Kathmandu, February 10
Visiting Deputy Vice-president of Millennium Challenge Corporation Jonathan Brooks today held a meeting with Nepal Communist Party (NCP) secretariat member Jhalanath Khanal who is leading a three-member task force to study the MCC Nepal Compact agreement.
During the meeting that lasted for around an hour and thirty minutes, the Nepali side put forth all its concerns, while the US side presented their answers, Khanal told THT.
Khanal, however, did not disclose what concerns the Nepali side conveyed and what answers the US side presented. “I cannot disclose the details until we submit our report,” said Khanal.
“Once we come up with a report, everything will be made public.”
The task force formed by the recently-concluded NCP central committee meeting has been asked to submit its report by February 12. However, Khanal said the deadline could be extended if the task force failed to complete its study by then.
Brooks, who arrived in Kathmandu on Friday, held high-level meetings yesterday, including with Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli, Minister of Physical Infrastructure and Transport Basanta Kumar Nembang, Minister of Finance Yubaraj Khatiwada, and Minister of Foreign Affairs Pradeep Kumar Gyawali. He also held meeting with Millennium Challenge Account-Nepal staff members.
Sources said Brooks’ Nepal visit was not a special visit but part of a normal schedule. He regularly visits countries implementing MCC schemes to study the implementation status and various other issues.
The Parliament was scheduled to endorse the pact in September, but this did not happen as some leaders from within the ruling party opposed it. After that, the MCC made a one-time extension to the deadline.
Against this backdrop, Brooks’ major agenda for discussions in Nepal was the status of parliamentary endorsement of the compact agreement that Nepal signed with the MCC in September 2017 after two years of negotiations, sources said. During discussions, he is also learnt to have communicated that an amendment to the agreement is not possible at this point of time.
A section of the ruling NCP has taken strong stand against endorsing the agreement in its present form. They have said it can be implemented after amending a few ‘contentious’ provisions.
However, the US side has been maintaining that the agreement could have been amended had it been in the negotiation phase.
They have said since the agreement has already been signed, there are no provisions for amendment. NCP has said it will take a decision on MCC agreement’s parliamentary ratification after the Khanal-led task force submits its report. Other members of the task force are Foreign Minister Gyawali and NCP Standing Committee member Bhim Rawal.
PM Oli and Foreign Minister Gyawali have expressed their commitment to get the agreement endorsed by the House.
A version of this article appears in print on February 11, 2020 of The Himalayan Times.