UNIDO disowns US$3 b Lumbini pact with APECF
KATHMANDU, AUG 19 - Vienna-based United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) on Friday said it has not entered into any valid contractual agreement with Asia Pacific Exchange and Cooperation Foundation (APECF), and therefore is not involved in any activity related to the reported Lumbini Special Development Zone project in Nepal.
In a separate letter to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MoFA) and responding to queries by The Kathmandu Post, the UN agency categorically rejected claims made by APECF on a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) signed with it. The deal reportedly included a pledge to invest $3 billion through Nepal’s tourism Ministry to develop Lumbini, the birthplace of Lord Buddha, by constructing an international airport, roads, hotels and other facilities in the region bordering India.
“The United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) has not entered into any valid contractual agreement with the Asia Pacific Exchange and Cooperation Foundation (APECF), and therefore is not involved in any activity related to the Lumbini Special Development Zone in Nepal,” stated UNIDO on Friday.
MoFA also asked its Geneva based mission to find out the truth behind the MoU and report to Kathmandu about the contriversial pact following the recommendation of State Affairs Committee of Legislative-Parliament.
“We are informed by our Geneva based mission just today that UNIDO clarified there was no such agreement on Lumbini with APECF. Now onwards, the chapter is closed on the reported MoU on Lumbini,” Deputy prime Minister and Foreign Minister Upendra Yadav said at Reporters' Club on Friday.
Culture Minister Khagendra Prasai, who was also present at the interaction, made it clear that the government had taken exception to the recent trip made by APCEF officials in Lumbini without its prior knowledge.
The MoU generated much debate after it was revealed that UCPN (Maoist) Chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal and former Prince Paras Shah are the sitting vice-chairs of the Hong Kong-based APECF.
On July 15, Chinese state news agency Xinuha carried a report splashing photographs of the event of APECF and UNIDO and its Investment and Technology Promotion Office having signed a MoU on 'Promotion South East Asian IPA Network' in Beijing. “The two groups signed the 'Memorandum of Understanding in Support for the Lumbini Special Cultural Zone and Assistance Project for the Framework Design of Lumbini (Birthplace of Buddha) Special Development Zone (Nepal)',” said Xinhua's report.
The deal generated controversy after two government agencies--MoFA and Ministry of Culture (MoC)--professed ignorance of the US $3 billion Lumbini Development Project deal. Also, the officials questioned the credibility of APECF, and the MoU itself which has an 11-point detailed plan to execute the project. The Ministry of Culture, through the Lumbini Development Trust, oversees Lumbini related projects. Any agreement with a foreign connection must be cleared by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MoFA). However, this nonce both ministries are in the dark. After the MoU signing, head of UNIDO's China investment and technology promotion office Hu Yuandong had said that the Lumbini project was in compliance with UNIDO's principles of 'economy, environment and employment'.
“An intended Memorandum of Understanding between UNIDO and APECF was never approved by the responsible UNIDO approval bodies. Any reference to a UNIDO involvement in the Lumbini Special Development Zone is thus without any legal and substantive basis,” Advocacy Assistant, UNIDO, Vienna, Ravindra Wickremasinghe said in an email response to the Post.
According to the 11-point MoU, UNIDO would be the executive consultant and the Ministry of Tourism the strategic partner in the project.
Xiao Wunan, vice chairman of the APECF, said the Nepali government had given its full support for the creation of the Lumbini Special Cultural Zone, while a large number of institutions and individuals also had shown great interest in participating in the project.
Posted on: 2011-08-19 11:56