Saturday, April 30, 2022

Tourism promotion in New York

 The Consulate General of Nepal in New York hosted a tourism promotion event ‘Nepal-The Wonderland of Natural, Cultural and Spiritual Beauty’ in collaboration with the Pacific Asia Travel Association, New York Chapter in New York.

The programme, which coincided with the celebration week of 75th anniversary of the establishment of Nepal-US diplomatic relations, provided an opportunity to the Consulate to work in collaboration with the professional tourism body to showcase the importance of tourism connectivity between Nepal and USA and promote Nepal's tourism in New York. 

According to a press note issued by the Nepali Embassy in New York, the programme gave a platform to showcase Nepal's tourism potential and major attractions.

In his inaugural remarks, the acting Consul General Bishnu Gautam, welcoming the invitees, highlighted the major tourism features and attractions of Nepal, recently added tourism infrastructure, facilities and new travel facilitation measures taken by Nepal. He appealed the guests and the airliners, travel and tour business community to visit Nepal and also to keep Nepal in their preferred travel destination.

Regional Director of US State Department of Office of Foreign Missions, Regional Office New York Jeannatte M Juricic joined the event in solidarity to promote Nepal-US ties and tourism connectivity, the Embassy informed.

Speaking on the occasion as the chief guest, ambassador Amrit Bahadur Rai, Permanent Representative of Nepal to the UN in New York, shared Nepal's perspective on international tourism and the unique potentialities of Nepal to become an international tourism hub of adventure tourism, recreation, cultural and spiritual learning and yoga and meditation, among others. He urged the guests to visit Nepal as Nepal is back to normal for tourism and other business.

A video message from the chief executive officer of Nepal Tourism Board (NTB) addressed the US friends, travel and tour business communities and travellers of the programme, was played at the programme. The message highlighted major touristic attractions of Nepal, Nepal's best response to tourists during Covid-19 pandemic and appealed the travellers to choose Nepal as their preferred destination.

President of Pacific Asia Travel Association New York Chapter Joebert Opulencia, on the occasion, highlighted travel and tourism potential in Asia-Pacific region and the need to work together for collective promotion of that region.

The event was held as a part of Consulate's efforts to convey a message that after pandemic Nepal is re-open for travel and tourism and Nepal is eager to welcoming US tourists in Nepal, the press note reads.

The guest speakers of the programme, many of them frequent travellers of Nepal, spoke prominently about their memorable experience in Nepal. A writer and a 14 times visitor of Nepal since 1974 and chief executive officer of Sir Edmund Hillary Medal Project Dr Seth Sicroff and British-American Mountaineer, Mt Everest Summiteer, and holder of Guinness World Record including on the first woman to reach earth's highest and deepest points on earth (Mt Everest and Challenger deep) Vanessa O' Brien shared their experience in Nepal, and what keeps them attracting to Nepal.

Other speakers Mt Everest Summiteer and president of US-Nepal Climbers Association Passang Nima Sherpa and president, NRN-New York Chapter Aang Tshiring Sherpa also shared their respective views, or solidarity with the Nepal's efforts to promote tourism.

Vice Consul of the Consulate Sangita Neupane made presentation on ‘Destination Nepal’, while director of Asian American Business Affairs at Greater New York Chamber of Commerce, and founder of Global Medical Tourism and Wellness Centre, Nepal Amit Pratap Shah made a brief presentation on opportunities on Medical Tourism and Wellness Yoga in Nepal. Similarly, Qatar Airlines and Turkish Airlines representatives also made presentations on their efforts to promote international tourism and connectivity between Nepal and the United States. Nepali artistes in New York also performed a Nepali cultural dance.

The programme was moderated by chief executive officer of TV Sunday and TV Journalist Kiran Marahatta. Officials from the Consulate General, PATA-New York Chapter Board Members, Travel and Tour Business community members and media persons were among the participants of the programme.

Friday, April 29, 2022

Nepal urges Malaysia to increase minimum wage of Nepali migrant workers

 Nepal has asked Malaysia to increase minimum wage of Nepali workers in Malaysia.

During the meeting with minister for Home Affairs of Malaysia Hamzah Zainuddin, the visiting Nepali minister for Labour, Employment and Social Security Krishna Kumar Shrestha urged to increase minimum wage, service and facility of Nepali workers including security guards in Malaysia.

He also asked the Malaysian minister to increase the monthly salary of Nepali security guards to 3,000 Malaysian ringgit.

They held discussion on a gamut of issues including providing more employment opportunities to Nepali workers by making arrangements of security guard-related training in Nepal and making zero-cost principle effective. They also discussed on making improved arrangements of health, social security and 24-hour insurance facilities, according to a press note issued by the Nepali Embassy in Malaysia.

Industries warn of protest programme against power utility

 The unscheduled power cut has infuriated the industrialists, forcing them to announce the protest against the power monopoly.

They also warned to lock up Nepal Electricity Authority (NEA) office, if the authority could not supply uninterrupted electricity to the industries along Sunsari-Morang Industrial corridor by Tuesday. “The NEA has disrupted power supply to the industrial area for more than 12 hours daily for the past few days without any notice,” they said at a joint press conference today,

Morang Merchant Association, Industry Association and Confederation of Nepalese Industries (CNI)-Province 1, jointly organising a press meet, said that the industries along the Sunsari-Morang corridor have to be shut down as the power supply has been down for almost 24 hours since Wednesday.

“The industries have suffered huge losses due to unannounced power cuts,” President of Morang Merchant Association Nabin Rijal said, adding that the goods in the machine and in godown have become useless due to  unannounced load shedding. “If the government does not solve the problem by Tuesday, We will be forced to padlock NEA on Wednesday, and announce additional agitation programmes from Thursday onwards.

The industrialists have also demanded to publish the load-shedding schedule, exploit maximum potential of domestic power generation capacity, ensure equitable distribution of electricity, abolish demand charges and find a solution through diplomatic initiatives with India.

At least 500 industries along the Sunsari-Morang corridor have been hit hard due to the unscheduled power cut.

The NEA has been buying 300 MW electricity from India to match the domestic demand. But the demand of electricity has increased in India recently making the import of electricity expensive, which has forced the NEA to impose power cut in the industries. However, the industrialists along the Sunsari-Morang corridor have been asking the NEA to publish the schedule of power outage so that they can plan the operation of the industries. But the authority neither is able to import the electricity from India nor publishing the load-shedding schedule forcing the industries to go for protest programme. The industries hit by the Covid-19 since last two years were trying to operate as usual in full capacity like in the days prior to the pandemic.

Sunday, April 24, 2022

Melamchi resumes water supply to Kathmandu from today

Melamchi Project has resumed to pump water to the Kathmandu Valley from today.

The supply of water from Melamchi River in Sindhupalchowk to the Kathmandu Valley was disrupted after major floods and landslides in Sindhupalchowk some 10 months ago.

Minister for Water Supply Umakanta Chaudhary inaugurated the distribution of drinking water from the Kathmandu Upatyaka Khanepani Ltd (KUKL) branch office at New Baneshwar.

The mega project funded by Asian Development Bank (ADB) that promised to quench the thirst of Kathmandu Valley was damaged by the devastating flood on 15 June, 2021. The flood damaged head works of the project obstructing the water supply that was just started few weeks ago. 

The water distribution in the Kathmandu Valley has resumed today after the reconstruction of the Melamchi Drinking Water Project, the KUKL confirmed.

Minister Chaudhary had started the transfer of water from the head works of the project to the tunnel on April 12. Then, the water was purified at a treatment plant in Sundarijal before sending to 10 reservoir tanks of KUKL.

From today, the drinking water is being distributed to the Valley houses through pipes. But the water supply could be again halted when the rainy season starts, though the KUKL has claimed to have prepared the alternative to supply the drinking water. However, it seems a far fetched idea.

The Melamchi Water Supply Project (MWSP) have targeted to distribute some 270 million liters of water on a daily basis. Of the amount, some 100 million liters will be supplied through the distribution mechanism of the KUKL, while the rest of 170 million liters will be supplied from MWSP.

Front today, the households connected to the water pipeline system in all the locations inside the Ring Road area will receive the water supplied jointly by the MWSP and the KUKL. Likewise, the water is supplied also to the locals of Kirtipur and Madhyapur, Bhaktapur from today.

Friday, April 22, 2022

Nepal Airlines starts regular flights to Saudi Arabia

The national flag carrier has started its regular flights to Saudi Arabia, for the first time.

The , Nepal Airlines Corporation (NAC) wide body A330 aircraft made its inaugural flight to Riyadh today.

During the inauguration programme, executive chairman of NAC Yuvraj Adhikari said that the historic flight to Riyadh has been launched overcoming various obstacles.

The inaugural flight was attended by Adhikari, senior officials of various ministries, representatives of various departments and businessmen. The Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal (CAAN) had recently given permission to NAC to operate flights to Riyadh, Dammam and Jeddah in Saudi Arabia.

The one-way fare for Kathmandu-Riyadh has been fixed at Rs 37,000, informed the national flag carrier. “Only one-way fares have been fixed,” according to the NAC. “The NAC has received a slot for both wide body and narrow body ships to fly to Saudi Arabia.”

The one-way flight from Kathmandu to Riyadh will take six hours and 15 minutes but the Riyadh-Kathmandu flight will take only four hours and 50 minutes.

Thursday, April 21, 2022

CorporatePay transaction crosses Rs 100 billion

 CorporatePay system has been able to process landmark transactions of more than Rs 100 Billion during the current fiscal year.

The system has been in operations as a business payments platform, since a year again, for the institutional customers of the member bank and financial institutions (BFIs) with specific focus on small and mid-size enterprises and institutions, claims the company. “The acceptance of the CorporatePay system has considerably increased, as it is now available from more than 48 BFIs with almost 3,600 institutional customers of the BFIs have been using the system for their business payments,” it adds.

Monday, April 18, 2022

Government cuts civil servants’ fuel allowances by 20 per cent

To reduce the fuel imports, the government has cut down fuel allowances of civil servants by 20 per cent. The reduction of import of petroleum products is expected to put less pressure to the depleting foreign currency reserves.

The Finance Ministry, sending a circular to all government offices on Monday, said that it is trying to reduce expenses incurred on fuel from Monday till three months, throughout the current fiscal year.

The ministry press note  reads that a cabinet meeting on Wednesday had decided to cut the expenses on petroleum products of all the government offices and public enterprises. 

The government move is expected to cut down the expenses on fuel to save the foreign currency reserve. “The government offices will have to spend only 80 per cent of their fuel budget,” a Finance Ministry source claimed, adding that the provision will, however, not applicable for the development projects, securities, essential services and those part of the local elections.

The government currently provides 207 liters of fuel to minister-level, 100 liters each to secretaries and 70 liters for joint secretary-level government employees. Nepal has imported around 200 billion worth petroleum products from India. But with increasing petroleum prices due to Russia-Ukraine war, the Nepal Oil Corporation (NOC) is bankrupt also due to free fuel to various former ministers and political cadres.

IMF residential office returns to Kathmandu, after 12 years

After 12 years of closing its unit in the country, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) is reopening its residential office in Nepal.

The IMF has appointed Teresa Daban Sanchez as the resident representative for Nepal, according to the IMF that has been looking after Nepal affairs from the Delhi-based office currently. “The Delhi office of the IMF has been looking after the affairs of Nepal, India and Maldives,” it added.

Earlier, the IMF office left Nepal citing its own financial problem.

Recently, the multilateral development partner has also approved loans of $ 398.50 million under Extended Credit Facility (ECF) to Nepal as the country battles to maintain its foreign currency reserves.

With the return of IMF office in Kathmandu, the foreign direct investment is expected to get a boost, apart from building confidence for the domestic investors also, as it will help Nepal with budgetary assistance to push the depleting foreign currency reserve (forex reserve) up.

Sunday, April 17, 2022

ADB vice president reaffirms partnership with Nepal

Asian Development Bank (ADB) vice president Shixin Chen met with Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba today and reiterated ADB’s commitment to further strengthen its partnership with Nepal.

In his meeting with the Prime Minister Deuba, Chen reaffirmed ADB’s commitment to continue to support Nepal, focusing on the government’s reforms and investments in infrastructure and human development while promoting gender equality and social inclusion and addressing climate change impacts. “ADB will also continue to assist with the implementation of federalism for more effective and efficient delivery of services, including those devolved to subnational governments,” he added.

“ADB’s operations in Nepal are aligned with the government’s Green, Resilient, and Inclusive Development (GRID) Strategy, and we stand ready to support the government’s commitment of achieving net-zero climate emission target by 2045,” he said, acknowledging the government’s leadership in managing the coronavirus disease (Covid-19) pandemic. He commended the government on the completion of Nepal’s second international airport, the Gautam Buddha International Airport in Bhairahawa in western Nepal, which is expected to enhance air connectivity and boost tourism.

In his meeting with finance minister Janardan Sharma, Chen noted the government’s efforts in accelerating the implementation of development programmes and reforms as well as project readiness to ensure that planned commitments are implemented on time. He further noted that it is imperative for Nepal to enhance the competitiveness of its economy, including greater facilitation of foreign investment and innovative solutions.

Chen also met with private sector representatives and said that ADB is seeking opportunities to expand its private sector operations in the country and provide assistance to small, medium, and women-led enterprises; climate-smart agriculture; and digitalisation.

He visited ADB-supported Bagmati River Improvement Project, Kathmandu Valley Wastewater Management Project, Melamchi Water Supply Project, and Rural Enterprise Financing Project. He also visited an energy sector project in Kavre and interacted with women entrepreneurs of Electricity Users’ Cooperatives.

During his 7-day visit to the country from April 13 to 19, Chen will meet with minister of Urban Development Ram Kumari Jhakri; minister of Energy, Water Resources, and Irrigation Pampha Bhusal; minister of Education, Science, and Technology Devendra Poudel; and the secretaries of these ministries, according to the ADB. “He also met with Nepal Rastra Bank acting governor Neelam Dhungana, and is set to meet other senior government officials, and development partners.”

ADB’s cumulative assistance to Nepal since 1969 stands at $7.3 billion as of December 31, 2021. ADB’s operations in Nepal is growing and as of the end of 2021, ADB’s active portfolio in the country stands at around $3.4 billion with 30 investment projects.

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

Thursday, April 14, 2022

Nepal Airlines to start regular flights to Saudi Arabia from April 22

 The national flag carrier is flying to Saudi Arabia on a regular basis, for the first time, from April 22.

The Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal (CAAN) has already permitted Nepal Airlines Corporation (NAC) to operate flights to Riyadh, Dammam and Jeddah in Saudi Arabia, the authority confirmed.

The NAC is starting regular flights on Kathmandu-Riyadh-Kathmandu sector according to its business plan, the national flag carrier also confirmed, adding that it had been preparing to fly on the route for a quite long time but was not granted permission.

Earlier, only a private airliner, Himalayan Airlines, was allowed to operate flights to Saudi Arabia. Now that the NAC has regular flights, it is expected the fare on the route to come down to benefit the passengers.

NRNs urged to open account with 100,000 in Nepal

Finance Minister Janardan Sharma has urged Nepali expats to open dollar accounts in Nepali banks and invest in the home land.

Speaking at a virtual interaction organised by the Non-Resident Nepali Association (NRNA), the minister said that opening dollar accounts in the Nepali banks by NRNs will help the country’s economy. “There will be no shortage of liquidity, if 100,000 NRNs open bank accounts in Nepal with 10,000 dollars,” he said, adding that the government has enough foreign currency reserve to buy goods and services for 6.7 months. “According to a report published by the Nepal Rastra Bank (NRB) only yesterday, we have $9.58 billion.”

“As the price of petroleum products has increased, millions of dollars have to be sent out from the country to buy fuel,” the minister said, adding that the proper policy process for the dollar account has been prepared to benefit NRNs.

Likewise, the minister also said that discussions are underway on providing free visas to tourists coming to Nepal, which will make it easier for NRNs as well. He also informed the diaspora that the government is planning to formulate a policy to allocate certain percentage of primary issue.

On the occasion, president of NRNA Kul Acharya said that opening dollar accounts is also a means of connecting NRNs with Nepal. He also thanked the government for amending the policy to make it easier for Nepalis living abroad to open foreign currency accounts in Nepal.

Currently, the banks are offering one percentage interest rate more to the NRNs, if they open a remittance account in Nepal.

Sunday, April 3, 2022

Insurance Board sets two-term limit for board members of insurers

The regulatory authority of the insurance sector barred the board members of insurance companies from assuming the position for more than two terms.

Revising a directive on the ‘institutional corporate governance’ of the insurers, the Insurance Board (IB) has enforced the new provision.

A single term of a board member has been fixed at four years, which means a board member cannot assume his position more than 8 years.

Likewise, individual board members cannot purchase shares and debentures issued by the insurance companies, where he or she is a board member, the new amendment reads, adding that they cannot even be involved in the transaction of the company’s shares and debentures for up to one year after the termination of their contracts.

Insurers will have to assess the effectiveness of their annual plans and policies on a quarterly basis,  it reads, adding that the companies will also have to conduct the due diligence audit every five years and report the regulator within a fixed time period.