Let us hope the "parties will make a wise decision by the December 14 deadline, one that will not be regretted later

Apparently, the stalemate over the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) agreement cannot continue indefinitely, and the US government has asked Nepal to make its stance clear by mid-December.

Visiting Assistant Secretary for South and Central Asian Affairs of the United States Department Donald Lu, during his meetings with officials and party leaders, made it clear that should Nepal decide to opt out of the deal, the US would give the amount to other countries. US Assistant Secretary Lu's visit to Nepal last week comes close on the heel of the high-level visit by MCC Vice President Fatema Sumar in September.

On the eve of her visit to Nepal, Sumar had sent a 13-page written response to questions raised by the Nepal government to Finance Minister Janardan Sharma. In it, she had clarified that the compact was not part of the Indo-Pacific strategy, or any US military strategy – a major concern of the Nepal government. However, more than two months after her visit, the country remains undecided on the issue.

The MCC compact was signed between the two countries in September 2017, under which Nepal has received a grant of US$ 500 million. Nepal's contribution for the compact programme is $130 million.

More than 50 nations have received the grants for infrastructure development, but they have seen no controversy as in Nepal or Sri Lanka. Electricity Transmission Project (ETP) and Road Maintenance Project (RMP) are two major components of this programme, which was supposed to have started on June 30 last year and completed in five years.

The agreement envisages the construction of 318-kilometre-long, 400 KV transmission lines with three high-capacity substations and maintenance of about 300 km of roads on the East West Highway. The projects would benefit nearly 23 million people by providing more reliable electricity and lowering the cost of transportation and energy.

One fails to understand why the MCC-funded project suddenly found itself in the midst of misunderstanding and opposition from some leaders of the political parties, especially the communist parties, in 2019,saying it did not serve national interest. There are misconceptions that the project's execution will bring in the US military to Nepal. How this is feasible in a country sandwiched between two of the world's largest militaries and economy is difficult to understand.

Some countries have even completed two compacts while others are into their second helping of the MCC largesse, as with Georgia and Ghana. Despite the fierce opposition by some leaders, they have failed to convince the public how the MCC compact goes against national interest. By doing so, are they themselves jeopardising national economic interest? In the past too, such opposition to development initiatives saw the cancellation of a project like the 401MW Arun III in 1996, which would have prevented the severe power disruptions that the people had to face in the following decade. Unlike other projects, the MCC is very particular about completing its programme on time within five years without any time extension. Let us hope the parties will make a wise decision by the December 14 deadline, one that will not be regretted later.

Preventing diabetes

Diabetes is a serious disease afflicting millions of people worldwide. This disease not only kills but also causes harm to other body parts, like the retina of the eyes, kidneys and the heart. One is advised to test regularly for the disease as soon as symptoms begin to show. In most cases diabetes requires the patients to take medicines and insulin injection throughout their life. This disease is often inherited, so those whose relatives have diabetes have to exercise more caution.

Every year, World Diabetes Day to create awareness among the general populace about the disease.

In Nepal too, this day was observed last week with the slogan "Access to diabetes care: If not now, when?" Although diabetes cases cannot be avoided, adoption of a healthy lifestyle can help in their prevention to some extent. Regular exercise and partaking of healthy diet are recommended while avoiding alcohol intake and smoking, among others. These measures can do much to keep people from contracting diabetes. In modern times, people are neglecting their health due to the busy lifestyle. The combination of hypertension and diabetes is a dangerous condition. Therefore, the slogan for this year's Diabetes Day should be taken up seriously, and we should act immediately to prevent the disease.

A version of this article appears in the print on November 22, 2021, of The Himalayan Times.