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Himalaya’s Himalayan turns 25

Wednesday, January 24th, 2018
Photo: Himalayan Bank

Himalaya Rana was honoured for with lifetime achievement at the bank’s 25th anniversary function this week at the Hyatt Regency, Photo: Himalayan Bank

When Himalaya Shumsher Rana returned to Nepal after a stint at the United Nations to establish a joint venture bank in 1983, he probably didn’t imagine that 25 years later Himalayan Bank grow to what it is today: Nepal’s premier pioneering financial institution with a paid up capital exceeding Rs 8 billion with 49 branches all over the country.

At the bank’s 25th anniversary function this week at the Hyatt Regency, Himalaya Rana was honoured for his lifetime achievement. Retired, but also serving as the bank’s chief adviser, he recalled how unique it was in the 1980s for a South Asian financial partnership with Habib Bank of Pakistan.

Chief Executive Officer Ashoke SJB Rana, scion of the founder, praises his father’s pioneering spirit and foresight. It was on the foundations laid down by his father that Himalayan Bank now registers a yearly growth of 12-15%.

The bank receives Rs1.2 billion annually from Nepalis working abroad as remittance, and has distributed Rs6.5 billion to shareholders as dividend. It has also introduced new products like a premium saving account, accidental death insurance, and MasterCard, American Express, Unionpay and JCB credit cards.

However, Nepali banks in general are facing liquidity crunch after the elections in 2017. The growth in real estate transactions shows that although there is money in the market, banks are not being able to cash it as deposits.

“The government consistently spent less than 30% of its total capital within a six year period. This fiscal year it showed only 14% expenditure out of the total capital, which is another reason why banks are facing deficits,” Ashoke Rana explains.

Ever since Nepal Rastra Bank signed the global protocol of Anti Money Laundering, banks have to comply with new international regulations. This means extra budgeting is needed to hire more people to screen all accounts, invest in anti-money laundering software, and other inputs.

“Compliance is the buzz word in the banking sector right now,” says Rana, “and it adds another challenge for Nepal’s financial institutions.”

Another system introduced by the Rastra Bank is the interbank payment system under which banks are to allow customers to pay their utility bills through other banks if they want to.

Himalayan Bank is seizing this moment to introduce a faster payment system and it hopes to allow customers to upgrade banking while at the same time expand its physical branches in the seven new provinces to comply with the central bank’s requirements.

Himalayan Bank is also involved increasingly in lending on infrastructure projects, especially hydropower and the energy sector.

Sikuma Rai



Protests over temporary capitals

Thursday, January 18th, 2018
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Local people in Birganj on Thursday protest against the government’s decision to set up the Province 2 temporary headquarters in Janakpur. Photo: RSS

A day after the outgoing Sher Bahadur Deuba government chose temporary headquarters of all seven provinces, protests have erupted across the country.

In Dhankuta, protesters torched several government offices, forcing the local administration to declare a curfew Thursday. Demonstrators wanted their hill town to be the Province 1 capital, and took to the streets when the government chose Biratnagar. In Birganj, protesters have enforced a strike demanding their border city be the Province 2 capital instead of Janakpur, which is the government’s choice. People in Bara, too, are up in arms.

In Dang, cross-party leaders and cadres have joined hands to oppose the government’s decision to set up Province 5 headquarters in Rupandehi. In Dipayal, NC cadres burnt effigies of their own party president, Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba, for declaring Dhangadhi the Province 7 capital.

There is also dissatisfaction against Hetauda, instead of Kathmandu or Kavre, as the Province 3 capital. Only Pokhara and Surkhet, the temporary headquarters of Provinces 4 and 6 respectively, have been unopposed so far.

Upon his arrival Thursday from a medical trip to Bangkok, UML Chair KP Oli, widely seen as the PM in waiting, slammed the government for naming state chiefs and provincial capitals to ‘fulfil its own needs’. But he urged protesters to roll back their strikes, saying state assemblies will later decide on provincial capitals.

Oli’s appeal is unlikely to calm protesters. They know the government has chosen temporary headquarters only, and that the real power to declare provincial capitals lies in state assemblies. But they also know that if they relent now they will have less power later.

NC leader Surendra Chaudhary, who is in the forefront of protests in Birganj, says: “The more we intensify our protests now, the stronger our bargaining power will be later. If we fail to make our voice heard now, the state assembly will endorse what the government has decided.”

Chaudhary’s statement sums up the mind-set of cross-party leaders and cadres spearheading protests. They know what they are up to now is just a rehearsal for a bigger fight. And, if state assemblies nullify the government’s decision, protests will erupt in the cities that have been made temporary headquarters. It seems the real test to implementing federalism has just begun.


Commemorating Edmund Hillary

Saturday, January 13th, 2018

The tenth anniversary of the death of Sir Edmund Hillary this week was a propitious moment to think again about the legacy of this great man. There are other anniversaries: 65 years after the first ascent of Mt Everest in 2018, and the centennial of Hillary’s birth next year.


At one time Edmund Hillary was the most famous person in the world. Every child knew of his climb on 29 May, 1953. These days, if you asked an American under the age of 40 who Ed Hillary is they are likely to say: “Brother or uncle of Hillary Clinton?”

During the 1960s and 70s Nepal was known as the recreational and spiritual jewel of the world, a destination that was on everyone’s ‘bucket list’. In large part, that allure was due to the achievements and the promotional effort of Edmund Hillary. The so-called hippies matured into the generation that fought to protect the environment, promoted recycling, and planetary sustainability. They were inspired by Nepal, but Hillary was the catalyst.

Hillary’s son Peter Hillary, a world-class adventurer and humanitarian in his own right, wrote of the liberating effect of his father’s achievement on Mt Everest: ‘While Ed Hillary and Tenzing Norgay just wanted to climb the mountain because no one had reached the summit, it never occurred to them that this daring climb into the physical and physiological unknown expanded the realm of possibility for every one of us down near sea level the fact that we too could climb the world’s highest mountain if we wanted to … we are all liberated by the successes of others, because their successes show that it can be done.’

Kumar Mainali, president of Mountain Legacy, the Nepalese NGO that administers the Sir Edmund Hillary Mountain Legacy Medal, has spoken of the game-changing impact of Hillary’s style of development assistance: ‘We all know about the expedition, but for us what is of far greater significance is the model of development that Edmund Hillary pioneered after that climb … that promoted an alternative to the model of development had been largely one-sided: whether colonial, evangelical, or ostensibly philanthropic, the developer would unilaterally push an agenda conceived without input from the impacted communities.’

Hillary’s sense of gratitude and responsibility made him want to return the favour to Nepal, with what became a remarkably ambitious and successful range of projects. His model of development emphasised the human dimension, integrating communities and ecosystems in lifting living standards in the mountains. This broader focus made development projects more likely to succeed and cheaper to implement because it invests ownership and responsibility in the communities.

Hillary did not regard himself as an explorer or a humanitarian professional. He was bee-keeper, and he was an adventurer. Hillary was not just a practitioner of adventure, he also advocated for it as a necessary exercise of the human spirit. By adventure he understood an effort to reach a set goal, which might involve a great deal of drudgery or even boring downtime, but would employ all one’s skills and character to the utmost, and still risk failure.

What he realised as he undertook his first development project in the Khumbu eight years after climbing Mt Everest, was that building a school or reforesting a hillside could be the same kind of effort. Recreational adventure became a stepping stone to philanthropic adventure. Directly or indirectly, Hillary’s example has led hundreds of trekkers, mountaineers, and other adventurers to undertake a huge diversity of assistance adventures that have greatly benefited Nepal’s people and helped sustain its ecosystems.

New Zealand is making plans for its own Hillary Centennial year. We should remind the world that Hillary chose to make Nepal the primary focus of his lifelong adventures.  This is a final opportunity to capitalise on an asset of unparalleled power to stir the imagination. Let’s seize it.

Seth Sicroff

Director of Mountain Legacy’s Sir Edmund Hillary Mountain Legacy Medal Project.

Commissions for commissioners

Monday, January 8th, 2018


Santa Gaha Magar in Himal Khabarpatrika

In 1992, when Nepal held its first parliamentary elections under the 1990 Constitution, the polls cost just Rs 110 million.

In November-December last year when the first parliamentary-provincial elections under the 2015 Constitution were held, the Election Commission (EC) spent that much in just repairing old vehicles.

The total cost of the November-December polls was Rs 10 billion –- 181 times higher than in 1992, and double the amount allotted for the second Constituent Assembly (CA) elections in 2013.

One may argue that the election budget may have rocketed because of inflation and the necessity of simultaneously holding two tiers of elections. But the 1992 elections budget is equivalent to just about Rs 810 million in today’s currency value.

“The latest elections were much more expensive than all the past polls, even after adjustment for inflation,” says Nilkantha Uprety, former Chief Election Commissioner.

Himal Khabarpatrika investigation has found that the parliamentary-provincial polls were wasteful because all Election Commissioners were hand in glove for kickbacks.

They bought luxurious vehicles and unnecessary equipment and materials at inflated prices. They even submitted fake bills, and transferred the secretary who refused to go along with the scams.

Chief Election Commissioner Ayodhi Prasad Yadav and Election Commissioners Ila Sharma, Ishwari Prasad Poudel, Sudhir Kumar Shah and Narendra Dahal unanimously decided to buy five luxury vehicles for themselves. When Secretary Gopi Nath Mainali opposed their decision, he was transferred out of the EC –- a move that violated the election code set by the EC itself.

After removing Mainali, the EC fast-tracked the procurement process to buy the five luxury vehicles, each costing Rs 23.3 million. Sources say the five Election Commissioners got a cut of Rs 10 million from this purchase, which they divided up among themselves.

Despite having four printing machines at its disposal to print Voter ID cards, the EC bought another machine for Rs 160 million. But the new machine was not used to its optimum, and voters were ultimately allowed to cast ballots by just showing citizenship cards.

An EC official told us on condition of anonymity that the five Election Commissioners got a kickback Rs 10.6 million for the new printing machine. “Election Commissioners bought the machine only to pocket their cuts,” he said. “If the new machine was really required, it would not have been thrown into the storeroom.”

Chief Election Commissioner Yadav took home TVs and air-conditioners bought for his office. Election Commissioner Ila Sharma was caught on CCTV camera taking a TV set out of her office. Her daughter rides a car owned by the EC. She has allowed her domestic help to use a scooter bought by her office.

The EC spent a huge amount of money on producing, publishing, airing and broadcasting voter education materials, clearing the payments for work that was never done, or only partially completed. Sources say the Election Commissioners ordered their accounts department to pay documentary makers who submitted blank CDs. If 10,000 copies of pamphlets were printed, the bill submitted was for 100,000 copies.

The Election Commissioners approved all fake and forged bills, claiming their cuts. And media houses that refused to give them kickbacks were not given public service announcements.

As a result, voter education was so ineffective that as many as 1.7 million votes were invalid in local elections. More than 1 million and 1.5 million votes were invalid in parliamentary and provincial elections respectively.

Reconstruction of Rani Pokhari halted

Thursday, December 28th, 2017
Photo: Gopen Rai

Photo: Gopen Rai

The Department of Archaeology(DOA) has directed Kathmandu Metropolitan City(KMC) to halt the reconstruction of Rani Pokhari after a series of controversies surrounding the use of concrete in restoration process.

The decision was made at a meeting attended by Director General of DOA Bhesh Narayan Dahal, KMC Mayor Bidya Sundar Shakya, Deputy Mayor Hari Prabha Khadgi and Secretary of National Reconstruction Authority on Thursday.

An 11-member committee has been formed under former Director General of DOA Bishnu Raj Karki to conduct a study on the reconstruction of Rani Pokhari and prepare a report within 15 days. The meeting also decided to halt the ongoing reconstruction till the report is submitted.

The reconstruction of the historic pond has been mired in controversy after the KMC used concrete in building a 10-feet retaining wall on the southern side of the pond. On Tuesday locals and heritage conservationists had padlocked the pond in presence of the deputy mayor, who had promised to use her authority to stop the use of concrete in the reconstruction of heritage site. But a couple of hours later the mayor had unlocked the gates to go on a site visit maintaining that the reconstruction was being carried out as per the designs approved by the DOA.

Read also: On Queen’s Pond


Pledges unkept

Tuesday, December 26th, 2017

naya patrila

From the Nepali Press

Janardan Baral in Naya Patrika, 26 December

Only 6.5% of the total amount of earthquake relief aid promised during an international pledging conference in Kathmandu in July 2015 has been received. Donors pledged a total of Rs410 billion ($4 billion) of which the government has only received Rs 26 billion, says the National Reconstruction Authority (NRA).

Of the big donors, the government has only received Rs 6.62 billion from the World Bank, Rs 4.9 billion from Japan,  Rs 3.70 billion from International Monetary Fund, Rs 3.28 billion from EU and Rs 2.58 billion from ADB. None of the money promised by 12 countries has come in, although a few of them have signed agreements with the government.

The government is yet to sign an agreement with the Saudi Fund which committed Rs 3 billion, Canada which had pledged Rs 1.5 billion and Sweden which had promised Rs 1 billion. There has not been a followup agreement with Austria and Turkey, which also promised help.

According to the NRA, Nepal has signed agreements worth Rs 306 billion for reconstruction, which is 75% of the total pledged. But many countries included their regular grants as well as relief in the committed amount, which brings the actual pledged amount to Rs 343 billion. To date, only Rs 75 billion has been spent on reconstruction.

“They made announcements of generous pledges after the earthquake, but we never heard from them again, we will have to follow-up with them,” says NRA Chief Yubaraj Bhusal, who acknowledges that there are spending bottlenecks. Even if Nepal receives all the committed money, there will be a shortfall of Rs 4.5 billion. “We may have to call another donor conference next year to cover the shortfall,” adds Bhusal.

Likewise Norway has released only Rs 210 million of the promised Rs 1.59 billion, Korea Rs 570 million of the announced 1 billion and Switzerland Rs 770 million of the Rs 2.50 billion pledged.



Announced: Rs 140 billion

Committed: Rs 100 billion

Received: Rs 0


Announced: Rs 76.69 billion

Committed: Rs 76.69 billion

Received: Rs 1 billion


Announced: Rs 60 billion

Committed: Rs 21 billion

Disbursed: Rs 2.58 billion

World Bank

Announced: Rs 50 billion

Committed: Rs 30 billion

Disbursed: Rs 6.61 billion


Announced: Rs 26 billion

Committed: Rs 24.70 billion

Received: Rs 4.9 billion


Announced: Rs 13 billion

Committed: Rs 15.97 billion

Received: Rs 1.43 million

European Union

Announced: Rs 11.74 billion

Committed: Rs 11.18 billion

Received: Rs 3.28 billion


Announced: Rs 11 billion

Committed: Rs 16.55 billion

Received: Rs 990 million

International Monetary Fund

Announced: Rs 5 billion

Committed: Rs 5 billion

Received: Rs 3.70 billion


Announced: Rs 3.35  billion

Committed: Rs 3.40 billion

Received: Rs 0



Letter to Comrade Oli

Wednesday, December 20th, 2017
kp oli portrait

Pic: Bikram Rai

From the Nepali Press

Ameet Dhakal in,  19 December

Dear Comrade K P Oli

After the UML emerged as the largest party, you showed magnanimity by saying election bitterness was over and you will treat the NC with respect.

But your action soon went as cold as a Kathmandu winter.

You accused Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba of trying to stay put for a few more months, and you also warned that your men will not take their oaths of office under provincial chiefs appointed by this government. Organising a press meet at a five-star hotel, you and Maoist Chair Pushpa Kamal Dahal also accused Deuba of violating the Constitution.

Charged up by your fiery words, UML-Maoist cadres threatened to oust Deuba if he did not resign. But your allegation that Deuba is reluctant to vacate Baluwatar even after suffering a humiliating defeat is not substantiated. Deuba is just a caretaker Prime Minister, and he cannot cling on to power even if he wants to.

Everything rests on the Election Commission publishing the official final results of elections. Even after that, Deuba will not have a say in the formation of the new government. The President will initiate and oversee this process.

Deuba will have only one role in handing over power: he will have to attend the swearing-in ceremony of the new PM, congratulate him/her and then head home. So, what is the point in accusing Deuba of trying to prolong his tenure?

Dear Comrade Chairman, it seems you are miffed at Deuba for passing an ordinance on the formation of the Upper House (National Assembly) and sending it to the President for formal ratification. You have also accused Deuba of exerting pressure on the President to act against the Constitution.

It is a pity that Parliament was allowed to be dissolved without passing this bill on the formation of the NA, and the Deuba government had to do it through an ordinance.

Major parties failed to forge a consensus on the NA formation law, and you and your own UML were behind not allowing the government to pass it through a majority vote.

Dear Chairman Comrade, tell us what would you have done if you were Prime Minister instead of Deuba? You argue this ordinance is against the Constitution because it proposes a Single Transferrable Voting (STV) system to elect the A. But STV is a type of Proportional Representation (PR) system, which is recognised by the Constitution.

Lawyers close to your party are now defending you saying that the Constitution does not recognise the term STV. This is hilarious. It is like two brothers who agreed to buy a dog, and one of them bought a puppy, so the other one protested saying the deal was to buy a dog, not a puppy.

Since the NA is the Upper House, it should be as inclusive as possible. In 1990, the NC had agreed to form the Upper House through the STV system despite having a majority in the Lower House. Else, the UML would have no presence at all in the Upper House. The UML should learn from what the NC did back then.

The charges that you leveled on Deuba are now directed against you and the President. You also indirectly put pressure on the EC to publish the final results within a week so you could become the next PM. The EC has made it clear it can publish the final results only when the Upper House is formed. Otherwise, it will not be able to ensure 33% representation of women in the Lower House. You will have to shoulder the blame if the EC succumbs to pressure, and Parliament does not have 33% women as mandated by the Constitution.

Dear Comrade, there is no shortcut for you to become the next PM. You will have to wait until Chiefs of Provinces are appointed, Members of State Assemblies take their oaths and the National Assembly is formed.

You are set to rule the country for the next five years. You are faced with tremendous challenges and opportunities. At a time when you need to be a magnanimous and unifying figure, you are behaving like an arrogant politico.