Nepal Today

Monday, July 1, 2013



Kathmandu, 2 July: UML alternate UML central member Haridev Mandal
is defecting to UCPN Maoist Tuesday.
RPP”s Girijanand Jha are jis also joining the  UCPN (Maoist) with
Mandal as electioneering for the 19 November second constituency polls
gains momentum..


Kathmandu, 2 July: All Nepal National Free Students Union (ANNFSU) a sister organization of UML— will hold its statute convention 2 to 4 August
in Dang.
A national convention will follow 18 to 20 September in Kathmandu.
The meeting of  the 21st national convention fixed the dates.
The national convention meets every two years but has been delayed.

Kathmandu, 2 July: A draft of the Agriculture Development Strategy (ADS), which has envisioned an ambitious growth pattern in output, land and labour productivity, was presented to the Ministry of Agriculture Development on Monday, Sangan Prasai writes in The Kathmandu Post..
The strategic document, which incorporates a 20-year vision and a 10-year planning horizon for the country’s farm sector, which has been suffering from under-investment for decades, was prepared with technical support from the Asian Development Bank (ADB).
The blueprint prepared by a team formulating the ADS over the past 26 months was handed over to Agriculture Minister Tek Bahadur Thapa Gharti by Takashi Matsuo, the director of the Environment, Natural Resources and Agriculture Division of the South Asia Department of the ADB.
The draft has been prepared under the four strategic pillars—governance, productivity, profitable commercialisation and competitiveness—and has envisaged agriculture -led growth as a key strategy.
It has targeted to achieve a 5 percent average annual growth rate from the present 3 percent for the agricultural sector; and increase the share of the national budget allocated to the agricultural sector to reach an eventual target of 10 percent.
The ADS team has revised its investment target in the farm sector. Earlier, it had envisaged a 10-year agriculture spending of Rs 250 billion, or Rs 25 billion annually, including donor contributions. In the revised investment target, it has recommended a spending of Rs 502 billion in 10 years, or around Rs 50 billion annually. The draft aims to increase land productivity to $5,000 per hectare from the current $1,600. It also aims to increase labour productivity to $2,000 from $800 per worker. Likewise, exports of agriculture items have been targeted to increase to $1.6 billion from $250 million through the implementation of the ADS.
The document has envisaged increasing round-the-year irrigation coverage areas to 80 percent from the current 18 percent.
One of the ambitious targets is to halve poverty in less than 10 years through an agriculture -led economy. The new strategy aims to increase the contribution of agribusiness to the Gross Domestic Product to 20 percent from the current 10 percent by enhancing production and productivity of high-value crops and improving access to markets.
The document, if implemented properly, will help Nepal get rid of poverty and play a crucial role in economic transformation through agriculture -led growth, said Francesco Goletti, the leader of the ADS team. “The implementation of the document will need commitments from the government and political parties, among other stakeholders,” he said, adding that commitments for adequate resources allocation as envisaged by the draft would be crucial.
Secretary general of the All Nepal Peasants’ Federation Prem Dangal said the document has incorporated many of their demands. “How it will implement the ADS is a challenge for the government now,” said Dangal, a farmers’ representative in the ADS steering committee. “As per the document’s recommendation, farmers’ rights will be ensured for the first time.”
Meanwhile, Matsuo said formulating the ADS would be a milestone, not a goal. “As we have seen many reports being shelved, we hope it will not be the case with the ADS,” he said. “We are looking for the Cabinet’s approval for the government to own the document,” he added.
Minister Gharti blamed low investment from the government as well as development partners for the under-performance of the Agriculture Perspective Plan (APP). “We should realise the fact and learn a lesson from it. As we are seeing increasing food imports and youth migration, modernising the farm sector has been a challenge. We hope the ADS will address these issues as a whole.”
The government will review the ADS draft before sending it to the Cabinet. After the Cabinet’s nod, the government will formally own the document, which is envisaged to be implemented by 2014-15, according to government officials. The project includes involvement of 13 development partners. The ADS will supersede the APP.

Kathmandu, 2 July: The Nepal Electricity Authority (NEA) Board has withdrawn from the NEA management the authority to sign the power purchase agreement (PPA) with projects up to 25 MW. The authority now lies with the board itself, The Kathmandu Post writes..
An NEA board meeting chaired by Energy Minister Umakanta Jha on Monday took the decision, arguing the NEA management discriminated promoters, according to an NEA source.
“The decision was taken amid the NEA management’s tendency to sing the PPA with some developers, while refusing to do so with others on various pretexts,” said a board member. “Such a tendency discouraged real hydropower investors.”
In case of projects above 25 MW, the board is responsible for signing the PPA based on the management’s recommendation.
NEA management has been delaying signing the PPA even with the “super six” projects which have paid Rs 450 million in revenue to the government. The projects are Singiti (16 MW), Khare (24.1 MW), Upper Solu (23.5 MW), Lower Solu (82 MW), Maya Khola (14.9 MW) and Mewa (50 MW). These projects are called “super six” as they were the first to be issued survey licenses based open competition.
They have already spent around Rs 1 billion for land acquisition and construction of physical infrastructure, but the NEA management has been reluctant to sign the PPA with them for the last three years. These projects are all set to enter the construction phase, but the lack of PPA is preventing them from doing so.
The NEA board has constituted a committee headed by board member Laxman Agrawal to recommend on holding talks and signing PPA with the “super six” projects. “As some of the projects have capacity higher than 25 MW, while some are bringing in foreign investment too, the committee has been formed to determine the PPA rate and the ratio of payment to be made in foreign exchange,” the board member said.
In case of projects below 25 MW, the PPA rate has been fixed at Rs 4.8 during the rainy season and Rs 8.4 during winter. There is a tradition of fixing the PPA rate based on mutual discussion for the projects above 25 MW. The board has also formed another committee headed by Agrawal to submit a proposal on providing relief to 13 projects whose construction began during the conflict era, and faced financial crisis due to the conflict.
Although they have agreed for a relatively lower PPA rate, the NEA is seeking to provide them the revised PPA rate until they complete loan repayment. The facility, however, will be provided to projects below 25 MW only. The committee has been told to find out whether the projects are actually facing financial crisis and whether they deserve the relief.


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