Saturday, September 14, 2019

'US refrains from 'dirty laundry' in Nepal'

Kathmandu, Sept. 13
The United States has said that its activities in Nepal are transparent and focused on socio-economic development. 

"We do not have any 'dirty laundry' in Nepal," Clinton S. Brown, Chief of Political Section at the Embassy of the United States, Kathmandu, said at a seminar on 'Overview of public private partnerships' (PPPs) organised by the Commercial Law Development Programme of the US Department of Commerce on Friday.

"There is no secret logics or bases in Nepal-USA relations in the last seven decades. We are here to support Nepal," he added. 

He said that it was a matter of satisfaction that the economic agenda has become the focus of the government as well as the people in Nepal. 

Brown said that the Indo-Pacific Strategy (IPS) was wrongly translated into Nepali and maintained that it should be understood as only 'policy'. 

He also said that the IPS was not a club which would welcome Nepal as a new member.
"It's a policy to help Asia to remain free, open and secure. We want people to come out of poverty and have better earning and lifestyle," he said. 

Speaking on the occasion, PPP experts from the USA said that there should be a strong political will and legal clarity at all levels of the government to make the PPP projects successful. 

They also recommended starting from small scale projects at the local levels. 

"Direct engagement in a large-scale infrastructure project can be challenging in the beginning. Therefore, the governments should begin with small projects and increase their capacity so as to implement the large PPP projects," said Lee Weintraub, a PPP legal expert.

He said that increasing capacity of the subnational government should be the priority, and PPP units could be established to facilitate such projects at the provincial and local levels. 

"The success of PPP project depends on two factors – bankable financing model in the part of the government and political support for the project," he said. 

According to Weintraub, PPP can be a good solution for timely delivery of infrastructure projects as the private sector is efficient and brings efficiency in building and operating the project. Procurement is quick and easy, and project completes in time as the investor has to begin the services at the earliest. 

Another expert Sam Beydoun said that lack of competition amongst the bidders and lack of transparency in the bidding process could jeopardise the PPP project. He recommended for reducing the cumbersome procure procurement process to make it a success. 

Published in The Rising Nepal daily on 14 September 2019. 

Fight for business interest: Yadav

Kathmandu, Sept. 12
Minister for Industry, Commerce and Industry Matrika Prasad Yadav on Thursday urged the private sector to have similar views in business and investment policies. 

"Private sector business associations come to the government with different, sometimes confronting demands which push the government into a fix," he said while addressing the concluding ceremony of the Nepal Infrastructure Summit 2019. 

He said that the government had been trying to create better environment for the private sector and foreign investors and facilitate them with simpler process and a favourable legal and policy framework. 

Minister Yadav suggested the private business community to create a business front to fight for their interest. 

"You can create a front of all business association and make a single opinion in terms of business policies, it will help the government in terms of creating uniform policies," he said. 

"You can learn from the political parties in creating a front to push your interest and demands. Two large communist parties formed an alliance in the last election, and you have seen the results," he added. 

According to him, the government and the private businesses in the country should focus on increasing domestic products and substituting imports. 

Minister Yadav also made a call for inviting investment in Nepal stating that the political stability after decades of instability was achieved and political transition was concluded and the country had the sole agenda of economic development. 

"Nepal is a virgin land for investment in any area, I would like to welcome both the Nepali and foreign investors," he said. 

He also maintained that the government would put every effort to create and maintain conducive investment climate. Most of the laws and policies related to business and investment are amended so that they would support private investment. 

The two-day summit has witnessed the presence of about 500 investors and businesspersons and brought together 60 partners and collaborators. 

Vice-President of CNI Birendra Raj Pandey said that 115 projects were showcased at the summit. However, most of the projects are just identified and do not have even a pre-feasibility study. 

Speakers of the closing plenary suggested introducing the concept of national project bank.
The CNI had organised Infrastructure Idea Hunt, an innovation competition, on the occasion.
Bidhi Mandal and Santosh Yadav's project 'Awas' – model house of plastic – win the competition and bagged a purse of Rs. 150,000. The project aims at making house of plastic and addressing the environment challenge. 

Two ideas – Home Automation of Shristi Awale, Sushant Maharjan and Gautam Shrestha and Traffic Mobility Platform of Ramesh Pathak, Barun Pandey, Saramsha Dotel, Anish Bhusal and Avishekh Shrestha – became the runner ups of the competition. They received Rs. 100,000 cash each. 

Published in The Rising Nepal daily on 13 September 2019. 

Wang meets Prachanda and Deupa, returns Beijing

Kathmandu, Sept. 10
Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi on Tuesday met chairman of ruling Nepal Communist Party (NCP) Pushpa Kamal Dahal 'Prachanda' and president of the main opposition Nepali Congress Sher Bahadur Deuba on Tuesday.

Wang and Prachanda talked about enhancing Chinese cooperation and support in Nepal's development efforts. 

"The discussion was focused on strengthening the bilateral friendly relations between the two neighbours. The two leaders also discussed about the prospective visit of Chinese President Xi Jingping," read a statement posted at Prachanda's personal website. 

Prachanda said they expected support of high quantity and quality. He said that Wang was positive about the issues raised by NCP chairperson. 

He assured the visiting leader that Nepal would exhibit its adherence to the 'One China Policy' through its deeds and wouldn't just pay a lip service. 

Prachanda also sent greetings to the Communist Party of China and President Xi Jinping for their success in creating a modern country in a short time. 

Chinese FM Wang said that China always wanted to be a good friend of Nepal. He said that political stability after the formation of the CNP-led government was the foundation of development of the country. 

"China is positive to work to fulfil Nepal's development aspirations," he said.
During a meeting with NC President Deuba, the two leaders talked about the recent political and development scenario in the country and bilateral cooperation between Nepal and China. 

Wang who arrived in Kathmandu on Sunday on a 3-day official visit to Nepal concluded his sojourn on Tuesday and returned to Beijing. 

The Chinese FM held a bilateral meeting with his Nepali counterpart Pradeep Kumar Gyawali on Monday. The meeting talked about enhancing the cooperation under the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) and executing the projects and agreements signed in the past. 

They also talked about the development of infrastructure and energy projects in Nepal with
Chinese investment and support, easy access of Nepali products to the Chinese markets and
The climate change issues.

Wang had called on President Bidya Devi Bhandari and Prime Minster KP Sharma Oli on the same day. 

Wang also visited Bhaktapur and Chandragiri during his three-day stay in Kathmandu.
There were no major agreements between the two countries during the Chinese foreign minister’s visit. However, its result will be exhibited in future, if Chinese President Xi Jinping comes to Nepal. Though both sides have not disclosed any information regarding the top-level visit from China, the purpose of the Wang’s visit was said to prepare grounds for the Chinese President’s visit.

Published in The Rising Nepal daily on 11 September 2019. 

Chinese prez to visit Nepal soon

Kathmandu, Sept. 9
Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said on Monday that there would be a visit to Nepal by President Xi Jinping at the earliest.
In a meeting with Prime Minister KP Sharma this evening, he said that China was preparing for a top-level political visit to Nepal and it would happen soon.
"Nepal's expectation to welcome the Chinese president will be fulfilled soon. However, Wang did not disclose the time of visit," said PM Oli's Foreign Affairs Advisor Dr. Rajan Bhattarai.
Wang, who is currently on a 3-day official visit to Nepal, called on Prime Minister Oli at his residence in Baluawatar.
Nepal is waiting for a visit of Chinese President Xi Jingping. Earlier, the then Foreign Minister Krishna Bahadur Mahara, and present Foreign Minister Pradeep Gyawali had invited Xi on behalf of the President and prime ministers of Nepal.
Although there has been positive response from the Chinese side, the date is not fixed yet. Although there had been multiple top-level Nepali visits to China, there are no reciprocal visits from the latter since the then Premier Wen Jiabao visited Nepal in January 2012.
Gyawali said that as the country had entered into the political and policy stability after decades of instability and transition, it was the high time to welcome the top Chinese leaders.
According to Dr. Bhattarai, PM Oli has said that Nepal was committed to taking the bilateral relations to a newer height. He also expressed hope that the agreement signed during his China visit would be implemented soon.
PM Oli also expressed happiness over China's support in Nepal's infrastructure, education and social sectors and the importance the former had given to its smaller neighbour.
Wang conveyed wishes of Chinese President Xi and PM Li Keqiang to PM Oli for his better health.
Prime Minister Oli had reiterated Nepal's adherence to 'One China policy' and expressed commitment that Nepal would not let any force to use its soil against any neighbour and friendly nation.
Earlier in the afternoon, FMs Gyawali and Wang held a delegation level bilateral meeting  where they deliberated on enhancing the cooperation under the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) and executing the projects and agreements signed in the past.
They also talked about the development of infrastructure and energy projects in Nepal with the Chinese investment and support, easy access of Nepali products to the Chinese markets and climate change issues.
Minister Gyawali appreciated China’s continued support for Nepal’s socio-economic development and underlined the need for strengthening cooperation in the fields of connectivity, infrastructure, energy and education.
Likewise, the Chinese FM assured support to Nepal’s development endeavours.
The two sides also exchanged substantive views on promoting bilateral economic cooperation with special focus on trade, investment and tourism.
Both sides underscored the importance of the exchange of high-level visits on a regular basis in order to develop mutual trust and confidence, and to further strengthen bilateral relations, said the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MoFA) in a statement.
The two Foreign Ministers agreed to implement the agreements and understandings reached between two sides in the past.
They also agreed to continue cooperation in various regional and multilateral forums on matters of mutual interests.
The two sides signed different agreements where China would support Nepal in building a hospital in Mustang, provide 5,000 pieces tents for emergencies and send volunteers to teach Chinese language in Nepal. The estimated budget of the hospital is about Rs. 350 million.
China-Nepal cross-border railway project was also discussed during the meeting. Wang said that he was aware of the project and expressed commitment to materialising it.
Nepali delegation included Minister for Finance Dr. Yuba Raj Khatiwada, Foreign Secretary Shankar Das Bairagi, Finance Secretary Rajan Khanal, Nepali Ambassador to China Leela Mani Poudyal and Chief of North-East Asia Division at the MoFA Kali Prasad Pokharel.
Chinese Foreign Minister also visited Chandragiri and enjoyed an hour- long hiking atop the hill. Chairman of IME Group Chandra Prasad Dhakal welcomed Wang at the site.
He is scheduled to meet Nepal Communist Party chair Pushpa Kamal Dahal 'Prachanda' and leader of the main opposition party Nepali Congress Sher Bahadur Deuba on Tuesday morning. He will leave Kathmandu for China in the afternoon on the same day.

Wang calls on President Bhandari
Visiting Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi called on President Bidya Devi Bhandari at Sheetal Niwas on Monday.
They talked about the bilateral relations between the two countries, mutual interest and cooperation during the meeting, said the President's Office in a press statement.
"President Bhandari expressed her hope that such high-level visits will strengthen the age-old relations between Nepal and China. It will also contribute to the people to people relations as well," read the statement.
High government officials of both the countries were present in the meeting. 

Published in The Rising Nepal daily on 10 September 2019. 

WB suggest to mobilise private sector to close infra gap

Kathmandu, Sept. 12
For Nepal, it is the right time to mobilise private sector solutions to close the infrastructure gap on the path to achieving the country’s growth aspirations, says the World Bank Group’s 'Nepal Infrastructure Sector Assessment report' launched on Thursday on the sidelines of the Nepal Infrastructure Summit, 2019.
The report assesses the energy, transport and urban infrastructure sectors together with cross-cutting issues and recommends interventions that combine short-term and longer-term structural and policy changes with tailored project implementation approaches to unlock private sector financing and cooperation with the public sector.
“For real benefits to accrue to Nepal’s citizens, the quality and sustainability of infrastructure services needs to improve with substantial and efficient investment,” stated Jingdong Hua, World Bank Vice President and Treasurer. “Unlocking private sector investment is key to sustainable infrastructure development to promote growth and equity and providing access to services, jobs and markets.”
Nepal’s investment needs average 10-15 per cent of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) annually over the next decade as the country aspires to graduate from the status of the least developed country by 2022 and towards middle-income country by 2030.
Nepal has historically relied on a mix of public and private financing in the electricity sector and a two to four-fold increase in investment is needed to meet the country’s projected electricity demand, said the WB.
Likewise, public and private resources are key to developing the country’s transport infrastructure and address the issues of chronic underinvestment and improvements in connectivity and safety.
According to the multilateral donor, Nepal is also among the fastest growing urban populations and while local governments under the federal setup are primarily responsible for public service delivery, the urban sector faces a paradoxical case of insufficient capital expenditure to meet demand on one hand and low capital spending on the other.
“The country’s transition to federalism presents a unique opportunity to define roles, establish clarity, and build a renewed, strong partnership between the public and private sector,” stated Idah Z. Pswarayi-Riddihough, World Bank Country Director for Nepal, Sri Lanka and Maldives. “In our aim to maximise finance for development, a strong focus is required in the areas of governance and capacity and regulatory frameworks together with a lens on gender and social inclusion and social and environmental management.”
While public investment is integral, particularly in sub-sectors that require large investment, the report recommends creating a conducive environment for private sector participation through sector-level groundwork, sustainable project structures, systematic and strategic public investment management and project selection, and investment-friendly policies and regulations.
“Given the huge funding gap and about 30 million population eager to see speedy improvements in their quality of life, public-private partnerships (PPP) can be a useful tool for Nepal to leverage expertise and efficiency of the private sector while raising capital to meet the development needs of the country,” said Wendy Werner, IFC Country Manager for Nepal, Bhutan and Bangladesh. 
“IFC can bring to bear its global expertise in structuring PPP deals in addition to working with the domestic and foreign private sector to increase investments in Nepal.”
 Published in The Rising Nepal daily on 13 September 2019. 

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