Infrastructure holds key to WB support

- Post Report, KATHMANDU
Infrastructure holds key to WB support

Mar 9, 2014-

The World Bank Group has indicated that infrastructure will be a key focus area for the bank’s future assistance to Nepal.

Visiting World Bank board members spelled out better connectivity and hydropower as the two areas during an interaction with a select group of journalists on Saturday. “Given the importance of connectivity and power, any reasonable proposal that is technically and economically sound would be considered with sympathy,” said Jörg Frieden, executive director of the World Bank Group.

The eight board members were in Nepal on a four-day visit what they describe “a travel to stay in touch with the reality of the ground.”

The team traveled to Pokhara from Kathmandu by road to get first-hand account of the road condition and also visited two hydro projects—Upper Trishuli 1 and Upper Tamakoshi.

On hydropower, the board members stressed the need to sign a bankable PDA. “We need private sector to take a lead in hydropower. And, we’re working on to have a bankable PDA signed. Once that  is done then we can bring full weight of the IFC,” said Kyle F Kelhofer, IFC country manager for Nepal, Bangladesh and Bhutan. When asked about IFC’s possible equity investment on Upper Karnali Hydro Project, Kelhofer said IFC is looking into it.

On possible World Bank assistance to Kathmandu-Tarai Fast Track, World Bank Country Director for Nepal Johannes Zutt said, “We had little bit of discussion with the government on Fast Track. It is at very initial stage.”

According to Zutt, what the bank is talking with the government at the moment is the need to ensure feasibility and design studies for fast track are of very high standard. He said if the bank has to involve in the project, it will have to anchor a consortium of donors who would all contribute.

The board members said that they see Nepal as a country that needs more resources and the bank will try its best to facilitate better mobilisation possible.

However, they also cautioned that mobilisation of the resources makes sense only if it is combined with policy and projects that are of high quality. “We do not recommend the bank to throw money. It must be of a high qualitative impact,” said Frieden.

The board members were of the view that economic growth is essential to support the political transition. “The attention on political transition we know is certainly the priority, but is not enough,” said Frieden.

“Economic growth is crucial. The economy needs attention to support the transition. You cannot get stability if the economic performance does not improve. Hence, the attention of economy will facilitate the transition.”

With World Bank country office in Nepal currently working on new country assistance strategy, the board members assured that they would recommend to the country teams—World Bank and IFC—to listen to the new government, new political leaders and society at large to understand what can be achieved and what really is expected.

“The bank is determined to provide as much support as possible to these efforts to improve the economy and social condition of the Nepali people. There is willingness to renew efforts and new country strategy will that exactly. And, I must say some correction must take on the bank side,” added Frieden.

Published: 09-03-2014 09:21

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