President Yadav said the government must not bring out populist programmes given its caretaker status and due to the fact that it has already announced elections

KATHMANDU, JUN 13 – President Ram Baran Yadav on Tuesday urged the government to table the annual budget only after striking consensus with all the political parties.

In a meeting with Finance Minister Barsha Man Pun, Yadav said the government must not bring out populist programmes given its caretaker status and due to the fact that it has already announced elections, according to the President’s Press Adviser, Rajendra Dahal.

Pun had gone to the President’s Office to apprise him of preparations underway to introduce the annual budget.

This is the first time the President has spoken on the government’s bid to bring in the budget through an ordinance. The government’s plan has come under attack from opposition parties, including the Nepali Congress and the CPN-UML, which have vowed to scuttle the plan to bring the budget and other important laws through ordinances.

On Tuesday, an alliance of 26 opposition parties submitted a memorandum to the President urging him to “intervene” and stop the government’s “unconstitutional move”.

The parties, who have sought Prime Miniter Baburam Bhattarai’s resignation, argue that “the caretaker government’s plan to bring in ordinances is a ploy to prolong his stay in power.”

Finance Minister Pun, however, conveyed to the President that the government will prepare “common minimum programmes” agreeable to all the parties and bring in the budget on time with political consensus.

In the absence of elected bodies such as the parliament, Pun said ordinance is “the only alternative with the government when it comes to introducing the budget on time”.

“While preparing the budget, you should keep in mind that this is also an election government as its has already announced the poll date,” Press Advisor Dahal quoted the President as telling Pun.

The President also asked Pun to keep in mind that any ordinance is effective only for six months and that it will automatically become invalid if it is not endorsed by an elected body within that period.

The President also advised the minister to seek political consensus while bringing three crucial anti-money laundering bills.

Earlier in the day, the President also held consultations with experts. “They all agreed that the economy is going down by the day and that the government entities must pay serious attention to this fact,” Dahal said.

The experts told Yadav that there is no alternative to bringing out the budget through an ordinance,  but that there should be political consensus for the same.

Even if the budget comes after political agreement, the size must be small and the budget centered on security, election and debt service and must not introduce new programmes.

“The best option is political consensus for the budget through ordinance. Even in that case, the size should be small as the government’s public spending has remained poor,” said Economist Biswombher Pyakurel. “In case consensus is not had, the budget must be for three or six months only.”

Former Chief Secretary Bimal Koirala also said the budget must be brought through consensus. “Otherwise, the budget will not be legal,” he said. “The size of the new budget could be that of the current fiscal year (Rs 384 billion). The government can introduce new programmes if there is political consensus.”

Nepal Rastra Bank Board Member Shambhu Saran Kayastha said a caretaker government cannot introduce new programmes. “The budget must not cross Rs 384 billion as the government has struggled to spend money in capital expenditure.”ekantipur

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