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Prime Minister Oli, Railroads And India Card

Issue June 2018

Prime Minister Oli, Railroads And India Card

Siddhi B Ranjitkar


Prime Minister KP Oli has millions of things to do but he just went to the event to open the repaired Gaddhibaithak in Kathmandu on June 27, 2018. Railroads are not of the Nepal’s immediate need but Prime Minister Oli has been after it not to mention the waterways forgetting his commitment to replace zip car (“twin” popularly known in Nepal) with suspension bridges. Prime Minister Oli said that he had no cards but he could use an India card if he were really wise to use it for constructing railroads in Nepal maybe even the waterways.


Prime Minister Oli along with the American ambassador jointly cut the red ribbon to open up the Gaddhibaithak repaired with the American money. What a shame on Oli and surely on the proud Nepalis whose prime minister has shamelessly stood along with the official way down his level if he were to follow the protocol to cut the ribbon. Nowhere in the world, any prime minister cut a ribbon jointly with any ambassador. However, Nepalese Prime Minister Oli did and probably would do because even a little foreign money could buy the poor prime minister of the highly rich-minded Nepalis.


Not even the secretary but a joint secretary to the Ministry of Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation could do what the prime minister did following the protocol because the level of any ambassador is not higher than the level of the joint secretary in Nepal. KP Oli simply wanted to keep the Americans pleased for a trivial amount of money used for repairing the Gaddhibaithak.


Nobody could say that Oli did not know the protocol because he had served as a foreign minister in the past. So, he could not say that he did not know the protocol and his advisor did not properly informed him on this matter. He knew the protocol but he failed to keep the honor of the proud Nepalis.


Prime Minister Oli has millions of things to do if he were to achieve the eight percent economic growth. And he has hundreds of problems to solve to navigate the administration properly, and he has tens of political issues to take up immediately. He knew that the opposition was preparing to obstruct the parliament if their demands were not met. He also knew that the House of Representatives could not set up the parliamentary committees causing the delay in holding hearings on the candidates recommended for various constitutional bodies. However, Oli set aside all these very important things and went to cut the red ribbon with the ambassador on June 27, 2018.


Prime Minister Oli has been hyping the railways and waterways and probably following the footsteps of Chinese President Xi Jinping, who had money and power to build any railroads, waterways or roads or what not, who is very ambitious to be the economic emperor and rule the world with the power of the money. Oli is not even a pigmy if he were to compare with Xi in terms of wealth and power. However, Oil has not been behind in talking loudly about the railroads and waterways. He has a dream of seeing Nepalese ship sailing up to Kathmandu, and Nepalese navy in the Indian Ocean or Bay of Bengal. No doubt Oli could do it provided he could stop any corruption. However, right under his nose his minister for physical infrastructures and transport has been saving the non-performing contractors that have been responsible for dragging the economic development not completing the jobs they have been awarded in time at cost they have promised to do, and the home minister wants to bring them to justice. Prime Minister Oli has been a mute spectator. In this way, Oil could make his dream a reality? Really not, he said that he had zero-tolerance of corruption but his minister is for an open corruption. Why Prime Minister Oli is keeping such a minister in his cabinet if he himself has not been involved in it even though he says that he has a zero-tolerance of corruption.


China has built the railroads quite near to the China-Nepal border and soon exactly in 2020 the railroads would reach the Keryung-Rasuwagadhi on the China-Nepal border if the newspapers reports were correct. China badly needs the transport and communication means to lift up the millions of people living under the poverty line in this Tibetan Autonomous Region of China. This region is almost like a desert. So, China needs everything to build this area. The nearest area is Nepal or India or Pakistan.


China could buy cement, other construction materials, and foodstuff including fish and meat, fruits, and vegetables in Nepal. So, China is extending its railroads near to the Nepal border. Now, China wants Nepal to build railroads from Rasuwagadhi to Kathmandu and then to Pokhara, Lumbini and Bhairava and so on so that China could reach every nook and corner of Nepal and buy and sell what they want. Chinese communists have been more businesspersons-like than any capitalist businesspersons. Prime Minister Oli needs to keep in mind this fact.


Answering to the question of a reporter who would invest in building railroads at the airport on his return from China on June 24, 2018, Prime Minister Oli said that whoever would have money. That is a perfect answer to reveal that the Chinese are not willing to invest in building the railroads in Nepal. At least the Chinese have been willingly footing the bills for conducting the feasibility study on the railroads. Surely, that does not cost a lot. However, building railroads in the hills involves a massive cost. The Chinese feasibility team said that the building cost of railroads in the hills would be NPR 4 billion per kilometer while in the terai NPR 500 million per kilometer, the local news stated.


Surely, Chinese leaders want Nepal to participate in building the railroads that would benefit Nepal but a number of times more to the Tibetan region of China. Here, ‘participate’ means sharing the cost of railroads probably more than what Nepal could afford. China might offer a loan in a good faith. However, Oli needs to be careful the interest rate would not be higher than 0.5 percent, as of the loans the World Bank, and Asian Development have provided Nepal with for various development projects such as Melamchi Drinking Water Project.


Another thing Prime Minister Oli could do is to play an India card. If anybody were to flip the history of Nepal, the then Nepalese ruler used the China card effectively and India built 400 km of the East-West done gratis in 1960s. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi is ready to be a trump card. He has already allocated one billion dollar loan for Nepal to use as a soft loan for any purposes. Soft loan means a loan with a very low interest rate. Modi has already sent a team of experts for conducting a feasibility study on the railroads from Raxual: the Indian border town to the capital of Nepal Kathmandu. So, Oli could use the India card while negotiating with the Chinese leaders for building the railroads or waterways whatever Oli has in the mind.


While Oil is dreaming a big thing of building railroads and waterways, the immediate needs of Nepalis have been the replacement of zip cars (‘twin’) with suspension bridges. Rural Nepalis have no options but to risk their lives for crossing the powerful and fierce rivers that flow so fast in the hills for going to schools, for going to collect fodders or fuel wood or water and for going to market for selling or buying or for both.


In fact, Prime Minister Oli in his first term of prime minister had committed to replace the zip cars with the suspension bridges in one year. Oli must have either the very poor memory of what he had said in his previous incarnation of prime minister or he deliberately ignored them because he wanted big things than those trivial matters. Nothing about replacing zip cars with suspensions bridges was either said in the policy and program document of the government or in the address to the nation Oli did from the Rara Lake side on the Nepalese New Year Day on April 14, 2018 or in the budget speech of the finance minister.


Finance Minister Dr Yubraj Khatiwada as a matured economist needed to understand that only replacing hundreds of if not thousands of zip cars with the suspension bridges could make his target of eight percent economic growth a reality. Probably, Dr Khatiwada simply brushed it off as a matter of no interest because it is not a big thing and high-sounding project.


Mind it, Dr Khatiwada or Oli, without the development of rural infrastructures and bringing all the people to the mainstream of economic development, the mere budget speech of Dr Khatiwada would not make economic growth he has targeted a real. His subsidies on the agriculture or on micro businesses would not bring him the economic prosperity of what he has targeted for and would not make the dream of Oli making “Prosperous Nepal and Happy Nepalis” a reality.


June 28, 2018

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