Minister Khatiwada defends fund distribution to lawmakers

Kathmandu, May 30 : Finance Minister Dr Yubaraj Khatiwada has defended his announcement of allocating Rs 60 million each for parliaments in the budget presented for the fiscal year 2019-20.

He did so while speaking at a post-budget press conference organized at the Ministry of Finance (MoF) on Thursday (May 30).

Minister Khatiwada is facing wide criticism for increasing the funds to the local infrastructure development program by 50 percent i.e from Rs 40 million to 60 million by  caving in to the political process.

 The program, along with its previous versions, have long been controversial because of the poor oversight over the spending of millions of rupees provided to the federal lawmakers.

  Ironically, Minister Khatiwada  had expressed displeasure  over such programmes  and their dubious implementation stating that the government would not to continue  with them while preparing the budget last year.

But now he is saying that the ‘distributive’ budget is designed to address the voices of local representatives regarding the local development needs.

“On the one hand, the parliamentarians are mandated to select viable projects in their respective constituencies and monitor them during the construction phase. On the other, the local governments have been entitled to mobilize the allotted money,” he further clarified.

For the local infrastructure development program, the government has set aside a total sum of Rs 9.9 billion. There are 165 constituencies in the country and each of the lawmakers elected under the first-past-the-post system will be entitled to this fund.

According to experts, the move on the part of the current finance minister to provide extreme economic leeway to the lawmakers in the name of local infrastructure development is strictly imprudent. “Despite knowing that they had misused development funds in the past, he has decided to continue with the practice of distributing such funds. This amounts to the gross violation of the basic norms of fiscal discipline.”      

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