KATHMANDU, February 22, 2010 – The World Bank Vice President for South Asia, Ms. Isabel Guerrero, concluded a weeklong visit to Nepal today. During her stay, she met with senior Government of Nepal officials, including Prime Minister Mr. Madhav Kumar Nepal, Finance Minister Mr. Surendra Pandey, and Energy Minister Dr. Prakash Sharan Mahat; political party leaders; the Vice Chairman of the National Planning Commission; the Chief Secretary and Secretaries of the Government of Nepal; and representatives of the private sector, civil society, development partners, and the media. During her stay, Ms. Guerrero also attended a meeting of the World Bank’s Regional Management Team for South Asia.
Ms. Guerrero and members of her team also visited several development projects in western Nepal. She met with community partners and project beneficiaries of the World Bank financed Poverty Alleviation Fund and Social Safety Nets Project in Dolpa district as well as a micro-hydro scheme and a community managed school in Baglung district.
Talking to journalists prior to her departure today, Ms. Guerrero said she was impressed by what she saw in the field. “It was remarkable to see how these programs are getting resources to the poorest and most excluded groups. They demonstrate that when the community decides what it wants, even just modest amounts of resources can help many poor families get on a sustainable path out of poverty,” she said.
Asked about her meetings with senior officials of the Government of Nepal, Ms. Guerrero said “My meetings were excellent opportunities to learn more about the development priorities of the Government of Nepal. I reiterated that the World Bank Group stands by Nepal as it goes through historic transformations and seals the peace. I encouraged the Prime Minister and other senior government officials to see us as partners in tackling development needs that touch the lives of ordinary Nepalis.”
In some districts where the Poverty Alleviation Fund (PAF) operates household incomes have grown by as much as 18 percent. These households now have more to spare for the health and education needs of their children. World Bank studies have shown that Household Expenditure on Child Education has grown by 54 percent. Under-Five Child Mortality has decreased by 58 percent. Nearly 16,000 households now have road access for the first time, and water supply, bridges, and sanitation have been provided for more than 32,000 households.
The PAF currently works with over 12,000 community organizations in 59 of Nepal’s 75 districts. Under the ongoing second phase of the project, it will support activities in all 75 districts and around one million households will benefit by 2011.
The Social Safety Net Project was in initiated in 2008 to rapidly address the growing crisis in 29 food-insecure districts. In particular, the project has supported a partnership between the Government of Nepal and the World Food Program to bring urgent help to food-insecure areas by providing food and cash in exchange for work.
Communities have reported multiple benefits, including restored short-term food security, local employment opportunities, and increased income mainly through vegetable production, rural road construction and the restoration of community assets such as trails, foot bridges and tap-stands.
The School Sector Reform Program builds on Nepal’s leadership in the areas of community management of schools; leveraging community resources to augment public expenditures for education; improving accountability among teachers; enhancing transparency in government grants to schools; and ensuring that certified teachers and quality textbooks reach schools when and where they are needed. As part of the Government of Nepal’s Education for All goals, the World Bank currently finances a slice of public expenditures at all levels of the in the school system and supports Nepal’s plans to upgrade the basic and secondary education cycles.
In the Energy Sector, the World Bank supports Nepal through a four-pronged approach designed to: (i) urgently relieve the energy shortages through critical investments in the maintenance and rehabilitation of existing plants; (ii) expand community managed micro-hydro schemes in isolated rural areas. About 25,000 households are currently served by schemes that the World Bank has financed. An additional 36,000 households will benefit by 2012; (iii) support medium scale hydropower and transmission schemes such as Kabeli-A and transmission interconnection with India for urgent electricity imports during the load-shedding season and subsequent electricity trade; and (iv) help Nepal set the stage for larger hydropower projects which can both be transformative for the country’s economic growth and for meeting the aspirations of all Nepali people.