Broadsheet dailies (both in Nepali and English) published in Kathmandu on Tuesday, April 5, 2016, have dedicated considerable space to the Panama Papers, and how the rich and the famous use firms like Mossack Fonseca to stash money in tax havens. The second story that has received attention is on the main opposition Nepali Congress’ parliamentary party election. The election is scheduled for tomorrow.
Panama Papers and its Nepal connection
The Himalayan Times, Nagarik, Republica and Naya Patrika have made Panama Papers their lead story for today’s edition. The three papers also report on Mossack Fonseca’s ‘Nepali Connection’.
Of the four newspapers, The Himalayan Times has dedicated half of its front page (above the fold) to the story, that too with a banner headline (“Panama Papers reveal tax heavens of rich, powerful). The Reuters story has a sub-story (“No Nepali mentioned so far.” While the main story sums up the whole episode of the leak, the sub-story tries to establish a ‘Nepali connection’ with the global story. The report quotes a map prepared by the Irish Times to say that seven Nepali nationals have shares in offshore companies run by Mossack Fonseca. It says no Nepali national has been named so far. “By May, however, names of few Nepalis are expected to surface,” it says without quoting any source. The report says that Nepal’s Department of Money Laundering Investigation has taken note of the leaks.
Nagarik, in its four column story with a screaming headline, says Nepal Ventures is one of the seven Nepali companies to have stashed money in tax havens by availing Mossack Fonseca’s services. The story also goes on to say that the British Virgin Islands, one of tax havens used by the Panamanian firm, has become one of the major sources of FDI in Nepal in the last few years. Similarly, Republica has run a five-column story with headlines in bold, by the same journalist who filed the Nagarik report. But Republica ‘s headline says, “Panama papers finger seven Nepalis”. The report, quoting an anonymous source, says that prolonged political transition in Nepal has made it easier for domestic and foreign firms operating in Nepal to swindle money out of the country.
Naya Patrika, in its signature front page ‘package’, tries to look at different aspects of the Panama Papers. It says that although seven Nepalis were found to have shares in offshore companies linked to Mossack Fonseca, the central bank has no such information. It is illegal for Nepalis to invest abroad, unless the money they are investing is earned abroad.
Deuba Vs Paudel
Naya Patrika and the state-run Gorkhapatra have reports on the Nepali Congress Parliamentary Party election scheduled for Wednesday. Gorkhapatra has a four-column lead story on the election, and how Deuba and Paudel are preparing to contest for leadership of the party in Parliament.
The Himalayan Times has a two-column story saying that a decision on parliamentary regulations will be reached by Thursday. “The Parliamentary Regulations Drafting Committee today decided to put disputed issues to vote on April 7 (Thursday) if the members of the committee failed to forge consensus on those issues. Parliament has not been able to function smoothly after the promulgation of the constitution due to a row over the regulations. This has had an impact on appointment of judges in the Supreme Court. According to the report, the ruling parties want to have 15 members in the committee, whereas the Nepali Congress wants to have 73 to 75 members.
Govt medical aid
Nagarik has an anchor story on diseases for which the government provides aid for treatment. According to the report Nepalis suffering from heart and kidney-related ailments, injury to the head, problems with the back bone, Parkinson’s, Hydrocele, Sickle-cell Anemia and Alzheimer’s can avail aid from the government for treatment.
It says that the aid can be availed by Nepalis living under the poverty line. The story also explains the procedure for obtaining such aid.
Cooking gas shortage
While most newspapers, especially the ones in English, chose to focus on the Panama Leaks, Republica‘s focus is on the shortage of cooking gas in the market. In its seven-column story with a double-decker headline (also featuring a four-column photo), the newspaper says, “Household consumers are still having a hard time obtaining liquefied petroleum gas (LPG), though the supply of this cooking fuel has been plentiful in recent weeks and is increasing every month.”
Karobar, an economic daily, has an interesting story on how Nepali banks are increasing their investment in the energy sector. Surprisingly, the business daily, has not touched the Panama Papers issue on its front page. The headline says that in the past year, banks have entered into agreements with 11 different hydro projects. According to the report, between May 2015-May 2016, banks have signed deals worth Rs 30 billion (219 MW). It says that a dozen more projects are in the pipeline.
Quoting the president on Independent Power Producers’ Association of Nepal Khadga Bahadur Bista, the report says that banks are attracted towards hydropower because they have excess liquidity, and are looking for projects that give dividend in the long run.