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From May 15, the Nepal government will increase regular public holidays to two days in a week in an effort to cut the consumption of fuels whose prices have skyrocketed in recent months in the country, a cabinet minister said.

"A cabinet meeting on April 26 decided to implement the two-day public holidays in a week effective from May 15 on a trial basis," Gyanendra Bahadur Karki, minister for communication and information technology, told reporters.

Currently, Nepal is implementing a one-day public holiday in a week on Saturday, the new rule adds Sunday as an extra off-day, reports Xinhua news agency.

As per the cabinet decision, the five-day work hours will be rescheduled to 9.30 a.m. to 5.30 p.m., from the existing office hours of 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Earlier, Nepal's central bank had advised the government to implement two-day public holidays to reduce the consumption of fuels on the grounds that public mobility is reduced substantially during holidays.

Fuels are the largest import item for Nepal, accounting for over 14 per cent of the total merchandise imports in the first eight months of the current fiscal year that began in mid-July 2021, according to the Trade and Export Promotion Centre.

As in other parts of the world, Nepal has seen the prices of fuels hike in recent months over the Russia-Ukraine conflict and other factors.

Meanwhile, Nepal's gross foreign exchange reserves had decreased by 18.5 percent to $9.58 billion in mid-March, from $11.75 billion at the beginning of the current fiscal year, according to central bank statistics.

In response to falling forex reserves, the government has imposed a ban on the import of some products, and the fuel allowance for government bodies has been cut by 20 per cent until the end of the current fiscal year.

In the late 1990s, Nepal had experimented with two-day weekly holidays with a view to increasing the efficiency and productivity of government employees.

The decision was then rolled back a few months later.

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