Against Doling Out More Funds To CDP : Nandalal Tiwari

With the fiscal budget in the offing for 2015/2016, lawmakers representing the different political parties have been lobbying for increasing the budget for the Constituency Development Programme (CDP) from the existing Rs. 10 million to Rs. 50 million. Lawmakers elected under the first-past-the-post (FPTP), known as direct election, are at the front lobbying for the increment while those lawmakers elected under the proportional representative (PR) system have also been seeking an equal amount as the directly elected lawmakers have had an upper hand in mobilising the resources allocated for the CDP.

Even last year, the lawmakers had demanded Rs. 50 million for the CDP while the Finance Ministry was unwilling to do so as there was already a Constituency Development Fund (CDF), under which Rs. 1 million was provided to the lawmakers to spend on development works in their respective constituencies. The Finance Ministry had finally agreed to allocate Rs. 10 million for the CDP.

No assessment

Now, after a year, there has not been any assessment of the impact of the CDP on the development efforts of the government, and the lawmakers are demanding that the amount be increased. However, there are reports that the Rs. 10 million provided for the CDP has been useful more for spending the budget through the cadres of the given political party which the lawmaker represents. Although the budget was utilised through the District Development Committee, the directly elected lawmakers gave directives overruling the DDC.

If Rs. 50 million is provided to each of the 601 lawmakers, a sum of Rs. 30 billion will be gone for small-scale development projects. Even if the amount is allocated for only 240 electoral constituencies, a sum of Rs. 10.4 billion will have to be set aside for normal development activities. Whether it is Rs. 30 billion or 10 billion, the amount is high, particularly at this time when the available national resources have to be channelised to rebuilding the infrastructure devastated by the April 25 earthquake.

ne of the obvious harms of providing sums for the CDP is it puts the existing system/institution vis-à-vis an individual/ politician. If a great sum of budget is allocated for such programmes, in which the politician or the lawmaker overrules the system through his/her directive, it will surely weaken the institution and idolise the lawmaker. This will ultimately lead to 'vote for me and I'll build you a road' politics. People will not think of the system or the institution but run after the individual or politician no matter how corrupt the practices are. As a result, this will also jeopardise democracy as only the winners will have their say in the development process.

According to a report (2069 BS) of the Auditor General, in districts like Baglung, Surkhet, Sindhupalchowk, Palpa and Banke, some portion of the CDF was used to pay the school teachers' salary while in Syangja it was also used to fund an NGO. In Rautahat it was mobilised for constructing a building for an NGO. Such a situation has led to a pile of arrears with the Local Development Ministry, and there is no way this can be cleared. It is likely that we will have such reports regarding the CDP as well.

It is understandable why the lawmakers are demanding so vast amounts. They have made promises to their electorates, which need to be fulfilled. There is no practice of seeking suggestions from the lawmakers during budget preparation. During the pre-budget session, things are presented as fait accompli. Only a few influential leaders can have their say incorporated in the budget. Otherwise, there is no way in which a lawmaker can tell his/her electorate that this or that project of his/her constituency has been included in the Red Book.

Such a situation is really frustrating for the lawmakers.

Moreover, at the centre, whether it is in the constitution-making process or in any other process of policy making, the lawmakers have no real job, only some influential leaders make the decisions. The lawmakers are becoming just a rubber stamp of their parties, party whips or decisions. What can we expect the lawmaker to do in such a helpless situation for them?

However, it is not the lawmakers who should be looking into the development projects, it is the government. Lawmakers are for making laws and policies and thus strengthening the system. But, we are having a different scenario. The lawmakers are running after the development budget as if they represent the different development projects, not the political parties.

As the lawmakers are ex-officio members of a DDC, which approximately has an annual budget of a billion rupees, they could have exerted pressure to increase the budget for the DDC so that they could mobilise the budget for the development of their constituencies at the district level.

Donor dependent

Ours is a country whose development budget/capital expenditure is dependent on foreign grants or loans, and the annual revenue just meets the current expenditure/salaries of the government employees and loan/interest payment. This is what the lawmakers have tried to ignore. They have also failed to understand that their demand will cut the budget for any big hydro or other project under construction. This will simply exert pressure to seek more loans from foreign countries or financial institution.

Moreover, at this time when the nation must focus on reconstruction of quake-damaged public infrastructure such as schools, the lawmakers should not be asking for any increment in the CDP budget. Given the fact that any budget allocated for the CDP is likely to be used improperly, the Finance Ministry must take a bold step not to increase the budget for the CDP. Otherwise the trend of forming a users' committee consisting of one's cadres and spending money through it will flourish, in which only party cadres will reap benefit, not the eople.

 

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