Kathmandu, March 12
With the aim of appeasing foreign investors before the investment summit scheduled for March 29 and 30, the government has introduced a couple of legal provisions, including the Public Private Partnership and Investment Bill centralising investment-related power with the Investment Board Nepal.
However, the Public Private Partnership and Investment Bill that proposes giving additional teeth to the prime minister-chaired IBN, has drawn flak from lawmakers, including those from the ruling Nepal Communist Party (NCP).
The bill, which was passed by the Finance Committee today and is likely to be tabled in the Parliament tomorrow, states that foreign direct investment worth more than Rs 6 billion has to be approved by the IBN though earlier the board could approve only FDI worth more than Rs 10 billion.
The bill has also delegated the authority to issue generation licence for hydel projects with capacity of above 200 megawatts to the IBN though the existing Electricity Act states that the Ministry of Energy, Water Resources and Irrigation shall issue such licence for all hydropower projects. “The bill seems to be taking away power from development-related ministries and giving it to IBN,” said Janardan Sharma, an NCP lawmaker and former energy minister, adding that giving excessive power to IBN will paralyse other state mechanisms.
Gagan Thapa, a lawmaker from the Nepali Congress, stated that the government had prepared the draft of the Public Private Partnership and Investment Bill without taking inputs from respective secretaries and ministries. Claiming that even government secretaries are against the provision of centralising power with IBN, Thapa said the bill needed to be amended before it was tabled at the Parliament. “The government seems to be feeling that development of projects will be smoother if they are under the jurisdiction of IBN rather than other government agencies, including ministries. However, we do not have any history wherein IBN-run projects have made more progress than those being implemented by ministries,” said Thapa.
Thapa, seeking a representative from his party to be included in IBN as a board member, urged the government to justify the logic behind equipping IBN with excessive power as stated in the Public Private Partnership and Investment Bill.
Finance Minister Yubaraj Khatiwada, however, refuted the charge that the government was trying to centralise power. “Big projects have to be dealt with by the centre. As the country targets speedy development and economic growth, empowering IBN is the need of the hour and expanding its jurisdiction will help facilitate the development of projects,” he added.
A version of this article appears in print on March 13, 2019 of The Himalayan Times.