Full of promises, but lacking focus: NC

Kathmandu, May 29

The main opposition Nepali Congress has termed the budget for the next fiscal year ‘full of promises, but lacking focus’.

Commenting on the budget for 2018-19 presented by Finance Minister Yuba Raj Khatiwada today, Nepali Congress leader and former finance minister Ram Sharan Mahat said although the schemes were okay, there was no reliable basis for its implementation.

Stating that recurrent expenditure was still very high, he said expenditure increased by more than Rs 100 billion, while that on social security rose by around Rs 25 billion. He also said that the plan to boost internal borrowing meant the credit flow to the private sector — more productive than the public sector — would decrease substantially.

The main challenge at present is building and strengthening institutional capacity of local and provincial governments, said Mahad, adding that the budget failed to focused on those areas.

Mahat also said that questions were still there when it came to budget implementation. “There are questions over administrative and economic capacity to ensure and sustain implementation of the budget. So there’s no reliable basis for implementation,” he said.

Mahat also termed some of the schemes — such as presidential schemes — ‘politically motivated’ rather than justified by economic logic. “No study on ecological and environment impact has been carried out for such project. If we look at the rail project, sources of funds are not clear, while there’s no study on economic justification,” he said.

Another NC leader and former finance minister Mahesh Acharya said the budget was as usual, and added doubts over implementation.

Stating that some old schemes included in the budget such as drinking water, hydropower, and road projects were nearing completion, Acharya said the budget was presented in a convenient time for the government, but it lacked focus on implementation. “The time is convenient also because the Communist Party of Nepal has formed the government at all three levels. The energy sector is witnessing improvement, which will positively impact the manufacturing sector and investment in tourism is rising. Despite all these conveniences, there’s no focus on implementation,” he said.

According to Acharya, the structure of the budget, which has estimated around 23 percent capital expenditure by raising external debt of more than Rs 200 billion and internal debt of Rs 172 billion, suggests the question over implementation will continue to persist. “This also shows more dependence on loans,” he said.

He said desired results could be achieved only if implementation was improved, but if the government failed to focus on that part, the budget’s structure suggested implementation would continue to remain a challenge.