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Hard to reconstruct

Tuesday, September 8th, 2015


Govind Raj Pokharel, the newly-appointed CEO of the National Reconstruction Authority spent the last week negotiating with a doctor who was on hunger strike for an entirely different reason – reform Nepal’s health care system.

Pokharel was holding talks with Govinda KC, a doctor who rose to fame after a series of hunger strikes, at a time when he should have been busy drafting post-earthquake reconstruction guidelines and procedures. But the ordinance that was issued two months ago to form the Authority expired. Pokharel is now CEO of an agency that doesn’t legally exist.

As the ruling and opposition parties wrangle over the new bill, Pokharel’s plan to finally start post-earthquake reconstruction work is now in limbo. He is not even sure whether he will remain CEO. Some have argued that the present authority has been dissolved with the ordinance’s expiry and there should be a new CEO when it is set up again.

Law Minister Narhari Acharya blamed the main opposition UCPN (M) for putting a spanner in the works of the new bill and prevented it from being tabled in parliament to legalise the Authority. But the UCPN (M) says it is against the new bill because the government has not held consultations with the opposition parties before tabling it.

Giriraj Mani Pokhrel, the Chief Whip of the UCPN (M), told Nepali Times that the government was not serious enough to undertake timely and effective post-earthquake reconstruction efforts.

“The government had two months to consult the opposition parties, prepare a new bill with every one’s consent and table it in the parliament before the ordinance expired,” he said. “But neither the government nor the ruling parties realised the urgency to replace the ordinance with the new bill. They woke up only after the ordinance expired and now want to push through a bill without our consent.”

The UCPN (M) wants a bill that gives more power to the Authority. “The present reconstruction authority cannot even acquire land and has more ministers than experts,” Pokhrel said. “We do not want an authority that is not capable of rebuilding people’s lives.”

UCPN(M) Vice-chair Baburam Bhattarai was keen to lead the Authority, and many say this is the reason his party is now blocking the Reconstruction Bill. But Pokhrel said: “We are ready to accept the PM’s leadership if a more powerful authority is formed.”

As the fate of the Authority hangs in balance, nearly 2 million people made homeless by the earthquake will have to wait longer to get support for reconstruction. Use of the $4.4 billion pledged by donors at a conference in Kathmandu two months ago is also uncertain.

Also read:

Reconstruction in limbo

Better build back


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