Ruling party lawmakers also find fault with new budgetNepali Congress lawmaker Gagan Thapa says funds have been allocated disproportionately to benefit certain politicians in western Nepal.
Lawmakers from the ruling parties have joined the opposition parties and economists in criticising the bloated budget for the upcoming fiscal year demanding answers from the finance minister on the “highly ambitious” revenue target and “unnecessary taxation.”
The government on Sunday presented a Rs 1.79 trillion budget, an increase of nearly 10 percent compared to that for the ongoing fiscal year.
Taking part in deliberations on the budget in the House of Representatives on Thursday, Nepali Congress General Secretary and lawmaker Gagan Thapa demanded the basis for presenting such a bloated budget. He said it was contradictory that the budget aims to increase the revenue collection significantly while also announcing to cut imports by 20 percent.
The budget has set a target to collect Rs 1.24 trillion in revenue, an increase from Rs 1.05 trillion target set for the present fiscal year.
While presenting the budget, Minister for Finance Janardan Sharma announced that overall imports will be reduced by at least 20 percent in the next fiscal year while cutting down the imports of paddy, maize, wheat, vegetables and fruits by at least 30 percent.
Thapa also demanded Sharma to provide the basis for securing Rs55 billion in grant which is more than double the amount received in the current fiscal year. Against the target of Rs 59.92 billion, the country has got just Rs 24 billion in grants this year. “I would like to know whether it was necessary to present a budget of this size,” Thapa said, asking what new plans the finance minister has for increasing the capital expenditure.
The government has allocated Rs380.38 billion for capital expenditure. In September last year, revising the budget presented by the erstwhile KP Sharma Oli government, Sharma set a new target for capital expenditure for the current fiscal year at Rs 378.1 billion. However, with less than a month and half remaining of the current fiscal year, just 35 percent of the amount has been spent.
Also taking part in the deliberations, CPN (Maoist Centre) lawmaker Giriraj Mani Pokharel said the government plan to implement the Social Health Security Programme through the private sector insurance companies is not acceptable. He argued that the programme aims to provide universal health coverage, so the government should not see it as a burden. “Health insurance was introduced as a part of a social security scheme. So involving [the private sector] insurance companies for its implementation goes against the very concept of the scheme,” he said. “I demand the provision be revoked from the budget.”
Lawmakers from other parties too had objected to the government plan to implement the health insurance scheme through private sector insurance companies. Also, both the ruling and opposition party lawmakers criticised the government’s plan to increase taxes on the import of electric vehicles of over 120 kilowatts power.
Through the budget the government has imposed 30 percent excise duty on the import of electric vehicles of 100-200 kilowatts capacity, 45 percent on those from 200-300 kilowatts and 60 percent on those above 300 kilowatts and there is an equal hike in the custom duty for these vehicles. “How can we cut down on petroleum imports by increasing taxes on electric vehicles?” said Barsha Man Pun, a CPN (Maoist Centre) lawmaker. “This is wrong. It must be revoked.”
Lawmakers of the ruling Janata Samajbadi Party also took exception to several provisions of the new budget. The party’s lawmaker Pradeep Yadav, speaking on Wednesday, accused the government of cheating the Madhesh Province. He said the budget had failed his Province, which already lags behind other provinces in several respects. Yadav, a lawmaker from Parsa district, was particularly unhappy for lower allocation for the Prosperous Madhes programme.
In his remarks Thapa, the Congress leader, alleged that funds have been allocated disproportionately to benefit certain politicians in western Nepal. Finance Minister Sharma is from Rukum-West district in the Karnali Province. “Last time more allocations were made for Jhapa [home district of then Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli] and this time the focus has shifted to western districts,” he said.