Budget discussions in parliament turn dull

Published On: July 7, 2017 05:00 AM NPT By: Republica  | @RepublicaNepal

-Discussion continues with one minister present
-Over one-third lawmakers still outside capital

KATHMANDU, July 7: With more than one-third of the lawmakers not yet returning to the capital after the June 28 local polls, deliberations in  parliament on the fiscal year's budget  have turned into a dull affair.

Parliament has been holding deliberations on the budget since Sunday, but the discussion has become perfunctory because of the low  number lawmakers attending or taking part in the deliberations. 

According to the parliament secretariat, the attendance of lawmakers at the House meeting hasn't exceeded 355. The   total number of members stands at 592. 

Parliament was scheduled to deliberate Thursday the budget allocations for the various nine ministries. The parliament secretariat recorded the highest number of attending lawmakers, 355,  since Sunday. According to the attendance sheet, 285 lawmakers attended  the first meeting on Sunday after the June 28 local polls. Attendance has been increasing with the election results having come in from most  local units. 

Only a dozen lawmakers took active part in Thursday's  deliberations, which ran  for about two hours. . Finance Minister Gyanendra Bahadur Karki was the sole minister present in the almost empty hall. Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba is yet to expand the eight-member  cabinet which he formed on June 7.

The House  turns almost empty after a couple of minutes as most of the lawmakers leave on personal business. Most of then appear in  parliament just to sign the attendance sheet, which entitles them to Rs 1,000 as meeting allowance and another Rs 1,000 as taxi fare. 

Chief whips of the major political parties defended the lawmakers, pointing out that they are still busy with election-related activities. Attendance in  parliament is low because a large numbers of lawmakers are yet to return to Kathmandu from their respective constituencies. Major parties had  deployed their lawmakers for  campaigning in  Provinces 1,5 and 7 for the second phase local polls. 

“Most lawmakers seem not to be paying much attention to the budget discussions because this budget is a continuation of last year's programs and nothing new has been introduced,” said  Nepali Congress Chief Whip Chinkaji Shrestha. 

Unlike in previous years, the outgoing Pushpa Kamal Dahal-led  government didn't introduce any new programs in the budget due to the election code of conduct. The budget was introduced  to meet the constitutional provision of unveiling the new budget on Jestha 15.

 “Lawmakers are not excited over this budget as it  merely gives continuity to policy and programs from last year. With most of the budget allocations going to local units, lawmakers would have paid little attention to the proceedings,” said UML Chief Whip Bhanu Bhakta Dhakal.

Some lawmakers have raised questions about the tradition of budget discussions in parliament turning into a mere retual. Most  lawmakers taking part in the deliberations insisted on effective implementation of the budget. 

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