Saudi Arabia has pledged to grant a SR468 million loan facility to Nepal on easy terms with an aim to develop and improve basic infrastructure facilities required for an accelerated program of economic and social growth.
"The state-owned Saudi Fund for Development (SFD) has made the commitment to extend a concessional loan facility," Hari Raj Khewa Limbu, Nepal's state minister for finance, said here yesterday.
Limbu, who held wide ranging talks with the SFD officials including SFD's vice chairman and managing director Yousef Ibrahim Al-Bassam on Sunday, said that some projects in hydrocarbon, irrigation, vocational training and other sectors were discussed with Saudi officials. “The details of the projects will be worked out soon,” said the Nepali minister, who arrived in the Saudi capital on Saturday.
Referring to the infrastructure projects in Nepal that needed funding by international agencies, Limbu said efforts were continuing to improve various facilities in Nepal, which were required for the development of trade, industry and commerce.
“Nepal is keen to bring them in line with modern international standards,” said the Nepali minister. He pointed out that the SFD will invest directly and also in co-financing arrangements with other development partners and the government.
The meeting of Saudi and Nepali officials also reviewed the progress on the SFD-funded projects currently under way, said Nepali ambassador Udaya Raj Pandey. Nepal’s finance secretary Krishna Hari Baskota also attended the meeting with top SFD officials, finance undersecretary Kailash Raj Pokharel, Ambassador Pandey and other embassy officials. During the meeting, Baskota highlighted the current macro-economic situation of Nepal.
Ambassador Pandey participated in the official talks and gave an overview of the investment climate in Nepal. Limbu and Pandey also expressed their appreciation for the SFD for its support.
The SFD, which works with a mandate to stimulate economic growth in developing nations and extend different kinds of financial aid and assistance, has extended financial assistance to Nepal on past occasions. Nepal has received loan assistance from the SFD for several hydroelectric projects.
Pandey said there was a need to improve infrastructure in the mountainous terrain in the northern two-thirds of the country where building roads and other infrastructure is difficult and expensive.
“Besides being landlocked, rugged geography, few tangible natural resources and poor infrastructure, the long-running civil war is also a factor in stunting the economic growth of the country,” said a report released on this occasion.Referring to the Saudi assistance, Pandey said there was also a substantial contribution from the SFD in the construction of East-West Highway of Nepal. Presently there is Saudi cooperation in Bagmati I and II Irrigation Project.
Relations between Saudi Arabia and Nepal have been growing progressively on all fronts. “Our government has made a request to the Saudi government to open its embassy in Nepal with a view to expanding the bilateral relations to boost cooperation in trade, investment and other sectors,” he added.
It is estimated that the number of Nepalis currently working in Saudi Arabia is well above 500,000. Despite coming from a very different social, geographical and religious as well as cultural environment, Nepalis have been welcomed by the Saudi people very much due to their dedication to work, loyalty, sincerity and integrity. A proposed agreement to boost cooperation in manpower sector is currently being discussed by the two sides.