Monday, September 25, 2023

Nepal parliament obstructed over budget leak

Himalayan Paths

Kathmandu, May 30 (IANS) Proceedings in Nepal’s parliament were on Monday obstructed by the main opposition Nepali Congress protesting vociferously over the alleged leakage of the contents of the annual budget, including its size, to the media even before its unveiling in the house two days ago.

Speaker Onsari Gharti Magar had to adjourn the house at least twice as the NC lawmakers protested the leakage of the budget contents by rising from their seats and raising slogans, Xinhua news agency reported.

Madhes-based lawmakers, agitating in Nepal’s southern plains against the new constitution, also joined the NC members in the protest.

Finance Minister Bishnu Poudel presented a budget of Nepali Rs.1,048.92 billion (about $10 billion) for the 2016-17 fiscal on Saturday by hiking planned expenditure significantly.

But the Nepali media had covered the news on the budget details much before its presentation in parliament.

Right after Speaker Gharti Magar began Monday’s sitting, the NC and Madhesi lawmakers rose from their seats in protest against the budget leak.

NC lawmaker and former Finance Minister Ram Sharan Mahat demanded “a fair probe” into the leakage of the budget information to the press.

“We will not allow parliament to move ahead without launching a probe into the issue,” he said.

He claimed that the leakage of information violated parliament’s “privilege” to know first about the budget proposals.

On Sunday, NC’s parliamentary party meeting had sought Poudel’s resignation on “moral grounds”.

The NC has also been protesting the size and contents of the budget over its alleged “distributive nature” and claiming that the budget proposals violated fiscal discipline and they could not be implemented.

The meeting had also decided to take strong stand during the deliberations in the house on the Finance Bill.

The budget has doubled the allowance being provided to the elderly, widows and marginalised communities and also doubled the grant being provided to the local governments which the NC has termed “distributive”.

There also are concerns about utilisation of the grants being provided to the local bodies as they are without elected representatives for the last 14 years.

But Poudel on Saturday defended the budget saying the state could not run away from its responsibility towards senior citizens and other disadvantaged communities.

“The government is also against piling up resources in the Centre instead of distributing the resources at the local level,” he maintained.

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