NFA (KATHMANDU, 5 July 2022) – The Finance Minister, Janardan Sharma, presented the budget for fiscal year 2089-80 in the House of Representatives on May 29th, as provided in the constitution. Since the budget’s presentation was the sole responsibility of the Finance Minister, none thought otherwise, and shouldn’t have thought otherwise.
But, when a Nepali vernacular daily, The Annapurna Post, published a report reiterating that Finance Minister Sharma had involved cronies to alter tax rates in the budget just a few hours before the budget was presented in Parliament, it raised serious questions.
And, it has been over a month since the government has not spoken about this serious financial offense committed by the Finance Minister. The Finance Minister, Sharma, has been constantly denying the report and the Prime Minister has maintained silence. Despite widespread pressure to take action against Minister Sharma, the Prime Minister has done nothing; rather, his silence has clearly borne the brunt of the blame.
This policy-level corruption, serious in nature, seems to be a part of a larger mission to misuse the state coffers for the petty interests of certain political and business circles. And it is clear that Finance Minister Sharma carried out that mission. If the silence of the Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba and the Chairman of the Nepal Communist Party (Unified), Puspa Kamal Dahal, is any indication, it doesn’t require other proof to reach the conclusion that there was a big game plan purported by vested groups.
Instead of making public the CCTV footage of that day-night, Minister Sharma has been threatening those who have raised a genuine issue. Leaders of the main opposition, CPN (UML), intellectuals, experts in finance and common people have been demanding a parliamentary probe into that case. They have also asked the minister, Sharma, to resign to facilitate the investigation process.
The finger is now pointing at Prime Minister Deuba and Prachanda, who have remained silent on such a serious financial offense.
Hence, this case should be seen from three angles.
First, involving an outsider to alter the tax rates in the budget draft is a serious financial crime, which is objectionable. And, it shouldn’t be left uninvestigated. The government should immediately form a committee to probe the alleged role of the Finance Minister. As the leader of the main opposition, KP Sharma Oli, demanded a parliamentary investigation while speaking in parliament, a team should be announced with a clear mandate.
Second, the silence of the Prime Minister or the defense of this financial crime is also a crime. Therefore, the Prime Minister should be held equally accountable for this offense and he should clarify his position in parliament. If he protects Finance Minister Sharma, his resignation should be sought.
Third, this coalition government aiming to sideline the CPN-UML has pushed Nepal into a deep plunge economically and geopolitically. The Deuba government proved that it doesn’t work for its people and nation. Such a comfortable government for foreigners should be shown the exit way as soon as possible.