Consensus govt must for budget: Opposition parties
KATHMANDU, Nov 11: Former finance ministers associated with leading opposition parties have once again called on the ruling UCPN (Maoist) to forge national consensus prior to forwarding the ordinance on full-fledged budget to the president.
The call was made by Dr Ram Sharan Mahat of Nepali Congress and Surendra Pandey of CPN-UML during their meeting with UCPN (Maoist) Chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal on Sunday.
“Since budget has become a political issue it needs to be settled at political level,” Dr Mahat told Republica referring to the conversation held with Dahal. “For this, the government must first form a national consensus government. Once such a government is formed, the budget will be automatically approved.”
Although his veiled comment suggested that the current government should first step down to pave the way for budget approval, he denied saying so directly.
He only said: “Political settlement is the first thing that the country needs. Approval of budget, though important, is a secondary issue for now.”
Pandey, another former finance minister, also expressed similar opinion during meeting with Dahal.
“I told him that political consensus is a must if the government wants political backing for the budget it has prepared,” he said. “And this is impossible unless the ruling party garners support form top level of opposition parties.”
Although opposition parties have long been against the ruling parties´ plan to introduce a full-fledged budget, the incumbent government has been making futile attempts to introduce the fiscal policy citing it will bring public service delivery system and development works to a grinding halt.
Earlier this month, the Ministry of Finance said the country could face a fund deficit of Rs 7.42 billion to fulfill its regular duties like payment of salaries to around 600,000 government employees, providing free medicines and other healthcare services, distribution of social security allowances, scholarships to underprivileged children in the fourth month of the current fiscal year, ending mid-November.
It also said replacement of the one-third budget with fresh budget within November 15 will badly affect delivery of basic healthcare services and other public facilities.
Pandey, however, called the finance ministry´s appeal a strategy to create panic among the public and exert pressure on the president to approve the budget ordinance.
“The government has allocated Rs 75.92 billion to cover recurrent expenses (like paying salaries to government officials) for the first four months of the current fiscal year,” he said. “Since Rs 12 billion was spent per month for the purpose in the previous fiscal year, it still leaves the government with over Rs 15 billion, after deducting amount extended as allowances during Dashain festival. This amount is enough to cover the expenses till mid-December.”
The government earlier in July came up with a budget of Rs 161.24 billion, which was one-third of the last fiscal year. The allocation, among others, was made for headings like constituent assembly elections, retirement benefits for ex-Maoist combatants and setting up a new Nepal Army directorate to conclude the integration.