MCC Vice-President Sumar-Nepali leaders meet
On Friday, September 10, US Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) Vice President of Compact Operations, Ms. Fatema Z. Sumar, met with Nepal's Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba in Kathmandu. As she was on a four-day visit to Nepal in connection with the MCC Compact with Nepal, she expressed the hope that the Nepal's parliament would soon pass it. As per the statement issued by the Kathmandu-based US Embassy, Ms. Sumar's visit aimed at telling mediators, reporters and political leaders that the MCC grant program contained nothing that prevail would over Nepal's sovereignty, constitution and defense systems.
Ms. Sumar, upon her arrival in Kathmandu on Thursday, September 9, met with the outgoing Prime Minister and UML party Chairperson K P Sharma Oli at his residence, Balkot, Bhaktapur. Mr. Oli informed MCC Vice-President Fatima Sumar that he tried his best to pass the agreement while he led the government, which tabled it in the parliament. Mr. Oli accused the Speaker of the House of Representatives of deliberately blocking it.
Ms. Sumar, toward the evening on Thursday itself, also visited former Prime Minister and Communist Party of Nepal (Unified Socialist) Chairperson Madhav Kumar Nepal and former Prime Minister and People's Socialist Party Federal Council Chairperson Dr. Baburam Bhattarai. While Dr. Bhattarai explicitly supported the MCC compact, Mr. Nepal appeared implicit in saying that he would prefer further dialogue among his political allies. Almost a similar opinion came from Communist Party of Nepal (Unity Center) Chairperson Pushpa Kamal Dahal with whom Ms. Sumar met on Friday, September 10.
Why Nepalis oppose the MCC Compact
Ms. Sumar's visit sounded like the door-to-door campaign for the approval of the MCC compact strongly opposed by commonfolks in social media platforms and in the streets, who are mainly influenced by influential opinion leaders. She met with most of the leaders at their residences.
People's distrust in the MCC compact has mainly resulted from Nepali leaders' nontransparent, nonaccountable and mendacious behavior that has been excruciating them for decades. The most obvious cause for opposing the compact, however, is Nepalis' geopolitical sensitivity Nepal's location between China and India. It is more than apparent that the US Administration prefers to use Nepal's ground under the Indo-Pacific Strategy (IPS), while Nepalis in no way accept to become part of the IPS. Since the US National Defense Strategy and the Indo-Pacific Strategy have evidently incorporated the MCC as an inseparable component, it would be as unnatural for Nepalis to accept it as natural it would be for the US to push forward for their respective causes, the prime reason being Nepal's foreign policy of equality, freedom and brotherhood rather than military alignment, aggression against neighbors and lackeyism.
Pro-working class economists oppose the MCC compact for its clear vision of formatting Nepali leaders' mindset with neoliberal structures, while political critics have posed their questions concerned with geopolitical sensitivity.
Independent-minded analysts have been wondering why elite rulers of Nepal have been unnaturally stressing on their compulsion to pass the $500 million MCC agreement, which they signed nontransparently. When bureaucratic elites and mediators such as secretaries, former secretaries, financial governors and predecessors addicted to commissions out of their lobbying and brokering completed their homework of the MCC project in Nepal, it was not brought to light for public debate. Only elite leaders nodded their heads blindly that it would add financial strength to their partisan politics as it's normal for them to embezzle funds with the help of corrupt bureaucracy. pressurized to approve it in the parliament as an international treaty that might have long-term repercussions. When the MCC Compact was signed in 2017, nobody in Nepal except the chosen few knew what was going on. Most leaders of dominant parties heard about the MCC Compact as a surprise only when it came to table for approval in the parliament. This is the way 'Nepali democracy' works. Therefore, Nepalis strongly oppose it because they lack trust in their leaders and are looking for an alternative leadership that is honest enough to apply democracy prudently.
Financial grants be they from the World Bank, UN agencies, US or EU have never been tabled in the parliament for approval. Once Nepal's parliament sets a new trend of approving any international project in the parliament, it may sound very democratic in appearance but it may breed an endless series of security threats to Nepal. The moral strength of Nepali leaders has been tested dozens of times, and the Nepalis are still in the process of preparing generations to replace latent criminal forces that have succeeded in befooling Nepali masses.
So far, neither the ruling party nor opposition parties in Nepal have ever called their central committee meeting to discuss and reach a clear-cut conclusion regarding the compulsory approval of the MCC compact in the parliament. A serious psychological contradiction between political leaders and international legal experts regarding the MCC Compact has informed and agitated the Nepali social psychology, long-schooled by Marxist leftists.
Because of the non-analytical and non-critical social psychological structure that overrules democracy in Nepal, Nepali leaders, at will, find it easy to mobilize credulous masses for or against to suit to their invested interests. Perhaps the same happens in other African, South and Central American countries, where the MCC has reached and a limited class of elites rule in the name of pluralistic democracy. We can be informed about the miserable conditions under which people in those countries live, with myriads of development projects running there for ages, further nourishing anarchic political brokerism and impoverishment of working class people.
Since Nepal has not approved the MCC Compact in the parliament during these four years, it is more than apparent that the compact is not compatible with Nepal's psychosphere. What the general public's mindset tells the world is that the thing called MCC is a different path, a different strategy. Why the forceful parliamentary approval of the MCC while other projects worth trillions have been okayed through the Ministry of Finance? This is the question posed by the Nepali social psychology to which Nepali political leaderships have not been sensitive. Nepali political elites, extremely self-centered and feudalistic in nature, resort to people only when the very existence of ruling classes is in serious danger. In normal times, elites are accustomed to ignoring or crushing grassroots voices, while indulging in embezzling public funds, internal budget or foreign aid. This ignoble moral character of elite rulers democratic in formalities but authoritarian in practice seems to have influenced them in accepting the MCC due to their intention of embezzling funds for their factional politics and hypocritical elections. So far transparency and accountability have been mere slogans. For instance, billions of foreign aid has been tremendously abused by ruling elites themselves, further marginalizing the working class people. The evidence lies in the overwhelming exodus of Nepali working class youths to Gulf countries as unskilled and semi-skilled workers. For such reasons, the Nepalis' priority is not MCC but getting organized and re-organized internally to liberate the country from metastatic corruption and brutal markets overruling the nation's laws. The question arises why the MCC is putting pressure on Nepalis to approve the compact while the country is in a serious juncture. Are they merely beating the iron while it is red with heat?
It is natural for the MCC executives to take care of their nation as per their strategic goals and specific objectives. It is equally natural for Nepali people excluding treacherous leaders to take care of their country, so far guided by non-aligned principles and geopolitical sensitivity. The Nepalis put blame on their own leaders for their irresponsible politicking.
Parties have never bothered to forge a collective and organized opinion about the compact. They lack a systematic idea of what the MCC compact means for them and why they should or should not accept it. Just the opening of the Nepal office in a five-star hotel, employing a few dozen Nepalis and spending Nepal's six billion rupees so far does not guarantee the MCC project in Nepal. Nor does this situation promote US image. The basic thing about the MCC compact is that an overwhelming majority of Nepalis are not for it because they distrust it, labeling as a neoliberal strategy aimed at opening a new gate to privatizing Nepal's public resources and facilitating a neoliberal ground for global war companies, which could be instrumental to not only reproducing and maximizing inequalities but also to converting this peace zone into a playground.
The Nepali society has been suffering from innumerable corruption scandals worth almost US$6 billion a year. Annual reports published by the country's Office of the Auditor-General provide an excellent clue to systematic and structurally designed political corruption metastasizing across the country. Political and socio-economic critics advise that Nepal had better look into the US$6 billion being annually embezzled by corrupt forces at home instead of being bound to America's global strategy in a confused manner, inviting a geopolitical danger beyond imagination. Upon survey, it wouldn't be difficult to discover that an overwhelming majority of the Nepalis, irrespective of their party affiliation and ideological stance, are not in favor of the MCC because they have a strong opinion on the geopolitical sensitivity as regards Nepal's strategic location between China and India Nepal's natural neighbors with deep-rooted hostilities against each other.
Although anti-working class political parties disguised as "communist" or "Marxist-Leninist" number higher in Nepal, they have never done a single thing that is expected from a communist party. Instead, they have done just the opposite while in power, e.g., they have ultra-commercialized education and health the most fundamental human rights without which people are never empowered politically, economically and socially. Their actions and consequences have entirely proved their addiction to neoliberalism and money-mongering nature despite their success in applying their cunning tactics through rhetoric, depending on money, muscle and media.
Oxfam International and HAMI's report entitled Fighting Inequality in Nepal (2019) refers to Nepal's economic system as being based on an outdated ideology and neoliberal policies imposed by the structural adjustment programs of the IMF and World Bank in the 1980s. The report clearly points out how the state in Nepal has evaded its primary obligations from guaranteeing education, health, food and housing as human rights for people since its investment has been replaced by free market forces competing for profit. Examining the ground reality that 8.1 million Nepalis live in poverty, the Oxfam report recommends policies that benefit not only the richest few but prevent the continuous exclusion of the most marginalized sections of population. The report essentially implies that the state must not merely serve as facilitators or brokers for private forces but also act as the guardians of people. If the state loses its natural identity and begins to act as mere servers of profiteers, it is natural for people to take necessary steps to create a favorable atmosphere for themselves.
As far as the ongoing anti-MCC street protests are concerned, independent critical forces are at the forefront. Their logic is that Nepal is not compelled to enter an MCC circle without having a morally sound political leadership. Leaders of leading parties are accustomed to doing almost everything with a cunning and mischievous mindset due to which distrust results. In US context, such phrases would sound awkward while Nepalis' acute experiences of sufferings caused by political leaderships for long have generated distinctively expressive linguistic terms. A mere reading of the 78-page signatureless agreement paper available in the MCC website and dreaming fabulously is not adequate to apply democracy to grassroots. Critical voices vital in genuine democracy emphasize on the need to democratize politics at home, creating a healthy environment for good governance and self-transforming development strategies while cooperating with international partners on a needs-based and non-aligned basis. But individual leaders, most influential within parties, have always ignored this idea of independent critical forces. It would be beneficial for domestic decision makers to listen to independent voices that Nepalis are entirely capable of spending 500 million dollars by themselves on constructing road and transmission lines. 'Why do Nepali leaders want to undermine Nepalis' sovereign decision making power and hand over everything to international forces and increase poverty at home?' is the major essence of the ongoing anti-MCC protest. Let it be heeded wisely. Let Nepal be a peace zone!▲