Nepal's struggle to raise quake reconstruction funds
Nepal government struggling to raise quake relief funds after corruption, poor governance accusations

Nepal estimated that it suffered damage worth $10 billion in the aftermath of April's 7.8-magnitude earthquake but authorities are still struggling to raise the funds needed to provide shelter for the half a million who remain homeless.

With the monsoon rains only weeks away, Nepal is organizing a donor conference in the capital Kathmandu for later this month to allay donor fears that funding will be wasted through corruption and poor governance.

"Nepal is safe and sound and ready to host an international conference. We hope the conference would help us create confidence in the country. We want to send a message to the outside world that life is back to normal,” Finance Minister Ram Sharan Mahat told a gathering of donors and representatives of foreign missions on June 1.

After the earthquake, Nepal's government expected foreign aid and donations to pour into the devastated country, setting up the Prime Minister’s Disaster Relief Fund to attract funds for post-quake recovery efforts. Foreign aid, however, has been slow to come by with just over $75 million pledged so far.

"It’s time to generate hope and inculcate self confidence and revive the economy. Now time has come to rebuild; we will build back better and Nepal is ready to reconstruct,” Mahat said, adding that the delegates will be taken on a trip to villages ravaged by the quake. "In addition to the reconstruction, we need more resources to revive the economy.”

The government plans to raise $2 billion through the newly formed National Reconstruction Fund but has so far collected only $200 million from its own coffers.

By contrast, the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs raised $124 million against its own $422-million goal, according to an update released last Wednesday.

Meanwhile, Nepali government officials are working on a report evaluating the country's post-disaster needs to present to the donors during the conference. The report would assess the damage and spell out recovery strategies including funding for rehabilitation, restoration of livelihoods, economy and services and reconstruction of infrastructure.

More than 1,200 government officials and engineers have been mobilized to over 500 villages of 34 districts in central and eastern Nepal, according to Suresh Adhikari, spokesperson of Ministry of General Administration.

The report, which is being prepared by each ministry in consultation with experts from donor agencies, would only provide preliminary estimates of the damage, according to Govinda Nepal, a member of the National Planning Commission.

Nepali authorities are at loggerheads with donors on the modality of funding. While government officials claim all donations should be made to the Prime Minister’s Disaster Relief Fund, donors want to have a free hand to spend the funds, pointing to corruption in Nepal, which ranked 126th out of 175 countries in Transparency International’s 2014 Corruption Perception Index.

"Donors are concerned about corruption and lack of transparency in Nepal. They also point out that we don’t have capacity to spend a huge amount of money,” Nepal, the member of the National Planning Commission, told Anadolu Agency.

"We do have problems but donors are not perfect either. They spend a lot of money on overhead and hire expat consultants who draw huge salaries. In the end, contributions from both sides are likely to be the same,” he said.

Officials of Nepal’s Ministry of Agriculture Development on Wednesday protested the World Food Program’s call for aid to feed "one million hungry” Nepalis, arguing that the appeal did not reflect the reality.

The ministry said that the U.N. agency should have used the term "food insecure” instead, according to Republica, an English-language national newspaper.

In an op-ed for The Kathmandu Post, Achyut Wagle, a former editor of an economic daily, suggested the government develop guidelines for donor agencies.

"The state should develop a code of conduct, which would be applicable even for those who will be mobilized by the international community for earthquake-related reconstruction and rehabilitation,” Wagle wrote on Thursday.

"For example, such a code should spell out the limits of the aggregate emoluments that each international ‘humanitarian worker’ will be entitled to, which should commensurate with the amount the donor in question releases and which also must not be greatly higher than Nepali salary scales,” he said.

Last year, Nepal presented an annual fiscal budget of 618 billion Nepali rupees ($6 billion), with roughly a quarter contributed from foreign aid. This year the budget is expected to reach 800 billion rupees due to the expenses for post-quake recovery.

Last Modified: 2015-06-08 08:43:51
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