Kathmandu, May 3
Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli’s Press Adviser Kundan Aryal today claimed that the PM’s personal secretariat ‘inadvertently’ forwarded the list of projects to the National Planning Commission for their inclusion in the annual budget for the next fiscal.
Aryal’s claim comes a day after a copy of the secretariat’s letter undersigned by Office of the Prime Minister and Council of Ministers Joint Secretary Binod Bahadur Kunwar appeared in the press, inviting widespread criticism for the list including projects only from the PM’s home district, Jhapa.
In the letter dated 12 April 2018, Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli’s personal secretariat listed 68 Jhapa-based projects, most of them based in Oli’s electoral constituency, and requested the NPC to prioritise and include them in the annual budget.
After the news reports, observers and opposition leaders criticised Oli for only prioritising his home district and electoral constituency despite the fact that he was the prime minister of the entire nation.
However, Aryal said in a statement that PM Oli was unaware how the letter from Jhapa Constituency No 5, Member of Parliament Contact Office was forwarded to the NPC. “The list of projects was forwarded to the NPC inadvertently without the prime minister’s approval,” read the statement.
Aryal stated that the PM would in no way write to the NCP to include the said projects in the budget. “Therefore, there’s no relevance of reports published in the media,” he stated. “PM Oli is surprised and saddened by the incident,” he added.
Observers, however, said the incident raised questions about rule of law and good governance.
“The leadership should set examples and precedence,” said former chief secretary and chief election commissioner Bhoj Raj Pokharel. “If the leadership is prioritising only a certain constituency or projects, it means they are encouraging others to do the same.”
Pokharel said although the PM tried to clarify the issue, the recommendation should not have been forwarded to the NPC in the first place, and that the projects included in the list raised a lot of questions.
Spokesperson for the main opposition Nepali Congress Bishwa Prakash Sharma welcomed that the PM Oli acknowledged the mistake, but added that he should also acknowledge that projects in the list were flawed.
“Why does the PM want the world’s tallest Buddha statue to be built in Jhapa? Why should the government build a shopping mall in Damak and not the private sector?” Sharma questioned.
He said he was also not being able to figure out why the proposed earthquake memorial museum should be built in Jhapa and not in Gorkha or Sindhupalchowk that suffered the most from the 2015 quakes. “These are just a few examples, and they say it all,” said Sharma.
A version of this article appears in print on May 04, 2019 of The Himalayan Times.