Frank Meyke has been in the news recently about remarks he is supposed to have made during a visit to central Nepal. In an interview with Nepali Times
, Meyke clarifies his position and talks about his optimism for Nepal.
Nepali Times: You recently visited Tanahu and other districts. What is your sense of the general mood of the Nepali people you spoke with?
Frank Meyke: The main purpose of my visit was informing myself about the progress of German-Nepal development cooperation projects. These projects in the fields of hydropower, renewable energy, and vocational training show remarkable results. The general mood of the participants in the meetings of these projects was accordingly optimistic and festive. It was impressive to realise how much people are looking forward to the elections on 19 November.
How much has the prolonged political transition affected German development assistance?
German-Nepal development cooperation has been long-lasting, reliable, and successful since its beginnings more than 50 years ago in 1961, independent from political developments of the day. Sustainable reduction of poverty is, however, only possible if there is significant private investment, development cooperation alone is not sufficient. The prerequisite for investment is political stability and a strengthening of democracy. In order to achieve these objectives, free, fair, and inclusive democratic elections and conducive economic policies of the elected government are important steps.
You also inspected hydropower projects on the Marsyangdi River that Germany has helped build. What are the prospects for future investment in energy infrastructure?
Energy efficiency and renewable energies will remain a priority for German development cooperation and we will discuss the future scope of our cooperation in consultative meetings with the newly-elected government. In 2012, the German government committed 18 million euro of fresh funds for the energy sector. Regarding energy infrastructure we will support connections to the Trisuli corridor through new transmission lines and substations. Furthermore, our activities focus on renewable energies, in particular on solar systems for drinking water supply, schools, health posts, and other municipal institutions. German development cooperation also provides advice with regard to energy efficiency measures, for example by means of Investment Grade Energy Audits conducted by the Energy Efficiency Centre (EEC) under the Federation of Nepalese Chamber of Commerce and Industries.
Media coverage of your remarks about not voting for parties that organised bandas has raised some hackles. Was something lost in translation, what is it that you said exactly?
The position of Germany and the whole EU regarding bandas is most recently expressed in our press statement of 12 September 2013, according to which bandas ‘also undermine our joint development efforts and Nepal’s investment perspectives’. Of course I never said anything that would amount to advising voters on how to vote. Economic and political policies and party manifestos renouncing the use of bandas would certainly be helpful in encouraging investment, both domestic and foreign.
With less than two months to go for polls, what is your assessment of the current election climate?
I extend my congratulations to the Election Commission and the government for successfully preparing the elections. We can be confident that everything will be in good place on time. There is now a general mood of confidence among the people of Nepal regarding elections. As a member state of the European Union, Germany contributes to the overall support of the EU for Nepal’s elections, including the EU Observation Mission. Furthermore, Germany is contributing to the Nepal Peace Trust Fund which is also to support the elections.
Are you optimistic about which way Nepal will go in the next five years?
There are very good reasons to be optimistic about this country. I have only one year of experience here as German Ambassador, but I see the resources of Nepal, first of all the hard-working people who with economic success and sufficient employment could work in Nepal instead of going abroad. You have hydropower, you have tourism, agriculture … what is needed for sustainable reduction of poverty is political stability as a prerequisite for investment, both domestic and foreign. The next steps to achieve these objectives of political stability and investments is elections for the Constituent Assembly on 19 November and I can’t stress this strongly enough: local elections as soon as possible.
It is encouraging to see that in the 11-point agreement the newly-elected government is to hold local elections by 15 April 2014. It would be a very positive step towards stability, indeed, if local elections are held as soon as possible. And of course the elections to the Constituent Assembly, which is drafting a democratic constitution, is the next important step. This way you will create the prerequisites necessary for investment and employment and thus for a politically stable, democratic, and economically successful Nepal.
How is Germany helping in employment generation in Nepal?
Germany has substantially contributed to supporting the peace process in Nepal. These programs include vocational training for ex-combatants and local youth, for example as electricians or plumbers. This will allow young people to greatly increase their employability.
Germany has for quite a number of years been the leading country in Europe when it comes to generating jobs for young people. Youth unemployment stands at eight per cent, that is one third of the European average.
When I have the opportunity of publicly speaking on German-Nepal relations, I am often asked questions regarding the reasons for Germany’s economic success. This success and the low unemployment rate are largely due to Germany’s dual track vocational training system, with its 350 crafts and trades. This strong emphasis on vocational training forms the basis of Germany’s engineering tradition, high technology, and successful exports “Made in Germany”. We offer our vocational training system for consideration to other countries and believe that it could be useful for Nepal, too.