Pork-barrel politics in provinces too

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Kathmandu, June 17

As feared, provincial governments have followed in the footsteps of the federal government to promote pork-barrel politics by extending grants to electoral constituencies.

At least four provinces have allocated funds for development of infrastructure based on recommendations made by provincial assembly members, provincial budget documents for the next fiscal released on Friday show. These provincial programmes will cost the taxpayers Rs 3.22 billion in fiscal 2018-19.

Consolidating vote banks?

Province Number of provincial constituencies Allocation for infra projects in constituencies
Province 1 56 Rs 1.12bn
Province 2 64 Rs 1.12bn
Province 5 52 Rs 870m
Province 7 32 Rs 640m

Province 1 has allocated the largest amount, i.e. Rs 1.12 billion, for projects that were selected by provincial assembly members. Provincial assembly members elected directly from each constituency of Provinces 1, 5 and 7 will choose projects in their respective constituencies to spend the earmarked budget.

Thaneshwor Gautam, finance secretary of Province 5, said PA members had to choose physical infrastructure projects in their electoral constituencies that could create a synergic impact on the economy. In Province 5, a large chunk of the budget worth Rs 705 million under the projects recommended by PA members has been earmarked for roads.

However, in Province 2, directly elected PA members can select projects worth up to Rs 5 million in their respective electoral constituencies after taking consent of elected representatives of the local bodies. Similarly, every PA member (including those elected through proportional representation) can select projects worth up to Rs 2.5 million in their electoral constituencies.

Former commerce secretary Rameshwore Prasad Khanal said such a practice would neither strengthen democracy nor ensure efficient utilisation of funds.

“It will promote pork-barrel politics at the sub-national level, which is a pity for the country that has recently started implementing the federal system.”

According to Khanal, it will not be easy to scrap this practice in coming years even if the programmes that are started in the next fiscal don’t bring positive results. However, he highlighted that the oversight agencies can play a strong role in bringing effectiveness in the physical infrastructure projects selected by lawmakers.

Although the idea of building physical infrastructure in electoral constituencies sounds noble, past experience shows that most of the money earmarked for the programmes go towards securing the respective politician’s vote bank or construction of pet projects, which have the little developmental impact.

This was one of the reasons why many had called on the federal government to scrap the programme. Despite these calls, the central government decided to give away Rs 40 million to each electoral constituency in the next fiscal under the Local Infrastructure Development Partnership Programme. This programme alone will cost the federal government Rs 6.6 billion, as there are 165 electoral constituencies in the country.

If the funds allocated by four out of the seven provinces for the same purpose are added to the amount allotted for LIDPP then the budget for pork-barrel politics will surge to Rs 9.82 billion.

Experts hope that local bodies will not follow the same trend. If they do follow this pork-barrel politics the trend will likely seep down to the ward level.

Written by Sureis
This news first appeared on https://thehimalayantimes.com/business/pork-barrel-politics-in-provinces-too/ under the title “Pork-barrel politics in provinces too”. Bolchha Nepal is not responsible or affiliated towards the opinion expressed in this news article.