If the 5-year project had gone ahead, the transmission lines would have been built by now and Nepal would be able to distribute electricity from new plants. Those hydropower plants were developed with Rs215 billion in investment from banks, which means deposits of ordinary Nepali citizens.
As Anil Shah argues the banks and their depositors will be in deep trouble if the private producers go belly-up. Nepal will then have to get loans from the World Bank or the ADB for transmission lines, but even that will be difficult unless we have an explanation for why we rejected the MCC.
There is no one party or politician to be singled out for this unholy mess. The UML rallied behind the MCC while in government, only to use it now to bring down the ruling coalition. The two Communist parties in the ruling alliance are hoping Deuba and Oli will be punished by voters on 13 May for their support of the MCC.
Coalition leaders have failed to garner support within their own party ranks for the project, nor are able to explain its reality to the public. This provided an opportunity for self-proclaimed nationalists of the left and right to spread disinformation about how the US was turning Nepal into a US military outpost.
Read also: To be or not to be on the MCC, Anil shah
A generation that grew up reading Communist commentary on ‘American imperialism and Indian expansionism’ is now in the leadership of the Communist parties. Such phrases may be obsolete now, but it is being revived to stoke populism during a Sino-US Cold War. This has not only increased the ideological polarisation, but also led the country astray.
It is important for Nepal to vet all aid and loans, not just the MCC. However, domestic and geopolitical factors should not affect important projects. The populist nationalism around the MCC is not only tarnishing the image of the parties and their leaders, but also Nepal’s image as a nation. The consequences will be borne by the people.
Hundreds of thousands of Nepalis have to migrate to the Gulf and Malaysia every year for work and it is the remittance money that runs the country’s economy. We will never rise above this with such insular hyper-nationalism.
Nepal currently does not have the capacity to mobilise sufficient resources to upgrade transmission lines and prevent potential wastage of Rs142 billion a year worth of electricity by 2025. So the country has no choice but to seek foreign funding. Rejecting this grant is foolish, especially because all the leaders today were all on board when it was signed in 2017.
Not ratifying the MCC today will set a precedent tomorrow to embroil every Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) project in controversy. Once and for all, Nepal’s politicians must stand together for the country’s future regardless of their party election symbols.
A MCC ratification will also be a lesson for anyone tempted to misuse quasi-nationalism for self-interest and weaken the Nepali nation.
Read more: Using power wisely, Nepali Times