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Nepal police fire teargas, water cannon to disperse protest over US 'gift

Protesters cremate a dummy corpse representing a <a class=US infrastructure grant before cremating it during a protest against the $500 million US infrastructure grant under the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) near the parliament in Kathmandu, Nepal February 18, 2022."/>

Witnesses and officials in Nepal's capital said police in Kathmandu used tear gas and water cannon to disperse protesters against a US-funded infrastructure program that was presented to parliament for ratification on Sunday.

According to them, some protesters were injured during the clashes.

In 2017, the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC), a US government aid agency, agreed to provide $500 million in grants to Nepal for a 300-kilometer (187-mile) electricity transmission line and road improvement projects.

Government officials say the grant will not have to be repaid and comes with no strings attached, but critics say the agreement will undermine Nepal's laws and sovereignty because lawmakers will have insufficient oversight of the board directing the infrastructure project.

Despite loud protests, Minister of Communication and Information Technology Gyanendra Bahadur Karki presented the agreement to parliament, claiming that the projects would benefit 24 million of Nepal's 30 million people.

"The grant will be an important tool for the country's socioeconomic development," Karki said in parliament.

Major political parties, including members of the ruling coalition, are divided on whether the US grant money should be accepted or rejected.

The $500 million MCC grant, according to the US Embassy in Nepal, is "a gift from the American people and a partnership between our nations that will bring jobs and infrastructure to Nepal and improve the lives of Nepalis."

The embassy said in a statement late Saturday that the project was requested by the Nepali government and the Nepali people and is intended to transparently reduce poverty and grow Nepal's economy.

Whether Nepali leaders ratify the MCC is a decision for Nepal as a sovereign democratic nation, and Nepal's decision alone, it added.

Nepal is heavily reliant on foreign aid, and donors coordinate development aid policy through the Nepal Development Forum, which is comprised of donor countries and international financial organizations.

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Gyanendra Bahadur Karki Kathmandu MCC Millennium Challenge Corporation Nepal


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