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PM in trouble over budget leak

world Updated: Jul 17, 2011 01:30 IST
Utpal Parashar

Leakage of the country's annual budget is the latest headache for Nepal Prime Minister Jhalanath Khanal who's battling controversies since coming to power in February.

Deputy PM and finance minister Bharat Mohan Adhikari presented a NRs 385 billion (Rs 240 billion) budget on Friday night but issues other than its contents is the reason for the present controversy.

Budget details getting leaked in local media before its actual presentation led Parliament to appoint a seven-member committee to probe the matter and submit a report before July 23.

Adhikari's budget speech was delayed by a day due to pressure from Madhesi parties from the Terai belt over inclusion of their demands. But confusion over its presentation led to the leak.

Besides newspapers and television channels airing its contents hours in advance, the finance ministry website also posted the entire budget even as Adhikari was going through his speech.

Acrimonious scenes were witnessed inside the parliament during the budget speech as opposition benches questioned its presentation since details were already known by the public.

"Leakage of budget is a serious financial crime. The PM has lost moral ground to remain in office," said senior Nepali Congress leader and former finance minister Ram Sharan Mahat.

In a special front page editorial on Saturday, The Himalayan Times held Adhikari "primarily accountable" for the leak and suggested that he should step down immediately.

"It's a serious violation of fiscal discipline and our party demands a thorough probe," said Maoist Vice Chairman Baburam Bhattarai who's party is the dominant partner in the ruling coalition.

Already facing threat to his position over slow progress in completing the peace process and drafting of the new constitution, the budget leak has given another arsenal to Khanal's detractors to target him.