Upcoming local elections: Major parties agree to put budget on holdMajor political parties are unanimous for postponing the release of the annual budget statement in Parliament with the long-awaited local elections fast approaching.
Major political parties are unanimous for postponing the release of the annual budget statement in Parliament with the long-awaited local elections fast approaching.
Influential leaders of the three big political parties told the Post that the ruling coalition and opposition parties were currently engaged in informal talks to forge a consensus on suspending the provision in the constitution that requires the government to unveil its annual financial plan on May 29.
Accordingly, the budget for the next fiscal year will likely be presented in Parliament just before the fiscal year ends in mid-July.
All the political parties are for putting off the budget release because of the government’s latest decision to hold local level elections in two phases.
Earlier, the government had said that local elections would be held at one go on May 14. After Madhes-based political parties expressed reluctance to take part in the polls, the government decided to hold the election in two phases in a bid to appease them and fulfil one of their demands. The second phase of the election is scheduled to be held on June 14.
The main opposition CPN-UML has said that if the government intends to hold the second phase of the polls in mid-June, it will not be possible to publish the budget on May 29 as per the provision in the constitution.
The UML is reportedly against announcing the budget before the election as it fears that the government will include populist programmes in it to sway voters.
Bishnu Prasad Poudel, former finance minister and senior UML leader, strongly ruled out the possibility of introducing the budget just a couple of weeks before the second round of the election.
“If this government wants to introduce the budget on the date mandated by the constitution, it must advance the date of the elections,” said Poudel.
“Otherwise, it should hold talks with the opposition to forge a consensus to postpone the release of the budget by suspending the relevant clause in the constitution. We will consider it if the ruling coalition formally comes up with such a proposal.” The ruling coalition, according to Poudel, has not officially made any such proposal.
Likewise, Ram Sharan Mahat, former finance minister and senior leader of the coalition partner Nepali Congress, said it would be difficult to unveil the budget just two weeks before the second round of the election since the election code of conduct bars the government from introducing new policies and programmes right before the polls. “Since we have a cushion of 45 days before the next fiscal year begins, it would be logical to postpone the budget presentation,” Mahat said. “The major political parties should hold talks towards this end, and I have heard that they have begun.”
The ruling CPN-Maoist Centre is for releasing the budget statement on schedule, but it has hinted that it would be willing to postpone it if that will resolve the current political deadlock.
“I don’t think that unveiling the budget after the second round of the election is a solution as there are two more elections this year,” said Phampha Bhusal, spokesperson for the CPN-Maoist Centre. “However, if postponing the release of the budget will solve the current crisis, we are open to considering it as an option.”