10/18/18

Major Business Investment Opportunities in Nepal

Nepal is one country that is witnessing a fast-paced development in recent times, globally.

Driven by the long-awaited political transformation, the country is currently riding high on development agendas inspired by the recent progress it has seen in various fields.

In the process, the country is paying high regard to development at the local level and is welcoming stakeholders from across the world to tap its untapped potential.

A Glance at major investment opportunities & ideas in Nepal:

1) Energy- Hydropower, Green Energy and More!
Nepal is rich in natural resources that make the country viable for potential investment opportunities. Its perennial water bodies such as lakes and rivers flowing round the year and wide forest cover offering favorable climate speak the country’s energy potential, and abundant hydropower source is one that the country boasts of! Do you know Nepal accounts to nearly 3 percent of the world power generation through its hydropower sector?

This clearly illustrates the country’s investment potential in hydropower sector! Taking it further, the country has been welcoming both local and global partners to invest in its hydropower projects. Few attempts by Nepal Government made in this regard include Himalayan Hydropower Expo 2018, inviting Bangladeshi investment, welcoming foreign investment in mega hydropower projects, developing national-pride projects,  encouraging power trading with friendly nations, among various others.

Besides, the country has also been promoting clean energy solutions as part of its transition to green vehicles run by biofuels, electric vehicles, LPG-free mission, and various other initiatives.

Apart from this, the country has also been advocating for environmental protection measures through its eco-friendly policies, waste management techniques and has also been actively developing model villages like Dhankuta that have set classic examples for successful implementation of such measures.

So, definitely there is lot more that the country’s energy sector offers for potential investors!

2) Agriculture 
Nepal is an agriculture-driven nation and offers rich potential in the agriculture sector. The country produces varieties of crops all through the year and is known for its traditional forms of farming through organic methods. Owing to this rich potential and growing middle-class population, most experts believe agriculture will be one of the top Nepali sectors with huge investment potential over the next 20-30 years.

3) Tourism
Tourism forms the backbone of Nepali economy. Tradition, heritage and the country’s world-famous tourism centers (some of them the UNESCO Heritage sites) speak the tourism potential of Nepal. Making major strides over the years, the country is now aiming at a 2 million tourist arrival target under its Visit Nepal 2020 campaign. Under its tourism development plans, the country is also keen on developing more regions as tourism hubs, making it an opportunity for potential investors. Medical tourism is another key sub-area connecting tourism and healthcare sector with huge investment potential.

4) Hotel & Hospitality
The rise in tourism activity in any country means increasing public movement across that country’s famous destinations. This directly reflects in the growth of the hotel & hospitality industry of that specific market. So, is the case with Nepal. Increasing tourism activity led the country to plan big on its hotel industry to woo tourists. Towards this end, the government is also pushing for more investment on the development of luxury hotels that match the requirement of tourists of any range. Such potential investment opportunities in the Nepal Hotel & hospitality industry.

5) Mining
Mining is another industry where Nepal holds rich investment potential. The rise in food inflation and demand for luxury living among populace leads to the demand for precious metals. Besides, money savings also involve the saving of precious metals as an investment in banks for good returns. Apart from that, manufacturing of electronic and electrical equipment, among other areas demand usage of metals. All these factors mean high demand for metals. So, the mining industry is definitely the one with huge investment potential. Experts believe the Nepali mining industry holds good potential for the future.

4) Healthcare
Efficient healthcare services are still a distant goal for Nepal and is in dire need of healthcare services as a result of weak healthcare infrastructure. Global and local healthcare surveys show a high number of rural Nepalis suffering from some form of the disease. Besides, vulnerability to natural disasters that also affect basic amenities like food and water poses serious healthcare challenges to Nepalis. To address health concerns at all levels, the country needs a well-built healthcare infrastructure which would require investment. So, given the existing weak healthcare outreach, the untimely supply of medicines to the needy and other concerns, the country is definitely in need of investment in the healthcare sector.

5) Food
Quality food is what everyone looks for a safe and secure living. Despite being an agri-driven economy, Nepal often faces challenges in the food industry, which could be a shortage of supplies, inability to store agricultural produce, implementation of improper methods in growing food, feeding the right food to children, among others. So, investment in food industry can address the aforementioned challenges and fulfil the industry’s infrastructure towards providing a quality and healthy food.

6) Start-ups & SMEs
The world is currently witnessing the start-up culture. With a large youth population, Nepal is undoubtedly a country with huge start-up potential. All ideas that stem up might not have financial backing at times. So, this is where investment steps in. Potential investors have ample opportunities to invest in Nepal’s start-up industry that is today witnessing a good rise owing to interest among youth to develop something new. Besides, there are also many Small Medium Enterprises (SMEs) in dire need of financial support for continuing their business.

7) Connectivity & Transport
Nepal is currently undergoing fast-paced development, which sheds light on its infrastructure sector, especially transportation. As part of its development initiatives, the government has already planned huge investment on transport infrastructure development including roads, railways, and airways. Considering the weak local infrastructure, the country would definitely welcome investment in developing the local transport infrastructure, to facilitate internal movement, trade or connectivity with other nations.

8) Information Technology
Nepal holds huge potential in Information Technology. Increasing internet penetration and growing mobile usage, all driven by digital trend, are boosting IT trend in Nepal, resulting in huge demand for the industry. Besides, integration of IT solutions like apps in every other sector is adding to the industry’s potential. So, is the huge scope for potential investment in Nepal IT industry, which is currently at a budding stage.

9) Education
Education is one key sector that is awaiting a huge support in Nepal. From primary level education to a higher level, Nepali education sector is still yet to reach its full potential, both in terms of standards and infrastructure. Though many countries and donor agencies have come in support, Nepali education sector is still open for huge investment towards the improvement of institutional infrastructure, access to remote communities and teaching standards and offering advanced courses at the higher level.

10) Employment & Skill Development
Migration is one common word we keep hearing in case of Nepal, as many of the country’s populace move out to foreign destinations for some form of employment. Today, Nepalis can be spotted almost in every country in skilled or unskilled jobs. So, the country definitely holds huge potential in domestic employment, which is today facing serious challenges. On the other hand, the government is putting its efforts to boost employment opportunities locally through various skill training programs, among others, which directly means the scope of development in Nepali employment sector.

11) Telecommunication
Telecommunication sector in Nepal is already performing its bit in meeting the local needs. However, increasing mobile usage and internet users is posing more challenges to the sector to rethink on its strategies to meet the growing user demands in terms of connectivity and data services. So, the sector definitely holds high investment potential.

What Makes Nepal Suitable for Investment?

The requirement on one side, there should also exist a supportive environment to invest in any area. Following factors explain the openness of the investment climate in Nepal:

1) Foreign Direct Investment
Nepal has in place a special Investment Promotion Board, chaired by the Prime Minister, to attract foreign investments across sectors and boost the economy. So, potential investors can also get the best out this great opportunity that Nepal offers through its Board. Besides, the government has proactive in welcoming Foreign Direct Investment in various domestic sectors thus encouraging foreign investment in the local projects.

2) Ease of Doing Business
Nepal Government always had a conducive environment for potential investors, majorly because of improving ease of doing business. Very recently, the country has moved two points up in its global Ease of Doing Business ranking. The World Bank’s Doing Business (DB) 2018 reported rise in Nepal’s doing business index to 105th position, citing the country’s improvement in key areas such as protecting minority investors, starting a business, registering property, paying taxes, trading across borders, enforcing contracts, resolving insolvency, among others.

3) Easy Human Resource
A majority percentage of working population make Nepal a suitable place for investment. Owing to the country’s budding stage, there will be a huge demand for employment opportunities, which makes human resource availability easier and boosts profitability for investors investing in or developing local projects. One can find cost-effective labor in Nepal whose wages are usually around USD 76 per month.

4) Strategic Position
Nepal is of high importance for the world because of the two Asian giants, India and China, neighboring it. As the country enjoys duty-free access on its trade with the two countries, that makes it easier for the investor to leverage the advantage of imports at a lower cost. Besides, natural resources that support any project such as water and electricity are also rich in Nepal, which make it more suitable.

The Conclusion
Overall, Nepal holds huge investment potential in almost every sector owing to its ongoing development that is currently at a budding stage in majority areas. Undoubtedly, Nepal offers potential investment prospects for potential investors!

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10/17/18

Canada now world’s largest legal marijuana marketplace

Canopy Growth CEO Bruce Linton, left to right, poses with the receipt for the first legal cannabis for recreation use sold in Canada to Nikki Rose and Ian Power at the Tweed shop on Water Street in St. John’s N.L. at 12:01 am NDT on Wednesday Oct. 17, 2018.

TORONTO: Ian Power was among the first to buy legal recreational marijuana in Canada but he has no plans to smoke it. He plans to frame it.

Canada became the largest country with a legal national marijuana marketplace as sales began early Wednesday in Newfoundland. Power was first in line at a store in St. John’s, Newfoundland.

“I am going to frame it and hang it on my wall. I’m not even going to smoke it. I’m just going to save it forever,” Power said.

And there was more good news for pot aficionados: Hours before a handful of retail outlets opened in the country’s easternmost province a federal official told The Associated Press that Canada will pardon all those with convictions for possessing up to 30 grams of marijuana, the now-legal threshold.

A formal announcement was planned for later Wednesday. The official, who was not authorized to speak public ahead of the announcement, said those who want to take advantage of the pardons will have to apply.

Canada has had legal medical marijuana since 2001 and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government has spent two years working toward expanding that to include recreational marijuana. The goal is to better reflect society’s changing opinion about marijuana and bring black market operators into a regulated system.

Uruguay was first was the first country to legalize marijuana.

In St. John’s, Newfoundland, hundreds of customers were lined up around the block at the private store on Water Street, the main commercial drag in the provincial capital, by the time the clock struck midnight. A festive atmosphere broke out, with some customers lighting up on the sidewalk and motorists honking their horns in support as they drove by the crowd.

“Prohibition has ended right now. We just made history,” said the 46-year-old Power, who bought a gram. “I can’t believe we did it. All the years of activism paid off. Cannabis is legal in Canada and everyone should come to Canada and enjoy our cannabis.”

Tom Clarke, an illegal pot dealer for three decades, was among the first to make a legal sale in Canada when his store opened at midnight local time in Portugal Cove, Newfoundland. He made the first sale to his dad. A crowd of 50 to 100 people waited outside and cheered him.

“This is awesome. I’ve been waiting my whole life for this,” Clarke said. “I am so happy to be living in Canada right now instead of south of the border.”

Clarke, whose middle name is Herb, has been called THC for years by his friends. His dad, Don, said he was thrilled he was among the first customers of legal pot.

“It’s been a long time coming. We’ve only been discussing this for 50 years. It’s better late than never,” he said.

The Newfoundland stores are among at least 111 legal pot shops expected to open across the nation of 37 million people on Wednesday, with many more to come, according to an Associated Press survey of the provinces.

Canadians also can order marijuana products through websites run by provinces or private retailers and have it delivered to their homes by mail.

Alberta and Quebec have set the minimum age for purchase at 18, while others have made it 19.

No stores will open in Ontario, which includes Toronto. The most populous province is working on its regulations and doesn’t expect stores until next spring.

Ryan Bose, 48, a Lyft driver in Toronto, said it’s about time.

“Alcohol took my grandfather and it took his youngest son, and weed has taken no one from me ever,” he said.

A patchwork of regulations has spread in Canada as each province takes its own approach within the framework set out by the federal government. Some are operating government-run stores, some are allowing private retailers, some both.

Canada’s national approach has allowed for unfettered industry banking, inter-province shipments of cannabis and billions of dollars in investment — a sharp contrast with national prohibition in the United States.

Nine US states have legalized recreational use of pot, and more than 30 have approved medical marijuana. California, the largest legal market in the US, earlier this month became the first state with a law mandating expungement of criminal convictions for marijuana-related offenses that no are longer illegal.

Democratic Sen. Ron Wyden of Oregon said it’s time for the US government to follow Canada’s lead.

“Now that our neighbor to the north is opening its legal cannabis market, the longer we delay, the longer we miss out on potentially significant economic opportunities for Oregon and other states across the country,” he said in a statement.

US Customs and Border Protection invited Canadian media to a conference call on Tuesday so officials could reiterate that marijuana remains illegal under US federal law and that those who are caught at the border with pot are subject to arrest and prosecution.

As Canada welcomes legalization, supply shortages could develop, as happened in some US states when legalization arrived.

Trevor Fencott, chief executive of Fire and Flower, said his company has 15 Alberta stores staffed and ready to sell marijuana, but the province has supplied only enough product to open three of them Wednesday.

“We’re aware of some of the kinks or growing pains that come with creating an industry out of whole cloth in 24 months,” Fencott said.

Brenda Tobin and her son Trevor plan to open their pot shop in Labrador City in Newfoundland and Labrador at 4:20 p.m. Wednesday — 420 is slang for the consumption of cannabis. Tobin, a longtime convenience store owner, said they will be cutting a ribbon and cake.

“We are just ecstatic,” she said.

She doesn’t expect to make much money off the pot itself, noting Newfoundland’s 8 percent cap on retail pot profits. She hopes to make money from pipes, bongs and marijuana paraphernalia.

“There’s no money in the product itself,” she said. “You got to sell $250,000 worth of product in order to make $20,000. That’s not even paying someone’s salary.”

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10/16/18

Festival Season Sheds Light on Malpractices in Nepal Market

Despite the Nepal Government’s intense market monitoring efforts in view of Dashain, substandard products continue to be sold with high price tags.

Continued instances have led the government to admit that they have failed to protect consumers from market malpractices.

Nepal Shopping & Food Outlets Sealed
Earlier on October 12, 2018, the Department of Supply Management Protection of Consumers Interest (DoSMPCI) closed business of ‘The Korean Shop’ at Jamal after finding out that apparel was being sold at five times the original price (500 percent profit margin). According to monitoring official Deepak Raj Pokharel, collecting more than 20 percent in profits falls under black marketing.

Similarly, during the last week, Peanuts Private Limited also fell under the government net when it was found to be selling high-priced garments that too without invoices.

However, the government officials have strengthened their inspection efforts to ensure mitigated risks for customers at the beginning of festivals. “The department has also planned to carry on its effort during the peak time of the festival period, especially during public holidays,” said Pokharel.

Another risk that customers face besides high prices is the excess payment on substandard or expired food items.

In this regard, Sangam Sweets & Byanjan Sweets Shops in Nepal’s Baneshwor and Annapurna Misthanna Bhandar in Gaushala faced heat over the sale of substandard sweets. According to Department of Food Technology and Quality Control (DFTQC) Spokesperson Purna Chandra Wasti, these sweets shops failed to maintain proper hygiene and used inedible coloring for food.

Grocery stores were also not spared for market malpractices including sale of expired products. During last week, the Government destroyed a huge bulk of expired food from several grocery stores in various parts of Nepal.

Cause of Market Malpractices
Nepal Consumer Rights Activists identified government officials’ seasonal inspection, their negligence against such activities and lack of coordination among themselves are the reasons for widespread corrupt sale practices.

“Rather than just conducting market inspection for mere publicity, the government has to come up with concrete plan of market regulation throughout the year,” says Madhav Timilsina, President, Consumer Rights Investigation Forum.

Officials from the Ministry of Industry, Commerce and Supplies (MoICS), Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock Development, DFTQC, Department of Supply Management (MoLDS), DoSMPCI, Nepal Bureau of Standards & Metrology and District Administration Offices are monitoring consumer goods including edibles, clothes and other items that are sold during festivals.

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Nepal’s Royal Treasure of Diamonds & Pearls Comes on Display!

Nepal is currently on news this time not just for its usual updates, instead for its more than centuries-year-old royal crown (termed ‘priceless’) unveiled at the Narayanhiti Museum/Narayanhiti Palace on October 15, 2018.

Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli unveiled to public, the centuries-old royal treasury used by the erstwhile Nepali kings of the 250-year-old Shah dynasty.

The unveiled royal treasury included the Royal Crown of 723 diamonds, 2,372 pearls, precious gems & rubies, apart from jewels, artefacts, tiara worn by Shah queens, king’s scepter, sword and shield, all housed in a solid bulletproof glass case protected by a break-in alarm!

Nepal Royal Crown of 723 Diamonds

Addressing the grand ceremony, Oli said this treasure is a reminder to the current generation about the power that lies with the general public in deciding power, prosperity and changing the course of history.

“Monarchy has become history. Though the contributions some former monarchs to national unification were positive, that doesn’t justify the system of right to rule on the basis of birth,” said Oli.

In his address, the Director General of the Department of Archaeology Bhesh Narayan Dahal said there has been a security measure in place under the central command of Nepal Army to protect the treasure.

According to the authorities, these royal artefacts are currently on display at the Surkhet and Rupandehi rooms inside the former palace building and will be open for public visit from October 22, 2018 after the Dashain festival.

Background
This national treasure, which belongs to the erstwhile Shah dynasty and used by former kings for centuries, was nationalized after the Constituent Assembly overthrew the 240-yr-old Shah regime in the country in May 2008.

King Gyanendra Shah CrownAnd, it was the King Gyanendra Shah who lastly experienced this grand royalty of the Shah dynasty and modified in 1971 for the then King Birendra Shah. 

Nepal Government’s earlier attempts to bring them to public display after the end of kingship rule did not work out due to various reasons such as security and lack of coordination among several line agencies over the issue.

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‘Stabilising domestic fuel price amid global surge is not possible’

  • The price of petroleum products has been surging notably in the domestic market since the past few months. Continuous increment in fuel price will not only add financial burden on consumers, but will also affect the entire economy of the country as fuel price is directly related to transportation cost and cost of goods in the market. Sujan Dhungana of The Himalayan Times spoke to Birendra Goit, spokesperson for NOC, to know about the rising fuel price and other issues related to the fuel industry. Excerpts:

Interview with Birendra Goit, Director of Nepal Oil Corporation at Babaharmahal in Kathmandu on Monday, October 15, 2018. PHOTO: BALKRISHNA THAPA CHHETRI

Fuel price has been rising significantly in the domestic market in recent months. What do you have to say on this?

We all know that the price of petroleum products in Nepal is directly related to the fluctuation in the price of crude oil in the international market. As the international crude oil price is getting dearer every day, petroleum products are getting dearer not only in the Nepali market but globally. Currently, crude oil is traded at $77 per barrel on an average. Similarly, the constant devaluation of the Indian currency vis-a-vis the US dollar has been affecting the price determination in Nepali market, as Nepal Oil Corporation (NOC) has to pay the Indian Oil Corporation (IOC) in Indian currency. Thus, the constant rise in the price of crude oil and value of US dollar against Indian currency has been adding pressure on the price of petroleum products. As per our calculation, NOC has to bear an additional loss of Rs 150 million in one single day even if the US dollar appreciates by one rupee. These factors have also added financial pressure on NOC in recent months. As per the price list forwarded by IOC for the first half of October, NOC has been incurring monthly loss of almost Rs 1.3 billion and our loss is bound to increase further in the coming months with crude oil price and value of US dollar showing no signs of depreciating. In this scenario, NOC does not have any option other than to adjust fuel price in line with the international price trend. As suggested by the government, we did not adjust fuel price before Dashain, as it would have had a negative impact on festive market and consumers. However, NOC will have to adjust fuel price every fortnight based on the IOC’s fuel rate. If the price of petroleum products is not adjusted accordingly, it will result in shortage of cash with NOC, which might affect our supply-payment system. If the supply-payment system is affected, it might affect the supply situation of fuel. We do not have any pending dues with IOC so far and we are issuing payments to IOC every eighth and 23rd day of the English month.

However, NOC faces criticism for every increment in fuel price. Does it mean the public is unaware about all these facts behind the fuel price revision?

The first thing we need to understand is that Nepal is fully dependent on imports for petroleum products. However, I believe that the public today is more aware about the reasons behind the recent adjustments in fuel price as compared to the past. We have been disseminating facts behind fuel price revision and other concerns and status of NOC via our own media centre and the media. All revisions in fuel price are transparent. I do not think there is any space for the public and other stakeholders to protest against fuel price adjustment, as they are scientific. Let me mention that NOC has revised fuel price around 37 times since the auto pricing mechanism was implemented towards the end of 2014. Of the total revisions, we have reduced fuel price almost 20 times. Similarly, we should also not forget that petrol price had reached Rs 140 per litre in Kathmandu Valley four years back, while the price of diesel had also stood at Rs 109 a litre. Thus, price adjustment should not be made a big issue. NOC’s prime concern is to ensure smooth supply of fuel in the market and we are committed towards it. Meanwhile, NOC is also ensuring that there will not be any interruption in fuel supply during Dashain and other upcoming festivals. We have already instructed all our depots to supply fuel as per necessity.

Don’t we have any option to stabilise fuel price despite the global surge in price of petroleum products?

We all know that Nepal does not produce fuel. As we are completely dependent on IOC and the international market for fuel, we are bound to follow the international price trend. We import fuel from India and the volume of fuel that it supplies to Nepal is almost two per cent of India’s total consumption. So, Nepal’s fuel market does not really have much effect on India’s fuel industry. Thus, India’s priority will be to its own fuel market. However, any decision that the Indian government makes targeting its market will directly affect the market in Nepal. One measure that Nepal can adopt to be less affected by the global surge in fuel price is increasing the consumption of renewable energy over fossil fuels. This will reduce import of petroleum products. However, the consumption rate of renewable energy is very low in Nepal. Another measure to stabilise the fuel price could be mobilising the price stabilisation fund (PSF). However, the size of the PSF is very small, as it has only Rs four billion money in deposit while NOC is incurring monthly losses in billions. We have sought approval from the government to mobilise the PSF to stabilise fuel price for a certain time. However, PSF cannot help NOC to control fuel price in the long run. In fact, we did not revise fuel price before Dashain with plans to recover the losses that NOC incurred in the first half of October through the PSF.

Consumers have been paying higher price also because the government has levied different taxes, like infrastructure and
pollution tax, on fuel. However, the government has not been able to use the amount collected under such headings for the set objectives.

Don’t you feel such taxes should be scrapped?

It is true that various taxes are being levied on fuel price. But it has to be noted that all such taxes are levied through the budget speech by the government and NOC does not have any authority regarding any tax. Thus, if the government feels the necessity to revise taxes on fuel, it will have to come through the budget speech.

Meanwhile, it has been reported that NOC is planning daily adjustment of fuel price. How feasible is this plan?

Daily adjustment of fuel price is necessary. However, its implementation is challenging as fuel trading in Nepal is still carried out manually. Our fuel stations are not fully automated and payment system is also manual. However, NOC is preparing groundwork to implement daily price adjustment in fuel price. We are trying to transform all fuel stations to digital system. Though it might take a few years to realise this plan, daily adjustment in fuel price is necessary and will have to be implemented in the long run.

What about the progress of the Motihari-Amlekhgunj oil pipeline?

The project is going on smoothly so far. Almost 70 per cent of the pipe laying process has been completed on Nepal side, while construction works on Indian side are smoother. Though initial pact that Nepal and India inked states that the project should be completed within 30 months, we have made significant achievement in last six months. However, a few encroachments along the project route are yet to be cleared. NOC has learnt that Ministry of Forest and Environment is set to give a nod to final draft of environment impact assessment (EIA) of the pipeline. Once EIA is approved by government, construction of the project will be expedited further.

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Panel to study sugar pricing an eye-wash

Kathmandu, October 15

Following mounting criticism on sugar price hike close to the festive season, the government had formed a committee led by a member of the National Planning Commission (NPC) to resolve the issue. However, the Office of the Prime Minister and Council of Ministers (OPMCM) has not yet corresponded with the convener and members of the panel.

The Cabinet meeting on October 7 decided to form a committee to resolve the dispute on sugar pricing and appointed Dil Bahadur Gurung, member of apex planning body, as convener of panel.

It has already been nine days and the Dashain vacation is set to begin from Tuesday. However, the OPMCM has not yet corresponded with the panel, which should have been promptly informed based on the gravity and sensitivity of the issue. Talking to The Himalayan Times, NPC Member Gurung said that he has not received the terms of reference (ToR) from the OPMCM. “I was aware about my appointment as convener of panel through media reports, but I haven’t been apprised about the appointment by the government,” he reiterated.

The panel formed by the government comprises seven members, including cane growers, sugar mills, representatives from organisations that are involved in protection of consumer rights, and officials of the Ministry of Industry, Commerce and Supplies and Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock Development.

Meanwhile, it looks like the government is not very serious about maintaining the price of sugar at the rate negotiated with the sugar mill owners before the quantitative restriction on sugar import was imposed. The government imposed the quantitative restriction on imports close to the festive season, and as a result, the sugar mills and those that have stocks of imported sugar are hiking the retail price arbitrarily. However, the government has turned a deaf ear to the plight of the consumers.

In a recent development, Minister of Industry, Commerce and Supplies Matrika Prasad Yadav publicly refused to execute the retail price of sugar at Rs 63 per kg as instructed by the Public Accounts Committee of the Legislature-Parliament. Minister Yadav said that his ministry will monitor and make sure the retail price of sugar is kept at Rs 70 a kg in fair price shops that have been set up to correct the market price, which could rise during the festive season due to increasing demand of consumable goods.

Following this incident, there has been a rift between the government and parliamentary panel. Both have formed a committee each to study and recommend how the dispute on sugar pricing could be resolved. The PAC sub-committee led by lawmaker Lekh Raj Bhatta has already submitted a report to the PAC pointing at the anomalies and strong nexus between government, sugar mill owners and importers behind the price hike of sugar.

“The government has enticed the sugar mills and importers who have stocks of sugar to hike the price by imposing quantitative restriction on import, which is the only way to correct the market price,” said lawmaker Bhatta. The panel formed by the PAC has recommended an investigation on the issue by the Commission for the Investigation of Abuse of Authority (CIAA). The probe panel has said that sugar worth Rs 1.69 billion will be sold during the festive season. It is reported that sugar mills and importers have raised sugar price by Rs 20 to Rs 25 per kg following the quantitative restriction on sugar import.

Lawmakers have commented that the government’s decision to conduct a study on sugar pricing is just an eye-wash and the government is not serious about controlling the rampant hike in price. “The government has been exposed on how it has been protecting the interest of the sugar mills and sugar importers,” said Bhatta.

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10/15/18

NA shortlists six firms to build bridges along Fast Track

Kathmandu, October 14

The Nepali Army (NA) has shortlisted six international contractor companies for construction of 62 high-arch bridges along the 76.2-kilometre-long Kathmandu-Tarai Fast Track today.

The NA had called a global tender bid to submit the proposal for the construction of the bridges on April 5. It had asked the interested companies to submit their proposals based on engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) model.

According to NA, five Chinese firms and one Turkish construction company have been selected in the initial phase. The shortlisted companies are China State Construction Engineering Corporation Ltd; Hunan Road and Bridge Construction Group Company Ltd; China Railway 20 Bureau Group Corporation; COVEC-CREGC Joint Venture and Longjian Road and Bridge Co Ltd of China, and Dogus Insaat Ve Ticaret AS & Makyol Insaat Sanayi Turizm Ve Ticaret AS Joint Venture of Turkey.

“As per our tender notice, the company that has been selected will be responsible for building 62 bridges out of the 99 bridges. The remaining bridges will be built by the NA,” informed Brigadier General Gokul Bhandari, spokesperson for NA.

As per Nepali Army, the selected firm will be responsible for the design, planning, engineering, procurement, construction, commissioning, operation and maintenance of the high-arch bridges.

According to Bhandari, NA will further study the technical and financial proposals of the six shortlisted companies and will soon select the best company.

The NA had decided to award the contract to conduct the detailed project report (DPR) of the Fast Track to a South Korean joint venture company called Yooshin and Pyunghwa on September 19. The Korean joint venture company has said it will submit the DPR by February next year. The project is expected to be completed four years after the DPR has been submitted.

“We have almost finished the process of cutting the trees along the alignment of the Kathmandu-Nijgadh Fast Track,” informed Bhandari.

Due to opposition from the local Newari community, the alignment of the Fast Track had to be changed and the Nepali Army had proposed a route via Farsidol of Lalitpur. The proposed new alignment will pass through Farsidol, which is five kilometres south from the previously selected route that was via Khokana and Bungamati. However, the government has not yet decided on NA’s proposal.

The Nepali Army has been assigned the full responsibility to construct the Fast Track project, which it has segregated into three segments. Out of the 76.2-kilometre-long expressway, it plans to construct 17 km on its own, hire dependable Nepali contractors for 37 km of the stretch and sign up foreign contractors for the remaining 22.2 km of tunnel and bridge sections.

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Dispersive soil affects Sikta irrigation project

Kathmandu, October 14

The main reason for the frequent collapse of the Sikta Irrigation Project — a national pride project — is the dispersive soil structure in the area.

A government study committee that was formed to study the cause behind the frequent collapse of the project has revealed that the government had not conducted a feasibility study before the project was commissioned.

The Ministry of Energy, Water Resources and Irrigation (MoEWRI) had formed a study committee to find out the facts behind the collapse of the canal on August 8.

The government had formed a five-member team led by Sushil Chandra Tiwari, joint secretary at the MoEWRI. The committee had submitted its final report to Minister of Energy, Water Resources and Irrigation Barsha Man Pun on Friday.

The study report states that while designing the canal, the consultant had not carried out a proper test of the soil structure along the path of the canal, which is why problems have surfaced now.

The main canal suffered heavy damages in between a stretch of 20 km and 25 km from Rapti River on two occasions — in June 2016 and June 2018.

The report also states that drainage outlets should have been made for excess water to flow out of the canal during the monsoon when the canal receives a huge amount of rainwater and sediment deposits.

The study report has also suggested the government to ask Kalika Construction Company that is responsible for construction of the Sikta Irrigation Project to reconstruct the damaged parts of the canal.

The project is being built with an aim to irrigate 80 per cent of the fertile land in Banke district but questions have been raised as to whether it will be able to fulfil its objective due to the frequent collapse of the canal.

The report has also suggested the government to manage the sediments that are deposited in the canal by the adjoining streams during the monsoon season. It has further asked the government to immediately construct cross-drainage
system and also build escape and spillway structures in necessary places.

The report further says that in places where there is dispersive soil structure the government needs to add better quality soil from other places so as to prevent the canal from collapsing.

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KMC examining health of livestock

KATHMANDU: The Kathmandu Metropolitan City (KMC), in coordination with the District Administration Office and District Veterinary Office, has been examining the health of livestock, including goats, mountain goats and sheep that are being sold in the Valley’s market.

A separate health examination team of KMC is examining the health of livestock kept for sale in major markets in the Valley, including Khasi Bazar in Kalanki, Bagbazar and Bijulibazar, informed Gyanendra Karki, spokesperson for KMC.

As per him, the examination team of KMC has been marking red paint on horns of unhealthy goats while healthy goats have been marked with green colour on its horns.

KMC has urged consumers to purchase and consume goats and other livestock with green paint on their horns.

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Govt intensifies inspection in major markets, highways

Kathmandu, October 14

The government has begun festive market-centric market inspection from today.

Market monitoring bodies of the government — the Department of Food Technology and Quality Control (DoFTQC) and the Department of Commerce, Supplies and Protection of Consumers (DoCSPC) — have started the Dashain-focused market inspection, both on joint basis and individually.

Moreover, officials of both the departments informed that market inspection will continue even during Dashain holidays in major markets in city areas and different highway hotels as per necessity.

“Commuters have been complaining about the low quality of food that hotels along the highways have been serving to consumers,” informed Purna Chandra Osti, spokesperson for DoFTQC, adding that the department has deployed separate inspection teams to monitor highway hotels for this Dashain.

Similarly, DoFTQC also said that festival market focused market inspection has been intensified in Kathmandu Valley.

While DoFTQC has been inspecting the food quality in the market, the DoCSPC has also mobilised its inspection teams to curb market anomalies, including sales of substandard products and arbitrary hike in price of goods.

“We have mobilised more than one dozen inspection teams in the market to curb possible anomalies,” informed Yogendra Gauchan, director general at DoCSPC.

These teams will especially focus their inspection on goods that have high consumption rate during Dashain like sugar, rice, lentils, apparels, sweets, dairy products and livestock, among others, according to Gauchan.

Meanwhile, Gauchan also informed that the department is carrying out joint inspection with DoFTQC and other government agencies in major markets in the Valley.

Though the supply of substandard goods is normal in markets across the country, anti-consumer activities are rampant especially during the festive season when the consumption of goods, foods and other services is usually high.

Meanwhile, the government has said that it will give continuity to the festive market inspection till Chhath.

Similarly, the Department of Transport Management (DoTM) has mobilised its inspection teams to curb possible anomalies in the public transportation sector during the Dashain festival.

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Cabinet says to form IEDI in all provinces

Kathmandu, October 14

The government has decided to set up an Industrial Enterprise Development Institute (IEDI) each in all the seven provinces.

Aimed at strengthening the industrial and entrepreneurship sector, the Cabinet meeting today gave a nod to proposal of Ministry of Industry, Commerce and Supplies (MoICS) to establish such institute in all provinces, informed Matrika Prasad Yadav, minister for industry, commerce and supplies.

The government had established IEDI in 1996, under the Industrial Enterprise Development Institute Act 1996, to develop human and knowledge resources for entrepreneurship and business promotion in Nepal. However, the institute had been limited only at the central level so far.

With a view to promote business in the country through entrepreneurship development, the Industrial Enterprise Development
Institute Board, chaired by Minister Yadav, had taken the proposal to expand IEDIs to the provincial level.

Since its inception, IEDI has been engaged in running various impact-generating quality tools such as training, research, consultancy, enterprise education, and management development programmes. The institute is also running various short-term and long-term training programmes targeting intermediary organisations as well as potential and existing entrepreneurs.

The IEDI also focuses on research and development, testing and dissemination of best practices in business development around the world.

“Formation of such institutes in all provinces will help entrepreneurship to grow in Nepal and promote business,” said Industry Secretary Yam Kumari Khatiwada.

However, Khatiwada informed that IEDI already has its local offices in Provinces 1, 3, 4 and 5, which will now be handed over to the provincial governments. “If the Cabinet has approved our proposal, IEDI will be established in Provinces 2, 6 and 7,” said Khatiwada.

Meanwhile, the Cabinet has decided to keep Special Economic Zone (SEZ) Authority at central level only.

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Import financing, revenue positively correlated

Kathmandu, October 14

A strong correlation has been witnessed between revenue growth and banks’ loan expansion as the country’s revenue and banks’ loan expansion are based on imports. Import financing by banks has been increasing rapidly as the government has been achieving the ambitious revenue collection target in this fiscal, as per Anal Raj Bhattarai, financial sector analyst.

It is reported that 44 per cent of the total revenue and 50 per cent of the total tax revenue comes from the customs points as
customs duty, excise and value added tax (VAT) collected from the customs. Customs duty alone contributes 20 per cent of the total tax revenue.

“When banks are financing imports they are automatically contributing to the government’s revenue,” said Bhattarai, adding, “If there is slackness in banks’ financing in imports it will adversely affect the government’s revenue.”

He explained that both import financing and revenue growth are a win-win scenario for both the financial sector and the government because both are making money by fuelling imports. “Loan expansion by banks has accelerated compared to the sluggish deposit collection in this fiscal, however, if the central bank puts a brake on loan expansion then it will affect the government’s revenue collection due to slackness in imports,” according to Bhattarai.

“Import and import related short-term financing consist of 50 per cent of the credit mobilised by the banks.”

As the government has set a revenue collection target of Rs 945.56 billion in this fiscal compared to Rs 730.05 billion of previous fiscal 2017-18, it is certain that imports are going to be the major source of revenue. In this regard, credit from banks could increase substantially in this fiscal, however, the slow deposit growth has been dampening the potential loan growth. In the first two months of the current fiscal, the government has collected more revenue from the customs than it has targeted.

Analysts have said that import financing from banks has increased in recent fiscal years as the government has tightened the under-invoicing that was rampant in the previous years at the customs points. Earlier, the remittance money was suspected to have been diverted for import financing, hence the import figures in the past could have been under reported. However, after the appointment of Yubaraj Khatiwada as finance minister, he has declared to clean the source (customs) to eliminate the irregularities in pricing of goods, billing and inland tax (income tax and VAT).

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NIBL opens six ATMs

KATHMANDU: Nepal Investment Bank Ltd (NIBL) has inaugurated new ATMs in six various locations of Kathmandu, Bhaktapur, Rasuwa and Sarlahi.

As per a statement released by the bank, ATMs have been opened at its branch in Bafal of Sitapaila, at Grande International Hospital in Dhapasi, and in front of Nepal Rastra Bank’s gate in Baluwatar.

Similarly, NIBL has opened an ATM at Bhat Bhateni Supermarket in Thimi of Bhaktapur. The bank has also opened an ATM each at its extension counter in Dhunche of Rasuwa and at its branch in Barahathawa in Sarlahi.

The statement adds that the new ATMs were opened with an objective to provide better financial services to the customers. With the new additions, NIBL now has a network of 107 ATMs across the country.

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