Here we go again

Finance Minister Dr Ram Sharan Mahat’s presentation of a White Paper in Parliament on Monday has not only revealed the country’s precarious economic health but has, simultaneously, exposed how those at the helm of the erstwhile regime misused the national coffers on unproductive expenditure like foreign trips, with the most offensive of them all, to control (read crush) the Jana Andolan. Now sample this. During the 14 months of the King’s direct rule beginning February 1, 2005, over Rs 1.72 billion was spent under non-budgetary expenses, more than Rs 1.43 billion under contingency heads, and Rs 13.3 million by the Foreign Minister alone on foreign junkets. In addition, Rs 1.21 billion was added under liability headings, Rs 360 million on foreign visits, Rs 280 million for holding municipal elections and Rs 10 million for ‘controlling’ the people’s movement. But more shocking is the doling out of more than Rs 12.6 million as gifts to individuals and certain media houses to make them sing its paeans. It also misused the ‘one-window advertisement policy’ by channelising more than Rs 11.06 million to four media houses such as Gorkhapatra Sansthan (61,43,879), Nepal Samacharpatra (Rs 36,52,928), Rajdhani Dainik (Rs 7,87,875) and another Nepali daily Himalaya Times (Rs 4,83,590) respectively. However, several high and mighty loan defaulters whose borrowings run into millions have not featured in this list.

To begin with, those at the helm must realise that vendetta also boomerangs. Hence, this opportunity should not be used to fuel personal ends and further political agendas. Yet this does not mean that those with money, muscle and clout should not be docked and deterred. The dispensation will make more sense by finding out ways of making the guilty accountable for every paisa of the taxpayers’ hard-earned money and every single dollar of the international donors funnelled thus far as developmental aid. But before pointing fingers, the authorities would do well to introspect their own conscience and give themselves a clean chit. As the nation is passing through the critical phase of a political transformation where steps are also being taken to draft a new constitution, the authorities need to focus on laying down a strong foundation for good governance and economic prosperity. Preparing a mechanism that weeds out corruption and instils transparency in all transactions would ensure that the corrupt do not siphon off public funds through fraudulent means. The time is indeed ripe to give the culture of corruption an unsung burial. Given the people’s unwavering trust in the establishment of the day, it would behove to seize the opportunity and begin on a clean slate.