Editorial: Why Janardan Sharma must go
Finance Minister Janardan Sharma’s open involvement of vested interests in the budget-making process—as first reported in Annapurna Post, our sister publication—is inexcusable. Late in the night before the budget-presentation, Sharma, as reported, invited a pair of outsiders into his chambers in the ministry. He then asked finance ministry officials present there to “lock the door”. The minister said the two guests were “tax experts” who were authorized to tweak tax rates “on my behalf”. While the identity of one guest has been disclosed (he was a former finance minister official himself), the identity of the second guest remains unknown.
This behavior of Finance Minister Sharma is wrong on multiple fronts. One, when the budget is being finalized, no third person is allowed any access to it in order to prevent vested interests from influencing (and profiting from) the country’s economic blueprint. Two, it is not for the minister or his proxies to dictate tax rates, which should rather be set by senior ministry officials–all experts in the field–after widespread deliberations and careful cost-benefit analysis. But Sharma effectively ‘outsourced’ budget-making.
Following the Annapurna Post report, the ministry’s spokesperson put out a lame statement that does not in any way absolve Minister Sharma of his financial crimes. There cannot be two ways about it: Either Sharma has to credibly refute the allegations against him or he must resign. His highly irresponsible actions that directly affect the lives and livelihoods of 30m Nepalis merits no less. This is not the first time Sharma has been in controversy in recent times. A few months ago Sharma (successfully) lobbied with the government to sack Nepal Rastra Bank Governor Maha Prasad Adhikari when the latter tried to stop a business group from illegally sending money abroad. (The Supreme Court later overturned the sacking.)
His shambolic 11 months in office make it clear that Minister Sharma has little knowledge about running the country’s economy and even less compunction about abusing his office for personal gains. About time he was replaced by someone more qualified for the job on both these counts.
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