One-third budget plus Rs 12.50b

KATHMANDU, July 13: The government, which shelved its aspirations for a full-fledged budget, is still pushing for a partial budget that is some Rs 12.50 billion over the opposition-endorsed ceiling of one-third this fiscal year´s actual spending.

After shelving a draft of a full-fledged budget, the Ministry of Finance (MoF) has now readied a new draft budget that incorporates allocations under at least three heads and is above the one-third limit.

The three heads are: election of constituent assembly, payments to retired Maoist combatants and integration of combatants in the Nepal Army, said a top MoF official. The MoF has allocated Rs 7 billion, about Rs 4 billion and just over 1.50 billion respectively under these heads.

“The draft has been worked out on instructions from the political leadership,” the source told Republica.

Officials who are regularly receiving instructions from and giving briefings on the budget to Finance Minister Barsha Man Pun said that the government´s present mood is not to compromise on the partial budget, even though it agreed to the opposition call for ´no full-fledged budget´.

“The FM has not said anything explicitly but his statements and instructions suggest the government is thinking of at least volleying the ball (of partial budget) to the president´s court,” said the source.

FM Pun, in his public addresses in recent days as well, has pushed vehemently for a budget with allocations for elections, ex-combatants´ retirement benefits and integration. His assessment is that a one-third budget will not enable the government to hold fresh elections to the constituent assembly (CA) that the Prime Minister announced on May 27 or pay the outstanding installment of perks for combatants who chose voluntary retirement.

“We have little idea what the government will eventually do. But at this juncture it appears desperate for a partial budget. Perhaps that is because in the absence of those allocations, it will have little basis for showing its relevance and existence,” said the source.

Opposition leaders such as Dr Ram Sharan Mahat of Nepal Congress also vented similar views. Sensing the government´s mood, they have urged President Dr Ram Baran Yadav not to endorse a budget that is more than one-third of this year´s actual spending.

Given the situation, MoF officials have expressed doubts over the president endorsing a partial budget.

As for the one-third budget, they said the MoF was closely monitoring the public spending figures generated every day.

“We will know the exact figures only when the fiscal year ends on July 16. But the figures we are getting so far suggest the one-third budget will probably be around Rs 120 billion,” said the source.

Though the government appropriated Rs 384.90 billion for fiscal year 2011/12, the MoF estimates that the actual annual spending might not cross Rs 360 billion.MILAN MANI SHARMA from republica

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