KATHMANDU, Nov 7: Major political parties including Nepali Congress (NC) and CPN UML boycotted all-party meeting called by the government to collect suggestions on full budget that it is planning to finalize within this week.
“Though invitations were sent to all the parties, leaders from NC, UML and Rastriya Prajatantra Party did not turn up, said Bhumi Ram Sharma, acting spokesperson of Ministry of Finance (MoF). “But there was strong presence of leaders from fringe parties,” he told Republica.
The MoF had called the meeting after Finance Minister Barsha Man Pun last week instructed the officials to finalize the full budget at the earliest so that it could be announced prior to Tihar Festival. Pun on Monday had further announced that the government would forward the full budget to the president for promulgation even if the main opposition parties did not agree to government plan to announce this years budget.
“It is unfortunate that the major parties cold shouldered our invitation. But we will continue to make efforts for building consensus on budget till the last hour,” said Pun.
Addressing the meeting, Pun said that the government´s push for full budget had no malicious intentions, but aimed at better serving the people in terms of development and peace dividend.
“We want to develop the full budget as an inclusive document, incorporating visions of all the parties. We hope the major opposition parties will support us in this endeavor,” said Pun.
Minister for Physical Planning, Works and Transport Management Hridayesh Tripathy too put his weight behind the full budget, saying that the economy operates with ´certain rules´ and the government has te responsibility to ensure those rules are in place.
“Besides, as major development projects are ongoing, the government cannot influence the budget. So, it cannot be a populist or elections budget as oppositions are fearing,” said Tripathy.
Finance Secretary Shanta Raj Subedi made presentations on the importance of full budget and urged the political parties to come to an understanding over the announcement of the full budget.
MoF has cautioned that it was already eyeing fund deficit of Rs 7.42 billion to fulfill its regular duties like payment of salaries, providing free medicines and other health care, distribution of social security allowances, scholarships to underprivileged children in the fourth month of the current fiscal year, ending mid-November.
If fresh budget did not replace existing the one-third budget within the next 10 days, it has cautioned delivery of basic health care and other facilities will be badly affected.
Leaders from the fringe parties such as Dr Tilak Rawal, Laxman Lal Karna and Prem Bahadur Singh also said that the country cannot be left without a budget, but suggested the government to announce it in consensus.
In their address, the political leaders said that the new budget should give priority to agricultural development, harnessing hydropower, providing relief programs to the poor and underprivileged groups, empowering dalit and women, and controlling inflation, among others.