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Andrew Mitchell: The $500m package reflects our joint priorities

Andrew Mitchell: The $500m package reflects our joint priorities

The United Kingdom’s Minister of State for Development and Africa, Andrew Mitchell, was in Nepal on a two-day visit (Feb 19-20) to jointly announce with senior Nepali government officials a $500m grant assistance package. Minister Mitchell held meetings with Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal, Foreign Minister Narayan Prakash Saud and Finance Minister Prakash Sharan Mahat, inspected various projects being undertaken with British assistance and also found time to interact with the media. Excerpts from the interview:

Is the $500m package your priority or our priority?

This package is based on our government’s 140-page White Paper.  There are two things about development that really matter. Development works only when it is long term and when it involves a partnership. We believe strongly in localism, we believe in partnership. It’s not about your priorities or our priorities. The package reflects our joint priorities. We do things together to advance common agendas. It is not about a country with money doing something to a country with less money. It’s about working together, with partnership to achieve joint objectives.  

We make sure that what we pursue is jointly desired, that it is a joint endeavor. 

Is this money going through the government channel? 

Results are important, rather than the route for channeling funds. We have zero tolerance against corruption and want to make sure that every pound from the British taxpayer is spent in a transparent and efficient manner. We believe that sunshine (transparency) is the best disinfectant. 

Recently, there was an agreement to send Nepali nurses to work in the UK. Don’t you think it will impact Nepal’s fragile public health delivery system? 

When I was not a minister, I tabled a Bill in the British House of Commons with a provision: Whenever a nurse or a clinician comes from a developing country to the UK, our development program should pay for two nurses to be trained in that country. The Bill is yet to materialize. We believe in free movement. 

A lot of people come to our country to build up their skills, many of them return to their home countries to use their skills. Through the development program, we are building capacities, including in the health areas, which I saw inside a hospital yesterday (at the Lumbini provincial hospital). Generally, we do not approve such arrangements, unless it is a government-to-government agreement. There are, I hope, benefits for both sides in this and that’s important. Part of our program is about building up health capacity in Nepal, which is very important for both of us.

Gurkha servicemen are seeking equal treatment in terms of pay and perks, they are seeking justice. Do they not deserve it?

Reopening pension issues, which have already been decided, is very difficult. 

I think it is very important to keep talking, so that everyone’s views are heard. Under British pension law, it is quite difficult to take retrospective action. If you take retrospective action in one set of pension arrangements, then it sets a very bad precedent. 

So, reopening pension issues, which have already been decided, is very difficult.  

But the relationship between Nepal and the UK is extremely important, and the Gurkhas are a central part of this relationship. So, I think, the important thing is to continue to talk and reflect on these matters as we go forward.

At a glance

  • New UK Development Portfolio is expected to help Nepal tackle the climate crisis, mobilize international finance for development, deliver economic transformation, and support governance and inclusion 
  • UK development support will see $505m in grants delivered by 2030
  • Impacts will include helping create 13,500 jobs, attracting more than $1bn in investment and supporting access to quality health and education services for 2m women and girls

Priority areas

  • Economic development of Nepal
  • Private sector development
  • Strengthening governance and service delivery systems
  • Health education
  • Climate and disaster resilience
  • Investment in green growth areas
  • Investment in evidence and data
  • Strengthening service delivery systems