Foreign Aid Under Scrutiny

Although the government led by Dr. Baburam Bhattarai is a caretaker in nature, its dealing with Nepal’s development partners is otherwise<br><EM>DEBESH ADHIKARI</EM>

Sept. 10, 2012, 5:45 p.m. Published in Magazine Issue: Vol. : 06 No. -07 Sept. 07-2012 (Bhadra 22, 2069)<br>

Since being elected as the prime minister to lead a coalition government with Madheshi Front, Dr. Baburam Bhattarai has taken many decisions which even an elected single party government may not dare do.

 


For instance, it paved the way for the dissolution of the Constituent Assembly,  integrated the Maoist combatants, signed the BIPPA with India and even dismantled the houses built along the roads of Kathmandu, increased the power cut to eight hours a day even in the rainy days. Yet, there is a rare voice of opposition against Bhattarai.

 

From delaying the execution of couple of projects signed with Nepal’s northern neighbor China to resisting with western countries and United Nations over setting development priority and foreign aid,  Jawaharlal Nehru University scholar prime minister Bhattarai took risk to resist with all powers.

 

Although it is just a caretaker government without any legitimacy in power and president is reportedly unhappy with the performance, prime minister Bhattarai and his ministers are taking harsh decisions likely to push Nepal into isolation. Recently, the National Planning Commission even asked UN to rewrite UN Development Assistance Frame Work with modification of words which pertained to Maoist period of insurgency. Government also objected to a World Bank-DfID report on social inclusion.  

 


The government’s reported objections to a World Bank-DFID report on social inclusion and the United Nations Development Assistance Framework (UNDAF) document have been indicative of Bhattarai’s  new assertiveness about aid.

 


After signing the comprehensive peace process and till the survival of Constituent Assembly, the government and National Planning Commission usually endorsed country assistance strategy without objection.  However, it is creating more hurdles now on programs which are even written in Nepal’s Interim constitution. 

 


The National Planning Commission (NPC) has asked UN teams to modify some of the words like exclusion, discrimination and inclusion. Even the Foreign Ministry led by Naryankazi Shrestha, who differs with prime minister on several issue, now wants his ministry’s role in foreign aid and monitoring INGOs.

 


Although Social Welfare Council Act gives all authority to Social Welfare Council to register, monitor and supervise International non-governmental organization and cabinet rules gives Ministry of Women, Children and Social Welfare the role to facilitate INGOs and NGOs, the sudden demands of foreign ministry have raised many an eyebrow. Foreign ministry and Finance ministry have been demanding more hardware development programs from donors rather than software programs in the areas like governance, human rights and social justice.

 


Along with Nepal’s civil society, support given by Nepal’s development partners helped for exposure trips of Nepal’s bureaucrats allowing them to participate international conferences and gain experiences. However, it seems to have forgotten when they propose for reduction of software programs.

 

 

“Foreign Ministry and the National Planning Commission objected the words exclusion, discrimination, inclusion from the documents,” said a UN official on condition of anonymity. “There is nothing objectionable as we have prepared the document as per the spirit of Nepal’s Constitution and law.”

 


Government officials who took part in the UNDAF meeting in June reportedly resisted with the terminology statelessness. “Nepal is not a pariah state and Nepal has its own citizenship law and regulations to distribute the citizenship certificates,” said a senior government official on condition of anonymity

 


One of the main objections of NPC in UNDAF document is the word statelessness. The word statelessness described to refer to the people having no citizenship certificate. NPC argues that statelessness and citizenship are two different issues. One cannot say a person without citizenship certificate is stateless. Citizenship certificate is merely a document for official purpose.

 


“We don’t have any disputes on UNDAF. Of course, we requested UNDP to correct or clarify some words which are against the spirit of the government’s policy. As a party of the UNDAF, the report must be prepared as per the spirit of the government,” said NPC vice chair Dipendra Bahadur Chhetri. “Since Nepal is a secular, inclusive democratic federal republic, NPC cannot go against them. We want support of Nepal’s development partners, but they must be as per our priority.”

 


As Nepal’s overwhelming development budget comes from bilateral and multilateral agencies, it will create more problems for Nepal if it resists with Nepal’s development partners who are generously supporting Nepal’s development process with no security interest.

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