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Finance Minister Pun defends budget allocation and tax revisions amid criticism

KATHMANDU: Finance Minister Barsha Man Pun addressed a press meet on Wednesday to discuss the newly announced budget for the fiscal year 2024/25. Minister Pun emphasized that the government did not act with prejudice while allocating funds and revising tax rates, asserting that the budget aims to usher in a new phase of economic reform.

“We have scientifically assessed the rationale of revising the tax rates on a number of headings before implementing them,” Pun stated. The government has proposed a total budget of Rs 1.860 trillion for the upcoming fiscal year. Of this amount, 61.31 percent is allocated for recurrent expenditure, and 18.94 percent (Rs 352.35 billion) is earmarked for development projects.

The budget has faced criticism for exceeding the Rs 1.8 trillion ceiling set by the National Planning Commission. Additionally, Minister Pun has been criticized for increasing tax rates on electric vehicles and other items such as onions, potatoes, petroleum products, and raw materials for iron rods. The introduction of a luxury tax on airfare and the reduction of grants for imported chemical fertilizers have also been contentious issues.

However, Pun refuted claims that the budget was influenced by any powerful groups. “The government has not formulated the budget under pressure from any influential groups. This budget is not distributive but focuses on allocating adequate funds for viable projects and those nearing completion,” he explained.

The budget allocates the largest portion of funds, Rs 203.66 billion, to the education sector, which is an increase of Rs 4.66 billion from the previous fiscal year. In contrast, budgets for six ministries, including the Ministry of Industry, Commerce and Supplies, Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock Development, Ministry of Water Supply and Sewerage Management, and ministries related to land management, tourism, and communications have been reduced. Meanwhile, more funds have been allocated to the other 12 ministries.

Minister Pun highlighted that the budget focuses on fulfilling five transformative objectives rather than spreading resources across numerous priority sectors. He noted that the government is placing significant emphasis on IT-related businesses.

Looking ahead, the government has set an ambitious goal to export IT products worth Rs 3 trillion over the next decade, reflecting its commitment to transforming Nepal into a global IT hub.

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