Nepal passes budget despite row
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KATHMANDU, Nov 21 AFP
November 21 2012, 07:31AM
Nepal's annual budget has been passed after months of delays caused by the failure of its main parties to agree on a way out of the political deadlock that has crippled the deeply-divided nation.
The move follows an announcement earlier on Tuesday that the country will hold polls to elect a new parliament in April or May next year.
President Ram Baran Yadav on Tuesday said he had approved a 300-billion-rupee ($A39.57 million) blueprint forwarded by the Maoist-led caretaker government which was modelled on last year's expenditure and covers only essential costs.
"The president approved the budget ordinance proposed by the government. The budget is without new policies and programs," Rajendra Dahal, Yadav's spokesman told AFP.
"It amounts to two thirds of the total expenditure made by the previous government," he said.
Nepal has been run by a caretaker government since the collapse in May of an interim assembly that had failed in its main task - drawing up a new constitution following a 10-year civil war that ended in 2006.
The country has been surviving on a four-month emergency budget since the government failed to get its budget for 2012/2013 rubber-stamped by the head of state.
The funds ran out last week, leaving 500,000 teachers, police, soldiers and other public-sector workers facing the prospect of missing out on their pay packets in mid-December.
The president had said he wanted all-party support for the budget but eventually approved it in the face of opposition politicians who said they would block the budget unless they were guaranteed Maoist Prime Minister Baburam Bhattarai's resignation.
An alliance of 18 opposition parties released a statement on Tuesday, saying they would continue to campaign against the budget.
"If the current coalition government is allowed to present the budget, it will help the government become authoritarian," they said in a statement.
"We have put forward the notion of bringing out the full budget through a national unity government, which in turn will ensure the constitution can be written."
An estimated 16,000 people died in the 1996-2006 "people's war" fought by the Maoists against the state before the rebels turned to politics and swept to power in elections two years later.
Political infighting, which included a split in the ruling Maoist party earlier this year, has confounded efforts to implement a post-conflict peace plan.
"We have generously accepted the budget prepared by the previous government to save the country from a possible economic crisis. Opposition parties should be happy over our move rather than criticising it," finance minister Barsha Man Pun told reporters.