Friday, July 30, 2021

Nepal-India discuss bilateral economic ties

Nepali private sector representatives and Indian officials discussed on bilateral trade and tourism promotion in both the countries.

Nepal-India Chamber of Commerce and Industry (NICCI) and the Indian Embassy officials in Kathmandu today held a brainstorming session on strengthening economic ties between the neighbours at the Embassy, in Kathmandu, according to a press release issued by the Indian Embassy in Kathmandu.

Indian Embassy deputy chief of mission (DCM) Namgya Khampa welcomed the NICCI executive committee, the press release reads, adding that the NICCI members briefed the DCM on the investment scenario in Nepal. "On the occasion, DCM Khampa assured support to NICCI endeavors, especially in tourism, trade and investment in Nepal."

The brainstorming session included issues ranging from the promotion of tourist circuits including Buddist, Ramayana, Mahabharat, Sikh and Shiva Shakti, attracting Indian investments into Nepal, especially in the emerging sectors and business opportunities in construction and agriculture sectors.

The NICCI also proposed to bring out a detailed plan of action on these issues, including organisation of India-Nepal Partnership Summit, Financial Sector Summit and establishment of an India Nepal Centre of Innovation to promote budding entrepreneurs.

They also discussed recent developments and possible cooperation in the railway sector, the release adds.

Thursday, July 29, 2021

Finance Ministry seeks clarification from Sebon, Nepse over 'sweat share'

 Finance Ministry tofay asked the Securities Board of Nepal (Sebon) and Nepal Stock Exchange (Nepse) for clarification over their alleged alliance to acquire sweat shares of a company.

The chief of both the capital market regulator and frontline regulator have been alleged involved in the insider trading of Sarbottam Cement that is in the process if floating its share to the public through book building process.

The chairman of Sebon Bhisma Raj Dhungana has been accused of purchasing 11,992 units of primary shares of Sarbottam Cement in the name of his daughter, who is residing abroad, whereas the chief executive officer (CEO) of Nepse Chandra Saud has been accused of purchasing 10,000 units of primary share of Sarbottam Cement in the name of his wife.

Writting a letter to both the Sebon and Nepse today, the Finance Ministry has sought expalnation within three days.

Sarbottam Cement is waiting for Sebon's approval to float its 6 million units of primary shares to the public through book buildong process. However, both Dhungana and Saud have been accused of purchasing the shares before the company goes public.

The Sebon’s rule has barred its officials from receiving undue benefits by abuse of authority.

According to a press note issued by the Finance Ministry, it has sent clarification letters to Sebon and Nepse asking them to provide details on the issue within three days

Wednesday, July 28, 2021

More private-sector investment in the ACA can attract high-spending tourist

Increased private-sector investment in the Annapurna Conservation Area (ACA) could bring in more high-spending tourists to help boost the local economy in a post-Covid market, according to a new IFC report.

The report—'Architectural and Cultural Heritage Tourism Products in Nepal: An Assessment of New Private Sector Investment Opportunities in the Annapurna Conservation Area'—examines the opportunities for investors to capitalise on the area’s triple offering of landscape, architecture, and culture.

The Annapurna Conservation Area now caters to two main visitor groups:  Hindu and Buddhist pilgrims visiting Muktinath, an important site for both religions, and adventure tourists—hikers, trekkers, and mountaineers. The Annapurna Area has long been the most popular trekking destination in the country, accounting for roughly 60 per cent of all trekking holidays.

The report says that the area could attract higher value tourists who could spend about 20 per cent more, if there was greater action to boost accommodation. While there are over 1000 hotels, lodges, and tea shops, these cater to low-budget travelers, the report reads. In order to appeal to higher-value tourists, the report lays out four potential investment concepts: converting old, abandoned houses in a street in Tukuche village into boutique hotels; redeveloping an abandoned, heritage house in Jharkot into a boutique luxury hotel; establishing a network of lodges along the Seven-Passes trail in Manang; and setting up a coffee shop franchise in Lower Mustang and Manang.

“High spending tourists are willing to pay premium prices for comfortable accommodation in the Himalayan region, as has been the case in Bhutan,” said IFC’s resident representative in Nepal Babacar S Faye. “In view of the gigantic losses that Nepal’s tourism industry has suffered due to the pandemic, it should create a new roadmap to align with the new market reality," Faye said, adding that it has the opportunity to attract more high-end tourists, a move that will impact the supply chain, and have positive ripple effects on the country’s economy.

To attract higher spending tourists and sustain local communities engaged in tourism, the report makes it clear that more private sector investment is crucial. Tourism in Nepal has been the hardest hit sector by Covid-19 impacts. An estimated 230,000 jobs are at risk, 20,000 tour and trekking guides unemployed, and 2,600 trekking agencies closed, amounting to a loss of around $460 million to the country’s GDP.

The study is part of IFC's continued support to Nepal's tourism sector as it struggles to recover from the pandemic.

Thursday, July 22, 2021

ADB approves $ 165 million loan to Nepal to procure vaccines against Covid-19

The Asian Development Bank (ADB) today approved a loan of $165 million for Nepal to purchase safe and effective vaccines against the coronavirus disease (Covid-19).

The project will support the National Deployment and Vaccination Plan in Nepal by procuring an estimated 15.9 million doses of Covid-19 vaccines, which will benefit about 6.8 million Nepalis, according to a press note issued by the ADB today.

|ADB’s support will help Nepal procure much-needed Covid-19 vaccines to protect its citizens from the further spread of this disease,” said ADB president Masatsugu Asakawa. "It is essential that Covid-19 vaccines are quickly purchased and administered to help get the economy back on track by enabling the restoration of livelihoods and economic activities, as well as the resumption of educational and human development pursuits."

The project is financed by ADB’s $9 billion Asia Pacific Vaccine Access Facility launched in December 2020 to offer rapid and equitable vaccine-related support to ADB developing member countries. "Vaccines eligible for financing must meet at least one of the APVAX eligibility criteria: the vaccine has been selected for procurement through the Covid-19 Vaccines Global Access (COVAX) mechanism; the vaccine has been prequalified by the World Health Organisation (WHO) or WHO emergency use listing; or the vaccine has received regular or emergency licensure or authorisation by a Stringent Regulatory Authority," reads the press note.

In addition to this project, ADB’s ongoing technical assistance grants will support the strengthening of the vaccine delivery system, communication, and community engagement to raise awareness on the risks of Covid-19 and the benefits of vaccination. The government is mobilising female community health volunteers to disseminate information among marginalised communities to raise awareness. At least one female health worker or volunteer will support the effort in every vaccination site or outreach center, it adds.

ADB closely collaborates with other partners, like the World Bank, COVAX, WHO, and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), in supporting Nepal in its efforts to vaccinate its people as soon as possible, the press note reads, adding that the project will complement the government’s broader response through its $1.2 billion National Relief Programme, which consists of social protection, health care, and economic relief measures. "In May 2020, ADB provided support to the programme through a $250 million concessional loan.

ADB is committed to achieving a prosperous, inclusive, resilient, and sustainable Asia and the Pacific, while sustaining its efforts to eradicate extreme poverty. Established in 1966, it is owned by 68 members, 49 from the region.

Thursday, July 1, 2021

WTO members agree to extend TRIPS transition period for LDCs

 The global trade regime members agreed to extend until 2034, July 1 the deadline for least developed countries (LDCs) to protect intellectual property under the WTO’s Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS).

The members reached consensus on the 13-year extension of the current transition period, which was set to expire on 2021, July 1, at a formal meeting of the TRIPS Council on June 29, acording to a press note issued by the WTO.

Since the inception of the TRIPS Agreement, LDCs have benefitted from an extended transition period to apply provisions of the TRIPS Agreement, in recognition of their special requirements, their economic, financial and administrative constraints, and their need for flexibility in order to create a viable technological base, it reads, adding that the transition period for LDC members under Article 66.1 of the TRIPS Agreement had been extended twice before (in 2005 and 2013). "The he decision adopted was the result of intensive consultations over several months."

The members were broadly in agreement on the principle of the extension but were unable to reach a decision due to their differences on the additional request that members graduating from LDC status should be accorded additional flexibilities under the TRIPS Agreement after their graduation.

LDCs favoured extending the transition period for as long as the member remains categorised as an LDC, and for an additional period of 12 years from the date of graduation of a member from the LDC category. A group of delegations expressed a preference for extending the period for a limited time, while others argued that a transition period for members that have graduated from LDC status went beyond the TRIPS Council's mandate under Article 66.1, the press note adds.

Given the lack of consensus on this latter issue, and the urgency to agree on the transition period extension, members agreed that the post-graduation element of the request would best be pursued under an LDC proposal already on the agenda of the General Council.

Under the agreed decision, LDC country members shall not be required to apply the provisions of the TRIPS Agreement, other than Articles 3, 4 and 5, until 2034, July 1 or until the date when they  cease to be a least developed country, whichever date is earlier.

"The important decision proves that finding consensus is still within reach for members of this organisation,” said the chair of the TRIPS Council ambassador Dagfinn Sørli of Norway. The chair commended all delegations involved in this effort “for their sense of responsibility in finding a timely solution, for their commitment in pursuing their respective objectives, and for the flexibility and pragmatism they showed when this was necessary to close the deal.

"It is thanks to the hard work and diplomatic acumen of these delegations that we have a draft decision before us, agreed by those most directly affected by this matter, that can once again extend the transition period for LDCs before the current period expires in just over 24 hours' time,” he added.

On behalf of the LDC Group, Chad noted this is a compromise solution they accept with the understanding that members have also expressed their readiness to continue discussions in good faith at the General Council on the post-graduation transition period for LDCs.

In expressing their support for the extension, developed members acknowledged the unique challenges facing LDCs, which in many cases have been exacerbated by the Covid-19 pandemic. They encouraged LDCs to use the transition period to build reasonable and balanced IP systems for themselves, including by availing themselves of technical assistance available from the WTO and other international organisations.

Several members expressed their satisfaction at the fact that members have demonstrated they can work together constructively to reach consensus and deliver important results. The work done by the delegations of Chad and Bangladesh, who led the LDC effort in bringing the discussion to a successful and multilateral outcome, was also commended by a large number of delegations.