Vice-president of Millennium Challenge Corporation Fatema Z Sumar said Nepal should stop delaying ratification of the MCC agreement.

Responding to a journalist's query at a press conference here today, Sumar said the United States of America had not set any artificial deadline for the parliamentary ratification of the MCC compact in Nepal, but there was no reason for delaying the ratification which should have happened two years ago.

"We are one year behind already," she said.

She said although the MCC compact was finalised before the onset of the COVID pandemic, the project could be an added advantage to revive Nepal's economy and better the lives of poor people.

"Why should Nepal wait to create jobs, provide electricity at homes, build safe roads, and lower costs of business in Nepal?" she wondered.

Sumar said eight governments in Nepal in the past 10 years had sought the MCC compact and as a result of multiple rounds of negotiations, the project was signed in 2017. "There is a lot of misinformation and disinformation about the MCC project, but the American side has put everything transparently and if anyone has any doubt about the deal, they can see details on the internet."

Asked if she thought any external force was behind the protests launched mainly by the communist parties of Nepal against the MCC agreement, Sumar said, "I am not a political person so I don't want to comment on that, but it is for the people of Nepal to ask political parties why the protests are happening and where they are coming from."

Sumar said that as a daughter of South Asian immigrant parents who lived in abject poverty in the country of their origin, she wanted Nepali people to enjoy the same kind of opportunities and quality of life that she enjoyed in the USA and the MCC compact would help Nepal improve people's lives.

Sumar said she told political leaders of Nepal that Nepali people deserved an informed choice on the MCC deal. She has shared the message of urgency with political leaders and others during her meetings with them. She said she was optimistic that political leaders of Nepal understood the urgency of the agreement.

In response to a journalist's query, she said even if Nepal wished to no longer receive an MCC grant, then that would not lead to any souring of the relationship between the United States and Nepal.

"The US and Nepal have shared a historic bond and a special partnership for the past 70 years and bilateral relations will endure. The US is with the people of Nepal," she added. She said there were no strings attached to MCC or any other US aid packages. Sumar, who arrived in Kathmandu on September 9, held talks with political leaders, including Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba, CPN- UML Chair KP Sharma Oli, and CPN-Maoist Centre Chair Pushpa Kamal Dahal.

During the meetings, she also discussed the required steps to implement the $500 million MCC-Nepal infrastructure programme and answered questions posed by Nepal's Ministry of Finance.

Sumar affirmed that the MCC grant programme had no military component, would not impede Nepal's sovereignty, and Nepal's constitution would prevail over the agreement.

Prior to negotiating and signing the compact in 2017, the Government of Nepal had designed the five-year grant programme to provide more reliable electricity and lower power and transportation costs for all Nepalis.

A version of this article appears in the print on September 13 2021, of The Himalayan Times.