UML's Rawal and finance minister exchange barbs over grant hike

Published On: February 10, 2018 09:10 AM NPT By: Republica  | @RepublicaNepal

Second tranche distribution deadline extended till mid-April 

KATHMANDU, Feb 10: A meeting of the National Reconstruction Authority's (NRA) steering committee chaired by the prime minister turned tense on Friday after CPN-UML Vice Chairman Bhim Rawal and Finance Minister Gyanendra Bahadur Karki engaged in a heated exchange over the government's recent decision to increase the housing grant. 

At the meeting, Rawal, in the capacity of the vice-chair of the steering committee from the opposition party, expressed his deep resentment over the decision by Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba to increase the grant amount 'without following due procedures'. 

"Rawal was of the view that the government should have had discussed the issue at the steering committee before making the decision from the cabinet," said an NRA official, who was present at the meeting held at the prime minister's official residence, Baluwatar. 

Similarly, he also accused the ruling party of hampering the reconstruction efforts by allowing its Chief Executive Officer Govindra Raj Pokharel to contest the elections and frequently changing the NRA leadership.  

As Rawal was about to finish his comments, Finance Minister Karki, who was late for the meeting, entered the meeting hall and tried to defend the grant hike decision. Karki said that the grant hike decision was made as the previous amount was not sufficient for building a house. He also challenged Rawal and his party to go to the public against the decision if they think that the government made a wrong decision. 

 Then, an angry Rawal interfered and said, "Please don't talk big just because you are in the minister's chair. And don't think that you don't have to follow due procedures just because you are a minister. You and your government cannot make any decision by bypassing due procedures and law."

"After this, both of them had a heated exchange. Later, Prime Minister Deuba had to intervene," the official said. 

Prime Minister Deuba told Rawal that the government's decision will provide huge relief to the earthquake victims who have already suffered a lot due to delayed reconstruction works.

"The prime minister argued that the decision was made as per his party's earlier commitment. He said that his party had called for increasing the housing grant even when it was in the opposition. He also said that the World Bank has pledged to provide loan for the grant," the official said.  

Later, the steering committee decided to extend the deadline for the earthquake victims to receive the second tranche of Rs 150,000 till mid-April. 

The deadline for the quake victims to receive the second tranche expired three weeks ago, depriving almost 70 per cent of the eligible victims of the reconstruction grant. 

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