Prime minister has no time for IBN meetings

December 1, 2016 00:50 AM Rudra Pangeni

IBN has not been able to hold even a single board meeting in the past four months
KATHMANDU, Dec 1: Investment Board Nepal (IBN) has not been able to hold even a single board meeting in the past four months. Reason: Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal, the chair of the IBN board, has no time to attend the meeting.

PM Dahal assumed office on August 4.

Separate applications by the developers of Upper Karnali Hydropower Project and Arun III Hydropower Project for extension of deadline to achieve financial closure are pending at the IBN board. 

Indian construction major GMR is the developer of Upper Karnali Hydropower Project, while Indian government undertaking Satluj Jal Vidyut Nigam (SJVN) is the developer of Arun III.

The GMR and the SJVN have applied at the IBN for deadline extension in August and September, respectively, before their two-year timeframe for financial closure expired.

Both the developers have sought one-year extension, citing reasons like the 2015 earthquakes and supply disruptions. 

But the IBN has not been able to take any decision on the applications. 

IBN Spokesperson Rabi Bhattarai said that a meeting scheduled a month ago was postponed because of busy schedule of PM Dahal. No date for board meeting has been fixed since then, according to the IBN.

“Deadline extension for financial closure of two mega hydropower projects is an important agenda in the board meeting,” said Bhattarai.

The IBN is awaiting the board's fresh direction and guidance on levying 0.2 percent license fee -- a service charge for facilitating project development and is meant for making IBN self-dependent. The license fee was introduced by the Investment Board Rules 2012 endorsed in June 2012. Project developers, who started project development before the rules came into effect, have been arguing that they should not be levied such fee.

President of the Confederation of Nepalese Industries Hari Bhakta Sharma, who is also the board member of IBN, admitted that the performance of IBN is slow as it does not have any tangible project. 

IBN was established in 2011 to promote large-scale investment in infrastructure sector through Public Private Partnership (PPP) as well as encourage domestic and international investments. 

Criticizing the government's working style, Sharma said that that the existing work culture cannot help materialize our dream of bringing foreign investment in today's competitive investment market. “Investors do not wait for Nepal while there are abundant opportunities in Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Myanmar,” he added.

Meanwhile, the Development Committee of the parliament has directed the IBN to hold boar meeting immediately and conduct such meetings on a regular basis.

The committee held discussion with IBN officials, including its CEO Maha Prasad Adhikari, on the status of projects. 

"IBN should take needful initiative for resuming all stalled works as well as make public work progress report of all projects implemented by it,” the committee said in a statement after the meeting.

The committee has also asked the IBN to submit legal hurdles that it has faced while implementing mega projects within 15 days. Similarly, the committee also asked the IBN to prepare a list of potential projects for country's development and make necessary preparations for providing one-stop service to investors by coordinating with concerned government ministries.

Acquiring forest land has become a major hurdle in project implementation as developers have to provide an equal area of land and also prepare forest and hand it over to the Ministry of Forest and Soil Conservation. 

“The process of making amendment to the provision is underway. We will charge project developers a lump sum amount for acquiring forest land. The Ministry of Forest and Soil Conservation will purchase the land and develop forest on its own,” said Bhattarai.

But the amendment process, which was started some six months ago as per the direction of different parliamentary committees, has not moved ahead. IBN officials say that the issue will be resolved if PM Dahal takes the initiative. 

IBN has been managing several projects, including a chemical fertilizer plant, three mega cement factories in foreign investments, mega hydropower projects, including West Seti and Upper Marshyangdi, and a waste management project. None of these projects has made substantial project.

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