testified also by the Global Health Summit co-hosted with the European Commission in Rome last May 21st," ambassador of Italy to Nepal Vincenzo de Luca said, adding that in the framework of the EU Civil Protection Mechanism, this relief flight to Nepal is a sign of the support and solidarity of Italy towards the Nepalis friends. "Once more, the United Nations Humanitarian Response Depot (UNHRD) based in Brindisi, Italy, has proven to be a crucial logistic support to humanitarian airlifts everywhere in the world."

The relief equipment donated by Italy consists of 20 ventilators, 6000 isolation gowns and 10,000 protective overalls.

Honorary Consul to Italy Pratima Pande joined by the EU ambassador to Nepal Nona Deprez handed over the equipment to chief specialist from the Ministry of Health and Population (MoHP) Dr Roshan Pokhrel at the Tribhuvan International Airport (TIA). In a true Team Europe spirit, the ambassadors of Germany and France also participated in the ceremony.

"As long-standing friends and partners, the EU and its member states support Nepal during these difficult times," Nona Deprez said, adding that the medical supplies will help against the spread of Covid and alongside public health measures will help save precious lives across Nepal.

Alongside other donors, the EU will monitor the distribution and the use of the supplies across the country, the press note reads.

The recording of the quantity of supplies entering the country and quantities moving out from the Humanitarian Staging Areas in Sinamangal, is done in the e Logistic Management Information System (eLIMS) of Health Ministry.

Thursday, June 24, 2021

Chinese technical team in Kathmandu for design works of Express Way project

 A technical team of a Chinese company has arrived in Kathmandu today by chartered flight for design of Express Way.

The Chinese team has been awarded the contract for the Kathmandu – Terai Expressway Project. The 14-member technical team that includes Poly Changda Engineering Corporation’s tunnel, highway engineer and manager will start design the project work, according to Brigadier General and spokesperson of the Nepali Army Santosh Ballabh Poudel.

Nepal Army awarded the contract to the Poly Changda Engineering Corporation for the second package, some 1.37-km from Simpani in Dhedre of Makwanpur to Chalise Kholsi and 1.4-km from Ghattepakha in Lendanda to Bandrekholsi, where they will construct two tunnels and bridges.

Nepal Army signed an agreement worth Rs 28.53 billion was with Poly Changda Engineering Corporation on April 13.

However, the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) had directed to stop pre-qualification and start a new process saying that there would be no competition, if only one company was selected in the package. But with the Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli's back up the Nepal Army did not back off the agreement and went on with the Poly Changda Engineering Corporation to start the work.

The PAC had asked to stop the contract suspecting that there might have been a big manipulation. But the Nepal army has moved ahead with the construction in defiance of the PAC directive saying that it is in accordance with the Public Procurement Regulations and the Act.

There are three tunnels of about 6-km on the Express Way.

The first package that includes a 3,300-kilometer tunnel under construction at Mahadevdanda, a motorable bridge and a road section was commissioned by China State Engineering Corporation Ltd. The contract was awarded at a cost of Rs 21.61 billion for the first package that will also start soon as a team from the company is also conducting a survey.

The Nepal Army has planned to complete the design in 6 months and construction in 3 years.

Government, CNI seal a deal to implement ‘Make In Nepal-Swadeshi’ campaign

 The government and Confederation of Nepalese Industries (CNI) signed an agreement today to launch the ‘Make in Nepal-Swadeshi’ marketing campaign.

According to a press note issued by the CNI, the government has extended support to implementation of the campaign. The Confederation has launched the campaign with an aim of ramping up domestic production, raising the competitiveness of businesses and increasing the demand for domestic goods and services. The campaign is being conducted with the consent and cooperation of the government. It is also expected to help the local industries to become self-reliant by expanding the country's industrial base and increasing production.

At a formal programme organised at the Office of the Prime Minister and Council of Ministers today, chief secretary Shankar Das Bairagi said that the marketing campaign and understanding will help turn Nepal into a self-reliant economy from current export based economy. "Now, the government and the CNI must move forward by efficiently discharging their responsibilities,” he said, adding that the government is easing policies and procedures. "Now the private sector must work to realise this."

On the occasion, CNI president Satish Kumar More said that the marketing campaign might be essential for the manufacturing and promotion of Nepali products. "Nepal now needs to produce and promote its own goods," he said, showing confidence that the campaign will help to promote domestic products.

Five metropolis announce Rs 37.68 billion budget

Five out of the six metropolitan cities in the country announced a budget of Rs 37.68 billion for the next fiscal year 2021-22, as Lalitpur failed to being the budget due to dispute.

The federal and provincial governments, according to the Constitutions and Fiscal Transfer Act have already brought the budget for the next fiscal year. According to the Fiscal Transfer Act, the local governments must bring the budget by Asar 10 (June 24), and most of the local governments, of the total 753 brought the budget by today.

Kathmandu metropolitan city has the largest budget of Rs 18.95 billion and Birgunj has the smallest one of Rs 3.55 billion for the next fiscal year, among the five that brought the budget today. The Biratnagar Metropolitan City has brought Rs 4.10 billion budget, of which it has allocated some 89 per cent to Rs 3.58 billion under capital heading.

Likewise, Pokhara has brought a budget of Rs 6.27 billion, of which it has allocated some 53 per cent for the capital expenditure. Bharatpur has brought a budget of Rs 4.81 billion for the next fiscal year. After the five years also, the local governments are largely dependent on grants from the federal governments and the provinces.

The Lalitpur metropolis has failed to bring budget due to internal dispute, though there is no opposition in the local level, there has been a lots of politics among them hindering the development activities. They have neither increased their capacity to spend capital budget nor the resource mobilisation to their full capacity. Rather they have been indulged in financial irregularities, and follow the bad practices of the federal government.

Almost all the Metropolitan cities have claimed to have primarily focused the budget in vaccination against coronavirus and other measures to combat the Covid-19 spread.

Wednesday, June 23, 2021

Domestic flights to resume from July 1

The domestic airline industry is going to resume the service from July 1.

Ministry of Tourism, Culture and Civil Aviation (MoTCA) started preparations to resume domestic flights from July 1, following the cabinet decision to allow the flights.

The domestic airlines are allowed only fifty per cent passenger as a safety measure against the Covid-19 spread. The Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal (CAAN) directed the airlines to ensure the implementation of all necessary safety protocols.

The authority has also provided airline staffers a week to reside out of the Kathmandu valley to return to their work stations in line with the readjusted timing of the resumption of domestic flights.

The airline companies, welcoming the government decision, started ticket booking.

Likewise, the ministry has also allowed the international flights to resume their services from tomorrow.

Canada supports Tele-Medicine Services for Covid-19 patients in rural Nepal

Canada has announced funding of $50,000 (around Rs 4.82 million) to the ASK Foundation of Nepal in support of its work in providing tele-medicine services to Covid-19 patients residing in rural areas of Nepal. This funding is provided through the Canada Fund for Local Initiatives and supports the Government of Nepal’s Covid-19 Response Plan, according to a press note issued by the Canadian Embassy for Nepal in New Delhi.

As part of the project the ASK Foundation will provide services to those affected by Covid-19, with a particular focus on those in the remote and rural parts of Nepal, including a hotline providing medical consultations for Covid-19 patients; monitoring of Covid-19 patients in home isolation and the provision of timely referrals; and tele-ICU services to connect patients with care centers, as well as connecting local doctors and nurses with experts in Kathmandu, who provide on-line medical advice.

As a result of the project, approximately 20,000 Covid-19 patients from rural areas will receive medical counselling and hospitalization support for critical cases; an expected 1,000 Covid-19 patients in home isolation in rural areas will receive monitoring care and referrals for hospitalisation; and an estimated 400 patients are also expected to benefit from tele-ICU services, the press note reads. "In addition, the project will also provide on-the-job training to medical professionals practicing outside of Kathmandu to help them treat ICU patients."

The monitoring of patients in home isolation will be carried out in collaboration with Health Advance Programmes (HAPSA), one of the members of the Covid Alliance. HAPSA will provide isolation kits, which include medical devices, medicines and leaflets containing information on related care for infection and a hotline number.

"Canada is pleased to continue supporting lifesaving efforts in Nepal by awarding funding to the ASK Foundation to provide tele-medicine services for Covid-19 patients in rural areas," Canada’s acting ambassador to Nepal Deirdre Kent said, adding that Canada also recently contributed to Nepal’s fight against Covid-19 via grants of $1 million to the Red Cross and $1.5 million to UNICEF. "In addition, a Canadian Armed Forces flight carrying donated medical supplies will soon be on its way. Canada stands with our friend and partner Nepal in its fight against Covid-19."

Tuesday, June 22, 2021

Domestic and international flights to resume with some restrictions

The domestic and international flights that remained suspended since the government imposed prohibitory orders shortly after the outbreak of the second wave of Covid-19 in April, will resume with some restrictions, according to the government.

The government has announced to resume both domestic and international flights, confirmed the Office of Prime Minister and Council of Ministers. "The domestic flights will be allowed to operate with 50 per cent seat occupancy, while international flights will be operated as per the safety protocol of the government," the notice published by the Office of Prime Minister and Council of Ministers reads. 

However, the Ministry of Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation will fix the number of flights for each airlines. But it is said that government is allowing the airlines to operate half the flights, from what they used to operate before Covid-19. The Cabinet meeting, on Monday, decided to lift the restrictions for domestic services from Sunday.

The domestic airlines welcomed the government decision saying that the resumption of flights would boost business confidence.

The government has also decided to resume regular international flights to and from Kathmandu in some destinations especially the labour destinations, reads the notice. Though, the exact number of Nepali migrant workers stuck abroad is unknown, it is estimated that some 1,500 to 2,000 Nepalis are waiting to return home from each of the popular labour destination countries.

They are mostly those workers whose contracts or visas have expired. Likewise, the flights will also help to bring back the bodies of dead migrant workers that have remained in many destination countries. Some 70 to 80 bodies of Nepali migrant workers are stranded in different labour destinations, according to the government.

With the new decisions, Nepal Airlines and Qatar Airways will be allowed to operate two flights each a week in Kathmandu-Doha sector. Similarly, four flights each a week will be allowed in Kathmandu-Doha sector, Kathmandu-Kwalalumpur sector, two flights each a week in Kathmandu-Istanbul sector, Kathmandu-Damam and Kathmandu-Kuwait sectors.

The government will also allow to operate one flight each a week in Kathmandu-Muscat, Kathmandu- Seoul, Kathmandu-Tokyo, Kathmandu-Chhengdu and Kathmandu-Guangzhou sectors.

Earlier, except for two weekly flights on the Kathmandu-Delhi sector, Nepal halted all domestic flights from midnight of May 3, and all international flights from midnight of May 6 as the coronavirus looked like spreading out of control. The two flights on the Kathmandu-New Delhi route, one each for Nepal Airlines and Air India remain unchanged, under an air bubble arrangement.

Norway commits NOK 45 million to EIF to spur economic recovery in the LDCs

Norway's Ministry of Foreign Affairs is contributing NOK 45 million (CHF 4.8 million) to the Enhanced Integrated Framework (EIF) to support projects aimed at helping the world's poorest countries recover from the Covid-19 crisis. The new contribution was announced at the EIF's steering committee meeting today, attended by director-general Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala and Norway's WTO ambassador Dagfinn Sørli.

"Through its generous contribution to the EIF, Norway is supporting LDCs in playing a more active role in international trade and helping their people to benefit from the higher incomes and better jobs that trade can bring," said Dr Okonjo-Iweala.

The world's poorest countries have been particularly hard hit by the Covid-19 crisis due to the fragility of their economies and to disruptions in trade flows caused by a variety of trade-restrictive measures implemented by governments.

"Norway is pleased that its substantial contribution to the EIF’s important work will help least-developed countries use trade as a tool for sustainable economic growth and poverty reduction," Ambassador Sørli said, adding that it is vital to help these countries overcome the enormous challenges, which the pandemic has exacerbated.

Since the Covid-19 pandemic started, the EIF and its country partners have adapted their projects to address pressing  needs, from strengthening nascent tourism sectors to building the e-commerce capabilities of micro, small and medium-sized enterprises and women-owned businesses, the EIF's executive director Ratnakar Adhikari said, thanking Norway for helping LDCs forge ahead with developing their trade capabilities.

Norway has been an EIF donor for 12 years. The latest contribution brings Norway's total EIF funding to NOK 345 million since the programme started in 2009.

The EIF's biannual steering committee serves as a forum for information exchange and a platform for LDC representatives, donors and development partners to provide guidance to ensure that the EIF can effectively deliver on its goals.

Online nomination of ICT Award 2021 for 11 different categories starts

 The online nomination of the sixth edition of the ICT Award has started from today. Award nominations in 11 different categories have been opened for the ICT Award 2021 organised by Living with ICT and in collaboration with various government and private organisations, according to a press note.

The online nominations for the ICT Awards 2021 -- established as a prestigious award in the field of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) -- have been opened in view of the declining rates of the second wave of Covid- 19. Despite the postponement of most events during the transition period of the first wave last year, the winners of 12 categories were honored at a special event at the Soaltee Hotel on December 23, 2020, advancing the nomination and selection process of the ICT Awards 2020 through virtual medium, the press note reads.

Most of the selection committee meetings of this year's ICT Awards will be virtual as well. There are more than two dozen jury and advisors for the ICT Award selection process. Interested individuals, companies, products or organisations in 11 different categories can apply till 16th Shrawan, 2078. Competitors themselves or anyone else can register online nominations for the award.

Startup ICT Award, Product ICT Award, Rising Student ICT Award are the awards categories related to innovations and startups. Likewise, Pioneer ICT Award, Nepali Diaspora ICT Award, Entrepreneur ICT Award and Media Person ICT Award are given to the individuals, the press note adds.

LIkewise, the awards given to government and private organizations include Digital Education ICT Award (Public Sector), Digital Education ICT Award (Private Sector), Digital Governance ICT Award (Public Sector), and Digital Governance ICT Award (Private Sector). "The ICT Awards, which started in 2016, have so far honoured more than 50 individuals, organisations, companies and products in various categories," it claims, adding that last year's Huawei ICT Award 2020 received more than 400 online applications.

This year, to make the selection process of the award more systematic and fair, a jury team of more than 12 individuals will select the winner in different stages conducting different selection process for 3 months, the organiser claims, adding that after 3 rounds of selection in Startup, Product, Student Star Innovation category, public voting will be conducted by declaring the top 5. "Similarly, In the other genres , 4 different stages of virtual selection and field visit will also be conducted."

Award winners will receive various services and facilities with special honours. Winners of Startup, Product, Rising Star categories will also get concessional loan facility and investment opportunity.

Monday, June 21, 2021

Japan provides digital elevation technology for disaster resilience

With regard to the natural disaster over the country caused by the current monsoon in the midst of Covid-19 pandemic, ambassador Kikuta shared his condolences message for Nepali people via Facebook of the Embassy of Japan today.

He offered his sincere condolences to all the victims as well as his respect and encouragement to those who are working hard in this trying time. He also extended his special condolences to the workers, who lost their lives by the flood in Melamchi Municipality of Sindhupalchok, as many affected residents might be working for the Melamchi Water Supply Project, which Japan has been assisting in its important component, the Water Treatment Plant (WTP) in Sundarijal, to supply fresh drinking water to Kathmandu. He earnestly hopes that all residents who suffered from the Melamchi flood, the landslide in Helambu Rural Municipality and all other calamites may stay in the safe environment.

Japan has been supporting Nepal, which is prone to earthquakes, landslides and floods, for more disaster-resilience. For the floods, Japan signed with Nepal to support 'The Project for the Development of Digital Elevation Model and Orthophoto,' in last May 2020 as for the Grant Aid (equivalent to Rs 1,319.9 million ), according to a press note issued by the Embassy of Japan in Kathmandu.

This project is in accordance with the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Strategic Plan of Action (2018-2030) of Nepal, and we strongly hope the hazard maps using the data of this project along with further research will reduce the flood risk of the Terai region, and improve people’s lives even in the monsoon season, the press note reads, adding that Japan strongly urge to put it forward to secure lives and properties of Nepali friends once the pandemic subsides, although the project has taken time to proceed at the moment due to the Covid-19 situation.

For the Covid-19, in addition to the oxygen generators already handed over to Nepal, the Embassy of Japan signed the agreement with Nepal on June 16 to procure 114 additional oxygen generators under Japanese Grant Aid. "We hope our oxygen generators will support the smooth recovery of the Covid-19 patients, and they will be efficient for who suffered from the after-effects, assisting them to breathe safely in the stage of convalescence, to let them fully recovered and restart their daily lives," The Embassy press note reads.

The Embassy also hopes that the support in various sectors will contribute towards further strengthening the relationship, friendship and cooperation between the peoples of Japan and Nepal.

Sunday, June 20, 2021

Government relaxes prohibitory orders

The Kathmandu Valley district administrations decided to extend the prohibitory orders in the Valley by a week but with some relaxation.

Though, the prohibitory orders will remain in force until  June 28, the private vehicles will be allowed to operate on an odd-even basis, confirmed chief district officer of Kathmandu district, Kali Prasad Parajuli. 

Likewise, taxi services will also operate based on the odd-even system, he said adding that other public transportation services, however, are yet to resume. 

A meeting of the Valley’s three chief district officers today announced the decision to relax the orders starting Tuesday citing the declining cases of Covid-19 infections in the Valley.

The prohibitory orders, first introduced for a week starting April 29, have been extended several times and are due to expire on Monday midnight.

The businesses are also allowed to operate on alternate days, chief district officer of Lalitpur district Dhundi Prasad Niraula, said, adding that the grocery and department stores will be allowed to open till 11 am every day, various other shops will remain open from 11 am to 4 pm and 11 am to 6 pm.

According to chief district officer of Bhaktapur district Prem Prasad Bhattrai, the shops are allowed to open on particular day and particular time. 

"Jewellery shops, electronics stores and automobile shops will be allowed to open on Sundays, Tuesdays and Thursdays, whereas shopping malls, clothing stores, gift shops, sports apparel stores and cosmetic shops will be allowed to operate on Mondays, Tuesdays and Fridays," according to the notice published by the District Administration Office, Kathmandu.

Likewise, restaurants are allowed to run takeaway services till 7 pm, and shops selling construction materials, bathroom fixtures and accessories and furniture stores are allowed to open from 11 am till 6 pm. "Vehicles carrying construction materials are also allowed to operate at night," the notice reads.

The daily Covid-19 cases have been coming down after peaking on May 11 when the country confirmed a record 9,317 new infections. The daily new infection numbers has come down to 1,421 with 51 fatalities, today.

Saturday, June 19, 2021

Nepal receives 982 oxygen concentrators towards a stronger response to pandemic

Nepal received 982 units of 10-liter oxygen concentrators, financed by the World Bank today.

The concentrators are part of a long-term solution for augmenting Nepal’s capacities to supply therapeutic oxygen to public health facilities towards a stronger response to the Covid-19 pandemic.

"I am very pleased that we have been able to quickly bring in the oxygen concentrators, which will be dispatched to health facilities of greatest need across all seven provinces of the country,” minister of Health and Population Sher Bahadur Tamang said, adding that the government is working hard to strengthen availability of medical oxygen in all the public health facilities of Nepal, such that every Nepali citizen requiring oxygen is able to access it.

The oxygen concentrators were procured through UNOPS under the World Bank-financed Covid-19 Emergency Response and Health Systems Preparedness Project, which has also financed seven oxygen generation plants, one for each province in Nepal. These plants will be brought in, installed and operationalised by UNOPS in a phased manner in seven provincial hospitals, in the next 6-15 weeks.

The Covid-19 Emergency Response and Health Systems Preparedness Project is supporting the purchase and deployment of Covid-19 vaccines for prioritised Nepalis, health system strengthening towards a robust public health response to the pandemic, community engagement and risk communication, and strengthening existing digital technology-based pandemic data, surveillance and monitoring systems, according to a press note issued by the World Bank.

"The World Bank has made available $104 million to support Nepal’s immediate health response to the pandemic, including the procurement of life-saving Covid-19 vaccines, and strengthening the country’s health systems and preparedness,” World Bank country director for Maldives, Nepal, and Sri Lanka Faris Hadad-Zervos said, adding that the World Bank is committed to support Nepal and Nepalis during this crisis, and by joining forces with the government and development partners, "we have been able to have more impact."

Friday, June 18, 2021

Supreme Court stays government’s plan to extract aggregates for export

The Supreme Court today issued an interim order to the government not to implement its policy to extract sand, pebbles and stones for export.

The environmentalists welcomed the decision as they have been opposing the government policy -- for the fiscal year 2021-22 -- to extract the sand, pebbles and stones for export. The apex court directed the government not to implement the fiscal policy citing the fundamental right of citizens to clean environment in Article 30 of the Constitution that reads every citizen shall have the right to live in a clean and healthy environment.

The Constitutional Bench comprising of chief justice Cholendra Shumsher Rana and justices Deepak Kumar Karki, Mira Khadka, Hari Krishna Karki and Bishwambhar Prasad Shrestha today issued the order to the government not to implement the decision until there is a final decision on the case. "It is not appropriate to implement point number 199 of the federal budget as using ordinance on issues like natural resources will have a long-term impact because that will interfere with the rights and effectiveness of the legislature,” the Constitutional Bench said.

The point number 199 of the federal budget reads, "Based on environmental impact assessment, mine-based stones, pebbles and sand can be exported to bridge the trade deficit gap."

But the Constitutional Bench also citing Article 51(g) -- which talks about policies relating to protection, promotion and use of natural resources -- said that while using the national resources of the country inter-generational coordination and environmental balance should be given due importance.

The apex court said that the government's decision violates Articles 30 and 51 of the Constitution. It also said that the decision is against the principle of ordinance. Article 30 relates to the environment, while Article 51 relates to the basis for the policies of the state.

As the Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli dissolved the House of Representatives, his finance minister Poudel presented the budget through an ordinance. Though, finance minister Poudel defended the move by claiming that the government will not touch Chure region, the environmentalists and intelligentsia claimed that the illegal excavation of the sand and pebbles from any part of Nepal's young mountains will lead to environmental destruction. Recently, the nexus between politicians and illegal extraction industry has become a strong threat not only to the environment but also to the law and order.

Some seven different writ petitions have been filed at the Supreme Court, where the petitioners have claimed that extracting the Chure resources in the name of decreasing trade deficit with India will degrade the environment.

Following the petition, the apex court has ordered the government to furnish reasons behind the government policy within a week.

Earlier too, after a lots of debate and discussions, the government had banned the extraction of sand and stones in the Chure region since July 2014, also to protect the lives of more than half of the country’s population in the Southern plains. The government has also formed President Chure-Terai Madhesh Conservation Development Board with a master plan to conserve the Chure hills.

Sand is one of the rarest commodities in the world today, as it is the world’s most consumed raw material after water. India and China top a list of countries where illegal sand mining has become a major environmental problem, according to a report released by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP). India and China has  become the largest consumer of sand in recent years also due to rapid urbanisation.

Smart Lock down on cards

The government is mulling a smart lockdown from next week.

Covid-19 Crisis Management Centre (CCMC) is planning a 'smart lockdown', confirmed the deputy secretary and information officer at the CCMC, the government body responsible for Covid-19 containment.

Though, the Valley districts are planning to relax the prohibitory orders from next week, the CCMC is planning to implement 'smart lockdowns' across the country, he said, explaining that the 'smart lockdown' is a modality that evaluate the conditions of a particular place and ease or strict according to the situation. "We are analysing the situation of every individual district."

But its easier than done because the restrictions on movement is difficult to monitor also due to social behaviour and closeness of the places.

The country could not close or tighten the porous border with India when the second wave of Covid-19 was rife in the southern border. The movement of people along the 1,800-km long porous border remains unregulated as thousands cross over to each other’s territory every day.

As the government failed to break the chain of coronavirus transmission by identifying the infected areas, the second wave of the covid-19 struck the country. The mismanagement of the government cost the country some 8,000 lives.

But the Valley administrations is planning to allow services and activities though with restrictions in order to gradually normalise the daily life and business activities, designating separate days in the week for running different shops and stores. According to the new rule, several shops that were earlier not allowed to operate will be allowed to open and conduct business systematically, while following the safety protocol.

Thursday, June 17, 2021

Global agreement reached at ILO conference on action for Covid-19 recovery

Delegates from 181 countries representing the governments, workers and employers at the International Labour Conference  (ILC) have adopted unanimously a Global Call to Action for a human-centred Covid-19 recovery that prioritises the creation of decent jobs for all and addresses the inequalities caused by the crisis.

The Global Call to Action for a Human-Centred Recovery outlines a comprehensive agenda. It commits countries to ensuring that their economic and social recovery from the crisis is 'fully inclusive, sustainable and resilient.'

The agreement includes two sets of agreed actions, according to a press note of the ILO. "The first covers measures to be taken by national governments and their employer and trade union ‘social partners’, to achieve a job-rich recovery that substantially strengthens worker and social protections and supports sustainable enterprises, and a second set of actions covers international cooperation and the role of multilateral institutions, including the ILO, with the aim of increasing the level and coherence of their support for national 'human-centred' pandemic recovery strategies."

It calls on the ILO – with its mandate for social justice and decent work – to play a leadership role and use all means of action to support the design and implementation of recovery strategies that leave no one behind, including by reinforcing cooperation with other institutions of the multilateral system.

The Call to Action is grounded in the ILO’s Centenary Declaration for the Future of Work , adopted at the 2019 ILC. The Call provides a path for accelerating practical implementation of the Declaration through enhanced policies and investment that support a broad-based, fully-inclusive recovery. It also calls for urgent, coordinated action in related areas, including international cooperation and solidarity to ensure global and equal access to vaccines, treatments and preventive measures.

ILO director-general Guy Ryder welcomed the agreement, and called for creating a recovery that is inclusive, sustainable and resilient must become a top priority for public policy. "This resolution provides a clear and comprehensive way forward that will enable countries to convert the moral and political aspiration of leaving no one behind into concrete action."

"The effectiveness and resilience of the recovery from Covid-19  will depend heavily on how broadly-based and socially inclusive it is," he said, adding that unless they specifically address the inequalities that have deepened during this crisis there is a very real risk that the economic and social consequences will cause long-term scarring, particularly for disproportionately-affected groups such as young people and women, and the small and microenterprises that provide most of the world’s employment.

In a special sitting of the ILC, prior to adopting the Call to Action, delegates took part in the first day of the two-day World of Work Summit: Global action for a human-centred Covid-19 response. The Summit discussed the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic on labour markets, and recovery strategies that promote social justice and decent work.

The summit also heard video messages from key world leaders , including Pope Francis; South Korean President Moon Jae-in; Portuguese Prime Minister António Costa and US President Joe Biden.

Wednesday, June 16, 2021

Floods and landslides damages 26 hydropower projects, multiple road sections

 The floods and landslides triggered by incessant rainfall caused physical damage of around Rs 3 billion. It is estimated that the under construction 44 MW Super Madi Hydropower Project in Madi of Kaski alone has caused a loss of over Rs 1 billion, according to Independent Power Producers' Association (IPPAN).

The rainfall induced floods damaged 16 under construction projects and 10 projects generating electricity, the IPPAN confirmed, adding that more than two dozen hydropower projects were affected till 8 PM today.

"Most of the hydropower projects -- both under construction and completed -- in the Dordi Corridor, Marsyangdi Corridor and Madi Corridor have been affected by the floods and landslides," the IPPAN informed, adding that the details of the damage have not been received from all the places yet. "Thought there has been a lot of physical damages, no immediate reports of injuries or human casualties have been reported."

Construction materials, equipment, dams, tunnels and other structures of the hydropower projects under construction have been damaged due to the landslide, it adds.

The floods and landslides also damaged more than two dozen roads and more than a dozen bridges have collapsed in various places.

The Department of Roads (DoR) confirmed that most of the damage has been reported on Karnali Highway and Siddhartha Highway causing a loss of billions. "There still obstruction in 8 road sections till 8 PM today, and one-way transportation services came into operation in 11 places and two-way in three places of the blocked highway."

World Bank supports $150 million for pandemic response and recovery

 The World Bank’s Board of Executive Directors today approved a $150 million development policy credit to support Nepal’s resilient recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic, protect the most vulnerable, and support sustainable growth.

"Amid the economic and social impacts of the pandemic, our priority is to provide immediate relief to affected populations and support Nepal’s green, resilient, and inclusive recovery," World Bank country director for Maldives, Nepal, and Sri Lanka Faris Hadad-Zervos said.

The Nepal Programmatic Fiscal Policy for Growth, Recovery and Resilience will help strengthen Nepal’s institutions and regulations, including its tax and customs system, debt management, and public capital spending, according to a World Bank press note. "It will also support the immediate health response and help modernise social protection programmes, build access to capital and digital solutions for the private sector, and lay a regulatory foundation for a green recovery."

“The development policy credit supports the government of Nepal’s efforts to address the social and economic impacts of Covid-19 and overcome structural constraints to a resilient economic recovery," senior economist and the World Bank’s Task Team leader for the programme Kene Ezemenari said.

The World Bank, one of the largest sources of funding and knowledge for developing countries, is taking broad, fast action to help developing countries respond to the health, social and economic impacts of Covid-19. It includes $12 billion to help low-and-middle-income countries purchase and distribute Covid-19 vaccines, tests, and treatments, and strengthen vaccination systems. "The financing builds on the broader World Bank Group Covid-19 response, which is helping more than 100 countries strengthen health systems, support the poorest households, and create supportive conditions to maintain livelihoods and jobs for those hit hardest," it adds.

Government extends deadline to file tax to July 9

A day after the Supreme Court's verdict,  the government today extended the deadline to submit tax details and settlement of tax dues to July 9.

Citing the ongoing prohibitory orders imposed across the country, the Inland Revenue Department said that the deadline has been extended according to the decision of Finance Ministry.

The Supreme Court has yesterday decided that the Finance Minister, according to the Economic Act 2077, can extend the deadline for tax settlement, and the court need not decide on it.

Issuing a public notice today, the Inland Revenue Department (IRD) said the new deadline will be applicable in clearance of value added tax (VAT), income tax, excise duty, education service fee, telephone ownership fee and telecommunication service charge.

The private sector has been asking the government to extend the tax payment period citing their inability to file tax due to the prohibitory order.

Earlier, last year, the Supreme Court had issued an interim order to the Finance Ministry not to collect VAT or impose fine on taxpayers for not paying taxes during the period of the ongoing prohibitory orders.

The government to check the spread of coronavirus imposed lockdown on March 24, 2020 across the country. Them also when the government tightened the tax noose, advocates Srijana Adhikary moved the the Supreme Court, which issued a showcase notice not to collect tax in the time of lockdown. The Supreme Court had, then ordered the government not to collect tax before the lockdown is completely lifted. It had ordered the government to allow 30 days after the complete lifting of the lockdown time to the taxpayers to pay their dues.

Citing difficulties in managing its financial resources, the Finance Ministry also went to the Supreme Court demanding that the court vacate its order. The government argued that it was collecting only around Rs 15 billion a month from the customs and a few billion rupees from other internal revenues, though it spends around Rs 40 billion to meet basic liabilities. On June 15, 2020, The Supreme Court turned down the government’s request to review its interim order that was against the decision of the Finance Ministry’s notice to the taxpayers.

This year too, during the second wave of coronavirus, the government imposed prohibitory order, and the economic activities have been stalled. The private sector has been asking the government to postpone the tax filing dates, and not impose fines during the prohibitory times.

Tuesday, June 15, 2021

सात प्रदेशको कुल बजेट दुई खर्ब ६१ अर्ब

सात प्रदेशले आगामी आर्थिक वर्ष २०७८-०७९ का लागि कुल २ खर्ब ६१ अर्बको बजेट ल्याएका छन् । चालू आर्थिक वर्षका लागि सात प्रदेशको कूल बजेट २ खर्व ६४ अर्ब थियो । तर कोरोना कहरका कारण आगामी आर्थिक वर्षमा चालू आर्थिक वर्षको भन्दा बजेट घटेको छ ।

अन्तर सरकारी वित्त हस्तान्तरण ऐनको व्यवस्थाअनुसार असार १ गते प्रदेशले बजेट प्रस्तुत गर्नुपर्ने हुन्छ । त्यसैअनुसार सबै प्रदेशले बजेट ल्याए पनि अधिकांसले वितरणमुखी र पूर्वाधार विकासमा एकदम कम बजेट ल्याएका छन् ।

सबैभन्दा ठूलो अकारको बजेट ल्याउने बागमती प्रदेशले ५७.७२ अर्बको बजेट ल्याएको छ भने सबैभन्दा सानो बजेट गण्डकी प्रदेशले ३०.०३ अर्बको ल्याएको छ । प्रदेश १ ले ३२.४६ अर्ब र प्रदेश २ ले ३३.७९ अर्बको बजेट ल्याएका छन् भने लुम्बिनीले ४०.९५ अर्ब, कर्णालीले ३६.५४ अर्ब र सुदूरपश्चिम प्रदेशले ३०.३३ अर्बको बजेट ल्याएका छन् । 

प्रदेश–१ का आर्थिक मामिला तथा योजनामन्त्री टंक आङ्बुहाङ्ग (लिम्बु) ले मंगलबार प्रदेशसभा बैठकमा आगामी आर्थिक वर्ष २०७८-०७९ का लागि ३२ अर्ब ४६ करोड ९२ लाख रुपैयाँ बराबरको बजेट सार्वजनिक गरे ।

यस्तै, प्रदेश–२ का आर्थिक मामिला तया योजनामन्त्री विजयकुमार यादवले प्रदेशसभा बैठकमा आगामी आर्थिक वर्षका लागि ३३ अर्ब ७९ करोड १४ लाख ३० हजार रुपैयाँ बराबरको बजेट प्रस्तुत गरे ।

बागमती प्रदेशका आर्थिक मामिला तथा योजनामन्त्री कैलाशकुमार ढुंगेलले मंगलबार प्रदेशसभा बैठकमा आगामी आवका लागि ५७ अर्ब ७२ करोड ९ लाख २७ हजार रुपैयाँ बराबरको बजेट ल्याए भने आगामी आवको लागि गण्डकी प्रदेशले ३० अर्ब ३ करोड ९४ लाख २७ अर्ब रुपैयाँको बजेट ल्याएको छ ।

लुम्बिनी प्रदेशका आर्थिक मामिला तथा योजनामन्त्री बैजनाथ चौधरीले लुम्बिनी प्रदेशको आगामी आवका लागि ४० अर्ब ९५ करोड ९७ लाख रुपैयाँ बराबरको बजेट ल्याएका छन् भने कर्णाली प्रदेशले आगामी आवका लागि ३६ अर्ब ५४ करोड ६६ लाख ३६ हजार रुपैयाँ बराबर विनियोजन गरेको छ ।

सुदूरपश्चिम प्रदेशका आर्थिक मामिलामन्त्री प्रकाशबहादुर शाहले आगामी आव २०७८-०७९ का लागि ३० अर्ब ३३ करोड ९४ लाख ५५ हजार रुपैयाँको बजेट प्रदेशसभामा पेश गरेका छन् ।

प्रदेशगतरुपमा तीन प्रदेशको बजेट घटेको छ भने बाँकी चारवटा प्रदेशको बजेट बढेको छ । प्रदेशहरु विधिवत् रुपमा २०७४ फागुनको पहिलो सातादेखि सञ्चालनमा आएका हुनाले आर्थिक वर्ष २०७४-०७५ मा संघीय सरकारले प्रत्येक प्रदेशलाई १ खर्ब २ करोड वित्तीय समानीकरण अनुदान हस्तान्तरण गरेको थियो । सबै प्रदेशले त्यही अनुदानलाई कुल वित्तीय स्रोत मानेर बजेट ल्याएका थिए भने आर्थिक वर्ष २०७५÷०७६ देखि प्रदेशहरुले आ–आफना बजेट बनाउन सुरू गरेका थिए । 

प्रदेशले पहिलो पूर्ण बजेट आव २०७५-०७६ मा ल्याउँदा सात वटै प्रदेशको कुल बजेट २ खर्ब ८ अर्ब थियो । तर, चार वर्षको अवधिमा प्रदेशको कूल बजेट जम्मा ५३ अर्बमात्र बढ्नुमा प्रदेशमा स्रोतको अभाव देखिएको छ । 

यस्तै, आव २०७६-०७७ मा प्रदेशको कुल बजेट २ खर्ब ५९ अर्ब थियो भने आव २०७६-०७७ मा २ खर्ब ५९ अर्ब थियो । कारोना कहरका कारण आव २०७७÷०७८ प्रदेशको कूल २ खर्ब ६४ अर्ब मात्र रहयो ।

आफनो आय कम भएका कारण सबै नै प्रदेश संघीय सरकारको अनुदानमा भर परेका छन् । प्रदेशको खर्च गर्ने क्षमता पनि बढेको छैन भने आय पनि उल्लेख्य नभएका कारण प्रदेशको अस्तित्वमाथि नै प्रश्न उठ्ने गरेको छ । 

Tourism industry has highest female managers

Female managers outnumbers the male in the tourism industry. 

According to According to an analytical study report by the Central Bureau of Statistics (CBS), some 60.7 per cent of tourism establishments had male managers while 39.2 per cent of them had female managers. "The number of establishments with female managers in the tourism industry is the highest among all establishments in Nepal," the report adds.

Province-wise, Province 2 has the lowest proportion of female managers ( some 19.3 per cent) while Province 1 has the highest (some 50.1 per cent),” the report reads, adding that accommodation and food service businesses have a higher proportion of female managers. Likewise, only 38.2 per cent of the establishments in the tourism industry have been registered. "The proportion of registered establishments is low in food and beverages service activities since these micro scale businesses are operating without registration knowingly or unknowingly, although laws require any business to be registered," the report adds.

Tourism is the fourth largest industry by employment: CBS

 Tourism industry is fourth largest employer in the country.

According to an analytical study report by the Central Bureau of Statistics (CBS), tourism industry provides some 371,140 jobs, which is 11.5 per cent of total jobs in Nepali industries.

"The largest industry by employment is wholesale and retail trade, which accounts for 30.6 per cent of the total employment, followed by education with 15.9 per cent and manufacturing with 15.8 per cent," the report adds.

Province=wise, Bagmati Province, which includes Kathmandu Valley, accounts for the largest number of tourism personnel in the country, with some 161,674 persons or 43.6 per cent of the total employment, whereas Province 1 stands second with an employment of 56,782 persons or 15.3 per cent, the report reads, adding that Lumbini and Gandaki provinces employ some 47,827 and some 47,447 persons, respectively. "Likewise, Sudurpaschim Province has some 17,195 tourism workers, Karnali has 14,123 tourism workers and Province 2 has 26,092 tourism workers."

According to the report, the number of people engaged in restaurants and mobile food service activities stands at 243,790 or some 65.7 per cent, followed by short-term accommodation activities or the hotel industry with 76,010 people or some 20.5 per cent.

Similarly, airlines employ 2,750 people, and some 17,899 people are engaged in beverage selling activities. Travel agencies provide 13,223 jobs, the report adds. "There are some 134,832 establishments in tourism industry, which is 14.6 per cent of the total establishments in the country."

Bagmati Province has the largest number of 49,234 tourism establishments, accounting for 36.5 per cent of all establishments in the tourism industry, the report further reads, adding that the major tourist attractions of the province are the cultural heritage of Kathmandu Valley and Chitwan National Park. "Province 1 has 24,900 tourism establishments with Everest National Park and Ilam being the main draws for visitors, whereas the number of establishment in Gandaki Province stands at 16,412 with Pokhara Valley, Mt Machhapuchchhre, Annapurna range and Gorkha being the major attracting factors for tourists."

Lumbini Province has some 19,211 tourism establishments with Lumbini and Banke and Bardia national parks being the main attractions. Rara and Shey Phoksundo national parks are the major sites of Karnali Province which has some 6,351 tourism establishments. Likewise, Sudurpaschim Province has some 7,604 establishments with Khaptad National Park and Shukla Phanta National Park being its key destinations. There are some 11,120 tourism establishments in Province 2 with Parsa Wildlife Reserve and Janakpur as the key tourism sites.

The report also reads that the number of tourist standard hotels rose by 54.3 per cent between 2012-13 and 2019-20, while the number of star hotels increased by 29 per cent in eight years.

The number of beds in tourist standard hotels and star hotels rose by 40.9 per cent and 38.2 per cent, respectively between 2012-13 and 2019-20. "In total, the number of beds increased by 39 per cent from 31,657 in 2012-13 to 43,999 in 2019-20."

Similarly, tourism industry's contribution to the national economy (GDP) and employment stood at 6.7 per cent and 6.9 per cent in 2019, just before the Covid-19 struck the country shutting the tourism industry, completely.

"Nepal's tourism industry has not necessarily achieved its full growth potential, according to the report that has been released recently, though the industry has suffered a lot since March 2020.

Due to a surge in tourist arrivals, the amount of foreign exchange earnings from tourism also jumped from Rs 11.71 billion in 2000-01 to Rs 75.80 billion in 2017-18. "Tourism revenue in the fiscal year 2017-18 was equivalent to 9.9 per cent of the total foreign exchange earnings that year," the CBS reports reads, adding that the number of international tourists has also been increasing over the years as the arrivals more than doubled from some 464,000 in 2000 to 1.17 million in 2018.

Friday, June 11, 2021

World Bank approves $60 million to strengthen higher education

 The World Bank’s Board of executive directors today approved $60 million to improve the quality of Nepal’s higher education, scale up online learning, and expand access to academic institutions for underprivileged and vulnerable students.

The Covid-19 pandemic has highlighted the critical importance of building back better (BBB) and prioritising human capital development,” World Bank country director for Maldives, Nepal, and Sri Lanka Faris Hadad-Zervos said, adding that improving access to quality higher education and helping students acquire the skills that are in demand in the labour market will contribute to Nepal’s Covid-19 recovery and strengthen its resilience.

The Nurturing Excellence in Higher Education Program builds on Nepal’s previous successful higher education projects supported through results-based financing. It will help the government of Nepal align its higher education sector with labor market needs, boost collaborative research and entrepreneurship, improve governance, and access to quality higher education, especially for disadvantaged students, a press note issued by the World Bank, reads. "The Covid-19 pandemic has created strong incentives to expand online platforms and blended learning, which the programme will help scale up across Nepal’s universities."

"A key priority of the programme is to promote the inclusion of disadvantaged students, including those facing economic hardship due to Covid-19,”  World Bank’s Programme Task team leader Mohan Aryal said, adding that the programme will expand targeted scholarships to help disadvantaged students pursue labor market-driven academic programmes and support equity grants to higher education institutions in needy and disaster-affected areas in Nepal."

The World Bank, one of the largest sources of funding and knowledge for developing countries, is taking broad, fast action to help developing countries respond to the health, social and economic impacts of Covid-19. It includes $12 billion to help low- and middle-income countries purchase and distribute Covid-19 vaccines, tests, and treatments, and strengthen vaccination systems. The financing builds on the broader World Bank Group Covid-19 response, which is helping more than 100 countries strengthen health systems, support the poorest households, and create supportive conditions to maintain livelihoods and jobs for those hit hardest.

Amid large scale job and income loss, families await support

 According to recent rapid survey conducted by Sharecast Initiative Nepal with support from UNICEF during the third quarter of May 2021, some 53 per cent had lost jobs, and 40 per cent of them lost both jobs and income in the form of remittances, sales and other activity they used as a source of additional income.

The survey covered approximately 3,000 families with children. Agriculture and tourism, being the biggest employment industries, including people depending on daily wages, are most likely to incur the most significant economic losses. Bagmati and Karnali appear to be most affected. This large-scale job and income loss threaten to deteriorate further the socio-economic well-being of the children and their families, the survey reports, adding that most families may reduce food intake and essential expenses, including nutrition and education for children. "About 99 per cent of the families reported receiving no support to stave off the hardship."

Over the past year, UNICEF’s nationwide bi-monthly survey, Child and Family Tracker, showed that over 60 per cent of households with children experienced economic and livelihood losses in the first two months of initial lockdown. Although most families with children were able to recover economically since then, some 40 per cent of them remained at risk of falling into poverty. "The overall income distribution did not catch up to levels before lockdowns," the survey further reads, adding that over 20 per cent of the families had to reduce the quantity or change their children's variety of food intake. "Children in almost 30 per cent of households had access to distant learning." Yet, most children living in low-income households and belonging to vulnerable and marginalised groups could not take advantage of it.

However, child labour reduced from 31 per cent of households reporting that their children worked before lockdown to 8 per cent during the lockdown, it adds. However, children in over 20 per cent of these households began working after the lockdown ended. This implies that while the lockdown contributed to a significant reduction in child labour, children are most likely to start work to help their families cope with the economic struggles, concluded the survey.

Using the survey’s evidence, UNICEF implemented emergency cash transfer in response to the emerging needs of more than 10,000 children. But UNICEF’s data also implies that many more children are in need in this challenging time. 

Likely, children in families depending on daily wages and those, who lost income and jobs will experience adverse effects of their caregivers’ financial situation on their education, health and psychological wellbeing, according to the survey. Expanding the social protection coverage of children using existing systems and providing additional cash support to prevent shocks on children is crucial now more than ever. "In this regard, UNICEF congratulates the government of Nepal on the recent expansion of the Child Grant Programme and the increase in the SSA benefit size of up to 33 per cent." 

However, there are many more that need support, it adds, "Also, it is important to increase the amount of the transfer to deal with the additional stress caused by the pandemic."

Indian Army hands over medical equipment to Nepal Army

 Indian Army has sent medical equipment to Nepal Army.

As part of its ‘Neighborhood First’ policy, medical equipment and supplies worth Rs 288 million provided by the Indian Army were handed over to the Nepali Army today, according to a press note issued by the Indian Embassy in Kathmandu. "In a ceremony at Nepali Army headquarters, the medical equipment was handed over by Indian ambassador Vinay Mohan Kwatra to Nepal Army General Purna Chandra Thapa," the press note reads, adding that the ambassador reaffirmed India’s support to Nepali Army in its fight against the Covid-19 pandemic and lauded its contribution in this respect. 

The medical equipment, including ventilators, ambulances, ICU beds, PPE kits, PCR test Kits etc was delivered to Kathmandu yesterday. "The Indian Army has been assisting the Nepal Army to fight Covid-19 through various kinds of assistance since last year, including 100,000 doses of Covishield vaccines, which were provided in March," it adds. "The latest assistance is another testament to the close cooperation between the two armies and the two countries, particularly in times of need."

Thursday, June 10, 2021

Distribution of Melamchi water to be halted for two months

 Kathmanduites will not be able to get the supply of ‘Melamchi water’ for two months from June 15, according to the Melamchi Drinking Development Committee (MDDC).

The Committee - issuing a public notice today - said that it will halt the water supply temporarily to carry out the technical assessment of the tunnel that spans from Melamchi area in Sindhupalchowk to Sundarijal in Kathmandu. "It will take around two months to complete the entire testing of the tunnel."

Melamchi water distribution has been providing some respite to the Kathmanduites, though it took almost two-decades-and-a-half to bring the Melamchi water to Kathmandu. The valley has been facing acute shortage of drinking water as the population has increased remarkably after the armed struggle of Maoist started in 1996. The long-awaited project has started supplying water through the main distribution system some two months ago.

The structure will have to be filled with water in pressurised condition, for the testing of the tunnel, and it needs an inspection by emptying the tunnel afterwards. "It will take an estimated 16 days to empty the tunnel," according to the Committee notice. "The rest of the time will be utilised for necessary maintenance of the tunnel and refilling it with water."

During the period, from June 16 to almost two months, the Kathmanduites will not be able to receive Melamchi water,” the notice further reads.

The Committee has also warned the people not to go near banks of the Bagmati River during the period as the water level in the river might swell due to siphoned water from the tunnel released into the river.

Wednesday, June 9, 2021

आर्थिक वृद्धिदर २.७ प्रतिशतमा खुम्चिने

सरकारले ४ प्रतिशत हाराहारी भने पनि विश्व बैंकले भने चालु वर्षको आर्थिक वृद्धिदर २.७ प्रतिशतमा सीमित हुने प्रक्षेपण गरेको छ । कोरोना कहरकै बीचमा ल्याएको चालु आर्थिक वर्षको बजेटमा तत्कालीन अर्थमन्त्री डा. युवराज खतिवडाले ७ प्रतिशत आर्थिक वृद्धिको लक्ष्य राखेका थिए । आर्थिक सर्वेक्षण जारी गर्दै गत शनिबार उपप्रधानमन्त्री तथा अर्थमन्त्री विष्णु पौडेलले चालु आर्थिक वर्षमा ४ प्रतिशत हाराहारी आर्थिक वृद्धि हुनसक्ने बताएका थिए ।

बन्दाबन्दी तथा लगातारको निशेधाज्ञाका कारण गत आर्थिक वर्षमा २.१२ प्रतिशतले ऋणात्मक भएको अर्थतन्त्र चालु आर्थिक वर्षका केहि महिनामा चलायमान देखिए पनि पूर्ण विस्तार हुन नसकी २.७ प्रतिशतमै सीमित हुने विश्व बैंकले प्रक्षेपण गरेको हो । गत आर्थिक वर्षमा चैतदेखि असारसम्म ४ महिना बन्दाबन्दकिा कारण अर्थतन्त्र ऋणात्मक रहेको भए पनि चालू आर्थिक वर्षमा बजार केही चलायमान रहेको थियो । तर कोरोना महामारीको दोस्रो लहरका कारण चालू आर्थिक वर्षमा वैशाख महिनादेखि देशभर निशेधाज्ञा लागू भएको छ ।

कोरोना महामारीको दोस्रो लहरका कारण देशभर निषेधाज्ञा बढ्दै गएको र यसैका कारण बजार चलायमान हुन नसकेको हुनाले अर्थतन्त्रको विस्तार तीव्र नहुने विश्व बैंकको अनुमान छ । नेपाल उद्योग वाणिज्य महासंघका अनुसार पनि मुलुकभर करिब ७० प्रतिशत उद्योग व्यवसाय निषेधाज्ञाको कारण बन्द रहेका छन् ।

विश्व बैकले बुधबार आफनो वैश्विक प्रतिवेदन ग्लोबल इकोनोमिक प्रोस्पेक्ट्स जारी गर्दै आगामी आर्थिक वर्ष पनि नेपालको आर्थिक वृद्धिदर ३.९ प्रतिशतमै सीमित हुने अनुमान गरेको छ । तर सरकारले जेठ १५ गते अध्यादेश बजेट प्रस्तुत गर्दै ६.५ प्रतिशत हाराहारमिा आर्थिक वृद्धि हुने लक्ष्य राखेको छ ।

ग्लोबल इकोनोमिक प्रोस्पेक्ट्सका अनुसार विश्व अर्थतन्त्र ५.६ प्रतिशतले बढ्ने अनुमान रहेको छ । प्रतिवेदनका अनुसार दक्षिण एसियामा भारतको अर्थतन्त्र ७.२ प्रतिशतले ऋणात्मक, भुटानको १.२ प्रतिशतले ऋणात्मक, बंगलादेशको ३.६ प्रतिशत तथा पाकिस्तानको १.३ प्रतिशत, श्रीलंकाको ३.४ प्रतिशत आर्थिक वृद्धिदर रहने अनुमान छ । आगामी आर्थिक वर्ष भने सबै दक्षिण एसियाली राष्ट्रको आर्थिक वृद्धिदरमा सुधार आउने अनुमान विश्व बैंकले गरेको छ ।

Saturday, June 5, 2021

Australia delivers emergency medical support to Nepal

 Australia sent a Royal Australian Air Force flight with medical supplies to Nepal.

The medical supplies that landed at the Tribhuvan International Airport (TIA) today are expected to assist in the frontline response to the Covid-19 crisis, according to a press note issued by the Australian Embassy in Kathmandu.

Australia’s ambassador to Nepal Felicity Volk handed over the equipment to Nepal Army Chief of General Staff Prabhu Ram Sharma at the international airport. The shipment include AUD$1.8 million worth of surgical masks, face shields and gloves, which were requested by the Nepal Army and donated by the Western Australian Government, the press note reads, adding that the support is in addition to the AUD$7 million announced on May 21, which is enabling established NGOs to provide medical equipment and oxygen for hospitals and training for health workers. "The Australian government continues to support the provision of safe and effective Covid-19 vaccines to Nepal, including through support to COVAX."

Handing the assistance, ambassador Volk said that the delivery to Nepal was part of Australia’s regional effort tosupport its friends in South Asia, with medical supplies provided to Sri Lanka and India in addition to Nepal. Recognising the important role of the Nepal Army in delivering frontline health services to communities across the country, Australia has directed its supplies to support the work of the Army in hospitals, isolation centres and cremation grounds, the press note reads. “Australia is joining with partners across the region to support urgent healthcare needs, including through the provision of PPE to protect those working on the frontlines of the health response."

Australia and Nepal have a long-standing history of working together in times of crisis, and the assistance provided through today’s flight demonstrates the warmth that Australians have for the people of Nepal, the press note adds.