Ruling side pressurizing for a popular budget, will the finance minister bring a balanced budget?
At present, the government is busy preparing the budget for the Fiscal Year 2078/79. Leaders and cadres of CPN-UML, who are supporters of Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli, have put pressure on Finance Minister Bishnu Poudel to bring the budget according to the party’s spirit. They have put pressure on Finance Minister Poudel to bring the budget as provided in the party’s manifesto. Assessing that the current Oli-led government may be the last, the Finance Minister is under intense pressure to bring a popular budget.
PM Oli is also expected to increase the size of the budget for popularity. PM Oli has already said in a public program that the old age allowance will be increased. Therefore, it is almost sure that the old age allowance will be increased in this budget. In addition, there is a strong possibility of a scattered budget in other areas as well.
This is the second budget that Finance Minister Poudel is going to announce. He became finance minister after the earthquake and the blockade. During his first term, he had increased the old age allowance from Rs 1,000 to Rs 2,000. The salaries of the then employees had also increased by 20 percent. The number of elderly people which did not increase last year due to corona, is expected to increase this time. Last year, the then Finance Minister Dr. Yuvaraj Khatiwada was sharply criticized for bringing the budget against the party’s sentiments while announcing the budget for the current fiscal year. He was not liked from within the party.
Leaders of the CPN-UML have put pressure on Finance Minister Poudel to bring the budget on the basis of the party’s manifesto. The CPN (UML) had made public its manifesto in Baishakh, 2074 BS with the commitment and determination to build a prosperous and strong Nepal during the local elections. In the manifesto, it is said that the budget should be brought in such a way that the national aspiration of ‘Prosperous Nepal, Happy Nepali’ is included. Similarly, to raise Nepal to the level of a prosperous nation within 25 years, to raise it to the level of a middle-income country within 10 years. And the manifesto further states that within the next five years, the previously announced resolution to rise above the status of underdeveloped nations will be fulfilled. Similarly, the declaration states that the work of infrastructure and market promotion will be taken forward to attract 5 million tourists in 10 years.
On one hand, there is pressure on Finance Minister Poudel to bring a popular budget and on the other hand, the Finance Minister himself had instructed all the ministries to demand the budget only for large, ambitious and non-budgetary projects. Finance Minister Poudel had also reduced the size of the budget saying that there would be problems in raising resources due to the infection of corona virus and the government would not be able to spend capital as required.
The task of bringing the budget in balance with the pressure of the PM and all sectors seems very challenging for Finance Minister Poudel. Similarly, most of the organizations have already given suggestions for the preparation of the budget for the coming fiscal year. Nepal Automobile Dealers Association (NADA) has already given its suggestions. Suggestions from private sector, business organizations, FNCCI, CNI, Nepal Chamber of Commerce and others are yet to come.
The government had urged all organizations, intellectuals, civil society and stakeholders to send suggestions for the preparation of the budget by Baishakh 5, 2078 B.S. After the request of the government, the concerned bodies have already sent suggestions and some suggestions are yet to come.
The Ministry of Finance had requested to review the budget, legal reforms, policy arrangements in the non-tax revenue system and make suggestions based on value added tax, income tax, excise duty, education service fee and others. The National Planning Commission has set a budget ceiling of Rs 1.69 trillion for the coming year. The Ministry of Finance is preparing the budget in the same vein.