Thursday, June 15, 2017

Decent work agenda key pillar of fair globalisation

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

Monday, June 12, 2017

OBOR can be a model project

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

Friday, June 9, 2017

16 million euro grant deal for energy development

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

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Migrant workers are exploited: AI report

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

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Ncell committed to digital Nepal

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

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Government decides to award Budhi Gandaki Project to Chinese company

In a key move to strike a balance between China and India – that is developing two major hydro projects Arun III and Upper Karnali – the Cabinet today decided to award the 1200-MW reservoir project Budhi Gandaki hydropower project to a Chinese company.
Minister for Law and Justice Ajay Shankar Nayak, after the cabinet meeting informed that the cabinet had decided to begin the process of awarding the project to China Gezhouba Group Corporation (CGGC), China’s government-owned company.
The government will prepare a guidelines on awarding the project including financing model.
The project will be awarded in engineering, procurement, construction and financing (EPCF) model, - a new model for the country. According to this model, the developer has to bring in financing to build the plant to be built in Budhi Gandaki river in Dhading and Gorkha district. The EPCF model of project development, under which the contracting firm makes all the arrangements including the funds to build the project, is considered to be one of the most effective models for the development of huge infrastructural projects.
Currently, the Finance Ministry is in the process of preparing the guideline for the EPCF model of project development. After it is ready, there will be more clarity on how the model works.
The cabinet meeting also approved the draft memorandum of understanding (MoU) to be signed with CGGC soon. The MoU – according to Energy Minister Janardan Sharma – is a preliminary accord and it will not bind the government legally or financially without entering into a separate agreement. However, the CGGC will also have to come up with a technically and financially viable proposal within a year.
"As per the draft MoU, CGGC will get a year to make an assessment of the hydropower project and arrange funds for its development,” he said adding, "If the Chinese developer comes up with a proposal agreeable to us, we will sign another contract."
A Detailed Project Report (DPR) prepared by a French consultant last year has estimated the project's cost at Rs 261 billion including the cost of land acquisition. Land acquisition is underway after completion of Detailed Project Report (DPR).
The 1200-MW project located in Gorkha and Dadhing districts could be crucial in addressing the country's energy crisis. The previous government led by KP Sharma Oli had also considered CGGC's proposal to develop the project but the proposal was shelved without furnishing any clear reason. And the then Finance Minister Bishnu Poudel had – through the budget – started collecting Rs 5 per litre Infrastructure Tax on petroleum products claiming to construct the reservoir project on Nepali's own investment. The government has already collected Rs 84 million from the consumers in the name of Budhi Gandaki that the government was planning to construct in a company model. The government has also allocated a budget of Rs 5.33 billion – as compensation – in the budget for the current fiscal year. The district administration offices of Dhading and Gorkha – the project affected districts – are currently distributing compensation to the owners of the land required for the construction of the project.
But with the decision to award the reservoir-based project to the Chinese company, the government has put an end to the process of building the plant under the company model.
Considering the massive investment needed for the mega project and its technical complexities, the government chose to award it to the Chinese company, according to the Energy Ministry.
According to Energy Ministry spokesperson Dinesh Kumar Ghimire, the government will enter into a preliminary Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the company soon but this agreement will not be legally binding until a project development agreement (PDA) is signed. "The government will enter into an agreement after the MoU."
According to the Energy Ministry, the Chinese government was very keen on having a Chinese company develop the project, and had proposed with Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal during his recent visit to China. Chinese officials had even pledged to provide a soft loan via the Export Import Bank of China to the Chinese company to build the project, if it is awarded the contract.
The government also expects the CGGC to arrange major financing – at least over 50 per cent of the project cost – in the form of a soft loan because the project is not viable on commercial loans. "If the government is satisfied with its proposals – both technical and financial – the final contract will be signed,” added Ghimire.
According to the plan, a 263-meter high dam will be built in the Budhi Gandaki River, which will form a reservoir about 15 times bigger than the Fewa Lake in Pokhara that will generate 1330-GWh electricity annually and will displace about 45,000 people.
The Chinese company CGGC had started working in Nepal in early 2000s by building the 45-MW Upper Bhotekoshi Hydropower plant.
Currently, the company is working as the civil contractor of at least three hydropower projects – including Chameliya that has suffered a cost overrun of more than double the estimated cost – but its overall performance has been poor and the projects have seen multiple cost variations and time overruns, though not only because of CGGC always.
Likewise the company's proposal to upgrade the Upper Trishuli III project in 2013 had also courted controversy.
Sino Hydro Resources – a Chinese government undertaking – completed the 50-MW Upper Marshyandi A Hydropower Project – the project is the first one to be built with Chinese investment – in September.
Likewise, the government is building the 750 MW West Seti Hydropower Project in the western part of Nepal with joint investment from China Three Gorges Corporation (CTGC), another Chinese government-owned company. The government led by Dr Baburam Bhattarai had awarded the project to CTGC that has 75 per cent stake in the project.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Government committed to fight flow of dirty money

The government is fully committed to combating the flow of dirty money that propagates financial crime, according to a central bank official.
Speaking at a learning event ‘Anti-Money Laundering and Terrorist Financing (AML/TF) in Nepal’ for young entrepreneurs, organised by the Entrepreneurs’ Organisation (EO) Nepal in Kathmandu today, deputy director of Financial Information Unit under the central bank Hari Kumar Nepal said that government was fully committed to control any form of financial crime including money laundering and tax evasion.
The government is mulling over introducing more stringent rules in the near future to minimise chances of money laundering, he said, adding that the central bank will soon have regulations like prohibition of cash transaction higher than Rs 1 million and prohibit use of savings account for business transactions. "We hope that this will contribute in controlling money laundering."
Money Laundering and Terrorist Financing is no longer the issue of Nepal only, it has drawn attention of governments all over the world and other international organisations,” he said, adding that the government was serious on the issue and that it will leave no stone unturned to eradicate such practices.
He also said that money laundering has worsened not only the business sector, but also politics and administration. The event basically focused on demarcation between money laundering and tax evasion, legal frameworks and contribution of business sector to control it.
“Surveys show that more than 3.6 per cent of global GDP is earned through criminal activities,” Nepal said, adding, "If we add amount of tax evasion to it, the result is shockingly high. But one has to be aware of the fact that each and every business started with black money is a crime. And, one cannot get peace of mind with black money."
He also said that tax evasion supported by corruption is the biggest challenge of Nepal.
“It starts right from a general landlord to show low rental charge to evade tax," Nepal added. "So, it is very much difficult to bring this all in track."
Stating that though the country still lacks stringent rules to tackle financial crimes, Nepal said it is unlikely for anyone engaged in such illegal activities to go scot-free.
The event was followed by an interaction session where young entrepreneurs and EO members shared their view on how business sector can work together with government to implement the measures to control financial crimes.