Friday, June 30, 2017

ADB $150 million loan to help improve power distribution, efficiency in Nepal

The Asian Development Bank’s (ADB) Board of Directors has approved a $150 million loan to help improve the reliability and efficiency of Nepal’s electricity supply and distribution through the Nepal Electricity Authority (NEA).
ADB will also administer a $2 million technical assistance grant from the Japan Fund for Poverty Reduction (JFPR) financed by the government of Japan to strengthen the capacity of Nepal's energy sector to deliver Gender Equality and Social Inclusion (GESI) results.
"Reliable and sustainable electricity distribution and service is an important aspect to Nepal’s growth and development, as well as in the improvement of the quality of life of all its people,” said ADB senior energy specialist Jiwan Acharya. "We are confident that the project will help improve electricity distribution and efficiency in the country, and significantly support the government’s goal of ending the country’s energy crisis within the next two years and achieving Sustainable Development Goal 7 (Sustainable Energy for All)."
The electricity supplies are expected to increase rapidly during the next several years through various hydropower projects nearing completion and imports from India through cross-border line. Therefore, existing transmission and distribution systems need to be immediately rehabilitated and upgraded for the network to be able to deliver the additional electricity supplies to consumers.
The project will enhance the distribution capacity and improve reliability and quality of electricity supply in the Kathmandu Valley by reducing distribution system overloads and technical and commercial losses. This will be done through the strengthening of the transmission grid capacity, increasing capacity and rehabilitating the distribution network in the project area, and enhancing operational and financial performance of NEA distribution centers.
The project will also develop NEA’s capacity to operate and manage an advanced distribution system and intelligent network – smart grid – technology with GESI aspects in electricity access and end-user awareness programs.
NEA is the sole government agency responsible for electricity generation, transmission, and distribution in Nepal. Kathmandu Valley, the main project area, accounts for about 400,000 electricity end-users or about 16 per cent of NEA’s total consumers in Nepal.
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.

Thursday, June 29, 2017

NRNA starts TIA cleaning campaign

The Non-Residential Nepalis Association (NRNA), in coordination with the Nepal Tourism Board (NTB) and Tribhuvan International Airport (TIA), today launched a month-long cleaning campaign.
The campaign aims to transform the TIA into as clean and well-managed as other international airports and make the experience of tourists during both their arrivals and departures pleasant, said NRNA senior vice president Bhawan Bhatta.
Bhatta, who is also leading the campaign 'Atithi Devo Bhawa' to bring more tourists to Nepal, said that the non-resident Nepalis want to bring in international knowledge and  technology also to train the workers and technologies to update with more resources to ensure that facilities at the TIA meet the international standards. Khem’s Cleaning Services – a cleaning company based in Australia – is training the workers during the campaign.
The TIA, the country only international airport, has been facing a widespread criticism for poor sanitation and maintenance, he said, adding that the campaign will help make the first and last impressions of the tourists more memorable.
“Sanitation is the biggest measure of civilisation and airport provides the first glimpse of the nation,” said chief executive of the NTB Deepak Raj Joshi, on the occasion. "Maintaining cleanliness in the airport is of utmost importance," he added.
Likewise, director general of the Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal (CAAN) Sanjiv Gautam promised to keep the TIA neat and tidy beyond the campaign period too. “Sanitation is a continuous process," he said, adding that the authority will put in same level of efforts to keep the airport clean even after the end of the cleaning campaign.
The campaign’s duration could be extended, if the desired results are not achieved, according to the agreement between the NRNA and TIA.
General Manager of the TIA Devananda Upadhaya, on the occasion, said that they are happy to join hands with an organisation that has 5 million members.

Regulators keep mum, as stock brokers halt share trading

The weakness of the regulators made the investors bleed millions today as the stock brokers halted the share trading to protest against the Inland Revenue Department's (IRD) directives to register themselves under value added tax (VAT) regime.
Both the regulator – front line regulator Nepal Stock Exchange (Nepse) and capital market regulator Securities Board of Nepal (Sebon) – remained mute spectator despite stock brokers' anti-market practice.
Stock Brokers Association of Nepal (Sban) claimed that the stock trading would not start until the regulator clarifies on the provision regarding the payment of VAT while making transactions in the securities market.
In its recent letter to two brokerage firms, the IRD had asked them to clear their VAT overdue of last four years following assessment of their tax liabilities, fine and accrued interest. The IRD recently carried out VAT assessment of two brokerage firms, determined the tax liabilities for them and ordered them to get registered for VAT. The stockbrokers have been given 15 days to comply.
Inland Revenue Office sent letters to Investment Management asking to clear dues of Rs15 million, and  Sundhara Securities to file VAT amount of Rs 6 million. The tax offices are writing to other 48 stockbrokers soon.
President of the association Priya Raj Regmi said that brokerage firms had not so far collected VAT from clients therefore they could not file the overdue VAT as determined by the IRD. "We have been undergoing through full audit regularly," he said, adding that VAT has never been an issue so far. "Theoretically, it's the consumers who have to pay VAT. Yet, there is policy ambiguity and uncertainty over the VAT."
"Since the IRD has ordered only these two firms to get registered for VAT, they have to issue VAT bill for each transaction from tomorrow if there is trading," he added. "If they will issue VAT, what other brokerage firms are going to do? There is a lot of uncertainty and lack of policy clarity whether to issue VAT bill or not or who will have the liability for VAT. So brokers will not carry out trading until this policy uncertainty is addressed."
Issuing a statement today, the association said that the transactions were ‘automatically halted’ as there has been policy uncertainty and practical difficulty over the tax policy in the wake of taxpayer service offices' decision to determine VAT and instruction to register themselves for VAT.
Arguing that VAT is not its members’ liability, the association – of 58 brokerage firms – said trading of shares in the secondary market will be halted until the issue is resolved and the policy uncertainty over VAT is addressed.
Though the officials of Sebon and brokers' association sat for talks to find a way out to the dispute, the meeting ended inconclusively prompting the stock brokers to halt the share trading, which had left share investors disappointed.
The brokers halting the market went to the Nepse – the front line regulator – before 11:00 am, the opening time for the share market.
Past President of the association Narendra Raj Sijapati said they were compelled to halt the transactions as they were facing a dilemma on how to impose VAT on investors. "The law has not allowed us to issue the physical invoice," he said, adding that there is no system developed in the software to impose VAT amount from the investors.
The association has claimed that the government is yet to clarify on the payment of VAT for past business, which according to them is not acceptable for it. It also warned to halt transactions for an indefinite period, if the government did not roll back its plan.
However, the government has been doing homework since last year to bring stockbrokers in the tax net. However, it has failed after stockbrokers' protest.
 The government is considering imposing 13 per cent VAT on the stockbrokers’ commission amount. However, the stockbrokers have been reluctant to implement government plan saying that it was inappropriate to charge VAT on the commission as they had to share certain portion of the commission with Nepse and Sebon.
The stockbrokers have been charging 0.35 per cent to 0.6 per cent commission from investors. "Out of the commission, stockbrokers have to pay 20 per cent to Nepse and 15 percent is deducted as Tax Deducted at Source (TDS). Likewise, stockbrokers need to pay 0.6 per cent of their commission amount annually to Sebon as levy charge.
If the government imposes VAT, the brokers will be compelled to pass on the VAT amount to their client, adding extra burden to the investors, according to the association.

Experts emphasis inland waterways for trade

Experts emphasised on the need to promote navigational usage of inland waterways in the Ganga and Brahmaputra river basins for swifter and easier trade, and also called for establishing of an institution to govern water transport in Nepal to develop navigation as an alternative mode of transport here.
Speaking at a National Policy Dialogue on ‘Promoting Navigational Usage of Inland Waterways in Ganga and Brahmaputra Basins’ here today, they said such an institution could look into the viability and prospects of inland waterways for trans-boundary connectivity, and Nepal can reap the benefits by getting linked through water with Bangladesh and India via the Ganges river basin as both these countries have a functional inland water transport system.
Organised by South Asia Watch on Trade, Economics and Environment (SAWTEE), the meeting also unveiled a study report on prospects of inland waterways in Nepal apart from discussing on prospects of navigation. They also recommended on expanding tradable benefits of trans-boundary water and on prospects of inland waterways in Nepal to Ganga and Brahmaputra river basins from Nepal’s Koshi river basin and Gandak river basin, where water transport is currently limited to boats used for river crossing.
"By getting linked to the Ganges River through inland waterways, Nepal can get access to Haldia port," the study report reads, adding that the waterway access will facilitate domestic trade and bring down trading cost. "The cost of freight per tonne per kilometre is around Rs 2.26 by railways, whereas the cost to transport the same cargo over the same distance via road shoots up to Rs 4.1, while it would cost only Rs 1.7 through inland waterways."
Addressing the panel, executive chairman of SAWTEE Posh Raj Pandey said that the government should undertake a comprehensive feasibility study of rivers to assess navigability and identify sites for possibility of upgrading existing traditional boats. "The study shows that there is prospect of inland waterways that can be promoted for navigational usage," he said, adding that the government should, however, form laws and guidelines to regulate inland waterways and define the socio-economic and environmental impact of inland waterways.
He also urged policy-makers to take advantage of India’s aggressive push into inland waterways by developing navigation within Nepal so that Nepal could be ready to access the high seas through the waterways.
Former secretary of the then Ministry of Water Resources Dwarika Nath Dhungel and joint secretary at Water and Energy Commission Secretariat under Ministry of Energy (MoE) Madhav Belbase, on the occasion, said that a comprehensive study by the government on inland waterways and its prospect for navigational usage has to be carried out.
Dhungel, also an expert on water resources, said that some attempts had been made two decades ago to develop a multi-modal transport system to connect the hilly areas. "But impetus on road construction had diverted the focus to developing only surface transport," he said, adding that a study was needed to gauge how complementary water transport would be to surface transport, especially in terms of long-haul transport.
"Promoting domestic inland waterways for navigational usage is not so easy," Belbase said, adding that a separate institution has to be formed to study the prospects of inland waterways in Nepal and its benefits in the country’s trade. "Nepal’s water resources is dependent on rain during the four months of monsoon," he said, adding, “If we were to consider commercial navigation, then maintaining of the depth and the channel would be crucial. So without constructing dams, we cannot expect to develop a waterway."
Informing that any type of additional mode of transport is a boon to every sector in Nepal former president of Freight Forwarders’ Association of Nepal Rajan Sharma urged the government to play a proactive role in identifying prospects of linking inland waterways to international trade. "Water transport was considered to be the cheapest form of transport but cost of insurance and liabilities coverage, and of cargo handling at harbors added to the cost of trading," he said, adding that considering the cost of transporting cargos through river for landlocked countries like Nepal, the cost of freight movement depends on the transit providing country as well.
On the occasion, executive director of the Institute for Social and Environmental Transition (ISET-Nepal) Ajay Dixit said domination of political economy of automobile and surface transport in Nepal had stunted development of alternative modes of transport. He also said that commercial navigation may be possible in the lower stretches of large rivers. "But it would require massive river engineering, be it constructing embankments or canalising the river,” he added.
Likewise, a research officer at SAWTEE Dikshya Singh said a comprehensive feasibility study of the rivers to assess navigability, the upgrading of existing traditional boating services at the rivers, and identifying the possibility of multi-modal transport system internally would be the first steps that should be taken to develop water navigational services in Nepal.

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Nepal claims to be self reliant in paddy in three years

The government has claimed that Nepal will be self-sufficient in paddy within three years.
Addressing an interaction in Kathmandu today, deputy spokesperson for the Agriculture Development Ministry Shankhar Sapkota, said that the government has brought various programmes to become self-sufficient in paddy within three years.
"The government has set a target of producing 5.4 million tonnes of paddy in 2017-18 against the total 5.23 million tonnes of paddy produced in the current fiscal year," he said, addressing the interaction organised by Nepal Agriculture Journalists Academy on the occasion of 14th National Paddy Day tomorrow.
According to the Agricultural Development Ministry, the government has projected a growth of 3.25 per cent in the production of paddy in the next fiscal year.
Sapkota also said that the government has implemented different programmes in key districts to increase production of paddy. "We had launched different programmes in 20 districts in the fiscal year 2014-15," he said, adding that the government had also introduced different programmes for 15 Tarai districts in the fiscal year 2015-16. "The government will hand over these programmes to the local units from the new fiscal year."
The government has also started Prime Minister Agricultural Modernisation Project from last fiscal year to increase the productivity of the agriculture. Under the Prime Minister Agricultural Modernisation Project, the government has put self-sufficiency in paddy production in high priority. "The 10-year project is estimated to cost Rs 130 billion."
Likewise, the government is also planning to increase off-season paddy production in 50 districts to 300,000 hectares from existing 118,000 hectares.
The plantation area of paddy in the country is increasing slowly and the market is receiving improved seeds. Despite record high production, the country imported 359,000 tonnes of rice worth Rs 20 billion from countries including India, Italy, China, Thailand, South Korea and Japan in the first 10 months of the current fiscal year, according to the Trade and Export Promotion Centre (TEPC). "In fiscal year 2015-16, Nepal had imported 539,000 metric tonnes of rice worth Rs 22.80 billion."
Paddy plantation was done in 1.5 million hectares land – 50 per cent of cultivable land in the country – in the current fiscal year. "Nearly 70 per cent of paddy is produced in Tarai districts, and remaining 30 per cent in hilly districts," according to the ministry.
Also speaking, on the occasion, chief of International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) Bhaba Tripathi said that the institute was developing different paddy varieties that can cope with extreme heat and submergence. "There already are different varieties of paddy that give high yields," he said, adding that the farmers are but yet to get hold of these varieties.
Agriculture sector contribute around one third to the gross domestic production (GDP).

Comparative data
Year Production (in metric tonnes)
2013-14 5.04 million
2014-15 4.8 million
2015-16 4.3 million
2016-17 5.23 million
2017-18 5.4 million (Projected)

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Bank of Korea to help NRB prepare model for economic forecasting

Central banks of Nepal and South Korea have signed a Memorendum of Understanding (MoU) for knowledge partnership programme including development of an economic forecast model.
The agreement was signed between NRB director Prakash Kumar Shrestha and deputy director general of Bank of Korea (BoK) Jong Suk Won for knowledge partnership programme between the two central banks amid a ceremony held in Kathmandu today.
The partnership would enable the Nepal Rastra Bank in the development of macroeconomic model for economic forecasts for Nepal. The model will be developed within a year.
According to executive director of the NRB Nara Bahadur Thapa, the partnership between the two central banks would help central bankers and policy makers of Nepal to develop macroeconomic model for economic forecasting as well as enhance the analytical capacity for policy making
"The practice of economic forecasting model and policy stimulation in Nepal is still at a rudimentary stage," he said, adding that the partnership of the NRB with the South Korean central bank would help NRB in enhancing the efficiency of its staffers in building capacity in macroeconomic model for economic forecasting.
After signing the MoU, deputy director general at the International Affairs Department of the BoK Jong Suk Won said that the South Korean central bank expects to prepare and handover the macroeconomic model for Nepal by 2017. "We will prepare a suitable and simple model for economic forecasting for the NRB with support of researchers from Yonsei University in South Korea,” he added.
South Korea has been helping Nepal in various sectors including hydropower, road, infrastructure, health and science since the two countries established diplomatic ties in 1969. South Korea is the fourth biggest source country for foreign direct investment of Nepal in the current fiscal year. Nepal received $104 million in 317 different projects – mainly in service and tourism industry – foreign direct investment, according to central bank data.
In the agreement signing programme, BoK also informed that they will take support of the research consultants from Yonsei University of Korea to develop the economic forecasting model for NRB.

Monday, June 26, 2017

US calls for free, fair and transparent polls in Nepal

The United States has urged all the stakeholders to create necessary conditions to ensure that the people of Provinces 1, 5, and 7 are given the opportunity to peacefully exercise their democratic right to elect local representatives during the second phase of local elections scheduled for June 28.
"We call on all parties to mutually respect the freedom of nonviolent expression and assembly, and individual voters’ rights as laid down in Nepal’s laws and constitution," reads a statement issued by the US Embassy in Kathmandu today.
"We also call on the security forces to exercise restraint and comply with existing national and international standards while discharging their duties,” the note adds.
Meanwhile, the United States has also expressed its commitment to working with all stakeholders for a peaceful, inclusive, broadly-supported, and credible election process.
Elections are citizens’ right to express their political will in line with the laws and constitution of Nepal and Article 21 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
Likewise, the United Kingdom has also reiterated its commitment to work for a peaceful, inclusive, broadly-supported, and credible election process in Nepal.
Both the countries have urged all Nepali stakeholders to work to create necessary conditions to ensure that the people of Provinces 1, 5, and 7 are given the opportunity to peacefully exercise their democratic right to elect local representation during the second phase of local elections scheduled for June 28.
In a statement issued by British Embassy in Kathmandu, the UK has urged all parties to continue to work to create the conditions for peaceful, inclusive, broadly-supported and credible local elections in Province 2 to complete the local election process.  "We urge the security forces to exercise restraint and comply with existing national international standards when carrying out their duties," reads the statement.

Sunday, June 25, 2017

World Bank’s ICT-driven initiative in Nepal for faster and seamless government-to-business services

A recent initiative led by the World Bank Group’s Trade and Competitiveness (T&C) Global Practice leveraged information and communications technology (ICT) to make government-to-business services faster and seamless, reducing the time and cost of starting a business and obtaining construction permits.
In addition, critical information was moved to the cloud to improve disaster-resilience, ensuring that key data would be safe, facilitating post-disaster reconstruction and the restoration of business activities.
The project was initiated in 2010, in partnership with the International Finance Cooperation (IFC) arm of T&C and the Industry Ministry. The government continued its support for the project, notwithstanding the devastating earthquake in 2015.
A new online business-registration system was established at the Office of Company Registration (OCR), which works in close cooperation with the Finance Ministry. It resulted in a 45 per cent reduction in the amount of time it takes to register a company in Nepal, the bank's report reads.
According to the World Bank post, the streamlined process has led to estimated private-sector savings of more than $5 million, and helped stimulate a 24.8 per cent increase in the number of new companies being registered.
Processes at six government agencies were also simplified for faster approval of construction permits. Consequently, the time for issuing permits was reduced from 240 days to an average of 41 days.
This improvement helped inspire the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) to support the development of an automated 'eBuilding Permit System'. Subsequently, the Kathmandu Metropolitan City (KMC) made the online submission of construction permits mandatory.
The reform project supported the development of a government information infrastructure in which data is stored, not on hard drives or networks, but in the cloud, providing an easier, lower-cost method of storing, retrieving and sharing data, to promote interoperability and data-sharing within the government, as well as in  business-to-government (B2G) and business-to-business (B2B) information-sharing. This is expected to reduce the average cost and amount of time needed for businesses to comply with government regulation by 25 per cent.
The cloud platform is also expected to have a positive impact on the government’s efficiency in delivering services to the private sector, such as processes for paying taxes; registering a business; and gaining a wide array of government-issued approvals, licenses and permits.
Going past the original scope of the project, about a dozen additional government agencies have chosen to use this cloud-based platform and more agencies intend to do so.
Online processes were further automated by deploying a system incorporating digital signatures and digital certificates. The ability to digitally affix signatures and authorisations onto electronic documents is vital for the online delivery of G2B, G2G and B2G services and it is critical to ensuring the security of transactions in the banking sector.
Operationalising this capability is expected to result in an estimated savings of $6 million in compliance costs in Nepal. Moreover, it will help build much-needed public trust in G2B service delivery, as well as public confidence in the government’s ability to provide services with efficiency and security.
Director general of Department of Information Technology Birendra Kumar Mishra has expressed hope that government agencies can now focus more on business aspects of their service delivery rather than be bogged down by having to worry about managing technology.

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Petroleum dealers threaten to stop supplying fuel

The Valleyites could again face the shortage of petroleum products' supply from July 4 due to the row between petroleum distributors and Nepal Oil Corporation (NOC) over loss compensation.
The Bagmati Petroleum Dealers’ Association – an association of around 300 fuel stations in Kathmandu Valley and neighbouring districts Kavre, Sindhupalchowk, Nuwakot, Rasuwa and Dolakha – today announced that it would stop purchasing petrol from NOC from July 4, against the Essential Commodities Control (Authorisation) Act.
Though the Essential Commodities Control (Authorisation) Act has listed petroleum products as essential commodity, the dealers have been repeatedly violating the law by protests and strikes in supply of essential commodities.
"We will not sell petrol from our member fuel stations in Kathmandu Valley and neighbouring districts from July 4,” said president of Bagmati Petroleum Dealers’ Association Achyut Bahadur Khadka.
Fuel stations have been facing loss of around 99 litres on the purchase of 4,000-litre tanker from NOC after it started supplying Euro IV standard petrol from the first week of April, he said, adding that NOC allows deduction of only 35 litres to make up for the loss for every 4,000 litres of petrol and 26 litres deduction for the same volume of diesel. "We have been facing higher loss than what NOC permits us to make up as loss."
NOC pays compensation for 35 liters per chamber as technical loss. But dealers say they have been seeing losses of up to 99 liters per chamber.
Earlier in April, a joint study team of NOC, Nepal Petroleum Dealers Association, and Nepal Bureau of Standard and Metrology had found that tankers were supplying 84 to 99 liters less fuel per chamber. Petroleum tankers have four to five such chambers. Such huge losses were found in tankers that ferried fuel from NOC' Thankot depot to different fuel stations.
Bagmati Petroleum Dealers’ Association has been – for the last two months – demanding that NOC raise the loss quantum. The dispute between the petroleum distributors and NOC has now come to the fore with dealers announcing they will stop purchasing and selling from July 4.
"Dealers are planning to stop distribution to get their demands fulfilled," said spokesperson of the NOC Sitaram Pokharel. "It will hurt the general public," he said, adding that the NOC has raised the loss quantity from 22 litres to 35 on supply of every 4,000 litres of petrol and from 17 to 26 litres for diesel from last August 1. NOC has urged dealers to check the quantity while loading from the depot.
The NOC has, meanwhile, formed a panel led by director general of Nepal Bureau of Standards and Metrology Bishwo Babu Pudasaini to study the loss to resolve the crisis with dealers.
"NOC may review the loss make-up facility only after the panel submits a report,” Pokharel said, adding that the dealers have, however, alleged that the panel will deliberately delay submission of the report.

Friday, June 23, 2017

Earthquake survivors allotted 1,500 cab licences

The government has distributed some 1 ,500 licences for operating taxicab – to the survivors of April 2015 Gorkha earthquake – through lotteries in the last three days till today.
The Department of Transportation Management has in the first phase, on Wednesday, allotted licences to 491 quake survivors from Kavrepalanchwok, Nuwakot and Ramechhap districts. Likewise, 513 quake survivors from Dolakha, Sindhuli and Sindupalchok districts received permits on Thursday, while 496 taxi operating permits were distributed to survivors from Kathmandu, Lalitpur, Bhaktapur, Makawanpur, Dhading, Okhaldhunga, Gorkha and Rasuwa districts today.
The departments' director general Rup Narayan Bhattarai said that the lottery was conducted in transparent manner. "The event was live broadcast through television and radio."
However, the Kathmandu Metropolitan City (KMC) is not letting the new taxicab to ply on Kathmandu roads as the metropolis is over crowded also due to lack of expansion of road network.
"The KMC doesn't have the right to make decision in this regard," Bhattarai said, adding that the KMC has sent a letter to the department stating that they would request authorities of respective districts to allow operating taxis.
But the other districts, unlike Kathmandu, have not halted the permits of taxicab.
According to the department, there are currently 8,500 taxis – including the 2,850 new taxi cabs registered last year – on the streets of the Kathmandu Valley. There were 5,650 taxis in the capital as of mid-2015. The government had opened registrations for new taxi cabs in 2015 for the first time in 15 years.
Among the 2,850 new taxi permits issued last year, some 1,850 permits were provided to regular applicants, while 500 permits were set aside for earthquake survivors and affected families. Remaining 500 permits were allotted to companies willing to operate deluxe and super deluxe taxis.
According to the department, there were some 7,500 taxis in Kathmandu in 2000 when the valley’s population was estimated at 1.3 million. However, the valley needs to add more public vehicles as there are only 900,000 private and public vehicles including two-wheelers for around 8 million people in Kathmandu at present.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Nepal ranks 91st in world social progress index

Nepal has made marginal improvement in the Social Progress Index (SPI) this year from last year. Nepal has improved its score to 60.08 (91st) this year from 57.4 (95th) among 133 countries in 2016, according to The Social Progress Index-2017.
"Nepal has been ranked 91st – among 128 countries that covers 98 per cent of the world’s population – in the world in social progress this year," the index published by Social Progress Imperative – a non-profit organisation based in Washington – reported. It has also classified Nepal as one of the ‘Lower Middle Social Progress’ countries with a score of 60.08 on a scale of 100 on SPI.
In South Asia, Nepal is second after Sri Lanka (73rd) while India has been ranked 93rd, Bangladesh (97th), Pakistan (105th) and Afghanistan (127th). But Bhutan and Maldives were not included in the SPI survey.
The index puts Denmark on top with a score of 90.57 and US in the 18th and China 83rd position. ‘Very Low Social Progress’ countries include Yemen with a score of 43.46, Guinea (43.40), Niger (42.97), Angola (40.73), Chad (35.69), Afghanistan (35.66) and Central African Republic (28.38), according to the report.
"Many Lower Middle Social Progress Tier countries are performing strongly compared to countries with similar income, including Nepal and Senegal, which have made great strides in governance and health,” the report stated adding that seven out of 25 countries in the Lower Middle Social Progress Tier performed best compared to others. "Nepal has low absolute performance (91st) but has performed strongly versus similar low-income peers."
Since the establishment of a multiparty democracy in the 1990s, Nepal has made great strides in health and education. Investments, especially in the health sector, accompanied by holistic reforms and decentralisation that helped mobilise community health volunteers to remote areas, have significantly improved health infrastructure.
"For example, Nepal facilitated improvements in antenatal care with incentives for pregnant mothers and institutional delivery," the report mentioned adding, "Access to piped water and sanitation also increased. Life expectancy has risen 12.1 years since 1990, one of the largest gains worldwide."
The lowest performing regions on ‘Tolerance and Inclusion’, South Asia and Eastern Africa, reveal contradictory trends. On average, South Asia has the lowest score (36.67) of any sub-region, yet Bangladesh and Nepal are among the most improved countries. Both showed strong improvements on tolerance for homosexuality. Nepal improved from 56 per cent of the population stating the country is a good place for gay and lesbian people to 83 per cent.
The 2017 Social Progress Index is an aggregate of measures 50 indicators including water and sanitation, advanced education, nutrition, shelter, personal safety, personal freedom, tolerance and inclusion, personal rights, health and wellness, access to ICT, ecosystem sustainability and access to basic knowledge.

World Bank to provide Rs 19 billion loan

The World Bank (WB) has agreed to provide Nepal government with Rs 19 billion loan assistance for increasing the quality of education.
Finance secretary Shanta Raj Subedi and World Bank Nepal country manager Takuya Kamata signed the agreement today at the ministry.
The loan that requires five year’s time to pay off would be used for increasing educational quality, expanding justifiable access to primary and secondary education, improving teaching and learning activities and building strong and reformed educational system, a press statement issued by the Finance Ministry stated.
The initiative would contribute to the school sector reform plan of the government, said Kamata after the signing ceremony. He also said around seven million students and 180,000 teachers would benefit from the programme.
Likewise, Subedi, on the occasion, urged the Education Ministry and its subordinate bodies to be serious and work hard to implement the programme. He also requested the World Bank to provide additional support to the government’s initiatives to ensure sustainable social service, manage human resources and build development infrastructure of the country.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Government recalls 6 Patanjali products

On the International Yoga day, the government has recalled six products of Yoga Guru Baba Ramdev's Patanjali pharmacy as they failed microbial tests.
The Department of Drug Administration (DDA) – in a public notice – said six Ayurvedic medical products manufactured by Divya Pharmacy in Uttarakhand, were found to be substandard during inspections at various outlets and tests on specimens. The drug authority has recalled six products, Triphala Churna, Adviya Churna and Aswangandha. Amla Churna, Divya Divya Gashar Churna, Bahuchi Churna. All these Patanjali products were manufactured at Divya Pharmacy in Uttarakhand.
"The batch of medicine which was inspected by the department are found to have contained pathogenic bacteria," an official of the Department said, urging the stakeholders not to sell or prescribe the use of these six medicines with immediate effect.
The drug authority has asked the Patanjali Ayurveda unit in Nepal to inform them about steps being taken to recall the products in line with medicine laws.
Earlier, Indian Army has also stopped sale of Patanjali's Amla juice across its canteens, Canteen Stores Department, after it received negative test report on samples it had sent to Food Safety Standards Authority of India laboratory. The 'unsafe' Amla juice exposes defence personnel to certain health risks, according to the reports
Also in 2016, a PIL in Gujarat High Court had sought ban on the sale of shilajeet – a product used to enhance sexual prowess – by Yoga guru Baba Ramdev's Patanjali brand of medicines. The PIL was filed on the ground that selling a product like shilajeet under the brand name of Patanjali, who is a very revered saint for the Hindus, hurts religious sentiments. However, the PIL was withdrawn later.
According to Patanjali Ayurveda Kendra in Kathmandu – the sole distributor of the products in Nepal – the medicines have not been banned but restriction was imposed on the sale and use of certain batch of the medicines that failed lab test. "We will immediately recall the medicines, if found substandard," an official at the Patanjali Ayurveda Kendra said.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Nepal asks China to lower air fare

Nepal has requested China to lower the airfare between China and Nepal.
During the 11th meeting of Joint Consultation Mechanism between Nepal and China held here today in Kathmandu, Nepal has requested to lower the airfare to promote the bilateral trade and tourism.
Both sides, on the occasion, discussed the ways to further enhance coordination and facilitation for the promotion of Nepal’s tourism prospects in China in the context of the Chinese government’s announcement of the year 2017 as ‘Nepal’s Tourism Promotion Year in China’.
The Nepali side also expressed hope that cross-border connectivity, infrastructure development, diversification of Nepal’s trade, promotion of investment and tourism would receive priority in the implementation of the MoU on cooperation under the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) signed by the two sides on May 12.
The Nepali side also emphasised the need of early resumption of Tatopani-Zhangmu border point. China has agreed to reopen the Tatopani customs point that remains closed since April 2015 when the earthquakes heavily damaged infrastructures on both sides of Nepal-China border. The Chinese side has assured Nepal that China is committed to resuming the operation of the Tatopani customs point once the reconstruction of the damaged buildings and road and protection works of the area are completed. The Chinese delegation also informed the Nepali side that they are investing some Rs 2 billion for the protection and reconstruction works in the area.
Foreign Secretary Shanker Das Bairagi led the 21-member Nepali delegation while assistant minister of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Kong Xuanyou led the 12-member Chinese delegation for the meeting that assessed the progress made in the implementation of agreements and Memorandum of Understandings (MoUs) reached between the two sides in the past. They also expressed commitment to further promote cooperation in mutually agreed areas. Both sides also agreed to work in realisation of economic opportunities available for mutual benefits.
The visiting assistant minister is scheduled to pay courtesy calls on Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba and Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Foreign Affairs Krishna Bahadur Mahara tomorrow.
He will also visit the reconstruction projects in Kathmandu being implemented under the Chinese grant assistance.
Kong and his delegation arrived Kathmandu on June 19 to attend the meeting and will depart for Beijing on June 22.
The Joint Consultation Mechanism was set up in 1996 as a platform for discussing the matters of mutual concerns and cooperation at the senior officials’ level between the Foreign Ministries of Nepal and China.
During their visits to China, the then prime ministers K P Sharma Oli and Pushpa Kamal Dahal – both – had asked the Chinese side to reopen the Tatopani-Zhangmu border point. Nepal has also been raising this issue in all other meetings with the Chinese side.

IFC, FMO Invest in hospitality

The International Finance Corporation (IFC) – a member of the World Bank Group – has invested $2.75 million in Nepal Hospitality and Hotel Pvt Ltd to develop the new 3-star hotel, Fairfield Marriott at Thamel in Kathmandu. In addition to its own investment, IFC has mobilised a further $2.75 million investment from FMO, the Netherlands-based development bank. The 115-room hotel is operated by international chain Marriott under its Fairfield brand, and is the first internationally-branded, professionally-managed mid-market hotel in Nepal.
This initiative of IFC and FMO will help in building skills of those employed in the sector and contribute to the development of local supply chains, and thereby support significant employment in ancillary industries as well, according to IFC.
International-standard hotels like the Fairfield Marriot property help emerging markets like Nepal attract business and leisure travelers, managing director of Nepal Hospitality and Hotel Pvt Ltd Gaurav Agrawal, said, adding that investments that support vital economic industries like tourism will send a strong signal to international investors that Nepal is poised for growth and is an attractive destination that continues to cater to travellers’ needs.
The Fairfield Marriott Hotel will help increase Nepal’s capacity in the mid-market hotel segment, create jobs, and promote energy-efficient hotel design, and is expected to stimulate tourism and support the economy. It will also help build skills of those employed in the sector and contribute to the development of local supply chains. State of the art construction principles have been implemented by adopting green building design in order to increase energy and water-efficiency measures, which will serve as a model for replication across the industry.
International-standard hotel like the Fairfield Marriott property help emerging markets like Nepal attract business and leisure travelers. Investments that support vital economic industries like tourism, will send a strong signal to international investors that Nepal is poised for growth and is an attractive destination that continues to cater to traveler’s needs.
According to IFC, it remains committed to promote such development in Nepal as the country and industry recover from the impacts of the 2015 earthquake. IFC’s tourism investments promote development of critical infrastructure in places where there is often a shortage and send a positive signal to other investors.
IFC also pledged to invest in hotels and tourism especially in low-income and fragile conflict-affected countries like Nepal, which contributes in strengthening their economy.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Decent work agenda key pillar of fair globalisation

Decent work agenda promoted by International Labour Organisation (ILO) constitutes a key pillar of fair globalisation where everyone becomes a winner, said president Bidya Devi Bhandari addressing the 106th session of ILO conference in Geneva today.
"This goal can be achieved, if every state accords due regard to the dignity and value of work," she said, adding that the governments should create an environment for sharing best practices and promoting innovative ideas to make work more dignified.
The President, reminding the world leaders of an ambitious 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development in the year 2015, said that it was a matter of satisfaction that all pillars of the Decent Work Agenda were duly integrated in the 2030 Agenda. "It has also rightly identified gender equality both as an objective as well as a means for realising the goals, she hailed.
She also hailed the role of trade unions in maintaining harmonious industrial relations and peace ultimately contributes to the economic development and prosperity of society at large.
Appreciating ILO for electing Nepal in the Governing Board, she said, "As ILO approaches its 100th anniversary in 2019, I commend it for making ‘Women at Work’ as one of the centenary initiatives."
However, according to ILO, Nepal has the highest Female Labour Force Participation Rate in the South Asia region. Nepal's global ranking in this pillar is 17th.
The President said compared to situation few decades ago, women are more educated and trained now. "They have better access to labour market, represent in increasing number in parliaments and have more leadership role in governments and enterprises," she said, adding that the goal, however, towards realising full gender equality is yet to be achieved. "
Societies cannot stand a long time on the shaky foundation of discrimination and inequality."
The President also informed that Nepal was on a transition from conflict to peaceful political transformation alongside the endeavours to transform from conservatism and outmoded social structures.

Monday, June 12, 2017

OBOR can be a model project

The One Belt, One Road (OBOR) initiative of China can become a model project of the 21st century, according to chieftain of the Nepali private sector.
Addressing the 12th China-South Asia Business Forum in Kunming, China, today, president of the Federation of Nepalese Chamber of Commerce and Industry (FNCCI), Bhawani Rana said that the project initiated by the Chinese government can turn out to be a model project of this century as it can help in the economic development of several countries.
“OBOR will also help to revive the socio-economy of the world at large, by creating jobs, capital and prosperity for the whole of humanity," she said. Adding that landlocked countries like Nepal can take a huge benefit from OBOR to develop the nation economically. "The OBOR project will help Nepal to connect with other economically strong countries."
A team of business leaders led by Rana is in China to participate in the forum which will conclude on Thursday.
Organised jointly by China Council for the Promotion of International Trade (CCPIT) and SAARC Chamber of Commerce and Industry (SCCI) for the promotion of international trade, the forum is attended by business leaders of Nepal, India, China, Afghanistan, Bhutan, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, the Maldives, Bangladesh and representatives from SCCI.
Nepal formally became a partner of OBOR initiative on May 12.
Addressing the forum, Rana further said that along with the opportunities arising out of OBOR, Nepal faces new challenges, mostly in its lack of competitive strength and investment capacity. "The private sector of Nepal should produce goods to export to China so that the train that comes full with goods does not have to return empty," she said. "In this, Nepal needs investment in industries which can utilize the newly opened vistas of connectivity."

Friday, June 9, 2017

16 million euro grant deal for energy development

Nepal and Germany today signed an agreement on €16 million grant assistance committed by the German Federal Government last year on energy sector cooperation.
Outgoing German ambassador Matthias Meyer and finance secretary Shanta Raj Subedi signed the agreement at the Finance Ministry.
The grant will comprise financial assistance for the construction of the Lekhnath-Damauli 220 kV double circuit transmission line under the project, Promotion of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy in Nepal, Phase II.
"This transmission line is a crucial element of strengthening Nepal’s national grid, as it will evacuate power from various hydropower plants being constructed both by the public and private sectors,” said the joint statement issued after the agreement signing.
The projected cost of the venture is €32.5 million (Rs 3.82 billion), it reads, adding that approximately 50 per cent of the project’s cost will be covered by German Financial Cooperation. "Nepal government has committed to cover remaining cost of the project through Nepal Electricity Authority’s (NEA) funds."
Both governments have expressed their commitment at ensuring a successful and timely implementation of the project.

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Migrant workers are exploited: AI report

Nepal has been accused for failing to address rampant deception and extortion in the labour recruitment business, putting migrant workers at risk of forced labour abroad and leaving them with crippling debts.
"Unscrupulous recruiters are getting away with destroying lives – all over Nepal – illegally charging aspiring job-seekers exorbitant fees to get jobs abroad, and then abandoning them overseas when things go wrong," deputy director of Amnesty International's (AI) Global Issues programme James Lynch said, speaking at the launch of a new report 'Turning People into Profits: Abusive Recruitment, Trafficking and Forced Labour of Nepali Migrant Workers,' in Kathmandu today.
He also added that it is only when they leave Nepal that migrant workers find out that they have been deceived about everything from salary to working conditions. "By then it is far too late and many end up with debts that may take the rest of their working lives to pay off."
"Migrant workers contribute equal to a third of Nepal's GDP in money they send back home, yet the government spends a tiny fraction of its budget on their needs," he added.
The government has taken some positive steps including 'Free Visa, Free Ticket' policy from July 2015, towards tackling abuse suffered by workers.
It was supposed to limit the amount that recruitment agents and agencies can charge workers, by requiring foreign employers to pay for airline tickets and visa processing costs, and lowering what recruitment agencies can charge workers in service fees to Rs 10,000 ($96).
"Despite some bright ideas lack of political will combined with bureaucratic inertia means businesses are still effectively free to exploit migrants," Lynch said, "It is abundantly clear the Free Visa, Free Ticket policy is not being implemented or enforced properly."

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Ncell committed to digital Nepal

Ncell announced today that the company is all set to deploy technology neutrality on 900 and 1800 MHz band to double its fast mobile internet footprint via 3G to 60 per cent of the population.
With technology neutrality, Ncell – the leading GSM mobile service provider of the country – can enable more than 17 million Nepali in Nepal to enjoy fast mobile internet service, according to the telecom company's media release.
The extended coverage areas will include more than 1,000 rural and remote villages, for example, Deuralikot of Bajhang, Shreenagar of Mugu, Jhong in Mustang, Malta of Lalitpur and Tingla of Solukhumbu. "These villages will have access to fast mobile internet for the first time in their life, which will contribute to bridge the prevailing digital divide, bringing immense positive changes in the lives of people, economy of those communities and social arena," it adds.
A World Bank report states that access to mobile broadband can give an immediate impetus to economic growth, with every 10 percentage point rise in broadband penetration raising economic growth by 1.38 percentage point.
"We are excited about the great impact that technology neutrality is set to bring to the people and the country, especially in term of access to internet, creation of new opportunities and GDP growth,” the release has quoted managing director of Ncell Simon Perkins, as saying. “We have committed to resources, knowledge transfer and investment with up to Rs 30 billion in infrastructure and services accordingly to achieve this goal," he said, adding that the company will collectively realise the national goal of building ‘Digital Nepal’.
As a part of this commitment to nation building, Ncell has introduced 4G in Kathmandu Valley from June 1, empowering customers in the Kathmandu Valley, Banepa and Dhulikhel with 4G services so that they are able to take benefits of the LTE technology.
The company is also planning and testing 4G service in 40 other cities nationwide, embracing a target that 15 per cent of population have access to 4G coverage within 2017