Kathmandu: Amid economic slowdown triggered by rising inflation and constant pressure on the foreign currency reserves, Gandaki province Chief Minister Krishna Chandra Pokharel has demonstrated reckless profligacy.
Chief Minister Pokharel, an old school Nepali Congress leader, started demonstrating his lust for power right after he took office in June, 2021. He has crossed all the limits this time. The recent decision of his government to allocate millions of rupees for memorials and trusts opened in the names of parents of the ministers, including Chief Minister’s, has drawn flak from the general public, opposition parties, and even supporters of the ruling alliance.
He has allocated Rs 5 million for the Gobardhan Sharma Smriti Trust established in Tanahun in the name of his father.
Similarly, Rs 10 million has been allocated for the trust established in the name of the father and mother of Gandaki province Education Minister Mekhalal Shrestha. After the public backlash, Shrestha has asked Finance Minister Ramji Baral to withhold the budget allocated for the trust.
If our federalism is under threat from any source, it is from the self-centered working style of political leaders who spend the taxpayers’ money for personal benefits, say experts.
Also, Rs two million was allocated to construct a Smriti Park (a memorial) in the name of the father of the Nepali Congress leader of the Gandaki province Arjun Prasad Joshi. The Gandaki province government also allocated Rs two million to make a Pratisthan Bhawan in the name of the late Nepali Congress leader from Parbat district, Dilli Ram Lamichhane.
In a shameless act of being distributive, his government has allocated millions for such purposes.
This has happened at a time when the country is under serious economic strain and experts are warning the policymakers and the governments against reckless spending of state resources, amid the real fears and prospects of Nepal facing the worst economic crisis like that of Sri Lanka.
The sector to which the Gandaki Chief Minister has allocated the budget is not only unproductive but also stands as a case of flagrant misuse of the hard-earned money of the taxpayers.
The revelation that the Gandaki province is spending money like water has triggered public outrage on social media and beyond. Members from the opposition parties have demanded answers from the Chief Minister.
This is not the first time Gandaki Chief Minister has attempted to misuse taxpayers’ money for reckless spending. Pokharel’s beginning was notorious. What we are seeing now is the continuity of notoriety rampant in his actions and decisions.
Last year in June, soon after he was appointed Chief Minister of Gandaki Province, Pokharel called for the first Cabinet meeting which decided to provide services and benefits to the ex-chief ministers of the province.
In May this year, a task force was formed to forge the necessary laws to provide benefits to the ex-officials of the Gandaki province government. The task force was assigned the work to draft laws based on provisions of the services/benefits of the ex-officials in other provinces and federal government.
Too little too late
Following the public outcry, the Chief Minister has decided not to implement the plan to allocate the budget to the trust named after his father. But experts say that to even think of spending the money on such an unproductive sector amounts to a height of irresponsibility. According to them, if there had been no public outcry, they would not change their minds and this also shows the intention was to misuse the taxpayers’ money without accountability.
“They should have restrained themselves from spending in the unproductive sector considering the economic crisis the country is facing,” said Chandra Mani Adhikari, who is an economist. “Budget should not be allocated in the unproductive sector like making towers and statues. If the citizens become prosperous, they will themselves make idols, statues, and towers in the name of their respected leaders.”
According to him, such activities can have adverse impacts on the federalization process itself. “Our federal system is itself full of flaws. Such spending in unproductive sectors might lead the people to question the need for federalism itself,” he said.
Following the scandalous decision by the Gandaki province, some in social media have started to demand that provincial structures should be scrapped.