Rs 100,000 projects designed to facilitate budget transfers!

Himal Press 15 Jun 2024
Rs 100,000 projects designed to facilitate budget transfers! This combo photo shows Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal (left) and Finance Minister Barsha Man Pun

KATHMANDU: While addressing the Lumbini Province Assembly meeting in March, Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal announced that projects and programs costing less than Rs 30 million will be handed over to the provinces and local units.

Dahal said he wanted to stop the tendency of not budget and authority to the provinces.

He reiterated the same while addressing the meeting of party cadres and leaders in Madhesh Province. “To strengthen the subnational governments, the government will not include programs costing less than Rs 30 million in the federal budget. This will be implemented from the upcoming fiscal year,” he said.

However, the budget presented by Finance Minister Barsha Man Pun on May 28 failed to make a departure from the centralized mindset, contrary to what Dahal had said. The federal government has allocated budgets for projects costing not just Rs 30 million for but as low as Rs 100,000, to be implemented by itself.

Even the lawmakers of the Maoist Center have not been able to openly support the budget. Maoist Center lawmaker Madhav Sapkota said that the budget could not move beyond the old mindset. “We have not been able to rise above the old mindset in budget allocation,” he said. “The hangover that elections can only be won by distributing budgets from the center persists.”

During the discussion on the budget of the Ministry of Industry, Commerce and Supplies, the Ministry of Land Management, Cooperatives and Poverty Alleviation, and the Ministry of Health and Population in the House of Representatives on Thursday, Rashtriya Prajatantra Party (RPP) lawmaker Rosan Karki said that almost every ministry has included programs costing as low as Rs 100,000 in the budget.

As Karki has pointed out, many ministries have included projects costing Rs 100,000 to be implemented by the federal government. The Ministry of Urban Development has allocated Rs 100,000 each for 91 projects, while there are 177 projects with a budget of Rs 500,000 each.

Likewise, the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology has allocated Rs 100,000 each for Madan Bhandari University and Yogmaya Ayurveda University.

Similarly, Koyapani-Chautara Bhanjyang-Dhawa-Baluwatar, Bimire-Darmeechaur-Amppipal-Simpani and Satdobato-Baghdanda-Gaikhur road in Gorkha have also been allocated Rs 100,000 each.

A challenge for federalism implementation

The government has repeatedly claimed that it has prioritized the implementation of federalism. Its officials have repeatedly committed to enacting necessary laws for this. However, the budget presented in the federal parliament has made a mockery of such commitments.

Khim Bahadur Thapa, general secretary of the National Association of Rural Municipalities, Nepal, said that the inclusion of small programs in the budget, contrary to the Prime Minister’s repeated commitments, has reinforced the belief that the leaders’ actions do not align with what they say. “The budget does not mention sending projects costing less than Rs 30 million to the provincial and local governments as the Prime Minister had said. The federal ministries themselves have included small programs,” he added.

Thapa argued that such actions from the government led by Prime Minister Dahal, who is never tired of saying that they fought for federalism, have posed a challenge to the implementation of federalism.

Former Secretary Purna Chandra Bhattarai said that the budget presented in the federal parliament has confirmed that shortcomings in the implementation of federalism cannot be addressed just by the Prime Minister’s wishes.

A ploy for budget reallocation?

Allocations of a mere Rs 100,000 would mean nothing for infrastructure projects of that scale, say finance ministry officials involved in drafting the budget. They say infrastructure projects like roads, meeting halls, sports facilities, parks etc cannot be built for Rs 100,000.

“Allocating a budget of Rs 100,000 for projects that cannot be completed with that amount means reallocation of additional funds in the future. Once the project is included, it serves as a legal basis for reallocation,” a finance ministry official said.

The finance ministry easily grants permission to transfer budgets from one heading to another within a ministry after the first quarter, giving rise to such malpractices.

Published On: 15 Jun 2024


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