CPN-Maoist to oppose Nepal government’s power pact with India

KATHMANDU, July 23 (Xinhua) — Amidst government’s preparation to sign a major power trading agreement (PTA) with India shortly, Nepal’s hardliner CPN-Maoist party decided on Tuesday to protest against it, a party official said Wednesday.

     A group of five parties headed by CPN-Maoist holding a meeting in Kathmandu concluded that the planned PTA is an utter intervention in Nepal’s sovereignty by the India government as well as anti-nationalist.

     The meeting also has decided to launch protest if the plan to sign the agreement is not canceled.

     The group of the parties announced its decision on the eve of Indian External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj’s three-day official visit to Kathmandu from July 25. She is scheduled to lead the Indian delegation at the 3rd Nepal-India Joint Commission meeting to be held on July 26-27.

     The Nepalese government has been planning to sign the PTA during the meeting.

     The Himalayan country has long pled India to sign the PTA, which will allow hydro-electricity powered Nepal to export its surplus energy to its southern neighbor during the wet season and import power during the dry season.

     “This contract in the name of PTA will hurt Nepal’s sovereignty, ” Dev Gurung, secretary of CPN-Maoist, told Xinhua, “This is an attempt of the current government to hand over controversial projects like Upper Karnali and Upper Arun to India one-sidedly.”

     Upper Karnali and Arun-3, both having 900 MW capacity and being developed by Indian power developers, are two of the most controversial hydropower projects in Nepal since 1990.

     He also said his party was forced to start the agitation against the government’s lack of far-sightedness.

     A week ago, the Indian government sent Nepal a draft of PTA, which has drawn criticisms from all stakeholders, according to whom the draft has sought Indian supremacy over Nepal’s water resources.

     Following that, the Indian Embassy in Kathmandu has clarified the issue by releasing a press statement. “In no way does the draft constrain Nepal’s sovereign right to develop its hydropower potential,” the statement said.

     Gurung also said the Indian government intends to dominate in the issues such as Nepal’s water, hydropower and other issues of national interest through the PTA draft.

     In a press release Tuesday, the CPN-Maoist also demanded the government to achieve national consensus while signing any major agreements.  Enditem

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Nepal records 5.63 billion USD trade deficit in 11 months

KATHMANDU, July 21 (Xinhua) — Nepal suffered a total of 5.63 billion U.S. dollars trade deficit during the 11-month-period of the fiscal year 2013-14 due to extreme growth in imports and sluggish rate of exports, government data showed Monday.

     According to data released by Nepal Rastra Bank (NRB), the country’s central bank, the Himalayan nation recorded 28.6 percent (1.25 billion dollars) increase in the total trade loss during the review period as compared to the same period in the fiscal year 2012-13.

     During the period the poor South Asian country imported goods worth 6.45 billion dollars while export remained at 817.3 million dollars.

     “The country’s growth in import went up by 27 percent while exports rose to mere 16.9 percent during the review period ended in June, 2014.” A breakdown of the data indicated that the country lost 16.9 million dollars a day in trade deficit.

     According to the NRB, the trade deficit soared due to the massive import of items including, petroleum products, iron and steel, vehicles and auto-parts, machinery, electronics and food commodities.

     The country used huge sum of money to import petroleum products. During the period of 11 months, Nepal bought fuel products worth 12.3 billion dollars. With the country reeling under as much as 12 hours long load shedding a day, the import of petroleum products has skyrocketed to keep generators, captive plants, vehicles and even  household affairs in operation.

     Similarly, the country paid 585 million dollars for importing steel and iron products, 363 million dollars for automobiles and parts, 257 million dollars for electronics and 252 million dollars for importing food commodities.

     In terms of export, iron and steel products topped the country’ s export chart by supplying products worth 109 million dollars. It also earned 66.2 million dollars from exporting carpet and 58.5 million dollars from Acrylic yarn, among others.

     Trade deficit has come to be the biggest threat of Nepal’s economy. Due to the supply side constraints including low production and obstacles at customs, the South Asian country has not been able to do significant amount of export trade.

     India has been Nepal’s largest trading partner during the review period with Nepal carrying more than 66 percent trade with its Southern neighbor. Nepal imported goods and services worth 4. 34 billion dollars from India while exported goods worth 545 million dollars to the southern market.

     China has appeared the second largest trading partner of Nepal where it exported goods worth 23.2 million dollars and imported goods and services worth 698 million  dollars from its Northern partner during the period, according to the data. Enditem

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Nepal is poor because of poor-governance: CPN-UML chief

KATHMANDU, July 21 (Xinhua) — CPN-UML (Communist Party of Nepal- Unified Marxist and Leninist) chief Khadga Prasad (KP) Oli on Monday blamed poor governance for the country being poor and non-progressive.

     Addressing a day-meal programme held here, the newly elected chairman of CPN-UML asked the party members to work towards achieving prosperity of the country.

     He said the country despite having abundant resources happened to fall into the league of poor nations as the government and its citizens failed to recognize themselves.

     Oli also said that CPN-UML alone had a vision to develop the nation. He added, “our party alone can initiate and lead the vision to develop the country.”

     The party chairman stressed that CPN-UML is not formed to produce ministers and prime ministers but to transform the nation.

     Sixty-two-year-old Oli won the election for new head of Nepal’s oldest communist party on Tuesday during the party’s ninth general convention.

     Stating that CPN-UML has been struggling continually for the establishment of republic democracy in Nepal for the last six decades, he said that his party’s sole aim would be ensuring good- governance and development after the drafting of the constitution.

     “Neither I, nor you all should tolerate corruption, governmental dominance and irregularities of any sort,” he said.

     Oli asked party members to march towards institutionalizing the achievements achieved so far through the drafting of the constitution.

     He also asked party cadres to focus upon making the party more dynamic by forgetting the rift shown during the recent election for new leadership.

     During the function, he also asked all concerned to highly utilize the country’s resources for transforming the country.  Enditem.

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First Nepal Study Center established in China

KATHMANDU, July 16 (Xinhua) — The first Nepal Study Center ( NSC) was officially inaugurated Wednesday at Hebei University of Economics and Business (HUEB) in China.

     The main objective of NSC is to introduce Nepal’s culture, education, politics and economics, among Chinese people so as to foster better understanding between the two nations and improve Sino-Nepal ties.

     Ambassador of Nepal to China, Dr. Mahesh Kumar Maskey and President of HUEB, Prof. Dr. Ji Lainggang jointly inaugurated NSC.

     “The Nepal Study Center is a continuation of the fine tradition of friendship and cooperation between China and Nepal,” Dr. Mahesh Kumar Maskey said, addressing the program.

     “I am sure, the establishment of this center will prove a giant step in the long journey aimed at nurturing the understanding between China and Nepal.” he added.

     In Nepal there are several institutions such as the Confucius Institute and the China Study Center, which have been helping Nepalese people to understand their northern neighbor.  Enditem

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Nepal’s former crown prince arrested in Thailand

KATHMANDU, July 16 (Xinhua) — Nepal’s former Crown Prince Paras Shah has reportedly been arrested by Thai police in Thailand, state media and government officials said here on Wednesday.

     According to the recent unfolding of the event, Shah was brought to book in the night of July 10 from Hotel Davis based in Bangkok.

     it is still unclear about the reason why the former prince was arrested, though he was found possessing 12 grams of marijuana.

     Possession of any narcotic drugs like hashish is a serious violation of law in Thailand.

     Meanwhile, Nepali Embassy to Thailand has confirmed Shah’s arrest, and it has corresponded about the matter to the Nepal’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

     “We have received a letter from Nepali Embassy to Thailand a few days ago, which has confirmed that former Prince Shah has been arrested there,” a high level source at the ministry told Xinhua this afternoon on condition of anonymity.

     According to the state media and embassy sources, Shah has been taken to Thailand’s Criminal Court for legal proceedings. The embassy however could not confirm where the former prince has been kept at the present.

     Shah, notorious for his sophisticated lifestyle and consumption of intoxicating substances, has been living in Thailand for more than five years since the monarchical country went to republic following the first constituent assembly election in 2008.

     The then heir of the throne has disturbed relationship with his family members after his love affair with a Thai girl came into light.

     Shah had also been arrested by Thai police a year ago, following which he had suffered a deadly heart attack and been in coma for several weeks.  Enditem

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Nepal’s oldest communist party gets new leadership

KATHMANDU, July 16 (Xinhua) — Nepal’s oldest communist party CPN-UML has got a new head after KP Sharma Oli on Tuesday came victorious in the election held for selecting new leadership, the party officials announced on Wednesday.

     The election was held during the ninth general convention of the CPN-UML that kicked off on July 3 in Kathmandu.

     The party’s senior leader, Oli who is also popular for cracking jokes and making witty statements, defeated his rival Madhav Kumar Nepal, the country’s former prime minister, by a thin margin.

     “Oli secured 1,047 votes while Nepal got 1,003 votes,” CPN- UML leader Pradip Gyawali told Xinhua on Wednesday.

     Sixty-two-year-old Oli is taken as a straightforward politician with an ability of decision-making in crucial political issues.

     The parliamentary party leader from CPN-UML, Oli suffered defeat during the party’s eighth general convention in 2009 while vying for the top post. Outgoing Chairman Jhalanatha Khanal defeated him.

     According to the party statute, immediate past Chairman Khanal automatically becomes party office bearer with second position after the chairman in the party hierarchy.

     The voting for the selection of new leadership and 159 central committee members were conducted last Friday when a total of 2,154 of 2,176 party representatives casted their votes.

     According to the election committee, Bamdev Gautam who is also Nepal’s deputy prime minister, Bidhya Bhandari, Yubraj Gyawali, Astha Laxmi Shakya and Bhim Rawal have been elected vice- chairpersons.

     Incumbent General Secretary Ishwar Pokharel has again been elected for the same position, defeating his rival Surendra Pandey.

     Similarly, Ghanashyam Bhusal and Bishnu Poudel have been elected to the post of deputy general secretary.  Enditem

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Nepal to hold local election in mid-January next year

KATHMANDU, July 15 (Xinhua) — Nepal’s Deputy Prime Minister Bam Dev Gautam said Tuesday that the country will hold the local election in mid-January 2015, asking the security personnel to stay ready and alert for holding the polls successfully.

     The election for the leadership of local bodies — village development committees and municipalities — should have been held every five years. But due to political instability, there has not been any such election since 1998.

     The country’s political parties, in their manifestoes for the Constituent Assembly election that was successfully conducted last November, promised to hold local elections within six months after the formation of the new government.

     “The local election will be held before the introduction of constitution on January 22, 2015,” said Gautam while addressing a regional conference of security officials in Nepalgunj, western Nepal.

     He asked the concerned security institutions to focus on election-oriented security plan so as to make the election more peaceful, unbiased, organized and fear-free.

     Gautam made the announcement amidst concerns from stakeholders that the delay in local elections has halted local development programs.  Enditem

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Budget will kick start Nepal’s sluggish economy: minister

KATHMANDU, July 15 (Xinhua) — Two days after announcing the annual budget for the fiscal year 2014-2015, Nepal’s Finance Minister Dr. Ram Saran Mahat on Tuesday claimed that the annual fiscal policy will ‘kick start’ the sluggish economy of the poor South Asian country.

     Though the budget does not introduce any new programs as such, the Exchequer said as budget has laid maximum focus on financial reformation; it will help give momentum to the stagnant national economy.

     The Nepal government had on Sunday announced 6.18 billion U.S. dollars worth of annual budget for the fiscal year 2014-15. This is the first time that the government succeeded introducing full- fledged budget on time in the last four years.

     “The amount allotted by the budget alone does not suffice for the economic growth,” said the minister during a post-budget interaction held in Kathmandu on Tuesday, “it equally requires policy level intervention which the budget has talked about.”

     According to him, his ministry has already begun preparations for revising more than two dozen laws and policies that would positively impact country’s economic and business environment.

     He also said the budget has focused on simplifying policies, structures and procedures that have appeared as obstacles for the economic growth claiming that such an effort will bear fruit very soon.

     Justifying the budget’s aim to achieve 6 percent economic growth in the next fiscal year, Dr. Mahat said the target can be easily achieved.

     “The capacity to spend amount allotted in the budget and the initiation of economic reformations as targeted would prepare conducive environment for private sector to put in their investment, which will ensure to achieve the economic growth target,” said Mahat, adding this will eventually lay foundation for upgrading Nepal into the developing one by 2022.

     Stakeholders in Nepal have however expressed mixed voices as regards to the recent budget.

     Economist Deependra Bahadur Kshetri said that it would be difficult to achieve the target of 6 percent economic growth and containing inflation at 8 percent as aimed by the budget.

     “The government has not announced any concrete programs to increase industrial production to achieve high economic growth,” Kshetri, who is also former vice chairman of National Planning Commission, told Xinhua by phone.

     Nepal’s private sector has welcomed the budget for its private sector-friendly tone.

     “We are pleased with the budget as it has addressed many of the private sector’s demands,” said Pradeep Jung Pandey, president of Federation of Nepalese Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FNCCI), country’s apex business body, “we want its implementation.”  Enditem

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Nepal to receive second Chinese plane on 25 July

KATHMANDU, July 9 (Xinhua) — The Nepal government which has recently received the first ever China made aircraft is all set to receive another aircraft later this month under a six-aircraft deal between Nepal and China, officials here said Wednesday.

     The Nepal Airlines Corporation (NAC) received a “delivery date” from the Chinese airplane maker, the Harbin Aircraft Manufacturing Corporation, last weekend, for delivering a 17-seater twin-engine Y12e on July 25.

     The Chinese manufacturer already handed over the Y12e to officials from NAC, Nepal’s national flag carrier, this week in China.

     “With the handing over of the plane to the Nepali authorities, the Chinese Y12e is all set to come to Nepal on July 25,” NAC spokesperson Saroj Kasaju told Xinhua.

     On April 27, Nepal received the first China-made plane, a 58- seater Modern Ark 60 (MA60), which commences its formal operation from July 25.

     “The upcoming plane will begin commercial operation after two weeks of its arrival in Nepal,” added Kasaju.

     NAC officials said the Y12e that will make flights to the western remote parts of the Himalayan country will receive permit for operation within a week from the aviation regulatory body.

     The NAC said it will complete all paper works and formalities before the plane arrives to bring it into the operation at the earliest date.  Enditem

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Feature: Rural Nepalese women express creativity, make money through tribal art

     by Bibbi Abruzzini

     JANAKPUR, Nepal, July 9 (Xinhua) — Nepalese women living in the country’s rural areas are expressing their creativity through the traditional Mithila painting and slowly becoming economically self-reliant.

     The Mithila painting tradition was developed in the Southern Terai region of Nepal and in the Northern state of Bihar in India. The religious symbols and traditional patterns adorn walls and floors of village houses, particularly during important occasions such as weddings and religious festivals.

     Women are masters in this kind of art which has been handed down from generation to generation and which Nepal, despite its modernization, is promoting rather than extinguishing.

     Artist Sudha Sah, 30, learned the indigenous form of painting from her mother and has been working as an artist for the past 13 years.

     “I teach mathematics at school and I encourage my students to learn the art. Mithila art in particular is all about lines and geometry which allows me to combine those subjects together,” Sah said in a recent interview with Xinhua.

     Sudha Shah lives in Janakpur, located on the Nepal-Indo border and spends most of her days training students and selling her paintings.

     She told Xinhua of her difficult situation in the past before she was rescued from an abusive husband who spent all their money on alcohol.

     “Art is like a therapy for me, when I paint I live fully in the present moment without fearing my past,” she said.

     Mithila art had rarely been seen outside villages; designs were short-lived because of the heavy rain during the monsoon season and women would seldom leave their homes.

     Even though women in the villages around Janakpur have been practicing their folk art for centuries, the world at large has come to know about them only in the last 30 years.

     Hindu mythologies and deities have always been a prolific presence in this particular tribal art, together with scenes of everyday lives of the Mithili people. Most of the paintings in its design and composition are based on mythological, folk themes, and tantric symbolism. Many of the images have specific meanings; a lotus for instance symbolizes prosperity and parrot fertility.

     For years, most of the work remained anonymous, but the increasing popularity of the Mithila art now enables women to earn a living and to narrow the male-female income gap.

     “In the past it was very difficult for women living in villages to get out of their homes and be independent but through art some of us can now provide education to our children and at the same time earn some money,” Rekha Chaudhari, a Mithila artist who recently moved to Kathmandu with her family, said.

     Globalization has actually helped promote the Mithila art. Tribal art products and paintings can now be seen on display in handicrafts shops in Kathmandu and are popular in Japan, Europe, the U.S. and China.

     Satrughan Chaudhary, Director of the Nepal Mithila Women Handicraft, told Xinhua that there are now more than 20 factories in the country employing Mithili women who usually come from the marginalized sector of Nepalese society.

     “In factories women are paid according to the volume of artworks they produce but there are also many independent artists nowadays who try to sell their artworks by themselves,” Satrughan Chaudhary said.

     Chaudhary established the center with the aim of empowering women in Nepal’s villages by making them self-reliant and allowing them to make use of their creative talent.

     Claire Burkett, an American who founded the Janakpur Women’s Development Center (JWDC) in 1989, has elevated the Mithila art to another level with the transfer of the floor and wall paintings into textile, paper, canvas and ceramics.

     Nepalese tribal artists have not only contributed to the economic growth of the country but have also promoted the indigenous art to the outside world. Now, Nepal is increasingly not only known for Mount Everest but also of its unique tribal artists.  Enditem

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