‘Early budget pointless as working style unchanged’

May 04, 2017

The Kathmandu Post, Post Report, 4th May 2017, Kathmandu

The budget statement was released ahead of time this fiscal year, but it didn’t do any good as the bureaucracy functioned in the same old way, Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal said Wednesday while addressing the 39th meeting of the National Development Problem Solution Committee.

The government’s annual financial plan was issued 45 days before the start of the fiscal year with the expectation that spending on development activities would increase, as expenditure has consistently fallen short of the target. 

According to the Financial Comptroller General’s Office, the government had spent only Rs91.73 billion, or 29.41 percent of the total capital budget of Rs311.9 billion, as of Tuesday. Dahal directed government agencies to speed up spending during the remaining period of the current fiscal year ending mid-July.

“The government presented the annual budget 45 days before the start of the fiscal year, but the state agencies’ working style didn’t change. They followed the traditional working style this fiscal year too. Therefore, we couldn’t benefit much from the early budget,” he said. 

“I have repeatedly directed the state mechanism to spend at least 80 percent of the total allocation during this fiscal year. Also, various government bodies at different levels were made active to conduct inspections,” he said. “These efforts led to some improvement in capital expenditure, but there was no significant impact.”  

With less than three months left for the fiscal year to end, spending has been slower than what the government had expected. The budget was fast-tracked through Parliament and passed well before the fiscal year  2016-17 started.

Dahal has directed ministers and secretaries to ramp up capital spending by expediting infrastructure projects. “We still have more than two months left in this fiscal year, and a lot of work can be done in that time,” he said. Speaking at the meeting organised by the National Planning Commission (NPC), Dahal also criticized the snail’s pace at which national pride projects were being constructed. 

“Apart from a few projects like the Kathmandu-Tarai Fast Track and Pokhara International Airport that are making fine progress, a majority of projects have not been performing well,” he said. He directed the concerned agencies to expedite such projects so that the groundwork to attain higher economic growth is laid.

Dahal also directed the NPC to finalise the draft of a law on national pride projects as soon as possible. The concept of ‘national pride project’ was first introduced in 2012. However, the government still has not framed any clear-cut criteria for selection of national pride projects. As a result, the label of ‘national pride’ is put on projects through Cabinet decisions, which many say, is an ad-hoc process.

The NPC, the apex body that frames the country’s development plans and policies, has formed a committee under member Swarnim Wagle to standardise the process of selecting these projects.