Mahat comes clean on budget for palace

Kathmandu, July 16:

Finance Minister Dr Ram Saran Mahat today clarified before the Parliament that the Rs 125-million budget allocated to the Royal Palace was done as per a consensus among the senior leaders of the eight-party alliance.

Amidst criticism from the members of the CPN-Maoist for allocating budget to the palace, Dr Mahat clarified, “I have done this as per the spirit of the interim constitution since it has given a place to the king.”

He denied allocating budget to the royal palace through the backdoor, saying, “It has not come through the backdoor.

It is purely based on discussion with senior leaders.

I have not hidden anything. This is just to ensure that the palace does not appear under a separate head in the budget.”

Finance Minister Mahat justified the budget allocated for maintenance of the palace, saying since the Narayanhity Palace is the property of the Nepal Government, budget has been allocated for its upkeep.

Responding to MPs’ queries, Dr Mahat clarified that the budget allocated to the palace was taxable. “The government collected some Rs 5-6 million as tax in this fiscal year from the king,” he said, adding that even government employees in reserve pool get salary and the prisoners get allowance. “Why do we continue to whip a dead tiger?” Dr Mahat said.

Earlier, majority of the MPs taking part in discussion session of today’s Parliament session criticised Dr Mahat for allocating budget to the palace.

Labelling the budget 2007-08 as inclusive, Dr Mahat said the main focus of the budget was constituent assembly elections and development.

Dr Mahat denied charges that the budget was inflated or ambitious.

He said the government would encourage private sector investment by developing market sources and urged the political parties not to mix private and foreign investment with politics.

Regarding the allocation of Poverty Alleviation Fund, Mahat said this was put directly under the Prime Minister’s Office to prevent political intervention.

Later today, the Parliament passed the Appropriation Bill 2007-08 and the Advance and Expenditure Bill 2007-08 unanimously.