Interview: MCC Vice President Fatema Sumar

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Fatema Z. Sumar, Vice President of Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) Compact Operations, visited Nepal on September 9. She came to Kathmandu with her deputy Jonathan Brooks.

She had talks with Nepal’s top political leaders who are for and against the MCC compact agreement. She also held talks with government officials, and business and community leaders.

Mero Tribune held a conversation with Fatema, regarding her visit to Nepal and various aspects of MCC:

How was your visit to Nepal?

It was a pleasure to be back in Nepal where we had such productive discussions with a wide cross-section of Nepali society from parliamentarians and party leaders to civil society and the business community. I am encouraged by the support the compact received throughout my trip in so many of our conversations. Through open and honest dialogue, we were able to clarify questions and address misconceptions, particularly those stemming from a deliberate misinformation campaign. I look forward to the Government of Nepal taking the next step to ratify the compact so we can strengthen Nepal’s economy for years to come.

How did your meeting with Nepali leaders go?

I am very encouraged by the discussions I have had with leaders across all of Nepal’s political parties.  These meetings focused on clarifying compact specifics – underscored by the need for political consensus – and discussed how this compact will be implemented after ratification. Most importantly, the leaders I have met reassured me of their support for the Electrical Transmission and Road Maintenance projects, recognizing the critical value of this grant to improve the lives of Nepalis; advance Nepal’s business environment, and make Nepal a leader in the South Asia energy sector.MCC welcomes the commitment of Nepal’s leaders, and we look forward to moving beyond ratification.

There is widespread confusion about MCC. Some say it affects Nepal’s sovereignty and constitution. What’s your take on this? 

The MCC-Nepal Compact does not, and will not, infringe on the sovereignty of Nepal. The Constitution of Nepal prevails over the MCC-Nepal Compact. The United States and Nepal have many shared values, and among them is the respect for a nation’s sovereignty.

How can you assure that MCC is needed in Nepal?

While many other development partners provide funding for infrastructure, what sets MCC apart is its focus on a strict five-year compact period. Large capital projects in Nepal frequently face time and cost overrun challenges.  It is not uncommon to hear of projects that cost multiple times the original estimate and take many more years than planned to complete.MCC’s model minimizes these challenges through several measures, one of which is the completion of all preparatory activities before starting construction. More specifically, all MCC compacts are required to use fair and open contract bidding processes, leveling the playing field for all companies – especially local and smaller businesses. Along with the Nepali jobs created by the $500 million MCC grant, the Government of Nepal’s increased institutional capacity and new infrastructure will enable and entice private sector investments through Nepal’s more robust and thriving energy sector.

How long can MCC wait for Nepal to endorse? 

With ratification now more than two years past the agreed-upon timeline, there is no better time to act than now. Parliamentary ratification at this time would allow the government to begin implementing $500 million dollars in infrastructure projects over the next five years, boosting Nepal’s economy and directly benefiting nearly 23 million Nepalis through transparency and accountability.


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