Kathmandu: Nepalese Prime Minister Sushil Koirala is likely to visit India next month to meet his counterpart Narendra Modi to discuss a long-term plan for reconstruction and rehabilitation in the earthquake-ravaged Himalayan nation.
Finance Minister Ram Sharan Mahat has also got an invitation from his Indian counterpart Arun Jaitley.
“Our prime minister is likely to visit India next month,” Mahat told this visiting IANS correspondent.
Mahat said both the prime ministers have been in regular touch since the devastating earthquake of April 25 killed over 8,000 people, injured thousands and caused widespread destruction.
“We got good support and help from India. In fact, India was the first country to come to the rescue of our people and extend logistic support. We owe it our gratitude,” he said.
This will be Koirala’s first foreign visit since the temblor that has damaged over one million private and public buildings. He has been facing criticism for returning home from Indonesia two days after the devastating earthquake.
Mahat said Nepal, which saw five percent growth in 2014, needed immense money to rebuild houses, tens of thousands of schools, dispensaries, government offices as well as roads and bridges.
“We are assessing the total damage to life and property. We immediately require $2 billion for rehabilitation. The government has made a provision of 10 percent (out of $2 billion) from its own resources. The total estimated damage could be $5-10 billion.”
The assessment work is likely to be completed in one month.
Nepal, whose annual budget is around $7 billion, will hold an international donors’ conference in Kathmandu next month or in July to seek financial assistance.
The finance minister said several development partners, including Nepal’s immediate neighbours India and China, have expressed interest to co-chair the donor conference to aid the government’s larger rebuilding effort.
Mahat also indicated that if the country continues to get aftershocks, it would be difficult to provide logistic support and there could be “a neutral venue” for the donor meeting.
Official sources said India, China, the US and other development partners — the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank — have already expressed desire to co-chair the meeting and the venue.
“We have to reconstruct the damaged infrastructure. The damage to irrigation and potable water systems is quite extensive. We will seek financial assistance from bilateral friends, international voluntary organisations and donor associations,” Mahat said.
Admitting that most of the construction had not been done in the first place in a systematic and scientific manner, Mahat said: “This quake was a wake-up call. Now we have to rebuild the country in a planned way.”
He said the government had limited capacities but a gigantic task ahead.
“There is a huge gap (between what we need) and the resources. We are making appeals to the international community to be part of rehabilitation work.”
Nepal saw a decade-long Maoist insurgency from 1996 to 2006.
“There has been a significant progress in human indicators after the insurgency. The quality of life has improved. We are now, however, running the risk of reversing the country’s economy.”
Mahat admitted that there were still many quake-hit areas located in remote and inaccessible regions where relief material was yet to reach.
“We are fully confident that India will extend help in the reconstruction phase also,” he added.
The buildings housing the Prime Minister’s Office, foreign ministry, defence ministry, finance ministry, National Planning Commission and many others have developed cracks.
Officials in these ministries, including the President’s Office, Supreme Court and Nepal Army headquarters, are functioning from tents.