The FNCCI dispute
Immediately after the election of the new executive committee in April, the country’s private sector’s apex body, the Federation of Nepalese Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FNCCI), vertically split over the legitimacy of its new President Pradeep Jung Pandey.
The row reached its climax in September, with a significant number of members boycotting the executive committee meeting held in Dhulikhel; they were seeking Pandey’s resignation. Among those boycotting the meeting were Senior Vice-president Pashupati Murarka and Vice-president Shekhar Golchha. The FNCCI has been embroiled in turmoil ever since Pandey’s election as president. However, the hostility ended on December with the disgruntled faction attending the executive committee meeting in the third week of December
Upper Karnali and Arun III PDAs
After years of delay and negotiation, the project development agreements (PDAs) of the Upper Karnali and Arun III Hydro Power Projects (900MW each) finally happened in 2014. Since it was the first time that Nepal was holding a PDA, the overall process of signing the PDA for the Upper Karnali project remained controversial. The frequent hearings over the issue from the Parliamentary Commitees and the concerns expressed by the major political parties kept the issue in the news. The PDA of Upper Karnali was signed in September, while the Arun III PDA was inked two months later in November.
Saarc Framework Agreement on Energy Cooperation
During the 18th Saarc summit, the member states agreed on the ‘Saarc Framework Agreement on Energy Cooperation (Electricity)’. The foreign ministers of all the member countries signed the agreement, opening the door for electricity trade among the countries. With the energy pact in place, all the Saarc members have agreed to “enable” the concerned agencies in their respective countries to develop transmission interconnectivity within the region. The agreement will allow power supply from surplus countries to those with a deficit. The member countries have also agreed to gradually lift barriers, including the customs duty for enhancing the regional connectivity as per the laws and acts of all the member states.
NAC gets a plane after 28 years
The 28-year wait to expand the Nepal Airline Corporation fleet ended in April this year, when the national flag carrier welcomed a China-made 58-seater MA60 at Tribhuwan International Airport. Along with the MA60, the NAC also procured the 17 seater Y-12E later this year. Four more aircraft—an MA60 and three Y-12E—are expected to arrive within the next four months. In 2015, NAC will add one more aircraft for its international operations. The first of the two, an A320 from European aircraft maker Airbus, is slated to arrive in February, 2015.
Official entry of the iPhone
While IT conglomerate Apple was selling several products through a number of re-sellers in Nepal, the year 2014 finally saw an official dealership for the iPhone series, when Apple appointed Generation Next Communications to sell its phones. With the go-ahead, the company unveiled the iPhone 6 and the iPhone 6 Plus. Prior to this, products like the iMac, iPod and MacBook were only available through informal channels. The entry of Apple has heated up the competition in the premium smartphone segment, where Samsung was the lone player.
Kul Man Ghising saga
In August, Chilime Hydro was shut down by the locals of Rasuwa who were demanding the reinstatement of Kul Man Ghising as the managing director of Chilime. The board of the Nepal Electricity Authority (NEA) had recalled Ghising from Chilime in July, after his tenure ended on June 19, citing the Company Act which prescribes a maximum term of four years. However, Ghising challenged the decision, saying that the NEA board had overstepped its jurisdiction as Chilime had its own board. Local people and cadres affiliated with the Nepali Congress (NC), UCPN (Maoist), Rastriya Prajatantra Party, Sanghiya Ganatantrik Samajbadi Party and Nepal Adibasi Janajati Mahasangha padlocked the offices of the Chilime, Sanjen Lower and Sanjen Upper projects and the Rasuwagadhi Hydropower Project office at Timure. The Chilime Hydropower Company was incorporated in 1995. The company currently owns and operates the 22.1 MW Chilime Hydropower Project, the country’s first indigenously designed, built and financed power plant. The overall saga made the headlines often in 2014.
Nanglo pulls down the shutters
On December, Nanglo closed down flagship restaurant on Durbar Marg. The closure of the outlet left its 80 employees jobless. The restaurant had been in operation for the past 38 years. According to the company, it was compelled to shut down the operation as the landlord refused to renew the lease. Nanglo is considered to be a trend-setter in the restaurant culture in Nepal and a household name for restaurant-goers in Kathmandu.
The Parliamentary Public Accounts Committee (PAC) on December found that there had been massive embezzlement in the construction of the Darchula-based 30MW Chameliya Hydropower Project. In a case that could turn out to be one of the biggest scams among government-funded hydropower projects, the PAC stated that Rs 550 million had been embezzled in the variation order number 6 alone. In July, a Nepal Electricity Authority (NEA) board meeting had approved the biggest variation order of Rs 1.09 billion to China Gezhouba Water and Power (Group) for tunnel-squeezing treatment work. The PAC study found that the cost of construction material, manpower and equipment were highly inflated and that the NEA board had approved the variation order 6 of the contractor, bypassing the Variation Review Committee under Project Development Department (PDD). The NEA has already paid more than Rs 2.5 billion in variation orders to the project contractors. The committee had reviewed the claims of five previous variation orders.
CIAA jurisdiction row
The jurisdiction of the Commission for Investigation of Abuse of Authority (CIAA) was questioned by the Finance Committee of the Legislature Parliament, thus spurring a big controversy. The parliamentary committee questioned the CIAA about its limitations after the anti-graft body directed the Energy Ministry to scrap survey and generation licenses of 14 hydropower projects, including the World Bank Group funded Kabeli A hydropower project. The controversy intensified further after CIAA head Lokman Singh Karki, appearing before the Finance Committee, said that he would be available only if the Good Governance and Monitoring Committee in Parliament summoned him from the next time.
Mahathir Mohomad Visit
Former Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad delivered a keynote speech at the Nepal Business Conclave 2014 organised by the Federation of Nepalese Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FNCCI) in March. He is credited with transforming Malaysia into an Asian economic tiger.