Brainstorming On Budget

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During Wednesday's session of the National Assembly, Finance Minister Barshaman Pun reaffirmed the government's commitment to upholding the principles and policies to be embraced in the appropriation bill for the fiscal year 2024/25. The session featured discussions on the budget for the upcoming fiscal as well as lawmakers calling for the budget to address a range of pressing topics – such as agriculture, control of fires in settlements, construction of efficient roads and elephant terror, among others. 


They also demanded accountability regarding cooperative fraud and urged for measures to address social justice issues. Because addressing the lawmakers concerns is addressing the concerns of the people, the budget must not only incorporate them but also figure out ways to sort them out. This mandatory practice three months before the budget is tabled in the parliament deserves appreciation, for it allows everyone to have a say in the issues that matter. 


The minister, for his part, announced that the principles and priorities of the budget will strike a balance to uphold government stability, sustain successful policies, and address emerging needs, possibilities, and contextual changes. He also stressed the necessity of augmenting production and productivity to address the challenges of unemployment and youth exodus, emphasising a need to craft a budget to fortify a socialism-oriented economy and social system in line with constitutional mandates. 


There's no doubt that our budget has always been over-ambitious and crowd pleasing, but when it comes to its implementation, it has woefully failed to living up to the expectations of the people. The question of why has this been the case year after year needs serious review. This failure reflects the gap in the planning/predicting and spending accordingly. Just holding pre-budget discussions, and dragging feet at the time of its execution undermines the very principles and priorities it has embraced. 


What's more, there has been a propensity to earmark disproportionately big budget on the constituencies of influential political leaders. This practice of abusing power must stop. Budgeting mustn't stray from the fundamental principles of budget. One major way to uphold this is equitably allocating the funds based on the needs of the provincial and local governments. The budget implementation must reflect our genuine needs, and should be for greater good rather than serving a vanity project.


Another problem is the government falling short in collecting the target revenue and ballooning expenditure and liabilities. This trend has forced the government to borrow heavily to fund its expenditures. This is reflected in the increasing ratio of national debt to GDP. On the other hand, there is a chronic problem of abysmally low capital expenditure that has continued to starve the market of lifeline to fuel economic growth. Effective mechanism should be put in place to address this. 


The budget that goes a long way to improve people's lives is the need of the hour. We no longer can afford to put the serious issues – such as giving justice to usury victims and creating good paying jobs through raising the productivity of the industries as well as the people – to the backburner. In other words, the budget must be people-oriented in practice. 

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