Saturday, December 31, 2016

NTB to promote Nepal in Europe

As a rehearsal of ‘Visit Nepal Year 2018’, Nepal Tourism Board (NTB) today launched a programme to promote Nepal in Europe in 2017 during an event organised to mark its 18th anniversary. The board also said it made the announcement as part of promoting Nepal as a tourism destination and with the aim of bringing a maximum number of tourists from European countries.
The ‘Visit Nepal-Europe campaign 2017’ campaign aims at increasing the number of tourists from European countries by 30 per cent to 40 per cent compared to 2016.
The NTB has said that the campaign will also develop necessary groundwork for promoting the country’s tourism all over the world in the year 2018 as part of ‘Visit Nepal Year 2018’ that the government had announced recently.
“To make the ‘Visit Nepal-Europe 2017’ campaign a success, NTB will collaborate with Nepali missions in Europe, Nepali diaspora and travel and tour operators in Europe,” said the chief executive of the board Deepak Raj Joshi. "We chose Europe because tourists from the 28-nation bloc have significantly contributed to Nepal’s tourism industry and we hope the inflow will further gather momentum through this campaign," he added.
Joshi also explained that virtual campaigns such as #NepalNOW and Facebook posts had significantly helped the Nepali tourism industry to rebound faster than the national economy after the Gorkha earthquake.
The coordinator of the campaign Deepesh Man Shakya, who is also NTB’s honorary public relations representative for Ireland, on the occasion said that a tourism promotion programme has already been planned for Ireland, United Kingdom, Switzerland, Russia, the Netherlands, Belgium, Spain and Denmark.
Nepal Tourism Board, through its ‘Honorary Public Relations Representatives’ in different countries in Europe, will work in collaboration with Nepali diplomatic missions and the Nepali diaspora there, and with local friends of Nepal in Europe to make the “Visit Nepal - Europe 2017” campaign successful.
NTB has been planning to officially launch the campaign in London in March next year.
According to the tourism board, it has designed some programmes under the campaign like photo exhibition, talk on mountaineering, ‘Send a friend to Nepal’ campaign, tourism promotion through Nepali restaurants in Europe, Buddha Jayanti and Everest Day celebration in Europe, FAM trips for travel tour operators and media, and training for Nepali diaspora to promote Nepal’s tourism, among others.
Speaking as the chief guest at the anniversary function, Minister for Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation Jeeban Bahadur Shahi pledged his cooperation in the campaign.
Likewise, hotel entrepreneur Karna Sakya on the occasion said that directly or indirectly, the Nepali diaspora has significant potential to help Nepal’s tourism industry, and stakeholders should bring them on board.

Friday, December 30, 2016

Vegetable export potential largely unexploited

Nepal’s potential for vegetable exports remain largely unexploited, also due to proper coordination and harmonisation of standards between the Nepali and Indian SPS and technical standards, according to findings of field survey and wider consultations held with various stakeholders.
Presenting the findings, former commerce secretary and a senior consultant at South Asia Watch on Trade, Economics and Environment (SAWTEE) – that conducted the research – Purushottam Ojha pointed out the problems faced by Nepali traders at border crossings with India, including the produce not being able to meet the Sanitary and Phytosanitary (SPS) standards set by India.
“There isn’t proper coordination and harmonisation of standards between the Nepali and Indian SPS and technical standards," he said, at an event held during the launch of the finds held today. "Lack of integrated laboratories for quality certifications and the absence of mutual recognition of accreditation between Nepal and India have left the fate of Nepal’s fresh produce exports at the mercy of Indian customs offices," Ojha added.
He further added that non-tariff measures which discourage trade through the customs points have given rise to high incidence of informal trade. The research found that a huge amount of fresh vegetables were transported informally through the custom points.
Ojha also insisted on the importance of having proper measures related to Pest Risk Analysis (PRA) to make Nepali vegetables suitable for export not only to India but to third countries as well.
The study suggested measures needed to develop a concerted-action agenda that would need to be followed in order to address the problems related to exporting vegetables and establishing an effective linkage with export markets.
On the occasion, the experts discussed the export potential of fresh vegetables to India and other countries and the barriers to trade. The discussion was based on a research study carried out by SAWTEE with support from SAMARTH-NMDP at custom points in Bhairahawa, Birgunj, Biratnagar, Jhapa, Dhangadi, Mahendranagar and Nepalgunj.
Vegetable export was analyzed from the perspective of supply, demand and issues related to the market.
Similarly, program coordinator at SAWTEE Neelu Thapa, on the occasion, said off-season vegetables like bitter gourd, pointed gourd, sponge gourd, and mustard leaf, among others were preferred by Indian consumers for their better quality and could be sold at higher price in India. She further added that Bangladesh could emerge as a lucrative market for Nepali fresh vegetables but a high tariff rate of 25 per cent was a discouraging factor. At the same time, potential for exporting vegetables to countries in the Middle East was also encouraging, provided that Nepali suppliers were able to meet their strict sanitary and technical standards, she added.
Commerce Secretary Naindra Prasad Upadhyay, on the occasion, said that Nepal’s inability to meet technical and food quality standard hampered its fresh produce export potential. "Investment should be made to increase the productive capacity of vegetable producers and to improve infrastructure in terms of storage facilities and collection centers," he added.
SAWTEE chairman Posh Raj Pandey urged stakeholders to develop mechanisms so that Nepali products could comply with the technical standards set by importers.
Likewise, agriculture portfolio manager at SAMARTH-NMDP Srijana Rana highlighted the importance of vegetables in effective poverty minimization efforts in Nepal.
Federation of Nepalese Chambers of Commerce and Industry’s Agro Enterprise Centre chief executive officer Pradip Maharjan, Ministry of Commerce joint secretary Rabi Sainju, Post-harvest Management Directorate of the Department of Agriculture Programme director Shabnam Shivakoti and agriculture expert and various experts brainstormed on the occasion to improve the access of Nepali vegetables to cross border trade.

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Government seeks clarification from NRA CEO

The government today sought a clarification from National Reconstruction Authority (NRA) chief executive Sushil Gyewali over the delays in carrying out post-earthquake rebuilding works.
Alleging that the authority failed to expedite the overall reconstruction and rehabilitation works as per the expectation of the earthquake victims, the cabinet today has decided to seek clarification from Gyewali over the delay. It has also asked him to furnish a explanation within seven days.
According to minister for Information and Communications Surendra Kumar Karki, who is also the government’s spokesperson, the government has raised four issues in the letter – Gyewali’s failure to coordinate with the government agencies for effective reconstruction works, his inability to mobilise staff efficiently, lack of implementation of the instructions given by the NRA directive committee, and the delay in issuing housing grants to the homeless families.
Even after more than one-and-half-year of the devastating earthquake that floored some 800,000 individual houses part from hundreds of heritage sites, government buildings, health posts, schools and police posts, the authority has been unable to provide the people the proper guidelines and grant to reconstruct their houses, and the people have already spent two winters in the open spaces under the sky.
Sources near to Prime Minister said the move is intended to 'sack' Gyewali as the Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal has been expressing dissatisfaction at his works. The premier has been showing his dissatisfaction openly many a times over the way reconstruction works are going on.
Minister Karki said that the government decided to formally seek clarification from Gyewali also because he did not follow the government’s decisions despite repeated instructions by the prime minister.
“The government will first listen to Gyewali’s clarification and then the prime minister will discuss the issue with political parties and we will take initiatives to replace him, if needed,” minister for Law and Justice Ajay Shankar Nayak said. "The government had no other option than to seek clarification as he didn’t cooperate with the government," he said, adding that Gyewali would say one thing in public and do something else.
The PM’s core team is learnt also to have the perception that Gyewali has subtly defied the government’s instructions on the pretext of legal hurdles and donor sensitivity. The Prime Minister's Office has also find Gyewali’s working style incompatible with the requirement of a huge undertaking such as post-disaster reconstruction.
Prime Minister Dahal – who is also the chairman of the NRA steering committee – had earlier called Gyewali to his official residence at Baluwatar and vented his anger at Gyewali for failing to expedite the reconstruction and rehabilitation work. And the PM had earlier too ordered Gyewali to explain in writing as to what has been preventing the NRA from expediting the reconstruction work. But Gyewali reportedly had not been able to furnish satisfactory clarification to him.
Relations between the Dahal government and Gyewali also remained frosty as the latter was seen as 'close' to the CPN-UML. The erstwhile Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli had hand-picked Gyewali in December, 2015 despite the controversy over his 'qualification', according to the NRA Act.
The cabinet move follows a long discussion between PM’s administrative adviser Narayan Dahal and Gyewali yesterday and the day before over the activities of the authority. Advisor Dahal has conveyed to Gyewali that the premier was particularly concerned over his failure to address the expectations of the earthquake survivors. Only last week, hundreds of reconstruction engineers submitted their resignation en masse because they find their salary not enough to work under the sever condition in rural Nepal.
According to the minister for Poverty and Cooperatives Hridaya Ram Thani, the issue of seeking clarification from Gyewali was discussed in previous cabinet meetings too.
According to the law, the government can relieve the chief executive of his responsibilities giving him an opportunity to clarify. Clause 4 of Article 11 of an Act to Provide for Reconstruction of the Earthquake Affected Structures 2072 noted, “Notwithstanding anything contained in sub-section (3), the Government of Nepal may at any time remove the chief executive officer from his or her office if his or her performance is not satisfactory. Provided that, prior to such removal from office, he or she shall be provided with an opportunity to defend himself or herself.”
Meanwhile, immediately reacting – with issuing a statement – after receiving the clarification letter from government, Gyewali said the activities of the NRA done within a year of its establishment were transparent. He would clarify to the government the activities, challenges and problems related to reconstruction within the time. "As the NRA has been carrying out reconstruction and rehabilitation related activities in a planned and organised way, it has started to yield results," the statement reads, adding, "In this context, I believe that the opportunity to submit clarification to the government about the progress made so far by the NRA and its line agencies and also inform about challenges and other problems that have hindered the reconstruction activities will only help us in giving further momentum to our activities."

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Key first section of Melamchi Water Tunnel completed

The key section of Melamchi Tunnel — 9.5 km from Sundarijal-Sindhu section — has been completed today. Today afternoon, the project developer used explosives to blast the two-metre section of the earth that divided the tunnel into two segments measuring 5,760 and 3,240 metres in length.
Along with completion of this section, 22-km of the total of 27.5-km tunnel of the Melamchi Water Supply Project has been completed as the tunnel construction has been carried out from Gyalthum-Ambathan and Gyalthum-Sindhu. Two similar breakthroughs are expected to be made in a few months.
The Asian Development Bank (ADB) and the government today celebrated the breakthrough of the first key section of the Melamchi Tunnel. When completed, the Melamchi Tunnel will carry to Nepal’s thirsty Kathmandu Valley 170 million liters of water per day from the Melamchi River and another 340 million liters of water from the Yangri and Larke Rivers by 2021.
“We are literally seeing light at the end of the tunnel,” said country director of ADB’s Nepal Resident Mission Kenichi Yokoyama. "We have been committed to this crucial project through thick and thin and are glad that water will soon start flowing.”
The just-completed 9- km tunnel section runs between Sundarijal at the end of the Melamchi Tunnel, where water will flow into a water treatment plant for distribution to Kathmandu residents, and Sindu, further upstream. Two other sections of the full 27.5-km Melamchi Tunnel will be finished in 2017 with the tunnel expected to start carrying water from the fourth quarter.
“It is a joyous moment to people who are instrumental in bringing the project to the current status," said joint secretary and executive director of the Melamchi Water Supply Development Board Ghanashyam Bhattarai. "We consider this achievement a major milestone towards completing the construction of one of the longest water diversion tunnels," he said, adding that they appreciate the support and cooperation provided by people of the Melamchi Valley.
“The tunnel construction will be completed by July and it will take another three months to supply water to Kathmandu Valley," he added. "This achievement has made us confident the water will be supplied to Kathmandu by next October."
According to Bhattarai, some 99 per cent work of the water treatment plant in Sundarijal has also been completed so far. Water from the Melamchi river will reach Sundarijal Treatment plant in 48 hours and it will be supplied to households within another 24 hours after treatment, he said. "Another 340 million liters of water daily will be brought from the Yangri and Larke rivers by 2021 through the same tunnel."
The ADB has provided a total of $145 million in loans for the $355.4 million Melamchi Water Supply Project and has been working since 2000 with the government to build the tunnel, 29 km of access roads and – with financing from the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) – a water treatment plant. The April 2015 earthquake and and the blockade imposed by India created subsequent difficulties in getting construction materials were the latest setback to the project.
The project – that was initiated some 17 years ago and has become a prestige issue for the ADB – is also providing social development support to families in the Melamchi Valley like health, education, and income generation programmes.
Italian Contractor Cooperativa Muratori e Cementisti di Ravenna (CMC) started work on the project in July 2013 after the contract with the Chinese contractor was terminated in September over non-performance.
The ADB has lent Nepal $170 million through the Kathmandu Valley Water Supply Improvement Project to provide water connections and expand reservoirs so the 3.5 million people of the Kathmandu Valley can benefit from the new tunnel and receive affordable and reliable water.
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 in December 2016 will mark 50 years of development partnership in the region. It is owned by 67 members, 48 from the region. In 2015, ADB assistance totaled $27.2 billion, including cofinancing of $10.7 billion.

Nepal Telecom to start 4G services from January 1

The Nepal Telecom has announced that it is starting the fourth generation (4G) dervices to its customers from January 1. "The consumers will be able to use 4G telecommunication service for the first time from 2017 as Nepal Telecom, the state-owned telecom service provider, is starting the new service in two major cities from January 1," it claimed.
The telecom companies till now provide only 2G and 3G services. In July this year, the government had opened the doors for telecom companies to operate 4G service by amending the Radio Frequency Policy.
The two telecom service providers – Nepal Telecom and Ncell – had applied for the operation of the 4G services. But Nepal Telecom is the first company to receive permission from the Nepal Telecommunications Authority (NTA), the regulatory body, to start the new service.
“We are starting 4G service in Kathmandu and Pokhara from January 1, 2017” said the NT officials. "We will expand the service in other areas of the country gradually."
The 4G service is expected to help customers to operate the various services requiring high bandwidth such as video in an easier way.
Lately beside NT, three other telecom operators – Ncell, United Telecom Limited (UTL) and Smart Telecom, all privately owned, have also applied to NTA for approval to operate 4G service.
However, the NTA said that they were studying the roll out plans of the private sector telecom operators. There are currently six telecom operators in Nepal. But the Ncell claimed that they were ready to offer the 4G service to their customer, immediately after they receive the permission.
Despite the 113 per cent teledensity in the contry, according to the MIS report of the NTA, the telecoms sector has very nominal contribution to the economy. According to the various studies, increase in 10 per cent of teledensity will contribute one per cent to the gross domestic production (GDP). However, it has not been the case in Nepal.  

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Trekking trails exploration, maintenance in TAAN priority

Trekking Agencies' Association of Nepal (TAAN) has earmarked nearly Rs 100 million for exploration of new trekking trails, maintenance of existing trails and building infrastructure on major trails as well as promotion in domestic and international market.
The annual budget of the association for Fiscal Year 2016-17 presented by TAAN treasurer Lila Baldab Dahal has allocated Rs 8.79 million for development of infrastructure and maintenance as well as promotion of trekking trails.
According to Dahal, TAAN has maintained geographical balance while selecting trails for reconstruction, maintenance and infrastructure development. "We have selected trails starting from Kanchanjunga region in eastern Nepal to Api Himal in far-western Nepal," he said, adding that TAAN will build necessary infrastructure, build capacity of local so that they can cater to tourists, and produce promotional collaterals to promote the trails in national and international market," he added.
TAAN has selected 63 trails for maintenance, infrastructure development and promotion.
Similarly, it is investing Rs 9 million for exploration of new trekking trails. According to Dahal, TAAN is exploring Lamjung-Dudhpokhari, North Annapurna Base Camp trail from Lete, Sailung-Timal, Gaja Hill (Jogimara-Shaktikhor), Round Ramechhap, and Chatara-Mainamini trails in the current fiscal year.
"The trails have been selected as per the request of the local community and their tourism potentials," he added.
Similarly, TAAN plans to conduct mapping of Hillary Trail and Lower Solu in the current fiscal year.
The association has also allocated substantial funds for development programs. Tourism Memorial Park in Timal, setting up mobile washrooms in tourist bus parks, development of cycling trails, installation of solar street lights in Thamel, construction of bridge over Mardi Khola and Khaptad Development Program are some of the programs that TAAN is starting in the current fiscal year.
TAAN is also building weather information centers in major trekking areas, mountaineering school in Dhading, and porter shelters in Gorkha, and implementing trekking trail development program in Api Himal in far-western Nepal and Dhaulagiri Sanctuary, among others.
According to Dahal, TAAN is also building short trekking trails in the ridge of Kathmandu Valley. "To begin with, we will develop Thankot-Dahachowk-Ramkot-Sitapaila trail," he added.
TAAN has also kept development of a new trekking trail in Sankhuwasabha in priority. The trail starts from Amrang and passes through Lower Walung, Upper Walung, Ale Danda, Tashijongtar, Eyuwakhola and Mera Base Camp before ending at Makalu Base Camp. "We have allocated Rs 1.6 million for the project," added Dahal.
TAAN is also building porter shelters in Damodar Kunda, Larkya Pass, Kagmara BC and Lumbasumba trekking trails.
Similarly, it is investing substantial amount for tourism marketing and promotion in the international market. It has allocated Rs 2.4 million for US, Rs 640,000 for Russia, Rs 3.2 million for Russia, Rs 2 million for South Asia, Rs 800,000 each for Middle East and Australia and Rs 1.2 million for Asian markets.
The association has also set aside Rs 2.4 million to organize cycling competition on Lukla-Salleri-Patale-Okhaldhunga-Sindhuligadhi-Namobuddha-Dhulikhel route.
Similarly, it has earmarked Rs 1.2 million to promote 'Overland Route to Everest' (Kavre Namobuddha-Sindhuli-Sindhuligadi- Khotang Halesi-Okhaldhunga-Siddhicharan Park-Okhaldhunga-Salleri-Surke-Chaurikharka-Everest Base Camp)
TAAN has also announced a research fellowship of up to Rs 100,000 for firms, researchers interested to conduct study on issues/subject selected by it, a statement issued by the association on Tuesday states.

Monday, December 26, 2016

NAC decides to bring remaining Chinese aircraft

The Nepal Airlines Corporation (NAC) has decided to bring the remaining four aircraft from China.
Issuing a statement today, the national flag carrier said that it was bringing the aircraft in two phases. It plans to bring one Modern Ark MA 60 and one Harbin Y-12E, in the first phase, and the remaining two in the second phase. The MA 60 is a 56-seater aircraft, while Y-12E can fly 18 people.
NAC also said that it decided to bring the aircraft because the prices of these aircraft is lower compared to similar aircraft manufactured in European countries.
“The price of MA 60 and Y-12E is lower compared to similar aircraft made in European countries,” the statement said, adding that the Chinese aircraft can operate flights to 20 airports across the country.
The NAC is already flying one MA 60 and one Y-12E it received as grants from the Chinese government. These aircraft, however, have been facing various technical problems.
NAC officials say the Chinese manufacturer has promised to resolve the problems like maintenance, availability of spare parts, cost of training pilot and insurance, among others.
Nepal and China had sign a loan and grants agreement to bring six aircraft – two MA 60s and four Y-12E – on November 13, 2013. As per the agreement, China had arranged soft loan worth Rs 3.72 billion to purchase the aircraft. The interest rate for soft loan has been fixed at 1.5 per cent.
The NAC took delivery of MA 60 in April, 2014, while the Y12-E joined its fleet seven months later. But the aircraft made loss as their operating costs was far higher than what they earned. NAC earned only Rs 141 million from MA 60 in the first year of operation, while its expenditure was Rs 405 million. Similarly, Y-12E earned Rs 12.2 million in the first nine months of its operation, compared to its operating cost of Rs 67.5 million.
NAC is working to increase its domestic fleet to increase its market share which has been dwindling in recent years.

Sunday, December 25, 2016

Government sitting on a cash pile worth one-fifth of the total budget

The government is sitting on a cash pile worth one-fifth of the total budget which could build two Kathmandu-Tarai Fast Track Road projects.
Though the government coffer is bulging with cash due to its inability to spend, the government is planning to bring supplementary budget. As much as Rs 198 billion is lying idle in the central bank’s vault.
National Planning Commission (NPC) vice chair Min Bahadur Shrestha, however, said that the government needs an additional Rs 120 billion additional for programmes that Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal announced immediately after assuming office. "The government needs Rs 80 billion reconstruction grants for the earthquake victims as the PM has announced to increase the grants to Rs 300,000,” he said, adding that additional Rs 40 billion is needed for reconstruction of historical and heritage sites  as well as for other programs, including the deprived sector, announced by the PM Dahal. "But we have an option. Donors have some fund which they can lend us for that purpose."
Addressing the nation on September 9, Prime Minister Dahal made a raft of promises, including increasing housing grants for earthquake survivors by another Rs 100,000 to Rs 300,000.
The additional fund that the government needs will be generated without changing any tax rates as we have projected that revenue growth can match the budget deficit, Shrestha added. “The supplementary budget will not change any plans and programmes that the current budget has,” he emphasised.
Shrestha, however, said that NPC’s resource committee will sit and brainstorm on the resources and the final ceiling once the finance ministry asks it to prepare supplementary budget.
The finance ministry officials, however, claim that the supplementary budget is a political issue. “If the government decides, the ministry will have to bring the supplementary budget.”
But deputy prime minister and finance minister Krishna Bahadur Mahara has been repeatedly claiming that the government is bringing a supplementary budget to manage additional resources for the programmes that PM Dahal has announced.
On one hand the government is unable to spend the budget and on the other it is planning to bring supplementary budget, which has no rationale, said former chief advisor to the finance minister and senior economist Keshav Acharya. “Unless the government has mal-intention to dole out funds, there is no need to bring supplementary budget,” he opined, urging the government to spend the budget efficiently instead of bringing supplementary budget. “The government inefficiency will cost the country dear, as the country could not see any new job as the revenue has been sitting idle in the central bank vault."
The government led by K P Oli had brought Rs 1048.92 billion budget on May 28. However, the government has been able to spend only 20 per cent of the total budget by December 22 – almost five-and-a-half months in the fiscal year, according to the Financial Comptroller General’s Office (FCGO).
Of the total spent Rs 216.61 billion till December 22, only 8.06 per cent – or Rs 25.13 billion – is capital expenditure that is expected to create employment and help fuel long term economic and social development.

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Prime Minister ianugurates Guerrilla Trail

Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal today inaugurated a ‘Guerrilla Trail’ and an ‘Insurgency Museum’ at Chunwang of Rukum district.
Lies in the mid-western part of Nepal, in a hilly region of Rukum-Rolpa, the trail was used by the Maoists during the insurgency. One can trek through several unspoiled villages, innocents people, their unique cultures, awesome Himalayan ranges of Sisne, Putha , Dhaulagiri, Chauri peaks,
Guerrilla trekking trail of Rukum-Rolpa area is a virgin land, restricted, impossible and extremely difficult for outside world over a decade during long people’s war in Nepal. The land is known as most playground for revolutionary people, their perfect hideout and running their own government. The small yet naturally beautiful place is now open and heartily welcoming people from outside. The place is blessed with rich flora and fauna, unmatchable natural beauty, rich cultural heritage and adventurous trails once used by Guerillas during people’s war in Nepal are the main attraction in Rukum.
Recalling the times of the insurgency, the premier underlined the importance of the area during their protest 12 years ago. He also expressed his happiness to be able to establish a memento of the time.
Speaking at the inauguration programme, Dahal stressed the need of smooth implementation of Constitution for the overall development of the country. He informed that his government was working to develop Nepal as an economically prosperous country.
"And for this," the PM assured that the local, provincial and federal elections should be held on time.
He also stressed that there is no other alternative than consensus among the political parties for the implementation of Constitution. The recent Constitution amendment bill that was registered in the House will ensure rights of Madhesis, Muslims, Tharus and other marginalised group, the premier said.
Urging the parties to stop staging protests for the sake of protests, he claimed that the Bill was registered ‘in accordance to CPN-UML’s proposal before Constitution promulgation’.
He also called for discussion in order to forge political consensus.

Friday, December 23, 2016

Tourism sector playing key role: PM

Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal said that the tourism sector has been playing a significant role in country’s economy.
Inaugurating the 38th annual general meeting (AGM) of the Trekking Agencies Association of Nepal (TAAN) in Kathmandu today, Dahal said the government was committed to helping the private sector develop and expand Nepal’s tourism industry.
Stating that agriculture, hydropower and tourism were important sectors for the Nepali economy, the premier said the government has put these sectors in priority.
On the occasion, Dahal handed over letters of appreciation to the top three member-companies of TAAN on the basis of issuance of TIMS cards – Himalayan Encounters, Royal Mountain Travel Nepal, and Highland Excursions.
Similarly, Dahal presented a photo-journalist at Xinhua Sunil Sharma and Mohan Prasad Mainali of Image Nepal, a travel magazine, cash prizes of Rs 10,000 each and letters of appreciation in recognition of their coverage of the Langtang-Gosainkunda Half Marathon that TAAN had organised earlier this year to disseminate the message that the Langtang-Gosaikunda region was safe for trekking.
Likewise, Dahal presented the TAAN Sagarmatha Adventure Tourism Journalism Award to Kedar Dahal of Karobar daily, and the TAAN Sagarmatha Pasang Lhamu Award to mountaineering instructor Pasang Lhamu Sherpa. The awards each carry a purse of Rs 25,000.
Speaking at the event, TAAN president Chandra Prasad Rijal said TAAN – as the largest tourism association of the country – has a greater role to play in the development of the entire tourism sector not just the adventure tourism sector.
Minister of State for Agricultural Development Radhika Tamang, Tourism Secretary Shankar Prasad Adhikari, and Nepal Tourism Board (NTB) chief executive Deepak Raj Joshi, among others, were also present at the event.
Meanwhile, a closed-session held earlier today also approved the Annual Programme Report for fiscal year 2015-16, the Annual Programme and Activities for fiscal year 2016-17 presented by TAAN general secretary Karna Bahadur Lama, the Annual Financial Report for fiscal year 2015-16 and the Estimated Income and Expenditure for fiscal year 2016-17.
Similarly, it also approved Employees Bylaws and Financial Bylaws of the association.
Established in 1979, TAAN has been active in the promotion of the adventure tourism sector.

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Better access to G20 markets could boost exports from poorest countries by 15 per cent

The world’s poorest countries are barely engaging in the global economy, but fully liberalising trade for these countries into G20 markets could boost their exports by about 15 per cent, according to an UNCTAD report released today.
While least developed countries (LDCs) account for about 12 per cent of the world’s population, their share in global exports stands at about 1 per cent, the report – Key Indicators and Trends in Trade Policy 2016 – notes.
Boosting exports from LDCs could help accelerate economic growth, generate jobs, and provide financial resources for sustainable and inclusive development.
Recognising the importance of trade for LDCs, the sustainable development goals (SDGs) include Target 17.11 to 'Increase significantly the exports of developing countries, in particular with a view to doubling the least developing countries’ share of global exports by 2020”.
“We've seen some progress in the last decade, but the participation of least developing countries in the global economy remains marginal,” says director of UNCTAD's Division on International Trade in goods and services and Commodities Guillermo Valles.
"To double the LDC share of global exports – and achieve the SDG target – the trick will be not just to fix the issue of tariffs but to do the non-tariff measures too," he added.
The report finds that LDCs generally trade much less than the size of their economies would suggest. The export-to-GDP ratios of the 48 LDCs are on average about 25 per cent, substantially less than the average for other developing countries of about 35 per cent.
"This indicator has been on a clear downward trend since 2011 and it shows the LDC struggle to integrate into the global economy," Valles said.
Generally speaking, G20 countries support LDCs through a range of mechanisms to facilitate trade, such as duty-free and quota-free access. But removing all tariffs could boost LDC exports to G20 countries by about $10 billion per year.
Similarly, reducing the distortionary effects of non-tariff measures (NTMs) could boost LDC exports by about $23 billion per year. But this requires a more complex approach. NTMs such as quality standards serve public policy objectives and cannot be removed without disrupting these objectives.
Therefore, the report says, reducing the distortionary effects of NTMs comes not from removing them, but from helping LDCs to comply.
“Taken together, fully liberalising market access for LDCs and eliminating the negative trade effect of NTMs on LDCs would increase their exports by about 15 per cent,” the report notes.
The textile and apparel sectors – as well as some agricultural categories – would benefit most, it adds.

Nepal, Japan sign Nagdhunga tunnel deal

The Nepal and Japan today signed an agreement for a loan for the Nagdhunga Tunnel Construction Project that is going to be the first tunnel road in Nepal.
The agreement that will pave the way to start construction of the 2.45-km tunnel road under the Nagdhunga pass has set August 2022 as the target to bring the tunnel into operation.
Finance secretary Shanta Raj Subedi and Japan’s ambassador to Nepal Masashi Ogawa signed the exchange of notes for the project today at the Finance Ministry.
Likewise, a Loan Agreement for the project was also signed by joint secretary and chief of International Economic Cooperation Coordination Division at Finance Ministry Baikuntha Aryal and chief representative of Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) Nepal Jun Sakuma, on the sidelines, in the presence of deputy prime minister and finance minister Krishna Bahadur Mahara and physical infrastructure and transport minister Ramesh Lekhak.
Speaking during loan agreement signing ceremony, ambassador Ogawa said that the project is regarded as the 60th anniversary commemoration project and the Japan government considers this project to be a symbolic landmark for the socio-economic development of Nepal and for the deepening relationships between our two countries. He remarked that Japan has many years of experience in developing such tunnel road projects and highly developed tunnel construction technology of Japan will be used in Nagdhunga-Naubise tunnel road project.
Referring to the present condition of this road link, he said that the road conditions of Naubise–Thankot section of the Tribhuvan Highway are very poor and the vehicular movement is slow due to the many sharp curves and steep gradient. Considering the complex geological condition of this stretch, the need for its upgradation or realignment with a better alternative had been felt for long.
According to the agreement, the Japan will provide a loan of 16.636 billion yen – around Rs 15.29 billion – for the construction of the tunnel under the Nagdhunga pass to ease traffic congestion along the Nagdhunga-Naubise section of the Prithvi Highway, the key gateway of the Kathmandu Valley.
According to a statement issued by JICA, the loan amount – under its official development assistance (ODA) – will cover public work on the tunnel, access roads, bridges and other constructions – including improvements, plus consultation services – and also including detailed design-work, bidding assistance, construction supervision, and the strengthening of operations and management capacity.
"The loan agreement is signed with the condition of 40 years repayment and a 10-year grace period with 0.01 per cent annual interest,” according to a press release issued by JICA.
Under the loan agreement, the project will purchase the products and services necessary to construct 5.05-km of tunnel-road that stretches from Baad Bhanjyang, Kathmandu to Sisnekhola, Dhading districts. The 2.45-km of the stretch will be a two-lane tunnel and 2.20-km (Kathmandu side) and 0.40-km (Dhading side) will be approach roads. There will be 2 bridges along the approach roads, according to the agreement.
The tunnel will also have fire detection units, CCTV cameras, evacuation tunnel-doors, emergency parking bays, lighting, loud speaker equipment and visibility-index meters, among other infrastructures for safer operations.
Likewise, the construction of toll facility, control office and distribution line of 4.1 kilometers are the other components of the project. Plaza area, rest room, restaurant, shops, parking space will also be developed, utilizing a flat land made by disposal of tunnel excavation materials.
The project aims at reducing the time it takes vehicles to clear the Nagdhunga Pass to one-third of the current time making the transport of people and goods more efficient, and to contribute to local socioeconomic development. It is also anticipated that this project will significantly improve vehicular movement and, accordingly, travel time and transport expenses for fuel and spare parts will also decrease significantly.
It is said that it will take one-and-a-half years to prepare the detailed project report (DPR) of the project and another three-and-a-half years for the construction. The contractor for the project will be selected under the international competitive bidding. The Ministry of Physical Infrastructure and Transport is the executing agency of the project, which is expected to be completed by August 2022.
The assistance programme was announced during the visit of Japanese State Minister for Foreign Affairs Nobuo Kishi to Nepal – at the ceremony of the 60th anniversary of establishment of diplomatic ties between Japan and Nepal – this September.
“This project will be instrumental to further strengthening economic activities," Japanese Embassy in Kathmandu said in a statement. "The infrastructure being constructed will be yet another cornerstone in enhancing the friendly relation between the people of the two countries."

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Second Nepal Infrastructure Summit in February

The second Nepal Infrastructure Summit is scheduled for February 19-20, 2017 to give momentum to sluggish infrastructure growth of the country.
The summit is being organised jointly by Confederation of Nepalese Industries (CNI), Youth Community for Nepalese Contractors (YCNC) in association with different government agencies as well as bilateral and multilateral development partners, CNI president Haribhakta Sharma said here today at a press meet.
Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal (Prachanda) is scheduled to inaugurate the summit as the chief guest. Similarly, railway minister of India Suresh Prabhakar Prabhu will be the Guest of Honour and keynote speaker of the summit, he said, adding that investors, consulting service providers, builders, thought leaders, government agencies, diplomats, development partners, legislators, non-state actors from South Asia, South East Asia and other countries will be participating in the summit.
The Summit will brainstorm on Infrastructure: The Big Picture, Barriers and Constraints in attracting Private and Public Investment, Expediting Public Private Partnership (PPP), Financing Resilient Infrastructure, and Successful PPP Model: Global and regional Perspective.
Nepal suffers an infrastructure deficit on an epic scale, stifling vast human potentials on several fronts. A World Bank estimate of the country's 'infrastructure gap' pegs investment needs at between 8 per cent and 12 per cent of national income this decade. Nepal's medium-term ambition is to become a middle-income nation by 2030, while graduating out of the status of a least developed country (LDC) by 2022.
"This is only possible with high growth rates sustained by productive capital formation," Sharma said, adding that this demands rapid development of infrastructure driven largely by a private sector – local and foreign – that has the technical, managerial and financial clout to deliver efficient, high-quality and cost-effective results on the ground.
The second Nepal Infrastructure Summit also aims at facilitating discourse on indispensability of private sector in infrastructure development, he added. "The primary objective of the summit is to attract large scale private investment in areas of Nepal's core needs and strengths; forge stronger networks and alliances in the region for seamless connectivity; and raise awareness on why investment in infrastructure needs an urgent push in the country."
The summit will showcase the project bank developed by Investment Board Nepal (IBN) which will comprise around 50 viable infrastructure projects.
In the meantime, CNI in collaboration with Idea Studio, will collect various infrastructure ideas from different sectors of the communities to come up with a creative and an innovative infrastructure – transportation, irrigation, energy, housing, digital etc – IDEAs to solve the existing epic infrastructure deficit and address to the possible future need for our country's development.
The summit will focus on the strategic vision of infrastructure, value proposition, competitiveness, policy particularly on land acquisition and environmental clearance; and regulatory enablers and business environment, Sharma informed. "The event will consolidate and build upon the achievements of the first Nepal Infrastructure Summit held in November 2014," he added.
Second in the series, Nepal Infrastructure Summit 2017 aims to attract large-scale private investment in areas of Nepal’s core needs and strengths, he said, adding that infrastructure summit not only targets to draw big investment in infrastructure sector, but also forge stronger network and alliance in South Asia for seamless connectivity.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Reconstruction engineers, technicians resign en masse

Blaming the government for not address their demands, agitating engineers and other technicians deployed for assisting in the houses reconstruction work in the 11 earthquake-hit districts have tendered their resignation en masse to the Urban Development Ministry today.
As many as 1,200 engineers and technicians – of the total around 2,300 engineers and technicians deployed in the 11 districts – went to the Central Level Project Implementation Unit of the Ministry today and collectively tendered their resignations to joint-secretary of the ministry Shiva Hari Sharma, one of the engineers, who resigned, said.
However, the ministry has yet to approve their resignations, he said, adding that they were forced to resign as the government did not address their demands by December 15, which was their ultimatum deadline.
"As the government did not address our demands despite our frequent requests, we decided to resign en masse," an engineer and also a coordinator of the 'central protest committee' formed by the engineers and technicians Gajendra Kumar Jha said, adding that it is not possible to work under such poor conditions any longer.
 The agitating engineers had been complaining that they have been forced to work under 'poor working conditions' without proper office space, and that the government did not provide sufficient perks and other facilities compared to their workload and remoteness of their work stations.
They have demanded allowances equal to 100 per cent of their monthly salaries, to set up offices for them and provide them life insurance. Similarly, they have also demanded that the government endorse the grant distribution directive in line with the announcement made by Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal to increase the grant amount from Rs 200,000 to Rs 300,000 as soon as possible.
The engineers oversee reconstruction of houses constructed by quake victims to ensure that they meet the earthquake-resilient re-construction guidelines set by the government and make recommendation for the second and third tranches of the government grant. Their resignation is likely to seriously affect the reconstruction work as the government cannot distribute the second tranche to the quake victims as recommendation from the engineers is mandatory for grant.
While receiving the resignation letter, joint-secretary Sharma requested them to return to their work stations. He also said that the government is all set to address their demands within few days. "But we will not return to work until the government comes up with a decision to address our demands," Jha added.
Since the past weeks, they have halted work in the districts as part of their symbolic protests and many of them have come to the capital to press the government over their demands.

Monday, December 19, 2016

WB provides Rs 5.94 billion additional loan for road sector development

The World Bank has agreed to provide $55 million (approximately Rs 5.94 billion) additional loan assistance to the government for the implementation of Road Sector Development Project (RSDP), which has been under implementation since 2008.
Joint Secretary and chief of International Economic Cooperation Coordination Division under Finance Ministry Baikuntha Aryal and country manager of World Bank Nepal Takuya Kamata signed the Financing Agreement today in the Finance Ministry on behalf of the Government of Nepal and the World Bank respectively.
The project has three components; the Road and Bridge Development, the Institutional Strengthening and Project Implementation Support and the Resilience Enhancement.
During the project period, 21 different activities will be carried out. The final outcomes of the project include all-season road access, reduced travel time and improved access to economic centre and social services in 31 beneficiary districts, according to a press release issued by the Finance Ministry.
It is stated that the project will upgrade about 700-km of existing dry-season roads and carry out periodic maintenance of about 2,550-km selected strategic roads. The construction of 33 bridges on selected roads of the Strategic Roads Network and the replacement of three earthquake-affected bridges with permanent structures are also the major activities of the project.
The project also consists of technical audit of the civil works and the maintenance of 355 bridges affected by the devastating earthquake last year. The Ministry of Physical Infrastructure and Transport will be the executing agency and the Department of Roads will be responsible for implementation of the project.
The government has expressed its sincere appreciation to the World Bank for this assistance and for continued support in the socio-economic development of Nepal.

Sunday, December 18, 2016

NOC jacks up petroleum prices

Nepal Oil Corporation (NOC) jacked up the price of petrol, diesel and kerosene tday ociting rise of price of the crude oil in the international market.
The NOC board meeting decided to increase Rs 4.50 per liter on petrol, diesel and kerosene with effect from late evening Sunday, said NOC spokesperson Bhanubhakta Khanal. "NOC has however not increased price of cooking gas and aviation fuel."
After the increment, the price of petrol per liter is now Rs 101.50, and diesel and kerosene is Rs 77.50, he said, adding that the state oil monopoly has hiked the price after the Indian Oil Corporation (IOC) – the only supplier of petroleum products to the NOC – has increased its rate. "The NOC has been forced to hike price also in view of the trade along the Nepal-India bordering areas. The increased rate will also bring down price gap of petroleum products in the southern border areas."
Petrol and diesel prices are cheaper in Nepal compared to India. "The price gap has helped the fuel to outflow," Khanal added.
However, it is the duty and responsibility of the customs and Armed Police Force (APF) – deployed along Nepal-India border – to control the diesel and petrol smuggling due to price gap.

Sagoon plans to raise $20 million through mini IPO

Sagoon Inc –a US-based social commerce startup founded by a Nepali – is soon launching a Mini Public Offering (mini IPO) under the regulations enacted by the Obama administration's landmark JOBS Act to establish itself as a public company.
Through the mini IPO, the company plans to raise $20 million from the general public globally and use that money to launch mobile apps, introduce Social Smart Card and increase the user base, according to the founder of Sagoon Govinda Giri.
An investor can invest as little as $299 which is around Rs 30,000. The shares will be allocated to the investors based on their availability and first come first basis. Those, who are interested can purchase as many shares as they want. Each unit of a share costs $23, the company informed.
Sagoon is waiting to get qualified by the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) to start accepting online investment globally from the general public. If everything goes as plan, the mini IPO will be floated in mid-January 2017. The social media startup plans to sell 8,69,565 shares worth $20 million, Giri informed.
Apart from being the first Nepali-founded company to come out with the public offering, Sagoon is also the first social media venture in the world that offers an investment opportunity to the public in its early stages. The opportunity was not available during the early stages of other social media like Facebook and Twitter.
The US JOBS Act – which was signed into law in 2012 – is regarded as one of US President Barack Obama's most ambitious legislations that, for the first time in the history, allows the general public to invest in a very early stage companies.
Earlier, only rich people, who either had an income of more than $200,000 a year or have the net worth in excess of $1 million, and bankers were allowed to invest. And the public had to wait for the companies to float full IPO.
Under the new law, the US and Canadian companies that have their primary offices located in the US can raise up to $50 million annually. It is a great opportunity for young startups to go public in their early stages.
However, SEC regulation is a quite lengthy and expensive process; it takes around 4 months to prepare the filling documents, involves legal and accounting fees of over $100,000, requires 2 years audited financials and follows many regulations. After filling, SEC again takes a couple of months to review and approve. After getting qualified, a startup is required to file the financial discloser publicly twice a year. In this regard, the new law is similar to traditional IPO offering except the limit of raising funds is up to $50 million annually.  
“This is a great opportunity to bring people from my own community, fans and supporters who believe in our dream and love to build innovative products and take a risk to invest in our dream," Giri said, adding that he wants them first to receive potential financial returns.

Saturday, December 17, 2016

Nepal getting new software to track old Indian notes

The central bank is getting new software to facilitate the exchange of banned Indian currency (IC) Rs 500 and Rs 1000 notes in the country.
The software will also make it impossible for non-Nepalis to exchange demonitised Indian notes, central bank deputy governor Chintamani Shiwakoti said speaking to mediapersons in Biratnagar today.
"We have already sent a proposal to the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) on the system that will be in place to exchange demonistised notes,” he said adding that an individual will only get to exchange Rs 25,000 worth of Indian currency (IC). "If we find that anyone has exchanged more than Rs 25,000, we will seize the excess amount."
In accord to the new template, a Nepali citizen wanting to exchange money has to fill up a form, submit a copy of Nepali citizen and other personal details, which will be uploaded in the software. The software will bar any user coming to exchange money for the second time and has exceeded the limit.
Nepal Rastra Bank – the central bank – will provide a form for anyone, who wishes to exchange IC and on the form the person needs to provide his/her citizenship number and phone number, according to Shiwakoti.
The central bank is now waiting for RBI nod to use this software. As soon as the central bank gets the permission, it will distribute the software across its branches in Nepal.
IC worth over Rs 3.36 billion Nepali currency is believed to be in Nepal, according to the unofficial figure. Likewise, around Rs 2.52 billion of worth of IC in Rs 500 and 1,000 denominations is believed to be in the banking sector and around Rs 810 million with travel agencies and other businesses.
The Indian government – in its bid to fight against black money – is less concerned about the implications of demonitisation on the neighbouring countries, according to central bank officials. "This is a secondary issue for them as their focus is on mitigating the problems brought about by the announcement," the official added.
The demonetisation of Indian notes has affected the banking system of Nepal. The cemntral bank has permitted very small amount of the IC 100 rupee notes to people, who want to visit India.
The central bank has also been witnessing long queues since the demonetisation of notes in India.
Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal and his Indian counterpart Narendra Modi have also discussed the issue over the phone. Likewise, finance minister Krishna Bahadur Mahara and his Indian counterpart Arun Jaitley also held talks on the issue over phone. India has assured it will provide exchange facility but it has not provided any details.
Meanwhile, the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has told the central bank that it will not be providing India notes till April of next year. Nepal buys Indian Currency (IC) paying dollar as the country imports most of the merchandise from India in Indian Currency. Apart from, the payment of imports bill, Nepalis going to India for education, pilgrimage, trading or for treatment, also need IC in regular basis. But they are facing hard times due to Indian government's move to ban IRs 500 and IRs 1,000 banknotes.
On November 8, Indian Prime Minister Modi, in an unscheduled live televised address at 20:15, declared that use of all IRs 500 and IRs 1,000 banknotes of the Mahatma Gandhi Series would be invalid from midnight of the same day and announced the issuance of new Rs 500 and Rs 2,000 bank notes of the Mahatma Gandhi New Series in exchange for the old banknotes.
Though, the Indian government claimed that demonetisation was an effort to stop counterfeiting of the current banknotes allegedly used for funding terrorism, as well as a crack down on black money in the country, it has hit the general public in the rural areas more. The move was also described by the Indian government as an effort to reduce corruption, the use of drugs, and smuggling.
The Indian government’s deadline to exchange the demonitised notes elapses on December 30. Chances are that the Indian government would allow Nepalis to deposit their notes in their bank accounts in Nepal after bearers present their documents to prove the source of the currency. But the window period will be short.

Friday, December 16, 2016

Nepal to graduate from LDC by 2025: UN

Nepal is among the 16 countries that will graduate to the developing country status from the current Least Developed Country (LDC) category by 2025, according to a report by the UN agency.
The United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) report states that Nepal is projected to graduate only in two criterion – human asset index (HAI) and economic vulnerability index (EVI) – of the three criterion. "If this is the case, this will be the first time that the income criterion has not been met at the time of graduation," says the report.
A LDC must have gross national income (GNI) per capita of $1,242 for graduation. Nepal needs to double from its current GNI that stands at $752,
"Nepal also has to boost economic growth to spur the income, one of the three criterion to graduate, though meeting the two criterion is enough to graduate," the Least Developed Countries Report 2016 'The Path to Graduation and Beyond: Making the most of the Process' noted.
The report also said that most of the countries, whose graduation is expected by 2024, have included graduation as an explicit goal in their development plans and programmes.
"Five of these countries – Nepal, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Laos and Myanmar – have set explicit timetables," it said. "Also of the 16 countries projected to graduate by 2025, only four – Afghanistan, Bhutan, the Lao People's Democratic Republic and Nepal, all in Asia – are landlocked."
According to senior economist at the UNDP Nepal Basudeb Guha-Khasnobis, the situation in Nepal has been improving in recent months. "If things move as according to the plan, Nepal could also meet the income criteria by 2022,” he added.
Nepal became eligible to graduate from LDC category as it met two criteria – HAI and EVI -- in 2015. Once a country is eligible, it is evaluated every three years to check the sustainability of the graduation. Guha is of the view that Nepal will sustain coming two triennal reviews by the Committee for Development Policy (CDP) slated for 2018 and 2021.
The National Planning Commission (NPC) had, in its 13th Plan, included a target of graduation by 2022, bringing forward from 2030 in the 12th Plan. The commission's approach paper on graduation by 2022 includes 'strategic directions and action' for each of the three criteria as well as for monitoring and evaluation.
A country is graduated from the LDC category not only on the basis of meeting three criteria – GNI per capita, HAI and EVI once, it also has to sustain thresholds for at least two criteria or reach double the GNI per capita threshold – income-only graduation – in two consecutive triennial reviews.
Graduation process is only the first milestone in a marathon of development, not the winning post of a race to escape the LDC category, Guha said, adding that it marks the end of a political and administrative process, not the completion of an economic or developmental process.
Guha said that economically how a country graduates is more important than when.
But some economists are of the view that the graduation will cut foreign development resources and preferential treatment that a country gets as LDC as it would reduce development finance, which becomes less concessional, and also access to climate finance may be reduced. Likewise, after graduation a country will also lose potential preferential market access that is estimated at $4.2 billion per year across LDCs as a whole.
However, Guha claims that the effect of losing preferential market access depends on coverage and structure of LDC – specific preferential schemes, product composition of exports, and distribution across markets and also fallback tariffs after graduation.
But a graduating country benefits from a grace period – normally three years – before graduation effectively takes place. This period, during which the country remains an LDC, is designed to enable the graduating state and its development and trading partners to agree on a 'smooth-transition' strategy, so that the planned loss of LDC status does not disrupt the socioeconomic progress of the country. A smooth-transition measure generally implies extending to the graduated country, for a number of years after graduation, a concession the country had been entitled to by virtue of LDC status.
However, Guha suggested Nepal to form national policy agenda to address macroeconomic policy frameworks combining stability with investment dynamism and employment generation, scaling up public investment – including projects that strategically address bottlenecks in the productive sector – increased fiscal space: improved tax systems, diversification of revenue sources and addressing illicit financial flows, improved access to credit and financial services, notably for farmers and SMEs, coupled with accelerated transformation of rural economies: upgrading agriculture, promoting non-farm activities for effective and sustainable graduation.
The UN has currently designated 48 countries as LDCs. The list of LDCs is reviewed every three years by the CDP – a group of independent experts reporting to the United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC). The CDP, in its report to ECOSOC, may recommend countries for addition to, or graduation from, the list of LDCs.
The UN report also notes that while the 48 LDCs comprise around 880 million people – accounting for 12 per cent of world population – they face such serious structural barriers to growth that they account for less than 2 per cent of world GDP and around 1 per cent of world trade.

Friday, December 2, 2016

ADB approves $120 million for school sector development programme

The Asian Development Bank (ADB) has approved a loan of $120 million, equivalent to Rs 13.11 billion, for the implementation of School Sector Development Plan (SSDP).
Moreover, the ADB would provide technical assistance worth Rs 54.5 million for the capacity development technical assistance project in the school sector.
Finance secretary Shantaraj Subedi and ADB Nepal Mission’s country director Kenichi Yokoyama signed the loan agreement today and exchanged at the Finance Ministry.
The SSDP is a continuation of the previous School Sector Reform Programme (SSRP), which was more focused on the quantity while SSDP focuses on the quality which supports the comprehensive interventions in improving quality in basic education and expands the coverage of quality secondary education.
The programme ensures the new school construction meeting all disaster risk resilience standards.
Further building on SSRP experiences, this programme will be implemented in a more harmonised and coordinated way through Joint Financing Arrangement with other development partners as well. The SSDP shall be implemented by the Department of Education.
The government has expressed its appreciation to the ADB for the assistance and its continued support in the socio-economic development of Nepal.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

ADB approves $186.8 million to upgrade road

The Asian Development Bank (ADB) has approved a $186.80 million loan for starting a project to improve domestic and regional transport connectivity including strategic road networks.
The new loan has been sanctioned to upgrade 160 kilometers (km) of Nepal's strategic road network (East-West Highway). The project will upgrade the sections of 115-km Narayanghat-Butwal road and the Bhairahawa-Taulihawa (45 km) feeder road.
The total cost of the project is $256.50 million, with the government contributing $69.70 million. The estimated completion date is early 2022.
"The project will help in improving transport connectivity within and outside the country," senior transport specialist at the ADB's South Asia Regional Department Lee Ming Tai said.
The transport connectivity will decreases transport costs, increases people's access to jobs and social services, boosts trades with neighbouring countries, and assists the development of competitive industries in Nepal including high-value agriculture, agro-processing and maintenance, the ADB said in a statement.
Roads carry about 90 percent of the overall passenger and goods traffic in Nepal. But the landlocked country also has the lowest road density in South Asia with only 14 km of road per 100 sq km and 0.90 km per 1,000 people.
This poor connectivity increases transport costs, limits people’s access to jobs and social services, impedes trade with neighbouring countries, and undermines the development of competitive industries in Nepal, including high-value agriculture, agro-processing and manufacturing.
According to Tai, these road improvements will increase access of 673,000 people in Tarai area to schools, hospitals, jobs as well as local and international markets.
The road improvements will also incorporate flood control and drainage designs in anticipation of more frequent and intense rainfalls in the area as a result of climate change. The project will contribute to the ADB’s commitment to increase climate finance by approximately $66.5 million. The project roads are located in Nepal’s tropical climate zone which experiences heavy rainfall from June to September.
Road safety is a key element of the project as road traffic accidents in the country continue to rise due to an increase in vehicle numbers and poor road conditions.
Considering the continue rise of road accidents in the country, the new road section will have service lanes to cut-off slow moving local traffic from fast moving through traffic, prosaic-friendly features like walkways on both sides of the roads in settlement areas, prosaic crossing and road accidents emergency response system at critical locations.
The project will include a five-year performance-based maintenance clause in the contracts with the view of tapping the private sector for maintenance contracts in the future. In this regard, the ADB is providing separate technical assistance to the Department of Roads, the project’s implementing agency, to modernise road asset management and support the implementation of performance-based maintenance contracts.
The 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, the ADB in December 2016 will mark 50 years of development partnership in the region.
It is owned by 67 members, 48 from the region. In 2015, ADB assistance totalled $27.2 billion, including co-financing of $10.7 billion.