Laxmi Capital News
Khatiwada under fire from lawmakers over pork barrel

The decision toallocate Rs 40 million for each parliamentary constituency amid criticism fromvarious quarters has backfired on Finance Minister Yuba Raj Khatiwada aslawmakers from both the ruling and opposition parties have accused him ofundermining  the elected lawmakers in not giving them exclusive authorityto spend the money.

The lawmakers came down heavily on Khatiwada for his remark that he allocated theconstituency budget only because he found himself in a trap of the lawmakers’making.

Several lawmakers fromboth  sides, airing their views in parliament, criticized Khatiwada fordisparaging the lawmakers in accusing them in this fashion.  

“I wonder why a financeminister should feel trapped into taking a decision about allocating budgets meant for the development of the constituencies. The statement isirresponsible,” said NCP lawmaker Ram Kumari Jhankri, taking part inparliamentary discussions over budget that commenced on Thursday. The financeminister unveiled a Rs 1.35 trillion budget on Tuesday.

Lawmakers are unhappywith the finance minister as he has made it mandatory to spend the Rs 40million only in coordination with a provincial lawmaker representing theconstituency in question as well as local elected representatives. In the past,the central lawmakers were allowed to spend the money  as  theirexclusive prerogative. 

The new arrangementallows expenditure of the budget in not more than three different projectswhereas in the past the lawmakers could distribute the money to any number ofprograms or projects. 

The finance ministerset the limit after finding that the constituency budget was distributed for avariety of unproductive programs just to please the voters.

Ruling Nepal CommunistParty lawmaker Gajendra Bahadur Mahat of Jumla criticized the decision of thegovernment to include provincial assembly members and local representatives inprogram selection. “Can a minister fix the limit of our jurisdiction, can hetake us on par with the ward committee chairman? We don’t need any 40 millionallocated in this humiliating way,” Mahat said during the budgetdiscussion. 

HridayashTripathi, whowas elected to parliament with the ruling left alliance’s support, also camedown heavily on the finance minister for not reposing trust in the lawmakers.“Lawmakers are elected representatives and they have commitment andresponsibility toward the people. Can the government elected by the lawmakersin parliament call our trustworthiness into question?” he said.

Former minister and NCPlawmaker Tek Bahadur Basnet criticized the finance minister for accusing thepeople’s representatives of trapping him. “The statement has incited distrustof the representatives. Either the state should trust the people’srepresentatives or withdraw the decision to allocate the Rs 40 millionconstituency budgets ,” said Basnet. 

Rajendra Gautam of thesame party demanded that the preconditions for the constituency budget shouldbe revised and roads, drinking water and irrigation  incorporated underits scope. Durga Paudel of RastriyaJanamorcha said that the budget fails toprovide financing for  development expenses and has left  room towonder if it was not a  repetition of  past trends. 

Min Bahadur Bishwakarmaand Bharat Shah of the main opposition Nepali Congress criticized the budgetfor lacking any vision and plan for meeting the 8 percent economic growthtarget. Opposition lawmakers condemned the budget for not giving continuity tothe decisions taken by the NC-led erstwhile government and for allocating minimalbudgets for the local and provincial levels. 

Rejendra Shrestha ofthe Federal Socialist Forum Nepal and SharatSingh  Bhandari and Anil KumarJha of Rastriya Janata Party Nepal accused the government of undermining federalism in the budget allocation.

Source: The HimalayanTimes, 1st June 2018

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