October 11, 2015
Today, Nepal’s parliament chose KP Sharma Oli of the Communist Party of Nepal (Unified Marxist-Leninist) as the nation’s new prime minister. Born in 1952 in eastern Nepal, Oli is a secondary school dropout, who was influenced by local communist leaders as a teenager. During the 1970s and 80s, during the royalist regime, he was a prisoner, on and off, for 14 years. He subsequently became a key member of the Nepal Communist Party-Unified Marxist-Leninist (UML).
Oli’s election was not a surprise. His candidature had been backed by the Unified Communist Party of Nepal-Maoists, the third largest Party (with 84 members in parliament). Horse trading for plum portfolios have become the dominant guiding factors in Nepali politics over the years, not principles or ideology. Thus, UML and Maoists leaders can be expected to be rewarded with new cabinet postings, and Nepali Congress leaders will be edged out. Once again, continuity will be stymied. In the meantime, Nepal’s post-earthquake political, economic and social crisis continues full steam ahead.
Security Message for U.S. Citizens: Kathmandu (Nepal), Fuel Shortage
Travel Health and Safety -- October 8, 2015
We recommend that travelers evaluate any upcoming travel plans in Nepal. Due to the nationwide fuel shortage, due to blockages at the border with India, many of the safety measures that would normally be relied on in an emergency situation may become unavailable. These measures include air medevacs and local hospitals. As of today these services are still operational, but service providers are facing dwindling supplies. If you are planning multi-day travel the situation could change drastically during your trip. Please consider that if you are trekking in a remote area and become injured, there will be limited options for you to be rescued until the fuel situation returns to normal. Tourist facilities continue to operate in the Kathmandu valley, but levels of service may be lower than normal. It is estimated that the fuel situation will not return to normal until 2-3 weeks after the border supply lines are fully restored.
Former US President Jimmy Carter cancels planned trip to Nepal
Nepal, which suffered a massive natural disaster in April, has been reeling from shortage of fuel and other critical supplies after imports from India halted in a crisis linked to Nepal’s adoption of a new constitution. According to Carter’s relief organization, Habitat for Humanity, the ex-president has nevertheless cancelled his trip scheduled for November:
“…shortages of fuel and supplies in the region, not Carter’s health, forced the project’s cancellation. Additionally, the U.S. Embassy located in Kathmandu today issued a message recommending travelers evaluate any upcoming plans in Nepal, stating that due to the nationwide fuel shortage and blockages at the border, ‘many of the safety measures that would normally be relied on in an emergency situation may become unavailable’”.
After China Southern Air, China Eastern Airlines suspends its Nepal flights
On October 9, China Eastern Airlines announced temporary suspension of its Kunming-Kathmandu flights, starting from October 15 till 26. Due to the “unofficial trade blockade” imposed by India, the airline announced it would be forced to extend the flights suspension further, if necessary.
The tough decision was taken in response to requests made by the Nepal Oil Corporation.
“This is to kindly inform you all that due to the present situation of Nepal and fuel crisis, we are going to cancel more flights of Guangzhou-Kathmandu-Guangzhou effective from Sept 29 to Oct 25,” said the China Southern in its Facebook page.
The flights has been cancelled on the eve of Nepal’s main festival season—Dashain and Tihar—when thousands of migrant workers and other Nepalis living abroad return home to celebrate with their families.
Hospitals may be forced to shut down in one week; vital drug supplies running out
Dr Anjani Kumar Jha, president of the Nepal Medical Association, warned that if the fuel shortage continued for another week, hospitals would have no choice but to shut down. “Health sector is facing its worst crisis. The government should take immediate steps to resolve the crisis,” he added. Hospitals also need fuel for intensive care, surgeries and incubation, apart from running refrigerators and other medical equipment.
Dr Swayam Prakash Pandit, director at the Bir Hospital, said ambulances had been grounded due to acute fuel shortage. “This has restricted the movement of emergency medical workers. We have made arrangements for shuttle bus service to pick and drop the doctors,” he told The Himalayan Times. Dr Pandit said vital and emergency services had been affected yet.
Mrigendra Meher Shrestha, president of Nepal Chemists and Druggists Association, said drug retailers and wholesalers were running out of anesthesia, live-saving drugs and pantoprazole injections as it has not been able to transport them to pharmacies across the country. “Medicines worth crores of rupees have been stranded on the Nepal-India border due to ongoing blockade by Madhes-based parties. What is more worrisome is that we do not even have fuel to transport drugs we have in our stock to pharmacies within the capital. The government should provide us fuel so that we can transport essential drugs to pharmacies,” he said.
Balkrishna Khakurel, director general at the Department of Drug Administration, said the government was preparing to import medicines by plane from countries other than India. “We have also decided to provide fuel to drug distributors,” he said.
PAC orders Nepal Oil Corporation to hand over fuel import contract
On October 9, the Legislature-Parliament’s Public Accounts Committee (PAC) directed the Nepal Oil Corporation to expedite the process of handing over the contract on airlifting petroleum products.
The PAC directed the NOC to shortlist the preferred bidder and hand over the contract within few days of getting bid documents from interested parties.
The state-owned fuel monopoly on Thursday published a global tender notice, calling on interested parties to submit bid documents for supply of aviation turbine fuel, petrol, diesel, kerosene and LPG (cooking gas) for 15 days. Bid documents have to be submitted within three days of issuance of the tender notice.
During the meeting today, PAC members criticized the government for failing to do the needful to ease the supplies following the obstruction at Nepal-India border.
Nepali Congress lawmakers Ram Hari Khatiwada and Dhan Raj Gurung said the government side has utterly failed to make it clear whether it is a blockade imposed by India or the obstruction by the agitating Madhesi parties.
Khatiwada was of the opinion that the government should declare emergency if such a measure could normalize the situation.
US Council on Foreign Relations pessimistic about Nepal’s post-earthquake efforts
This statement was released by the Council on Foreign Relations on October 9:
Post-Disaster Aid: When it Works, When it Doesn’t
Nearing the six-month anniversary of Nepal’s devastating earthquake that killed more than 8,500 people, comparisons to other natural disaster relief efforts highlight the potential pitfalls of aid delivered in a governance vacuum. Thailand’s post-tsunami recovery fared well relative to others—the country’s centralized (albeit authoritarian-leaning) leadership owned the response, mostly relying on technical rather than financial assistance. In contrast, Haiti remains a cautionary tale—despite some $9 billion in relief aid 150,000 Haitians still live in “temporary” camps and the government remains fragile, as witnessed in the recent chaotic and violent parliamentary contest. Nepal appears to be heading on a similar route with the government yet to draw up a plan for spending $4.1 billion in international donations, even as three million survivors lack shelter, food, and basic medical care in one of the world’s poorest countries. With the new constitution in dispute, a political crisis brewing with India, and a worsening fuel shortage all costing the economy an estimated $1 billion, reconstruction will likely be delayed further.