Nepal Today

Sunday, June 23, 2013

FORMER CHINESE FOREIGN MINISTER ARRIVES MONDAY Kathmandu, 24 June: Former Chinese Foreign Minister and State Councillor Yang Jiechi arrives Monday for a two-day official visit. He senior official comes at a time when the country in preparing for the 19 November constituent assembly polli which Beijing has supported. Yang is also the first top foreign guest of the government of Khil Raj Regmi who completed 100 days in office Sunday. nnnn TEACHERS REJECT BLAME FOR POOR SLC RESULTS Kathmandu, 24 June: Various teachers’ unions close to different political parties have criticised the government directives that aim to make secondary level teachers “more responsible” in its bid to improve the success rate in the School Leaving Certificate (SLC) examinations, The Kathmandu Post reports.. Speaking at a programme here on Sunday, leaders of the unions opposed the move, saying only teachers cannot be blamed for the poor SLC results. They also said the government issued the directives without holding consultations with the unions. The 23-point directives issued on Wednesday have provisions that ban teachers from being involved in politics and administrative action against anyone failing to meet the set benchmark. “The bureaucratic set up is equally responsible for the poor academic performance, while the directives only target the teachers,” president of All Nepal Teachers Association Guna Raj Lohani said. He added that banning teachers from politics is against the constitution. He also blamed the bureaucracy for compelling them to form unions. “Unions will not be needed if basic facilities for teachers are ensured,” he said. Deputy spokesperson at the Education Ministry Roj Nath Pandey, however, said politics in schools is mainly responsible for the deteriorating quality of education in the country. He accused political parties for using teachers for their vested interests. “ Teachers have a main role to play in improving the academic quality. Therefore, they should cooperate with the government in changing the present state of affairs,” he said. The Education Ministry had issued the directives following widespread criticism after the pass percentage in this year’s SLC exams dropped to an eight-year low. According to the directives, teachers will be either rewarded or penalised on the basis of the students’ performance. The directives further aim to formulate codes of conduct for teachers and students, while they have asked school inspectors and resource persons to strictly implement the rules. There are 109,098 permanent and temporary teachers in the country, while around 40,000 others work under the relief quota in community schools. Nnnn DEMAND TO INCREASE INCOME TAX THRESHOLD Kathmandu, 24 June: The Federation of Nepalese Chambers of Commerce and Industry ( FNCCI ) on Sunday asked the government to hike the income tax threshold to Rs 300,000 for an individual and Rs 350,000 for a couple, The Kathmandu Post reports.. Currently, a person earning up to Rs 160,000 annually should pay 1 percent income tax. The rate increases to 15 percent for income between Rs 160,000 and Rs 260,000. In case of couple, income tax rate stands at 1 percent for income up to Rs 200,000 and increases to 15 for income between Rs 200,000 and Rs 300,000. The rate further increases as the income increases. In its 17-point suggestion, the apex private sector body has also demanded the government maintain the income tax rate at just 5 percent on every increase in income by Rs 300,000. In a bid to attract investment, the FNCCI said the government must provide 5-10 percent waiver on income tax in the national priority sector and productive industries based on their nature. The FNCCI has put forth its suggestions concerning sectors including energy, agriculture, physical infrastructure, export promotion, tourism, employment generation, industrial promotion, income tax, value added tax, customs duty, excise duty, and money laundering. The apex private sector body has urged the government to give national recognition to industries that use 60-70 percent local raw materials. “Industries producing goods that are consumed more than 70 percent in Nepal and agro-based industries should be given special privileges in customs duty on the import of raw materials, suggested the FNCCI . In the energy sector, the FNCCI demanded tax exemption on raw materials for thermal plants that generate electricity from coal. “There should be zero duty on coal imports meant for producing energy,” states its demand letter. The private sector body has also sought introduction of an Act to promote commercial contract farming, VAT exemption on all agriculture production and provision of agro-insurance to boost the agriculture sector. With physical infrastructure being the backbone for development, the private sector’s apex body asked the government to complete the ongoing study on the East West Electric Railway and start construction from the next fiscal year. The business community has also sought the government’s priority to establishing industrial zones in Kakkadbhitta, Biratnagar, Birgunj, Bhairahawa, Nepalgunj, and Dhangadhi. To identify new export markets, the FNCCI has demanded the government allocate necessary budget for holding study on export feasibility to 10 new countries for exporting 10 Nepali goods. In its suggestions, the FNCCI has said the government has to simplify process of giving cash incentive to exporters. “Exporters should be provided with a flat cash incentive of 2 percent and it should be increased to 3, 4 and 5 percent based on value addition ,” the FNCCI demanded. The private sector body has also suggested allocating 10 percent of resources allocated to the education sector to vocational training. It demanded employment-friendly labour law, single trade union in an enterprise and compensation law to compensate loss of bandas and strikes. It has urged the government to prioritise privatisation of public enterprises, provision to allow the private sector to import petroleum products, and income tax waiver for up to 5 years for IT-based industries. No multiple VAT rates: Govt Although the private sector has long been demanding multiple value added tax (VAT) rates, the government has made it clear that it is not ready to introduce such a system in the upcoming budget. “There are practical problems to introduce multiple VAT rates,” said Finance Secretary Shanta Raj Subedi at a programme organised by the FNCCI here on Sunday. Finance Minister Shankar Prasad Koirala said the next fiscal year’s budget would be “growth-oriented”, which he plans to introduce before mid-July. Given the government seeking to upgrade Nepal from a least developed country to a developing state by 2022, Koirala said the growth target for the next fiscal year would be 5-6 percent. The country needs to grow at an average rate of 7 percent to achieve the target, according to the National Planning Commission. Nnnn MANDELA’S HEALTH DETERIORATES Kathmandu, 24 June: Former South African president Nelson Mandela 's condition deteriorated to "critical" on Sunday, the government said, two weeks after the 94-year-old anti-apartheid leader was admitted to hospital with a lung infection, Reuters reports from Johannesburg.. The worsening of his condition is bound to concern South Africa's 53 million people, for whom Mandela remains the architect of a peaceful transition to democracy in 1994 after three centuries of white domination. A government statement said President Jacob Zuma and the deputy leader of the ruling African National Congress (ANC), Cyril Ramaphosa, visited Mandela in his Pretoria hospital, where doctors said his condition had gone downhill in the last 24 hours. "The doctors are doing everything possible to get his condition to improve and are ensuring that Madiba is well looked after and is comfortable," it said, referring to him by his clan name. Mandela, who became South Africa's first black president after historic all-race elections nearly two decades ago, was rushed to a Pretoria hospital on June 8 with a recurrence of a lung infection, his fourth hospitalisation in six months. Until Sunday, official communiques had described his condition as "serious but stable" although comments last week from Mandela family members and his presidential successor, Thabo Mbeki, suggested he was on the mend. Since stepping down after one term as president, Mandela has played little role in the public or political life of the continent's biggest and most important economy. His last public appearance was waving to fans from the back of a golf cart before the final of the soccer World Cup in Johannesburg's Soccer City stadium in July 2010. During his retirement, he has divided his time between his home in the wealthy Johannesburg suburb of Houghton, and Qunu, the village in the impoverished Eastern Cape province where he was born. The public's last glimpse of him was a brief clip aired by state television in April during a visit to his home by Zuma and other senior ANC officials. At the time, the 101-year-old liberation movement, which led the fight against white-minority rule, assured the public Mandela was "in good shape" although the footage showed a thin and frail old man sitting expressionless in an armchair. "Obviously we are very worried," ANC spokesman Jackson Mthembu told Johannesburg station Talk Radio 702. "We are praying for him, his family and the doctors." "ABSOLUTELY AN ICON" Since his latest admission to hospital, well-wishers have been arriving at his Johannesburg home, with scores of school-children leaving painted stones outside the gates bearing prayers for his recovery. However, for the first time, South African media have broken a taboo against contemplating the inevitable passing of the father of the post-apartheid "Rainbow Nation" and one of the 20th century's most influential figures. The day after he went into hospital, South Africa's Sunday Times newspaper carried a front-page headline saying it was "time to let him go". "He's absolutely an icon and if he's gone we just have to accept that. He will be gone but his teachings, what he stood for, I'm sure we've all learnt and we should be able to live with it and reproduce it wherever we go," said Tshepho Langa, a customer at a Johannesburg hotel. "He's done his best," he added. "We are grateful for it and we are willing to do the good that he has done." Despite the widespread adulation, Mandela is not without detractors at home and in the rest of Africa who feel that in the dying days of apartheid he made too many concessions to whites, who make up just 10 percent of the population. After more than 10 years of affirmative action policies aimed at redressing the balance, South Africa remains one of the world's most unequal societies, with whites still controlling much of the economy and the average white household earning six times more than a black one. "Mandela has gone a bit too far in doing good to the non-black communities, really in some cases at the expense of (blacks)," Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe, 89, said in a documentary aired on South African television this month. “That's being too saintly, too good, too much of a saint." nnnn


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