US selects Nepal for projects to promote economic growth

Washington, Sep 7 The US has selected Nepal for one of its most high-profile projects that aims to promote economic growth, regional stability and increase connectivity within the Indo-Pacific region, a top American diplomat said.

In her prepared testimony, Acting Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs Alice Wells told Congress the US aims to help Nepal “pave the path to a stronger democracy that could address persistent ethnic conflicts, achieve justice for abuses resulting from Nepal’s decade-long civil war, and promote economic growth and regional stability”.

“Nepal has been selected for one of the US’ most high- profile projects to increase regional connectivity within the Indo-Pacific,” Wells told a Congressional subcommittee in a written submission yesterday.

Wells is scheduled to testify later before the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Asia and the Pacific on ‘Maintaining US Influence in South Asia: The 2018 Budget’.

“If these efforts succeed, Nepal will serve as a model for other fragile post-conflict democracies. In addition to supporting a stable, democratic government that respects the rule of law, the United States promotes investor-friendly energy development and regional connectivity,” Wells said.

In August, she said, the Millennium Challenge Corporation’s (MCC) Board of Directors approved a USD 500 million compact with Nepal, MCC’s first compact in South Asia.

Nepal has committed to contributing an additional USD 130 million to support MCC’s investment, and pending congressional notification.

“This compact will be signed this September by both governments,” she added.

The compact will focus on two projects: an Electricity Transmission Project and a Road Maintenance Project.

The Electricity Transmission Project would strengthen the high voltage electricity transmission network to support new investments in generation, which would not only address serious power shortfalls domestically but also permit the country to export surplus hydroelectricity in the future.

This project also will offer significant opportunities for American firms both in project implementation and downstream, electricity-dependent sectors.

The Road Maintenance Project is designed to improve the maintenance regime in Nepal and will complement existing efforts by others to build new roads, the US official said.

In addition, the US foreign assistance request of USD 38.8 million aims to strengthen democracy and improve government transparency and accountability.

Programmes will increase food security and help foster an environment conducive to increased US business opportunities.

For the year 2018, resources will work to improve education service delivery as well as maternal and child and nutrition health services, efforts that are essential to support a skilled workforce and long-term sustainable economic growth.

Funding will also increase the Nepalese government’s capacity to manage and monitor their borders, Wells said.

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