Sunday, February 10, 2013

Without election, chances of next fiscal year’s budget slim

As political consensus has eluded political parties, and caretaker prime minister Dr Baburam Bhattarai is adamant on occupying Baluwatar 'to escape criminal cases', according to him, the chances of a budget for next fiscal year is also getting slimmer.
In the absence of a parliament, the country might not see a budget for next fiscal year too, said former secretary Dr Bhola Chalise.
The sooner political parties forge consensus for elections, the better it is for the economy, he said, adding that otherwise, the country will also not get a budget in the next fiscal year, which will fuel the informal economy, increase trade deficit, and force more Nepali youths to become migrant workers due to lack of employment at home.
Though economic growth for the current fiscal year is looking down, as has always been when the UCPN-Maoist came to power in the last six years after 2008, neither the opposition parties nor the private sector are serious about putting pressure on the incumbent government to forge political consensus for elections that could pave the way for a parliament, which can ensure a budget for next fiscal year.
For the first time in over six decades, the country did not get a budget for the current fiscal year 2012-13 — due to the absence of a parliament — hitting the economy hard. Dr Bhattarai and the opposition have been blaming each other for the tragic death of the Constituent Assembly (CA) — that also acted as a parliament — on May 27, 2012, without drafting the Constitution that has subsequently created a vacuum giving Dr Bhattarai's government the opportunity to become totalitarian.
"The country, for the first time, could not get a budget in last sixty years, the first time the country had a budget," said caretaker finance minister Barshaman Pun, the other day. His realisation has, however, come too late to rescue the economy from going down. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has shown serious concern for Nepal's economic growth performance that has weakened in the last three months.
Pun had brought an interim public expenditure arrangement twice for the current fiscal year based on last fiscal year's real expenditure. The interim public expenditure arrangement has given the government the right to mobilise revenue and allocate budget for ongoing multi-year projects, apart from debt servicing, paying salaries to civil servants, army and police.
However, the government has miserably failed to spend on development activities that could have created a firm infrastructure base for economic growth. But going by the expenditure trend of the last fiscal year and this fiscal year's first six months, the government seems unwilling to expedite development expenditure that would have not only generated employment but also created a foundation for economic growth.
Development partners have also asked the government to increase its appetite for development expenditure. Due to the government's lack of appetite for development expenditure, foreign aid commitment has dropped to Rs 15.76 billion — Rs 14.04 billion grants and Rs 1.71 billion loans by mid-January — from Rs 44 billion in the same period last fiscal year.
Likewise, the government has been able to spend only Rs 7.04 billion under capital expenditure in the first six months of the current fiscal year as compared to Rs 9.56 billion in the same period of last fiscal year, according to the Finance Ministry.
According to the opposition, the government's low development spending could be strategic as it can spend the remaining budget arbitrarily in the trimester — last four months — of the fiscal year.
Over the years, the trend has been such that successive governments have been spending more than 70 per cent of the total development budget in the last four months, benefitting party cadres but hurting projects and failing to meet development needs.
Dr Bhattarai, for his ego not to step down, will go down the history as not a Maoist leader but the one, who destroyed the economy and forced the people live in poverty for another couple of decades in Nepal that offers huge opportunities but is suffering due to the vision-less political party like UCPN-Maoist. foreign


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