Nepal Today

Sunday, May 19, 2013

GOLD PRICE FALLS BY ANOTHER 400 PER TOLA Kathmandu, 20 May: Gold price fell by another Rs,400 per tola Sunday compared to the previous day. The yellow metal was trading for Rs.48,700 per tola. Nnnnn -- MAOISTS, ALLIES TRY SEEK COMMON CANDIDATE Kathmandu, 20 May:: The Federal Democratic Republican Alliance led by the Unified CPN-Maoist today decided to prepare a list of common candidates by including more like-minded parties, The Himalayan Times reports. “As agreed earlier, we’ll prepare a list of common candidates from the FDRA soon to be endorsed in the next meeting,” said FDRA spokesman Prem Bahadur Singh. During today’s meeting held at the UCPN-M’s party headquarters, the leaders dwelt on the work-plan of the alliance, Singh said. He added the alliance would implement the recommendations made by the work-plan report that includes extending the alliance at the district-level as soon as the full meeting endorses it. With the absence of some key Madhes-based leaders, including Mahantha Thakur, Mahendra Yadav, Rajkishor Yadav and Rajendra Mahato, the meeting could not take any concrete decision. The Madhes-based parties have been opposing Dahal’s idea of announcing common candidates from the FDRA. Singh said discussions would be held with the leaders opposing the idea to sort out differences with them. The previous meeting of the FDRA held two months ago had decided to fight the election in a united manner, prepare common manifesto and posters and choose common candidates wherever possible. The alliance had also decided to make necessary arrangements to meet financial, technical and physical requirements in the upcoming election. Singh said the alliance was in constant touch with like-minded parties, including the Federal Socialist Party. Only 14 parties out of a total of 20 that are a part of the alliance were present during today’s meeting, he said. He added that another meeting would be held in a few days with all the key leaders of the FDRA to take concrete decisions on strategy to contest polls. Nnnn MORE RECORDS ESTABLISHED ON EVEREST Kathmandu, 20 May: With barely a few days remaining for the climbing season to come to an end, mountaineers made full use of a clear weather window today to set several new records by summiting the world’s highest peak, The Himalayan Times reports.. David Liano Gonzalez, 33, set a new world record by scaling Mt Everest twice in one climbing season; British explorer Daniel Hughes, who spoke to the BBC from the top of the world’s highest mountain using his smartphone, became the first person to give a live interview from the roof of the world; British mountaineer Kenton Cool reached Everest summit for the 11th time, a record for any British climber; and Samina Baig became the first Pakistani woman to scale the world’s highest peak. Gonzalez, from Mexico, summited Mt Everest from both Nepal and Tibet sides in one climbing season, said former president of Nepal Mountaineering Association Ang Tshering Sherpa. “The ascent from the north side is his fifth summit of Mt Everest,” said Sherpa. On May 11, he had scaled Mt Everest from the south side. Today he reached the peak again from the north side at 04:35am local time. Cool, on the other hand, reached the summit of Mt Everest, the second of three summits he is attempting to complete in one continuous climb over the course of 10 days. If successful Cool, who lives in Gloucestershire, will become the first person to achieve the feat. The two peaks he has scaled so far are Everest and Nuptse (7,861m), with Lhotse (8,516m) ascent expected to happen later. In his 10th climb, achieved in May last year, Cool carried an Olympic gold medal to the summit which fulfilled a pledge made by a member of the 1922 British Everest expedition who failed to do the same. Hughes, who spoke to BBC from atop Mt Everest, reached the summit in an attempt to raise £1m for the charity Comic Relief. Baig, the first Pakistani woman to scale Mount Everest, completed the climb at around 7:30am local time with her brother Mirza Ali, who becomes the third and youngest Pakistani male to scale the mountain. Ali (29) and Baig (21) are natives of Shimshal village in Hunza valley, Pakistan. Indian twin sisters, Tashi and Nugshi, were also at the top of the Everest with Baig and Ali. By hoisting Pakistani and Indian flags side by side, the four South-Asians hoped to spread the message of Indo-Pak peace and friendship. In another first, Dr Nima Namgyal Sherpa of Khumjung, Solukhumbu, became the first Nepali medical doctor to summit Mt Everest. She also summited Mt Everest today at 07:30am local time. nnnn DETAILS OF CHARGES FILED AGAINST FIVE ‘GANGSTERS’ WITH PARTY LINKS Kathmandu, 20 May: The Department of Money Laundering Investigation (DoMLI) on Sunday filed cases against five notorious gangsters at the Special Court for amassing properties through illegal sources, Gani Ansari writes in Republica.. Those absconding are Ganesh Lama, Dipak Manange aka Rajib Gurung, Parshuram Basnet aka Krishna Basnet, Chakre Milan aka Milan Gurung and Abhishek Giri. DoMLI has accused them of amassing properties through extortions, illegal contracts and banking transactions, among other illegal activities. According to the Special Court Registrar Dhir Bahadur Chand, Lama has been accused of illegally amassing Rs 270 million, Manange Rs 147.3 million, Basnet Rs 116.1 million, Milan 70.7 million and Giri Rs 29.4 million from unknown sources. DoMLI has asked the Special Court to slap on them one to four years in jail along with confiscation of the illegally amassed properties and a fine equivalent to the same amount as per the Clause 3 of the Anti-Money Laundering Act, 2064. Lama´s wife Laxmi Lama, his father Pasang Lama and mother Ranju Lama have also been made defendants in the case. Similarly, Manange´s wife Pasang Dolma Gurung, Basnet´s wife Anju Singh Basnet, Milan´s Indira Ghale Gurung and Giri´s wife Anisha Giri have also been made defendants. DoMLI, in the case, has demanded that land owned by Manange´s wife in Kathmandu and Nuwakot districts be seized. Also, DoMLI has asked the Special court to seize two SUVs, among other movable and immovable properties illegally acquired by Basnet. Likewise, the department has demanded that 50 tolas of gold, a jeep and other movable immovable properties amassed by Milan also be confiscated. Similarly, DoMLI has demanded confiscation of a house built in 10 dhur of land in Biratnagar and plot with area of 10 dhur in Morang owned by Giri. DoMLI, in the case, has stated that all the accused, except Milan, are at large. Milan is currently in jail for involvement in drug smuggling. Registrar Chand said the Special Court will send a notice to the absconding accused to appear before the court. “Then the court will set dates for hearing on the cases,” he added. According to Chand, the Special Court has already issued verdicts on 11 out of 22 cases related to money laundering. “The government has won in most of cases settled by the Special Court,” he told Republica. The Central Investigation Bureau (CIB) had submitted reports about involvement of the five gangsters in money laundering to DoMLI following a lengthy investigation. Lama is a central committee member of Madhesi People´s Rights Forum-Democratic (MPRF-D)-led by former Deputy Prime Minister and Home Minister Bijay Kumar Gachchhadar while Basnet is the central committee member of CPN-UML´s youth wing, Youth Association Nepal. Acknowledging that he has also inducted goons in the party, Gachchhadar had publicly said, “If a robber like Ratnakar can transform into Balmiki why can Lama not transform into a good person?” Similarly, Abhishek is close to Nepali Congress (NC) and Manage is reportedly close to Rastriya Prajatantra Party and NC. Nnnn REMOVE CVD NEPAL ASKS INDIA Kathmandu, 20 May:: The government has requested India for removal of Countervailing Tax (CVD) that the southern neighbor is levying on Nepali readymade garments (RMGs) for the past few weeks going against the spirit of bi-lateral trade treaty, Republica reports. Responding to the request of Garment Association of Nepal (GAN), the Ministry of Commerce and Supplies (MoCS) requested India to remove CVD through Ministry of Foreign Affairs. India has been imposing 12 percent CVD on Nepali RMGs. This is making Nepali apparels dearer in India, hurting country´s export severely. “We sent a formal request letter to India through the foreign affairs ministry couple of days ago,” an official at MoCS told Republica. RMG entrepreneurs say the imposition of CVD is making Nepali apparels dearer by around 20 percent in India compared to products from other competitor countries, mainly Bangladesh. Data compiled by Nepal Rastra Bank (NRB) shows Nepal´s apparel exports dropped by 64 percent during the first nine months of the current fiscal year compared to figures of the same period last year. During the review period, Nepal exported RMGs worth Rs 133.9 million to India. Bangladesh, the second largest garment exporter in the world after China, has been giving different incentives to exporters. These incentives help make Bangladeshi products more competitive in international markets. India also sources huge quantity of Bangladeshi garments. As per the existing bilateral trade treaty, India must provide Nepali products duty-free access to its market. “Garments are in no way the products subject to the CVD. India has to remove such taxes to ensure that Nepali products get duty free entry in Indian markets,” Uday Raj Pandey, president of GAN, said. According to Pandey, India cannot levy CVD on branded items, which are exempted from excise duty, in line with the treaty. India had stopped levying CVD on Nepali garments after the issue was raised by then Prime Minister Madhav Kumar Nepal during his India visit in 2010. Statistics of Trade and Export Promotion Center (TEPC) shows that overall exports of Nepali apparels tumbled by 18 percent to Rs 2.73 billion during the first nine months of 2012/13. Nepal´s apparel export has been declining heavily since 2005 when US ended duty-free access to Nepali RMG. Persisting financial crisis in European countries has also affected RMG exports from Nepal. During the review period, Nepal´s RMG export to overseas markets plunged by 30.6 percent to Rs 2.25 billion. Nnnn INDIA, CHINA GOVT. CHIEFS DISCUSS HIMALAYAN STANDOFF Kathmandu, 20 May:: Prime Minister Manmohan Singh told visiting Chinese Premier Li Keqiang on Sunday a recent military standoff in the Himalayas could affect relations between the two countries as they looked to boost bilateral Trade, Reuters reports from New Delhi. At a meeting shortly after Li arrived in India on his first foreign trip, Singh said relations were affected when "peace and tranquillity" on the border was impacted, a senior government official with knowledge of the discussions told Reuters. The official said Singh was referring to a three-week standoff over disputed territory in the western Himalayas, which was only resolved on May 3 after a public outcry in India. The world's two most populous nations disagree about large areas on their ill-defined border and fought a brief but bloody war across it 50 years ago. Although there have been no shooting incidents for decades, both sides maintain a large military presence and often patrol inside disputed areas. The latest incident distracted diplomats' attention from negotiations on investment and trade ahead of Li's trip and soured Indian public opinion toward China. Bilateral trade between the two countries touched $73 billion in 2011, making China India's largest trade partner, but slipped to $66 billion last year. Singh also said it was important to find a way to balance out India's $29 billion trade deficit with China as the two countries aim for $100 billion in bilateral trade by 2015. "While we are committed to the $100 billion by 2015 we will have to have a more balanced rate," said the official, who was briefed about the restricted meeting. The official described the conversations as constructive and cordial but said he did not know Li's response to Singh's comments. "I am looking forward to exchanging views with Indian leaders on bilateral ties and regional and global issues of common concern," Li said in a statement issued after his arrival in India and reported by China's state news agency Xinhua. Up from next to nothing in the 1990s, trade has been heavily skewed in favour of China. It exports power and telecoms equipment to its neighbour, which as one of the world's fastest growing major economies could offer brighter opportunities for business than the stagnant West. The growing deficit is a bone of contention though, and India is pressing for greater access for its pharmaceuticals and IT services. China has never sought a trade surplus or blocked imports, its deputy trade minister Jiang Yaoping said on Thursday, blaming the imbalance on "differences in the two countries' economic structures". Prior to the visit, Li said he chose his first destination on the four nation tour to show how important India is for China and also because he had fond memories of visiting as a Communist youth leader 27 years ago. The two countries are expected to sign agreements on trade, agriculture, the environment and culture, Xinhua said after Li arrived on Sunday. Li is due to leave India on Wednesday to travel to Pakistan, then Switzerland and Germany. Nnnn SHAKTIKHOR TO COME UNDER ARMY Kathmandu, 20 May: The government has decided to convert the erstwhile third division of the Maoist army based in Shaktikhor, Chitwan into the headquarters of the Nepal Army General Directorate, Phanindra Dahal writes in The Kathmandu Post.. A committee headed by Secretary at the Prime Minister’s Office Surya Silwal has reached a conclusion to hand over the Shaktikhor-based cantonment to the Nepal Army for setting up the directorate. The third division served as the central secretariat of the Maoist army and housed more than 3,000 combatants before the start of army integration process in 2011. During a discussion held last month at the committee led by Silwal, the Home Ministry had demanded that the Shaktikhor camp be converted into a prison. The Ministry of Defence had put forth the Nepal Army ’s view point that the location rich in infrastructure make the cantonment suitable for its new general directorate. “We’ve concluded that the establishment of the General Directorate of the national Army at the site that once was a home to the former rebel army would send a positive message in the peace process,” said Home Secretary Nabin Kumar Ghimire. According to Defence Ministry officials, the Nepal Army has already prepared a blueprint for the General Directorate that will look after disaster response, infrastructure development and environment and forest security. The Army would also be using a few other cantonments for the purpose. “The installation of the national Army flag at the formal rebel camp would have a special political and psychological meaning. We had an eye on the third division as it is the most strategically located infrastructure for an army barrack,” said a senior Defence Ministry official. The biggest of the seven main cantonments, the third division headquarters, is located on the foothills in Shaktikhor, half an hour drive from Narayanghat, Chitwan. Besides wooden houses, it boasts other facilities like swimming pool built by the former rebels. The team led by Secretary Silwal has almost finalised a proposal on the use of the seven main and 21 satellite cantonments that were set up across the country after the inception of the peace process in 2006. The team has suggested the government to provide most of the used camps to the Nepal Army , the Nepal Police and the Armed Police Force. The Home Ministry had earlier registered its demand for satellite cantonments based in Saina Maina, Nawalparasi and Ranibaas, Sindhuli to the Nepal Police and camps based in Kailali and Rolpa, among others to the Armed Police Force. Talks are on to return the ownership of the sixth division in Dashratpur, Surkhet back to the Department of Agriculture Development. The committee headed by the PMO secretary includes representatives of the ministries of Home, Defence, Agriculture, Forest, Peace and Education, among others. Plans are underway to convert one of the cantonment into a museum and handover some others for schools. Secretary Silwal told the Post that the final decision on the ownership transfer of the cantonments will be made within a week. Nnnn TWO BANKS GET PERMITS TO OPERATE ABROAD Kathmandu, 20 May: Global IME Bank and Himalayan Bank have received the letter of intent from the Nepal Rastra Bank (NRB) to open representative offices abroad, while NMB Bank is awaiting such an approval, The Kathmandu Post writes. . The central bank in January opened the door for commercial bank s to open liaison offices abroad. These three bank s sought the central bank ’s approval after conducting feasibility studies in the country they planned to go. Global IME and Himalayan have already started preparations to open their representative offices abroad. Global IME has been given approval for opening liaison offices in Saudi Arabia, Qatar, UAE, Australia, South Korea and India, while Himalayan has been awarded the permission in principle for opening its office in Malaysia. NMB is also seeking approval for Malaysia. Banks open such offices abroad in order to ease international trade, remittance, letter of credit and foreign investment transactions. “The offices will carry out transactions as allowed by the regulator of the countries concerned,” said an NRB official. “We cannot permit them for a specific jobs.” Banks seeking to open liaison offices abroad have to first get permission from the central bank of country they plan to go. The NRB has fixed a deadline of six months to acquire approval from the host country’s central bank . Then, the NRB gives its final approval and the bank s have to open representative offices within six months after the NRB approval. Earlier, a few joint venture bank s had opened such offices abroad as only joint-venture bank s were allowed to open liaison offices abroad. But the rule was relaxed to other bank s too in January. “We have studied the market potential of the countries where we are going to open our representative offices,” said Global IME CEO Ratna Raj Bajracharya. “We are in the process of getting approval from the central bank of the host country.” Global IME’s offices abroad will work in the areas of remittance and export/import, said Bajracharya, adding the bank also plans to help in bringing foreign investment in the country by maintaining relations with foreign business groups. Similar is the plan of Himalayan Bank. CEO Ashoke Rana said remittance and easing international trade will be key tasks of Himalayan’s liaison offices. He said his bank has already applied to the Malaysian central bank for its approval of Himalayan’s business plan. “We will go to other countries gradually,” he added. Criteria to be eligible to open such offices abroad are the bank should have met the minimum paid-up capital requirement, maintained extra buffer capital for one year, non-performing loans below five percent for three years. A bank would not be eligible to open its liaison offices abroad if any of its board members have been penalised by the central in the last six months. nnnn