Budget draws mixed reaction from CA spectrum

Kathmandu, September 21:

Members of the Constituent Assembly today started general discussions on the budget for the fiscal year 2008/09.

Before the general discussion, a Nepali Congress CA member, Laxman Prasad Ghimire, asked Finance Minister Dr Baburam Bhattarai to explain why he skipped 30 points mentioned in the budget while presenting the budget in the House on Friday.

Offering an apology, Bhattarai said he skipped the points to save time. He said the printed copy of the budget distributed to the CA members should be taken as the authentic document. Speaker Subas Chandra Nembang read out the skipped points and said

they were an integral part of the budget.

Ramchandra Poudel, NC CA member, criticised the budget, saying it was “Maoist cadre-oriented and not people-oriented”.

“This budget wants to impose centrally-controlled economy like in the former Soviet Union; it wants to do away with the liberal economy,” Poudel argued.1

He said the budget had proposed a high-level economic council under the PM’s leadership through which almost Rs 30 billion will be channelised for different projects. It is a clear indication that the Maoist-led government wants to re-establish centrally-controlled economy, which has failed elsewhere in the world, he explained.

Poudel said a mechanism to check spending was lacking. “It pledges to allocate up to Rs 3 million for each VDC in the absence of elected bodies,” he explained

Shankar Pokharel, a CA member from the CPN-UML, said though the budget had rightly diagnosed challenges of the country’s economy, it did not present its remedy.

“One of the drawbacks of the budget is that it has created parallel structures and sub-structures ignoring the existing state institutions,” Pokharel said. “Many committees have been proposed under the PM’s captainship. This is against the culture of partnership.”

Economist and MJF CA member, Dr Tilak Rawal, said the budget had not crossed the limit of “present-day economic order of the world”. He said it was a document of compromises between the tradition and present-day political reality.

Rawal said collecting revenue amounting to Rs 141 billion was the major challenge for the Finance Minister. He said the budget had rightly stressed the need to tap hydropower potential to achieve double-digit economic growth and to reduce burgeoning trade deficit with India.

He suggested setting up a national-level committee to draft water resources policy under the PM’s leadership.

Rawal appreciated the Finance Minister for giving top priority to infrastructure development. Hridayesh Tripathi, parliamentary party leader of the Tarai-Madhes Democratic Party, said the proposals on waiving debts of small farmers and setting up cooperatives were positive aspects of the budget.

“But the budget has failed to address grievances facing the agriculture sector,” he said. Tripathi was also apprehensive of possible misuse of funds proposed for VDCs due to absence of elected bodies to handle it.