Annual budget by mid-June ‘not possible’The government has said its plan to introduce the budget for the next fiscal year within mid-June is no longer possible due to the obstruction of the Parliament by opposition parties.
Finance Minister Ram Sharan Mahat said on Thursday the budget would be presented within two weeks after the pre-budget discussion starts in the parliament. As per the Parliamentary regulation, the budget can be presented two weeks after the beginning of the discussion.
The Finance Ministry has planned to hold talks with all the political parties on Sunday to end the impasse. The opposition parties have been obstructing the house accusing the government of transferring unspent budget to pet projects of ruling-party leaders.
A senior ministry official said the government had earlier planned to introduce the budget on June 17, but it has now become uncertain. “It is possible to introduce the budget by June-end provided the house obstruction ends on Sunday,” the official said.
The government had initially planned to present the principles and priorities at the Parliam-ent on May 30, policies and programmes by mid-June, and the budget a few days after.
The early budget plan was to ensure a full year for its execution so that government expenditure could be increased. The government had planned to complete getting programmes and projects approved by the National Planning Commission (NPC) within mid-July.
While the opposition parties, and even some lawmakers of the ruling CPN (UML), have been accusing the government of distributing the
unspent budget to the pet projects of Nepali Congress leaders, Mahat defended the budget transfers saying they were necessary to increase development expenditure, which has reached just 41 percent as of June 4.
“Is it a wise idea to let the budget allocated for under-spending and non-spending projects to freeze?” he asked. “Ever since I became the finance minister, I have been insisting that budget would be transferred to better-spending projects from non-performing ones.”
According to a senior ministry official, the dispute over the budget transfers surfaced after the resources under a single heading went to some unspecified projects. “For example, the budget under peace building went to projects which were not specified earlier,” the official said.
According to the ministry, there has been virement (transfer of the budget from one heading to another) of Rs 35 billion so far this year. “This is lower than what happened during Baburam Bhattarai’s tenure as finance minister five years ago,” the official said. “Then, there had been virement of Rs 45 billion.” The finance minister, however, said the government was ready to make virements systematic, but the transferred budget would not be withdrawn.
Discussing the priorities of the upcoming budget, the minister said the major focus would be on the infrastructure sector, while the education sector would also get the biggest pie.
Stating the government was keen on increasing investment in the infrastructure sector, Mahat said the biggest hurdle to doing so was the lack of new projects ready for implementation.