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Ripe for abuse

Ripe for abuse

Is it disappointing, though hardly surprising, that our new parliamentarians are lobbying hard for the continuation of the controversial Constituency Development Fund (CDF). Previous governments used to allocate funds to MPs—which swelled to Rs 30 million for each during the tenure of the previous par­liament—that were meant for the development of their respective constituencies. They each got an addition­al Rs 5 million, for similar purpose, under a separate Parliament Development Fund. Tellingly, these outlays would be spent at the sole discretion of individual MPs. Most of the funds were predictably misused, which is why they became wildly unpopular.


But the new MPs are now lobbying not just for the continuation of the arrangement, but they also want the allotted amount under the CDF to increase over three-fold, to Rs 100 million each. If the government bows down to their demand, and it seems to be con­sidering doing so, it will cost the exchequer at least Rs 3 billion a year. This is indefensible, for multiple reasons. Now that the country has fully embraced federalism, there are separate budgets for individual provinces and local units. Moreover, any of their budget shortfalls will be met by the central government. There is thus no justification for giving individual MPs such discretion­ary spending power.


These self-serving acts of our MPs and ministers also suggest that they are in politics primarily to make mon­ey, and not to serve the people, a perception that adds to public cynicism about their government. This is an unhealthy development for a budding democracy. Of course, this doesn’t imply that our MPs should not earn enough or that all of them are crooks. But they already make plenty. The basic monthly salary of a federal MP alone is Rs 55,000. When other bonuses are added, the final take-home pay is well above Rs 100,000. How much more do the MPs of a country with a monthly per capita income of less than Rs 8,500 need?


The new government of KP Sharma Oli has of late made some courageous decisions in public interest, for instance in its refusal to budge against the long-en­trenched transport syndicates. Its strong stand against interference in Nepal’s internal affairs by other coun­tries and institutions is also laudable. It is doing a good job in foreign policy too. Now it should have the cour­age to refuse this selfish and unjustified demand of the federal MPs. If it can do so, there would be no bigger proof of its commitment to public service.