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Post quake: Global donors fed-up with Nepal government

nepalquakeKATHMANDU: The donor community, which has collectively pledged US$4.4 billion for the reconstruction process after the April 25 Nepal earthquake, is worried at government’s ‘tardy approach’, coupled with uncertainties surrounding the National Reconstruction Authority.

European Union Ambassador to Nepal Renjse Teerink described the suspended status of National Reconstruction Authority as “regrettable”.

The EU has pledged US$112 million as a budgetary grant for reconstruction which will be released in tranches in the next two years.

Talking to the Post on Monday, Teerink stressed on the urgency of reconstruction work to begin immediately and the importance of showing results.

“It is important that the authority has the green light to begin the work. Winter is approaching and there are lots of people out there in temporary shelters. This is a matter of concern.

“We would like to start the disbursement as soon as we can to create fiscal space for reconstruction. I hope these developments won’t affect the decision of EU member states who would need to approve the disbursement,” she said.

The Asian Development Bank (ADB) country director for Nepal, Kenichi Yokoyama, also described the situation a setback.

“We are concerned about the current situation,” he said. “We expect the authority would be reconstituted soon.” The ADB has pledged $600 million for reconstruction.

Worried about government’s capacity to absorb funds and fiduciary risk, the international community had looked to the Reconstruction Authority as a mechanism to guarantee results as well as transparency, resulting in generous pledges during Nepal Reconstruction Conference in June.

“Our support is obviously not a blank cheque. Issues of transparency and fiscal responsibilities have to be addressed,” said Teerink, adding that disbursement criteria have to be met before funds are released.

Officials say there will be a number of adverse implications for the country.

If the reconstruction process fails to get off the ground at the earliest, it will force the donors to spend the money outside the government given their own budgeting cycles, said an official working with a donor agency.

That will lead to a lot of fragmentation on reconstruction work, creating a coordination nightmare for the government, the official warned, adding that not only is it affecting the disbursement process, but also making line ministries reluctant in taking initiative on reconstruction relevant to their ministries.

Finance Minister Ram Sharan Mahat said on Friday that the government was preparing to set up a temporary mechanism in order to spearhead the reconstruction activities until the bill is passed. He said the next Cabinet meeting could decide on it.

As the three major parties try to push through a constitution, post-disaster reconstruction is likely to be on the back burner for sometime.

“While we understand the current political context and the urgency of getting a constitution promulgated, our worry is about the political context continuing to become an excuse to shelve decisions and actions on the development side,” said a senior diplomat.

Nepal has received a lot of goodwill, including from private organisations and citizens, but the word has already spread in donor capitals that Nepal has not spend any of the pledged money on reconstruction even four months after the devastating quake.

This is likely to make lobbying for more funding for Nepal much harder in donor headquarters where they juggle with competing priorities. – By John Narayan Parajuli forThe Kathmandu Post

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