(As prepared for delivery)
Honorable Prime Minister, Hon. Finance Minister, Ministers, Secretaries, Joint Secretaries, Ambassadors, Heads of Agencies, Colleagues, and Partners.
I’m delighted to be here on my first visit to this beautiful country. I’m pleased to share my thoughts on scaling up investment in green, resilient, inclusive development (GRID) in Nepal.
Over the past few days, I’ve caught a glimpse of some of Nepal’s unique achievements as well as the complex set of challenges the country faces.
Nepal is one of the world’s few developing countries with rapidly growing forest cover (25 to 45 percent in three decades).
It has also eliminated malaria in Kathmandu and Pokhara and vaccinated over 80 percent of its population against COVID-19.
Nepal’s 2015 Constitution established a federal system with a strong emphasis on community-led development.
Nepal’s vast natural resources are assets for hydropower, tourism, and livelihoods.
But it is a country that still relies heavily on remittances. And it is highly vulnerable to climate change and other environmental risks such as flood, drought, and pollution—exacerbated by persistent unemployment and social exclusion.
Against this background, Nepal took leadership in putting GRID at the center of its development vision.
GRID focuses on the quality of growth—the type of growth that reduces extreme poverty, narrows structural inequalities, protects the environment, sustains the growth process itself and makes it more resilient. It provides the main elements to achieve the Bank’s new mission and vision of a world free of poverty on a livable planet.
The GRID approach simultaneously addresses three related elements:
First, it is Green. It prioritizes sustainability and efficiency and aims to do no future harm. It also aims to ensure long-term environmental health and sustainable use of resources in an increasingly indebted and resource-constrained world. We cannot have a world without poverty in a world without nature. The new World Bank mission, “Ending poverty on a livable planet”, reflects this.
Second, it is Resilient. It stresses the ability to recover from shocks due to climate change and other environmental risks, disasters, as well as macro-fiscal and zoonotic risks.
Last, it is Inclusive. It aims to address disparities in opportunities and outcomes among groups of people across markets, services, and spaces.
The World Bank, International Finance Corporation, IMF, and 13 other Development Partners embraced that vision in the 2021 Kathmandu Declaration – and pledged to work together to operationalize GRID in Nepal with financing and advisory support.
Together we worked with the Government of Nepal to prepare Nepal’s GRID Strategic Action Plan for 2024-2034. The Action Plan includes 10 priority transitions supported by significant external financing including grants from the development partners for on-going investment projects and pipeline projects under active preparation. It also includes a new set of proposed multi-donor flagship GRID investment programs for key transitions. The next step is for the Government of Nepal to carry out sub-national consultations.
Today and during my visit to Nepal this week, I would like to learn from all of you, how GRID is being put into action and how the Action Plan will help the Bank and partners scale upNepal’s successes.
For the last two years, the World Bank has been recalibrating our financial and advisory support to Nepal to deliver on all three elements of GRID. We are working closely with all the Development Partners to convene resources, including public and private resources, to match the ambition to which Nepal aspires.
GRID is Nepal’s agenda, but it resonates well beyond the country’s borders. The Himalayas, for example, provide drinking water to a third of humanity. Nepal’s hydropower resources are critical for a successful energy transition in South Asia. And how agricultural land and forests are managed in the landscape help protect the resilience and sustainability of the country’s hydropower infrastructure and local livelihoods. Without water, energy, forests, and land, sustainable development cannot be possible in South Asia. And without collaboration and partnerships, these scarce assets cannot be utilized effectively.
What have we in the World Bank learned about GRID in action and scaling up investment? Let me share some emerging lessons from three new projects in Nepal:
This is a multi-sectoral agenda. When we build a new road, we need to take into account the broader landscape, including the risk of landslides and other forms of water erosion, forest degradation, expansion of settlements, and animal migration routes. In Nepal, we are working with the Government to integrate these concerns into the design. There is a higher cost upfront to pay, but the long-term returns are significant.
This is a community agenda. To achieve inclusive development and to harness the knowledge that exists locally, we need to consult upstream. We know that local communities often come up with different and, better solutions. Nepal’s federalism agenda is core to its approach to GRID. This is challenging, because capacity needs to be built at all three tiers of government and among communities, and local people empowered. But it’s hugely worthwhile.
This is a partnership agenda. In few countries I have visited do we regularly carry out joint project visits with other partners. Here in Nepal, we do. The 2021 Kathmandu Declaration and now the GRID Strategic Action Plan unites all of us Development Partners to align with a core set of priorities to guide investment. Again, this is not easy. We need to avoid overlap. We need to abandon some old ways of doing things. If we succeed, I’m convinced we can yield more results.
Finally, and perhaps this is not something often appreciated: GRID is also a question of macroeconomic prudence. Failure to build resilience against environmental and other shocks is expensive. Prudent debt and fiscal management sets an example for other countries in the region. But the development of federalism harbors underlying fiscal risks.
The world faces multiple, unprecedented crises. The World Bank is evolving to meet these challenges and will remain a steadfast partner to Nepal.
I particularly appreciate the ambitious policy program Nepal is pursuing to help the country shift to a GRID path. Nepal is the first country to have a programmatic Development Policy Operation dedicated to GRID. The second operation in the series of three is under preparation. I appreciate the Asian Development Bank considering parallel financing for it. This is important as the operation anchors the priorities of the GRID Strategic Action Plan and helps put in place the findings from last year’s Country Climate and Development Report and Nepal’s Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC).
Together, we are defining what a re-invigorated development agenda looks like: one based on a clear vision where development and nature are seen as complementary, where improving people’s livelihoods is the ultimate objective of an inclusive and sustainable development path, and where all Development Partners work together, along with the private sector, to achieve results at scale.
There is a lot at stake. I look forward to hearing about what is already working, what can be scaled up, where we can innovate, and where we can do better. Nepal is leading the way, and the World Bank stands ready to support.