Billions of rupees to be spent by lawmakers could be used to combat Covid-19Law Minister Tumbahangphe to consult with the parties before taking a decision.
The country has been locked down for two weeks in an attempt to contain the possible outbreak of Covid-19, which has affected nine people in the country so far. The government has extended it by a week until April 15 with the possibility of further extension.
The move could have been a big help in containing the disease from spreading as it also has taken a toll on the economic activities across the country. Hundreds of people have lost their jobs with daily wage workers affected the most. On the other hand, billions of rupees allocated under the Local Infrastructure Development Partnership Programme to be spent by lawmakers largely remains unspent though it has been released to the local level.
As the fiscal year nears its end, there are slim chances of the budget being spent on development works in two months. Given the situation, the government is exploring the possibility of using the money to handle the crisis at the local level.
The budget, under a partnership programme, is spent in the local federal units on the recommendation of the respective lawmaker elected under the first-past-the-post category. Starting this fiscal year, the government has increased the budget to Rs 60 million, which each directly elected lawmaker can suggest how to spend in their constituencies. A total of Rs 9.9 billion has been allocated to the 165 electoral constituencies.
The Ministry of Federal Affairs, following the recommendation of respective lawmakers, allows the local governments to spend the money. The ministry so far has authorised the budget to be spent in 162 constituencies.
“We started authorisation starting in January and it was just before the lockdown we completed the process,” Dila Ram Panthi, under-secretary at the ministry, told the Post. Panthi said though he does not have the figures on how much budget has been spent, given that the authority was delegated recently, there are least chances the local governments have managed to mobilise the money.
Law Minister Shiva Maya Tumbahangphe, who has been entrusted with the task of holding discussions with parties in the federal parliament, said she has already started consultation with the parties to this effect. “We need to strengthen our health system and support the needy first. Development works can be done once we come out of this crisis,” she told the Post.
She said a rightful decision towards spending the money to fight the present crisis will be taken very soon.
On Monday, the Indian government endorsed an ordinance to cut the salaries of the prime minister, ministers and members of parliament by 30 percent and suspend the Members of Parliament Local Area Development Scheme to use the money to combat the disease. Each Member of Parliament in India gets IRS 50 million to develop their constituencies, similar to the partnership programme in Nepal.
The lawmakers say the budget under the partnership programme can be used to set up testing labs for Covid-19 at the district and local level. “The government hasn’t been able to go beyond the provinces when it comes to testing. The budget under the partnership programme can be used for purchasing the testing equipment and creating labs at the local level and in the districts,” Pushpa Bhusal, whip of the Nepali Congress, told the Post. Though the budget under the programme has been released, it remains largely unspent so far, she said.