Visiting US official assesses MCC status

Kathmandu, February 9

Visiting Deputy Vice-president of Millennium Challenge Corporation Jonathan Brooks today held high-level meetings, including with Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli, where he majorly discussed the status of parliamentary endorsement of the MCC Nepal Compact agreement.

Brooks is also learnt to have communicated to the Nepali side that amendments to the agreement were not possible at this point of time.

A section of the ruling Nepal Communist Party has taken strong stand against endorsing the agreement in its present form. They have said it can be implemented after amending a few ‘contentious’ provisions.

However, the US side has been maintaining the agreement could have been amended had it been in the negotiation phase.

The agreement was signed in September 2017 after two years of negotiations from 2015 to 2017. They have said since the agreement had already been signed, there were no provisions for an amendment.

The agreement is currently being studied by a taskforce led by NCP Secretariat member Jhalanath Khanal. The taskforce has Minister of Foreign Affairs Pradeep Kumar Gyawali and NCP Standing Committee member Bhim Rawal as members. The NCP has said it will take a decision on the matter on the basis of the report submitted by the Khanal-led panel on February 12.

According to Millennium Challenge Account-Nepal Executive Director Khadga Bahadur Bisht, Brooks also met with Minister of Physical Infrastructure and Transport Basanta Kumar Nembang and Minister of Finance Yubaraj Khatiwada, besides MCA-Nepal staff members. MCA-Nepal is a Government of Nepal agency formed to manage the MCC Compact programme.

Bisht said Brooks basically took stock of the status of project implementation and parliamentary endorsement during his meeting with MCA-Nepal staff members.

Diplomatic sources said Brooks’ Nepal visit was part of a normal schedule and not a special visit. They said he regularly visited countries implementing MCC schemes to study the implementation status and various other issues.

The Parliament was scheduled to endorse the pact in September, but it did not happen because of opposing voices from within the NCP. After that, the MCC made a one-time extension to the deadline. “The project is running against the clock. Hence, the concern regarding it,” said a diplomatic source.

Sources said Brooks also took stock of other things such as districts to be affected by the transmission line project under the MCC, acquisition of land and compensation to be provided to land owners, among others.