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INTERVIEW

 
“Danish Development Assistance In Nepal Is Based On Nepal’s Own Priorities”

By MORETN JESPERSEN

DENMARK, one of the leading development partners of Nepal, has taken charge of the EU presidency since 1 January 2012. In that context, Danish ambassador to Nepal MORETN JESPERSEN spoke to NEW SPOTLIGHT on various issues, including Denmark-Nepal relations and development cooperation.

Excerpts:

How do you see Nepal-Denmark relations at present?

Nepal has been a partner country to Denmark since 1989 where a long-term partnership was established. Denmark seeks to assist Nepal in this important time and our relationship is based on mutual respect, close cooperation and dialogue. Denmark provides bilateral development assistance to Nepal, we have visa- and consular services for Nepali citizens going to Denmark and for the first half of 2012 we continue to be responsible for the local EU Presidency in Nepal on behalf of the EU-delegation and the present EU-missions.

Since Denmark is one of the largest development partners of Nepal, what are the areas Denmark has been providing assistance to Nepal?

The Danish development assistance in Nepal is based on Nepal’s own priorities and development strategies. In 2012, Denmark expects to grant app. USD 35 million in development assistance to Nepal through which the objectives of poverty reduction, political stability and economic growth are pursued. The main focus areas in Denmark’s engagement are education, renewable energy, human rights and good governance, the peace process, and growth and employment. We also promote partnerships between Nepalese and Danish companies and support culture initiatives in Nepal.

As Nepal has been passing through a crucial phase of constitution writing and peacemaking, how do you observe it?

Denmark welcomes the progress made so far in the peace process on the categorisation of the former Maoist combatants. We trust that all parties will now show commitment to complete the integration and rehabilitation process. We also continue to encourage the Government and the opposition parties to give high priority to issuing a draft of a new Constitution – a Constitution which commits Nepal to democracy and upholding its citizens’ fundamental rights and freedoms in line with Nepal’s international obligations.

As Nepal is facing a severe power crisis, how do you see the alternative energy program supported by DANIDA?

Despite Nepal’s great potential of hydro-power, the country is facing a severe power crisis. The electricity generated so far meets less than 40% of its demand and the electricity networks are mostly located in the major urban areas. Nepal has many remote areas with low density of households and difficult terrain to extend the grid system. Therefore an exploration of renewable, sustainable, alternative energy sources, which can be operated at a decentralized level and affordable to meet the demands of the poor and deprived people, is urgently needed. For more than 20 years, Denmark has supported Government efforts to provide electricity and sustainable, renewable energy solutions to millions of the rural poor. Denmark’s current programme aims at improving rural access to renewable energy in the form of improved cooking stoves, solar panels to households and micro-hydro installations in areas where there is no access to the national electric power network.

What will be the focus areas for Denmark during its local EU presidency in Nepal the coming sixth months?

EU’s main objective in Nepal is to support Nepal’s own, positive development. During the Danish Presidency, the EU-missions will continue to focus its efforts on a range of political- and development-oriented areas: We will continue to encourage progress on issues related to the peace- and constitution drafting process; we will continue to maintain dialogue with the Government, civil society and national human rights institutions on human rights, impunity and transitional justice; and we will continue to contribute to a sustainable social and economic development in Nepal.

There is debate going on recently in Nepal regarding to give blanket amnesty to those involved in heinous crime during the conflict by brining the Truth and Reconciliation Bill and Disappearance Bill. How does EU look at it?
The bills on the Truth and Reconciliation- and Disappearance Commissions are still being discussed in Parliament. Denmark continuously stresses the need for Nepal to live up to fundamental human rights, and the need for the two commissions to meet the standards of international law. Should the bills enable blanket amnesty, it would risk putting Nepal in breach of its obligations under the international human rights treaties it has signed. There is not one model of transitional justice but there are minimum standards. The provisions for broad amnesties for serious crimes will frustrate Nepal’s efforts to end impunity and heal the Nepali society.


“Advertisements are made just to win Crity awards”

-- President of Advertisers Association of Nepal – Raj Kumar Bhattarai.

How much has the Crity award expanded Nepal’s advertisement market?

When we analyze the number, Crity awards have made a good impact. When the award started, the total advertisement transactions were of NRs 2 billion. Within 7-8 years, the market has doubled and is worth more than 4 billion rupees now. Not only transactions, but the market has expanded as well.  The quality of advertisements has gone up and the trend of making advertisements in Nepal is also on the rise. These things must be credited to Crity awards.

The media are growing in quality and quantity, but advertisements have not gone up likewise. How can we manage this?

This is today’s main concern. Media have proliferated, but the advertisements have not gone up. I’m concerned there might be an unhealthy competition in the media sector for advertisements. Some newspapers have raised their prices, which lessened their dependency on advertisements. Overall, I’m worried this might create problems in the near future.

You are saying there is a lack of proper rule and regulation, what effects do the government’s decisions, which are announced time and again, have on ads?

The government has to think for the long term before making any decision. If the decisions are made to create impacts in the short term, then those regulations certainly have effects. The government decided to remove all hoarding boards, but there was no time limit set in that decision. It would have been better if the government had said hoarding boards should not be placed after six months. The government has to do more research and study before bringing any rule and regulation into effect to make them work.

How will the advertisement market work in the coming days?

As long as there are proper rules and regulations, we have to work with mutual understanding. I’m feeling that the government has not paid proper attention to this field, so proper rules and regulations are needed.

We are expecting to cross the 5 billion rupees mark this year, but load shedding and other issues have increased the problems. The advertisements have been rising by 15-20 percent every year.

“We can introduce pay police for the security of businessmen,”  Rajendra Khetan,  chairman of Khetan Groups and CA member.

There were always talks of political involvement in the cases of kidnapping of businessmen. But now this has been proved. What are your thoughts on that?

In the span of five years, 65 cases of kidnapping have been registered. Among them, many don’t have any records, but among the cases whose records are found, we have seen three kinds of kidnapping. First, criminals from Bihar perform kidnapping when they enter Kathmandu after the security around the border is tightened. Secondly, kidnapping is done under political protection due to resentment. Finally, kidnapping is also done by international criminal groups which are running their businesses here in Nepal. But, first and second kind of kidnapping is found mostly in Nepal. Pawan Sanghai’s case also falls within these two kinds.

Didn’t the criminal activities drastically decrease in the recent times?

Yes, during the time when Ramesh Kharel and Navaraj Silwal were Chiefs of Metropolitan Police Kathmandu, the criminal activities were near zero. But, after the case of Sanghai, we are again scared, though we are relieved now.

What do you think of the role of police in Pawan Sanghai’s case ?

Personally I’m very pleased with the work of police in the case. I also used to fall in the group of people who used to doubt the competency of Nepali police, but now I’m very pleased with police’s hard work and commitment.

Although there has been reduction in other crimes, have the crimes under the political protection increased?

Earlier, Nepali politics was limited within Congress and CPN-UML. But after the Maoists entered politics, Nepali politics reached another level. Then, after that, regional and religious parties entered politics and it reached even higher level.  People need money to do politics. And shortage of money leads to criminal activities. 

How much feasible is it in providing personal protection to all the businessmen?

We have to understand the limitations of the government and have to adopt security measures ourselves as well. But, amidst everything, we have to go to pay police system. This will increase the employment and will also have a psychological edge as they are still the police.

“People willing to take the role of executive should accept the position farsightedly”

-- Ashok Rana, CEO of Himalayan Bank Ltd

Everybody is worried about the situation after Poush. What are you expecting after that period?

Poush comes as a big event for every bank and financial intuition as it is the time to register half year’s profits. Along with that, huge amount of money goes out of banks as taxes. Liquidity of banks goes down after Poush. Every bank is worried about their investment in the realty sector. Rastra Bank is also querying bankers about the introduction of asset Management Company.

After a lot of discussion, the government has decided that people wouldn’t have to show their income source for up to 10 million in stock transactions. Is this a welcome step for BFIs?

I don’t think so. There is a lot of money with people who haven’t paid taxes. They are worried as government looks for their income source and the government is thinking people will come out and invest if their sources are not scrutinized. Those who are working legally have to pay taxes up to 35 percent but those who hide their income receive tax waiver. If this is the case then it will affect those who are paying taxes. Who will pay taxes then?

 Likewise, even if the loan limit in the realty sector is increased, it will not solve the problem.

Everybody is looking for a decrease in the interest rates. What are your thoughts?

It is difficult to decrease the interest rates straight away. Still, banks are taking deposits at 12 percent. 25 percent banks are new in business; it will take five years for them to settle. Till that time, the interest rates won’t go down.

The problem in the Himalayan Bank has surfaced like in other banks, why?

In the recent times, all banks are facing troubles. Lack of organizational disciplines is seen. If people want power, they should take the executive title. Without taking the title, you cannot enjoy the executive power. This is the main reason for all the troubled banks.

In some cases, people take the executive power but don’t work accordingly. If people want, they should take the position farsightedly and it will be beneficial for both the company and the person himself.

Israel Embassy Shares Activities

Embassy of Israel in Nepal organized a press meet at 11 January 2012 to share the Embassy’s activities of the year 2011. Ambassador of Israel Hanan Goder shared the activities focused mainly on children, education, health, and agriculture sector.

“Last year (year 2011), we focused on activities and programs related to children but it not only focused on one aspect but was a holistic approach where programs such as opening of children learning center, trainings on ECD and Mother and Child Health were organized along with introducing Medical Clowning,” said Ambassdor Hanan.

There are lots of activities in pipeline for 2012, stated the Israeli Ambassador.

Ncell Awards 7 Customers

Ncell has announced cash rewards of Rupees 7 million for its 7 customers to mark its subscriber base which reached 7 million. According to Ncell, 7 lucky SIM cards selected on a random basis will be announced as Golden SIM Cards and be awarded with cash prize of Rupees 1 million each. The applicable taxes will also be borne by Ncell to ensure that the winner bags net One million rupees.

"It is a matter of great pride that the customer base has grown steadily, and today we have 7 million users in our family. Being a part of the daily lives of over 7 million customers, Ncell takes much pride that every day, over 7 million people trust the Ncell Network to connect, express and communicate with each other." CEO of Ncell Pasi Koistinen said.

Customers need to verify the 19-digit number printed on the back to check whether it is the golden SIM. Ncell has asked the winner to dial 7070 for further instruction and to claim the reward.

The operator has already announced the first lucky selected SIM serial number to win NRs 1 million and the number is 8997702102061891150. The remaining six lucky winners will be announced on weekly basis.

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