Costs of reconstructionResources must be expeditiously mobilised to carry reconstruction work to completion
Three long years have passed since the earthquake of April 25, 2015, yet today, we remain miles away from completing reconstruction work. The National Reconstruction Authority (NRA), formed in August 2015 with a mandate to complete reconstruction work within five years, has been hamstrung by a number of problems. A debilitating shortfall of necessary funds, an initial shortage of reconstruction materials as a result of the unofficial border blockade, the absence of a central coordinating body, frequent changes in leadership, and the politicisation of reconstruction have all resulted in snail paced-recovery efforts.
Over Rs100 billion has been expended in reconstruction and rebuilding measures in the past three years. 141,524 private houses have been rebuilt. As many as 436,152 private homes are under construction. But while there is no doubt that this progress must be acknowledged, it is crucial to recognise that a great deal more remains to be done. The NRA do not have the luxury yet to rest easy. Construction has not begun on 99,173 out of the 676,849 households that were found to be eligible for housing reconstruction aid and signed an agreement with the NRA. Work has not started on 324 heritage sites out of the 750 that were affected by the earthquake. And the government has hardly completed reconstruction work on one-third of the 7,923 school buildings that were either destroyed or partially damaged.
It is obvious the government yet has miles to go before reconstruction work can be carried to completion. How it will achieve such a feat in the face of a Rs100 billion shortfall to complete the reconstruction of private homes, and a deficit of Rs88.2 billion in the construction of schools is a question that is yet to be answered. A possible solution to this resource gap could lie in the expeditious mobilisation of foreign aid.
$4.2 billion was pledged by donors for post-quake rebuilding, and another $1 billion was pledged by India, the largest amount of aid committed by a single country. But according to the White Paper unveiled by Finance Minister Yubaraj Khatiwada, only 16 percent of the $4.2 billion that was pledged has been disbursed so far. What’s more, mobilisation of the amount pledged by India is yet to begin. It is essential now for the government to assemble these resources to counter any funding snags that could hamper the reconstruction drive.
To be sure, disbursement of such funds is not an easy task considering the huge amounts of aid that have to be mobilised, as well as the reimbursement model that some of the deals follow, wherein the government makes expenditure from its own resources and claims the amount from the donor later. But these complications should not be allowed to delay aid mobilisation any longer. Time is of the essence at this juncture, and Nepal requires critical investments in resilient recovery as soon as possible. We do not have the luxury to wait. We can only hope that the NRA’s efforts towards resource mobilisation will bear fruit.