KATHMADNU, August 13
The long-overdue process of selecting the chief executive officer of the all-powerful National Reconstruction Authority finally concluded on Thursday with the appointment of Govind Raj Pokhrel.
A Cabinet meeting held this evening formally appointed Pokhrel to the post of the CEO of the prime minister-led NRA, which will lead and monitor works related to rehabilitation and reconstruction in the aftermath of the devastating earthquakes of April and May.
With this appointment, Pokhrel, who is serving as the vice-chairman of the National Planning Commission, will wear two hats of the NRA CEO and the vice-chair of the apex body that formulates the country’s development plans.
In other words, the Cabinet meeting held on Thursday has allowed Pokhrel to continue serving as NPC VC until another arrangement is made.
Along with Pokhrel, the Cabinet also appointed five members to the NRA board. But even after these appointments, the NRA board is yet to get a full shape, as two positions of experts still remain vacant.
Although all the positions in the board have not been filled, the appointment of the CEO is expected to get things moving because he is one who will oversee day to day works at NRA.
“We hope the CEO will expedite implementation of reconstruction programmes as per the mandate extended by the Ordinance on Reconstruction of Structures Damaged by the Earthquake,” Finance Minister Ram Sharan Mahat told The Himalayan Times.
The reconstruction ordinance has given sweeping powers to NRA. For instance, it can override existing legal provisions related to land acquisition and registration, public procurement and environmental impact assessment to expedite reconstruction works.
Also, NRA has the power to issue orders to any civil servant, including secretaries and government agencies, and recommend the concerned government body to take punitive action against those who fail to abide by instructions. It is because of these reasons, many, including former home minister and chief secretary Madhav Prasad Ghimire, were eyeing the CEO’s post — which is equivalent to that of a Cabinet minister.
Many say Pokhrel is the best candidate for the post of CEO because he has served as the executive director of the state-owned Alternative Energy Promotion Centre and knows the grassroots well. So, it is assumed he can work in collaboration with people at the local level, where most of the works related to reconstruction will take place.
Yet many things will depend on the quality of policies and programmes he frames to rebuild parts of the country ravaged by quakes and restore productive means of livelihood for people who have lost income sources and assets worth billions of rupees.
So, it is important that he first understands the gravity of the situation at the local level and not show urgency in replicating projects haphazardly.
It is assumed he will work skilfully because a team led by him had previously prepared the report on Post Disaster Needs Assessment — the only credible document that provides information on damage and losses triggered by earthquakes.
Also, the NPC has prepared a draft of the Reconstruction Policy — which basically focuses on rebuilding of private houses damaged by earthquakes, restoration of social infrastructure, such as schools and health centres, and reconstruction of heritage sites.
So, he is not alien to issues related to rehabilitation and reconstruction. This implies he has fair idea of where interventions are needed and sectors that need to be prioritised.
If he is able to roll out his plans and programmes in a coordinated and timely manner, lots of jobs can be created, livelihoods can be improved and places destroyed by quakes can be rebuilt better.
This will ultimately help the government achieve economic growth target of six per cent fixed for this fiscal year.
Pokhrel said, “I’m pleased that the government has entrusted me with this important task. I’ll initiate works related to rehabilitation and reconstruction immediately by collaborating with all government agencies.”
• Chairperson: Prime Minister Sushil Koirala
• Members: CEO Govind Raj Pokhrel, National Planning Commission Vice Chairman, Chief Secretary Som Lal Subedi, Deputy Prime Minister and Home Minister Bam Dev Gautam, Finance Minister Ram Sharan Mahat, Urban Development Minister Narayan Khadka, Tourism Minister Kripasur Sherpa, professor and geologist Tara Nidhi Bhattarai
• Two more experts, in addition to Bhattarai, yet to be appointed to NRA board
A version of this article appears in print on August 14, 2015 of The Himalayan Times.