Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Strong Asian intraregional trade and investment improve economic resilience

Growing trade and investment linkages in Asia and the Pacific help improve the region’s economic resilience to uncertainties in the global economic and trade policy environment, according to a new Asian Development Bank (ADB) report.
In a study released today, the Asian Economic Integration Report 2017, ADB examines recent regional integration trends and introduces a new regional integration index. The report also includes a special chapter on how Asia can strengthen financial resilience in an era of financial interconnectedness.
Strong intraregional trade and investment are acting as a buffer for the region against uncertainties in global trade and economic growth, according to the report. In 2016, Asia’s intraregional trade share measured by value rose to 57.3 per cent in 2016, a record high, up from an average of 55.9 per cent from 2010 to 2015.
Foreign direct investment (FDI) within Asia rose in absolute value to reach $272 billion in 2016, despite a 6 per cent decline in global FDI flows into the region. This intraregional FDI increased as a share of total FDI to the region from 48 per cent in 2015 to 55 per cent in 2016. Given the role intra-Asian FDI plays in enhancing global and regional value chain development, this is expected to help strengthen the region’s trade growth globally.
Asian economies have continued expanding their global presence, with FDI originating from Asia rising 11 per cent in 2016 to $482 billion, primarily through investment in renewable energy, natural resources, semiconductors, and information technology.
“Asia and the Pacific is leading a recovery in world trade that is helping the region to maintain strong growth momentum amid global economic and trade policy uncertainty,” said ADB’s chief economist Yasuyuki Sawada. “Asia’s continued integration and cooperation will underpin regional economic growth and financial resilience.”
The 2017 report introduces a new composite index, the Asia-Pacific Regional Cooperation and Integration Index. The index measures regional integration across six components, including trade and investment, money and finance, regional value chains, infrastructure and connectivity, movement of people, and institutional and social integration. The index is aimed at helping policymakers better understand and measure the levers for greater regional integration and cooperation.
The report also features a special chapter on how Asia can strengthen financial resilience in an era of financial interconnectedness. It highlights that 20 years after the Asian financial crisis, Asia stands strong, with healthier financial systems, stronger regulations, and better regional financial cooperation mechanisms.
Significant challenges remain, however, with unresolved financial market and system weaknesses. Remaining regulatory policy gaps could also increase the region’s risk exposure and financial vulnerability through excessive leverage and risk-taking.
The report offers several recommendations for countries in the region to strengthen their resilience to future crises, including maintaining sound macroeconomic fundamentals; further strengthening national regulatory and supervisory frameworks and institutional capacities; further developing local currency bond markets; strengthening regional regulatory cooperation, including resolution mechanisms for interconnected regional banks; and reviewing and strengthening existing financial safety nets against potential contagion and spillover effects.
ADB – based in Manila – is dedicated to reducing poverty in Asia and the Pacific through inclusive economic growth, environmentally sustainable growth, and regional integration. Established in 1966, ADB is celebrating 50 years of development partnership in the region. It is owned by 67 members, 48 from the region. In 2016, ADB assistance totaled $31.7 billion, including $14 billion in cofinancing.

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Central bank working on to retrieve money

The central bank said that it is making utmost efforts to retrieve money amounting to over Rs 400 million transferred to various banks abroad by hackers using SWIFT from NIC Asia Bank.
Some unidentified hackers broke into the Society for Worldwide Interbank Telecommunication (SWIFT) – an international payment network – at the NIC Asia Bank in Kathmandu, and had siphoned off the amount during the Tihar festival. A total of 11,000 banking and financial institutions across 200 countries are said to be using SWIFT system. The hackers have transferred the amount to eight banks in six countries, according to the investigation.
According to the deputy spokesperson at the central bank Rajendra Pandit, the central bank has asked the domestic banks to make efforts to retrieve the amount transferred abroad. It has also sought help of banks in those six countries from where hackers have requested the transfer.
Meanwhile, NIC Asia Bank has been stepping up its effort towards this end.
Pandit also reminded that the central bank had instructed all the banks and financial institutions to pay special attention to the usage of IT in banking not only to make banking easier, convenient but also to curb the cyber attack and illegal transferring in the banking.
The central bank had also summoned the chief of the IT department of all the banks in the capital to discuss how to secure the internal system of banking.
The central bank governor has also directed the banks and financial institutions to set up IT desk in their institutions.

Monday, October 23, 2017

Government appoints Bhusal new chief of NRA following Pokharel's resignation

A cabinet meeting today appointed former finance secretary Yubaraj Bhusal as the new chief executive officer (CEO) of National Reconstruction Authority (NRA) after Govinda Raj Pokharel resigned from the post.
Bhusal is the third person and fourth chief executive of the authority that was formed to help expedite the reconstruction after the devastating earthquake of April 2015.
Pokharel resigned from his post on Saturday as he has made an unexpected foray into competitive politics, filing is candidacy in parliamentary elections from Pyuthan. Election Commission had directed him to leave the district for taking part in election activities while still assuming the NRA top post.
Pokharel had served as the vice chair of National Planning Commission (NPC) before being appointed CEO of the authority by the Pushpa Kamal Dahal-led government.
Dahal's government had sacked Sushil Gyawali, appointed by KP Sharma Oli-led government, to appoint Pokharel for the top post.
Pokhrel was first appointed the chief executive of the authority by then Sushil Koirala-led government in August 2015 through an ordinance. But his appointment was scrapped in six months as his appointment saw an automatic annulment due to lack of law. The CPN-UML government led by KP Sharma Oli in December appointed Sushil Gyewali as the second chief executive to oversee the reconstruction.
But the Nepali Congress-Maoist Centre government led by Maoist chair Pushpa Kamal Dahal in January sacked Gyewali to bring Pokhrel back at the authority's helm. Now the Sher Bahadur Deuba-led government has chosen Bhusal to lead the reconstruction body.
During his 34 years in bureaucracy starting in 1980, Bhusal served in various government agencies including the National Planning Commission (NPC), local development, general administration and tourism among others.
Meanwhile, Bhusal – after being appointed as chief executive of the authority – has expressed his commitment to deliver concrete results by leading the reconstruction works within three months. He further made commitment to expedite the reconstruction of national heritages and quake- survivors' houses placing them on top priority.
Bhusal’s appointment has come at a time when the authority is under intense public scrutiny for the sluggish reconstruction work.
The National Reconstruction Authority set-up to oversee the reconstruction works in the aftermath of the April 2015 earthquake that killed nearly 9,000 people and floored thousands of houses, seems to have become a political playground for parties.
Frequent changes in the authority raised serious concerns over reconstruction of damaged houses, with thousands of people still awaiting housing grant. Many of the quake survivors are either still living in temporary shelters or damaged houses.
The authority has completed survey of reconstruction drive in 17 earthquake affected districts. It also has claimed that more than 200,000 private homes have either been rebuilt or are under construction in 14 districts worst hit by the devastating earthquakes. The authority had identified 737,705 households as the beneficiary of housing grant. Of the total, some 620,646 households have acquired first tranche of the government aid, whereas 85,332 have received the second tranche and 12,726 have received the third tranche.

Sunday, October 22, 2017

Swift under cyber attack, Nepali banks feel the heat

Some Nepali banks have become latest victim to hackers siphoning off millions of dollars by targeting the backbone of the world financial system, SWIFT. Though, account-holders need not worry as their deposits parked in the bank are safe, the international wire transfer has come under suspicion as the incidents have been repeatedly occurring across the globe.
SWIFT – Society for Worldwide Interbank Telecommunication – is a global financial messaging system that thousands of banks and commercial organisations across the world use to transfer billions of dollars every day. SWIFT claims that over 90 per cent of fund transfers in the world take place through SWIFT.
Though, other banks have also been suspected under attack, unidentified cyber criminals have reportedly hacked into the SWIFT system of NIC Asia Bank and stole money, exposing vulnerability in the information technology system of the banks in the country, according to the central bank that has confirmed the reported cyber theft which took place during the Tihar vacation – October 19 to October 21 – when all the banks and the central monetary authority remained closed.
After the request of the bank, the central bank has today sent a team to take stock of the situation. NIC Asia has also already requested the central bank to initiate the cancellation of transfer of funds with the central banks of other countries, where the money already have been transferred. Meanwhile, it has not been clear, how, where and how much money have been transferred from Nepali banks.
"We, however, have not been able to confirm the exact amount of money that has been illegally transferred through multiple small transactions via SWIFT,” central bank's deputy spokesperson Rajendra Pandit said, adding that the central bank has also written to international banks and central banks of different countries not to entertain transactions generated from NIC Asia.
Apartfrom NIC Asia Bank, Prabhu Bank, NMB Bank and Prime Commercial bank's SWIFT codes have also been suspected to have been hacked by unknown hackers by using malware in their system.
However, the attack on NIC Asia closely resembles the 'biggest-ever cyber heist' that took place in Bangladesh. In May 2016, cyber criminals had hacked into the computer of a Bangladeshi central bank official to make illegal payments via SWIFT. The criminals had sent messages to the New York Federal Reserve seeking to transfer nearly $1 billion from Bangladesh Bank’s account. Though, most of the transfers were blocked, about $81 million was sent to a bank in the Philippines.
In 2016 a Turkish hacking group 'Bozkurtlar' or 'Grey Wolves' had hacked two Nepali banks – Business Universal Development Bank and Sanima Bank – and Bangladeshi banks, Dutch-Bangla Bank, The City Bank, and Trust Bank run by Army Welfare Trust.
A US-based cyber security website had reported on May 13, 2016 that the stolen data was ‘apparently posted online’ on May 10 by the group Bozkurtlar.
According to the report, the same hacking group had leaked data tied to Qatar National Bank and UAE's InvestBank also.
A report prepared by the Russia-based computer security firm Kaspersky Lab had said international cyber criminals had attempted to attack financial institutions in Nepal using a malware called Carbanak.
According to the experts, the hackers normally exploit vulnerabilities in the systems of member banks, allowing them to gain control of the banks’ legitimate SWIFT credentials.
The hackers then use those credentials to send SWIFT funds transfer request to other banks, which, trusting the messages to be legitimate, then sent the funds to accounts controlled by them.
Lately, numbers of developed nations have been struggling to address cyber attack as it has posed serious threat to the global financial market.

China South Asia Expo in Kathmandu on Nov 2-5

Yunnan International Exposition Affairs Bureau and Nepal-China Executives Council ghe first ever China-South Asia Expo in Kathmandu on November 2-5.
The regional exhibition that showcases goods from China and South Asian countries used to be organised in Kunming of China only is also regarded as a cultural and economic bridge for the region. The event – being organised since 2003 – is  believed to facilitate policy coordination between the countries and translate complementary advantages into common growth of the entire region.
The expo aims at promoting regional communications, building the regional influence of China-South Asia Expo, expanding presence and influence of businesses of Yunnan's participating administrative division (Diqing Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture) and building a larger platform of cooperation and exchanges, according to a press release issued by the secretariat of China-South Asia Expo.
The expo with a total exhibition area of 3,300-sq-meters will have 150 standard booths, apart from dedicated pavilions to showcase images and build the brands of participating companies and regions from China and South Asia. Nepali entrepreneurs are also taking part in the expo.
Thw expo will also see a discussion on 'Belt and Road: Opportunities for Women Entrepreneurs' and 'China-South Asia Expo Workshop'.
Head of the China-South Asia Expo Executive Committee Gao Shuxun – who is also former vice-governor of China's Yunnan Province – is leading the Chinese delegation to Kathmandu. Alongwith him, more than 100 Chinese businessmen will be present at the expo.
The companies showcasing their products and services includes energy, investment, mineral development, electronic and information technology, bio pharmaceuticals, culture, tourism promotion, home appliance, tea production, native produces, handicrafts, ethnic costumes, food processing machines, and food packaging machines.
Nepal and other South Asian countries will showcase gems and jewelry, leather products, garments, tea, coffee, shoes, tourism products and handicrafts at the expo.
Diqing Prefecture of Yunnan Province will – during the expo – stage an on-site tourism promotion event along with folk song and dance performance.
Earlier, the Nepal-China Executives Council had organised annual China Trade Fair from 2005-2009 and South Asia-China Trade Fair in 2010 and 2011 in Kathmandu.

Saturday, October 21, 2017

Around 2500 educational institute reconstructed

The reconstruction of 2,456 educational institutions hit by the devastating earthquakes of 2015 has been completed so far, according to the National Reconstruction Authority (NRA).
Issuing the post-quake reconstruction data of the last nine months, the authority claimed that the pace of reconstruction in the educational sector is comparatively better to reconstruction progress in other different sectors.
According to the authority, some 4,381 educational institutions – schools and colleges – of the 8,923 educational institutions affected by the devastating earthquakes have been either fully rebuilt or are under construction.
Likewise, the reconstruction of only 200 educational institutions had been completed nine months back, before the incumbent chief executive of the authority Govinda Raj Pokharel took over. Pokharel was appointed to the top post of the authority on January 11.
Issuing a press statement today, the authority also informed that the number of houses fully rebuilt or under construction after suffering irreparable damages in the 14 worst affected districts has also reached almost 209,000 so far. "Only 17,099 quake-affected houses were under reconstruction and 11,871 such houses were fully rebuilt until January."
"Though it seems that the overall reconstruction process in the country has been delayed, data revealed that reconstruction works have gathered pace in the last nine months,” Pokharel said, adding that the timely completion of the reconstruction of all quake-hit physical infrastructure will depend on inter-agency coordination.

Nepal-Jordan forms a joint technical committee to implement agreement

Nepal and Jordon have formed a joint secretary-led joint technical committee for the implementation of labour agreement signed between the two countries recently.
According to a press release issued today by the Ministry of Labour and Employment, the committee will hold discussion on the issues related to Nepali migrant workers in Jordan as part of the implementation of the agreement. "An arrangement has been made to hold the committee's meeting once in a year."
Minister for Labour and Employment Farmullah Mansoor and Minister for Labour and Employment of Jordan Ali Al- Ghezawi had signed the agreement on October 18.
According to the agreement, there is also an arrangement of free ticket and visa for Nepali migrant workers willing to go to Jordan for employment. The government has also implemented the same provision with Qatar, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Oman, Kuwait and Malaysia.
A mechanism will also be formed to resolve any dispute between the employee and employer, whereas a provision will also be put into action that will guarantee welfare, and security of Nepali migrant workers in Jordon.
About 8,000 Nepalis are working in Jordon in the garment and service sectors, according to the Ministry. Though Nepal has allowed Nepali migrant workers to work in 109 foreign destinations, it has signed bilateral labour agreements with only few countries including Qatar, Jordan, Bahrain, South Koran, the UAE and Israel.