Nowadays, some sections of the public go as far as to charge treason against those who argue the MCC project is needed for Nepal’s development. Some adamant opponents do not even want to listen to or read other arguments when it comes to the MCC project. This is an utterly wrong and worrisome situation. Are the people who are in favor of the project treasonous? I would contend, absolutely not.
Namaste Dear Nepali mothers, fathers, sisters, and brothers:
I hope you are safe and well, along with your family members even in this most unusual situation. I know COVID-19 has gravely affected our lives, and now as a nation, we are waiting for vaccination. I wish for the Nepal government to provide vaccines to everybody as soon as possible. Amidst such a situation, you are hotly debating about the MCC (Millennium Challenge Corporation). Now, I am writing this letter to you to talk about the same. Based on my reading, and information provided in documents available online, and after listening to discussions with people from countries where the MCC projects have been implemented, I have come to understand that the agreements mentioned in the compact project are up to international standards and the project’s impacts are, in balance, overwhelmingly positive. In this letter, discussing the successful impact of a similar project in Mongolia, I intend to clarify some misunderstandings that have been created and to explore how the project is likely to be beneficial to us in Nepal.
Before talking about the project, I would like to thank those of you who are engaged in honest discourse and debate about the project, whether in support or against. I cannot help expressing my appreciation for the Nepali community who are aware of Nepal’s sovereignty and nationality. The love and interest you have shown are commendable.
However, some political leaders and bogus groups have fabricated and disseminated rumors (what-MCC-is-not) against the project, twisting and providing misinformation and disinformation to you, and they are agitating for some of you to go against the MCC project. I do not see any fault on your part, as you are erroneously being taught that the MCC is against national sovereignty and could do more harm to Nepal than good. Our history is glorious—as a country that has never been colonized, we are very conscious of our precious national sovereignty. So, in comparison to other countries, it is natural for us to have more heated debates when it comes to the issue of sovereignty. In recognition of this situation, I appeal to the MCC leadership to wait some time before withdrawing the project from Nepal.
We know Nepal is a very sensitive country geopolitically, located in between India and China. So, any national actions we take may have unforeseen hidden and unhidden complexities. But, Mongolia, a geopolitically sensitive place just like Nepal, in their case a landlocked country surrounded by two most powerful countries: China (three sides) and Russia (one side), was able to successfully implement the project.
I had the chance to listen to and read about the MCC project’s impacts in Mongolia, Ghana, and Sierra Leone. I came to learn that the MCC project has had very positive impacts on agriculture in Mongolia, having doubled agricultural productivity in the rainy season and increased it 20-fold during the dry season (agriculture), increased the availability and reliability of the local power supply (resources), improved transportation networks (transportation), and helped in many other areas. And, almost none of the charges leveled against the MCC project have been experienced in these countries. There was a healthy public discussion about the project in Mongolia, such as where to implement the project. However, there was no heated conflict of public opinion as in Nepal.
As it has been proposed to Nepal to ratify the MCC compact project through parliament, in the same way it had been proposed to Mongolia, and the project was endorsed through their parliament. As the Mongolian government needed local people’s commitment, they went through the parliamentary process just as is now being done in Nepal.
In the context of Nepal, it seems very important to go through parliament as it makes the government strong to proceed with the project and complete it on time, abiding by agreement standards so that it would not take, like the Melamchi project, decades to complete. Agreement points are being made to complete the work in the stipulated time, overcoming impediments from external forces, which is beneficial. Wouldn't it be good to complete the project on time and receive the advantages of the project sooner rather than later? Through this project, we will learn how to complete a public task on time, and thus we will be able to see the benefits sooner.
Similarly, if the MCC project is implemented in Nepal, we will not only build roads and transmission lines, but it will also bring technology transfer. If a road is built, we will be better able to transport our goods from one place to another place; does that harm us in any way?
The reason behind linking with the electric transmission grid in India is to sell surplus electricity to India, and thus we needed India’s approval on it. If we are able to construct transmission lines and sell our surplus electricity to India, in what way does that harm us?
As thousands of young Nepali brothers and sisters are going abroad for jobs, this project could stop some of them from needing to go abroad, by first creating jobs for them right here, and perhaps even creating multiple avenues for their entrepreneurship. If we do not implement the project, we will lose the opportunity to create some desperately-needed employment. Additionally, we lose donor countries’ trust and, in the future, they will not feel secure investing in Nepal if our mission to bring more foreign investments to Nepal cannot be materialized. I did not understand why we would want to reject the project. Is there any evidence-based anti-MCC logic? I see lots of imagined threats and phony charges (what-MCC-is-not), but little or no evidence-based opposition logic.
When roads are built and when transmission lines are constructed, who will get the benefit? Definitely, we the people will be the winners. For example, the Mahendra Highway (assisted by India) and the Kodari Highway (assisted by China) are infrastructures that were built with neighboring countries' assistance, and they have been very beneficial to us, haven't they? If they were not built, what would be our current condition? Have we ever imagined the consequences of that outcome? I know we should be very aware of nationality and patriotic pride. But without knowing facts, just running after rumors leads us nowhere. Like it or not, today’s world is inter-reliant. Even China and the US are taking assistance from other countries to maintain their developmental pace. Yes, we should learn from this fact before going completely against the project.
I do not claim that this will be a magic wand for our development. My claim is that if the project is implemented and goes well, it may be an important stepping stone in our development. Of course, along with all the obvious benefits, we should always be very aware of possible irregularities and destructive events it might invite, and remain alert to stop any abuses that may emerge.
Dear Nepalis, I would also like to make it clear to you that the MCC project was not imposed by America. It was a demand-based project. The Nepal government at that time stated its intention to have a project in 2007 and we finally received approval in 2017. We could not obtain the project in 2007, as Nepal did not complete some parameters and indicators, goals which we could not achieve at that time. Nepal became eligible to apply for the project in 2012, and then it proceeded in its official work. We became eligible as our government has achieved indicators that the project needed: a democratic government, rule of law, and human rights and some others. By this, we should know that all countries are not eligible for such assistance. At the same time I ask, is it at all honest to blame America for imposing the project on us?
When researching the question, I found the MCC project very transparent in terms of its information, as everybody can access documents from its website. We should appreciate such a transparent agreement. In contrast, if we seek some other countries’ bilateral agreements with Nepal we may not find them; for instance, when I searched for the text of the BRI agreement between Nepal and China, I did not find it online.
Nowadays, some sections of the public go as far as to charge treason against those who argue the MCC project is needed for Nepal’s development. Some adamant opponents do not even want to listen to or read other arguments when it comes to the MCC project. This is an utterly wrong and worrisome situation. Are the people who are in favor of the project treasonous? I would contend, absolutely not. Consider: what if the people who advocate the project were to turn this accusation back on their opponents? Aren't those people who reject and resist the project in fact the ones who are treasonous, as they are acting against the development and prosperity of Nepal, deliberately impeding the nation's developmental activities? Some opponents want to load millions of dollars of debt on the shoulders of the Nepali people. They are pushing our political leaders to take loans from other countries. Such an accusation would definitely make these opponents annoyed and inflamed. So, rather than pointing destructive arrows at each other, it would be wise for the people of Nepal to have a healthy, reasonable debate couched in decent, respectful language, and settle this matter soon.
Having said this, I would like to stop here. Thank you for reading this letter.
Stay safe and healthy!
(The author is a PhD student, Rhetoric and Composition Studies, and Assistant Instructor at the University of Texas at EL Paso, USA)