May 20: With only nine days left for the budget announcement, discussions are underway in the parliament on the priorities and principles of the Appropriation Bill.
However, the absence of Finance Minister Janardan Sharma during the discussion has raised concerns that the suggestions made by the people’s representatives for the upcoming budget will be limited to the parliament.
The members of parliament questioned the rationale behind the absence of the finance minister during the pre-budget discussion on Thursday. Terming the absence of the finance minister in the parliament as irresponsible, they drew the attention of the speaker. After the objection of the MPs, speaker Agni Prasad Sapkota directed the finance minister to attend the meeting.
Finance Minister Sharma hadn’t stayed till the end during Wednesday’s meeting as well. Maoist MP Gajendra Bahadur Mahat, who was the last speaker on Wednesday, had queried about the finance minister after not seeing him in parliament.
He was not present during the discussion on Thursday also. Chief Whip of the CPN-UML, Bishal Bhattarai said that the finance minister himself started the discussion on the principles and priorities of the budget but was not present during the discussion.
Stating that his attention had been drawn to this issue, Speaker Agni Prasad Sapkota said, “As per sub-section 5 of section 6 of the Rules of Procedure of the House of Representatives 2075, I instruct the Honorable Minister of the concerned ministry to attend the meeting.”
Nepali Congress MP and former Minister Dr Minendra Rijal said that it was disappointing that the finance minister and the officials were not present while the principles and priorities of the budget were being discussed in the parliament.
Dr Rijal commented that the structural problems in the economy have contributed to the non-spending of the capital budget. Keeping in view the priorities and principles of the Appropriation Bill, he said that the stakeholders, MPs, Ministry of Finance and others should make meaningful efforts to end the trend of non-spending of capital budget.
Rijal said that food production should be increased within the country to reduce the pressure on the balance of payments, and clear policy arrangements should be made for the promotion of industries and businesses in public-private partnership. Furthermore, he said that the problems in the economy were not only due to the current government alone and urged not to forget the fact that foreign debt had increased due to the decisions taken by the then UML-led government.