Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Government, ADB sign $3 million grant for earthquake relief

The government and Asian Development Bank (ADB) today signed a $3 million grant agreement to finance relief efforts in the country following Saturday’s 7.8-magnitude earthquake.
Finance secretary Suman Sharma and ADB country director Kenichi Yokoyama signed the agreement on behalf of their respective institutions.
"The funds must be urgently used to address the most immediate needs including the delivery of rescue and relief goods and materials to the shattered remote rural communities in the worstaffected districts, and for improving sanitation in the relief camps in urban areas where many Nepalis are spending night after night,” said Yokoyama after signing the agreement. "Sanitation conditions in these camps are extremely alarming, posing high risk of outbreaks of infectious diseases," he added.
ADB announced the grant from its Asia Pacific Disaster Response Fund on Monday. The fund can be used to meet immediate humanitarian needs following disasters like for tents, medical assistance, food, and drinking water. It will be followed by up to $200 million in additional resources for projects in the first phase of rehabilitation in the country.
Thousands have died following the earthquake and hundreds of thousands are unable to return home because buildings have collapsed or transport systems or roads are unusable. Over two thirds of the country's 75 districts are thought to have been affected by the earthquake.
ADB has also set up a Nepal Earthquake Response Team that will, along with UN agencies and other development partners, assess the damage and recovery needs for reconstruction and rehabilitation. Based on this assessment, and in addition to the up to $200 million of new resources, ADB will consider reallocating existing resources.
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, it is owned by 67 members – 48 from the region.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Relief aid flowing into Nepal, rebuilding could exceed Rs 1 trillion

The country needs around Rs 1 trillion to reconstruct the damaged infrastructure in the Saturday's devastating 7.8-magnitude earthquake.
The cost to rebuild Nepal after its most devastating earthquake, in eight decades, would exceed Rs 1 trillion ($10 billion) and take years, according to the finance minister Dr Ram Sharan Mahat. The reconstruction estimate is equivalent to around half of Nepal's GDP that stands at Rs 2 trillion ($20 billion).
According to the US Geology survey, the earthquake has damaged around Rs 1 trillion worth infrastructure including world heritage sites and historic monuments, roads, and buildings. "Due to the mountainous geography, infrastructure damage, collapsed bridges and damaged roads, access to many of the affected areas is reported to be extremely limited," according to the UN.
Scared to sleep inside due to fear that cracked buildings might crumble in another aftershock, Kathmanduites have been living as refugee out in the open. Kathmandu valley has turned into a refugee camp, and they it is in dire need of tents, water supply and medicines, before it is too late to control outbreak of cholera. The situation is not different outside the valley too.
Likewise, the mountainenous region is out of reach also due to geographical difficulty. The UN has also estimated that about one third of the country's population of 28 million have been affected due to the quake with about 1.4 million in need of food assistance.
The government with its limited resources is doing its best to provide relief, Mahat said thanking the development partners for their immediate relief response.
The friendly nations and development partners have committed around Rs 8 billion grant as an immediate relief package, apart from medicines, tents, water, food stuff and relief staff. However, the government that is struggling hard to rescue people trapped more than 72 hours after the earthquake, is waiting for the cash to fund the rescue work.
The International aid organisations and foreign governments are scrambling to get much-needed relief to Nepal.
The United States, India, Israel, Pakistan and other governments have sent emergency supplies and personnel such as doctors to Nepal. The Red Cross has 1,500 volunteers and 300 staff on the ground providing basic first-aid and other support.
On Monday, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) issued an appeal to raise 33.5 million Swiss francs ($35.2 million) to provide emergency assistance. "We call on all partners and donors to urgently and generously support our action," said IFRC secretary general Elhadj As Sy.
The country needs some $13 billion to $18 billion investment to fill the infrastructure gap and also to help country graduate from the current Least Development Country (LDC) status to development country status by 2022. With the current damage of estimated $10 billion, the country now needs to invest around $28 billion in infrastructure that could propel sustainable economic growth.
Though the country has witnessed a political stability, the economy has been slowing recently. The Asian Development Bank (ADB) and World Bank (WB) have recently estimated the economy to grow at 4.6 per cent – down from 5.2 per cent a year before – and down from the government's target of six per cent, due to mainly poor monsoon. But the damage of the Saturday's devastating earthquake will pull the economic growth further down.
Though for the time being many charities, government agencies and nonprofits are sending essential aid and medical assistance for the rescue and recovery efforts.

Here are some of the countries and organisations that have announced cash contribution:
United Nations: The office for the coordination of humanitarian affairs is releasing $15 million from the U.N.'s emergency relief fund. It expects to issue an appeal for donations from member states later this week.
United States: Washington has committed a total of $10 million for response and recovery efforts, according to US secretary of State John Kerry.
Japan: Announced a 1 billion yen ($8.4 million) grant and sent rescue personnel.
United Kingdom: Department for International Development (DfID) announced a £5 million ($7.6 million) aid package on Sunday; £3 million will be used immediately; £2 million will be given to the British Red Cross.
Canada: Donating 5 million Canadian dollars ($4.1 million) to aid organisations to help with life-saving efforts.
Norway: Donated 30 million Norwegian kroner ($3.9 million) for relief efforts.
Australia: Donated 5 million Australian dollars ($3.9 million) and sent experts.
European Commission: Announced €3 million ($3.3 million) in immediate aid money for Nepal on Sunday.
China: Ministry of Commerce has reportedly given 20 million yuan ($3.2 million) in humanitarian aid, according to the Chinese newspaper, China Daily.
Germany: Berlin has pledged €2.5 million ($2.7 million) and is sending supplies.
Singapore: Donated 100,000 Singapore dollars ($75,000) to the Singapore Red Cross for aid. Singapore Red Cross agency is appealing for more donations. Has already begun disbursing 50,000 Singapore dollars worth of emergency supplies.
Asian Development Bank: The group of 48 countries in Asia and the Pacific are providing a $3 million grant.
USAID: $1 million in emergency financial support.
AmeriCares: The group has raised $750,000 to support relief efforts in Nepal.
American Red Cross: $300,000 initial contribution.
Save the Children: £300,000 ($454,000) in emergency aid. Expects to eventually send millions.
Christian Aid: Immediately sent £50,000 ($76,000) in aid on Saturday. Has raised £124,000 ($188,000) from donations. Expects to raise over £1 million for this urgent appeal.
Oxfam: The British aid agency said online donations totaled £500,000 in Great Britain and $1 million in the United States.
Coca-Cola: The beverage giant said it is working to provide bottled water to survivors as soon as possible.
Pepsi: Is also donating bottled water and food.
Kellogg: The food company said it donated $200,000 to the World Food Programme (WFP) that is earmarked for Nepal.
Toyota: Making a combined donation of 10 million yen, or about $84,000.
Facebook: The social network has developed a new tool called Safety Check. The simple tool sends messages to people who are in Nepal, urging them to click a button to let their Facebook friends know they're okay.
Google: The search engine has revived its "Person Finder" tool this weekend. The tool helps people search for and post information about missing friends and family in the disaster zone. As of Monday morning, the site hosted 5,600 entries.
Microsoft: Has pledged $1 million in cash and in-kind donations. It is also offering free Skype calls to and from Nepal.
UPS: Pledged $200,000 to various charities working in Nepal.
Communications companies: T-Mobile, Sprint, Verizon, Vodafone Time Warner Cable and others have waived fees for calls in Nepal.
Payment providers: Apple, PayPal, Square Cash are waiving fees and taking other steps to facilitate donations.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Earthquake strikes Nepal, hundreds dead, history crumbled

A powerful earthquake struck at 11.56 am today suspected to be killing hundreds and injuring thousands across the country.
The quake epicentered at some 80-km northwest of Kathmandu had a depth of only 11-km, which is considered shallow in geological terms. The shallower the quake the more destructive power it carries and it is said that the trembling and swaying of the earth went on for almost two minutes.
The 7.8-magnitude earthquake violently shook earth collapsing houses, leveling centuries-old temples and historical monuments at world heritage sites, and cutting open roads. The worst tremor to hit Nepal in over 82 years has brought down the centuries old temples in world heritage sites in all the three cities – Kathmandu, Lalitpur and Bhaktapur Durbar Square – in the valley, apart from nine-storey Bhimsen Tower. The historic tower –Dharahara – one of Kathmandu's landmarks built by the then prime minister Bhimsen Thapa as a watchtower in the 1800s. A UNESCO-recognised historical monument, Dharahara has been reduced to rubble in minutes and it is suspected that over hundred people are trapped underneath. Due to a holiday, there was a long queue of people to go up to the viewing platform on the eighth story. Bhimsen Tower collapsed followed by the centuries old temples in world heritage sites with clouds of dust swirling all around the city.
The Gorkha-centred earthquake – though expected – has hit the densely populated Kathmandu valley harder than it has been expected as the people are seen running out of the houses and buildings to the open. It is said some one dozen districts have been hit hard by the devastating earthequake.
The 7.8-magnitude earthquake is said to be spreading in all directions – from north toward the Himalayas and Tibet, south to the Indo-Gangetic plains, east toward the Brahmaputra delta of Bangladesh and to west toward the Lahore in Pakistan. The US Geological Survey revised the magnitude from 7.5 to 7.9 but then lowered it to 7.8.
The second worst earthquake to hit Nepal after 1934 has also hit India, China, Bangladesh and Pakistan. Apart from Nepal, some more people are said to be killed in India, Tibet and Bangladesh, according to the police sources. Two Chinese citizens also died at the Nepal-China border. "Given the scale of the destruction, the death toll is going to rise," according to the Home Ministry.
An hour later, another 6.6-magnitude earthquake hit back followed by smaller aftershocks that continue to jolt the nation for hours. The injured were rushed to hospitals. Tribhuvan International Airport has been shut down immediately after the earthquake.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Five donors pull out of Nepal Peace Trust Fund

Some five donors decided to pull out of Nepal Peace Trust Fund (NPTF).
Denmark, Finland, Norway, Switzerland and UK’s Department for International Development (DfID) today decided to cease their financial support to the second phase of the fund that has been financing reconstruction and rehabilitation since the beginning of peace process. Now the fund has only European Union and USAID as its donors, as they signed a new Joint Financing Agreement with the government today. The second phase of the fund will begin from April, according to a statement issued by the delegation of European Union (EU) to Nepal, here today. According to the terms of the new Joint Financing Agreement that has approved a support of about Rs 2.4 billion (about $2.4 million) for peace building projects over the next two years, the fund is scheduled to close in July 2017.
Though, the donors – Denmark, Finland, Germany, Norway, Switzerland and the DfID – pulled out of the fund, they will continue to support peace building in other areas through different mechanisms, according to the statement.
Yesterday, the representatives from Denmark, Norway, Switzerland and DfID – during a meeting – have informed the minister for Peace and Reconstruction Narahari Acharya about their decision to pull out from the fund. The donors also informed that they could continue financial support, if the government holds local elections.
Delay in holding local elections, differences between the government agencies and donors over priorities and lack of transparency in financial dealings, government’s failure to address the transitional justice mechanism according to the international standards are said to be the reasons behind the donors’ move, according to government officials.
Likewise, the recent dispute over programmes in Nepal TV and Radio Nepal has also irked the donors, they said, adding that the donors themselves are also not very transparent.
Between its inception in 2007 and January 2014 – following the signing of Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) to support Nepal's transition to peace from civil war – the government has provided Rs 11.3 billion and the eight donors have contributed Rs 9.3 billion making a total of Rs 20.6 billion (about $208.6 million). But in 2012, one of the initial donors, Germany had pulled out of the fund after the integration and rehabilitation of former Maoist combatants.
Though, finance minister Dr Ram Sharan Mahat – during the 17th board meeting of the fund – said that the government could thoroughly investigate the misuse of funds and ensure the completion of ongoing projects as soon as possible, the donors could not be convinced.
The 17th board meeting also approved a strategy implying support of about Rs 2.4 billion ($2.4 million) for peace building projects over the next two years. According to the new strategy, the fund will be used for activities in four focus areas including conflict affected people as defined by the government, access to security, including police service delivery, transitional justice in compliance with Nepal’s international and national commitments, and CA, consultations and elections.
Ambassador of the EU to Nepal Rensje Teerink – in the meeting that saw Mahat, Acharya and mission director of USAID Beth Dunford – said that the EU and other donors were keen to see significant progress in the statute writing that reflects the people’s aspirations, and 'hopefully local elections are held soon'.
She also stressed the need to bring victims' views into the peace process. "The fund has been a vital instrument for Nepal’s transition to peace,” she said, adding that the second phase will channel government, EU and USAID funds to priorities agreed with the government in the interests of the ongoing peace process. "Such work will need to comply with international standards as well as recent rulings of the Supreme Court in relation to transitional justice.

Prime Minister markets Nepal as an attractive investment destination

Nepal offers an attractive investment regime and 'unprecedented opportunities for growth and development' being wedged between India and China, according to Prime Minister Sushil Koirala.
Addressing the New Asian-African Strategic Partnership (NAASP) Conference in Jakarta, the Indonesian capital, today, Koirala, also highlighted the country's priority at present. "Nepal's topmost priority is to have an inclusive democratic constitution promulgated through the Constituent Assembly to institutionalise democratic gains and establish lasting peace and stability in the country," he said, adding that democracy is indispensable for development.
Nepal will underscore the need for peace, prosperity and sustainable development, he added.
Stressing on the need to strengthen unity, solidarity, and collaborative partnership among the Asian and African nations to eradicate poverty and hunger, he said that no challenge is more pressing for us than eradicating poverty and hunger, and ensuring dignity to our people.
The establishment of a New Asian-African Strategic Partnership in 2005 reflects Nepal's commitment to building partnership between the continents for peace, prosperity and progress.
Reiterating Nepal's commitment to 'timeless principles' of the Bandung Conference – as the most important pillar of its foreign policy – he said that the Bandung Principles, inspired by the teachings of son of Nepal Gautam the Buddha as the principle of Panchasheel, is a framework for harmonious conduct of interstate relations. The participating countries are adopting the principle of Panchasheel and have pledged to frame an integrated approach to tackle common challenges while upgrading from the status of developing countries to the developed countries.
Koirala also said that regional unity and cooperation can only achieve the objective of peace, prosperity and sustainable development.
Asia and Africa shares many commonalities, he said, Asia and Africa are two ancient and resourceful continents with vast commonalities amidst diversities. "The year 2015 is critical in terms of future direction of international cooperation, peace, security and development. We have to finalise post-2015 development agenda and an opportunity to conclude a binding agreement on climate change.
Koirala also underlined the shift of gravity of economic activity and balance of power to the South, with a surge in the global attention on Asia and Africa in view of their population dynamics and resource endowments.
The Tenth anniversary Commemoration of the New Asian-African Strategic Partnership (NAASP) Conference, in Jakarta, was inaugurated by Indonesian President Joko Widodo. Heads of states, governments and government representatives of Asian and African countries took part in the inaugural session. The participating dignitaries will discuss bilateral interests and the problems faced by land-locked and developing countries.
In his inaugural speech, Widodo said that the Asian and African countries were treading the path shown by the historic Bandung Conference. He added that the South-South Cooperation can usher in sustainable peace and prosperity.
On the occasion, foreign minister Mahendra Bahadur Pandey, said that conference will contribute to furthering the consolidation of South-South relations. "The conference will be a landmark in efforts put in by the Asian and African countries for sustaining peace and embarking on a path of prosperity," Pandey added.
The conference is expected to come up with three major documents – the Bangdung Message, the Revival of the New Asian-African Strategic Partnership and the Declaration of the Asian-African Countries' Support to the Palestine.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Libertarion Bholanath Chalise passes away

Former secretary and noted economist Dr Bholanath Chalise passed away today morning at the age of 65 due to chronic diabetes and kidney problem.
Dr Chalise breathed his last while at Nepal Medical College, Attarkhel. He is survived by a wife and four sons. His last rites were performed at Pashupati Aryaghat today afternoon. Chief secretary Lilamani Poudel, Auditor General Bhanu Prasad Acharya, former vice chair of National Planning Commission (NPC) Dr Jagdish Chandra Pokharel, former secretaries including Rameshwor Khanal, Shankar Koirala, and Bimal Wagle paid tribute to Chalise at Pashupati Aryaghat.
Born in Bouddha Simaltar in 2008 BS, he had discharged several responsibilities in the National Planning Commission, Ministry of Industry and Ministry of Local Development in different positions before retiring as trade secretary.
Unlike conventional bureaucrats, who are considered anti-reform, he was private sector-friendly and did more reforms in industrial sector during his tenure in Industry Ministry.
The proponent of free market economy, Chalise was one of the key government officials during the economic liberalisation of the 1990s.
Finance minister Dr Ram Sharan Mahat remembers Chalise as a proficient administrator. Recalling his contributions during the first phase of economic reform, Mahata lauded his role in bringing the private sector-friendly Acts including Industrial Enterprise Act 1992, Foreign Investment and Technology Transfer Act and Company Act 1997. "These Acts provided vision for economic liberalisation in Nepal ending the licence regime of earstwhile Panchayat era," he added.
Apart from being a libertarion, he was also an avid reformist, Mahat said, adding that Chalise worked hard for decentralisation of power, when he was secretary in Ministry of Local Development. Decentralisation of power to the local bodies was done during his tenure as local development secretary. Chalise played a leading role in introducing the Local Self-Governance Act 1999.
"He was also a person with high morale and integrity and had professed clear view with action that the private sector should be given impetus for economic prosperity," Mahat remembered. Chalise also believed in the strength of market forces in economic development and empower the local bodies.
Chalise, who had retired from government service about one-and-a-half decades ago, also served at Nepal Electricity Authority (NEA) as executive director and Nepal Banijya Bank (RBB) as the chairman. He started reforms in the state power utility and still considered to be the most successful chief of the NEA so far for executing the reforms agendas.
The champion of liberal economy, Chalise always opined that the government should not run business itself but act as a facilitator to the private sector. He viewed that except security agencies like Army and Police, the government should not operate any agencies but leave them all to the private sector.
Chalise, who holds PhD from University of Vienna, Austria in ‘Liberal Economy’, was an free market economy throughout his life. He was felicitated as the Freedom Champion at the Asia Liberty Forum 2015 held in Kathmandu on January 10.
Lately, he was not happy with the current state of reform as it has been slowed down.  He always wanted the political leaders to take bold steps for reform rather than depending on bureaucrats.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Chinese company to develop 750-MW West Seti

A meeting of Investment Board Nepal chaired by Prime Minister Sushil Koirala today approved investment from a Chinese company to develop the 750-megawatt West Seti Hydropower Project.
The project that is estimated to cost Rs 160 billion will now be developed by a joint venture with Nepal Electricity Authority (NEA) and CWE Investment Corporation, a subsidiary of China’s Three Gorges Corporation (TGC). The state power utility, NEA will have 25 per cent in equity, and CWEI will inject investment for the equity and borrow the remaining amount.
The joint venture will conduct geological tests before monsoon for the mega hydropower
project that is going to be constructed in Baitadi, Bajura, Dadeldhura and Doti districts of Far Wester Region, according to the chief executive officer of the Board Radhesh Pant.
Soon after completion of geological and hydrological tests, we will begin negotiations on Project Development Agreement (PDA) with the Chinese company,” he said, adding that the project will start generating power in 2023, if everything goes according to the plan.
Earlier in August 2012, the government had formally handed over the West Seti hydropower project – that was then aimed at domestic consumption – to the CWEI, after a memorandum of understanding was signed between the company and the Board. The board – that looks after mega projects – had then started preliminary negotiation with the project developer. But the NEA was hesitant to seal the deal as it was worried of power surplus by 2017 – as more power producers are generating power lately – whereas the Chinese developer was also not sure of the market, in case of power surplus in Nepal. The state power utility is the sole buyer of electricity developed by all the developers.
However, after Nepal-India Power Trade Agreement (PTA) recently, NEA and the Chinese developer, came near to agreement. The PTA allows both Nepal and India to buy and sell electricity.
The 750-MW project also got back on leak after the visit – in March end – of China Three Gorges Corporation chairman Lu Chun, who met with the premier Koirala to discuss the issues of resettlement and rehabilitation of the displaced families by the project.
The Board has also decided to charge $1,500 per MW in negotiation fee for Power Development Agreement (PDA) as the project is not handed through open bidding like Upper Karnali and Arun III. The developer has to pay the fee either the negotiations become successful or unsuccessful. A seven-member team has been formed under Pant for the negotiation.
The project was envisioned some two decades ago as Snowy Mountain Engineering Corporation (SMEC) had shown interest in developing the project. The first study was also conducted in 1987. The government was however forced to revoke the licence of the Australian company as it failed to start work after repeated renewal.
Meanwhile, the Board also decided to amend the project negotiation agreement for Tamakoshi III hydropower project. The chief executive is authorised for the amendment. It has also decided to form an expert committee to review the amendment.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Central bank fails to punish loan misusers: Auditor General

The Auditor general has officially confirmed loan misuse by some high profile borrowers but blamed the central bank for not punishing them. Earlier, the central bank had also suspected of capital flight by some borrowers by misusing loan.
Some of the borrowers have misused loans, stated the 52nd Annual Report of the Office of the Auditor General published here today. Giving examples of how loans taken for one purpose have been used for another, the annual report asked the central bank to take action against them. The report has, however, not named the borrowers.
The report said that a 'Maker Pvt Ltd', borrowed some Rs 306 million but it didnot use a single penny for the purpose. "However, the central bank did not take any legal action against the borrower,” the report stated, adding that the regulator should control such practice.
According to the Banking Offence Act, loan misuse is a punishable act that attracts a maximum jail term of five years.
The report has documented some eight examples of loan misuse by taxpayers under the Big Taxpayers’ Office. Likewise, some three borrowers registered under the Inland Revenue Office, Lalitpur have also misused the bank loans.
The central bank during its regular supervision had suspected some loan misuse, central bank spokesperson Min Bahadur Shrestha said, adding that the central bank has then brought the new watch-list in loan loss provision to curtail the practice.
Though, the central bank, suspecting the loan misuse, has recently added a watch-list under loan-loss provisioning, for suspicious loan, with five per cent provisioning in phase-wise manner, the move is yet to bring result. The bankers have to provision two per cent in the last quarter of the current fiscal year 2014-15 and raise it by 0.5 per cent every quarter to five per cent by mid-January 2017.
The bankers, however, claimed that the borrowers are taking advantage of the interest rate difference between Nepali and Indian banks. "They borrow from Nepali banks and deposit in Indian banks, and enjoy interest rate," a banker said, without wanting to be named.
Indian banks are offering nine percent interest on deposit, whereas Nepali banks are offering loans at maximum seven per cent.
The borrowers are taking short-term loans from Nepali banks and deposit the money in Indian banks where the interest rate is higher,” he said, adding that the borrowers are making profits without investing and taking any risks.

Monday, April 6, 2015

One hour of bandh bleeds economy Rs 150 million

The economy bleeds Rs 150 million directly due to per hour of strike, according to a study.
The three-day bandh called by the UCPN-Maoist led 30-party alliance will bleed economy Rs 5.40 billion in three days, according to the study conducted by the central bank on 'the economic impact of general strikes', which revealed that one day of a nationwide strike causes a loss of about Rs 1.80 billion directly, most of which is borne by the service and industry sectors.
However, the entrepreneurs estimated the losses to be at Rs 3 billion per day at the current rates as the bandh has domino impact on economy. The private sector claims that the economy will bleed Rs 250 million per hour as of today.
The alliance has called three day strike from Wednesday to Friday to pressurise the government. Requesting the 30-party alliance led by the UCPN-Maoist to withdraw the three-day strike, the private sector has called for more creative form of protest except disturbing the business and economic activities.
The bandh – called to pressurise the government – will not only bleed the economy blue, but also curtails the fundamental constitutional rights of a common man. The constitution has ensured a free movement of a person apart from freedom of choice of profession and economic freedom.
Likewise, political stability in recent years has helped create investment-friendly environment in the country. So, the private sector has asked the parties not to disturb the investment-friendly environment.
Federation of Nepalese Chmbers of Commerce and Industry (FNCCI), Confederation of Nepalese Industry (CNI) and Nepal Chambers of Commerce (NCC) have urged the political parties not to disturb the investment-friendly environment.
They have also urged the parties to expedite the process of promulgation of the constitution and end the political instability, and shun any strikes that will again pull the economic growth down.
The central bank study – based on data and strike incidents in period from 2008 to 2013 – also revealed that such recurring bandas has a total output loss of Rs 27 billion on average per year. "It has brought down some 1.4 per cent of GDP growth per year from 2008 to 2013," the central bank study stated.
The private sector fears that strikes and protests would once again dampen investors’ confidence. "Investors will run away if they face a sense of insecurity and uncertainty," FNCCI vice president Pashupati Muraraka said, adding that the strikes could not by any means address any problem.
Likewise, Hotel Association Nepal (HAN) has also urged to withdraw bandh, saying its impact on the tourism industry would be huge, long-lating and directly or indirectly hit livelihood of over 4.5 million people. Strike induced uncertainty will hit the tourist arrivals, it added. "As such strikes would have adverse impacts in the economy by discouraging investors and worsening the business environment in the country.

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Nepal, Qatar vow to clamp down on recruiters charging migrant workers

Qatar and Nepal vowed to clamp down on outsourcers that illegally took money from Qatar-bound Nepali migrant workers.
During a meeting today in Kathmandu with a visiting Qatari delegation led by labour and social welfare minister of Qatar Abdullah Saleh Mubarak Al-Khulaifi, Nepal asked to arrange for free of cost recruiting for Nepali migrant workers.
Nepali side led by state minister for labour Tek Bahadur Gurung asked Qatari counterpart to make it binding for employers to bear the commission paid to the recruiting agencies and agents in order to ensure cost-free hiring of Nepali migrant workers to Qatar.
Nepali migrant workers are forced to pay between Rs 70,000 and Rs 100,000 despite Qatar’s pledge to make recruitment cost-free for migrant workers. Though the government has allowed outsourcers to charge up to Rs 20,000 in fees, many recruiting agencies charge even for free visa and tickets for the second most lucrative destination for Nepali migrant workers.
Qatar has however, categorically said that its laws did not permit foreigners hired to work pay anything in the process.
Qatar – that needs more migrant workers for the 2022 FIFA World Cup projects – said that its companies bear all he expenses involved in hiring a migrant worker.
If any Qatari companies charge to hire migrant workers, they will be punished, Al-Khulaifi said, adding that all hiring and travel expenses for migrant workers are borne by Qatari companies.
But the migrant workers are forced to pay exorbitant fees as the government failed to monitor and punish the outsourcing agencies and agents. Gurung also promised to blacklist manpower companies that charge money.
Though no agreement was signed today, the second day of the delegation's four-day official visit to Nepal, both the countries discussed on providing 24-hour insurance to Nepali migrant workers, compulsory orientation before taking jobs and strengthening workplace safety and security.
“Qatar’s insurance policy covers only work-related and road accidents," Gurung said, adding that the government hass asked visitors to provide 24-hour insurance cover throughout the contract period. "Apart from insurance, Qatar has also pledged to address most of the issues related to migrant workers in its proposed labour law."
Qatar is working on new labour laws that is expected to address most of the challenges facing – migrant workers, including good living and working conditions, occupational safety and life insurance.
According to Foreign Employment Promotion Board, it has reimbursed – from Migrant Workers’ Welfare Fund – some 205 families of  migrant workers, who died in Qatar in the fiscal year 2013-14, some 110 in 2012-13 and some 130 in 2011-12. But most of the deceased migrant workers have not got proper compensation from the employer as the Qatari law does not cover insurance for workers dying of 'natural cause', cardiac arrest or suicide.
However, the failure of successive governments in creating employment in the country has forced the mass exodus of youth to the foreign jobs, lately.
Qatar – the second largest destination for Nepali migrant workers after Malaysia – has some 400,000 Nepalis working currently, according to the department. "In the last fiscal year 2014-15, some 128,874 Nepalis went to Qatar, up from some 90,935 in a fiscal year ago in 2013-14," according to the department.