Empty house discusses budget
Lawmakers today criticised the budget for the next fiscal year 2015-16 presented by finance minister Dr Ram Sharan Mahat in the House yesterday.
Taking part in the discussions on the estimated statement of income and expenditure for the next fiscal year after Mahat tabled a proposal at the parliament seeking commencement of general discussions on the budget, UCPN-Maoist senior leader and former prime minister Dr Baburam Bhattarai said the budget has failed to identify a policy necessary to fuel economic growth, a pre-condition for graduation of Nepal to developing country from the current Least Developing Country (LDC) status by 2022. "The budget has failed to cash on the opportunity to win people's aspiration," he said, adding that the budget has also failed to enthuse public for the reconstruction of their quake-damaged physical infrastructures.
Terming the budget a traditional one, Bhattarai said that it has included regular general programmes instead of addressing structural changes in the economy.
Former premier and also finance minister Bhattarai blamed lack of homework in preparing the budget that is aimed at reconstruction
The budget should be a complete document that should navigate the country’s economy but it has become only a mere estimation of annual income and expenses, he added.
Earlier, presenting the proposal, finance minister explained the focus of the budget. The budget concentrates on reconstruction, he said, adding that the budget has focused on implementation of the projects of national pride immediately. "The provision of acquiring authorisation from the National Planning Commission (NPC) for the implementation of budget has been removed to fasten budget implementation phase."
Taking part in the discussions in the almost empty House with merely two dozen of lawmakers, Nepali Congress vice president Ram Chandra Poudel hailed the budget saying that it was formulated with a bountiful heart of the finance minister. "The budget has been successful in addressing the post-disaster crisis," Poudel said, also praising the decision to continue the social security programmes, give priority to poverty alleviation, balanced development, give special focus to uplift the poor, endangered and dalit community and announcement to construct postal highway.
However, CPN-UML leader and former finance minister Surendra Pandey said that the budget is not clear on reducing trade deficit. "The budget is brought with a narrow mindset," Pandey said, slamming Mahat for not consulting the coalition partner CPN-UML while preparing the budget. Panday also blamed Mahat of disregarding the tradition of holding consultation with coalition partners.
Seconding Pandey, Rastriya Prajatantra Party-Nepal (RPP-N) chair Kamal Thapa also blamed Mahat for not taking into confidence the opposition parties during preparations and prior to budget announcement. He claimed that the budget is an utter disappointment to the public, who were looking forward to a progressive and courageous fiscal policy.
Questioning the implementation capacity of budget, Thapa said that the budget has allocated huge fund for reconstruction.
However, Madheshi Janadhikar Forum-Democratic leader and MP Jitendra Narayan Dev lauded the budget for its commitment to complete Postal Highway, whereas Rastriya Prajatantra Party (RPP) leader and MP Deepak Bohara opined that the budget has failed to prioritise the reconstruction of the quake-damaged physical infrastructures.
Likewsie, Terai Madhesh Lokatantrik Party leader Brajesh Kumar Gupta opined that the budget is against anti-farmer. The budget lacks programmes that could fuel economic growth and generate employment, he added.
The budget discussion in the House will conclude after eight hours due to time constraint as lawmakers are heading to their respective constituencies to collect public opinions on the preliminary draft of constitution.
Finance Minister Dr Mahat will answer the questions of lawmakers after completing the discussions tomorrow. Mahat has presented Rs 819.47 billion budget for the next fiscal year 2015-16 with focus on reconstruction, rehabilitation, infrastructure development and balanced regional development, yesterday.
The parliament will approve advance budget tomorrow. The approval will allow the government to carry out its day-to-day expenditure from the state coffer until the budget gets final approval from the House.