Print Edition - 2016-05-18 | MONEY
Govt urged to scrap controversial plan
- proposed hike in grants to lawmakers
May 18, 2016-
Nepali Congress lawmaker Gagan Thapa on Tuesday urged the government to scrap its controversial plan to increase the amount of money provided to Members of Parliament (MPs) to develop their constituencies.
The Oli administration had proposed to ramp up the grant to Rs50 million each from Rs15 million in the next fiscal year’s budget, provoking a public outcry. “There are flaws in both the concept and procedure for the implementation of the programme by allocating such grants,” said Thapa, speaking at a pre-budget discussion organised by the Society of Economic Journalists Nepal.
Thapa, who was among the MPs who had lobbied for the implementation of the programme two years ago, said that the government should set up a separate fund to finance programmes selected by the MPs in their constituencies.
“The selected programmes should be implemented by the local bodies. The Constituency Development Programme was not effective as it followed the traditional Parliament Development Fund,” he said.
The government has been planning to increase the budget for the programme in the next fiscal year despite massive criticism even from lawmakers. Since 2001, the government has been disbursing Rs2 million each under the Constituency Development Programme which lawmakers can spend at their discretion. Similarly, the government has been issuing Rs15 million to each constituency under the Constituency Infrastructure Special Programme for the last two years. Lawmakers have been demanding that the government increase the amount to Rs50 million.
Finance Minister Bishnu Paudel had also favoured increasing the budget for the special programme to Rs50 million from Rs15 million. However, he said that the government would bring the programmes only within the legal framework prescribed by the Constitution.
“I have found that many MPs are under the false impression that a leftist government freely provides money even for small programmes. However, I will try to present a budget that is best for the economic development of the country,” he said.
Lawmaker Thapa also advised the government to form a timetable to make the budget implementation more effective. He said the government had to enforce a ‘policy audit’ system. “The government should scrap those projects that fail to launch within the prescribed time frame under a system that enables it to revise their performance by mid-March,” he said.
Most participants at the interaction urged the government to focus on programmes that will aid agricultural development. Economist Bishwombhar Pyakurel said the government would fail to attain its economic growth target if agricultural development was not properly addressed.
“The growth rate of the farm sector should reach at least 10 percent to achieve the target of 6 percent growth that the government has set for next year under its five-year plan,” he said. Dipendra Bahadur Chhetri, former vice-chairman of the National Planning Commission, said the government needed to provide subsidies to agro businesses in order to make farm products more competitive compared to imports from the southern neighbour. “Apart from increasing the budget, there is an urgent need for coordination among government ministries related to land reform and irrigation,” he said.
Published: 18-05-2016 09:34