Budget for next fiscal year likely to boost grants

- Post Report, Kathmandu

May 27, 2016-

The Oli administration has been preparing the budget with an eye on the upcoming local elections, and proposes to increase funding for social security, the Constituency Development Programme and local governments, sources involved in drafting the budget said. 

The government’s annual financial plan is also likely to raise the monthly allowance for senior citizens and widows. A high-ranking Finance Ministry official told the Post that the government sought to honour the elderly. “I won’t say how much, but their monthly allowance will be increased,” he said.  A social security scheme was introduced by the then CPN-UML-led government in fiscal 1994-95 along with the Aphno Gaun Aphai Banaun programme which provided an annual grant to village development committees (VDCs). 

An allowance plan for widows and elderly persons was launched by the Manmohan Adhikari administration in 1994-95. The scheme has now been expanded to include different sections of society like people with disabilities and members of the Dalit and endangered communities.  “There have been demands for a raise in the allowance for senior citizens and widows. Since it was the UML that introduced social security schemes, the party feels a special responsibility regarding providing allowances to the elderly,” said an official invol-ved in preparing the budget.

When the allowance scheme was launched, people aged over 75 years received Rs100 per month. The payment has now been increased to Rs1,000 in the form of elderly and medical allowances. Last year, the government hiked the allocation for social security by Rs7 billion to Rs22.67 billion. A total of 2,152,861 people were receiving the payouts as of the last fiscal year.

Meanwhile, the government has been working to provide more money to the Constituency Development Fund, buckling to intense pressure from lawmakers to increasing funding. 

The Sushil Koirala administration had increased the grant by 50 percent to Rs15 million for each constituency in the budget for the current fiscal year. The Members of Parliament are now asking for Rs50 million each. In addition to this grant, lawmakers receive Rs1.5 million each to implement development programmes in their constituencies. The programme has received massive condemnation due to the alleged misuse of funds. “Most lawmakers have been spending the money for their political gain,” said a joint secretary at the Ministry of Federal Affairs and Local Development. “This is looting of the state coffers.”

According to the Post reporter in Banke, lawmakers of major political parties representing Banke district have been found misusing the grant received under the Constituency Development Programme. He said they had been spending the money to construct party office buildings and commercial space.

The Nepali Congress has used the grant to add a floor to its party office building on Surkhet Road while the UML has started building stores in front of the party office on Pasang Lhamu Road. 

Similarly, the CPN (Maoist-Centre) has erected a party office building in Kohalpur and recently agreed to build martyrs’ memorial parks in Kachanapur and Phattepur with the money received under the Constituency Development Programme.

The government is also considering hiking the annual grants provided to district development committees, municipalities and VDCs, according to Finance Ministry officials. “Currently, VDCs have been getting Rs1.9 million to Rs5.05 million each under the VDC grant heading based on their performance,” said Dal Bikram Kandel, an official at the Ministry of Federal Affairs and Local Development.

Published: 27-05-2016 09:04

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