June 28: Finance Minister Janardan Sharma replaced the ordinance budget of former minister Bishnu Prasad Poudel last August with the claim of cutting 10 percent expenditure under various headings including the budget for meeting allowance, fuel, maintenance, staff training, skill development and public awareness, etc.
Sharma also removed controversial and unreliable projects in the previous government's budget while ruthlessly cutting off the constituency development programmes and plans of the top leaders of the CPN-UML. However, Sharma has not been able to give continuity to the initiative at present. It has been speculated that his intention may have been not only to cut unnecessary expenditure but also to gain popularity.
The headings under which he had cut the budget during last fiscal year has been included this time with additional amount allocated under the same headings. However, the need for cost reduction is greater now than it was before. The government can cut budgets on dozens of titles in order to reduce the current expenditure. But instead of doing so, Finance Minister Sharma seems to have allocated extra money.
For the current fiscal year, the government had allocated Rs 840 million for the foreign travel expenses of the government employees. But for the upcoming fiscal year, Finance Minister Sharma increased the budget under this heading to Rs 872.1 million. The move is against the government's policy of not allowing employees to travel abroad except for much-needed work, citing pressure on foreign exchange reserves.
The government also increased the budget for other allowances received by the officials of various commissions and bodies. Government allocated Rs 394.3 million for the current year, which has been increased to Rs 430 million for the next fiscal year.
There are three other types of allowances including meeting allowance of office bearers. Employees receive 10 types of allowances in addition to salary. The government also seems to have increased the budget for fuel. In the current fiscal year, Rs 2.48 billion was allocated for the fuel expenses of the employees, but it has been increased by Rs 400 million to Rs 2.88 billion for the upcoming fiscal year.
The fuel budget of the office bearers has been increased from Rs 120 million to Rs 140 million. The budget of Rs 1.65 billion allocated for vehicle maintenance in the current fiscal year has been increased to Rs 1.68 billion for the next fiscal year.
Rs. 815 million has been allocated for the purchase of vehicles under the heading of development expenditure. The budget includes various headings from development expenditure to office materials to administrative facilities. In the budget for the upcoming fiscal year presented by Finance Minister Sharma on May 29, no budget has been cut for any of the headings on trainings, seminars, visits and monitoring.
Looking at the budget allocation, it seems that the government's announcement to cut current expenditure by 10 percent this year and 15 percent next year is just to gain popularity.