KATHMANDU, July 5: Several prominent people have demanded that Finance Minister Janardan Sharma step down from his post after he fell into a number of controversies including the recent issue of deleting CCTV footage that could prove him guilty of allowing ‘outsiders’ to manipulate the tax rates through the budget for the fiscal year 2022/23.
Issuing a joint statement on Tuesday, a group of former vice-chairpersons of the National Planning Commission (NPC), urged the Council of Ministers, parliament and constitutional organs to carry out an investigation into the questions raised against Finance Minister Sharma while drafting the budget for FY 2022/23. They have also asked the government to devise concrete plans to uplift the economy which is heading toward a crisis.
Prithvi Raj Ligal, Jagadish Chandra Pokharel, Yubaraj Khatiwada, Dinesh Chandra Devkota, Govinda Raj Pokharel and Pushpa Kandel are among the former vice-chairmen of the NPC who have expressed their concern on the deteriorating health of the country’s economy. Through a joint statement, they have drawn the government’s attention toward the worsening financial discipline in the government’s working mechanism.
Finance Minister Sharma has been accused of failing to enforce concrete measures to lift the economy at a time when the country is facing worsening performance in its major macroeconomic indicators. The country is now facing a massive decline in its foreign currency reserves, low capital expenditure, persistent liquidity crisis in the banking system, inappropriate uses of tax revenues and a notable hike in consumer prices.
“At this moment of crisis, the government was supposed to introduce measures to boost exports, attract foreign direct investment, ease tourists’ inflow, make effective utilization of foreign assistance and promote formal channels to receive remittance earnings to improve the foreign currency reserves. In addition, banks are facing a liquidity shortage due to low capital expenditure by the government,” reads the press statement. “Instead, the government has allegedly been involved in controversies deteriorating financial discipline.”
Besides facing the accusation of failing to improve the country’s economic health, Finance Minister Sharma has recently been blamed for manipulating the budget to serve the vested interests of certain business groups along with purportedly deleting related evidence that could prove him guilty. Minister Sharma has been accused of instructing four senior finance ministry officials to follow the suggestions of two individuals — a retired senior non-gazetted officer and a chartered accountant — on the night of May 28 and making some last moment changes in taxation with a view to benefiting certain business groups.
In response to the application registered by the Consumer Welfare Protection Forum (CWPF), seeking to recover CCTV footage, Sharma refused to provide the CCTV footage of the ministry’s activities on the night before the date of budget announcement, stating that the system at the ministry is capable of maintaining storage of data only till 13 days of the recording.
Sharma who is suspected to indulge in unethical practice is now facing widespread criticism from different forums. Lawmakers including Nepali Congress leader Gagan Thapa, during parliament meetings, have been demanding that Finance Minister Sharma quit from his position.
In Monday’s meeting of parliament, the main opposition party CPN-UML leader KP Oli demanded the formation of a parliamentary probe committee to investigate this year’s budget formulation process. Oli also criticized Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba for abstaining from taking action against Finance Minister Sharma.
Former chief justice Sushila Karki and former vice-chancellor of Tribhuvan University Kedar Bhakta Mathema also issued press releases demanding the resignation of Sharma. Similarly, Youth Association Nepal staged a protest demonstration in front of Singha Durbar on Tuesday, demanding the resignation of Sharma over the finance ministry CCTV footage delete issue.