A number of lawmakers spoke today on the concluding day of the prebudget discussion, floating ideas for the finance minister to include in this fiscal's budget.

Nepali Congress lawmaker Gagan Kumar Thapa told the House of Representatives that the government needed to launch a time bound programme to achieve the goals of industrialisation.

He said many industries were established between 1992 and 1994 when the Nepali Congress-led government liberalised the economic policies, but the pace of industrialisation slackened due to multiple reasons.

He said the government needed to declare 2022- 2032 as a decade of increasing production and consumption.

Thapa said there were seven economic areas, including handicraft, herbs, textiles, and footwear where Nepal could do a lot better.

He said Nepali shoe factories had the capacity to produce 160 million pairs of shoes annually, but it was producing only around 40 million pairs, as a large percentage of shoes were being imported from foreign countries. The irony is that foreign shoes are priced so low that the government hardly gets any revenue from their import, Thapa added.

CPN-Maoist Centre lawmaker Barshaman Pun said Nepal's economic woes were similar to those of Sri Lanka. He said Sri Lanka had taken loan amounting to 104 per cent of its GDP, the repayment of which led to depletion of its foreign currency reserves. He said Nepal's foreign loan had increased more than two-fold in the past five years.

"Five years ago, we owed 900 billion rupees to foreigners, but today this figure has jumped to 1800 billion rupees, which is more than 40 per cent of our GDP," he added.

He said the government should focus on increasing production and decreasing imports.

Finance Minister Janardan Sharma said the lawmakers' suggestions would be taken into account in the budget. He said the economy suffered due to the COVID-19 pandemic, natural disasters, and disruption in supply of commodities due to the Ukraine-Russia war, but there was a glimmer of hope as the economy was projected to grow at a rate of 5.84 per cent. He said if all sectors worked prudently, the country's economy could grow at a much faster pace.

Sharma said the KP Sharma Oli-led government did not implement the budgetary programme to blacktop roads leading to headquarters of municipalities/rural municipalities because Oli wanted the federal government to carry out those road projects.

Moreover, the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank that wanted to fund those programmes wanted local governments to carry out those development programmes.

Later, Speaker Agni Sapkota announced the closure of the pre-budget discussion.

A version of this article appears in the print on May 21, 2022, of The Himalayan Times.