Decision to award Budhigandaki to Chinese company draws flak

Published On: September 25, 2018 09:22 AM NPT By: Republica  | @RepublicaNepal

KATHMANDU, Sept 25: Friday’s cabinet decision to begin negotiations to award Budhigandaki Hydroelectric Project to a Chinese company has received criticism from different quarters including the opposition party. 

The decision, they said, undermines the government’s credibility, shows non-transparency in the government’s decision-making process, and disregards parliamentary committee’s decisions in the past. 

Experts and opposition party leaders criticized the decision as being a deviation from the government’s previous plans of building the reservoir plant of 1,200 MW on its own to meet the country’s growing energy demand.

They demanded awarding the project through competitive bidding in public-private partnership model instead of the government’s plan to award it to China Gezhouba Group Corporation (CGGC) in the modality of Engineering, Procurement, Construction and Financing (EPCF). 

Since July 2016, the government has been charging the general public Rs 5 on sale of each liter of petrol, diesel, or ATF as ‘infrastructure tax’, for the purpose of building the Budhigandaki plant. 

Former energy secretary and former chief commissioner of the Commission for the Investigation of Abuse of Authority, Surya Nath Upadhyaya, said that the decision has eroded the government’s credibility.  With such move, the government has missed an opportunity of building the mega project on its own, he added. 

Former finance minister and leader of the opposition party, Ram Sharan Mahat, criticized the government for taking decision in a non-transparent manner and going for a financing modality that would invite debt burden for the country. 

Tweeting on the issue, Mahat questioned the quality of decision-making process on such important issue. 

“Awarding multi-billion dollar project to a company on EPCF model in non- transparent manner without competition has disregarded better options. This is also bound to push the project cost, leading to heavy national debt burden,” Mahat wrote.  

Deepak Gyawali, former energy minister, has questioned why the opposition party has remained silent on the matter. 

Meanwhile, youth leader of Nepali Congress, Gagan Thapa, said that the party will oppose the decision in the parliament on Tuesday. 

“This is not a mere decision on a hydropower project but also a matter of lack of governance,” Thapa said. He also blamed Prime Minister Khadga Prasad Oli for showing undue interest on the matter, making the decision suspicious. The issue will also be discussed in parliamentary committees, he added. 

Likewise, Kamal Thapa, former energy minister and chairman of Rastriya Prajatantra Party (RPP) tweeted that the decision to award the project to the Chinese company was unfortunate. 

During his tenure as the energy minister in November last year, Thapa had got the preceding government’s MoU with the Chinese company scrapped. 

The Nepali Congress-led government under Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba had also decided to build the project on its own by mobilizing domestic resources such as welfare funds, pension funds, and institutional deposits. 

The decision followed a study led by a team of former vice chairman of the National Planning Commission Swarnim Wagle. 

Previously, the government led by Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal had decided to award the project to the Chinese company.

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