Lawmakers are desperately clamouring for the rise of the constituency development fund from the current Rs 1 million to as high as Rs 50 million in the new budget.
There are already palpable concerns over the massive misuse of the money currently being provided to them. So, not surprisingly, their latest demands for a staggering 50 times increment in the development funds has drawn scathing criticism from various quarters of society.
There is not any solid ground to believe that doling out more money to the Constituent Assembly (CA) members, which will cost the state Rs 12 billion annually, would prove fruitful.
Currently, the budget meant for lawmakers is channelized through District Development Committees (DDCs) and it is supposed to be spent on the projects as proposed by them.
But, the money has long been embezzled by the lawmakers and their private coteries under different pretentions. And, the prolonged absence of elected local bodies is just giving them a complete carte blanche to engage in manipulation.
It is an open secret that Nepali political parties are smitten with illicit money. The Transparency International has also already endorsed this poignant fact by project such parties as the most corrupt institution in the country.
So, the conjecture that their demand for increased funds is more about fulfilling their own petty personal and partisan interest is valid.
They are saying that there will be a separate monitoring mechanism consisting of those elected under the proportional method to oversee the spending of funds received by them.
However, whether such mechanism will really work is questionable given the entrenched tradition of misappropriating the bucks meant for development among the local politicians.
The all-party mechanism at the local level government was widely defamed for misusing such money and the Commission for Investigation of Abuse of Authority (CIAA) had to intervene to dismantle such shady structure in 2011.
Currently, there has been talk about providing money to the lawmakers elected via direct system. But the chances that the CA members elected through proportional method (who outnumber those elected directly) not agreeing to the idea are simply high. There are only 240 lawmakers elected directly while the number of those representing through proportional system stands at a whopping 335
The lawmakers elected indirectly could also warn not to support endorse the next fiscal year's budget if they do not receive development fund like the directly elected ones. The government has to arrange Rs 30 billion in order to give all lawmakers Rs 50 million each.
This will only put a further strain on the already weak economy.
The reckless increment in the constituency development fund may also invite development disparity across the country. When the entire Karnali zone with five constituencies gets only Rs 250 million, the amount of the same fund received by the Jhapa district with seven constituencies alone stands at a whopping Rs 350 million.
According to the recently unveiled Human Development Report, Karnali is the poorest region in terms of human development while Jhapa is a relatively well-off district.
If the former gets less financial resource than the latter, a balanced development of the country will continue to be elusive.
Despite valid concerns over the possible misuse of fund and development disparity, the lawmakers of ruling parties-Nepali Congress and CPN (UML)- are hell-bent to grab Rs 50 million each.
So much so, the Nepali Congress (NC), also the party of the finance minister, has even formally in favour of indiscriminate increase of the fund.
The Finance Ministry officials not only admit the possibility of misuse of fund but also confess their compulsion to comply with their chief's order. "What can we do when the Finance Minister’s party itself wants such increment," they say in a helpless tone.