Reconstruction plan in disarray

Instead of passing the Bill, the House sent it to the Good Governance Committee for discussion

Sep 20, 2015-With Parliament failing to pass the reconstruction bill in the session that ended on Saturday, the government’s plan for reconstruction drive has been thrown into uncertainty. The bill was supposed to establish a reconstruction authority to spearhead rebuilding of structures devastated by the deadly April 25 earthquake.

Instead of passing the bill, the House sent it to the Good Governance Committee for clause-wise discussion.

After the CPN-UML and UCPN (Maoist) lawmakers presented several amendments to the bill during the last day of the parliamentary session, Law Minister Narahari Acharya proposed to send the bill to the committee for the clause-wise discussion. While a few Nepali Congress lawmakers had voiced against the proposal, the House passed it with a majority.

The next session of Parliament will be called within seven days from the date of promulgation of new constitution on Sunday as per the constitutional provision. But Prime Minister Sushil Koirala is scheduled to participate in the United Nations General Assembly on September 24.

“When he returns, all of Parliament’s focus will be on electing new Prime Minister, President, Vice President, Speaker and Deputy Speaker,” said a Law Ministry official. Passing the construction bill is unlikely to get prominence before these vital posts are fulfilled. In fact, the reconstruction bill has been pushed on to the backburner.”

Although the government formed the Reconstruction Authority through ordinance in haste before the donors’ conference on June 25 to attract more funding commitments, a failure to replace the ordinance with a replacement bill, which would give the body and its CEO validity, put reconstruction works into uncertainty.

A few days ago, the government had presented a new bill in the current session of Parliament but failed to get it endorsed.

“This is a setback for the aspirations of earthquake victims who had expected the government would help them reconstruct their damaged structures at the earliest,” said Govind Raj Pokhrel, vice-chairman of the National Planning Commission (NPC), who was also appointed as CEO of the authority.

Given the massive damage caused by the earthquake, reconstruction has been the main focus of the budget with an allocation of Rs91 billion. Of the total amount, the government had decided to mobilise Rs74 billion from the National Reconstruction Fund under the National Reconstruction Authority.

The authority was preparing the working procedures on public procurement, land acquisition, land registration, environment clearance and was also preparing drawing of the houses to be built under the reconstruction, according to Pokhrel.

The new bill had also sought to give the formation of authority and the appointment of Pokharel as CEO. But the House’s failure to pass the bill has left a big question over whether Pokharel would be able to continue as CEO of the authority.

According to a government source, the bill could not be passed as the CPN-UML which is working on forming a next government under its leadership once the new House begins its session. “Presentation of several amendment proposals on the bills on the final day of parliamentary session was meant to kill the bill,” said the source.

UCPN (Maoist) lawmaker Janak Raj Joshi said the government did not introduce the bill in line with the political understanding in the past. So, many amendment proposals were tabled on Saturday.

Former NPC Vice-chairman Shankar Sharma termed the non-endorsement of the bill through the current session of Parliament as disappointing. “The reconstruction works will suffer badly as the government will not be in a position to mobilise resources properly in time,” he said.

According to him, many donors are waiting for the government to coordinate in mobilising the resources they had committed.

Published: 20-09-2015 09:07

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