KATHMANDU: Prime Minister Sushil Koirala addressed the International Conference on Nepal’s Reconstruction 2015, which kicked off here in the Capital this morning.
Earlier, Minister for foreign Affairs made a welcome speech, while Finance Minister Dr Ram Sharan Mahat made a theme address after the Prime Minister’s speech.
- Here is the transcript of his inaugural address.
Hon’ble Foreign Ministers
Hon’ble Finance Ministers
President of the Asian Development Bank
Vice President of the World Bank
Ladies and gentlemen,
On behalf of the people and Government of Nepal, and also myself, I extend my sincere thanks for honouring us with your kind presence. Your presence here is in itself a message for us, as we plan our journey of recovery and reconstruction in the post-quake situation.
At the outset, I would like to pay homage to all those who have lost lives in the earth quake. I would also like to remember those who lost their lives trying to save others, my thoughts are with the families of those brave people both national and international, including those involved in the US helicopter crash in Sindhupalchowk while trying to rescue others.
As we are all aware, natural disasters are unpredictable. They know no geographical boundaries. They are indiscriminate and could strike anywhere, and at anytime. In Nepal, geologists had warned us about the possibility of a disaster on this scale happening. Yet the earthquake of April 25th struck us when we were not fully prepared as the country remained mired in protracted political transition following a decade-long armed conflict. However, the Government was quick to respond, within hours, utilizing its available resources and institutions, as citizens all over the country joined hands together to dig the rubbles and bring the people to safety. Whether in remote villages in Gorkha and Sindhupalchok or in Dolakaha and Bhaktapur, the people relentlessly worked day in and day out in the early hours and early days to rush the wounded to nearby hospitals and health camps.
Nepal is fortunate to have the surge of goodwill as evidenced by overwhelming response and spontaneous support from the international community at the time of national crisis. We are grateful to our neighbors – India and China, fellow SAARC member states, and all other countries that so promptly and generously dispatched specialized Search and Rescue professionals and relief supplies within hours and days of the earthquake assisting us in our efforts. From all continents- Argentina to Australia, from Israel to Singapore, from Japan to Germany, from Spain to South Africa, from Malaysia to Mexico, from Thailand to Turkey, from Qatar to Vietnam, and from the United Kingdom to the United States, we received tremendous support in the most critical stage of search and rescue operation following the national tragedy. We thank the UN Secretary General for the UN system-wide support to Nepal including its flash appeal and UNGA resolution. I thank everyone, every government, donors, international organizations, international and regional financial institutions, humanitarian agencies, civil society, and non-governmental organizations, for standing firmly with us in our time of need. This support helped us to enhance the effectiveness of our national Search and Rescue efforts, and, in doing so, saved many lives.
I have personally visited many of the affected districts that have suffered the most damage and destruction. I have met and spoken with people who have lost everything – their families, homes, and their livelihoods. I have visited the hospitals and have directly seen the sufferings of people and also the quality and efficiency of services provided by healthcare professionals, and several volunteer groups, especially the youth.
We are stunned and shocked by the tragic loss of life, and property. With several people missing including 39 foreign nationals, and our historical and cultural treasures lying in ruins, it is still difficult for us to come to terms with the scale of the devastation.
I thank you all for your solace and support. That makes us feel that Nepal is not alone in times of difficulties.
The Government has undertaken a needs assessment, which the Finance Minister will share with you shortly after.
Amidst the sufferings, I also saw a bright spark of hope. Everywhere I went, despite the repeated aftershocks and the ongoing suffering caused by death, injury and displacement, I found the Nepali people to be full of hope and confidence amidst the despair and suffering, and a firm determination for recovery. This demonstration of resilience and display of unity by Nepali society in this tragic time, makes me the proudest of Nepalis.
We need to recover and rebuild better and stronger. Many people are living in temporary shelters. We want to make it easier for them to leave the disaster behind and move on. We have done what we could with relief supplies and now want partnership to restore permanency in their lives. We want to do more but are limited by our resources, particularly given the magnitude of the devastation and reconstruction on a Himalayan scale.
The Government has decided to establish a high level National Reconstruction Authority under the Prime Minister for carrying out the tasks of sustained, durable and planned reconstruction. This agency will be run by professionals in the engineering and disaster management disciplines, among others. We are committed to ensure that transparency remains at the core of the reconstruction effort.
To overcome the huge challenges of rehabilitation and reconstruction, we – the Government, Nepal’s neighbours, donors, development partners, international organizations and financial institutions and agencies and friends of Nepal in the International Community and the people of Nepal – need a robust partnership for doing what we must with clear goals and plans of action. In rebuilding Nepal we will be stronger, inclusive and sustainable, with peace and democracy at the centre of this process.
I am pleased to inform this distinguished audience that political parties in Nepal have shown an unprecedented sense of national unity and reconciliation. The National Parliament has unanimously adopted a resolution to this effect. They have forged a consensus to have an inclusive federal democratic constitution promulgated through the elected Constituent Assembly. It is my firm belief that this will irreversibly put Nepal on the path of peace, stability, rule of law, and development.
Democratic pluralism has been my first commitment and it remains my last article of faith. We are committed to the rule of law and the protection and promotion of the human rights of our people. We are working to put democratic institutions in place, with checks and balances firmly embedded in them. These institutions will be accountable to the people, and use criticism constructively as feedback for improvements and refinement of a system. I assure you my Government will have ZERO tolerance toward corruption.
There is no ‘one-size’ that fits all situations. National ownership of reconstruction and development agendas, policies, and strategies with a clear set of national priorities will ensure optimal use of scarce resources, capacity and expertise, where needed. I therefore call on the distinguished representatives to work with us, the Government of Nepal, in an environment of good faith. I assure you that we will leave no stone unturned in ensuring that your support reaches the intended beneficiaries. We will share periodically the use of funds to maintain transparency because you are accountable to your own citizens. I am happy to note the increasing public awareness among the citizenry about these issues.
Nepal was on right track to achieve MDGs and other internationally agreed development goals. The devastating earthquake of April 25 and its subsequent powerful aftershocks have severely undermined our development endeavors and reversed the development gains achieved over the years. Annual economic growth this year is projected to be lowest in eight years.
A comprehensive reconstruction programme demands multi-pronged efforts. An early recovery of economy, restoration of sustainable livelihood and employment generation should also constitute the core of reconstruction efforts. We therefore need you to join hands and work together to help us focus on realities on the ground.
Every moment I think of recovery and reconstruction, I think of a woman from Charikot who was injured by falling debris and was airlifted by helicopter while I was there. She was in intense pain as she fought for her life. I think of Sonit Awal, the four-month-old boy who was rescued by the Nepalese Army in Bhaktapur, after being trapped in the rubble for 22 hours. I think of 21-year-old Rishi Khanal who was pulled out alive after 82 hours in the debris, and has since had his leg amputated. Rishi was to fly to a Gulf State the following day for an employment.
I am aware that no matter what we do it will not be enough to mask the pains of this woman, Sonit and Rishi, and thousands of others, who have lost everything in the earthquake.
I call on all the distinguished delegates to think about the future we can collectively build, for them, and the generations after them.
We have a shared destiny in this increasingly interdependent and interconnected world. Countries in every hemisphere matter in our global community. The human conditions in any corner of the world matter to us all irrespective of where we live, how we live, and what we do. We have to work together for a secure and bright future.
Nepal has all the essential elements for eminence and for success. This is a country of unique unity despite vast diversity, with a high degree of tolerance and social harmony. Nepal’s proximity to India and China provides an unprecedented opportunity to benefit from their economic dynamism and huge market of nearly a third of the worlds’ population. Nepal is blessed with vast natural resources including its huge hydropower, tourism, rich biodiversity, and agricultural potential. It has a vibrant diaspora equipped with financial clout and professional skills. Its young, dynamic population-the spirit of which was witnessed through the voluntarism during the immediate aftermath of the devastation in recent days- stand as our strengths and inspiration, both now and for the future. We are committed to create, enabling institutional, legal and policy arrangements to ensure the protection of foreign investment in Nepal.
Nepal pursues peace, friendship and cooperation with all countries of the world. Its foreign policy is guided by the principles of the Panchasheel, the United Nations Charter, non-alignment, international law and the norms of world peace. Nepal strictly adheres to these principles, to protect national sovereignty, territorial integrity and independence and establish peace and stability in the country to create opportunities for its citizens.
There are immense potentials for collaboration and partnership for mutual benefit. We look to sustained and adequate support in order to unlock the great potential that this country holds to make the future secure and bright for future generations in Nepal- and be a good and reliable partner for peace, progress and prosperity at the global level. This, we believe, is best ensured with democratic institutions firmly rooted in the country. Democratic governance better ensures and better enhances disaster preparedness for effective response and delivers results. We look to continued goodwill, support and technology transfer at an enhanced level from our neighbours and the international community in the years to come.
With these words, I now have the pleasure to declare this conference open.
I wish you productive deliberations, and a pleasant stay in Nepal.
The Right Honorable Prime Minister,
Your Excellencies and High Representatives,
Distinguished Delegates, Ladies and Gentlemen:
We gather here today exactly two months after the devastating earthquake of April 25th. Nepal has not faced a natural catastrophe of this scale for over 80 years. This earthquake has caused a tremendous human suffering, and wiped off assets worth more than 5 billion US dollars. Some of the world’s most precious architectural and cultural masterpieces lie in ruin. In addition to the massive damage to life and property, the earthquake has shaken the economy with immediate losses of about 2 billion dollars bringing the combined economic effect of the disaster to a minimum of 7 billion.
Very few countries that are hit by a force comparable to one third of national output can shake off the dust with the grit and determination with which the people of Nepal are trying. It is during this moment of need that we are very pleased to be with you – our closest friends and partners. I thank you for the grand gesture of solidarity that you have shown for the people and government of Nepal.
This conference is not about asking, giving, and taking. It is about our core human values and a common destiny. We are all bound together by a higher, noble cause. When one amongst us is wounded, we sprint to help. When one amongst us achieves, we partake in shared joy. This is how friends act; and with Nepal, this is how it has always been. From our immediate neighbors who rushed in help within hours of the disaster to development partners who are working with us to craft long-term recovery strategies, we are eternally grateful. From this august gathering, we expect to benefit from your wise counsel and commitment towards a durable partnership for national recovery, reconstruction and renewal.
Your Excellencies, Distinguished Delegates:
When the last comparable earthquake occurred in Nepal in 1934, there were hardly any modern building or road, school or motorized vehicle. The pace of transformation since then has been dramatic. We evolved from a medieval kingdom to a modern nation-state in just a few decades.
After years of political instability, Nepal had just begun gearing up for a higher trajectory of economic growth. Over the past year, we made a transformative leap in the energy sector by signing power trade and development agreements that put the country on a course to increase electricity generation ten-fold in a decade.
The country was pursuing the next generation of economic reforms, enacting or revising several dozens of policies, acts, and regulations. Nepal was also on a path to achieving many of the Millennium Development Goals by the end of this year, including the target of halving absolute poverty. In 2010, Nepal was singled out by UNDP for being among the top performers in the world in advancing human development over a generation. This year, for the first time in the UN’s triennial review, Nepal met the required criteria for graduation from its status as a Least Developed Country (LDC), possibly by 2022.
This earthquake halts this momentum – and upsets the nation’s high aspirations for rapid progress. Annual economic growth this fiscal year is expected to be the lowest in eight years. The impressive progress in the social sector, such as cuts in infant mortality and access to improved sources of water and sanitation, will likely stall. In the absence of a swift recovery of livelihoods, hundreds of thousands of additional people might fall below the poverty line.
Tourism, real estate, and financial institutions have suffered big losses. In agriculture, the harvest of rice and maize had already been disappointing this year. What the earthquakes did was to destroy stored grains and devastate the livestock sector. Millions of children were traumatized and could not go to school for weeks as nearly 26,000 classrooms were destroyed. Industrial activities are disrupted because of upheavals in the market for goods and labor. According to the Central Bureau of Statistics, just in 83 days between April 25thand July 15th, production losses are estimated to exceed 50 billion rupees.
Your Excellencies, Distinguished Delegates:
In the aftermath of the quake, Nepal’s trade deficit will widen. Our foreign reserves are adequate, and transfers from the rest of the world are increasing. In the face of likely pressures on the balance of payments, Nepal is prepared to make policy adjustments. Where we are more anxious is our state of public finance. It is now certain that the target for revenue collection in the current fiscal year will face a shortfall of 8 percent. With only 3.9 billion dollars expected to be raised this fiscal year, the low base for next year will affect our efforts to ramp up reconstruction. This forces us to resort to a sizeable sum of internal borrowing which has its own costs. This is the reason why we are looking to our development partners to fill a growing fiscal gap for the next three to five years.
The Post Disaster Needs Assessment (PDNA) has been rigorously prepared by the National Planning Commission in line with international best practice and methods. This exercise was unprecedented in mobilizing all the ministries of the government and nearly 500 national and international experts representing about 30 development partners. Two volumes of assessment exceeding 450 pages were prepared in less than one month. What we have come up with are credible and realistic estimates of damages, losses, and needs for Nepal’s immediate recovery. We believe we have set an exemplary standard for both the depth of content and the breadth of participatory consultations.
Our early assessments indicate that we need about 6.7 billion dollars to build back better in the immediate run. The nature of needs and the time horizon vary by sector. The demands placed on the public and the private sectors are also distinct. For instance, the damages and losses in the housing sector are predominantly private, but the government is committed to sharing substantial reconstruction costs. The rebuilding of our heritage sites will also be a serious public undertaking with private and community participation in projects spread over several years. On the other hand, agriculture, commerce, manufacturing and tourism need immediate revival.
While the share of the public sector is about one-quarter of the total damages and losses, the recovery needs that will be borne by the government is estimated to be nearly 60 percent of total needs, unadjusted for inflation.
There has been some confusion in Nepal about the scope of the PDNA. What was done was to assess immediate needs to resume a normal national life. This was never about a Post Disaster Assessment of Wants and Desires. It is not helpful to conflate recovery needs with ambitious projects of national significance not related to the earthquake. The high and sustained economic growth needed to propel us to middle-income status by 2030 requires a strategy in which the government is already engaged.
We are absolutely clear that Nepal is not going to graduate out of under-development because of foreign aid alone. At best, this can be a catalyst. The ordinary process of development has to be pursued on the strength of economic reforms initiated and facilitated by the government to mobilize huge amounts of private capital, creativity, and entrepreneurship. It needs for an enabling climate for private sector investment in world class infrastructure and production. The strategic roadmap towards these national ambitions is reflected in the government’s 13th periodic plan and our preliminary assessment of investment needs of at least 1.2 billion dollars per year on average.
Your Excellencies, Distinguished Delegates:
Let me now allay some of your concerns directly. I do so in the form of a solemn pledge on behalf of the government and in a manner that I hope will help us forge a new understanding on the path ahead.
First, a joint concern of both the government and our development partners in recent years has been the quality and pattern of public expenditures. We have been under-spending on capital investment. Not to let the same bureaucratic and political hurdles slow the urgent task of rebuilding, the government has boldly announced the creation of the National Reconstruction Authority. It is an Extra-Ordinary Mechanism (EOM) that is informed by international practices and is grounded on past Nepali successes. It takes form of a binding institutional commitment to instill confidence in a system built around efficiency, transparency and accountability. I commit to you that there will be a substantial role for scrutiny and shared responsibility assigned to our domestic civil society and international development partners. The 2014 Development Cooperation Policy also internalizes best practices on transparency and government ownership on aid effectiveness.
Second, social and economic sectors that have borne the brunt of income losses need an immediate package for early recovery. We will address this in the forthcoming budget. The government stands ready to respond to challenges with unconventional policy instruments, from steps to prevent contagion in the financial sector to incentives for business recovery aimed at revitalizing enterprises. Nepal will also bring forth a policy to manage labor shortage, including large scale training on skills. We will keep a close watch on economic vulnerabilities, especially inflation. Overall, we shall do nothing irresponsible that strains macro-prudential norms and disciplines.
Third, the recently secured consensus among major political parties to promulgate a new constitution and to hold elections for local government as early as possible adds optimism to efforts aimed at restoring the trajectory of higher growth. A reform push will continue so that the investment climate is friendlier. In the aftermath of the quake, we saw a tremendous outpouring of goodwill on the part of our foreign friends and the growing Nepali diaspora. We will tap all emerging assets, including the spirit of volunteerism of our youth at home and abroad, and the creative sources of new-age philanthropy.
Your Excellencies, Distinguished Delegates:
We Nepalis are a resilient people. This is one of the strongest grounds for optimism regarding the future fortunes of our country. Let there be no doubt about the enormity of the challenge we face. But with the right nudge from this democratically elected government, and continued support from our closest friends and partners, we can and will rise from the rubble.
I sincerely express my gratitude to you again for standing by Nepal’s side at this hour of need. I am convinced that the bond of our partnership will assure the people of Nepal that their best days are still ahead.
- Welcome Remarks by Minister for Foreign Affairs Mahendra Bahadur Pandey
The Right Honourable Prime Minister and Chair of this Session,
UN Under-Secretary General
President of ADB
Vice President of World Bank
Heads of Delegations
Ladies and Gentlemen,
It is my honour and privilege to warmly welcome you all to the International Conference on Nepal’s Reconstruction 2015 hosted by the Government of Nepal. I heartily welcome Hon. Ministers and heads of delegations from our neighbours, fellow SAARC members and other friendly countries. I also welcome heads of delegations from international organizations, agencies and all other international delegates to Kathmandu. Thank you very much for accepting our invitation and joining us at this event of national importance. We cherish your presence as an expression of profound goodwill and strong solidarity towards the people and Government of Nepal.
It has exactly been two months since Nepal was struck by the devastating earthquake. The damage caused by the earthquake and its subsequent aftershocks especially with respect to lives and property is incalculable. Our historical and cultural monuments of archaeological significance have been badly damaged. Equally alarming are the adverse impacts on the country’s economy and pursuit of internationally agreed development goals including the MDGs. The disaster is certain to unsettle the country’s achievements in human and social sectors and upset the national aspirations for swifter progress.
The video shown a while ago is just a cross- sectional presentation of the scale of devastation caused due to the earthquake. I am sure your participation in the Conference has provided you with an opportunity, including through yesterday’s field-visit program, to have the first-hand assessment of loss and damage and the need of reconstruction.
In the middle of the tremors and the consequential loss and damage, we have been encouraged by the remarkable resilience of the Nepalese people and support and cooperation of the friendly countries and the international community. The outpouring of solidarity and humanitarian support from the international community has been exemplary. This has provided us with the strength in the face of the national tragedy. I take this opportunity to thank all of our friends and well-wishers across the globe for their spontaneous and prompt response.
We should concede that we may have fallen short of the required preparedness for the disaster of this magnitude. However, the Government of Nepal acted promptly during rescue and relief operations in mobilizing its own resources and coordinating outside support. The existing regional and international frameworks have also been of tremendous help. And, the past two months, testing and difficult though they have been, have motivated us to get organized to ensure that we learn from the disaster. The earthquake-induced loss is tragic and irreparable; but it also has brought forth opportunities to rebuild the country better. The necessity now is to ‘walk the talk’ of ‘post disaster period as an opportunity’ discourse to ensure that it does not become a mere statement of intent but an expression of reality.
It is against such context that we are hosting this Conference. The preliminary Post Disaster Needs Assessment (PDNA) is now before you. It shows that the pathways to recovery would need about $6.7 billion. This is a huge amount for a least developed country like Nepal. In view of this, the Conference is important not only for bolstering our efforts towards recovery and reconstruction but also for building national resilience to be better placed and resourced to withstand the possible future disasters.
The theme of this Conference is ‘Towards a Resilient Nepal’. We have chosen the theme of resilience as we believe that it is perhaps one of the most critical issues facing the disaster prone country like Nepal. ‘Resilience’ can also arguably be a mobiliser for orienting actions towards recovery approach and building back better. This is also one of the guiding principles of the agreed international instruments on disaster risk reduction. Moreover, the ‘discourse of resilience’ is important not only from the point of view of building earthquake-resistant structures but also from planning our recovery and reconstruction works in such a way that they serve as strong guideposts to safer future. An ambitious but practicable and risk-informed reconstruction plan is critical in this regard.
Translating the vision of ‘Resilient Nepal’ into reality is not possible without the enhanced level of support from our friendly countries and the international community. For this, our concerted actions and sustained engagement at both national and international levels should be guided by the local conditions and the priorities of the communities. The international community needs to respond in a robust and yet highly coordinated manner. Such response may include, in addition to the financial support to Nepal’s reconstruction works, the substantial measures including through market access, technology transfer, announcement of special economic packages, encouragement to foreign direct investment (FDI), and tourism.
Our land may have been shaken by the geological movement and our foundation left unstable. The Nepalese people’s vigor and will-power to fight such hardships, however, has not diminished a bit. We are committed to making this tragedy a shifting ground for the settled and safer future. For this, an enhanced level of support and cooperation from our neighboring and friendly countries and the international community is extremely critical.
To conclude, I would once again like to welcome all of you to the Conference and hope that we will have productive deliberations today for the larger interest of the earthquake victims. I would also like to reiterate that there is no ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach to reconstruction works in the aftermath of such disaster. Innovative and constructive approaches are necessary to respond to the specific needs of the victims. We are confident that we will be able to receive, as always, your steadfast support on this.
I thank you very much for your attention.