Donors pledge US$3 bil­lion to Nepal


In­ter­na­tional donors led by In­dia and China pledged around US$3 bil­lion to re­build quake-dev­as­tated Nepal on Thurs­day, as the coun­try’s premier vowed “zero tol­er­ance” of cor­rup­tion and said all aid money would go to vic­tims.

Nepal says it needs around US$6.7 bil­lion to re­cover from the April dis­as­ter, which killed more than 8,800 peo­ple, de­stroyed nearly half a mil­lion houses and left thou­sands in need of food, clean wa­ter and shel­ter.

At a meet­ing of for­eign donors on Thurs­day, In­dia’s For­eign Min­is­ter Sushma Swaraj pledged US$1 bil­lion to fi­nance re­con­struc­tion, while re­gional ri­val China promised 3 bil­lion yuan (US$483 mil­lion) in grant as­sis­tance.

Nepal’s two gi­ant neigh­bors have his­tor­i­cally vied for in­flu­ence in the Hi­malayan na­tion, and both were heav­ily in­volved in post-quake res­cue and re­lief ef­forts.

Ad­di­tional pledges of US$600 mil­lion from the Asian De­vel­op­ment Bank, US$260 mil­lion from Ja­pan, US$130 mil­lion from the U.S., US$100 mil­lion from the EU as well as an ear­lier an­nounce­ment of up to US$500 mil­lion from the World Bank have now taken to­tal as­sis­tance pledged to around US$3 bil­lion.

The gov­ern­ment wants all aid to be chan­neled through a new state body, rais­ing con­cerns among some in­ter­na­tional donors that bu­reau­cracy and poor plan­ning will ham­per re­con­struc­tion.

Prime Min­is­ter Sushil Koirala urged del­e­gates to “work with us, the gov­ern­ment of Nepal” and vowed “zero tol­er­ance to­ward cor­rup­tion.”

“I as­sure you that we will (leave) no stone un­turned in en­sur­ing that the sup­port reaches the in­tended ben­e­fi­cia­ries,” he said as he opened the one-day meet­ing in Kathmandu.

Nepal — one of the world’s poor- est coun­tries even be­fore the dis­as­ter — des­per­ately needs as­sis­tance to re­build homes, schools and hos­pi­tals de­stroyed or dam­aged by the April 25 earth­quake and a strong after­shock on May 12.

One in 10 home­less

One in 10 peo­ple are home­less and the Hi­malayan na­tion’s al­ready weak econ­omy has been hit hard, with an­nual growth forecast to fall to just three per­cent, the low­est in eight years.

But crit­ics say Kathmandu is strug­gling to lay out a roadmap to re­cov­ery.

“What is lack­ing right now is a clear strat­egy ... the gov­ern­ment needs to come up with a cred­i­ble plan to im­ple­ment re­con­struc­tion projects within a stip­u­lated time,” Chan­dan Sap­kota, economist at the Asian De­vel­op­ment Bank’s Nepal of­fice, told AFP ahead of the meet­ing.

As pledges rolled in, par­tic­i­pants said it was cru­cial to en­sure the money was spent well.

“Money will be im­por­tant for build­ing back a more re­silient Nepal ... but it’s not just about money,” said World Bank pres­i­dent Jim Yong Kim in a video mes­sage to del­e­gates.

“Just as im­por­tant is how these funds are spent.”

The in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity pledged sev­eral bil­lion dol­lars in aid to Haiti af­ter a cat­a­strophic earth­quake struck the Caribbean na­tion in Jan­uary 2010.

But the pledges yielded lit­tle tan­gi­ble progress as donors de­layed im­ple­ment­ing projects due to con­cerns over cor­rup­tion and po­lit­i­cal in­sta­bil­ity, leav­ing thou­sands liv­ing in tem­po­rary shel­ters five years on.

“Fol­low-up is ex­tremely im­por­tant — when pledges are made, the gov­ern­ment for­mu­lates its plans ac­cord­ingly and if the money doesn’t come, it throws ev­ery­thing out of gear,” said Poonam Khetra­pal Singh, WHO’s re­gional di­rec­tor for South­East Asia.

“We have seen that hap­pen in pre­vi­ous cases with dev­as­tat­ing re­sults so I think we will lose our cred­i­bil­ity as mem­bers of the donor com­mu­nity if we don’t act on our prom­ises,” Singh told AFP on the side­lines of the con­fer­ence.

Dev Ratna Dhakhwa, sec­re­tary gen­eral of the Nepal Red Cross So­ci­ety, said ear­lier he feared Kathmandu’s “one-win­dow pol­icy” for re­con­struc­tion would ob­struct re­lief ef­forts, with po­lit­i­cal par­ties al­ready try­ing to ma­nip­u­late the sys­tem to siphon off funds.

“Peo­ple are us­ing po­lit­i­cal in­flu­ence to pres­sure of­fi­cials and ac­cess funds meant for quake vic­tims, by get­ting their names added to gov­ern­ment-man­aged records,” Dhakhwa told AFP.


Nepal’s Prime Min­is­ter Sushil Koirala, cen­ter, Fi­nance Min­is­ter Ram Sha­ran Ma­hat, left, and Min­is­ter for For­eign Af­fairs Ma­hen­dra Ba­hadur Pan­day ob­serve one minute of si­lence dur­ing the In­ter­na­tional Con­fer­ence on Nepal’s Re­con­struc­tion in Kathmandu, Thurs­day, June 25.

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