Nepal | August 23, 2019

Pre-budget debate ends on low note

Sujan Dhungana

Kathmandu, May 14

The pre-budgetary discussion at the Legislature-Parliament concluded today on a low note, as the three-day parliamentary session could not come up with a concrete message on how the upcoming budget needed to be developed.

In fact, the three-day session only witnessed opposition lawmakers criticising the policies and programmes of the government and the ruling party simply defending them.

The pre-budgetary session in the Parliament is considered crucial in shaping programmes, policies and other priorities of the budget. However, the session seems to have failed to come up with a solid recommendation on how the budget for the fiscal 2019-20 should be formulated under the new federal system and as per the needs of the country.

Lawmakers of both the ruling and the opposition parties stuck to their stances — one saying the government’s policies and programmes did not reflect the spirit of the country’s current needs and the other saying that the policies and programmes and priorities set by the Appropriation Bill had laid the foundation for achieving the country’s long-term economic and developmental goals.

Lawmakers, especially from the main opposition party Nepali Congress, mentioned that the government’s policies and programmes were just a continuity of the traditional tendency of attempting to bring a populist budget with scattered policies and projects.

“Policies and programmes are traditional in nature and only introduce ambitious slogans and do not talk about concrete ways to materialise development targets. Many such slogans and ambitious development targets were set in the past, which have not been achieved yet,” said Minendra Rijal, an NC lawmaker.

Echoing Rijal, another NC lawmaker Shashank Koirala, who is also general secretary of his party, said the government seemed to be giving priority to scattered programmes in the budget. Moreover, he was suspicious of the government’s economic growth targets and warned the government against manipulating or interpreting data to deceive people.

Former prime minister Baburam Bhattarai, who is also a former finance minister, said the Appropriation Bill presented in the Parliament by the government was drafted without proper groundwork, meaning that priorities set in the bill were neither realistic nor based on the needs of the country.

Though the policies and programmes and priorities of the Appropriation Bill received immense criticism from opposition lawmakers, Finance Minister Yubaraj Khatiwada did not hesitate to back the policies and programmes and other priorities of the government.

Claiming that the Appropriation Bill and the government’s policies and priorities were in tune with the country’s development and growth spirit, he said, “The fiscal budget will be inclined towards sustainable economic growth of the country and ensure social justice to people.”

Khatiwada assured opposition lawmakers that the fiscal budget would be resource-sustained and would address people’s aspirations.

The three-day discussion in the Parliament and the response provided by the finance minister to queries raised by opposition lawmakers hint that the government is unlikely to make any changes in the nature of the budget that it has planned for the next fiscal, thereby making the pre-budget discussion in the Parliament nothing more than just a pre-scheduled parliamentary agenda.

 


A version of this article appears in print on May 15, 2019 of The Himalayan Times.


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