Saturday, December 31, 2022

Prime Minister to inaugurate Pokhara Regional International Airport on January 1

As the Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal (CAAN) is all set for the grand opening of Pokhara Regional International Airport (PRIA) in Pokhara, Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal 'Prachanda' will inaugurate the airport on Sunday.

Pokhara Metropolis has announced a public holiday on Sunday to mark the inauguration and operation of Regional International Airport as it is going to be formally operate on the first day of the Gregorian calendar 2023 AD, 

Except Prime Minister Dahal, deputy prime ministers Bishnu Paudel and Rabi Lamichhane, and top leaders of various political parties, industrialists and tourism professionals will take part in the opening ceremony, according to the CAAN.

The crew and passengers of the aircraft landing at the airport from the first flight in the morning will be welcomed with garlands, the CAAN has palnned.

From Sunday, all domestic flights will be operated from the new airport as Buddha, Yeti and Sourya Air have already conducted the test flight and completed preparations including office management to start flying from the new airport.

The then Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli had laid the foundation of the airport on April 13, 2016, though it took yet another year to start construction. A Chinese company China CAMCE started the construction work one-and-a-half years after the foundation stone was laid. But the China CAMCE has handed over new airport to Nepal in the third week of last March, though only 93 per cent work was completed. The airport was handed over to Nepal on the occasion of Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi's visit to Nepal.

Narrow-body aircraft including Airbus A-320 and Boeing 757-200 that has capacity to carry less than 200 passengers can take off and land at the airport, according to director of Pokhara Regional International Airport Bikram Gautam. "The aircraft, at present however, can only land from the east in the one-way approach airport."

The airport has parking lots that can accommodate 11 aircraft including three large and eight small ones. The runway of the airport is 2,500 meters and the width is 45 meters and the thickness of the runway is 34 cm, Gautam informed, adding that the airport has the capacity to handle 610 passengers per hour during peak hours. "There will be 18-hour daily flights to and from Pokhara International Airport beginning February 23."

Estimated to have cost around Rs 22 billion with concessional loan from China’s Export-Import (Exim) Bank, the airport has domestic and international terminal buildings spread over 14,000 sq meters of land. The China CAMCE has constructed the airport on EPC (Engineering, Procurement and Construction) model.

Four decades ago, some 3,106 ropanis of land in wards 14, 15 and 18 in Pokhara was acquired to construct the airport. After the land was not enough, another 521 ropanis of land was acquired. But the construction was started by acquiring another 60 acres of land to build a 10 km road around the airport.

The airport that is expected to be a milestone in the promotion of tourism, also wants to convey the message to the world that Nepal is eager to welcome more tourists, , according to the chairman of the Pokhara Tourism Council, Pom Narayan Shrestha. Pokhara's direct connection with international cities will help promote Pokhara more, he said, adding that Pokhara is a major tourist destination and the tourism sector will benefit more with the operation of the airport. "The tourism sector affected by Covid-19 will get relief with the increase in tourist arrivals with the operation of the new airport."

Public debt doubles in five years

 The public debt has been doubled in the last five years, coinciding with the first tenure after Nepal became a federal republic.

The significant increase has been recorded since the 2017 elections, when the full-fledged federal government came to power, with seven provincial and 753 local governments. However, the federalism has little contribution in whooping increase in public debt compared to lack of good governance and fiscal discipline.

According to Public Debt Management Office, the ratio of public debt to GDP is 41.38 per cent. "The ratio of external debt to total GDP is 21.64 per cent, whereas the ratio of internal debt to total GDP is 19.73 per cent."

Nepal's GDP is currently valued at Rs 4,851 billion, according to the Central Bureau of Statistics (CBS).

In the fiscal year 2017-2018, Nepal had around Rs 917 billion public debt. But the amount has steadily increased to Rs 1,048 billion in 2018-19; Rs 1,433 billion in 2019-20; Rs 1,737 billion in 2020-21, and finally reaching to Rs 2,013 billion in the last fiscal year 2021-22, according to the Public Debt Management Office data.

As of the first quarter of the current fiscal year 2022-23, the country’s public debt totals to Rs 2,007.84 billion.

Among, the public debt, the external and domestic debt are almost equal.

The external debt stands at Rs 1,050.23 billion, while domestic debt is at Rs 957.61 billion, according to the data.

The debt, however, decreased by 0.27 per cent as of mid-October, compared to the Rs 2,013.29 billion recorded in mid-June. "The external debt increased by Rs 24.38 billion during the first quarter of the current fiscal year, whereas domestic debt decreased by Rs 29.83 billion," the data revealed.

The government has received Rs 24.70 billion in debt from development partners, in the first three months of the current fiscal year. However, it has not mobilised domestic debt yet, but preparing.

The government has cleared a total of Rs 5.84 billion (approximately $51 million) external loans in the first quarter of the current fiscal year 2022-23. But the liability of foreign loans increased by Rs 5.52 billion due to depreciation of Nepali currency against the US dollar, according to the office.

Top 10 Creditors

International Development Association (IDA) -- Rs 526.18 billion

Asian Development Bank (ADB) -- Rs 323.64 billion

Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) -- Rs 48.41 billion

International Monetary Fund (IMF) -- Rs 43.89 billion

EXIM Bank Line of Credit-India -- Rs 37.56 billion

Exim Bank of China -- Rs 33.51 billion

International Fund for Agricultural Development -- Rs 10.25 billion

OPEC Fund for International Development -- Rs 8.38 billion

Exim Bank, Korea -- Rs 5.62 billion

European Investment Bank (EIB) -- Rs 5.61 billion

Attacks through digital medium pose new threat to press freedom

The umbrella organisation of Nepali journalists claimed that 2022 was very challenging in terms of freedom of the press and expression in Nepal.

"The new threat to press freedom has been added, as new means have been adopted to curb freedom of the press and expression, with the advancement of new technology," a press note issued by the Federation of Nepali Journalists (FNJ) reads.

People or groups disagreeing with the news and views have started systemetically attacking media organisations and individual journalists through new technology, it further reads, adding that it has posed more challenges to the journalists' safety.

“Unlike previous years, media and journalists were attacked through digital means this year," the press note signed by general secretary of the FNJ Roshan Puri adds. "Acts including gaining unauthorised access to the content management system (CMS) of online media, organising unfollow campaigns, threatening journalists through social media platforms, attempting to shut down or hack social media accounts increased this year."

Stating that new media-related laws promulgated by the federal, state and local governments have also posed challenges to the press freedom that is guaranteed by the constitution, the FNJ said, "Rather than promoting freedom of the press and expression, these laws are bent on curbing the Constitutional rights."

According to the FNJ, a total of 132 male and 18 female journalists and six media organisations were affected by such incidents but the number of press freedom violation incidents has come down compared to the past year. In 2021, some 62 incidents of violation of press freedom were recorded while 190 journalists and four media organisations were affected.

The FNJ has recorded 53 incidents of press freedom violation this year. Threat to the free press will eventually lead to rise in bad governance fuelled by corruption, and the country will have to suffer as the cost of doing business will increase hampering new investments.

Friday, December 30, 2022

Cooperatives in hot water due to excessive investment in land

Lately, the cooperatives, one after another, are into financial crisis, due to their excessive investment in real estate, automobiles and other unproductive businesses, according to a high level official at the Department of Cooperatives, that is responsible for regulation of cooperatives confessed.

According to registrar at the Department of Cooperatives (DoC) Rudra Prasad Pandit, many cooperatives that had invested in unproductive businesses have been struggling to recover their loan.

He, however, neither took any responsibility nor explained, why his department failed to crack whip on those cooperatives, which have bad governance and also irresponsible lending to the real estate, especially on land ballooning the land price.

"Increasing cases of bad debt of the cooperatives is the main reason behind their financial problems,” he said, addressing a programme organised by the Cooperative Journalists Society Nepal (CJN), here today.

Most of the cooperatives have been facing liquidity crunch, and have been unable to return the money deposited by their members, as they have invested on the most unproductive sector, land. Some of the cooperatives have fled as they failed to return the money deposited by their members.

Pandit also attributed the problems faced by the cooperatives to the exorbitant interest rates. Lately, the commercial banks are offering 7 per cent to 8 per cent to depositors and they are most secured for depositors. But the cooperatives have been offering upto 20 per cent interest rate, which is unlikely to be paid back in the current market scenario.

NoRemittance campaign forced government not to implement ban on bringing extra mobile sets from abroad

Nepal Telecommunications Authority (NTA) has temporarily backtracked from full implementation of Mobile Devices Management System (MDMS) on the request of Prime Minister.

Issuing a notice today, the telecom sector regulator confirmed that the implementation of MDMS has been stopped until further notice, per the direction of higher authorities. "We will make an appropriate decision after assessing the situation."

But a '#NoRemittance' movement of the Nepali migrants on social media has forced the government to backtrack from its decision as remittance is the key source of Nepal's foreign currency earnings. Even a slowdown in remittance inflow will create extra pressure on external sector as Nepal has witnessed in the last fiscal year.

Though remittance doesnot come under gross domestic product (GDP), it is the key gross national income (GNI), which equals to almost 29 per cent of GDP. According to the World Bank, Nepal has, since 2005, earned significantly more foreign exchange from international migration than from goods and services exports, including tourism, and foreign direct investment combined.

Nepal is currently ranked 11th among the top remittance recipient countries in proportion to its GDP, 'Migration and Brief-2022' of World Bank reads, projecting Nepal's remittance receipts to constitute 21.8 per cent equavalent to its GDP. "Nepal has a GDP of Rs Rs 4,851 billion, and the country ranked 10th last year."

Nepali diaspora has started a campaign 'No Mobile, No Remittance,' forcing the Prime Minister to interfere in the decision to implement MDMS from today by the NTA, knowledgable sources said.

The secretariate of Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal 'Prachanda', also confirmed that the premier directed finance minister Bishnu Poudel yesterday evening to postpone the implementation of the decision to impose customs duty on more than one mobile set imported from abroad at the individual level.

The Department of Customs (DoC) was scheduled to implement the provision from today. It was planning to levy an 18 per cent duty on second mobile phone brought into the country by individuals from foreign countries. Under the new provision, individuals will be allowed to bring one phone into the country without paying any customs duty but 18 per cent duty will have to be paid for the second phone, and third one will be confiscated by customs officials.

Currently, Nepalis returning from abroad are allowed to bring up to two mobile phones into the country without paying any duty.

The decision to bar a Nepali citizen from bringing more than one mobile set from abroad after the move drew flak on social media.

The NTA is planning to issuing another notice tomorrow requesting the mobile phone users, who brought their devices from abroad for personal use before mid-August this year should now update their operating system by taking an invoice from the customs office.

The NTA has planned to implement the MDMS, a security application that allows the regulator to set policies that safeguard, monitor, and govern end-user mobile devices, since long.

It has dome a soft launch of the MDMS on September 15. The system is expected to help reduce the gray market for smartphones, which not only bleed the government revenue but also hit authorised importers.

The new regulation would require each new phone brought into the country to be registered for availing of phone services provided by the Nepali telecom operators. 

MDMS also enables the regulatory body to disable the unregistered device, preventing it from connecting to the cell towers. Before adding the device to the MDMS database, one must pay the applicable customs duty and obtain a Customs Declaration Form from the customs office.

Using the NTA link to register the devices with MDMS is still recommended in the interim. Users can check whether a mobile phone is registered with the MDMS at the time of purchase within the country.

According to the NTA, around 1.5 million mobile phones were brought in by traders and registered with the authority in five months till November. "Around 11,000 personal cell phones have been signed up by the November," the NTA informed, adding that the International Mobile Equipment Identity (IMEI) records show that 3 million mobile phones have been registered over the period. "The IMEI is a unique 15-digit code, which tells exactly what kind of device you have when you put in the SIM card."

The NTA started developing the MDMS four years ago after the Mobile Device Management System Bylaws 2018 were issued.

Smartphones are mainly imported from China and India. The system was introduced to discourage illegal imports, sale and distribution of mobile sets and to track and block mobile phones in cases of theft and loss.

But both the telecom regulator and government could not convince the Nepali migrants, and take them into confidence before implementing the MDMS.

Issuing a press note Pravasi Nepali Manch, an organisation of migrant Nepali workers, said that the government is well aware that the country's economy is sustained by remittances sent home by millions of Nepali migrants. "The decision to levy customs duty on a mobile phone and a laptop brought in by returning Nepali migrant workers is an exploitation of those folks," it reads.

The NTA has issuing a notice on December 24, requested the mobile phone users, who brought their handheld devices from abroad for personal use before mid-August this year should update their operating system by taking an invoice from the customs office.

The notice read, “The sets not declared in customs, according to the rules, will not be registered from December 30. And this type of mobile set will stop operating."

Thursday, December 29, 2022

Kerung-Kathmandu railway detailed feasibility study report in 42 months

The visiting Chinese experts team is hopeful to overcome difficulties in construction of Kerung-Kathmandu railway, and submit the detailed feasibility study report in 42 months.

The cross-border railway crosses the Himalayas, where terrain and geological conditions are extremely complex," a Chinese railway expert Feng Dequan has been quoted by China's Xinhua News Agency as saying, "The project has world-class engineering difficulties."

Feng-led six-member Chinese experts team came to Nepal on Tuesday to carry out feasibility study of the cross-border railway.

However, unlikely to the earlier Chinese experts team, the team led by Feng, said that they will closely work with the Nepali side to overcome difficulties to construct trans-Himalayan railway.

The cross-border railway project, which is proposed to be built under the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), will connect Tibetan Autonomous Region of China with Kathmandu.

Feng said that his team will make full use of China's advanced technology and rich experience in constructing railways in difficult and complex mountainous and plateau areas, closely cooperate with top scientific research institutions in China and Nepal.

"As the first batch of experts, our arrival in Kathmandu marks new progress in the feasibility study project," Xinhua quoted Feng as saying. 

The feasibility study that will be carried out by the China Railway First Survey and Design Institute Group, is estimated to take at least 42 months. 

Likewise, the estimated cost for the feasibility study of the 72-km cross-border railway is also expected to be around Rs 3.4 billion.

China has already linked Kerung with the Lhasa-Shigatse railway line on the Chinese side. Extending the railway line cross border from Shigatse, China is keen on linking it to Kathmandu and Lumbini.

But according to the Department of Railways, the railway line will originate from Kerung and connect Kathmandu via Rasuwagadhi.

The Chinese team is expected to complete the study and submit its report in next 42 months, according to the director general at the Department of Railways Rohit Kumar Bisural.

"As previously agreed, the team will conduct the study at its own expense and Nepal will provide them security and facilitation,” he said, adding that the project is expected to move forward. "The Chinese team held a consultation with us in this regard."

The study of the railway line will be carried out in such a way that the track will bifurcate towards Nepal from the railway track going towards Mansarovar of Tibet from a lake above Kerung, Bisural claimed.

Earlier, the Chinese government had sent a Letter of Undertaking (LoU) - that was approved by Nepal on December 22 - to Nepal on the basis of an agreement reached five years ago.

The Department of Railways forwarded the document to the Finance Ministry for necessary action but it was delayed for a long time due to various reasons, the department complained.

The pre-feasibility study of the railway was conducted in November 2018 and an agreement for carrying out the feasibility study was reached during the visit of Chinese President Xi Jinping to Nepal a year later on October 12-13 in 2019.

Likewise, a memorandum of understanding (MoU), for expediting the feasibility study, was also reached during the visit of Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi's to Nepal in March 2022. However, Covid-19 pandemic delayed the feasibility study of railway project.

Though, Nepal and China held discussion after the National Railway Administration of China submitted the preliminary study report to the government, the feasibility study report will pave the way to do further action.

The detailed feasibility study will be based on the pre-feasibility study report that had incorporated geographical study from Kathmandu-Kerung via Trishuli, topographical features, among others.

According to the preliminary report, construction of the trans Himalayan railway is not going to be easy due to complex geographical territory. "Most of the railway line will be inside the tunnel," the report reads, adding that some 99 per cent of the railway line will be inside Nepal."

However, for the operation of cross-border railway, Transit and Transport Agreement - one of the important documents - was also signed during the China visit of President Bidya Devi Bhandari.

Trans Himalaya Multi-Dimensional Connectivity Network and Nepal-China Cross-Border Railway is expected to be great help for Nepal in expansion of connectivity network with the northern neighbour.

Visa fee for workers going to Korea under EPS increased

The visa fee for workers going to South Korea under Korean Language Test (KLT-EPS) has been increased.

The South Korean Embassy in Kathmandu has increased the visa fee effective from January 1.

The South Korean embassy charges a visa fee of Rs 7,200 for workers going to South Korea under Korean Language Test (KLT-EPS) currently. From January 1, the fee has been increased by Rs 600 to Rs 7,800, according to the EPS Korea branch.

In order to complete the necessary procedures before issuing the visa (CCVI), the person himself has to attend the EPS office and submit the CCVI form, the notice reads, adding that from January 1, people who fill out the form will have to pay Rs 7,800 for the visa fee. "People, who have already submitted the CCVI form and have not been issued a visa will also have to pay the increased visa fee."

The office has also requested to pay an additional Rs 600 to the people, who have submitted the CCVI form before, as they will go to the Korean Embassy in Kathmandu to get visa only after January 1.

Wednesday, December 28, 2022

Nepal to receive $200 million concessional loan from ADB

Nepal and Asian Development Bank (ADB) today signed a concessional loan agreement amounting to $200 million (equivalent to Rs 26.51 billion) for supporting the first five years of the School Education Sector Plan (SESP-2022–2030) and a grant agreement of $12 million to implement the Strengthening Systems to Protect and Uplift Women Project.

According to a press note issued by the Finance Ministry, the project will benefit survivors of gender-based violence (GBV) across Madhesh, Lumbini, and Sudurpaschchim provinces through the establishment of long-term rehabilitation centers, development of survivor-friendly facilities for the Women, Children and Senior Citizen Service Centers within selected district and area police offices and strengthening of survivor-friendly services in these provinces. "The project will also build a new national long-term rehabilitation center in Bhaktapur," it adds.

Joint secretary at the ministry Ishwori Prasad Aryal, and ADB Officer-in-Charge for Nepal Saugata Dasgupta signed the agreements on behalf of their respective institutions. The proposed assistance is expected to support the implementation of the government’s School Education Sector Plan in a sector-wide approach supported by eight development partners, including ADB under the Joint Financing Arrangement.

“The programme will enhance learning provisions for basic and secondary schools, strengthen teaching and learning skills in schools, accelerate the recovery from learning losses caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, and improve the capacity of local governments in education planning, monitoring and reporting,” the press note reads.

"Nepal has done significantly in terms of improving access to education in the past decades however, much more needs to be done to further improve equity of access and the quality of education," said Aryal after signing the agreement. The programme will be crucial to operationalising Nepal’s holistic approach in improving the overall learning outcomes."

"The agreement is a key part of ADB’s overall efforts to help Nepal accelerate reforms and transform the country’s education system to develop human capital, reduce social inequity, and attain sustainable growth," Dasgupta is quoted as saying, "The plan is designed towards eliminating inequities in access and participation in school education, and improving quality and resilience of school education."

Poor supply capacity hits export growth

Poor supply capacity has hit Nepal's export, according to the expert.

While Nepal has accorded the highest priority to export promotion, even acknowledging the importance of promoting exports in the directive principle of the Constitution, the export performance in the past decade has been dismal, primarily because of poor supply capacity, chairman of South Asia Watch on Trade, Economics and Environment (SAWTEE) Dr Posh Raj Pandey said at a seminar on 'Trade policy and economic diplomacy in Federal Nepal', organised by SAWTEE, in collaboration with The Asia foundation (TAF), here today.

Likewise, speaking at the inaugural session, industry secretary Toyam Raya said that Nepal’s future trade policies must be formulated through proper and adequate consultations among all the tiers—local, provincial and federal—of the government as well as the private sector. "Diplomatic missions play a vital role in promoting exports," he added.

Discussing on the findings of two studies on 'Trade policy and economic diplomacy in Federal Nepal', on the occasion, foreign secretary Bharat Raj Paudyal said that federalism can be leveraged to address the major issues that plague Nepal’s exports: weak intergovernmental coordination, supply-side constraints, poor adoption of technology, weak production capacity, lack of trade policy coherence, and finally poor implementation of policies.

He also pointed out that economic diplomacy cannot function in isolation, hence collaboration and coordination between various stakeholders are essential.

On the occasion, executive director at SAWTEE Dr Paras Kharel said that as Nepal stands on the verge of graduating from the Least Developed Country (LDC) category in 2026, trade and economic diplomacy carry special importance in charting the post-graduation landscape.

Presenting the findings of a study, trade expert Purushottam Ojha and researcher at SAWTEE Neelu Thapa recommended identification and development of products along with the need for product and market diversification to boost Nepal’s exports. The study highlighted the need of technical support and capacity building programmes. It also recommended strong coordination within the three tiers of governments for effective implementation of trade policies.

The panelists, including former policymakers, on the occasion, emphasised on the need to make trade policy more focused.

Similarly, the private sector representatives including president of Federation of Women Entrepreneurs Association of Nepal (FWEAN) Neeru Rayamajhi Khatri, director at the Kanchanjangha Tea Estate and Research Centre (KTERC) Shanta Baskota Koirala and Entrepreneur at the Himalayan Natural Food Product and Export Pvt Ltd Rajendra Timilsina called attention to the need to integrate trade policy to promote entrepreneurship by increasing access to technology, infrastructure, knowledge, and capacity building activities of the entrepreneurs.

Urging the policymakers to take advantage of the federal structure, former president of Nepal Freight Forwarders Association Rajan Sharma emphasised on the need to allow subnational governments to play a role in enhancing the supply-chain.

On the occasion, former ambassador Dr Dinesh Bhattarai and research officer at SAWTEE Swastik Aryal presented the findings of a study on 'Economic diplomacy for trade facilitation and export promotion in the context of federal Nepal'.

The study has identified underutilisation of economic diplomacy for trade facilitation and low coordination within government agencies as well as with other stakeholders as the major gap. It also recommended strong partnership between government agencies for the utilization of economic diplomacy and the need to establish and strengthen the institutional arrangement for economic diplomacy.

Discussing on the the findings of the study on 'Economic diplomacy for trade facilitation and export promotion in the context of federal Nepal,' former ambassador Prof Shambhu Ram Simkhada highlighted the importance of focusing on improving structural and supply-side constraints to trade. He also emphasised to focus on high-value niche products instead of mass production of low-value products for export.

Likewise, former president of Federation of Nepalese Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FNCCI) Suraj Vaidya gave an insight into the challenges faced by the private sector in trade such as lengthy bureaucratic processes. He called for putting Nepal’s internal house in order, which he deemed a precondition for diplomacy to work efficiently.

Trade and economic diplomacy expert Rabi Shankar Sainju, on the occasion, highlighted the importance of infrastructural development, better linkages between buyers and suppliers, and effective diplomacy to remove protectionist measures applied by other countries.

China resumes one-way trade via Hilsa port

China has resumed one-way trade through Nepal-China Hilsa-Purang border port.

According to a press note issued by the Foreign Ministry today, the border port was reopened for the one-way trade on December 26.

"The two-way trade through the border point is also expected to resume soon," the press note reads.

Nepal's trade with the northern neighbour remained badly affected for the past three years after the closure of the border ports including Tatopani, Kerung and Hilsa. 

After Covid-19 pandemic, People’s Republic of China begun placing restrictions on the border ports with Nepal hurting the bilateral trade.

Earlier today, Rasuwagadhi-Kerung port between Nepal and the China resumed two-way trade.

The Department of Commerce of the Tibet Autonomous Region of the People’s Republic of China organised an official ceremony in Kerung to mark the reopening of the port. In the last fiscal year, Nepal has not been able to export anything through the northern border points, whereas imports also witnessed very less prompting the Nepali traders, involved in imports from China, to abandon their business.

"The resumption of port is expected to augment bilateral trade between Nepal and China," the press note from the foreign ministry further reads.

Private sector suspends protest programme following talks with government

The private sector that has been protesting against the increase in interest rates, suspended their protest after talks with newly appointed finance minister Bishnu Paudel today.

The private sector representatives from across the country held the discussion with finance minister, where central bank governor and secretaries at the Finance Ministry were also present.

"As we got positive response after the discussion, we have suspended our protest programmes," said one of the industrialists, after the talks.

During the discussion, the newly appointed finance minister Paudel asked for few days to address private sector's demands, though the industrialists, who were in discussion, claimed that they have suspended their protest with an agreement. "The government has vowed to address our demands," he claimed.

The private sector has been protesting against the government and Nepal Rastra Bank (NRB) for the past one month, asking to reduce interest rates and revise the 'Working Capital Loan Guidelines'.

Especially, the private sector representatives from Biratnagar, Birgunj, Bhairahawa and Nepalgunj have been asking for government intervention in reducing the interest rates as according to them the higher interest rates have been adversely impacting the investment. However, the government can neither reduce interest rates nor revise the 'Working Capital Loan Guidelines', as these both falls under the central bank, which is autonomous.

The central bank also cannot interfere much in the interest rate, as the market determines the interest rate, since last more than 4 decades. However, the private sector is forcing the government and central bank to fix interest rate in single digit, without presuming its adverse impact on themselves in future. "What will the private sector do, if government starts fixing price of each and every product," a banker asked, explaining that backtracking the open market operations will be a disaster for the private sector itself, legt alone the depositors' woes.

Since there is loanable fund crunch in the market, the banks and financial institutions (BFIs) are hiking the interest rates to attract the depositors. But hiking the interest rates has also not helped create new deposits, rather the deposits shifted from one institution to another only. The cheap fund during the Covid-19 has become expensive as the BFIs are drained out currently.

After the formation of a new government led by the Maoist Centre chair Pushpa Kamal Dahal 'Prachanda', the private sector met with both newly appointed Prime Minister Dahal and finance minister Poudel and sought government interference. In response, both of them committed to listen to the private sectors’ plea, though the situation is not in their hands. The government has not taken a full shape and most likely this government could not last long due to 'unnatural alliance' among the royalists ultra rightest and republican ultra leftist, apart from a couple of new political parties, which are yet to decide, where do they stand.

Tuesday, December 27, 2022

Chinese experts team arrives Nepal for detailed study of Kerung-Kathmandu railway

It may just be a coincident as just a day after Pushpa Kamal Dahal ‘Prachanda’ took oath of the Office of the Prime Minister, a Chinese experts team has arrived in Kathmandu to carry out the detailed feasibility study of the Nepal-China international railway.

Only yesterday, an 8-member cabinet was formed under the leadership of Dahal, chairman of the CPN-Maoist Centre. 

The Chinese Embassy in Kathmandu has confirmed that Chinese experts has come to Kathmandu to study and survey the feasibility of the Nepal-China international railway. They arrived in Nepal to conduct a detailed study of the Kathmandu-Kerung railway, the Embassy confirmed, adding that the team will study the geological features, tunneling, earthquake risk.

The Kerung-Kathmandu railway is one of the nine development projects proposed by Nepal with China to be constructed under the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), but has not moved forward due to Covid-19. However, none of the nine projects have gained momentum till date. The Kerung-Kathmandu Railway and 'Trans Himalayan Multi-Dimensional Connectivity Network' were also included in the joint statement issued after the Second Belt and Road Forum held in Beijing in April 2019, where President Bidya Devi Bhandari took part.

An agreement on the railway project was also reached during the visit of Chinese President Xi Jinping to Nepal in October 2019. He had promised that China will help turn land-locked Nepal into a ‘land-linked country’ by boosting connectivity between the two countries. But the Covid-19 pandemic played a spoil sport. During Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi's visit to Nepal last March, Nepal and China again signed an agreement on providing technical assistance for the feasibility study of the railway. He also promised to provide grants for feasibility studies of the cross-border railways.

Nepal and China had also held a discussion about the construction of a cross-border railway, in the second week of last August. In a bilateral meeting between foreign minister Narayan Khadka and his counterpart Wang Yi in Qingdao, Wang reiterated his commitment to grant funding for the railway's feasibility study. He even promised to send a team of Chinese experts. According to the agreement, the Chinese government agency China International Development Cooperation Agency (CIDCA) has written a letter to the Finance Ministry too. The CIDCA, under the State Council of China, coordinates development projects and aid with other countries. 

However, there are lots of technical complications in construction of the cross-border railway including cost to bring a train from Shigatse in Tibet to Nepal through high mountains terrain and gorges. Though it is estimated that the construction cost per kilometre is about 200 million yuan ($29.68 million), the difficult geography including Himalayan terrain with high earthquake risks are considered major hurdles. But once constructed, the railway line is expected to shorten transit time by as much as three weeks to transport goods from cities such as Chongqing, Beijing or Shanghai, though, it is expected to cost at least $3 billion, too large a bill for Nepal to foot.

According to the senior divisional engineer and spokesperson at the Railway Department Aman Chitrakar, the feasibility study on the construction of the Kerung-Kathmandu railway will be expedited in collaboration with the visiting Chinese experts team. "The visiting team will carry out the detailed feasibility assessment of the project in coordination with the department."

According to a press note issued by the Chinese Embassy in Kathmandu. the railway line is an integral part of the BRI between China and Nepal. "China gives priority to Nepal’s aspiration and needs in this regard, and will proactively push ahead with the feasibility study with China aid fund," it reads, adding that the two countries will maintain close contact and coordination in jointly carrying out the work ahead with a view of building a trans-Himalayan multi-dimensional connectivity network.

Though, Nepal and China repeatedly agreed to carry out the feasibility study for the construction of a cross-border railway, the investment modality and technical aspects are yet to be agreed upon. Fearing to be debt-trapped, former Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba has also clarified that Nepal will construct the cross-border railway, if China constructs it under grant. "Nepal can not take loan to construct the cross border railway line, he has explained.

But once constructed, the railway is expected to bring Tibetan Autonomous Region of China and Nepal's capital Kathmandu much closer. China has already constructed Lhasa-Shigatse railway line on the Chinese side that will link Kerung. It is also expected that the Kerung line will ultimately extend to the Indian border, linking two Asian economic giants via Nepal.

Nepal resumes exports through Rasuwagadhi border after 3 years

The northern border that has remained almost closed after 2015, has opened from today as Nepal exported some eight containers of goods to China through the Rasuwagadhi border customs.

Export from Nepal has been completely stalled for about 36 months citing the Covid-19 pandemic, whereas trade has been irregular though Tatopani customs since 2015 devastating earthquake. 

Chief Customs Officer at Rasuwa Customs Office Narayan Prasad Bhandari confirmed the export of goods worth around Rs 5.07 million today through the Rasuwagadhi customs today. 

“Exports that had stalled due to the Covid pandemic have started from today,” he said, adding that bamboo stools, handicrafts and copper ornamental items were exported to China today. "The export of goods and the movement of people through Rasuwagadhi customs was closed from January 29, 2020."

According to the customs report, goods worth Rs 763 million were exported to China in the fiscal year 2019-20. However, a limited import was allowed and about 14 Chinese containers were imported from the border daily, though irregularly. 

Nepali traders have been blaming China for imposing an 'undeclared blockade' on Nepal by halting the free movement of goods to and from the landlocked country via both Tatopani-Khasa and Rasuwagadhi-Kerung customs points. Nepali traders have been voicing their concerns time and again but the apathy from the Chinese side pushed them into huge losses. 

Ready-made clothes, apples, shoes, bags, motor batteries, plastic goods are imported from China through the border, whereas pashmina, carpets, bamboo stools, broom grass, refined flour, vegetable ghee, noodles, pasta, biscuits, juice, jam, beaten rice, lapsi candy, chocolate, sugar and chewing gum are exported to China.

According to a press note issued by the Chinese Embassy in Kathmandu, “The opening of two-way trade of Kerung port will promote Nepal’s exports to China, reduce the trade deficit in Nepal, solve the trade imbalance, and further improve the connectivity between China and Nepal.”

Nepal and China trade through Tatopani and Rasuwagadhi border points. But the Tatopani border point is still closed for two-way trade. 

The resumption of bilateral trade could be a coincidence with the formation of a new government, that is said to be orchestrated by the northern neighbour, a day ago in Nepal.

There will be an official ceremony to celebrate the resumption of two-way trade tomorrow. The ceremony will be attended by delegates of the Department of Commerce of Xizang Autonomous Region, the Lhasa Customs, the General Station of Immigration Inspection of Xizang Autonomous Region, the Health Commission of Xizang Autonomous Region, and other relevant departments.

The Chinese Embassy in Kathmandu has released pictures of export from Nepal.

Monday, December 26, 2022

New government promises economic austerity, effective service delivery

The newly formed government led by Prime Minister Puspa Kamal Dahal 'Prachanda' has promised economic austerity and effective service delivery.

The first cabinet meeting of Prime Minister Dahal decided not to take the increased salary for the current fiscal year. The budget for the current fiscal year 2022-23 has increased the salary of the government officials, including the ministers. Due to economic crisis, the erstwhile government failed to mobilise the revenue not only falling short of the target but also failing to meet the recurrent expenditure.

Dahal, in the cabinet, also instructed to prioritise good governance, better service delivery and end the hassles faced by people while obtaining passports and licenses. The eight-member cabinet also decided to make arrangements to ensure that citizens can obtain essential documents like passports and driving licences without waiting long in queue. Passport and driving licence-obtaining processes in Nepal are complicated and mismanaged, which has forced service seekers to stand in queue for hours from early morning. Likewise, there is a lot of complaints of bribery and forgery.

The new government has decided to make efforts to reform the service delivery of government offices to make the public feel change.

Talking to journalists after the first cabinet meeting today evening, Dahal said the cabinet has been formed as per the people's mandate. "Challenges galore ahead," he said, adding that the first meeting of his cabinet decided to take stock of the economic crisis and identify solutions.

Earlier in the afternoon, Dahal also instructed not to buy extravagant goods at Baluwatar, the official residence of the Prime Minister, where he will be shifting day after.

According to Prime Minister Dahal's personal secretary Ramesh Malla, the Prime Minister has instructed not to buy any luxury goods for his use. Dahal courted controversy, during his first tenure as Prime Minister, as he was blamed for buying a bed worth Rs 1 million for him.

Dahal was sworn-in as the 44th Prime Minister of Nepal at the President Office at Sheetal Niwas today and formed an eight-member cabinet immediately.

Saturday, December 24, 2022

Japan supports library construction in Sunsari

Japan has assisted construction of an earthquake-resistant library as part of a project under the Grant Assistance for Japanese NGO Projects schemes.

The project is being implemented by Japanese NGO Shanti Volunteer Association, according to a press note issued by the Japanese Embassy in Kathmandu.

Japanese ambassador to Nepal Kikuta Yutaka today attended the ceremony to inaugurate Sunaulo Library in Sunsari district, the press note reads, adding that the library was damaged by the 2015 earthquake and was no longer accessible. "The project aims at improving services provided by community libraries and learning centers, and supporting the construction of a total of four libraries and learning centers, including the Sunaulo Library."

The library will not only operate as a library, but also be equipped with rooms for children and women, a computer room, and a meeting room, where various programmes like reading promotion activities for children, empowerment of women and youths, and activities to improve the lives of people in the community, will be implemented.

During the inauguration programme, ambassador Kikuta expressed his hope that the library will become a community asset that contributes to the development of the region and that the library will be further developed by community and local government.

He also mentioned that this year marks the 120th anniversary since Nepal dispatched its first eight students to Japan for study and that he was delighted to see the completion of the library construction in this celebratory year.

Friday, December 23, 2022

Nepal deports 'The Serpent'

Nepal today deported the French national Charles Sobhraj, who is notoriously known as 'The Serpent' or 'bikini killer'.

Amid tight security, the Immigration Department saw Sobhraj off at the Tribhuvan International Airport (TIA) as he boarded Doha-bound Qatar Airways flight QR 647 at 6 pm to fly back to France. 

The French Embassy in Kathmandu provided necessary travel documents for the deportation of the 78-year-old Sobhraj, who was freed from the Central Jail at Sundhara in Kathmandu today afternoon, after serving 19 years behind the bars.

He is scheduled to land in Doha at 9:30 pm, from where he will fly to Paris on another Qatar Airways flight QR41 at 1:25 am to land in Paris at 6:35 am on Saturday morning. "I will celebrate Christmas in France," he is quoted saying to the immigration officials.

Sobhraj will be barred from entering Nepal for the next ten years, according to joint secretary and spokesperson of Home Ministry Fanindra Mani Pokharel.

The septuagenarian was taken to the TIA immediately from the Immigration Department after getting travel document from the French Embassy in Kathmandu. Though, the Supreme Court, on Wednesday, has ordered the government to deport him within 15 days, the Home Ministry today directed the Immigration Department, that was preparing to keep him in Dillibazar Prison in case his paperwork delayed, to deport Sobhraj immediately today, due to security threat.

The Central jail that had planned to release him yesterday had also postponed it for today saying that some official procedures were not complete to set him free from prison, and there is no secure place in Immigration Department to keep him.

According to Wednesday's Supreme Court order, Charles Sobhraj needs to be sent back to his country in the next 15 days. Sobhraj, also wanted to spend some more time in Kathmandu and undergo medical treatment for his heart problems. "But due to security reasons, we could not fulfil his wishes," a source at the Home Ministry said.

After being released from Central jail and handed over to the Immigration Department today afternoon, he refused to meet anyone, including journalists, his lawyer Sakuntala Thapa and alleged wife Nihita Bishwas, who had been trying to get him out of the jail from the beginning.

Sobhraj’s lawyers had long been demanding the court’s intervention for clemency. In different petitions they had demanded a waiver of his jail sentence, citing provisions of Clause 12 (1) of the Senior Citizens Act 2063. According to Nepal law, inmates, who have shown good character and completed 75 per cent of their jail term to be released.

A joint bench of Justices Sapana Pradhan Malla and Til Prasad Shrestha hearing a habeas corpus petition lodged by Sobhraj ordered his release on Wednesday, if he need not be jailed for another case, and added that arrangements be made to return the French citizen back to his country within 15 days.

Sobhraj pointed in his petition that he has already served 19 years and is 78 years old.  

Kathmandu and Bhaktapur district courts had found him guilty in murder of American and Canadian citizens in 1975. He was ruled to have murdered American citizen Connie Jo Bronzich in Manohara of Kathmandu and then Canadian national Laurent Carrière two days later in Sanga of Bhaktapur in December 1975.

The Supreme Court in 2010 had endorsed the life sentence slapped on him by the Kathmandu District Court. The Bhaktapur District Court had then sentenced him for the murder of Canadian national in 2014. He has been at the Central Jail in Sundhara, Kathmandu since his arrest in Kathmandu in 2003.

Sobhraj, who was freed after the Supreme Court ruled in favour of his age and good behaviour, was arrested in Kathmandu in 2003 on charges of traveling with a false passport and also for the murders of American tourist Connie Jo Boronzich (29) and Canadian Laurent Carrière (26) in 1975. But he had been denying the charges and threatening to sue international media including BBC and Nepal government for falsely implicating him.

Linked to a string of murders throughout Asia in the 1970s, the son of Indian and Vietnamese parents, Sobhraj has been charged to more than 20 killings between 1972 and 1982, in which the victims were drugged, strangled, beaten, or burned, across many countries, including Thailand and India, in Asia.

Before his two convictions in Kathmandu, Sobhraj had already spent two decades in jail in India for poisoning a busload of French tourists.

Thursday, December 22, 2022

UNICEF and Finland continue their partnership to support the education sector of Nepal

 Finland and UNICEF have signed a partnership agreement for the years 2023-2027. Finland is committing 4.2 million euros (approximately Rs 590 million) to UNICEF’s efforts in Nepal to enhance quality services for children, according to a press note issued by UNICEF.

Finland and UNICEF have been collaborating in the education sector in Nepal since 2019, and the agreed support is a continuation of this partnership.

At a ceremony held in Kathmandu today, the ambassador of Finland to Nepal Riina-Riikka Heikka and  UNICEF representative to Nepal Usha Mishra signed the partnership agreement for the years 2023-2027, on behalf of their respective institutions.

Finland is committing 4.2 million euros for the enhancement of quality services for children in Nepal, the press note reads, adding that Finland and UNICEF have been collaborating in the education sector since 2019 – the agreed support is a continuation of this partnership. “With the signed agreement, the partners reaffirmed their aspiration to strengthen inclusion and quality education for children in Nepal.”

The renewed partnership will focus on strengthening school readiness, foundational learning and inclusive education models, targeting particularly the most vulnerable children. “It also addresses those children who have been particularly hit by the Covid-19 pandemic or other disasters eg floods, in terms of their access to education participation and learning outcomes,” it claims, adding that the partnership also supports the new School Education Sector Plan (SESP) of the government of Nepal, to which both Finland and UNICEF are contributing.

“UNICEF is one of Finland’s long-term partners in Nepal,” Finland’s ambassador Riina-Riikka Heikka said, after signing the agreement. “The good relations are based on mutual understanding, common goals, common commitment and joint efforts to promote sustainable development in Nepal,” she said, adding that education is one of the key pillars of Finland’s Country Programme for Development Cooperation in Nepal. “We need strong partnerships in order to jointly strive for inclusive quality education.”

The strong and strategic partnership with Finland over the previous years has allowed us to continue supporting the Government in their pursuit of expanding access and improving the quality of public education in Nepal, so as to serve the children of the country, especially those left behind,”  UNICEF representative Usha Mishra said, after signing ceremony.

Wednesday, December 21, 2022

Embossed number plates mandatory from mid-March

The Department of Transport Management has issued directives to all authorities to ensure that the government-owned vehicles must have embossed registration number plates installed by mid-March 2022.

Any government-owned vehicle without embossed number plates will be fined Rs 2000, according to the Vehicle and Transport Management Act, 2049 BS, after the end of the deadline, the department confirmed today.

Director General of the department Dr Tokraj Pandey, confirmed that government-owned vehicles have been found to not paying tax since 10 years. “Thus, they are instructed to install embossed numbers,” he said, adding that the installation of embossed number plates will help collect taxes.

The department also informed that the tax must be cleared at the time of installation of embossed number plates. It is expected that the directive to install embossed registration number plates will increase the revenue of the government and the process of installing embossed plates will also be easier.

Tuesday, December 20, 2022

JICA, Dolma Impact sign $10 million investment pact to aid growth

Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) today signed a $10 million investment agreement with Dolma Impact Fund II, focusing investments in renewable energy, technology and healthcare in Nepal.

The fund also contributes to gender equality and fulfills the criteria in the ‘2X Challenge: Financing for Women’, an initiative adopted by the G7 development finance institutions, including JICA, on the occasion of the G7 Leaders' Summit in June 2018, according to a press note issued by JICA and Dolma Impact Fund, jointly. 

According to Dolma Impact Fund, the project will contribute to sustainable development goals – Goal 5 (Gender equality), Goal 7 (Affordable and clean energy), and Goal 8 (Decent work and economic growth).

Chief executive officer of Dolma Impact Fund Tim Gocher, while addressing the signing ceremony in Kathmandu through the virtual medium, said Nepal would see a huge increase in foreign direct investments in the coming future that would create more jobs, prosperity and stronger industrial development.

The Dolma Impact Fund has $100 million under management and has invested in 12 companies across energy, healthcare and technology.

“Nepal needs more aid in hospitals, trained doctors and nurses and medicines manufactured domestically, so that the country can support itself in a future crisis,” Gocher said, adding that Dolma is further investing in renewable energy apart from the existing 46.5 megawatt project (MW), with JICA. “We just do not promote and build renewable energy, we promote the capital markets too, so that more investors come into the sector.”

The Fund has invested in companies like CloudFactory, Fusemachines, Sastodeal, Upaya City Cargo, and Foodmandu. “About 15,000 employees have been created in companies that the Fund has invested in,” said Gocher.

“This is our first partnership with an investment partner in Nepal,” senior deputy director-general of the Private Sector Partnership and Finance Department of JICA Jin Wakabayashi said, adding that Dolma Impact Fund is a leading private equity fund and JICA is excited to partner with such a fund and contribute to the development of Nepal.

JICA has been supporting the Investment Board of Nepal to strengthen sources for investments, he said, adding that JICA has also been in technical cooperation for hydropower projects. “Recently, JICA has started a new technical cooperation project to support entrepreneurs in Nepal.”

JICA's investment will be mainly utilised for equity investment in healthcare companies, IT and digital companies, and renewable energy projects in Nepal. JICA’s investment is part of the final close of Dolma Impact Fund II, which brings the fund corpus to $71.96 million.

“Nepal is facing the challenge of a hollowing out of industry caused by the increased number of migrant workers, which, in turn, is due to a lack of promising domestic industries and job opportunities in Nepal,” the press note reads, adding that the fosterage of promising industries such as healthcare and the IT and digital sector, therefore, is urgently needed in Nepal. 

Dolma Fund Management contributes to the development of the stock market and the private equity fund market in Nepal.

Although Nepal experienced a temporary economic downturn due to the earthquake in 2015, the economy has revived since then and the country is now expected to graduate from the Least Developed Countries (LDC) category by 2026. On the other hand, Nepal is facing the

challenge of a hollowing out of industry caused by the increased number of migrant workers, which in turn is due to the lack of promising domestic industries and job opportunities in Nepal.

Therefore, the fosterage of promising industries such as healthcare and the IT/digital sector is urgently needed in Nepal, the press note reads. “In some areas, however, Nepal has a natural advantage, being blessed with abundant water resources and an economically viable hydropower generation potential estimated at around 42,000 MW. Hence, Nepal is expected to expand its renewable generation capacity to contribute to the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions in South Asia.”

DFM manages impact investment funds that promote industrial development, employment creation, and renewable energy development.

Monday, December 19, 2022

NEA stops exporting electricity to India

Nepal has stopped exporting electricity to India due to dry season.

Nepal Electricity Authority (NEA) has stopped export of electricity as it has stopped producing excess electricity due to the start of the dry season, confirmed NEA spokesperson Suresh Bahadur Bhattarai. 

“NEA is likely to stop exporting electricity until the 2023 monsoon” he said, adding that the NEA had been exporting electricity to India since May 15 through the Indian Energy Exchange Ltd. “NEA has sold electricity worth Rs 11 billion during this period.”

As the flow of water in the rivers is decreasing due to dry season, the production of electricity from hydropower stations – based on river flow – has also decreased forcing the state electricity monopoly to stop export. 

The NEA has, currently, received permission to export up to 409 megawatts (MW) of electricity produced by eight hydropower stations of Nepal to India.

Due to electricity exports to India Nepal has earned Rs 10.38 billion during the first five-and-a-half months. Nepal started exporting power to India this June. According to NEA, some 1.26 billion units of surplus electricity were exported to India, earning Rs 10.389 billion in revenue by mid-November. 

Sunday, December 18, 2022

Nepal Labour Migration Report 2022 launched on International Migrants Day

Ministry of Labour, Employment and Social Security, International Organisation for Migration (IOM), International Labour Organisation (ILO), and Safer Migration Programme (SaMI) jointly launched the ‘Nepal Labour Migration Report 2022’ on International Migrants Day today.

The report encapsulates the major trends and activities in the country’s labour migration sector covering the period between 2019-2020 and 2021-2022, which follows the efforts of the ministry to periodically present a comprehensive overview of labour migration in Nepal, according to a press note issued by the IOM.

According to the report, the ministry has adopted and implemented a range of policies and legal instruments to address labour migration related issues in the country such as shifting labour migration related services to online system, adopting new directives and procedures for the reintegration of returnee migrant workers, as well as significant modification on immigration policies especially aiming the migrants in major countries of destination. Despite this progress, Nepali migrant workers’ health and safety issues as well as cases of fraud, abuse and exploitation continue to occur in unignorable numbers, it reads.

The report also stresses the importance of ‘informed migration’, awareness, sensitisation, and the need for implementing country specific pre-departure orientation as well as post-arrival orientation for migrants.

Likewise, the report appeals to support the government’s efforts to ensure fair and ethical recruitment, including the implementation of the ‘employer pays’ principle, which means the costs of recruitment should be borne by the employer not by the worker.

Labour Migration has been a common livelihood strategy for Nepalese households over the recent decades. According to the World Bank, remittances contributed equal to some 24 per cent of the country’s GDP in the year 2021.

Addressing the event in capacity of the chief guest minister for labour, employment and social security Sher Bahadur Kunwar extended his best wishes to all the migrants on the occasion of the International Migrants Day, and wished for an environment where all labour migrants can be proud of their work and be able to be united for their rights.

“The report will be a useful resource for everyone for it has covered every aspect of migration including its shifting dynamics,” he said. 

“I am glad that we have been able to continue to join hands with the government and other key stakeholders in presenting such report covering every aspects of the labour migration sector in Nepal, which I believe will eventually contribute to strengthening labour migration governance and ensuring safe, orderly and dignified labour migration in Nepal, envisioned by the Sustainable Development Goals and the Global Compact for Migration (GCM),” said IOM Nepal chief of Mission Lorena Lando, after the report launch.

“Introducing the report on this day dedicated to all migrants across the world, we are contributing to our objectives of humanizing mobility to contribute to social cohesion and reduce negative perceptions about migrants”, she added.

“The foundation of effective policy formulation and implementation is robust research and social dialogue,” said officer-in-charge for ILO Nepal Fredy Guayacan, Congratulating the ministry on the report launch.

“We are honoured to have continued our support for this extremely important work since 2014, which we believe is essential not only to enhance our understanding of the key trends and issues related to labour migration in Nepal but also to reflect on each of our roles in ensuring labour migration governance respects the rights of migrant workers and their families,” he added.

The IOM, ILO and Sami had supported the government in developing the report.

Representatives from various other government agencies, civil society, development partners, academia, researchers, the United Nations, and other national and international organizations were among the attendees of the event.

Every year on December 18, the world celebrates International Migrants Day to mark the anniversary of the adoption of the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of their Families by the United Nations General Assembly in 1990. In Nepal, under the leadership of the Ministry of Labour, Employment and Social Security, the country is marked the Day under the theme of ‘skills, capital, and knowledge gained from foreign employment: entrepreneurship, employment and national dignity’.

Friday, December 16, 2022

NOC slashes price of petrol and diesel by Rs 3 per litre

Nepal Oil Corporation (NOC) has finally decreased the prices of petroleum products, after a pressure from the public.

According to the state oil monopoly, the price of petrol, diesel and kerosene has been reduced by Rs 3 per liter with effect from today midnight.

With the reduction, per liter of petrol will cost Rs 178 and per liter of diesel and kerosene will cost Rs 175. Earlier, the price of petrol was Rs 181 and diesel and kerosene was Rs 178.

The Indian Oil Corporation (IOC) has sent a new price list to NOC today after reducing the price of fuel. In its revised price list sent yesterday, the IOC has reduced the prices of petrol by Rs 6.90 per liter, diesel by Rs 12.31 per liter and aviation fuel by Rs 10.61 per liter. According to the revised price, the NOC earns profits of Rs 17 per liter and Rs 10 per liter, in petrol and diesel, respectively, a press note of the NOC reads, projecting that the NOC will earn a profit of Rs 2 billion in the next one month. NOC, however, has kept the prices of aviation turbine fuel (ATF) unchanged at Rs 190 per liter for domestic airlines and $1.645 for international carriers. Likewise, the price of liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) – popularly known as cooking gas –remains the same at Rs 1,800 per liter, the press note adds.

According to the an auto-pricing system, the NOC can increase the price of petroleum products, if the price in international market goes up, and vice versa. But the NOC – citing its earlier loss – has not been reducing the price of petroleum products, despite price decrease in the international market.

This time, the state oil monopoly has been forced to reduce the price due to public pressure. It has reduced the prices of petroleum products today after five months, though the fuel price in the international market has declined by more than 28 per cent.

Last time the NOC had revised the fuel prices was on July 4, when the price of petrol was increased to Rs 181 per liter, and diesel and kerosene was increased to Rs 172 per liter. Since then, the price of crude dropped to $80.86 per barrel from around $112 per barrel in the international market. 

But the NOC has been repeatedly claiming that it has been adopting the auto-pricing system since September, 2014. Breaching its own policy, the NOC has not been decreasing the price of petroleum products lately. It claims that it still owns Rs 19 billion to its supplier IOC. Despite selling in profits, how the NOC is in red is beyond the imagination that led to suspicion.

The NOC has also set up a price stabilisation fund to adjust the price, if it goes down. But the NOC is blamed for misusing the fund too. Consumer rights activists blame the NOC for passing the price burden (loss) to consumers as it failed to manage the public entity.

The government gives no ear to the rising petroleum prices, as it gets hefty taxes from the petroleum business that has not been regulated through an Act yet despite repeated pressure from the public. The government entity – NOC – is doing billions worth petroleum business without any Act, which is why the petroleum business is under scrutiny.

Thursday, December 15, 2022

Nepali civil society groups urge FIFA president to stop dismissing migrant workers’ compensation claims

Over three dozen Nepali civil society organisations have today published an open letter to FIFA president Gianni Infantino calling on him to ‘stop looking the other way’ while migrant workers are denied compensation after having suffered abuses in Qatar.

The organisations have displayed their message on billboards across Kathmandu, including at Tribhuvan International Airport (TIA), where workers from Qatar often return without their wages and the bodies of deceased migrant workers are regularly repatriated.

The letter highlights how migrant workers, who have returned to Nepal, are unable to access a compensation fund set up by Qatar in 2018 to reimburse stolen wages, and how bereaved families are unable to receive compensation if the causes of their loved ones’ deaths are not investigated.

“We have come together to call on Gianni Infantino to make good on FIFA’s promises to respect workers’ rights and agree to compensate workers who have suffered abuses and families who have lost loved ones,” said executive director of Pravasi Nepali Coordination Committee (PNCC)  Som Prasad Lamichhane.

“We know the real human costs of the abuses faced by so many workers in Qatar,” he said, adding that families have spiralled into poverty, children have been taken out of school, and workers forced to migrate again to pay off debts. “FIFA cannot be blind to this reality and must act to make things right.”

Around 400,000 workers from Nepal are employed across a range of sectors in Qatar, including playing a huge part in building the vast infrastructure projects required to host the 2022 FIFA World Cup.

While remittances from working abroad play a major part in Nepal’s economy, those who have travelled to work in the Gulf and elsewhere have regularly suffered a range of labour abuses. Nepali workers typically pay illegal recruitment fees of over $1,000 to secure their jobs, and human rights organisations have regularly documented cases of forced labour and unpaid wages, including at sites linked to the World Cup. 

Workers have also lost lives due to dangerous working conditions, and their deaths have rarely been investigated. A peer-reviewed study found that the deaths of at least 200 Nepali construction workers could have been prevented between 2009 and 2017 with adequate protection from extreme heat. 

In recent years Qatar has introduced a number of reforms to strengthen labour laws and opened a new visa centre in Nepal aiming to reduce abuses. Despite some progress, abuses persist on a significant scale. 

“There is a huge danger that when the final whistle is blown on the World Cup, the contribution and sacrifice of so many migrant workers will be forgotten, and their claims for justice and compensation ignored,” said director of Amnesty International Nepal Nirajan Thapaliya.

“If FIFA wants to show respect towards the people who made this tournament possible, Gianni Infantino should finally agree to ensure workers and their families are compensated,” he said, adding, “Their claims must not be dismissed any longer.”

Since May, a global coalition of human rights organisations, trade unions and fans groups have called on FIFA and Qatar to set up a remediation programme that would compensate workers and invest in programmes to prevent future abuses. The call has been supported by 12 Football Associations, four FIFA sponsors, and opinion polls have shown that it is supported by a large majority of the public in 15 countries. 

However, FIFA has continued to refuse to compensate workers. On Monday, a coalition of international human rights organisations criticised FIFA for ‘misleading the world’ on workers’ compensation. Despite FIFA officials having said they were working on a plan to ensure workers were compensated, on the eve of the tournament Gianni Infantino passed the buck and said that anyone who had suffered abuses should simply ‘contact the relevant authorities to seek due recompense’ from Qatar’s existing compensation fund.

However, this mechanism remains inaccessible to those who have already left the country, caps the amount that can be paid to each worker, and will not support families of workers whose deaths may have been wrongly attributed to ‘natural causes’ because investigations were not carried out.

The coalition called on Gianni Infantino to use a newly-announced Legacy Fund, to compensate workers and establish an independent migrant workers’ centre as requested by trade unions such as Building and Wood Workers’ International. The size of the proposed fund is not yet known, and is currently intended to support educational projects and a planned ‘labour excellence hub’.

Urgent action urged in South Asia to curb deadly air pollution

South Asia is home to 9 of the world’s 10 cities with the worst air pollution, which causes an estimated 2 million premature deaths across the region each year and incurs significant economic costs. A new World Bank report shows that there are economically feasible, cost-effective solutions to achieve clean air in the region, but this requires countries to coordinate policies and investments.

‘Striving for Clean Air: Air Pollution and Public Health in South Asia’, released today, reads concentrations of fine particulate matter such as soot and small dust (PM 2.5) in some of the region’s most densely populated and poor areas are up to 20 times higher than what WHO considers healthy (5 µg/m?). Exposure to such extreme air pollution has impacts ranging from stunting and reduced cognitive development in children, to respiratory infections and chronic and debilitating diseases. This drives up healthcare costs, lowers a country’s productive capacity, and leads to lost days worked, it adds.

Large industries, powerplants and vehicles are dominant sources of air pollution around the world, but in South Asia, other sources make substantial additional contributions. These include combustion of solid fuels for cooking and heating, emissions from small industries such as brick kilns, burning of municipal and agricultural waste, and cremation.

Air pollution travels long distances – crossing municipal, state, and national boundaries – and gets trapped in large ‘airsheds’ that are shaped by climatology and geography.

The report identifies six major airsheds in South Asia where spatial interdependence in air quality is high. Particulate matter in each airshed comes from various sources and locations, for example less than half of the air pollution in South Asia’s major cities is produced within cities. 

“Persistently hazardous levels of air pollution have caused a major public health crisis in South Asia that demands urgent action,” World Bank vice president for South Asia Martin Raiser said, adding that curbing air pollution requires not only tackling its specific sources, but also close coordination across local and national jurisdictional boundaries. “Regional cooperation can help implement cost-effective joint strategies that leverage the interdependent nature of air quality.”

Several South Asian countries have adopted policies to help improve air quality, but their focus on mitigating air pollution generated within cities is yielding insufficient results.

The report shows that current policy measures will only be partially successful in reducing PM 2.5 concentrations across South Asia even if fully implemented. To achieve greater progress, the focus of policy makers should expand into other sectors, particularly small manufacturing, agriculture, residential cooking, and waste management.

The report analyses four scenarios to reduce air pollution with varying degrees of policy implementation and cooperation among countries. The most cost-effective scenario, which calls for full coordination between airsheds, would cut the average exposure of PM 2.5 in South Asia to 30 µg/m³ at a cost of $278 million per µg/m of reduced exposure, and save more than 750,000 lives annually.

“The economic benefits of policies to reduce air pollution in South Asia exceed the economic costs by a large margin,” World Bank chief economist for South Asia Hans Timmer. “But optimal solutions depend on several factors such as better monitoring systems, more scientific capacity, greater coordination between governments, and behavioral change among farmers, small firms, and households.”

To this end, the report offers a three-phased roadmap:

Phase 1: Sets the condition for airshed wide coordination by expanding the monitoring of air pollution beyond the big cities, sharing data with the public, creating or strengthening credible scientific institutes that analyze airsheds, and taking a whole-of-government approach.

Phase 2: Abatement interventions are broadened beyond the traditional targets of powerplants, large factories and transportation. During this phase major progress can be made in reducing air pollution from agriculture, solid waste management, cookstoves, brick kilns, and other small firms. At the same time, airshed-wide standards can be introduced.

Phase 3: Economic incentives are finetuned to enable private-sector solutions, to address distributional impacts, and to exploit synergies with climate change policies. In this phase trading of emission permits can also be introduced to optimize abatement across jurisdictions and firms.

Wednesday, December 14, 2022

Election Commission announces final results of federal and provincial polls

Election Commission today published the final results of the parliamentary elections – under First-Past-The-Post (FPTP) and Proportional Representation (PR) systems – held on November 20.

Organising a press meet here today, the Commission informed that it will submit the final results to the President Bidya Devi Bhandari tomorrow. 

According to the rule, the commission has to submit the election results report, under both FPTP and Proportional Representation, of the House of Representatives to the President and the Provincial Assembly members’ results to the respective provincial heads within seven days of the announcement. The process of government formation as per Article 76 of the Constitution of Nepal will begin after the report is submitted to the President.

Likewise, The commission will send the report of the results of the provincial election to the provincial heads of the provinces on Saturday. After the President and heads of the province get the results, the final list of elected members will be published in the Nepal Gazette. 

The commission also reported that a total of 825 people were elected – some 275 to the House of Representatives and 550 to the seven provincial assemblies. “Some 184 men (66.90 per cent) and 91 women (33.10 per cent) have been elected to the House of Representatives and 350 men (63.64 per cent) and 200 women (36.36 per cent) to the seven provincial assemblies,” Chief Election Commissioner Dinesh Kumar Thapaliya said, adding that some 86 political parties had been registered for the election for the House of Representatives. “Of them, 61 participated in FPTP voting and 47 participated in PR voting.

Likewise, altogether 17,988,570 were eligible to vote in the election. “Of them, some 11,047,034 (61.41 per cent) exercised their voting rights.” the commission reported, adding that about 5.06 per cent of votes were declared invalid. “A total of 4,285 candidates, or 76.4 per cent of the total candidates, lost their election deposits after failing to get the minimum votes required.”

According to the commission, candidates securing less than 10 per cent of the total votes-cast lose their election deposit. The parties lose their election deposit, if they fail to win any seat under the PR system. “Of the 47 political parties submitting the closed list of candidates for the PR system in the House of Representatives, some 40 parties lost their deposits as they failed to get least 3 per cent of the total valid votes.”

“The deposits of some 1,961 including 1,772 male candidates for the House of Representatives and 2,086 male and 237 female candidates for the Provincial Assembly have been forfeited,” Thapaliya informed, adding that only seven parties could become the national parties.

Central bank warns of action against using mobile wallets for gambling purpose

After noticing suspicious transactions via electronic payments gateways during the ongoing world cup, the central bank today warned people not to take part in gambling activities via their mobile wallets. The central bank has also warned that it will freeze bank accounts and mobile wallets, if anyone is found gambling.

“Gambling and betting activities are illegal,” the central bank notice reads, informing the public not to participate in transactions of this nature. “If anyone is found involved in such activities, legal action will be taken against the concerned individual or group including the freezing of their bank accounts and mobile wallets.”

The central bank has also ordered licensed organisations to make arrangements to prevent the payment of gambling and betting-related illegal activities through bank accounts, mobile banking, mobile wallets.

Monday, December 12, 2022

Global economy will slow down in 2022

The growth in global real GDP will drop from 5.7 per cent in 2021 to 3.3 per cent in 2022, according to a report.

The report released by United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) released today also shows that trade in both goods and services will slow down. “Growth in merchandise exports is expected to decline by half, from the strong 26.5 per cent increase recorded in 2021 to 13.8 per cent this year. “For services exports, which include transport and travel, the slowdown will be less pronounced – from 17.2 per cent to 14.6 per cent,” the Handbook of Statistics 2022 – the global reference for trade and development trends published each year – reads. 

Despite the strong growth in trade in services in 2021, the value of exports ($6.1 trillion) remained below their pre-Covid-19 levels ($6.3 trillion in 2019), it reads, adding that prices soared, especially for fuels, driving inflation. “The prices of primary commodities, such as food and energy, soared by 55 per cent in 2021.” Fuels accounted for 22 percentage points of the growth.

The upward trend continued this year, with prices hitting in August 2022 their highest levels in nearly three decades. Inflation also soared, especially in Africa, where consumer prices jumped by 22.7 per cent in 2021. Meanwhile, households in Latin America and the Caribbean saw prices rise by 15 per cent.

Likewise, trade surplus of developing economies also increased. “The trade surplus of developing economies grew, especially in Africa,” it reads, adding that the increase was mirrored by a widening trade deficit for developed economies. “Developing countries traded more with developed nations ($8 trillion) than among themselves ($5.4 trillion). Trade between developed nations was slightly higher at $8.5 trillion.”

The report also states that export diversification remains a challenge for developing countries. But the products that countries depended on varied across regions. Around three quarters of Africa’s exports consisted of primary goods (77 per cent), while developing economies in Asia and Oceania exported manufactured goods in nearly equal proportions (76 per cent).

Least developed countries fall short of growth targets, the report reads further. “The world's 46 least developed countries (LDCs) reported real GDP growth of only 2 per cent in 2021, less than half the global average of 5.7 per cent.”

GDP growth in LDCs fell far short of the 7 per cent annual per-capita growth target enshrined in the UN’s 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

Likewise, population hits 8 billion while dependency rates increase. “The global population hit 8 billion in November 2022, even though growth has been declining since the late 1980s. In 2021, it stood at 0.87 per cent,” it adds. “Global dependency rates also increased among the population. On average, there are 54 dependent children or older people for every 100 workers. Africa has the highest dependency ratio at 72 per cent.”

The handbook provides in one report the key data and indicators on how the global economy has evolved – for regions, countries and sectors. It also provides projections based on real-time estimates – called nowcasts – to help governments anticipate ongoing shifts and improve policymaking.

“Timely and quality data are critical now more than ever as concurrent global crises test our resilience,” UNCTAD secretary-general Rebeca Grynspan said. “These statistics will help countries take evidence-based policy measures to cushion the blow of the global crisis on the most vulnerable.”

India to assist Nepal construct three projects

Indian government is helping Nepal construct three more projects.

The Embassy of India and Ministry of Federal Affairs and General Administration today signed Memorandum of Understandings (MoUs) for undertaking three High Impact Development Projects (HICDP) projects in Nepal under the grant assistance of government of India, one each in Education, Health Care and Drinking Water Sectors, according to a press note issued by the Indian Embassy in Kathmandu.

These three projects, construction of Shree Janata Belaka Secondary School Building in Udayapur District; construction of Ngonga Thenchowk Chholing Meditation Centre in Soulukhumbu Distirct and construction of Lisnekhola Tikasung Dangchet Jharlang Water Supply Project in Dhading District is estimated to cost of Rs 101.79 million, the press note reads, adding that the construction of these projects will provide better education facilities, better health care facilities and safe drinking water facilities for the local community and improve the quality of life for people in Nepal.

Since 2003, India has taken up over 532 HICDPs in Nepal and has completed 476 projects in the areas of health, education, drinking water, connectivity, sanitation and creation of other public utilities across all seven provinces of Nepal at the grassroots level.

As close neighbours, India and Nepal share wide-ranging and multi-sectoral cooperation. “The implementation of these projects reflects the continued support of the India in bolstering the efforts of Nepal in uplifting its people, adds the press note.

Melamchi water wash Kathmandu roads

One can say its a ‘cursed’ project but it is no different from any other projects of the country, and is quite common phenomenon Nepal, after 30 years Kathmanduites are yet to get the chance to drink the Melamchi water.

After a lots of dilemma the project was preparing to distribute the water, bursting of the pipe of Melamchi Water Project in Lainchaur today hit the plan and caused inconvenience to the regular traffic and pedestrians.

Former Prime Minister late Krishna Prasad Bhattarai, one of the founders of the Nepali Congress (NC) would have been happy to see the Melamchi water flooding Lainchaur road, as he, one of the dreamers of Melamchi Water Project, wanted to wash the Kathmandu roads with Melamchi waters. He was mocked by the opposition then, and Melamchi Water Project is mocking Nepalis even today.

The leakage in the pipes later led to burst in the afternoon and flooded the Lainchaur roads, confirmed, spokesperson at the Kathmandu Upatyaka Khanepani Ltd (KUKL) Prakash Kumar Rai.

The pipe of the Melamchi project, which was laid under the main road near the Department of Mines and Geology,  burst, causing the road to collapse, and resulted in heavy traffic. Pedestrians have also been affected badly.

“As we got the news, we have closed the water supply to the area,” he said, adding that the reason for the burst is due to a lack of proper testing of the pipe before the water supply was resumed. “Those pipelines should have been tested, before the water supply was done.”

But he was unable to clarify, who should have tested the pipelines, and who failed their duty leading to the mockery of the mega project. But he claimed that the KUKL had started distributing drinking water supplied by the Melamchi Drinking Water Project, temporarily, to the Kathmanduites from Friday, four days ago.

Sunday, December 11, 2022

Nepse plunges below 1,900 points

As the political parties are trying to form a new government, the share market has been losing its steam. The Nepal Stock Exchange (Nepse) index today plunged by 31.97 points and closed at closed at 1,885.31 points from the morning’s opening 1,917.28 points. 

The market witnessed a fall throughout the trading period as the investors failed to gain confidence.

on one hand the private sector is protesting against the high interest rates and on the other, there is only four days remained to end the second quarter. On top of that the squeeze in demand has hit the economy hard pulling the investors confidence down.

Thus, the daily turnover at the share market came down to Rs 1.103 billion, which was some Rs 1.65 billion on Wednesday, the last trading day of the last week, due to public holiday on Thursday.

A total of 180 companies lost in their share market value while 25 companies gained in the intraday-trading. 

The sensitive index – key measure of the performance of blue chips shares – also fell by 6.28 points today as almost all the 13 sub-indices declined, with non-life insurance sub index losing the most, by 98.40 points, today.  

Likewise, Shivam Cement posted the largest transaction of its shares worth Rs 109.36 million, whereas Nadep Laghubitta was the top loser and CYC Nepal Laghubitta gained the highest, today.

The looming political instability, lack of government seriousness in tackling economy, and loanable fund crunch in the banks and financial institutions also hit the share market hard. 

Tuesday, December 6, 2022

ADB approves $200 million loan to strengthen education system in Nepal

The Asian Development Bank (ADB) today approved a $200 million concessional loan to help Nepal strengthen the equity, quality, and resilience of its school education.

The programme will assist the implementation of the first 5 years of the government’s School Education Sector Plan 2021–2030 in a sector wide approach supported by eight development partners, including ADB, according to a press note issued by the multilateral development partner. “The programme will enhance learning provisions for basic and secondary schools; strengthening teaching and learning in schools; accelerate the recovery from learning losses caused by the Covid-19 pandemic; and improve capacity of local governments in education planning, monitoring, and reporting,” it reads.

“Nepal has done significantly well in terms of improving access to education, however, there is still a need to address remaining equity issues to access and importantly to take a holistic approach to address persistent challenge in improving learning outcomes,” ADB Principal Social Sector Specialist for South Asia Rudi Van Dael said, adding that the programme will help accelerate reforms and transform the country’s education system to develop human capital, reduce social inequity, and attain sustainable growth.

Selected secondary schools will be upgraded to increase opportunities to study science education in grades 11–12, especially for girls. The pro-poor scholarship scheme will be expanded from grades 9–12 to grades 6–12 to improve retention.

To mitigate learning loss from the Covid-19 pandemic, a recovery and accelerated learning program will be jointly implemented with community and civil society organisations. “To prepare schools against future learning disruptions, more and better accessible e-resources will be made available through the Sikai Chautari online learning portal,” ADB Senior Project Officer (Education) for South Asia Smita Gyawali said, adding that the programme will further strengthen local government’s capacity to deliver education in the federal system.

ADB will provide an additional $1 million technical assistance grant from its Technical Assistance Special Fund and administer equivalent of $600,000 grant from the Government of Norway to support capacity building activities, strengthen programme management and coordination, and improve the monitoring and reporting capability of the Ministry of Education, Science, and Technology.

Sunday, December 4, 2022

Around 42,000 MT of chemical fertiliser in stock, claims government

The government claimed that there is adequate chemical fertilizer for crop plantations for this season. 

According to the Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock Development (MoALD), there is around 42,000 metric tonnes (MT) of chemical fertiliser in depots of the state-owned organisations across the country. 

The spokesperson of ministry Prakash Kumar Sanjel today confirmed that there is enough availability of fertiliser at present. Some 86,246 MT of chemical fertiliser has been sold and distributed in four months – from mid-July to mid-November – of the current fiscal year and some 42,981 MT of fertiliser is still available, he said, adding that of the total stock, some 21,763 MT urea, some 19,286 MT are di-ammonium phosphate (DAP) and remaining around 1,932 MT potassium is in the stock.

Krishi Samagri Company (Agriculture Inputs Company Ltd) has some 35,499 MT and Salt Trading Corporation (STC) has some 7,534 MT of fertiliser in stock. “Krishi Samagri Company has 15,179 MT of urea, some 18,432 MT of DAP and some 1,837 MT potash. Likewise, STC has some 6,584 MT urea, some 854 MT DAP and some 95 MT potash in its stock.”

However, farmers face shortage of fertilizers every year during the plantation season, also due to mismanagement of the stocks and delay in imports. Due to lack of timely fertilizer, the 'agriculture country' Nepal has been cursed to import billions of agriculture produces every year to feed its population.

Saturday, December 3, 2022

Nepal to receive $8.5 billion in remittance: WB

Remittances to Nepal are expected to increase by a marginal 3.6 per cent to $8.5 billion in 2022, up from $8.2 billion in 2021, surpassing pre-pandemic levels, according to a report.

The main drivers are an increase in vaccinations and lifting of travel restrictions in the GCC, which is the main destination for Nepali migrants, paired with conducive conditions in the GCC, the Migration and Development Brief-37 (November 2022) titled 'Remittances Brave Global Headwinds', which has special focus on Climate Migration, and published on Wednesday by Migration and Remittances Team, Social Protection and Jobs of World Bank, in association with  Global Knowledge Partnership on Migration and Development (KNOMAD), reads.

While high global inflation did not spare Nepali households in Nepal, thanks to strong market price support policies in the GCC, Nepali migrants enjoyed low inflation and maintained a steady flow of remittances to Nepal in the year, it reads, adding that remittance growth was aided by high oil prices ($98 a barrel) and employment opportunities in the construction projects for the FIFA World Cup 2022 in Qatar. “Considering the centrality of remittances in the Nepali economy, the government offered an incentive for remittances of an additional 1 per cent in interest on remittance deposits, increased the daily threshold for money remitted from abroad from Rs 1 million to Rs 1.5 million, and allowed Non-Resident Nepalis (NRNs) to open foreign currency savings accounts in Nepal.”

Historically, the GCC countries have been the main destination for migrants from South Asia but a gradual structural shift is occurring in favour of higher-income countries for Indian migrants. For the majority of the migrants from other South Asian countries, the GCC is still the main destination. They have temporary contracts for low-skilled jobs mostly in the construction and other labor-intensive sectors (Ahmed and Bossavie 2022). In 2019, about 50 per cent of emigrants from Pakistan and 42 per cent from Bangladesh were in GCC countries. Saudi Arabia employed more than 25 per cent of Sri Lankan emigrants and 20 per cent of Nepali emigrants (UNDESA 2019). Every year 400,000 Nepalis leave for Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates. Since 2010, every fourth Nepali leaves for Qatar.

Nepal recently started checking those who leave as migrant workers and created job contracts and made salaries public information to prevent recruiters from scamming migrant workers. About 8 per cent to 10 per cent of the South Asian emigrants work in countries within South Asia, the report reads, adding that remittance flows to South Asia are expected to grow by 3.5 per cent to reach $163 billion in 2022, a notable slowdown from the 6.7 per cent gain of 2021, but benefiting from strong performance in India and Nepal. “Overall remittance growth in South Asia (3.5 per cent in 2022) masks a large disparity across country results, from India’s gain of 12 per cent, Nepal’s increase of 4 per cent, to an aggregate decline of 10 per cent for the remaining countries of South Asia.”

Friday, December 2, 2022

NOC refuses to reduce fuel prices citing losses

The state oil monopoly increases the price of fuel, if the price goes up but doesnot decrease the price, if it comes down, and claims to be implementing automated pricing system.

And its not for the first time, the Nepal Oil Corporation (NOC) has been doing this. On several occasions, the NOC has not reduced the price, when the price in the international market came down, but increased the price once it witnessed a rise in the international market.

The NOC get its price list twice a month from its sole supplier Indian Oil Corporation (IOC). The automated pricing system came into practice to adjust the price in the domestic market on the basis of the price list the NOC gets from IOC. But this time also, the NOC refused to reduce the price of petroleum products despite buying at cheaper rates from IOC.

Issuing a press note today, the NOC claimed that it is in no state to decrease prices as its accumulated losses have reached Rs 27 billion. But last month, the NOC posted a fortnightly profit of Rs 180 million.

“The corporation is unable to reduce the price according to the new price list it received on November 1, due to fluctuations in the price of petroleum products in the international market,” the press note reads, claiming that it has been operating at a loss for a long time. 

According to new price list sent by supplier IOC, the price of LPG – popularly known as cooking gas – has gone up, while the prices of petrol, diesel, aviation fuel and kerosene have gone down. 

According to the oil monopoly’s press note, the corporation will incur a loss of Rs 368.5 million in 15 days only from the sale of LPG. On the contrary, the corporation will make a profit of Rs 580 million in 15 days from the sale of petrol, diesel, aviation fuel and kerosene.

The ‘bankrupt’ NOC has been, however, blamed of funding political parties, and bigwigs at the cost of people, as according to senior bureaucrats. One of the managing directors (MD) of the NOC, Lok Krishna Bhattarai had refused to share the NOC’s profit with royal palace, almost two decades ago, and resigned. “The tradition still continues, though the royal palace has been replaced with political parties,” claims the retired officials of the NOC that has been a ‘milking cow’ for every political parties.

Remittances grow by 5 per cent in 2022 despite global headwinds

Remittances to low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) withstood global headwinds in 2022, growing by an estimated 5 per cent to $626 billion, according to a report.

“This is sharply lower than the 10.2 per cent increase in 2021, according to the latest World Bank Migration and Development Brief published on Wednesday. 

Remittances are a vital source of household income for LMICs, it reads, adding that they alleviate poverty, improve nutritional outcomes, and are associated with increased birth weight and higher school enrollment rates for children in disadvantaged households. “Studies show that remittances help recipient households to build resilience, for example through financing better housing and to cope with the losses in the aftermath of disasters.”

Remittance flows to developing regions were shaped by several factors in 2022. A reopening of host economies as the Covid-19 pandemic receded supported migrants’ employment and their ability to continue helping their families back home, the report reads. “Rising prices, on the other hand, adversely affected migrants’ real incomes. Also influencing the value of remittances is the appreciation of the ruble, which translated into higher value, in US dollar terms, of outward remittances from Russia to Central Asia.”

In the case of Europe, a weaker euro had the opposite effect of reducing the US dollar valuation of remittance flows to North Africa and elsewhere. In countries that experienced scarcity of foreign exchange and multiple exchange rates, officially recorded remittance flows declined as flows shifted to alternative channels offering better rates.

“Migrants help to ease tight labour markets in host countries while supporting their families through remittances,” World Bank Global Director for Social Protection and Jobs, Michal Rutkowski said, adding that inclusive social protection policies have helped workers weather the income and employment uncertainties created by the Covid-19 pandemic. “Such policies have global impacts through remittances and must be continued.”

By region, Africa stands to be the most severely exposed to the concurrent crises, including severe drought and spikes in global energy and food commodity prices. Remittances to Sub-Saharan Africa are estimated to have increased by 5.2 per cent compared with 16.4 per cent last year. In other regions, remittance flows are estimated to have increased by 10.3 per cent to Europe and Central Asia, where rising oil prices and demand for migrant workers in Russia supported remittances, in addition to the currency valuation effect. In Ukraine, remittance growth is estimated at 2 per cent, lower than earlier projections as funds for Ukrainians were sent to countries hosting them, and hand-carried money transfers likely increased.

Growth in remittance flows is estimated at 9.3 per cent for Latin America and the Caribbean, 3.5 per cent in South Asia, 2.5 per cent in the Middle East and North Africa, and 0.7 per cent in East Asia and the Pacific. In 2022, for the first time a single country, India, is on track to receive more than $100 billion in yearly remittances.

In a special feature on climate-driven migration, the Brief notes that rising pressures from climate change will both drive increases in migration within countries and impair livelihoods. The poorest are likely to be most affected as they often lack the resources necessary to adapt or move. Studies show that migration can play a role in coping with climate impacts, for example, by providing an escape from disasters and also through remittances and other forms of support to affected households. Changes in the international legal norms and institutional frameworks for migration may be required to cope with the challenge of climate-related migration, particularly in the context of cross-border mobility, as is the case for small island nations.

“People throughout history have responded to deteriorating climates by moving to survive,” lead author of the Brief and head of the Global Knowledge Partnership on Migration and Development (KNOMAD) Dilip Ratha said, adding that planning for safe and regular migration as a part of adaptation strategies will be required for managing displacement in the affected regions as well as the influx of people in the receiving communities. “National and regional development strategies should be viewed through a climate migration lens.”

Also reported in the Brief is the cost of sending $200 across international borders to LMICs, which remains high at 6 per cent on average in the second quarter of 2022, according to the Remittances Prices Worldwide Database. It is cheapest to send via mobile operators (3.5 per cent), but digital channels account for less than 1 per cent of total transaction volume. Digital technologies allow for significantly faster and cheaper remittance services. However, the burden of compliance with Anti-Money Laundering/Combating the Financing of Terrorism (AML/CFT) regulations continues to restrict access of new service providers to correspondent banks. These regulations also affect migrants’ access to digital remittance services.

Regional Remittance Trends

Remittances to South Asia grew an estimated 3.5 per cent to $163 billion in 2022, but there is large disparity across countries, from India’s projected 12 per cent gain – which is on track to reach $100 billion in receipts for the year – to Nepal’s 4 per cent increase, to an aggregate decline of 10 per cent for the region’s remaining countries. The easing of flows reflects the discontinuation of special incentives some governments had introduced to attract flows during the pandemic, as well as preferences for informal channels offering better exchange rates. Remittances to India were enhanced by wage hikes and a strong labor market in the US and other OECD countries. In the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) destination countries, governments ensured low inflation through direct support measures that protected migrants’ ability to remit. Sending $200 to the region cost 4.1 per cent on average in the second quarter of 2022, down from 4.3 per cent a year ago, the report adds.

The Migration and Development Brief analyzes trends in migration-related SDG indicators: increasing the volume of remittances as a percentage of GDP, reducing remittance costs, and reducing recruitment costs.

Remittances to the East Asia and Pacific region are estimated to have increased by 0.7 per cent to $134 billion in 2022, arresting the decline of the previous two years. Labour shortages in the hospitality and health sectors of high-income economies and higher oil prices benefiting Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries boosted demand for workers in 2022, which supported remittances. However, remittances to China are estimated to have dropped by nearly 4 per cent, driven by restrictions on workers from traveling abroad due to Covid-related policies. Remittances as a share of GDP are significant in Tonga (50 per cent) and Samoa (34 per cent). In 2023, remittances are projected to decline by 1 per cent due to weaker conditions in migrants’ destination countries. The cost of sending $200 to the region rose to 6.2 per cent on average in the second quarter of 2022 from 5.8 per cent a year earlier.

Remittance flows to Europe and Central Asia are estimated to have increased by 10.3 per cent to $72 billion in 2022. Rising oil prices and demand for migrant workers increased the flow of remittances from Russia to Central Asian countries. The appreciation of the ruble against the US dollar translated into higher value, in dollar terms, of outward remittances from Russia to Central Asia. Remittances to the Kyrgyz Republic and Tajikistan exceed by 30 per cent of GDP. In 2023, remittance receipts are projected to moderate further to 4.2 per cent growth due to a softer outlook for major remittance-sending countries. The cost of sending $200 to the region rose slightly to 6.4 per cent on average in the second quarter of 2022 (data excludes corridors originating in Russia).

Remittances to Latin America and the Caribbean are estimated to have grown by 9.3 per cent in 2022 to $142 billion. Data for the first nine months of 2022 show a 45 per cent increase for Nicaragua, 20 per cent for Guatemala, 15 per cent for Mexico, and 9 per cent for Colombia. Stronger employment of migrants from Latin America in the US contributed to remittance flows. Remittances received by migrants in transit also contributed to strong flows in Mexico and Central America. As a share of GDP, remittances exceed 20 per cent in El Salvador, Honduras, Jamaica, and Haiti. In 2023, remittances will likely moderate to 4.7 per cent growth due to a weaker economic outlook for the US, Italy, and Spain. Sending $200 to the region cost 6 per cent on average in the second quarter of 2021, up from 5.6 per cent a year ago.

Remittances to the developing countries of the Middle East and North Africa are estimated to have grown by 2.5 per cent in 2022 to $63 billion, compared to a 10.5 per cent growth last year. Slower growth in remittances is partly tied to the erosion of real wage gains in the Euro Area, even as demand for remittances in home countries increased amid deteriorating conditions, including drought in the Maghreb and high imported wheat prices. As a share of GDP, remittances are significant in Lebanon (38 per cent) and West Bank and Gaza (19 per cent). Remittance inflows are projected to grow by 2 per cent in 2023. Sending $200 to the region cost 6.3 per cent on average in the second quarter of 2022, the report reads.