The office of the President has been in the news, and not for inspiring reasons. It wants more expensive and luxury cars at the cost of tax payers’ money, and more space by removing Nepal Police Academy from its current location. The government is all set to buy a set of expensive luxury cars, amounting to Rs 180 million, for the president. The Ministry of Finance has already allocated budget to that effect. The story does not end here. The government is also preparing to shift Nepal Police Academy elsewhere to expand the president’s office. Meanwhile, it has also been found that iconic building of Shital Niwas, where president’s office has been housed, was donated to the government back in 1950s by Krishna Shumsher Rana, son of Rana Prime Minister Chandra Shumsher, to use it as the state guesthouse. Those familiar to donation story argue that the government should be sensitive toward the wishes of the generous donor. Concerns have been raised about the “hidden ambitions” of ceremonial president in the name of building helipad and other facilities.
There is no denying that the office of the president should be equipped with all the reasonable facilities it deserves. The question here is at what cost? If Nepal Police Academy is shifted from that place, where will it be relocated? Or can there be alternative to this proposal? Why does the government have to pour in billions to purchase luxury vehicles while plenty of luxury cars, including those used by former kings of Nepal, are gathering dusts in various garages of government ministries? Evidence shows that we have been spending way too much for the luxury vehicles. In the last one decade, the state has spent over 54 billion rupees for the sake of purchasing luxury vehicles for VVIPs. Even more worrying is these cars, which can be used for as many as 20 years, are changed within the period of just few years. Every new prime minister, new president and new ministers tend to buy new vehicles just after assuming office. This reflects on the tendency of the state actors to spend public money as they wish.
At a time when the state is struggling to manage resources to keep federal structures up and running, spending on luxury of the president does not make any sense. President Bidya Devi Bhandari, in the recent times, has been criticized for displaying royalist tendencies in her dealings with commoners. People in social media have started to describe her as a naya maharani, new queen. If the office of the ceremonial president set the example of thrift, it would uphold the dignity of the institution for which people sacrificed with blood and sweat and would also salvage the image of the person inhabiting that office at the moment: Bidya Devi Bhandari. The government of Nepal needs to review the decision that might tarnish its own image and the image of the institution it is purportedly trying to serve by reckless spending.