Nepal Parliament winter session begins, MCC ratification still pending

Kathmandu, NepalWritten By: Saloni MurarkaUpdated: Dec 14, 2021, 11:50 PM IST
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File photo: Nepal's Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba can be seen addressing the parliament in Kathmandu. Photograph:(AFP)

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The CPN-UML has been obstructing the House proceedings since the last session demanding that 14 members from the breakaway faction NCP(US) be dismissed from their positions

Nepal Parliament winter session commenced on Tuesday, two weeks earlier than the usual schedule. The House was later called off for a week after the main opposition party, CPN-UML, continued with its protest and obstructed the session.

All eyes were on the session this time as the Millennium Challenge Corporation’s (MCC) Nepal Compact which offers $500 million in grant to Nepal for the construction of transmission lines and road maintenance projects were to be tabled. 

Due to the differences among the ruling alliances, Nepal has failed to ratify the compact in the parliament. The division among the political parties is over whether to give a parliamentary nod to the Compact in its current format or whether to get it endorsed after amendment on ‘disputed’ clauses of the Compact.

Amid the chaos, six ordinances were presented including Acid and Other Hazardous Chemicals (Regulation) Rules, 2021 Bill, and the first amendment to Social Security Ordinance. 

The CPN-UML has been obstructing the House proceedings since the last session demanding that 14 members from the breakaway faction NCP(US) be dismissed from their positions. So, the next meeting has been scheduled for December 21. 

The Tuesday’s parliament session was called on the same day the board meeting at the MCC headquarters in Washington was scheduled to be held to discuss the Nepal Compact. 

Surya Raj Acharya, a public intellectual as an independent expert in development and infrastructure policy believes Nepal should not pass the MCC in its current form. 

“If Nepal fails to ratify the compact, there are going to be fallouts. But that impact will not to be to the extent as some people are suggesting like there will be impact in bilateral relations, we will be isolated from the international community, other donors (foreign aid) will run away. I don’t believe this. However, the government of Nepal and politicians should be careful to send an appropriate message if it fails to ratify,” Acharya told WION. 

He says Nepal should send a clear message in case of the failure of the ratification, “it doesn’t mean that Nepal has some geo-political inclination towards some neighbor, forces. We are following our non-aligned position”.

“Over the MCC compact, there is unfortunate polarization on political level, intellectual level and even among general people. So, it is in the interest of both Nepal and the US to not ratify in the current form,” he added. 

Speaking on the ongoing debate MCC vs BRI in the country, he said, “These questions are not relevant. Nepal needs foreign aid whether it is from the US or other multilateral agencies, India, China.” 

Meanwhile, speaking to WION, Gyanendra Lal Pradhan, a Hydropower Specialist and Entrepreneur said MCC is the backbone of Nepal. 

“The MCC compact is the backbone for the hydropower sector in Nepal because all hydropower development taking place, we have no connectivity, no market connection. So, it is power wastage. The MCC will teach us how to do half a million-dollar projects in five years. MCC is a lifeline for this country. If this project goes back, there will be no trust,” Pradhan said while highlighting the importance of transmission lines in Nepal. 

The delays and flip-flopping by Nepali leaders seem to have alarmed the Americans. Two recent visits to Nepal by high-level US officials signaled the urgency of the matter. 

In September, Fatema Z Sumar, the Millennium Challenge Corporation Vice-President, paid a four-day visit to the country and met with business and political leaders in Kathmandu. 

Then in November, US Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs Donald Lu visited Kathmandu. They are said to have given Nepal an ultimatum to arrive at a decision on the deal before mid-December. 

It will be a challenge for Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba to reach a consensus on the MCC, taking into account US pressure on the one hand and coalition partners on the other.