I am honored to be here with you at the “Swarnim Yatra” celebration.
2013 marks 50 years of the World Bank presence in Nepal. 50 years is a short span in the history of any country – especially for Nepal: a nation that has existed independently longer than any other in South Asia. For the World Bank, 50 years is almost long as we have existed, so this is one of our longest partnerships and we are proud of what we have been able to accomplish together.
Nepal has made impressive progress in consolidating peace and the political transition, now seems to pave the way for elections. The recent decision by political parties to form an interim election council is a welcomed event, which we hope will lead to political stability and longer term development.
The impressive development results achieved in Nepal, set the country apart from other countries coming out of conflict.
- A child born today can expect to live 25 years longer than one born in 1970.
- Today almost all children go to school and live within 30 minutes of their school.
- Nepal has already accomplished gender parity in primary education.
- Fewer than 1 in 1,000 owned a telephone in 1970. Today, every second Nepali owns a cell phone.
- Until 1970, only five percent of the population had piped water supply. Today, 80 percent of the rural population has access to clean water and more than half has access to sanitation.
- And by reducing extreme poverty by half in just seven years, Nepal has achieved the first Millennium Development Goal ahead of time and well before its neighbors.
These results have been achieved, despite conflict and long political transition, building upon Nepal’s significant strengths:
- Its long and robust tradition in community-led development, has allowed development to progress even during the height of conflict.
- Part of the growth story is Nepal’s agile and resourceful private sector as well as the large remittances from workers that are able to save and then send back home the fruit of their labor.
- There is support for development across the political spectrum: All main political parties agree that development must be scaled up.
So what is the task ahead? It has 5 components:
- Promoting inclusive growth: the progress in poverty reduction still hides wide variations in social and economic indicators depending on geographic location, ethnicity, caste and gender.
- Accelerating human development: two in every 5 children are still stunted and nearly a third underweight. And the young population needs market relevant skills for productive employment.
- Closing the infrastructure gap: power shortages with over 18 hours load shedding in winter and the lowest road density in South Asia are strong barriers to growth and poverty reduction. Developing the vast hydropower-resources would bring revenue-earning exports and help reduce load-shedding at home.
- Enabling environment for private sector growth: Nepal has an opportunity to greatly improve its investment climate, regional connectivity and trade competitiveness.
- Improving governance and accountability: Governance has weakened as a result of the transition and the long absence of elected local government. This affects growth, poverty alleviation and the aspirations of young people for a bright future.
As we prepare the new partnership strategy for Nepal, our staff has held extensive consultations in five regions outside Kathmandu and within the Kathmandu Valley. The messages we received were clear. Priority demands converged on investments in infrastructure to reduce the energy deficit and improve connectivity; the development of skills for better employability of young men and women; and a private sector that can help create jobs. And good governance, accountability and transparency were the message we heard throughout.
We are ready to provide support to help meet these challenges. Our strategy and program will continue to align with yours, and those of your larger community of development partners.
We congratulate the Nepali people for the impressive development results over the last fifty years. We also thank the government of Nepal for the opportunity to celebrate together today the results of this partnership.