Budget focus on local body empowermentThe government, in the next fiscal year, will allocate a big chunk of funds to empower the newly formed local bodies, conduct provincial and federal elections, build national pride and other major infrastructure projects and give continuity to post-earthquake reconstruction works.
The government, in the next fiscal year, will allocate a big chunk of funds to empower the newly formed local bodies, conduct provincial and federal elections, build national pride and other major infrastructure projects and give continuity to post-earthquake reconstruction works.
President Bidya Devi Bhandari on Thursday presented the government policies and programmes that provide guideline to the Ministry of Finance to frame the annual budget for 2017-18, which will be presented in Parliament on Monday.
The policies and programmes of 2017-18 state that newly carved local bodies will be given adequate financial resources to conduct day-to-day works, cater free basic healthcare services and provide free education till Grade 12. “The government takes pride in being able to transfer the authority from Singha Durbar [the central government] to villages and towns,” President Bhandari said, reading out the policies and programmes.
The announcement comes at a time when the country has formally embraced federal setup, and local bodies, for the first time, have been given complete authority to frame budgetary programmes on their own. This is a major shift, as the central government currently plays a bigger role in preparing the local level’s budgetary programmes.
The government this time has refrained from including new plans in view of the code of conduct enforced by the Election Commission for the local level elections.
Elections for local representatives in 283 units of Province 3, 4 and 6 were held on May 14 and voting to elect representatives in the remaining local units of Provinces 1, 2, 5 and 7 is scheduled for June 14. Once the local elections are over, the government must hold provincial and federal elections by January 21.
“The government is committed to holding all the elections,” said the President, in an indication that a huge chunk of budget would be allocated in the next fiscal year for these polls.
It is not yet known whether provincial and federal elections will be staggered over two or more phases. However, a lot of cost could be saved if they are held in a single phase.
Completion of provincial and federal elections in a single phase would also help the government to increase utilisation of the capital budget. This is because the government has to halt spending in development works, especially construction of physical infrastructure, for 45 days during every phase of poll as per the election code of conduct. Recently, Finance Secretary Shanta Raj Subedi also spoke in favour of holding the two elections in a single phase so as to give impetus to capital spending. The government has always lagged behind in utilisation of capital budget. This has hit construction of various physical infrastructure, creating a binding constraint on economic growth.
To address this problem, the government will effectively monitor implementation of big infrastructure projects in the next fiscal year, the President said.
Also, the government aims to bridge the country’s wide infrastructure gap by prioritising implementation of national pride projects, which comprise four irrigation projects, three hydropower projects, three international airports, six roads projects, an electric railway project, and a drinking water project among others. Some of these projects include 1,200MW Budhi Gandaki Hydroelectric Project, Nijgad and other international airports, Kathmandu-Tarai expressway, Postal Highway and Mid-hill Highway.
“Also, priority will be given to enhance capacity of the National Reconstruction Authority [the apex body that is overseeing post-earthquake reconstruction works],” the President said.