Thursday, May 28, 2015

IFC, FMO to invest in hospitality sector

IFC – a member of the World Bank Group – will invest $3million in Nepal Hospitality and Hotel (NHH) to develop a three-star hotel in Thamel, Kathmandu.
The investment will increase the country's capacity in the mid-market hotel segment, create jobs, and promote energy-efficient hotel design. The Greenfield hotel will be operated by international chain Marriott under its Fairfield brand.
NHH a member of MS Group is one of the leading business conglomerates in Nepal.
The IFC will – in addition to its own investment – mobilise $3 million from FMO, the Netherlands-based development bank. The investments will help build skills of those employed in the sector and contribute to the development of local supply chains.
IFC will also help Nepal Hospitality and Hotel adopt green building design and construction principles to implement energy and water-efficiency measures.
“The deal, amidst the recent earthquake, reaffirms that the Nepali private sector, IFC, and FMO are committed towards economic prosperity in Nepal," said managing director of Nepal Hospitality and Hotel Gaurav Agarwal, on the occasion.
The 110-room Fairfield Kathmandu – the first internationally-branded, professionally-managed mid-market hotel in Nepal – will stimulate tourism and support the economy, he said, adding that the green building design will serve as a model for replication across the industry.
"The hotel will be built with a total investment of $12 million," he said, adding that they have already completed the structural work. "Likewise, electrical wiring and plumbing work is 80 per cent complete."
The finishing work is 20 per cent complete and for the remaining finishing work we need skilled manpower, which is currently no available in Nepal," Agrawal added. ""Even though, the 10-story hotel has been rated as three-star by the government. Our services will be on par with four-and five-star hotels in Nepal."
The hotel had earlier planned to begin operation in October but it has postponed for early 2016 due to devastating earthquake on April 25.
The MS Group is also constructing a five-star hotel in Naxal, Kathmandu for which it will invest Rs 350 million.
"IFC remains committed to supporting Nepal as it rebuilds its tourism industry following the devastating earthquake on April 25," IFC country manager for Bangladesh, Nepal and Bhutan Kyle F Kelhofer said, after signing the deal. "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 needs,” he added.
The tourism sector accounts for over two per cent of Nepal's GDP, some five per cent of foreign exchange earnings, and employs approximately half a million people. It also supports significant employment in ancillary industries.
International-standard hotel projects help emerging markets like Nepal attract business and leisure travelers.
The FMO – a Dutch development bank – has invested in the private sector in developing countries and emerging markets for more than 45 years aiming at empowering entrepreneurs to build a better world.
Likewise, IFC – a member of the World Bank Group – is the largest global development institution focused exclusively on the private sector. It works with private enterprises in more than 100 countries using its capital, expertise, and influence to help eliminate extreme poverty and promote shared prosperity.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Global smartphone growth to slow to 11.3 per cent: IDC

Worldwide smartphone growth is expected to slow further to 11.3 per cent in 2015, down from 27.6 per cent a year ago, according to the latest data from the International Data Corporation (IDC).
Although the researcher is sticking to its forecast of 1.9 billion annual shipments by 2019, the previous forecast of 11.8 per cent growth this year has been revised down slightly due in part to saturation in the Chinese smartphone market, it said. "In fact, 2015 will be the first year that China’s smartphone growth – just by 2.5 per cent – will be slower than the worldwide market."
Android smartphone growth is also expected to be slower than the worldwide market at 8.5 per cent in 2015 due to the fact that China accounts for around 36 per cent of total Android smartphone shipments.
The report also points out that Apple faced a similar situation in 2012-2014, when its year-on-year growth rates were slightly below the worldwide market. But its recent shift in product line to bigger screen models with a broader country reach has had an immediate impact on volumes and IDC now expects iOS smartphones to grow by 23 per cent in 2015 and remain above worldwide market growth rates throughout the forecast, it added.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Oscar-winning Hollywood actress Susan urges tourists to visit earthquake-hit Nepal

Oscar-winning Hollywood actress Susan Sarandon today urged tourists to visit Nepal as the country has seen a devastating earthquakes – on April 25 and May 12 – that has damaged heritage sites, the major tourist attractions.
"I urge tourists to visit Nepal," she said, today inaugurating a campaign to build 201 huts for villagers outside Kathmandu for those who lost their homes in the earthquakes.
The two powerful earthquakes last month killed thousands and hit the tourism industry that is expected to feel the heat.
"It is important to emphtress arise that by the fall, when monsoon ends, people should make their reservations now if they want to help and they want to come and visit because it is very, very important to keep all these jobs alive," said the actress of Atlantic City and Dead Man Walking fame.
Sarandon joins a network of several hundred on-site Live to Love volunteers, a group that include Himalayan gender equality champions, the 'Kung Fu Nuns' of the Drukpa order.
"I think that would be the next wave to think of Nepal not as an ongoing disaster, but as a country that has found its way back and has many monuments that haven't fallen and many beautiful areas that can be still safe to trek," added Susan, who is in Nepal for five days. She is staying with the famed Kung-fu nuns in a Buddhist monastery and later in an orphanage that was damaged in one of the quakes.
A magnitude-7.8 earthquake hit Nepal on April 25, killing over 8,670. The second one of magnitude-7.3 quake on May 12 killed 158. According to the Home Moinistry, some 18,000 people were injured in the two temblors.
Nepal boasts eight of the world's highest mountains that has been the centre of attraction for tourists. But the avalanche triggered by the earthquake of April 25 has sent the mountaineers back home, this year too. Last year also, the avalanche forced the mountaineers back home.
Sarandon arrived Nepal to join efforts with Live to Love International, a non-profit specialising in Himalayan humanitarian aid.
She today inaugurated the first two of 201 'Live to Love' homes now being built across nine villages in Ramkot, a hard-hit region where countless homes collapsed during the earthquake and subsequent tremors. With a large population now homeless, and with monsoon season at an early start, these homes are being erected expeditiously with on-ground partners Panchakanya Group and Entrepreneurs’ Organisation Nepal (EON).
The current undertaking will house 1,000 villagers throughout the selected villages in Ramkot within the next two weeks. Designed by experts in accordance with UN approved guidelines, all of the homes are being built in collaboration with the individuals and families who will occupy the structures, ensuring that the indigenous culture can permeate the work of engineers and aid workers on the ground.
"It’s tragic to see the levels of devastation in Nepal, and yet is both moving and heartening to see the efforts of Live to Love and their partner groups in helping people under the most difficult circumstances," Sarandon added.
She will continue surveying other earthquake-affected areas with Live to Love, assessing both short and long-term rebuilding needs.
Earlier in the month, Live to Love Global Ambassador Michelle Yeoh inaugurated the first of eight prefabricated community halls that are being built throughout several different villages. When completed, the halls will shelter over 2,000 homeless Nepalis from the monsoon rains.
The Gyalwang Drukpa – founder of the Live to Love, environmentalist, and United Nations MDG Honoree – said that the disaster has been a painful but crucial wake up call for the rest of the world. "All our efforts must be concentrated at delivering relief in a manner that it not only provides victims immediate succor but also that a sustainable future is created for them, “ he said, appealing organisations and individuals from around the world to come together and collaborate in the long-term reconstruction of Nepal.

Monday, May 18, 2015

ADB creates emergency trade finance facility for Nepal by expanding its Trade Finance Programme

Asian Development Bank (ADB) is expanding its Trade Finance Programme (TFP) in Nepal by an additional $40 million to help banks finance import of much needed goods to support reconstruction and immediate needs in response to the recent earthquake.        
"The emergency facility for Nepal will help remove financial constraints when companies approach their banks to import what they need for emergency assistance, rehabilitation and reconstruction," ADB’s head of Trade Finance Steven Beck said, adding that the impact of the facility can reach $80 million within a year, since trade finance is typically short term and can roll over in less than 180 days.
ADB’s Trade Finance Programme provides guarantees and loans through banks to support trade. The emergency Trade Finance Programme facility for Nepal will be implemented through four Nepali banks – Himalayan Bank, Nabil Bank, Nepal Investment Bank, and NIC Asia Bank – already participants in ADB’s Trade Finance Programme. The facility will prioritise imports of basic commodities – including food and medicine – and needs related to reconstruction, the ADB press note said.
Thousands have died following the earthquake and hundreds of thousands are unable to return home because buildings have collapsed and transport systems, including roads, are unusable. Over two-thirds of Nepal’s 75 districts are thought to have been affected by the earthquake. It will impose a huge economic toll on the country. Preliminary ADB estimates suggest that the economic growth in Nepal may decline to 4.2 per cent for the current fiscal year of 2014-15, compared to the March projection of 4.6 per cent.
ADB has established a Nepal Earthquake Response Team, which along with UN agencies and other development partners will assess the damage and long-term investment needs for reconstruction and rehabilitation.
Support for trade finance will add to the $3 million grant from the Asia-Pacific Disaster Response Fund that ADB is providing for relief efforts and the up to $200 million additional resources for projects in the first phase of rehabilitation.
The Trade Finance Programme helps fill market gaps for trade finance in developing Asia by providing guarantees and loans to banks to support trade. Backed by ADB’s AAA credit rating, the programme works with over 200 partner banks to provide companies throughout Asia and beyond with the financial support they need to engage in import and export activities.
Since 2009, the Trade Finance Programme has supported more than 6,000 small and medium-sized enterprises in about 10,000 transactions valued at over $20 billion in a wide range of sectors, from commodities and capital goods to medical supplies and consumer goods in the region’s most challenging markets.
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. In 2014, ADB assistance totaled $22.9 billion, including cofinancing of $9.2 billion.

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Share market likely to open from May 24

Instead of tomorrow, the share market is going to start trading from May24.
The market has been closed since April 26 after the devastating 7.8-magnitude earthquake of April 25. And it had initially planned to start trading from tomorrow. But the market lost confidence after another earthquake of 7.3-magnitude, according to USGS, on May 12. The market is closed - for the first time in its history - since April 26.
However, Nepal Stock Exchange (Nepse) is yet to inform its regulator, Securities Board of Nepal (Sebon), according to general manager of Nepse Sitaram Thapaliya.
The Nepse has not officially notified the public, but the marker cannot open tomorrow, he said, adding that it would not be possible to resume trading from Sunday according to earlier plan due to Registrar to Shares, brokerage companies, Central Depository System and Clearing Ltd and investors are shaken after the May 12 earthquake.
Nepse will remain closed next week also due to pressure from some big investors and the brokerage companies. The share market was closed after the April 25 earthquake as some of the brokerage firms and Registrar to Shares (RTS) suffered huge damage, apart from Central Depository System (CDS) and Clearing Ltd, that was worst hit.
Though, some of the stakeholders proposed the market to open partially – during today's meeting – most of the stakeholders sought for few more days to calm the nerves of the shaken investors. "The market has lost confidence after the May 12 earthquake," they said, suggesting Nepse to open trading for an hour Sunday, and gradually increase its trading hour to normal. But Thapaliya said that the Nepse cannot open for only one hour. "Either the trading hours will be normal or the market will remain closed for the time being," he added.
The market operates for three hours from 12 to 3 five days a week from Sunday to Thursday.
Some of the Registrar to Shares including Civil Capital, Siddhartha Capital, NMB Capital and Growmore Merchant Banker have asked for an additional period of one week to set up their offices damaged by the earthquakes. Similarly, CDS and Clearing Ltd has also sought time to shift its office to Nepse premises in Bhadrakali from the current building that has been damaged badly.
The share market that is going to open after a month from the earthquake of April 25 is expected to see a selling pressure due to investors' need of cash and also lost confidence.

Monday, May 11, 2015

Planning commission ready with short-term reconstruction plan

National Planning Commission (NPC) will submit plan for resettlement – for the earthquake-displaced people – and reconstruction of collapsed structures within this week.
NPC vice chair Dr Govinda Raj Pokhrel today said that the plan will be forwarded to the government by Friday. "The plan proposes to build temporary shelters to all displaced population before the monsoon season," he added.
"We are planning to construct temporary shelters – using local resources – that will cost between Rs 10,000 and Rs 12,000," he said, adding that it will take only a couple of days to construct the temporary shelters. "The commission has also consulted foreign experts in preparing the short-term plan."
The devastating earthquake of April 25 has damaged some 600,000 house – completely and partially – forcing people to take shelter outside in the open under the tent. However, the nearing rainy season is going to make the lives difficult for them. The temporary shelter is a must before rainy season that is due within a month.
"The short-term plan will include health, education, agriculture and shelter," he added.
However, the planning commission will prepare a more detailed plan for long-term reconstruction by the Dashain festival, Pokhrel shared.
A primary blueprint for the long-term plan will be prepared within a month, he said, adding that the plan will be presented to the international community – asking for their support. The government is holding a local donors' meeting in a week and international donors' meet within a month to get the support from them for resettlement and reconstruction of the displaced people. The long-term plan includes planned resettlement with all the government services, he added.
The international community has, though, pledged billions for relief and rescue operations after the April 25 devastating earthquake, they have been mobilising funds through their INGOs and NGOs. The government has been asking them to contribute to the Prime Minister Disaster Relief Fund to make rescue, relief, resettlement and reconstruction through one-door.
Meanwhile, the planning commission vice chair also said that the devastating tremor has caused a loss of Rs 700 billion, around 30 per cent of the gross domestic product (GDP). "It will also hit the economic growth for the current fiscal year, he said, adding that the revenue mobilisation, especially VAT, and agriculture production will be hit pulling the economic growth down from mid-term budgetary review of five per cent. However, the government has projected six per cent economic growth – in the fiscal policy for the current fiscal year – in July.

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Parliamentary committee directs government to adopt one-door policy for relief aid

International Relations and Human Rights committee today directed the government to take all the foreign assistance for relief and rehabilitation through government fund.
"We have directed the government to take the much-needed foreign assistance only through the government fund based on one-door policy,” the parliamentary committee chairman Prabhu Sah said, adding that they asked the government to prepare a plan and criteria to take aid for search, rescue, relief, resettlement and reconstruction. "Petty aid and wishful spending won’t bring any positive results."
The committee's directive came on a time, when most of the development partners have been interested in distributing aid through their own channels making the government think on their intentions. Due to prolonged political transition the international aid agencies have been hesitant to provide cash to the Prime Minister’s Disaster Relief Fund instead they have said to spend through their own channels.
Though the government is asking the donors to channel the aid through the Fund, the Fund has only Rs 503 million – mostly donated by domestic donors – by Tuesday, though the Finance Ministry has already released Rs 4 billion till now.
The parliamentarians also opined that aid by some friendly nations and international organisations and their expenditures have not been transparent as they have spent according to their wishes. Directing the government to ask foreign rescue workers to return immediately, they also lashed out at the government for its failure for keeping record of the number of foreign rescue wworkers.
The lawmakers hailed the security agencies for their active role in rescue operations but criticised Home, Finance and Foreign Ministries for their lack of coordination.
They also directed the Office of Prime Minister and Council of Ministers to make necessary arrangement to make Prime Minister’s Disaster Relief Fund transparent.
Defense secretary Ishwori Prasad Poduel, who holds the command of the Central Natural Disaster Relief Committee, briefed the meeting on works of the committee and the ministry.
He informed the parliamentarians that some 65,017 Nepal Army personnel have been deployed for rescue and the Nepal Army choppers made 641 flights to quake-hit areas and rescued 4,974 people. Likewise, Nepal Army rescued some 2,372 people alive, treated some 984 people and dig out some 357 dead bodies.
Turkey, Malaysia, Pakistan and some Indian Army retuned on May 5, after concluding search and rescue operations, he said, adding that Polish, Israeli, Thai, Indonesian, remaining Indian, Algerian and Sri Lankan returned home on May 6.

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Tribhuwan International Airport bans heavy aircrafts

Tribhuwan International Airport (TIA) imposed ban on the landings of heavy aircraft transporting humanitarian aid and chartered services to Nepal to prevent further damage to the runway.
Aircraft weighing more than 196 tonnes will not be permitted to land at the TIA, a press note said, adding that the scheduled international flights are permitted for operations with any type of aircraft.
The officials said that they were forced to take the decision after more than three cracks appeared on the five-decade-old airstrip. More than 300 rescue flights, including 150 chartered, have landed at the TIA since the devastating earthquake that rattled the country on April 25.
Currently, the only airport is handling an average of 90 commercial flights, apart from 50 to 60 rescue flights every day. On normal days, the airport sees 60 international flights – including landing and takeoff – and around 300 domestic flights. The airport had operated 24 hours after Saturday's devastating earthquake. "Due to influx of relief materials and rescue team, we will continue to operate round the clock till Tuesday," the airport authority said, adding that they will review the situation Tuesday to decide on whether to operate round the clock or not.
Earlier on Wednesday only, the international airport had handled a record 447 flight movements as the aircrafts from different countries carrying humanitarian aid.
“As the problem at airstrip has started to reappear, we cannot afford to permit landing of heavy jets,” said an official at the airport that is at the risk of closure, if not acted immediately.
According to manager at Tribhuwan International Airport Birendra Shrestha said bigger planes were banned because the runway was deteriorating. "The runway was built to handle only medium-size jetliners and not the large military and cargo planes that have been flying to the airport," he added.
Last week witnessed a steady procession of big jets trying to fly in goods and relief workers, as well as a swarm of journalists, but the small airport has parking slots for only nine jets and only one runway.
As airport congestion was only the latest complication in the global effort to aid people, the ‘notice to airmen’ issued today said that the only international airports has seen three aircraft land with heavy payload of relief materials–Boeing 747-400 from Israel, Airbus A350 from France and Ilyushin Il-76 from India, apart from choppers every hour from India blocking the scheduled commercial flights.
The notice was issued after technically assessing that the overuse of the runway by unscheduled flights is damaging it, the airport officials said, adding that the runway is taking three times the regular schedule of flights compared to normal traffic.
However, many countries, including the US and Canada, have been asking 'to lift the restriction'. The US has planned to bring in relief materials on a Boeing 747 aircraft--often referred to by its nickname the Jumbo jet. Canada plans to fly in relief materials in an-8 Wing CFB Trenton.
As the only runway can't handle the strain of the stream of large aircraft flying in to help, the authorities have said that medium and small-size jets will still be allowed to land
It is the second instance in the last two years that the only international airport has imposed such restriction due to cracks on the runway. In August 2013, the airport authority had asked all international carriers to find alternatives to wide-body aircraft flying into Kathmandu. The cracks were first appeared on the runway in June 2011, which has since become a perennial problem.
A report submitted nearly a year ago by Ayesa Ingenieria, a Spanish company contracted to evaluate TIA’s runway and taxiway, had revealed that the TIA runway is not capable of handling wide-body aircraft due to its ageing asphalt foundation. The runway’s upper surface comes off instantly under stress when heavy jets land.
"You've got one runway, and you've got limited handling facilities, and you've got the ongoing commercial flights," said the UN coordinator for Nepal Jamie McGoldrick. "You put on top of that massive relief items coming in, the search and rescue teams that has clogged up this airport," he said, adding that the bottlenecks in aid delivery were slowly disappearing, and the Nepalese government eased customs and other bureaucratic hurdles on humanitarian aid following complaints from the UN.
Likewise,  a spokesman for the British charity Oxfam Kai Tabacek said that the main problem was that Kathmandu airport was too small 'to deal with huge volume of traffic. "Of course, there have been some delays, but these have more to do with the challenge of moving large volumes of goods than customs," he added.
Likewise, the residents in the surrounding areas of the airport have complained the airport authority that they were terrified by the loud noise of the big jets. They have also warned the authority that they would picket the airstrip, if they donot responds to their plea immediately.

Friday, May 1, 2015

NAC adds second Airbus, names Lumbini

Nepal Airlines Corporation (NAC) today received its second Airbus.
The second of the two Airbus A320-200 aircrafts ordered by the national flag carrier has landed at Tribhuwan International Airport (TIA) in Kathmandu today early morning, said spokesperson of NAC Ram Hari Sharma.
The aircraft named 'Lumbini' landed at the TIA at 6:40 am, he said, adding that the aircraft has flown to Kathmandu via Doha from German. " A flight instructor from Airbus and an NAC pilot flew the aircraft from Hamburg in Germany via Doha to Kathmandu."
Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal (CAAN) has given 9N-AKX call sign to the new aircraft that will start commercial operations after getting clearance from the regulatory authority.
"The aircraft will go through regular procedure like payment of customs duty to the government and obtaining air operators certificate (AOC) from the CAAN before it will start its commercial operation," Sharma added. "NAC will begin the registration procedures first."
The first – Airbus 'Sagarmatha' – of the two Airbuses arrived on February 8. It had started its commercial operation from February 27 from New Delhi. Sagarmatha was welcomed with a colourful fanfare. However, Lumbini has been welcomed silently as the country is mourning the loss of thousands people, who died due to Saturday's devastating earthquake. But NAC chairman Ram Sharan Neupane and acting general manager Ganesh Bahadur Chand welcomed the Airbus that had 18 passengers, including crew members, four German doctors, two nurses, two representatives of the German organisation and two journalists from Hamburg to Kathmandu.
The aircraft has but also brought in a medical team and relief materials. According to NAC, four doctors, two nurses, two observers and two journalists were on board the aircraft besides the Nepali team which went to Germany to receive the aircraft.
The Airbus Foundation, Humedica – a German NGO – and NAC used the flight to transport relief materials and medical team to provide aid to the victims. The aircraft has brought five tonnes of relief supply including 3.3 tonnes of medicine. The European aircraft manufacturer Airbus teamed up with German relief organisation Humedica to help send the aid t Nepal.
Likewise, a five member team consisting of director of NAC's Quality Assurance and Flight Safety Department Rabin Pradhan, director of Engineering Department Karna Bahadur Thapa, Project Coordinator Prabhas Karmacharya, Engineer Pawan Kumar Karwal and chief of CAAN's Airworthiness Division Bhesh Raj Subedi had gone to Germany on April 22 to receive the aircraft.
The national flag carrier has now four aircraft – two Airbus and two Boeings – in its international fleet. The NAC had started the process to acquire aircraft for international operation six years ago. But it got delayed due to controversy. NAC finally signed purchase agreement with Airbus for two aircraft on June 27, 2013. The catalogue price of Airbus A320-200 is around Rs 15 billion. But the Airbus is providing free training to NAC's engineers and pilots according to the agreement.
NAC had borrowed Rs 10 billion from from Employees' Provident Fund (EPF) at a fixed interest rate of 12 per cent per annum. The NAC will pay back the loan within 15 years, according to the agreement.
Powered by engines made by US-based International Aero Engines both the Airbus A320 aircraft has a capacity of 158 seats, including eight for business class and the rest for economy class. But NAC’s two aage-old Boeings 757 — Gandaki and Karnali — have a seat capacity for 190 passengers.
With the second Airbus, NAC will now add more international destinations including Bangalore in India and Guangzhau in China, Sharma informed. But the corporation has been facing shortage of pilots to fly the Airbus.