Special funds for lawmakers would not provide level playing field for other aspirants to membership of Parliament

As stipulated in the new Constitution the government is all set to table the fiscal budget on May 28. As the deadline for tabling it is approaching fast, Parliament will hold pre-budget discussions on May 4, 5 and 6. Although these presentations were intended to be held on May 7, the date for this was altered as President Bidhya Devi Bhandari would be paying a visit to India for four or five days from May 9. She would be presenting the government’s policy and programme at the Legislature-Parliament on May 7. Given the tight schedule and necessity to table the fiscal budget in time the delay in doing so would disturb all budgetary schedules. Starting from this time around, the government’s policy and programme and the subsequent presentation of the National Budget are to be brought out well before the commencement of the new fiscal year. This is expected to speed up the budget release processes and help the government spend the budget outlay on time. Meanwhile, Speaker Onsari Gharti Magar set the House schedule on Sunday after meeting the chief whips of the various political parties.

The main Opposition Nepali Congress is for delaying the programme set and instead discussing other important issues facing the people at present, such as the earthquake, black-marketing and scarcities of essential commodities, for a few days before the presentation of the government’s policy document. This insistence appears to be pointless because such burning issues should and would be discussed in due process of time in Parliament, for example, during discussions of the government’s policy document. The NC insists that the presentation of the policy document should be done after the return of the President from her visit from India. But the policy document is supposed to deal with many things, including the burning issues for discussion pointed out by the Congress. And the National Budget is supposed to be in keeping up with the thrusts of the government’s policy and programme for the next fiscal year. If the policy document fails to do so, it would be the duty of the Opposition to raise such issues forcefully in Parliament and even outside it.

While talking of the government’s annual policy document and the National Budget, the provision of the Constituency Development Fund comes in for discussion every year. Though the political parties and their lawmakers make not make a big issue out of it because the Fund gives a sizeable amount of money to each lawmaker for spending supposedly on the development work in his constituency. But the main responsibility of lawmakers is to make laws. Special funds for them would not make level playing field for other aspirants to membership of Parliament, either. Lawmakers could of course lobby with the government for giving certain useful projects for their constituency development. But seeking more and more millions for each lawmaker to spend on their pet projects or programmes is something quite different. This money has every chance of being misused, as wide accusations to that effect suggest. This special fund for the lawmakers should therefore be abolished.

Water scarcity

Prolonged drought has led to acute scarcity of drinking water in most parts of the country including the urban areas. The situation has become more aggravated due to wildfires in community forestry in the hilly districts. Satellite images have shown that over 70,000 hectares of forest lands have caught fire over the last one month with no mechanism to put them out. There has been no substantial winter rainfall across the country since the last monsoon. This is why most of the water spouts and wells have gone dry.

Reports from the ancient city of Bhaktapur and hilly district of Khotang reveal the grave scenario of the locals travelling hours to fetch drinking water. Most settlements in the newly-announced municipalities in Bhaktapur district are reeling under acute shortage of drinking water. The emerging urban centres were declared municipalities without ensuring basic amenities. People would not have to pass through such a critical scenario had the concerned authorities and the locals themselves preserved the natural water resources, spouts and wells anticipating an impending drought.