EDITORIAL: Parliamentary blunder

Parliamentary ethics have it that a lawmaker cannot take part in discussions on any Bill that maybe directly linked with his/her business interest

Parliamentary Finance Committee chairman Prakash Jwala has obliquely admitted that his committee made a blunder in the Bill relating to Banks and Financial Institutions (BAFI) drafted by the Finance Ministry and Nepal Rastra Bank (NRB).

He admitted this at a function held on Wednesday and said that his Committee was ready to “roll back” if the parliament sends it back to the committee for reconsideration.

Earlier, the Finance Committee had made changes in the Bill regarding the tenure of a chairman of a bank or a financial institution and lock-in period for conversion of promoter shares to ordinary ones.

The Finance Ministry and NRB had proposed that the chairperson of a bank or a financial institution cannot serve for more than two terms of four years each and the lock-in period for promoter share should remain for 10 years.

But a sub-committee formed by the Finance Committee made changes to both the clauses and scrapped the tenure of chairpersons of the bank and the financial institution and reduced it to seven years from 10 years for lock-in period for promoter shares.

Interesting to note is that the full meeting of the Finance Committee also endorsed the sub-committee’s decision, drawing much flak from experts who believe that it will weaken financial governance.

At present, around 10 million people have parked Rs. 1,947 billion in banks and financial institutions and another 6.5 million people earning less than Rs. 200 per day have also deposited savings in the banks and financial institutions.

This means that a lot of depositors will be in trouble if the BAFI Bill is passed by Parliament as per the amendments by the Finance Committee, which, many believe, came under the influence of those lawmakers who are also chairmen of BAFI.

The conflict of interest seems to have played a central role in making changes in the original Bill proposed by the Finance Ministry.

Other Bills, including the eighth amendment to Education Act, has also been passed serving the vested interests of the lawmakers who also run private schools. If this trend continues, the Parliament will be acting like a business corporate.

It is a worldwide practice in democratic countries where lawmakers draft, amend and repeal laws giving national interest top priority.

Parliamentary ethics have it that a lawmaker cannot take part in discussions on any Bill that maybe directly linked with his/her business interest or s/he has conflict of interest on the Bill being discussed in any parliamentary committee(s).

One is required to declare in the concerned parliamentary committee or in a sub-panel where s/he is a member that s/he has a conflict of interest on the Bill being discussed there.

It means that when the BAFI Bill was discussed at the Finance Committee and its sub-panel none of the lawmakers who were also chairpersons of banks and financial institutions declared having their conflict of interest on that Bill.

The lawmakers not only breached the parliamentary ethics but also influenced the fellow lawmakers into submission to their interest putting the financial governance at risk.

The Finance Committee chairman Prakash Jwala must take responsibility for what went wrong regarding the Bill.

Be on alert

The monsoon has entered the country from the eastern region after a delay of five days. The monsoon is expected to move to the remaining parts of the nation within a couple of days.

Since there is a lack of irrigation facilities most farmers have to rely on the monsoon in order to grow crops. The rainfall is excepted to be normal this year although it will on an average be raining more in the plains and less in the hilly areas as per predictions.

During the rainy season natural disasters occur in the form of floods and landslips. Therefore, going by past experience it would be wise to take the necessary measures so that the victims are provided with immediate relief.

Meanwhile, last year’s devastating earthquake damaged many houses and many of the victims

do not have proper shelters even after more than a year after it occurred. So we need to be alert and focus on disaster preparedness. Rescue personnel and volunteers should be prepared to provide needed relief to the victims no matter where the disasters take place.

Unless timely action is taken many people would be without shelters and face other hardships as well.