Kathmandu: The budget for the upcoming fiscal year 2023-24 has been already presented. The government announced the new budget on May 29 in the joint session of the Federal Parliament.
The parliamentary deliberations on the government's annual estimates of income and expenditure will be beginning on June 4. The House will be witnessing the presentations of some bills which are significant in view of implementing the federal democratic republican constitution. In connection to these expected developments, RSS talked to the National Assembly (NA) Chair Ganesh Prasad Timilsina on topics focusing on the budget, the way of its endorsement, relations between the government and parliament and the schedule of NA session. Here are the excerpts of the interview:
Q: The House will be soon starting deliberations on the budget. The tradition is that the budget gets endorsed by the House as it is following established general procedures. Is something new expected this time?
A: The established procedure is likely to be followed this time too during the budget session. We are advised to make the deliberations result-oriented. The pre-budget discussions (principles and priorities) take place 15 days before the budget announcement and this timeline does not provide a room to incorporate conclusions of the pre-budget discussions in the budget as its making process began three months earlier.
The expectation is that the deliberations make us aware of the need for improvements in the year to come. If this happens, it will build good culture in the future.
Another thing is that only two options: 'Yes' or 'No' are presented for a voice vote in the parliament before the endorsement of the budget. The endorsement procedures do not go through points-wise as in the deliberations. If budget or policy is failed, it is taken as the failure of the government. Such understanding needs to be changed. In case the budget is not endorsed, it should be understood as the need to revise the documents and should go for the amendment procedures instead of defining it as the failure of the government. When issues raised in the parliamentary discussions on the budget are not documented, it is likely to discourage the members to take part in the deliberations.
If voices came up during the deliberations get recognized, it will give results. This way is positive and will have long-term impact. When the government acknowledges the opinions of people's representatives over the budget it does not mean that it is a failure. There is some understanding to begin this culture in the days to come, let's see how it can be implemented.
Q: There is a delay in presenting some significant bills like Civil Service Bill and Federal Education Bill in the House. What are the possible causes behind this?
A: We expected some important Bills to be tabled in the last winter session. Basically, the government ought to present the Bill or either it should be presented as a private one.
The Bills that were supposed to be presented in the last session were not tabled as expected. Some were presented while some remained inactive through the process.
There was dillydallying on the part of the government to reintroduce the bill. It appeared like the government talked about introducing the bill but failed to walk the talk. There was no effectiveness in this case. Time elapsed in formation and re-formation of the government.
The incumbent government has pledged to introduce such important Bills. The pledge has come from the Prime Ministerial level too but there is less possibility of bills presented and passed in this session given the lack of preparedness for that.
There is, however, no problem to endorse the bills if they are presented in the current budget session.
Q: It is said that the public service delivery is adversely affected if there is no smooth relation between the government and the parliament. The parliament, in a real sense, exercises 'checks and balances' in terms of Executive and the Legislature. What is, according to you, the relationship like between the incumbent government and parliament?
A: Theoretically, there is no reason for the relation between the government and the parliament to turn sour. It is our responsibility to prioritize effectiveness of public service delivery for the people coordinating efforts with one another.
Scrutiny of the parliament, in fact, contributes to government's delivery. In terms of relation, the relation between the government and parliament is fairly good at present. It's just that not much attention has been paid to parliamentary business due to the formation and reformation of government.
As new ministers take office, some time might have been taken for them to understand the bills and hold consultations on the bills. Once the bills are presented in the parliament, there are ruling parties and the opposition parties airing their views for or against the bills which is a normal phenomena.
Q: The citizenship related bill which was endorsed by the earlier parliament but not assented to by the outing President has been authenticated by the sitting President on May 31 this year. What is your comment on it?
A: No comments! Many mixed comments have been made on it from outside. Many controversies were waged for and against the act. The controversy coming from its content is one thing.
Sitting President authenticating the bill during this time is also not far from controversy. It is not relevant or appropriate for me to make any remarks about it at this point of time. We are free to speak but considering the public post we are holding, there is no need to rush to speak.
Nothing is going to happen if even we speak. It is heard that this controversy is likely to reach the court. At that time, our statements will be officially sent to the court.
Q: Let us ask about a technical matter. The meetings of National Assembly are often summoned at 11:51 am, 11:15 am or at 12:59 pm, 13:01 pm. What does it signify?
A: I initiated this practice to convey the message that we should all be bound by time and be punctual. The tendency of not doing anything worthwhile and squandering time is rife in the country. Hence, this practice was put in place so as to spread the message about punctuality and respecting the time. The parliament led by the example when it comes to punctuality.
For instance, how much would it affect the country if the budget presented by the Finance Minister and its deadlines are not followed on time?
We, therefore, ring the bell and commence the meeting on time. Except for the rare occasions when we have to wait for the government ministers who run late, we start the meeting on time and we will continue this tradition.
I would like to request one and all through the RSS to follow punctuality.