Nepal Today

Monday, March 25, 2013

UCPN MAOIST CENTRAL COMMITTEE MEETS AGAIN 30 MARCH Kathmandu, 26 March: UCPN central committee meets again 30 March after deciding Monday to appoint an expanded 399 member central committee to accommodate rival factions in the party ahead of constituent assembly elections The committee Monday didn’t appoint members even amid a decision to expand the body.. nnnn NO MORE CAMOUFLAGUES FOR NP AT PEACE Kathmandu, 26 March: Have you ever mistaken a Nepal Police (NP) official for one in the Armed Police Force (APF), or the other way round? Given the similarity between the camouflage uniform of the NP and the regular outfit of the APF, the confusion is largely valid, Ankit Adhikary writes in The Kathmandu Post. .. However, this befuddlement will soon clear up if the Ministry of Home Affairs (MoHA) endorses a recently lodged proposal by the NP to replace its camouflage uniform with the traditional dangri. The dangri, which is no longer in use, was a popular uniform worn by officers of all levels during training, patrols and other field operations. A mixture of dark blue and light purple, the dangri consists of a full-sleeved shirt with large pockets on both sides of the chest, a sports cap and baggy pants usually tucked inside regulation police boots. The uniform was worn during Panchayat years and was used even after the restoration of democracy in 1991. After the inception of the Maoist insurgency in the country, this uniform slowly fell into disuse, as the NP, which was fighting a guerilla war, switched to the camouflage with patches of light and dark blue and black. “The police are no longer at war,” said DIG Keshav Adhikari, NP spokesperson. “So the use of camouflage uniform by the police is not relevant anymore. There are other security forces such as the Army and the APF that are already using camouflage uniforms.” Keeping in mind the police’s social role, a proposal was made to change their uniform in order to distinguish them from other security personnel, he said. According to DIG Adhikari, the NP would not require additional budget from the government to revive the dangri, as it is still the primary uniform for training and field operations. “We can implement this plan with our existing budget,” he said. MoHA Secretary Navin Ghimire said that the proposal, which they received some two weeks ago, is under consideration. “We are studying costs and other factors that matter,” said Ghimire. The NP claims to be 61,171 strong, meaning that at least as many dangri pairs are necessary even to provide one set to each police individual. The dangri, which will be worn by officials of all ranks with their respective insignia, would work as an alternative to the regular blue uniform worn on formal duties. nnnn PETROLEUM REGILATORY ORDERS FLAYED Kathmandu, 26 March: The recently released Petroleum and Gas Transaction (Regulatory) Orders 2013, envisaged to open the petroleum business to private investment, has drawn flak from gasoline dealers and experts over its effective implementation without related legislation, Sangam Prasain writesin The Kathmandu Post.. On March 13, the government published the regulatory orders in the Nepal Gazette, opening the way for the private sector to engage in oil refining and trading and ending the state-owned Nepal Oil Corporation’s (NOC) four-decade-old monopoly. Experts have expressed doubts that the regulatory orders will attract massive private investment and address potential risks. According to them, the orders are too weak to govern the petroleum business which has a high investment risk and is volatile in nature. “How can the government draw massive investments by just issuing regulatory orders?” said Purushottam Ojha, former secretary at the Ministry of Commerce and Supplies. “As petroleum is a very high risk business, the regulatory orders cannot govern its consequences. The government should have brought a Petroleum Act through an ordinance instead of issuing regulatory orders,” he added. The minimum paid-up capital required for refining companies, petroleum trading firms, LPG importing firms and LPG bottling plants has been set at Rs 20 billion, Rs 10 billion, Rs 5 billion and Rs 50 million respectively by the regulatory orders. Private companies dealing in petrol, diesel and kerosene are required to install a depot with a capacity of 20,000 kl while LPG bottling plants are required to have a stock capacity of 500 tonnes. Meanwhile, experts have pointed out that the orders have not ensured the investment of the financiers as the Nepal government can suspend their license at any time. “For example, if a minister is not satisfied with an investor, he is allowed to suspend the license over even a small issue,” said Ojha. “The base of the regulatory orders is too fragile to assure investors who will need to invest billions. Hence, there is a need for an act.” Some three years ago, the Commerce Ministry had tabled a Petroleum Act at Parliament, but it was sent back for further consultation. Government officials said that four to five rounds of consultations had been held since then on the proposed act. Energy expert Amrit Nakarmi said that the government has entrusted regulatory work to a unit of the Department of Commerce. “It is doubtful how effective the orders will be when a small unit has been assigned to look after such a volatile and high investment business,” he added. “The government should have brought a Petroleum Act. However, as there is no Parliament at present, it should have formed an independent regulatory body to look after it,” said Nakarmi, who is also a former general manager of NOC. Concurring with Ojha, Nakarmi said that a big question can be raised over the provision allowing the government to revoke a company’s license if its work is found to be unsatisfactory. “It can be stated that the orders lack wider consultation. The oil business is a very competitive business, and Nepal being a land-locked country which is totally dependent on imports, there is a need for a Petroleum Act,” he said. Both Ojha and Nakarmi rejected the idea that gasoline dealers and retailers had opposed the regulatory orders because they felt the need for an act. The sellers will naturally look after their interest, but it is the government that needs to examine logically whether it can govern the petroleum business through a regulatory order, they said. Meanwhile, the Nepal Petroleum Dealers National Association (NPDNA), the Nepal LPG Industry Association (NLPGIA) and the Nepal Petroleum Transport Entrepreneurs Federation (NPTEF) have closed ranks to oppose the government’s decision. They have threatened to stop fuel sales from April 1 if the government does not revoke the regulatory orders. “We have submitted a memorandum to the Prime Minister’s Office asking it to revoke the orders,” said NPTEF president Khageshore Bohara. “The government has issued regulatory orders instead of an act, and we are not satisfied with that,” Bohara said. The orders will hurt the dealers and retailers, he added. According to him, the ministry has issued the orders unilaterally without holding extensive discussions first. “If the petrol pumps were to comply with the orders, there won’t be a single one remaining in the Kathmandu valley,” he said. As per the orders, gasoline stations cannot be established within a 500-m radius of each other. Similarly, the maximum age limit for fuel tankers has been brought down to 15 years from 25 years. Bohara said that there were a number of provisions in the orders that traders would not be able to fulfil. “We are not against the entry of private players, but the orders are solely aimed at displacing the existing traders,” Bohara added. Nakarmi said that the government’s move was positive, but it lacks proper homework. “The entry of the private sector will make the market competitive and also attract multinational companies.” Experts said that only four oil companies would be feasible here considering the size of the market. In order to bring private investment, the government should end subsidies on petroleum, but it is a difficult thing to do as it has always been a political agenda, they said. The petroleum business in Nepal is worth Rs 97 billion annually. Demand has been rising at the rate of 15-20 percent annually due to extended load-shedding hours and development activities. nnnn


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