Reconstruction drive won’t face resource crunch: FinMin Mahat

Kathmandu, August 21

While assuring that the country’s post-quake reconstruction drive will not face any resource crunch, Finance Minister Ram Sharan Mahat has cautioned about the numerous challenges ahead for efficient and effective implementation of reconstruction projects.

Realisation of the commitments made by the development partners during International Conference on Nepal’s Reconstruction (ICNR) on June 25 to support the government in its post-disaster plan now depends on how effectively and efficiently the reconstruction projects will be implemented. The government had received $4.4 billion aid commitment during ICNR and some of the development partners have already started disbursing the pledged amount.

“The government is serious towards completing the reconstruction and recovery activities within the stipulated time and the reconstruction projects will not have to face any resource crunch,” assured Mahat, speaking during a programme titled ‘National Dialogue on Accelerated Post-earthquake Reconstruction’, here today.

The finance minister further said the government has allocated Rs 17 billion to the concerned ministries so that they can prepare the projects and can immediately begin implementation, especially with the establishment of National Reconstruction Authority (NRA).

Speaking at the programme organised by the Society of Economic Journalists Nepal (SEJON), finance minister said that the preparatory works for the reconstruction projects — selection of the projects, designs, among others — will be supportive to NRA to initiate implementation of reconstruction projects.

The recently appointed Chief Executive Officer of NRA Govinda Raj Pokharel, however, was not as upbeat as the finance minister, cautioning that it would take at least another month before the Authority will be able to commence its work.

“We will need at least a month to set up the office because we still need to appoint other staff members and take care of other nitty-gritties.”

NRA has been authorised to mobilise Rs 74 billion from the National Reconstruction Fund in this fiscal year. Pokharel’s comment may act as a dampener for many, who had been hoping that the appointment of the CEO in the Authority would immediately help pick up the pace of reconstruction and recovery activities.

The NRA will work as per the guidance of the Reconstruction Policy that was drafted by National Planning Commission and will soon be sent to the Cabinet for approval. The proposed Reconstruction Policy has extended the authority to NRA to implement the reconstruction projects efficiently through the government agencies, local bodies, along with from non-governmental organisations and the private sector — whoever it deems feasible for early implementation of the said projects.

“We need to optimise the resources and focus towards creating synergy in terms of boosting production capacity and upliftment of livelihoods with reconstruction,” said Pokharel. He also stressed on the need for empowering and training the human resources that will be required for the reconstruction works.

Speaking at the programme, Kenichi Yokoyama, country director of the Asian Development Bank (ADB) said that the steps taken by the government for reconstruction drive are commendable. He, however, cautioned that the NRA could be riddled with the similar challenges associated with the government’s capital expenditure.

“The government has aimed to spend capital budget worth Rs 209 billion in fiscal 2015-16, which is 2.4 times higher than the actual budget spent in last fiscal,” as per Yokoyama.

The accelerated reconstruction depends on the strong and visionary political leadership, strong institutional mechanism and implementing capacity, according to him. He also stressed on full autonomy to the NRA management and said along with strong guidance from the governing body, Authority will successfully deliver the results.