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About Astha Joshi

Astha completed her undergraduate degree in Politics, Philosophy and Economics (PPE) and is working as a research assistant at Samriddhi, The Prosperity Foundation.

Dr. Govind Raj Pokharel on alternative energy for Nepal

Prof. Dr. Govind Raj Pokharel, Executive Director, Alternative Energy Promotion Center (AEPC) talking about categorization of energy consumers in Nepal and the urgency to formulate a policy to regulate energy sector during an econ-ity session on the topic ‘Energy Mix to Power Nepal’ which was organized with the joint efforts of FNCCI and Samriddhi, The Prosperity Foundation. The event was moderated by Anil Chitrakar.

Prof. Dr. Govind Raj Pokharel, offers a solution to the load-shedding problem in Kathmandu by mobilising alternative sources of energy.

Prof. Dr. Govind Raj Pokharel, shares a micro-hydro success story of Riga VDC in Baglung. He sheds light on the governance and management of the community project and encourages more private participation in the energy sector.

About Astha Joshi

Astha completed her undergraduate degree in Politics, Philosophy and Economics (PPE) and is working as a research assistant at Samriddhi, The Prosperity Foundation.

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Access to Finance- Road to Prosperity!

Piggy-BankEver wondered what keeps you from stuffing your savings under the mattress? If nothing else, you do realize that such a method would not be a safe bet. Plus you wouldn’t be able to add value to it like you could have done if you were wise enough to save it in a bank.

Given that general understanding, the case for banks would have been an increase in no. of people willing to put their money in banks but the number of account holders in Nepal is dismal.

According to the ‘Financial Inclusion Data 2012’ by the World Bank only 25% of people in Nepal have bank accounts. Half of the urban population has bank accounts while only 23% of the rural people are account holders. The low numbers makes me wonder, what deters a person from opening an account?

A look into bank’s ‘Know Your Customer’ (KYC) policy might answer the question. The amount of paper work includes citizenship details of the applicant, his/her parents, grandfather and spouse (if married) as well as latest utility bills, house information and information about people who introduced one to the bank. Besides this, the formality includes signing every page of the paper although the paper does not indicate that you need to sign every page. Although these supposedly formal rules are done as per the revised guideline of the Nepal Rastra Bank covering the Anti-money laundering measures it makes a simple procedure like registering a bank account cumbersome and deters prospective savers which then excludes them from the benefits formal financial channels.

Likewise, the lengthy paperwork and formality which includes asset valuation that is very expensive for both the bank and prospective borrower is one of the reason why people don’t like approaching banks for loans. In terms of accessing small capital loans many prefer micro finance and cooperatives and mostly informal sources. A report by World Bank (2006) had also listed short time delivery, less collateral and lesser paperwork required to obtain loan as being one of the prime reasons why people approach informal sources compared to formal. As per World Bank’s financial inclusion data the loan from informal sector (family, friends) amounted to be about 33.2% . Meanwhile, only 10.8% people took loans from formal financial sources.

For the rural areas, lack of bank holders accounts to lengthy paperwork and the limited availability of banking services since most commercial banks have not branched in unbanked areas because of high operation cost. Although, availability of micro finance does help in providing for the financial need of people, they are not so efficient as they lack the infrastructural capabilities which questions their reliability.

Access to finance in today’s context is crucial for growth and especially helpful with the increase in remittance in the country. Today’s banking services are not just about saving money but about accessing loans, insurance and even making payment and decreasing the time of transaction for more efficiency and most importantly not having to be physically present. Nepal has still not passed the Secured Transaction Act’s draft that would ease up regulation about needing collateral to access loans. This would have helped people who do not have physical collateral to put up against the loan. Nepal does not have proper bankruptcy laws and it deters people from approaching litigation and furthering FDI investment in the country.

An ADB report (2012) survey carried out in eight districts of Nepal stated that nearly 50% of people in both rural and urban areas can easily adapt to electronic banking services. Even in rural areas, despite the limited availability of banking services, average saving was NPR 68,118 compared to NPR 58,104 of urban households and nearly 40% of people surveyed had shown interest in mobile banking.

Banks do have a provision for e-banking but not everyone in the country has internet access. What they do have is cell phones whose network reach has expanded in recent years. The concept of mobile banking is still in its initial phase. Till date, USAID supported project for 300 mobile financial service agents in 30 out of the 75 districts in the country has helped to provide banking access in rural parts of Nepal. Some private banks have also worked together to provide mobile banking service through a shared national technology platform that allows a different bank user to access another banks services for the same service charge. The mobile banking project involves identifying financial agents based in the village who could help correspondent for transactions. This would help reduce the operation cost of establishing an office. However, there are policies that need to be eased in terms of getting more individuals to sign up for mobile banking services      (Basnyet, 2013).

Lack of formal finance has created a reliance on cash economy which facilitates a monopoly of money lenders. For people still practicing subsistence farming, lack of banking services prevents them from mechanizing which is crucial with the increased immigration of labor force and also because it would increase the concept of commercialization. Increased formalities have only increased the cost of opening accounts or accessing financial institutions for credit and other purpose. If policies are eased, Nepal’s population that till now has been saving under the mattress, using money only for consumption could see avenues to invest in developing their business.

About Astha Joshi

Astha completed her undergraduate degree in Politics, Philosophy and Economics (PPE) and is working as a research assistant at Samriddhi, The Prosperity Foundation.

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Econity- Energy Mix to Power Nepal

econity2

Econity, a monthly media forum jointly organized by Federation of Nepalese Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FNCCI) and Samriddhi, The Prosperity Foundation presents this month’s economic discussion on “Talks on Energy Mix to Power Nepal”.

The talk will focus on the current energy crisis in Nepal and the possibilities of using alternative energy such as hydropower, solar, bio mass /gas technology. These alternative sources, especially solar power would not only help in resolving the energy crisis but can also bea significant revenue source if solar energy is connected to the national grid and if the government creates a net-metering policy.

Similarly, Bio mass technology looks viable in the rural areas given the number of livestock—the waste from which can be used for both agricultural as well as energy generation purposes.As the mass usage of traditional biomass like firewood and dung negatively affects the health of people, promotion of clean energy from biogas technology needs to be looked into.

We discuss all these possibilities tomorrow at Hotel Himalaya, Kupondole, 11 A.M – 1 P.M The talk would be moderated by Mr. Anil Chitrakar and will feature representatives from the Ministry of Energy, Water and Energy Commission Secretariat/ IPPANN, representatives from Solar, biomass and wind energy sector who would talk on feasibility, benefit and challenges in each of these sectors.

Post documentation of the Proceedings and reports from econity which will be published in econity’s website- www.econitynepal.com as well as facebook page – https://www.facebook.com/pages/Econ-ity/460798534031710

About Astha Joshi

Astha completed her undergraduate degree in Politics, Philosophy and Economics (PPE) and is working as a research assistant at Samriddhi, The Prosperity Foundation.

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Efficient Solid Waste Management a crucial need!

solidwastemanagement

Source: http://www.everestuncensored.org/2730/2008/06/17/managing-solid-waste-whose-responsibility/

Solid Waste Management (SWM) in Nepal in recent year has become a very crucial issue especially for urban development and health. According to News Reports, Kathmandu Metropolitan City (KMC) is mainly responsible for collecting waste management in the Kathmandu Valley and nearly 50% of its staffs 140 vehicles are responsible for collecting and disposing waste in the city. Despite this, improper disposal and littering of streets and even river banks is a usual phenomenon and people are forced to navigate through the pile of rotting garbage as they tread along their daily routines.

According to Solid Waste Management and Resource Mobilization Centre( SWMRMC) the total amount of solid waste produced per day by five municipalities of Kathmandu, ( Lalitpur, Bhaktapur, Madhyapur Thimi and Kirtipur) is 435 dry metric tons out of which 75% originate from households. The recent report by Asia Development Bank ( ADB) stated that nearly 66% of solid waste produced by household is organic and can be reused and recycled.

Reuse and recycling is especially beneficial if the same product is in a huge amount and the huge proportion of organic waste translates to monetary and social benefits.  The report further mentions how organic composting could significantly reduce the Balance of Payment of Nepal ( BOP) because of the significant import of chemical fertilizers to the country.

Organic waste would not only help in producing organic fertilizers but it also has potentials for producing bio gas through anaerobic digestion. Bio gas would definitely help in providing for the energy needs of the city as a huge part of energy needs in Nepal which is nearly 90% is for domestic use. Bio gas would not only help in providing for the energy needs it would also help in reducing Green house emission since it is considered to be a form of clean energy. Morever, the Government of Nepal’s Energy Strategy  Plan also has recommended to promote clean energy in the form of bio gas beside other renewable energy.

Recently, news report covered the  proposed plans of the Kathmandu Metropolitan city to allow  private companies collection and disposal work of solid waste from the city through open bidding process. To be noted is the fact previous initiatives by KMC through the open bidding process had failed which according to officials was because of the lack of cooperation from the stakeholders involved.

If the  KMC does approve of this, it has a lot to benefit from this private public partnership. The National Policy of SWM formulated in 1996 has provision for the involvement of private sector participation in solid waste management. However, private sector participation has been very limited but it has great potentials because one of the reasons for the flaking performance of the KMC in terms of Solid waste management has been the lack of finance and expertise which could be available through private firms.

Till date large percentage of household waste is collected through door to door service, single collection point which however has not been effective and has been infrequent.  Besides that riverside dumping is still very prevalent in the valley which needs to be stopped as the practice affects both Stopping human health and also destroys the ecological environment. Though the civil society groups have been working towards restoring the rivers health, the KMC needs to play a vital role for reducing this ill practice.

The Waste Management Act of 2011 has provisions for collecting tariff from the public as per the amount of waste disposed as well as a fine system for illegal dumping which has not been implemented.

Apart from waste collection and disposal, KMC’s work as involves monitoring waste disposals from hospitals, hazardous waste from industries and the sewerage system in terms of waste management. Due to the very intensive nature of the SMW it is impossible of the KMC to oversee each and every aspect of waste management in the Valley. Furthermore, waste disposal at the sanitary site have also received criticism for the unhealthy way they are disposed.

Efficient collection and handling can be done through private companies given the sense of ownership and profit involved. The Municipality through its partnership with the private companies could also generate tariff that would help in assisting other integral aspect of SWM in the country and even water waste management which is another pressing issue at the present moment. Furthermore, not all municipalities in the country have efficient management system for waste management and the ADB report on the survey of 58 municipalities found that nearly 44% of the municipalities were not even aware of the clauses of the National Policy of SWM. Thereby, private partnership with companies which are financially sound and technically adept would help in improving the SWM significantly.

 

 

About Astha Joshi

Astha completed her undergraduate degree in Politics, Philosophy and Economics (PPE) and is working as a research assistant at Samriddhi, The Prosperity Foundation.

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Need for Seed!

http://www.ekantipur.com/the-kathmandu-post/2010/10/28/related_articles/germ-theory/214267.html

http://www.ekantipur.com/the-kathmandu-post/2010/10/28/related_articles/germ-theory/214267.html

Agriculture contributes to 35% of the Nepal’s GDP and provides livelihood to nearly 76% of households. Despite this, Nepal imports huge amount of food every year. Due to agriculture’s importance in the economy, various policies that subsidize agro inputs like seeds and fertilizers with a hope that such would make the needed impact in the sector. But the negative growth rate which at present stands at 1.3% compared to 5% in 2012 paints a different picture (Nepal Rastriya Bank).

Recently, national dailies covered the news of Rautahat district and its problems in acquiring subsidized hybrid wheat seeds. The reasons quoted for this was the arbitrary distribution by the District of Agriculture appointed dealers, black market seed sale to Indian farmer by officials, administrative lax of coupon distribution without authorized signatures and delivery failure of slated amount of seeds to the district(nepalnews.com). According to news reports, out of 1800 metric ton only 260 had been delivered with no indication of when the others would reach the 1300 farmers still waiting for the seeds (nepalnews.com ). Some of these allegations have been corroborated by recovery of nearly 8 quintals of subsidized wheat seeds by the Armed Police force at the Border in Tilathi VDC (myrepublica.com).

National Seed Vision of 2013-25 states that nearly 90% of the seed need in Nepal is fulfilled by the informal farmer seed market ( informal seeds are saved seed from previous harvest) which are noted to hamper productivity as seeds replacement is important to ensure good produce (GoN, MoAD).

The government provides subsidy for Cereal crops seeds which are expensive and to supposedly deter people from buying low-cost seeds that would led to production failure. However, when farmers do not receive the seeds in time then they resort to buying low-cost seed or imported seeds if those are available in the market.

As per the Nepal Seed Act, it is mandatory to register imported seeds, both pollinated and hybrid. Furthermore, hybrid seeds need to have a multi-location testing for two years through the Nepal Agricultural Research Council (NARC) before they can even enter the country (GoN).

Hybridized seed usage has increased with the lack of seed and with farmer’s expectation of having a good harvest. This has had negative implications because hybrid seeds have to be tested for climate suitability and adaptability before they are used. Huge production losses in the Terai region and recently in Bhaktapur where farmers lost crops amounting to Rs 80 million exemplify the negative implications. Bhaktapur farmers had apparently used hybrid seeds prescribed by the MoAD for Terai and Inner Terai region approved in 2010 (ekantipur.com). Seed replacement for hybrid seeds is 100% and with shortage of seeds, farmers have been found to be using them frequently leading to production failure. The reason for this is also the lack of hybrid seeds production in the country.

Despite the National Seed Policy (1999) provision for the involvement of the private parties in the seed industry, only NARC has authorization to carry out research in seed variety development and supplying breeder seed while private companies and other NGO’s involved can multiply and build foundation seed. NARC has been able to release 140 varieties of rice, maize and wheat since 1960 with only 60% rice seed and 1/3 maize and wheat (International Food Policy Research Institute 2012).

The  seed vision of MoAD ( 2013-25) has proposed the expansion of its research facilities to produce better suited hybrid seeds and increasing  seed production through public private partnership (PPP) with existing 4 seed production companies in Nepal. These steps would definitely help in fulfilling the need of seed in the Nepali market but it would surely not be enough ( GoN,Moad).

The seed industry lacks investment and since only few private companies are involved in the business the government should offer incentives and ease the registration process to attract more private investment. It also has to ensure implementation of its rules regarding truthful labeling so that farmers are not cheated with unproductive seeds. Instead of offering subsidies or coupons for distribution it should cancel it and instead focus on increasing investment in the market to meet seed production demands, increase competition and let the market supply and demand set the price. The government also needs to strengthen the marketing network in the country so that seeds are readily available everywhere and ensure that the distributors are knowledgeable about seeds to prevent production failure owing to lack of information.

About Astha Joshi

Astha completed her undergraduate degree in Politics, Philosophy and Economics (PPE) and is working as a research assistant at Samriddhi, The Prosperity Foundation.

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Nepali migrant workers’ woes in Qatar

http://www.souryadaily.com/2012/03/4450.html

http://www.souryadaily.com/2012/03/4450.html

News about Nepali migrant workers and their woes especially in the Middle East country appears nearly every day or so in the leading dailies of the country. It was not a long time ago that we saw an international coverage and furor about the heart rendering condition of Nepali workers in Qatar who had been forced to work overtime and without pay under scorching heat of Qatar building the football stadiums for World Cup 2010 and losing their lives in the process (Guardian, September 25, 2103).

Similarly, another news article recently highlighted the desperate condition of twelve Nepali migrant workers were fighting to survive in Qatar without having received proper food, bed for the past one month. The news article stated how they had been sent through one of the many Kathmandu based employment agencies promising good pay but they were welcomed in Qatar with bleak prospect of no jobs and held at the company illegally without any work or pay (ekantipur.com, November 26,2013).

According to World Bank reports, Nepal is ranked sixth out of the top ten earners from Qatar with total estimated remittance of $634 million sent by 2,99,000 Nepali workers in Qatar (samsaramoney.com).

The Government of Nepal has as per the power conferred by section 23 of the Foreign Employment Act, 2008 set a minimum wage for Nepali workers in Qatar plus other allowances which includes round-trip travel expense, health cost, working hours, labor rights under Qatar laws as well ( GoN). Although these rules ensure migrant workers right, in reality none of them are followed which was seen in the case of the migrant workers at Qatar’s Football stadium. In the case of the 12 migrant workers they had actually given their last 1000 Riyal to the company to purchases return air ticket and the company after receiving the money had turned tone deaf to their woes. The manpower in question also ignored their pleas and they have requested the Foreign Employment Department to take action against the agency ( ekantipur.com, November 26,2013).

To make matters worse it is found that the cycle of exploitation actually starts from home itself.
Contrary to popular belief agencies that cheat people are not all illegal. They are actually legal agencies like in the case of the 12 Nepali workers who had been sent through the Swift Gurkha manpower company. It was stated that the workers had submitted Rs 80,000 as processing fee which is more than the government approved fee of Rs 70,000 (GoN).

Extorting money from vulnerable workers is further noted in the article published by the Guardian, dated October 2.2013 where a Nepali migrant worker lamented how he had to pay Rs 1,10,000 to the agency as charge for employment. It is strictly stated in the Government of Nepal, Department of labor and Transport notice regarding country wise cost that any agency found to be charging more money than the stated amount would face strict actions by the government     (GoN).
Furthermore, there is a big communication gap in terms of migrant workers and government procedures , rights and helps provided to them.

Most migrant workers are not even aware of the terms and condition in their contract. As per the rules for migrant workers seeking work in Qatar for work, the contract document has to be in Nepali, English and Arabic. They could either enter the contract with the employer in Qatar or through the recruitment agencies in Nepal( Ceslam.org). The guardian article quotes migrant workers stating that since most of the contracts were in English and due to not knowing the language they had to rely on the recruitment agent’s words ( Guardian, October 2, 2013). Moreover, contracts are mostly found to be handed to the migrant workers at the airport right before their departure to the destination country. This shows how migrant workers are vulnerable to exploitation from recruitment agencies. The cycle of exploitation starts at the airport too from custom officials, guards etc who sell departure cards and try to extort money accusing them of fake passport and such (Nepalitimes.com, September 19,2013).

The Commission for the Investigation of Abuse of Authority (CIAA) recently arrested employees from the Department of Immigration, Airport Customs, and the Department of Foreign Labor which many print media lamented was late in action. A report regarding extortion at Kathmandu’s airport estimated to be nearly Rs 2 million daily had been submitted two years ago and it was only recently that any action was carried out to address them(Nepalitimes.com, September 19,2013).

Nepal has good labor laws but till they have mostly been relegated to ink and paper only. Majority of the migrant workers are not even aware of their rights of helps provided. The Government of Nepal under the Foreign Employment Promotion board has a welfare fund for migrant worker which official’s state has a surplus of more than $18m  ( Guardian, October 2, 2013). As per government rules, every migrant worker has to pay Rs 1000 to the Foreign Employment Welfare Fund which is supposed to provide them help in case of death, accidents and awareness and skill training (ceslam.org). The report in the Guardian quotes official from the Amnesty International remark that a survey carried out by them found out that nearly 95%their migrant workers were not aware of this help  ( Guardian, October 2, 2013). As per rules migrant workers also have to undertake two-day orientation training from the government-recognized institution but despite this there are still many migrant workers languishing in desperate condition in Qatar  (ceslam.org).

The crack down on airport officials is one of the many things that the Nepal government needs to undertake to ensure the protection of its worker as well as continue to establish help centers in the destination country like safe houses for its workers. It has to ensure that the laws and regulations are stringently being followed by the recruitment agencies and start disseminating information regarding the various programs and help offered to workers so that they do not fall prey to the treacherous agents. The need to focus on educating the prospective migrant workers is greater than ever.

About Astha Joshi

Astha completed her undergraduate degree in Politics, Philosophy and Economics (PPE) and is working as a research assistant at Samriddhi, The Prosperity Foundation.

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