Truth will prevail

Finance Minister Dr Baburam Bhattarai has said the new government will announce a national budget soon, and that work has already begun on it. The outgoing government did not present the budget for the current fiscal year because of its lack of mandate; instead, it resolved the problem by moving a vote on account Bill in the Constituent Assembly to carry on the government’s day-to-day expenditure and the existing projects and programmes. The new government will have to unveil its Policy and Programme as well as a Budget for the remainder of the year. And this Budget will be taken as an important test of the coalition, particularly because, for the first time in history, it is being led by the CPN-Maoist. The domestic audience and donors are both closely watching how the Maoists can make a fresh and significant departure from the past. Within such a short time, with many commitments already made to the donors, and in light of the fact that almost all of the country’s development expenditure is met through foreign loans and grants, it is extremely difficult to dispense with donors’ considerable imprint on the Budget proposals. But all of donor influence need not be negative.

As Bhattarai himself has several times said in public, with the Maoists coming to power, the size of the budget would swell too, from the recent over one billion rupees to over two billion rupees. This will not surprising, because the new government will have to provide some solid relief to the public, take inflation into account, raise the government employees’ salaries, and invest substantially more than before in health and education, sectors in which the Maoists have always said the government needs to play a much greater role. As Bhattarai has said, the government policy and programme and the budget will reflect the Prime Minister’s address to the nation, which in turn mostly echoes the Common Minimum Programme (CMP). According to the finance minister, the government’s priorities will also mirror the ‘the end of the age of feudalism and advent of the age of industrial capitalism, with an orientation to socialism’.

The people do not expect dramatic change for the better in their lives. What they do seek in any government that rules in their name is a combination of honesty, sincerity and seriousness in what it publicly claims to do. If those in power can inspire public confidence thus, the people will remain more or less satisfied with its performance. What the

new finance minister must do is to put before the public the true state of the economy, and within the constraints of time and resources, what the government can do and what it cannot. This is also important for the present coalition from another point of view — to counter the charges the opposition may level against it on the economic front in days to come — the present opposition led the government and held the Finance portfolio in the previous government. A clear statement of economic truth would build public trust in the government. Unrealistically inflated hopes and expectations would result in public disenchantment soon, with consequent erosion of public faith in government.