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PM Oli and his close aides manipulate the new budget plan. Here’re 5 instances

The government, on May 29, released the budget plan for the next fiscal year which was hailed by a lot of sectors. The budget has allocated funds to the health sector to tackle Covid-19 while education has been given priority while pork barrel funds have been cancelled for the fiscal year.

Even though many have applauded the government over this, there have been a few who have said that the budget is incredibly favourable for PM KP Sharma Oli and his aides. Officials who drafted budget plans in the past have even gone on to say that ministers and politicians even try to manipulate the budget to fit their needs. The manipulation happens primarily to appease their local constituency where they can claim they were the reason why the budget was allocated to a certain project.

But, this year things were different because Oli had dissolved the House of Representatives and there were requests to the government to draft a temporary budget as elections have been called for November. Former finance ministers had also asked the government to not draft a budget that would affect the polls.

The government, however, did the exact opposite. Not only did it draft a budget to look good in the eyes of the public, but the budget also has programmes in constituencies of politicians close to Oli.

Bishnu Paudel: My ministry, my budget

“This budget has been highly manipulated by politicians and businessmen close to Oli. It’s a joke,” says Bimal Koirala, former chief secretary at the Office of the Prime Minister.

He is not saying this out of malice. He has proof.

In the budget, Finance Minister Bishnu Paudel has listed over a dozen programmes in his constituency, Rupandehi. Most of them are limited to the district’s sub-metropolitan city, Butwal. The budget has been set aside to put all the electricity wires underground, to start an in vitro fertilisation (IVF) service in government hospitals in the area, to complete the Narayanghat-Butwal road section, to design and construct the Butwal-Kohalpur road section and to make a detailed project report for the construction of Butwal Medical College.

The plan also includes studying the possibility of a tunnel to shorten the distance between Kathmandu and Butwal and starting work to construct a transmission line between Butwal, Lamahi, Kohalpur and Attariya. Construction of a wholesale farmer’s market and an industrial estate is also on the cards, according to the budget.

The budget has also been set aside to turn Lumbini into a smart city and making proper infrastructures (sewage, drinking water pipeline, park, bus park) in cities like Siddhartha Nagar.

A depot to accommodate 2,000 trucks in Belhiya is also listed in the budget along with a centralised testing centre in Bhairahawa and Nepalgunj. Conversation plans of protected areas and rivers are also listed on the budget.

Taking help from international experts to create a master plan to transform Butwal and Bhairahawa into megacities has also been included along with a construction of a cricket stadium.

A lot of economists have said that Paudel has heavily favoured his constituency and district while framing the budget.

KP Sharma Oli: My government, my budget

Things are similar in Jhapa too. Like last year, Prime Minister Oli’s home district has received a good budget for the forthcoming fiscal year for projects like an international stadium and a city park.

The plan states that the government will be allocating a budget for the construction of Madan Bhandari Stadium. The stadium was initially being constructed in Kamal rural municipality and was going to be named Adiwasi Janajati Stadium. After widespread criticism, Oli has said he will construct an international level stadium elsewhere and a budget has been set aside for it.

Infrastructure developments around the industrial estate in Damak, a multi-storey bus park, a city park and a children’s recreational centre have also received considerable budgets. Oli’s home district has also received budgets on a lot of different projects that aim at developing the district.

The budget has also paved the way for a petroleum pipeline from Siliguri in India to Mechi Nagar in Nepal.

Shankar Pokhrel: Dang it!

Like Jhapa and Rupandehi, districts in western Nepal especially Dang, Banke and Palpa have also received importance in the budget.

Dang is Lumbini Chief Minister Shankar Pokhrel’s home district. Analysts believe that Dang received a good chunk of the budget because Pokhrel is close to Oli.

Plans are in place to construct an airport, an industrial estate and a cricket stadium in the district. An irrigation project has also received a good budget along with the plan to make Tulasipur a smart city.

Bishnu Paudel’s former constituency, Palpa, has also got a good chunk from the budget especially for infrastructure development, particularly roads and bridges.

National pride projects like Sikta Irrigation Project, Babai Irrigation Project, Bheri Bhabai Diversion Project, Bhairahawa International Airport and Lumbini Development Trust have also received budgets they always got in the past few years.

Gokul Baskota and Mahesh Basnet also get shares

Oli’s close aides Gokul Baskota and Mahesh Basnet, whose constituencies are Kavre and Bhaktapur respectively, have also received a good amount.

Funds are being set aside for a DPR for the construction of a government hospital near Changunarayan of Bhaktapur. The budget stated that that the project should he completed in the next three years. The budget has paved the way to turn this project in to a national pride project in the future.

A project which aims to build a four-lane road along the banks of the Manohara river has also received budget.

Paudel also announced that the government would spend money and start a National Academy for Cancer Research and include Bhaktapur Cancer Hospital, Sushil Koirana Cancer Hospital and BP Koirala Cancer Hospitals as its subordinate bodies.

A shelter for women who are suffering or have suffered from domestic violence is also being constructed in Bhaktapur along with a juvenile detention centre for kids. The detention centre will also be established in Morang, Kaski, Tanahun and Banke.

A plan to install a drinking water pipeline in Bhaktapur was also announced in the budget. Rs 4.49 billion has been set aside for this project.

A further Rs 1.55 billion has been set aside for the construction of a special economic zone in Panchkhal in Kavre along with Madan Bhandari Science and Technology University.

Paudel on Saturday also announced that the government would also construct a movie studio in Banepa along with the construction of basic infrastructures for moviemaking.

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Ghimire is a senior business journalist at Onlinekhabar.

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