Nepali Times

PM Dahal steps down

Wednesday, May 24th, 2017
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Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal resigned on Wednesday.

Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal resigned on Wednesday. Pic: Bikram Rai

Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal resigned on Wednesday, keeping his promise to hand over the PM’s Chair to NC President Sher Bahadur Deuba after the first phase of local elections.

Dahal wanted to announce his resignation in Parliament on Tuesday, but the opposition UML obstructed House proceedings, slamming the government for creating 22 new local units ahead of the second phase of local elections on 14 June.

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Parliament was adjourned again on Wednesday, so Dahal announced his resignation in a 28-minute televised address to the nation in which he listed the achievements of his nine months in office: holding the first phase of local elections, ending Nepal’s chronic electricity shortage, and signing an agreement with China on its Belt and Road Initiative.

“People have not chosen agents of Singha Darbar but Executive Chiefs of Singha Darbars in their own villages through local elections,” Dahal said. “It would not have been possible if I had calculated whether my party would win or lose.”

Dahal said the first phase of local elections was a “grand success”, and hoped that the rest of Nepalis will also take part in the second phase of polls.

In August last year, Dahal had promised to vacate Baluwatar for Deuba in return for the NC’s support to the Maoists-led coalition government. “Gentlemen’s agreements are often violated  in Nepali politics, but I am keeping to my word,” he said. “I am stepping down as per my promise to the NC.”

After his address, Dahal headed towards Shital Niwas to submit his resignation to President Bidya Bhandari. Analysts say Dahal could have his eye on Provincial and Parliamentary elections later this year, in which he will want to make up for this party’s poor showing in local elections.


Bleak economic report

Wednesday, May 24th, 2017
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world bank report

The World Bank’s Country Economic Memorandum (CEM) on Nepal titled Climbing Higher: Toward a Middle Income Nepal says that despite a rapid reduction in the poverty rate, there is an urgent need to change Nepal’s development path because it is not leading to economic growth. If this trend continues, the report warns that Nepal will not meet the goal of graduating to middle income country status by 2030. Remittances are a safety valve but also ‘a symptom of deep, chronic problems’ but are not being used to generate economic activity and greater opportunity.

‘This cycle compounds existing and longstanding challenges that hamper Nepal’s competitiveness, furthering weak growth and limited domestic opportunities,’ it says. All these factors combined mean that Nepal could be stuck in a low-growth, high-migration equilibrium for years to come. Mopney sent home by Nepali workers abroad help pay for household expenses, but they are doing little to improve public service, development and investment. The report says that is why the quality of education, health care, and infrastructure remain ‘abysmal’.

The report adds that low economic growth has perpetuated a shortage of jobs at home, which in turn is fueling further outmigration. This has led to a loss of competitiveness and reduced pressure to generate more productive employment in Nepal. The report concludes: ‘This cycle compounds existing and longstanding challenges that hamper Nepal’s competitiveness, furthering weak growth and limited domestic opportunities … meaning that Nepal could be stuck in a low-growth, high-migration equilibrium for years to come.’

Full report

 


The Ranju Darshana phenomenon

Friday, May 19th, 2017
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ranju darshanaFrom the Nepali Press

NOTE OF DISSENT Column by Editor Krishna Jwala Devkota in Naya Patrika, 19 May

After winning the 1959 parliamentary elections by a narrow margin, a seemingly disappointed Ganesh Man Singh vented ire at a victory rally in his Kathmandu constituency: “You silly voters, you come out in droves to welcome me, but why didn’t more of you vote for me?”

Dubbed ‘The Iron Man’ of Nepal’s democracy struggle against the party-less Panchayat system, Singh led the 1990 Democracy Movement. As a native of Kathmandu, Singh’s leadership of the capital-centric movement was unopposed. So, when his wife and son lost the 1991 elections, the always blunt Singh publicly called Kathmandu’s voters “fools”.

Indeed, election results in Kathmandu have often been surprising, with heavyweights losing and newcomers pulling off upset victories.

As the head of the interim government after the fall of the absolute monarchy in 1990, Krishna Prasad Bhattarai was praised for steering Nepal’s successful transition to multi-party democracy. But Kathmandu’s voters did not trust him. UML General Secretary Madhav Kumar Nepal was widely seen as Prime Minister-in-waiting in 2008. But he bit the dust in the first Constituent Assembly elections. Maoist boss Pushpa Kamal Dahal suffered the same fate in 2013.

These surprise results are telling evidence that Kathmandu’s voters can lift candidates and bring them down. Kathmandu is the biggest beneficiary of government schemes, but is often anti-incumbent. Voters in Kathmandu behave in unpredictable ways. They will elect candidates whom they do not even know, just to show their dissatisfaction with the establishment. In the twilight years of the absolute monarchy, virtually unknown Nani Maiya Dahal contested and won elections. In the 2008 elections, most Maoist candidates in Kathmandu were outsiders and did not know their voters. Even so, they got elected. The Maoists thought they had conquered Kathmandu, but the same voters wiped them out in the 2013 elections.

The cow, the election symbol of the Hindu royalist RPP, was a surprise winner in Kathmandu in 2013. The results of local elections in Kathmandu show the cow has been washed away by Bagmati River. Even its tail is nowhere to be seen.

As the results of Kathmandu civic polls trickle in, Bibeksheel Nepali Party’s Ranju Darshana is receiving surprisingly more votes than expected. The waist coat, Darshana’s election symbol, may be too short this time, but she is just 21, and has the time to prepare herself for the next elections. But will Kathmandu give her so many votes next time?


Yeti pushes Global Goals

Friday, May 19th, 2017
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yeti
Nepal’s Yeti Airlines and the United Nations have agreed to promote global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to raise awareness to reduce poverty, improve wellbeing and protect the environment.

Known as the Global Goals, the SDGs are being promoted by the United Nations worldwide to reach targets to improve health, education and development by 2030 which most countries in the world have signed up to. these are realistic goals that replace the earlier Millennium Development Goals which Nepal mostly achieved.

Under the partnership, the UN and Yeti Airlines will undertake joint initiatives to raise awareness on the SDGs and mobilise relevant stakeholders and advocate for their contribution to the achievement of the Goals. Yeti’s new aircraft as well boarding passes and other literature will carry the SDG goals and slogans.

The partnership will also explore, adopt and promote innovative and sustainable business models in the aviation and tourism industry that would help Nepal meet some specific SDG indicators in the areas of climate change adaptation, poverty reduction and gender equality.

The SDGs and the Agenda 2030 – adopted by the UN Member States, including Nepal, in September 2015 – recognise the private sector as one of the key partners in advancing the Global Goals with its resources, technology and innovation to aid and accelerate the SDG implementation process.

UNDP Nepal Country Director Renaud Meyer and Yeti Airlines CEO Umesh Chandra Rai signed the  agreement on Thursday in Kathmandu.

“The United Nations in Nepal is pleased and excited to have the Yeti Airlines as our first private sector partner for the Global Goals in Nepal. This has certainly given a very positive message to the development and business communities in Nepal and the world over about the important role the private sector can play in advancing the SDGs,” said UNDP Nepal Country Director Renaud Meyer.

He added that SDGs are the responsibility of not just the government and UN agencies but everyone, including the private sector and civil society.

“Giving back to the society in every possible way has been a part of our regular practice and initiative, as flying is not the only thing we do,” said Yeti Airlines CEO Umesh Chandra Rai. “As a company doing responsible business, we are glad to have this opportunity to work together with the United Nations for the global cause.”


PM prepares to resign

Thursday, May 18th, 2017
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Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal has proven himself a true gentleman by keeping his promise to step down, and install NC President Sher Bahadur Deuba as new Prime Minister.

In August last year, Dahal made a “gentleman’s agreement” to hand over the PM’s chair to Deuba after local elections in return for the NC’s support to the Maoist-led government. But such agreements have often been broken in Nepali politics, and there was speculation Dahal would do the same. But after the first round of local elections this week, the prime minister said he will resign “in a few days”.

Nepal Army

Nepal Army

Maoist Centre Secretary Barshaman Pun confirmed that Dahal will step down at the next parliamentary meeting, and the party will back Deuba to become Prime Minister for the fourth time.

“Deuba will be Prime Minister, but the Maoist-NC ruling coalition will remain the same,” Pun told Nepali Times on Thursday. “The cabinet will be reshuffled, with induction of new faces.”

As the ruling coalition enters a new phase, the alliance of Madehsi parties, Rashtriya Janata Party Nepal (RJPN), looks anxious that it might be left out once again. It is still backing the ruling coalition, hoping the government will amend the Constitution as a face-saver so it can participate in the second phase of local elections on 14 June. RJPN leaders met Dahal and Deuba and asked them to amend the Constitution before the PM swap.

But NC leader Amresh Kumar Singh told us Thursday amending the Constitution is unlikely even before the election – a line that Indian ambassador Manjeev Singh Puri is reported to have conveyed to Madhesi leaders. The Hindustan Times reported this week that Puri told Madhesi leaders to drop their demand for the amendment and participate in the 14 June vote.

But RJPN leader Brijesh Kumar Gupta is adamant about not taking part in elections without the amendment even if India tells them to. “How can we go for elections without amendments, and make the sacrifices of so many Madhesi lives worthless?” he asked.

Still, it is unlikely the RJPN will ignore India’s advice. The success of the first round of elections is also too tempting to resist. The Federal Socialist Forum Nepal (FSFN), another Tarai-centric party, took part in the first round, and is preparing for the second one. If the RJPN boycotts the second phase, the Forum may emerge as the biggest Madhes-based party.

With less than a month to go for the second phase, and the ruling coalition still unable to secure the two-thirds majority needed to amend the Constitution, Maoist and NC leaders are trying to persuade Madhesi leaders with other offers. On Thursday, a cabinet meeting recognised recent Madhes and Tharuhat strikes as “political movements”. Outgoing PM Dahal also directed the Law Ministry to table a proposal in the next cabinet meeting to withdraw criminal charges against those arrested by police during Madhes-Tharuhat agitations last year.

Om Astha Rai

Read also:

All eyes on the 2nd round

Nepal votes

Stuck with these three , Om Astha Rai


Raut heads BBC Nepali

Thursday, May 18th, 2017
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20170518_140804 (1)Radio journalist Jitendra Raut has been appointed the new head of the BBC Nepali to succeed Rabindra Mishra, who left two months ago to start the new Sajha Party.

Raut started his career at Radio Sagarmatha and has been with the BBC Nepali for the past 17 years, reporting from the studios in London and later from the Kathmandu bureau.

The BBC’s Head of Asia Region, Juliana Iootty announced the decision on Thursday after a series of interviews.

“Jitendra has reported and led on coverages of some of the most crucial events that transformed the face of Nepal – the transition from monarchy to republic, the royal palace massacre, the Maoist insurgency and the two earthquakes of 2015, bringing hard-hitting stories and exclusive content to the audience,” Iootty said.

Raut will be leading the service through big changes that are bound to come with the WS2020 expansion, driving its digital transformation, refreshing our radio output and making sure that BBC Nepali keeps its reputation as the main provider of high quality, impactful journalism in the country, she added.


Faint praise from US

Tuesday, May 16th, 2017
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A day after the UK ‘welcomed the commencement of local elections in Nepal’ but refused to ‘comment on the (election) process’, the US on Tuesday ‘recognised the efforts’ in conducting the first phase of polls.

In what seems to be a grudging press statement, the US embassy in Kathmandu said: ‘We recognise the efforts of all stakeholders in conducting what appears to have been a largely peaceful and broadly-supported first round of local elections.’

The US reiterated a line from the UK embassy’s statement: ‘We strongly encourage the Government of Nepal to permit unrestricted international election observation during the second phase of local elections, in order to enable the international community, including accredited diplomats, to observe and offer support to the outcomes of the election.’

Sources say diplomats in Kathmandu had approached the Election Commission (EC) for permission to travel outside the Kathmandu Valley to observe elections. But the EC declined, allowing them to watch (not observe) elections only inside the valley.

“We provided liaison officers for diplomats to go around and watch election activities in Kathmandu,” an EC official told Nepali Times. “But remember: they were just allowed to watch and not observe, meaning that they would not need to report to us.”

Now, diplomats want permission to observe the second phase of local elections, which will take place in four provinces on 14 June. But the EC says it will not give permission for outsiders to observe elections in the second phase.

Both UK and US governments have urged the government to create a conducive environment for the second phase, which is code for saying that the Constitution must be amended before the second phase.

However, China has wholeheartedly welcomed the first phase of elections.

India, which has not welcomed Nepal’s new Constitution under which these local elections – the first in 19 years – are taking place, has remained silent. However, a report in the Hindustan Times says that new Indian ambassador to Nepal, Manjeev Singh Puri, has told Madhesi parties to not pursue an amendment to the Constitution and to take part in the second phase.

The report reads: ‘Indian diplomats in Kathmandu have told Nepal’s Tarai leadership to drop the demand of changes in the Constitution and participate in the second phase of local elections scheduled next month, a move being seen as a dramatic U-turn on a policy crafted over two years’.


 

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