Nepal Today

Saturday, August 10, 2013



Kathma ndu, 11 Aug.: An emerge  is being declared ib Bhaktapur where all chickens and chicken producrs are being destroyed, Nagarik reports.
Bird flu was detected I four additional farms in Bhaktapur Saturday.
Exact number of birds being culled is now known.


Kathmandu, 11 Aug.: Alarmed by wilful pick-up and drop of commuters on Kathmandu roads, the Metropolitan Traffic Police Division has fixed 13 points along a section of the Ring Road to prevent road accidents likely to be triggered by traffic rule
Violations, The Himalayan Time reports..

Though traffic police are planning to fix 50 pick-up and drop points, only 13 have been fixed on the 27.5-km-long Ring Road so far. DIG Keshav Adhikari, MTPD in-charge, said traffic police, Department of Transport Management, transporters and trade unions have reached a decision to this effect.

“The tendency of stopping public vehicles haphazardly to pick up and drop passengers at any road section has not only increased the possibility of road accidents, but also hampered traffic,” he informed.

The most affected spots include Kalanki Chowk, Swoyambhu Chowk, Banasthali Chowk, Balaju Chowk, Machhapokhari, New Bus Park, Basundhara Chowk, Gongabu Chowk, Maharajgunj Chowk, Dhumbarahi, Sukedhara, Gopi Krishna and Chabahil. DIG Adhikari informed that 2,080 drivers of public vehicles were brought to book for violating the rules of pick-up and drop points in the past two weeks.

“We would also like to request bus commuters to board public transport from the prescribed places and not to board or get off a moving bus. Maintaining a queue while boarding the bus will help avoid unnecessary hustle and bustle and will also curb road accidents,” he suggested.

According to the MTPD, three persons and seven other injured were killed after they tried to get off and on the moving bus in a hurry on the Ring Road in the past one year. “Bus drivers should not make any unscheduled stops in course of travel. On-duty traffic cops will bring the guilty to book with an immediate effect in case of violation of traffic rules,” DIG Adhikari warned. Traffic police have also placed signposts reading ‘Pick-up and Drop point’ in the prescribed places for the convenience of vehicle drivers and passengers. Meanwhile, officials informed that 37 more pick-up and drop points will be fixed as soon as possible.


Kathmandu, 11 Aug.: Nepali Congress has assessed that both the Unified CPN-Maoist and CPN-Maoist are strategically weighing their election prospects creating uncertainty about the Constituent Assembly (CA) polls slated for November 19, Prakash
Acharya writes in The Himalayan Times..

The CPN-M, according to NC, is unlikely to participate in the November poll until one of its two demands — adoption of a fully proportional system in the CA polls and deferment of election by at least four months till March — is fulfilled.

Although in talks with major parties, the CPN-M has said poll postponement is its major concern, it is giving equal importance to the demand for a fully proportional system, said NC sources. “The CPN-M, which claims a strength of around 90 former CA members, fears it will lose under the-first-past-the-post system and face a fate similar to that of the CPN-ML. So, they see their existence in the new CA only when it is fully proportional,” said an NC leader. The CPN-ML, formed after the UML split, did not secure even a single seat in the 1999 parliamentary elections.

Since the major parties are not ready to adopt a fully proportional system, they have only two options — either to go to the polls without CPN-M or postpone elections to involve the party in the election process. NC Central Working Committee (CWC) was divided at the informal meeting held today at party president Sushil Koirala’s residence in Maharajgunj on whether to postpone elections to ensure CPN-M participation in the polls, said party sources. “Although, a majority of members said the party should go for November polls with or without the CPN-M, some members were of the view that NC should be ready for postponement to engage CPN-M in the polls,” said an NC CWC member.

NC sees CPN-M participation in the polls as important for two reasons: One, it will prevent future conflict in the country; and, two, it will help create a poll equation that will favour Congress. However, poll postponement, said some NC leaders, is risky. Firstly, there is no guarantee the CPN-M will take part in the elections even if it is postponed. And, secondly, deferring polls could give plenty of opportunity for regressive forces to engage in foul play.

“We decided to be flexible to the maximum, but the possibility of polls being deferred is slim,” said senior leader Sher Bahadur Deuba. “UCPN-M Chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal’s recent proposal that elections could be deferred till March if CPN-M expressed readiness to enter an electoral alliance with his party, has created doubt regarding Dahal’s intention. His party will opt for the November poll if the CPN-M does not participate, but will postpone it if the latter agrees to an electoral alliance. This is dubious,” said NC leader Narahari Acharya. Dahal is trying to keep CPN-M away from the poll process, he said.

However, sources said some CWC members like Man Bahadur Bishwakarma, Shankar Bhandari, Surendra Pande and Ram Sharan Mahat, said NC should defer the polls if CPN-M ensures its participation. “We can postpone polls only for a few days if CPN-M joins, but not for three or four months as demanded by them,” said Prakash Sharan Mahat.


“He [Maoist Spokesman Agni Sapkota] said CPN-M could not foil the election because the government, Election Commission, and security bodies were prepared and the international community also supported the polls. Besides, Nepal Police and Armed Police Force were sufficient to ensure security during election and Nepali Army would also remain on standby, he said. He further said the Federal Socialist Party and Federal Democratic Front were ready to contest election.”

(The Himalayan Times Repot 11 Aug.)



Kathmandu, 11 Aug.: The Nepali Embassy in London is in the news once again, this time for alleged corruption and the firing of two local staff. But in the past, it has frequently hit the headlines because of the controversy over the proposed sale of Nepal’s priciest property overseas, former Ambassador to United Kingdom Murari Sharma writes in Republica..

The minimum going rate in Kensington Palace Gardens (KPG) is above 6,000 pounds per sq. ft. and the park side carries a further premium. It means the 12A KPG, which has more than 26,000 sq. ft. and which abuts Kensington Park, could sell for a whopping 156-180 million pounds.

KPG, a gated exclusive street, boasts the Kensington Palace, where Princess Diana lived after her separation from Prince Charles and where Prince William and Princess Kate will soon move in. It also hosts Saudi and Brunei royal families; residences of Indian, Japanese, French, and Russian ambassadors and Laxmi Mittal, the UK’s richest person for the last several years and third this year; as well as Russian, Israeli and Norwegian embassies. The British royal family owns all these properties, including the Nepali Embassy.

Such exclusivity attracts the super-rich from Eastern Europe, Asia, and Africa to buy properties for safe investment and last refuge. It makes house prices in KPG recession-proof, as witnessed during and after the devastating 2008-09 economic slump.

Almost every government of Nepal since 1990 has tried to sell the lease of 12A KPG. They have argued that by selling the lease they can buy freehold properties for the embassy, reduce the current high maintenance cost and prevent the potential loss from the expiry of the lease, which Nepal might have difficulty renewing.
While maintenance cost cannot be avoided for 12A or any other buildings Nepal may buy, other reasons are quite valid. Philippines had to vacate the building in KPG because the price demanded by the Crown Properties to renew the lease was exorbitant. It lost the money it could have made by not selling the lease on time. India renewed the lease at a stratospheric price only because, as the Indian High Commissioner told me, it became a prestige issue for their country.

Nepal will face either Philippines’s or India’s unpleasant predicament. It cannot expect a better deal than one given to India. India-UK relations are very strong due to their commonwealth connection, the influence of Indian lobby in London and growing economic relations between the two countries, while Nepal-UK traditional bonds are on the decline.

 Nepal has abolished monarchy and the UK has been reducing the size of the British-Gurkhas gradually under its austerity and military downsizing programs. If Nepal cannot renew the lease due to a prohibitive price, it will have to leave the property empty-handed.
Even the Saudi Royal family has put up their lease on the KPG property for sale recently.

But the Nepali diaspora have fiercely opposed the sale. They know that governments sell their properties all the time without much opposition and controversy. The sale of Louisiana and Alaska to the United States did not generate any. Neither did the swapping of lands and drawing new borders in Europe after World War II. Even the British government has sold many of its buildings without any problem in the last couple of years. But why are the Nepali diaspora still opposed? It is because of misinformation and fear of corruption.

Some in the diaspora mistakenly believe that the property should not be sold because it is a gift from the British Queen. It is not. Some others have stood against the sale because they take pride in the embassy’s exclusive and prestigious address, which is understandable. But the overwhelming majority lobbying against the sale fear that much of the money will wind up in the pockets of politicians, bureaucrats and middlemen.

History gives ample ground to suspect that the proposed sale is as much motivated by public good as by private greed.
Here is why. An estate agent of Eastern European origin told me that he was involved in brokering two deals. In the first, the lease was to be sold for 30 million pounds, 20 million pounds going to the treasury to buy properties for the embassy and the rest to those actively engaged in selling it.

 In the second deal, the building was to be disposed of for 60 million pounds: 45 million pounds posted in government accounts and the rest distributed among the key players. Both deals, he said, failed because of change in government.

This agent promised me, too, a nifty profit if I followed his advice. I told him frankly that while I was asked by the government to sell the lease, I would do so only if two conditions were met. First, the sale must fetch the highest possible price. Second, every penny from the sale must go to the treasury without malfeasance so I would not be a scapegoat for the corruption of somebody else to go to jail at the end of my clean and long career. The agent never showed up again.

The government, determined to sell the lease, constituted shortly a committee of several members under my chairmanship to recommend how and at what price it could be sold. I consulted two of the largest estate agents—Savills and Knight Frank—about the property’s market value and selling process. They informed me about the normal process and the estimated price—110-150 million pounds, even at the depth of the 2008 recession.

I was not satisfied with the process and price range. I told Savills and Knight Frank that I would float a competitive bid first and organize an auction among the five highest bidders subsequently in a completely transparent process to get the best price—150 million pounds or more. The two agents agreed that it could be done.

In its report, my committee recommended that the government should first repair the building, only a properly elected government should decide whether the property should be sold, and if the decision is taken to sell it, then the process must be transparent to prevent the leakage of resources and get the best price. Based on the report, the embassy could not be sold at that time.

The report did not serve the purpose of my political masters at the time—Prachanda, then Prime Minister, and Upendra Yadav, then Foreign Minister. So they fired me.
Early this year, the government set the process in motion again by forming another committee to sell the lease. As before, the Nepalis in the UK protested. Some local organizations have, I am told, even boycotted the ambassador for his inclination to sell. Some worried organizations in Nepal went to the Supreme Court and got the stay order. However, the Court cannot stop the sale forever, for it can only examine the process but not the government’s decision itself.

That said, the government should not ride rough shod over the diaspora’s objection. It should rather take the diaspora into confidence by convincing them that the sale is in national interest and that not a single penny will be misappropriated either in selling the lease or buying freehold properties subsequently. Transparency is the source of confidence. The government should make the process transparent, including by involving diaspora members in the decision-making process, and sell the vacant buildings in Bonn at the best price without any malfeasance to build such confidence.

While the issues of alleged corruption and firing of local staff are transient irritants, the sale of the London embassy’s remaining lease has become an enduring and major puzzle.Without transparency and mutual confidence, this priciest property puzzle will continue to make unpleasant headlines time and again.


Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home