Thursday, February 1, 2018

Saudi job restriction rule to hurt Nepalis and more

The Minister of Labour and Social Development have issued a decision to restrict work in 12 activities and occupations to Saudi men and women to enable their employment in the private sector.

From September 11 this year, sales jobs will be reserved for Saudi citizens in four categories: cars and motorcycles; ready-made garments, children’s clothes and men’s accessories; home and office furniture; and home kitchenware. From November 9, this rule will extend to the sale of: electronics and electric appliances; watches; and eyewear. From January 7, 2019, the rule will apply to the sale of medical equipment and appliances; building and construction materials; car spare parts shops; carpet and floor covering stores; and finally sweet shops.

Nepalis with good educational qualification used to work as accountants, engineers, sales, electronics, hardware, contracting companies, cashiers, and supermarkets. They will be deprived of these opportunities as well. Saudi Arabia had the highest number of Nepali migrant workers at 138,529 in the fiscal year 2015-16.

A trading company established during the cold war era has been laid to rest in Nepal. NTL used to sell agricultural, construction and machinery goods in the Nepalese market by importing them from Russia since private sector was not up to the task then. The competitive private sector after economic liberalization and a series of unfortunate political interference bankrupted the trading company. Three main reasons as follows:

  1. Government forced NTL to absorb the cost of golden handshake for employees of bankrupt Himal Cement Company, where NTL had 15% share. The government never returned NRs430 million to NTL.
  2. In 1996, the then PM Sher Bahadur Deuba led government gave license to a private company to sell duty free liquor, which was exclusively done by NTL. In 1998 late PM Girija Prasad Koirala led government revoked the license. Then in 2001 when Sher Bahadur Deuba became prime minister, his government gave license to sell duty free liquor to the same private company. 
  3. In 2009, the then finance minister Baburam Bhattarai completely barred public and private companies to sell duty free liquor (even closed down the one at the international airport). NTL had already taken out NRs500 million loan to import duty free item, including NRs320 million. Since NTC was barred from selling duty free liquor and it had to go through a lengthy bureaucratic approval process to sell it at retail rates in the market, it started incurring huge administrative losses. Also, its retail cost was high because of high administrative costs and inefficiencies. NTL incurred huge losses after this. Consequently, MOF froze its assets and barred it from doing trading business. In 2011, the then PM Baburam Bhattarai led government took a decision to sell 18 ropanies of NTL’s land and establish petroleum and gas industry. The government changed and the then PM Khil Raj Regmi led government revoked the decision of the previous government. Meanwhile, NTL was left in an operational limbo but its losses continued to accumulate. 

Nepal sends feasibility report of cross-border transmission line to China

The Nepali Energy Ministry has sent the initial feasibility report of a cross-border transmission line to be constructed on the Nepali side to China, a senior official of the ministry said. Nepal had requested China to provide assistance for the construction of the Rasuwagadhi-Kerung (Geelong) Cross-Border Transmission line during former Nepali Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli's visit to China in March 2016.

With the hydropower plants being constructed along the proposed transmission line, Nepali officials said that 400 KV transmission line has been necessary along the route to transform power for the hydropower projects being constructed and those which are about to kick off construction. The Energy Ministry has selected the project for potential financing under the China-proposed Belt and Road Initiative. The country had signed a Memorandum of Understanding with China to become part of the initiative in May 2017.