September 13: Finance Minister Janardan Sharma has defended the budget replacement bill stating that the main opposition party CPN-UML compelled the government to introduce it.
Speaking at a press conference organized at the Ministry of Finance on September 12, Minister Sharma said that the bill had to be passed in three days because the opposition party UML refused to pass the ordinance budget introduced its own government led by KP Sharma Oli. He claimed that Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba had held discussions with the UML to endorse the ordinance budget but the opposition party refused to do so.
"The UML did not agree to pass the budget brought by itself through the ordinance, so the replacement bill had to be introduced," Sharma said. According to Sharma, the budget has been revised to maintain financial discipline. The budget has been amended only in some significant sections, while most of the provisions and plans introduced by the earlier government have got continuity.
According to Finance Minister Sharma, the incumbent government’s action plan will be based on the belief that every plan should pay off and the budget has been prepared to support the economy as specified by the constitution. He defended the replacement bill amid criticism over the inclusion of populist programmes. He claimed that the budget he brought through the replacement bill was not a populist one but aimed to fulfill the responsibility of the state.
Minister Sharma said that the government is trying to help the critically ill people who can't fend for themselves and the political warriors who were involved in the political movements. He claimed that the government has introduced a programme to give Rs 10,000 each to 500,000 poor families. The government plans to distribute this amount to the extremely poor families affected by the COVID-19 before Dashain. He informed that criteria of the poor family meant to receive the beneficiary amount has been set.
Sharma claimed to spend 10 percent of capital expenditure every month. He also said that a mechanism would be set up to monitor capital expenditure as well as the progress of any project, and problems plaguing the project. Stating that the government has increased the capital expenditure even though it has reduced the total size of the budget, he said monitoring would be prioritized to make the expenditure more effective.
Explaining that the economic growth rate of the current fiscal year has been increased in the replacement bill compared to the ordinance budget, Minister Sharma said that the availability of COVID-19 vaccine is the major reason behind it.
The government has succeeded in bringing the vaccine and the rapid vaccination campaign would help in the economic growth, so the growth rate has been revised. The previous budget had targeted the economic growth rate of 6.5 percent. However, Finance Minister Sharma has revised the target saying that economic activities have been increasing recently.
He also revealed why the government has remained silent over controversial programmes brought in the previous ordinance budget. As the Cabinet meeting had already scrapped the budget provision of extraction and export of stones, pebbles from the Chure region, it was not necessary to state the same in the budget programme. He also informed that the government has not taken any decision to involve the private sector in the import and trade of salt.
The government led by KP Sharma Oli had announced in the budget to involve the private sector in salt trading and its import, but this program will not be implemented as the replacement bill has not addressed this issue.