Nepal Today

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

FORMER FINANCE MINISTERS MEETING CHAIRMAN REGMI TO OPPOSE TRISHULI UPGRADE Kathmandu, 6 June: Former finance ministers from all parties are meeting Chairman of Interim Election Council Khil Rak Regmi Wednesday to draw his attention to upgrading of Trishuli A from 60 to 9()MW at increases Rs 2 billion cost The former finance ministers argue the decision of Nepal Electricity Authority Board will delay the completion of the project being constructed by a Chinese company under construction contract, Separate unions in the Authority have been opposing the board decision for five days stopping senior employees from attending office while demanding cancellation of the decision last week. nnnn. BAIDYA, RAI, YADAV ON SAME WaVELENGTH Kathmandu, 6 June: Keeping aside their differences, CPN-Maoist, Federal Socialist Party Nepal (FSPN) and Federal Democratic Forum have in principle agreed to launch a joint agitation against the ‘four-party political syndicate’ and Khil Raj Regmi-led government, Roshan Sedhai writesin The Kathmandu Post.. Leaders of the three parties have reached a unanimous decision over the need of a ‘decisive protest’ to bring the four parties and government to its knees. However, they have not clear yet on a protest modality. According to FSPN leaders, both the Mohan Baidya-led Maoist and the Upendra Yadav-chaired Forum have decided to come up with a full sketch of their ‘decisive protest’ after holding discussions with the 33-party and eight-party alliances. FSPN Chairman Ashok Rai said difference among the dissident parties over some issues, including the resignation of Interim Election Government Chairman Khil Raj Regmi are a few things hindering them to form an alliance. While CPN-Maoist and FSPN firmly believe that the incumbent government should be replaced with a political one, the Forum has taken softer stance. Yadav only wants Regmi to resign from the post of chief justice. Instead of directly calling on the incumbent government to quit, FSPN has demanded that the 11-point deal and 25-point pact for removing constitutional difficulties reached among the four parties be scrapped to end the legitimacy of the CJ-led government. They have a similar stance over the proposed provision to downsize the new Constituent Assembly (CA) to 491 seats and one percent eligibility threshold to contest the CA polls. “Everyone is positive to sort out the apparent differences. Other parties are ready for a broader alliance even if the differences remain,” said Rai. “Both Baiyda ji and Upendra ji have acknowledged the immediate need of an alliance of dissident parties. Hopefully, we will reach an agreement within Friday.” The Forum on Wednesday issued a seven-day ultimatum to the government. “If the government fails to address our demands by then, we will take to the streets,” said Yadav. Giving an indication of an alliance with other agitating parties, Yadav said his Front is ready for an alliance with all political forces taking to the streets. The government has given Friday deadline for the disgruntled parties to forge an agreement. If efforts for a broader agreement fail, the government is likely to announce an election date on its own. In an attempt to strike deal with the parties, President Ram Baran Yadav met with FSPN leaders on Wednesday. During the meeting, FSPN chairman Rai said that his party is ready to downsize the CA strength but stressed that the provision of 60 percent of elected seats should be allocated under proportional representation system and the remaining 40 percent by the direct elections. “We are even ready to cut down the number to 391 from previous 601, but there should not be any change in the proportion between the direct and proportional seats,” said Rai. Eight-party Front puts up bold front The Federal Democratic Front (FDF), a group of eight parties led by Upendra Yadav, on Wednesday issued an ultimatum demanding that the government meet its demands within a week. Leaders of the Front are scheduled to meet Chairman of Interim Election Government Khil Raj Regmi on Thursday and hand over the ultimatum. “This government doesn’t have the legitimacy to hold elections. It is not serious about our demands,” said FDF leader Parshuram Tamang. The front had submitted a 13-point memorandum in April. Among other things, they have sought Regmi’s resignation from either of the positions he is currently holding. They have also pressed the government not to reduce election seats under the proportional representation system. The other demands include citizenship certificates on the basis of educational certificates, tax papers and recommendation issued by VDCs to all Nepalis before the next Constituent Assembly polls and re-delineation of electoral constituencies in accordance with the 2011 census. The Front has called for dissolution of the High-level Political Mechanism, a cross-party platform comprising the UCPN (Maoist), Nepali Congress, CPN-UML and the Samyukta Loktantrik Madhesi Morcha, arguing that it would influence the functioning of the government, which could affect free and fair polls. It has also demanded that local elections and the CA polls be held simultaneously. According to a statement issued by the chairman’s secretariat, Regmi is positive about the demands. He told Front leaders that the government is working independently. nnnn DISTRIBUTION OF COLOUR-CODED LPG CYLINDERS TO START Kathmandu, 6 June: The likelihood of the government’s long-planned project to use colour-coded LPG cylinders being implemented has increased after it agreed to hike the commission for dealers and transporters, The Kathmandu Post writes.. Under the scheme rescheduled to be launched on July 15, household users will also be given consumer cards entitling them to buy LPG at subsidized rates. Officials of Nepal Oil Corporation (NOC) said that preparations to enforce LPG consumer cards have been finalized. The state-owned oil monopoly is the sole importer of LPG in Nepal. LPG, or liquefied petroleum gas, is a popular cooking fuel in urban areas. With a view to ending the subsidy given to commercial users and enabling NOC to offset its losses incurred from the LPG business, the government had enforced a dual pricing system by differentiating two classes of LPG consumers -- subsidized and non-subsidized. NOC had planned to distribute two types of LPG user cards (red for household users and blue for industrial users) from Feb 12. However, the plan fell apart after running into a public outcry, and the government was forced to roll back the decision a day after it was announced. The plan had also aimed to end subsidies and VAT refunds for commercial users. Entrepreneurs presently receive VAT refunds on LPG. The government gives back Rs 264.67 for each cylinder purchased. Under the proposed scheme, the government will provide a cylinder of LPG monthly to a household of four members at a subsidized rate. According to NOC, the profit earned on the sale of LPG to industrial users will be used to provide subsidies to the poor and students. “We are confident that the scheme will be implemented from July 15,” said Deepak Subedi, spokesperson of the Ministry of Commerce and Supplies. “All the necessary tasks have been completed.” The LPG consumer card system was launched on May 2, 2012 before the plan to introduce colour-coded LPG cylinders was envisaged. The then Prime Minister Baburam Bhattarai received the first consumer card on April 17, 2012. However, both the schemes failed following differences between LPG bottling companies and the government. On June 3, the plan was revived after the government agreed to raise the commission for LPG dealers and transporters. “With the agreement, the two parties have agreed to implement both the schemes from July 15,” said Maheshore Shrestha, general secretary of the Gas Dealers Federation Nepal (GDFN). Meanwhile, bottling companies have also started distributing consumer cards to fast track the distribution process. “We have also suggested to NOC to extend bank facilities through state-run banks to withdraw subsidies for the targeted group,” Shrestha said. Earlier, when NOC had implemented different pricing mechanisms for LPG, it had appointed only the Bank of Kathmandu to refund the subsidies to targeted groups. The plan was criticized by student unions and consumer rights activists. NOC deputy director Dinesh Kumar Yadav said that around 340,000 LPG consumer cards had been computerized out of the 400,000 forms received from dealers for consumer card verification. “We have estimated that 900,000 household cards will be required across the country. Among them, 600,000 households are based in the capital,” Yadav said. According to him, NOC has been receiving around 5,000 forms daily. Red cards will have the consumer’s citizenship number and the number of family members printed on them. Blue cards will bear the PAN number of entrepreneurs. There are around 53 LPG bottlers and an estimated 4 million LPG users across the country. NOC currently incurs a loss of Rs 363 on each cylinder of LPG sold, or Rs 509 million monthly. Meanwhile, the GDFN said that after the government differentiates two classes of LPG consumers, subsidized and non-subsidized, it would be more scientific to deposit the proposed subsidy amounts in the consumer’s bank account. The GDFN said that the government should introduce the system of depositing the subsidies into their bank accounts every time they buy LPG. “The system will prevent unintended users like commercial establishments, which have to buy LPG at the market price, from obtaining subsidised LPG,” said Shrestha. “The Indian government has also planned to launch the system from July 1.” nnnn


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