Tuesday, January 31, 2023

Nepal still one of the most corrupt countries

Though the country is mired with massive corruption, Nepal improved its position slightly in the annual Corruption Perceptions Index – an annual flagship publication of Transparency International – released today by the Transparency International-Nepal (TI-Nepal).

Whereas the index revealed in January 2022 had shown Nepal in the 117th position among 180 countries, the latest index places Nepal in the 110th position, according to the anti-corruption watchdog. Position-wise, it is a seven-step leap, but the score has improved just slightly, to 34 from 33, according to the report.

Despite some improvement in score, Nepal remains in the category of countries with rampant corruption, TI-Nepal’s press note reads, adding that in South Asia, Nepal has been ranked below Bhutan (25th), the Maldives (85th), India (85th) and Sri Lanka (101st). Pakistan (140th), Bangladesh (147th) and Afghanistan (150th) are the only countries behind Nepal.

According to the TI’s worldwide report, Nepal has not been able to control corruption.

“Despite the slight improvement, Nepal is still in the category of the countries where corruption is prevalent,” the anti-corruption watchdog’s Nepal chapter’s press note reads.

“Transparency International Nepal appeals to the concerned parties for addressing the conflict of interest, ending impunity, implementing laws and making controlling agencies more effective, thereby promoting good governance,” the press note reads, adding that an improvement in the Corruption Perceptions Index can be expected in the future, if such efforts are meaningful.

“The import and export were decreased in 2022 as compared to 2021,” chairperson of TI-Nepal Padmini Pradhananga at a programme organized here today by TI-Nepal. 

“Nepal got more points in the survey of World Economic Forum due to decline in corruption relating to import and export,” she said, adding that Denmark is in the first position with 90 points while Somalia is in the last position with 12 points. “Of the 180 countries, 58 countries have received more than 50 points.”

Six different international organisations – World Bank, World Economic Forum, Global Insight, Bertelsmann Foundation, World Justice and Varieties of Democratic Project (V-Dem) – had carried out survey of CPI in Nepal.

The survey was carried out on various topics including work performance of public office holders, access of civil society in information, import, export, public service, contract, judicial decision, trade, business, corruption, bribe, misuse of public post by the representatives of government, parliament, judiciary and security bodies for personal interest. 

Transparency Intentional (TI) unveils Corruption Perceptions Index every year.

TI uses a scale of zero to 100, where zero is the most corrupt and 100 is the least corrupt. A score below 50 is considered as having a relatively higher level of corruption in a country. 

The CPI global average remains unchanged at 43 for the eleventh year in a row, and more than two-thirds of countries have a serious problem with corruption, scoring below 50.

Denmark (90) tops the index this year, with Finland and New Zealand following closely, both at 87. South Sudan (13), Syria (13) and Somalia (12), all of which are embroiled in protracted conflict, remain at the bottom of the CPI.

In his message, chief executive officer of TI Daniel Eriksson said leaders could fight corruption and promote peace all at once. “Governments must open up space to include the public in decision-making, from activists and business owners to marginalised communities and young people.”

He expressed belief that in democratic societies, people could raise their voices to help root out corruption and demand a safer world for us all.

Saturday, January 21, 2023

Crashed Yeti Air ATR’s black box to be sent to France

The probe panel is sending black box of ATR-72 Yeti Airlines aircraft that crashed in Pokhara on January 15 to the manufacturer in France for technical analysis.

Joint secretary at the Ministry of Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation and member-secretary of Air Crash Investigation Commission Budhisagar Lamichhane confirmed that the black box of ATR is being sent to France, along with experts next week.

It will help in the effective investigation of the accident, he said, adding that the aircraft manufacturing company in France will analyse it independently. “The expert team of the Air Crash Investigation Commission will also go to France along with the black box.”

The probe panel has so far conducted on-site monitoring of the accident site, collected some necessary documents and discussed with experts.

The Yeti Airlines flight with call sign 9-ANC (ATR-72-212) flying from Kathmandu to Pokhara crashed in the Seti River gorge, killing all the passengers and crew members on the plane. But the body of one person is yet to be found.

Indira Rana Magar elected House of Representatives deputy speaker

Rastriya Swatantra Party (RSP) lawmaker Indira Rana Magar has has been elected new deputy speaker of the House of Representatives (HoR).

The ruling coalition – that includes CPN-UML, CPN-Maoist Centre and Rastriya Prajatantra Party (RPP) besides the RSP – candidate Rana Magar has been elected deputy speaker with 166 votes today. She has defeated Mukta Kumari Yadav of Nepali Congress (NC). Out of 275 members of the House of Representatives, 264 participated in the election. One needs to secure the support of 138 members in the 275-strong lower house to be elected. As many as 97 lawmakers stood against Magar, while Prem Suwal of the Majdoor Kishan Party stood neutral.

Magar and Yadav filed their candidacy for the position of deputy speaker in the House of Representatives yesterday. NC’s Yadav was supported by the CPN-Unified Socialist and the Loktantrik Samajbadi Party Nepal besides the NC.

Newly elected Speaker Debraj Ghimire first presented Rana's candidacy in the assembly for decision. During the division of votes, as the majority of MPs were in favor of Rana, the candidacy of Congress MP Muktakumari, who was her rival, did not have to be presented for decision.

The 52-year-old Rana Magar, who is from Jhapa, became an HoR member from RSP through the proportional representation (PR) electoral system. 

Actively involved in social work and child rights before entering politics, she is the founding chairperson of Prisoners Assistance Nepal, a non-profit organisation that looks after children whose parents are in prison.

A resident of Salbadi from Arjundhara-11 in Jhapa, Rana Magar, has two schools and 10 childcare centres under her guardianship. In the centres, as many as 2,000 children of inmates from Jhapa to Palpa district are getting care and education at her initiative.

Born to father Pratap Ranamagar and mother Manmaya Ranamagar as the youngest child in 2027 BS, she began taking care of the inmates’ children by renting two rooms in Kathmandu 22 years ago.

Rana Magar is also listed on BBC 100 Women. In 2005, Rana Magar also got the prestigious Ashoka Fellowship, and the ‘Asia People’s Service’ award in 2009. She has received Asia 21 Young Leader Public Service Award in 2009 and World Children’s Honourary Award in 2014 for her social work. She was featured in BBC’s 100 Women List in 2017.

The third largest party in the ruling coalition RSP got the post of deputy speaker and the largest CPN-UML the speaker according to the agreement of the coalition. CPN-UML lawmaker Dev Raj Ghimire was elected speaker on Thursday defeating Ishwari Neupane of NC.

The Constitution makes it mandatory to elect a Speaker and a deputy Speaker within 15 days of the House’s first meeting.

According to the Article 91 (2) of the Statute, either the Speaker or the deputy Speaker must be a woman and from different parties, preferably form government and opposition. However, the ruling alliance has divided Speaker and deputy Speaker among themselves.

Rana, after being elected, claimed to work on strengthen the federalism, though her party openly has criticized the federalism, and asked to scrap the Province as according to them Province has become liability.

The deputy Speaker, according to her, is inspired by renowned litterateur Parijat, who was her guide and guardian, when Rana Magar moved to Kathmandu for study. She did her schooling by getting enrolled at Grade 5 at the age of 12 in a local Maharanigunj Primary School, Arjundhara, according to her elder brother Jagat Ranamagar.

She holds a MA degree in Sociology and has a daughter.

According to the Parliamentary Secretariat, except the single party Panchayat Rule of 30 years, Rana Magar is the 12th deputy Speaker and seventh women deputy Speaker in the parliamentary history of Nepal. The first deputy Speaker was Mahendra Narayan Nidhi of NC (March 31, 1960), who could enjoy his tenure till December 15, 1960 as then King Mahendra dissolved the House and arrested the democratically elected government led by NC president BP Koirala.

After the democratic movement of 1990 that reestablished the multiparty democracy, Mahanta Thakur – then NC now Loktantrik Samaajbadi Party – became the deputy Speaker on June 23, 1991 to December 17, 1994. From December 18, 1994 Ram Bilas Yadav from Rastriya Prajatantra Party (RPP) became deputy Speaker till October 13, 1997.

The first women deputy Speaker of the House was Lila Shrestha Subbha from CPN-UML. Due to intra-party feud in CPN-UML, her party asked her to resign and she resigned on October 10, 1998. 

Bhoj Raj Joshi from the CPN-ML – a splinter party of CPN-UML – became deputy Speaker of the House on October 14, 1998, after the resignation of Lila Shrestha Subba. Joshi – now CPN-UML leader – remained deputy Speaker till March 23, 1999.

The second women deputy Speaker of the House Chitralekha Yadav was elected deputy Speaker of the House on June 29, 1999. He is the longest serving deputy Speaker of the House due to political upheaval. She remained deputy Speaker till January 17, 2007. During her tenure as the deputy Speaker, the country witnessed direct rule of the King Gyanendra.

But after the CPN-Maoist – now Maoist-Centre – came to main stream politics, they won majority in the House and the House saw Purna Kumari Subedi was elected the deputy Speaker on November 28, 2008. Her tenure was till November 19, 2013. After Subedi of CPN-Maoist, Onsari Gharti, of the same party, became deputy Speaker of the House on February 26, 2014. Her tenure remained till October 14, 2015. Later Gharti also became the Speaker of the House.

From October 15, 2015, Ganga Prasad Yadav of RPP became the deputy Speaker of the House till October 15, 2017. Then Dr Shiva Maya Tumbahamfe of unified CPN (CPN) remained deputy Speaker till January 20, 2020. From July 15, 2022, Puspa Bhusal of NC became deputy Speaker till September 17, 2022.

On January 20, 2023, today, Indira Rana Magar of RSP elected deputy Speaker of the House. RSP – the fourth largest party in the House – according to power sharing agreement among the ruling alliance, was planning to field lawmaker Sovita Gautam, who has defeated the former Speaker of the House Onsari Gharti in Kathmandu-2, but all of a sudden proposed Rana Magar, who has become HR member under Proportional representation (PR) electoral system – at the last moment.

Thursday, January 19, 2023

AOAN seeks action against people who roughed up chopper pilot

Airline Operators asked the government to take action against those, who attacked the pilot of a chopper today.

Issuing a press note Airline Operators Association of Nepal (AOAN) denounced the attack on a senior pilot, who has been serving the nation in thick and thin. “The Home Ministry, Chief District Officer (CDO) and security agencies must take action against those involved in the thrashing of pilot,” the press note reads, asking for security of the airline staffers.

The locals have roughed up a senior captain Ranesh Dangol and the passengers of Prabhu Air chopper as they landed the chopper in a football ground in Syangja, when a match was underway. 

The First Waling Gold Cup Tournament was taking place at the football ground in Waling -8 when the Robinson helicopter of Prabhu Air landed at a football ground at 2 pm today. A lot of football fans were watching the semi-final match between Waling Red and Cameroon team, when the chopper 9N-ALX landed on the ground, blowing away a thick cloud of dust around it, the locals said. “Players dispersed making the locals angry.”

“As the first half of the match was taking place, a helicopter appeared in the sky and landed in the ground,” according to the chairman of the Waling Youth Club LB Jwarchan. “This is a big blunder on the part of pilot,” he said, adding that players scuttled off to safety. “Luckily nothing untoward happened.”

Though no untoward incident happened, it was a sheer breach of flying protocol, the locals claimed, taking the matter into their own hands and roughing up the pilot senior captain Ramesh Dangol.

After the scuffle, the chopper flew back to Pokhara leaving the passenger. Binod Gaire, Khim Bahadur Thapa, Sushil Giri, Sushil Thapa of Waling-9 had chartered a helicopter to Waling for Rs 40,000.

Senior captain Dangol said that he was forced to land the chopper as the passenger demanded him to do so but the irate mob of players and organisers attacked him leaving his nose and mouth bleeding.

CDO of Syangja Ganga Bahadur Chhetri also said that the helicopter had not informed the district administration about its plan to land in the football ground. 

Meanwhile, District Administration Office, Syangja, has written a letter to the Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal (CAAN) to investigate the matter. CAAN, in response, informed the administration that it has initiated an action against the chopper.

Central bank removes cash margin in import

The central bank has removed the cash margin provision for imports, which the importers need to maintain against Letters of Credit (LCs), while importing goods.

As the foreign exchange (forex) reserve has been comfortable, the Nepal Rastra Bank (NRB) has removed the cash margin provision for imports, confirms a press note issued by the central bank today.

“All types of cash margin arrangements have been removed,” the circular reads, asking the banks and financial institutions (BFIs) concerned not to consider the cash margin. With the new rule, now businessmen do not have to keep any kind of cash margin for imports, which will encourage them for more imports.

The central bank had imposed cash margin of 50 per cent to 100 per cent on LC – for the import of around 300 goods, including automobiles – since last 1 year to tighten the imports after depleting forex reserve. Last month, the central bank has removed the provision of cash margin on the import of construction materials.

Earlier, traders were required to maintain a cash margin of only 5 per cent to 10 per cent of the value of goods, while importing goods but the central bank and the government tighten the imports raising the cash margin upto 50 per cent to 100 per cent to restrict imports that has sucked the forex reserve.

The private sector and International Monetary Fund (IMF) have been opposed to import restriction, as according to the data only import restriction has not pushed forex reserve up rather the government revenue – customs – dropped drastically. As result, the government lifted the seven-month-old ban on the import of ‘luxury goods’ last month to meet a condition of the IMF ahead of the formation of a new government.

The IMF has delayed the second installment of a $398.5 million loan approved for Nepal due to import restriction. The IMF – in In January 2022 – had approved the extended credit facility for Nepal. Of the total amount, Nepal received $ 110 million as the first installment. But IMF delayed the second installment, which is around $ 55 million.

According to the central bank records, the forex reserves reached Rs 1.292 trillion in the first five months of the current fiscal year. “The amount will be sufficient for Nepal to import goods and services for the next 8.7 months,” the central bank’s monthly macroeconomic report reads, adding that the remittance inflow has touched Rs 480 billion in the first five months of the current fiscal year. “Compared to the amount received in the same period of last fiscal year, this is an increase of 23 per cent. 

In US dollars terms, Nepal received $3.71 billion in five months, which is a 13.1 per cent growth from the dollar value of the amount received in the same period of the last fiscal year. The increase in remittance inflow has improved the forex reserve giving the central bank and the government confidence to ease imports.

After easing the import ban, the central bank should control the credit on imports using monetary tools as the dollar earning – that could help increase forex reserve – is limited to remittance due to poor exports and Covid-19-hit tourism industry.

Wednesday, January 11, 2023

NIB, Mega start integrated operation as Nepal Investment Mega Bank

Nepal Investment Bank (NIB) and Mega Bank (MEGA) today started the integrated operation as Nepal Investment Mega Bank (NIMB).

Chair of the two banks – Prithvi Bahadur Pandey of NIB and Bhoj Bahadur Shah of Mega – inaugurated the joint operations at an event organised here in Kathmandu.

According to a press note issued by the Nepal Investment Mega Bank, the total paid up capital of the integrated entity is now Rs 34.12 billion, while its total assets worth at Rs. 471 billion. “The total capital is calculated at Rs 580 billion, and the deposit stands at Rs 360 billion with a total of Rs 329 billion as loan.”

The merged entity – Nepal Investment Mega Bank – has 296 branches, 59 extension counters, 279 ATM booths and over three million customers, the press note claims, adding that the NIB and Mega merged at 100: 90 share swap ratio. “The chair of the board of directors and chief executive officer (CEO) of the erstwhile NIB Prithvi Bahadur Pande and Jyoti Prakash Pandey continue as the chair and CEO of Nepal Investment Mega Bank.”

Pande will chair the board, whereas Pandey is leading the management as the CEO of Nepal Investment Mega Bank. Likewise, the board has the representations from both NIB and Mega. Prajanya Rajbhandari and Kabi Kumar Tibrewala represent the NIB, whereas Gopal Khanal, Madan Kumar Acharya and Mukti Ram Pandey represent Mega.

The integrated operations of Nepal Investment Mega Bank marks the fourth big merger of commercial banks within last two weeks. Kumari Bank and NCC Bank started joint operations as Kumari Bank on January 1, whereas Global Bank and Bank of Kathmandu started integrated operations as Global Bank on January 9, and Prabhu Bank completed its acquisition of Century Bank and started the integrated operations as Prabhu Bank on January 10.

According to the central bank, two more mergers of commercial banks – Himalayan Bank and Civil Bank, and Laxmi Bank and Sunrise Bank – are on the cards. The integrated operations of these four banks as two will start within a month, according to Nepal Rastra Bank.

Tuesday, January 10, 2023

Economy to moderately grow by 5.1 per cent

The World Bank has projected Nepal’s economy to grow by 5.1 per cent in the current fiscal year 2022-23, whereas it will grow by 4.9 per cent in the next fiscal year 2023-24.

The World Bank’s projection is lower than the government’s target of 8 per cent, whereas higher than Asian Development Bank’s (ADB) projection of 4.7 per cent.

Issuing its latest update ‘Global Economic Prospect Report’ today, the multilateral development partner projected that Nepal’s economic growth will be fourth among the South Asian nations. “In South Asia, the Maldives, India and Bangladesh have higher growth forecasts than Nepal with 8.2 per cent, 6.9 per cent and 5.2 per cent, respectively, whereas Bhutan and Pakistan are below Nepal with 4.1 per cent and 2 per cent, respectively,” according to the World Bank. “Sri Lanka is projected to have a negative growth rate of -4.2 per cent.”

The World Bank has also estimated 5.8 per cent economic growth in the last fiscal year 2021-22.

According to the report, growth in South Asia Region (SAR) is projected to slow to 5.5 per cent in 2023, from 6.1 per cent the previous year, on slowing external demand and tightening financial conditions, before picking up slightly to 5.8 per cent in 2024. “Growth is revised lower over the forecast horizon and is below the region’s 2000-19 average growth of 6.5 per cent,” it claims, adding that this pace reflects still robust growth in India, Maldives, and Nepal, offsetting the effects of the floods in Pakistan and the economic and political crises in Afghanistan and Sri Lanka. “South Asia continues to be adversely affected by spillovers from the invasion of Ukraine, rising global interest rates, and weakening growth in key trading partners.”

Likewise, the World Bank also claimed that global economic growth rate would be squeezed to 1.7 per cent in the year 2023 which is 1.3 per cent lower than the earlier estimate. 

Six months before or in the month of June this year, it had made public an estimation of global economic growth rate of 3 per cent. In the year 2024, the global economic growth rate would remain 2.7 per cent, it claims, adding that the ongoing war between Russia and Ukraine and Covid pandemic has been considered the main causes behind the lower economic growth rate. “High price hike, high interest rate and disruption in the supply chain have been identified as other causes behind the fall in the economic growth rate.”

The estimation of economic growth rate for the year 2023 is the third big recession in the last three decades,” it adds.

Sharp, long-lasting slowdown to hit developing countries hard: World Bank

Global growth is slowing sharply in the face of elevated inflation, higher interest rates, reduced investment, and disruptions caused by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, according to the World Bank’s latest Global Economic Prospects report.

Given fragile economic conditions, any new adverse development – such as higher-than-expected inflation, abrupt rises in interest rates to contain it, a resurgence of the Covid-19 pandemic, or escalating geopolitical tensions – could push the global economy into recession, the report warns, painting a gloomy picture that it would mark the first time in more than 80 years that two global recessions have occurred within the same decade.

“The global economy is projected to grow by 1.7 per cent in 2023 and 2.7 per cent in 2024,” it reads, adding that the sharp downturn in growth is expected to be widespread, with forecasts in 2023 revised down for 95 per cent of advanced economies and nearly 70 per cent of emerging market and developing economies. “Over the next two years, per-capita income growth in emerging market and developing economies is projected to average 2.8 per cent – a full percentage point lower than the 2010-2019 average.” 

In Sub-Saharan Africa – which accounts for about 60 per cent of the world’s extreme poor – growth in per capita income over 2023-24 is expected to average just 1.2 per cent, a rate that could cause poverty rates to rise, not fall, the multilateral development partner further warns.

“The crisis facing development is intensifying as the global growth outlook deteriorates,” World Bank Group President David Malpass said, adding that emerging and developing countries are facing a multi-year period of slow growth driven by heavy debt burdens and weak investment as global capital is absorbed by advanced economies faced with extremely high government debt levels and rising interest rates. “Weakness in growth and business investment will compound the already-devastating reversals in education, health, poverty, and infrastructure and the increasing demands from climate change.”

Growth in advanced economies is projected to slow from 2.5 per cent in 2022 to 0.5 per cent in 2023. Over the past two decades, slowdowns of this scale have foreshadowed a global recession, it adds. In the US, growth is forecast to fall to 0.5 per cent in 2023 – 1.9 percentage points below previous forecasts and the weakest performance outside of official recessions since 1970. In 2023, euro-area growth is expected at zero per cent – a downward revision of 1.9 percentage points. Likewise, in China, growth is projected at 4.3 per cent in 2023 – 0.9 percentage point below previous forecasts, the report states. “Excluding China, growth in emerging market and developing economies is expected to decelerate from 3.8 per cent in 2022 to 2.7 per cent in 2023, reflecting significantly weaker external demand compounded by high inflation, currency depreciation, tighter financing conditions, and other domestic headwinds.”

By the end of 2024, GDP levels in emerging and developing economies will be roughly 6 per cent below levels expected before the pandemic. Although global inflation is expected to moderate, it will remain above pre-pandemic levels.

The report offers the first comprehensive assessment of the medium-term outlook for investment growth in emerging market and developing economies. Over the 2022-2024 period, gross investment in these economies is likely to grow by about 3.5 per cent on average – less than half the rate that prevailed in the previous two decades. The report also lays out a menu of options for policy makers to accelerate investment growth.

“Subdued investment is a serious concern because it is associated with weak productivity and trade and dampens overall economic prospects,” Director of the World Bank’s Prospects Group Ayhan Kose said, adding that without strong and sustained investment growth, it is simply impossible to make meaningful progress in achieving broader development and climate-related goals. “National policies to boost investment growth need to be tailored to country circumstances but they always start with establishing sound fiscal and monetary policy frameworks and undertaking comprehensive reforms in the investment climate.”

The report also sheds light on the dilemma of 37 small states – countries with a population of 1.5 million or less. These states suffered a sharper Covid-19 recession and a much weaker rebound than other economies, partly because of prolonged disruptions to tourism. In 2020, economic output in small states fell by more than 11 per cent – seven times the decline in other emerging and developing economies. The report finds that small states often experience disaster-related losses that average roughly 5 per cent of GDP per year. This creates severe obstacles to economic development.

Policymakers in small states can improve long-term growth prospects by bolstering resilience to climate change, fostering effective economic diversification, and improving government efficiency, the report suggests, calling upon the global community to assist small states by maintaining the flow of official assistance to support climate-change adaptation and help restore debt sustainability.

Monday, January 9, 2023

Global IME Bank, BoK start joint operation as Global IME Bank

Global IME Bank and Bank of Kathmandu (BoK) today started the integrated operation as Global IME Bank.

Following the merger, the bank's capital fund totaled Rs57 billion, deposit reached Rs 410 billion and loans Rs 400 billion with assets of Rs 500 billion and a network of 1,100 branches, according to a press note issued by the bank.

With a total of 365 branch offices, 367 ATMs, 286 branchless banking services, 61 extended branch offices, and 3 contact offices located abroad, Global IME Bank has more than 4 million customers, the press note reads, adding that the board of directors of the merged bank will consist of five directors including chair Chandra Prasad Dhakal from erstwhile Global IME Bank and two directors from erstwhile Bank of Kathmandu. The chief executive officer (CEO) of Global IME Bank Ratnaraj Bajracharya will continue as the CEO of merged bank.

Inaugurating the programme, Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal ‘Prachanda’ reetariated the government main agenda as sustainable economic development and strengthening of the economy. “Understanding the need of the hour, we have decided to implement a balanced financial, industrial and monetary policy to make the economy dynamic and to objectively intensify cooperation and cooperation with the private sector to solve the problems seen in the economy,” he said, claiming that the country’s economy will accelerate, if the opportunities provided by the expansion and improvement of the banking sector can be properly utilised. Emphasising that the banking sector has a great role in making remittance transactions reliable and secure, the premier said that it is necessary for the banking sector to contribute not only to big projects but also in the areas of access to finance, financial literacy and self-employment by using the latest banking and financing products. “It would be easier to invest in big projects, if banks and other financial institutions merged and worked together but such mergers should boost financial efficiency and minimise unhealthy competition.”

On the occasion, chief secretary Shanker Das Bairagi said that the government is serious and will take effective steps in increasing their morale. “There have been positive indications in the country's economy lately,” he said, consoling the private sector not to fear. He also said that mergers will make it easier to raise resources for large projects and increase efficiency.

Likewise, central bank governor Maha Prasad Adhikari said that the merger process was pursued following increasing unhealthy competition and rising operating expenditures of financial institutions.

Urging the banks and financial institutions (BFIs) to focuse on self-regulation and invest in productive sector including small and medium enterprises (SMEs), he claimed that the merger policy will make the financial system more secure. “Due to increasing numbers of BFIs that led to the unhealthy competition, Nepal Rastra Bank (NRB) has adopted the merger and acquisition (M&A) strategy a decade ago.”

Though the NRB has brought merger bylaw in 2011 and revised it in 2012, the Monetary Policy of the fiscal year 2015-16 has encouraged mergers and acquisitions by increasing the paid-up capital of the BFIs. The Monetary Policy has increased the paid up capital of the commercial banks (Class A financial institutions) to Rs 8 billion, development banks (Class B financial institutions) to Rs 2.50 billion, and finance companies (Class C financial institutions) to Rs 800 million. 

Speaking on the occasion, president of the Federation of Nepalese Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FNCCI) Shekhar Golchha asked the government and central bank to address three concerns to improve economy. “First, increase government spending; second make monetary policy restrictive but flexible too given the investment risks, and third, create an investment-friendly environment for private sector.”

“The economy will be strong only if the banks are strong,” he said, adding that the bigger banks after merger will also lead to bigger challenges. “To provide reasonable interest to the depositors and subsidised interest to the borrowers is also a huge challenge.”

Stating that BFIs are the backbone of the economy, Golchha said the profit of banks should also be seen, linking it with their investments.

Saying that reducing interest rates will boost the morale of industrialists and businessmen, Confederation of Nepalese Industries (CNI) president Vishnu Kumar Agrawal asked the government and central bank to decrease interest rate and ease liquidity. “Big banks should have bigger responsibility as well,” he said, urging the BFIs to lower the interest rate. “Encouraging to invest in productive sectors will not only contribute to national capital formation but also help government achieve revenue target.”

Informing about the merger, chair of the Global IME Bank Chandra Prasad Dhakal, on the occasion, said that the Global IME has merged and acquired a total of 21 BFIs to become the largest bank in the country. "This institution has been formed with the merger of five commercial banks and 10 development banks, apart from six financial institutions,” he informed, claiming the merged Global IME Bank as the first bank in terms of higest paid up capital. He also pointing out the risk involved as a big bank. “Being a big bank, there are risks and managerial challenges but we will be able to address them with our experience.”

Started his banking business from bringing remittances back home as a remitter, Dhakal said he will still gives high priority to remittance service. “We will give priority to bringing back money earned by the Nepalis in the Gulf and other countries.”

Saturday, January 7, 2023

Nepal reports first Covid-19 death after more than two months

Nepal today reported the first Covid-19 death in last two-and-a-half months.

The last time Nepal witnessed Covid-19-related death was on October 24, according to the Health Ministry. “The countrywide death toll touched 12,020 since the Covid pandemic started,” it informed. The ministry also confirmed that some 988,979 infected people have recovered from the disease so far, though the national active Covid-19 caseload has reached 21, today. The nationwide Covid-19 infection tally remains at 1,001,020.

According to the latest data of the ministry, a total of 555 PCR tests were conducted in the last 24 hours, while no antigen tests have been performed during the same time. With this, a total of 5,992,656 PCR tests have been carried out till date. Nepal's Covid-19 recovery rate stands at 98.8 per cent, while the fatality rate stands at 1.2 per cent. 

Currently, there are no individuals in any quarantine facilities across Nepal.

Sunday, January 1, 2023

Nepal welcomed 614,148 foreign tourists last year

Some 614,148 foreign tourists visited Nepal via air in 2022, almost five times compared to a year ago.

A year ago, in 2021, Nepal had been able to welcome only 150,962 foreign visitors due to Covid-19 pandemic ban on travel worldwide, though some 230,085 forign tourists visited Nepal in 2020.

The significant increase in foreign visitors in 2022 reflects Nepal's Covid-hit tourism industry's attempt to bounce back to normalcy, according to the travel entrepreneurs.

Nepal Tourism Board (NTB) data revealed that some 67,932 foreign tourists visited Nepal via air in December, the last month of the year.

Tourist arrivals see a steady rise this year with April posting the highest number of tourist arrivals of the spring season with 61,589 tourists. 

However, some 88,582 foreign tourists entered Nepal via air in October, the largest monthly arrival this year, according to the NTB data.

Among the foreign countries, India continued to become the largest tourism market accounting for some 34.04 per cent - or 209,105 - of the total arrivals.

The US followed India with 77,009 visitors, whereas the United Kingdom ranked third largest tourist market with 44,781 visitors. Australia and Bangladesh are the fourth and fifth tourist markets, with 26,874 and 25,384 visitors, respectively.

Earlier, China also used to be one of the largest tourist market but due to Covid-19 pandemic, Chinese tourists could not visit Nepal.

Nepal Telecom postpones 5G test plan

Nepal Telecommunications Company (NTC) has postponed its plan to test the 5G service.

The company had earlier announced to launch 5G test from todday. However, the plan has been put on hold as the number of mobile phones that are compatible with the 5G service is low among its users, according to the company spokesperson Shobhan Adhikari.

"We have completed the preparations but the plan has been put on hold due to technical reasons," he said, adding that the 5G devices that are compatible with the 2,600MHz required by the system are found very low in the market. "That’s why the plan has been put on hold now."

5G is a next-generation technology believed to change the way people live and work at present.

According to telecom experts, the network will be around 10-100 times faster than the existing 4G networks. "This improvement in the network could lead towards a wave of possibilities for new kinds of tech products in different sectors like health, business and automobile to name a few," they claim.

Mobile networks have evolved continuously for over time from 2G, 3G, 4G before the 5G.

Most of the Nepalis are currently using a 4G network, but Nepal Telecom and also the private telecom service provider, Ncell, are working on to provide 5G network services in Nepal also.

The government has recently allowed Nepal Telecom to carry out a test about the use of 5G internet technology in Nepal. Likewise, Worldlink, an ISP company, has launched a 5G wi-fi service with limited coverage.

If Nepal Telecom, Ncell and WorldLink succeed to provide 5G services in Nepal, the country will be the first to bring the 5G network in the South Asia.

Many countries are already competing to have the fastest, largest and more efficient 5G network. The 5G networks offers businesses access to lightning-fast data transfer speeds and improved network reliability.

According to the experts, the 5G network uses a type of encoding, which is similar to the encoding that 4G uses. But the air interface is designed for much lower latency and greater flexibility than 4G.

A 5G network can be built in different methods, mostly depending on the type of bands a wireless carrier has, they claim, adding that a low-band network will have a wide coverage area but will only be 20 per cent faster than 4G, and a high-band network will have superfast speed but has a smaller range and the signal gets disrupted through hard surfaces. "There are also mid-band networks that balance the speed and coverage."

Along with speed, a 5G network will also provide greater bandwidth, which means it can handle many more devices at once than the previous networks.

The 5G technology is very quick and is capable of supporting a large number of devices that can help digitise many industries. It will also help in preparing for the new wave of automation and AI.

But a consumer also have to have a 5G-enabled device to get the benefits of a 5G network.

Though most of the big companies like Samsung, Apple, Huawei, OnePlus, and Xiaomi have already launched devices that support a 5G network, the Nepali consumers with 5G devices that are compatible with the 2,600MHz required by the system are found very low in the domestic market, which has forced the Nepal Telecom to put its plan on hold.

But the 5G network also has some drawbacks like it will drain the battery quickly, due to which the 5G-enabled phones must have significantly large battery storage. The service seekers also have to invest in infrastructure and devices to be compatible to the 5G network, which is added cost for them.

PM Dahal inaugurates Pokhara Regional International Airport

The construction of Nijgadh International International Airport will begin soon, according to the Prime Minister.

Inaugurating Pokhara Regional International Airport (PRIA) today, Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal 'Prachanda' said that air route is the most effective way for connectivity for land-locked countries like Nepal. Thus, the construction of Nijgadh International Airport is important, he added.

The proposed Nijgadh International Airport has been claimed to an alternative to the already congested Tribhuvan International Airport (TIA), though, the conservation activists have opposed to the construction of airport by destroying one of the best-preserved forests in the Tarai Madhesh.

The Supreme Court, on May 26, 2022, issued a verdict telling the government not to construct the proposed Nijgadh airport. The full text of the verdict clarified the apex court did not rule out the possibility of constructing the airport in Nijgadh of the Bara district in southern Nepal.

Following that, a government-commissioned panel has suggested that Nijgadh is the best option for constructing the next international airport in the country.

The international airport project conceptualised several years ago turned controversial with conservationists opposing it. They have also been condemning the government’s plans to cut down 2.4 million trees and destroy an entire ecosystem.

Nepal’s first international airport TIA in Kathmandu is 71 years old, whereas the second international airport Gautam Buddha International Airport (GBIA) in Bhairahawa was inaugurated in May 2022.

On the occasion of Gregorian New Year, Dahal inaugurated Pokhara Regional International Airport, which is the country's third international airport that started domestic flights from today, and will start international flights from Frebruary.

Saying that Shankar Raj Pathak, the man who conceptualised Pokhara International Airport, is his teacher, Dahal also praised him. 

Pokhara Metropolitan City has declared a public holiday today to celebrate the inauguration, and also felicitated the architect of the international airport Pathak with a chariot ride.

Urging the Chinese government to extend support in construction of projects including the railway service and in easing the trade by opening the transit points, he also opined that there could not be two opinions that the operation of the international airport in Pokhara will contribute to the economic development of the entire nation along with that of the Gandaki province.

Pokhara, the tourism capital of Nepal and also the capital of Gandaki province, is expected to get more tourists after the new airport starts international flights.

The government will provide support for operation of Pokhara International Airport, said deputy prime minister and finance minister Bishnu Prasad Poudel, On the occasion.

Addressing the inaugural ceremony, he also promised provide maximum government support for construction of other remaining infrastructures for the new airport.

Likewise on the occasion, Gandaki province chief minister Krishna Chandra Pokhrel urged the Chinese government to transform the loan it provided for the Pokhara Regional International Airport into grants.

"I urge the government of China through the Chinese Embassy here to convert the 75 per cent of the total loan into grants," he said. "With the completion of the project, the 47-year-long dream of Pokhara folks had come true."

In first phase, the airport should have its services for the South Asia and in the second phase for the Western countries, Pokhrel said, adding hoping the tourist arrival in the lake city will significantly increase with the operation of new airport. “Now Pokhara should focus on lengthening the tourist stay at least for 15 days."

Nepal had signed a $215.96 million (around Rs 22 billion) soft loan agreement with China in March 2016 for the construction of the new airport in the lake city.

However, the new airport constructed with loan assistance from the Chinese government has been claimed by the Chinese Embassy in Kathmandu, to be the support project that falls within the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). 

The spokesperson at the Embassy of China in Kathmandu claimed that the Pokhara Regional International Airport is the flagship project of China-Nepal BRI cooperation. "The inauguration ceremony of Pokhara International Airport will be held at 11 am tomorrow (Sunday), the spokesperson wrote on Twitter yesterday, "This is the flagship project of China-Nepal BRI cooperation," it reads, adding that the Embassy warmly congratulates to Nepali Government and Nepali people. "The newly-built airport is designed and built in accordance with the standards of China and the International Civil Aviation Organization, which reflects the quality of Chinese projects, symbolises the national pride of Nepal, and becomes a remarkable sign for China and Nepal to jointly build the Belt and Road Initiative."

“The new airport not only facilitates personnel exchanges between Nepal and China and other countries, but also proves the true friendship and mutual assistance between the two countries in times of adversity,” the tweeter reads.

"The PRIA is a matter of pride for Pokhara as the airport is the decade-long dream of the residents of Pokhara," according to Pokhara metropolis Mayor Dhana Raj Acharya. "As the airport will prove to be a milestone in the promotion of tourism in this region, it is necessary to convey the message of the grand opening to the whole world."

"Pokhara is a major tourist destination in the country and the tourism sector will benefit immensely with the operation of the new international airport, chairman of the Pokhara Tourism Council Pomnarayan Shrestha said, adding that the new airport is expected to bring a big relief to the tourism sector. "Along with the international airport, we will make a promotional campaign around the world to bring in more tourists in Pokhara."

Constructed by the Chinese construction company CAMCE, the regional international airport was handed over to Nepal last March, during the visit of Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi to Nepal.