Oli asks parties for their support to ratify the MCC in ParliamentWith the Nepali Congress and Janata Samajbadi Party for it, it will likely be ratified but the Speaker has to agree to table the compact for vote in the House meeting.
Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli during the all-party meeting he called on Saturday asked political parties to support the House ratification of the Millennium Challenge Corporation Compact under which Nepal would receive a $500 million infrastructure grant from the United States.
The deal was signed between Nepal and the United States in 2017 but it needs to be ratified by Parliament.
The next meeting of the House of Representatives is scheduled for Tuesday and Oli urged the parties to push Speaker Agni Sapkota to include it for voting.
“Though the prime minister also spoke about seeking cooperation to fight against the Covid pandemic and holding by-elections at different levels, the major reason behind holding the meeting was to seek support to ratify the MCC,” Nepali Congress Vice President Bimalendra Nidhi told the Post.
While the Nepali Congress and the Janata Samajbadi Party support the ratification of the Millennium Challenge Corporation Compact, the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist Centre) and a section within the ruling CPN-UML as well as smaller parties like Nepal Majdoor Kishan Party and Janamorcha Nepal are against it.
Speaker Sapkota formerly was a lawmaker from the Maoist Centre before he was elected to the post.
The Maoist Centre wants some amendments in the compact. A three-member committee of the now defunct Nepal Communist Party (NCP) last year had suggested that the compact should not be ratified in its present form.
Chair of the Maoist Centre Pushpa Kamal Dahal was conspicuous by his absence at the all-party meeting on Saturday.
Before the meeting, Oli tried to reach a consensus with the Nepali Congress and Maoist Centre on the Millennium Challenge Corporation Compact but Dahal refused to attend such a meeting, according to Bishnu Sapkota, press advisor to Dahal.
Dahal later boycotted the all-party meeting, a leader close to Dahal said on condition of anonymity.
But with the support of the Nepali Congress and the Janata Samajbadi Party, the compact is likely to get ratified.
During the meeting, senior Nepali Congress leader Ram Chandra Poudel and Nidi said the compact should get ratified from the House as it was signed during the premiership of Nepal Congress President Deuba in 2017, according to Poudel.
As per the legal opinion given by the Law Ministry, this agreement can be endorsed with simple majority in the Lower House, to give it the status of a law, according to an official of Millenium Challenge Account, Nepal, the government body formed to implement the Millennium Challenge Corporation Compact programmes.
The five-year grant programme under which the fund operates is provided to the countries that pass its eligibility criteria including democracy and transparency.
“Although Parliament has the authority to ratify the compact, the Speaker has not presented it in the meeting for vote,” said Foreign Minister Pradeep Gyawali. “As the major parties have agreed that the Speaker should not hold back the MCC for a long time, he does not hold any prerogative to hold it for a long time.”
During the all-party meeting, the Nepali Congress also urged the government to hold the election for the post of Deputy Speaker which has been vacant since January, 2020 when Deputy Speaker Shiva Maya Tumbahamphey resigned from the post.
Senior Nepali Congress leader Poudel told the Post that he also criticised the way of government functioning, asking why the House was not being given any business and made dysfunctional.
“We have to prioritise the strengthening of the system and not always look for power,” said Poudel at the meeting.
Oli in turn replied saying some elements are trying to destabilise the political system and the politics of the country, according to Gyawali.
Leaders urged the prime minister to implement strong health protocols and measures against the Covid-19 pandemic and hold by-elections for seats vacant at local government, provincial assemblies and federal parliament.