Scrap the MP Fund

Adhiraj Regmi

May 26, 2020

9 MIN READ

Scrap the MP Fund
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The debate on the controversial Member of Parliament (MP) Development fund is not new to us. For the past few years, the significance of the Local Infrastructure Development Fund allocated to Members of Parliament has been debated to a certain extent.

However, the relevancy of the debate is more significant and crucial, now than ever, as the tragedy of the economic crisis is on the verge due to the mayhem induced by the global health crisis.

As the Government of Nepal prepares to table an annual budget of fiscal year 2077/78, people have remained divided regarding the subject in the political and societal spheres.

Various voices have been raging for and against the subject, both inside and outside the parliament.

Fundamentals of MP Fund

MP’s fund is an amount allotted annually to the MP through the annual budget to carry out need-based development work in their respective constituencies.

Due to persistent pressure and political coercion from the influential MPs to the Government, the discussion about the fund’s effectiveness has not received much warranted public discourse platform, let alone being discussed in the House.

Known as Member of Parliament Local Area Development (MPLAD) in India and popularly known as CDF (Constituent Development Fund) in other parliament democracies like Kenya, the money for the fund is channeled from central to electoral constituencies and spent on the project mostly influenced by Member of Parliament of that constituent.

Conception behind the implementation in Nepalese context

People who vehemently defend and ardently support the program boast that the fund will improve and strengthen the relationship between the MPs and their constituents.

In addition, they claim that this program will curtail and mitigate the central bureaucratic hassles and could prove to be a fast-track approach towards development.

MPs, who patronize the MP Development fund, also pledge that the transparencies will not be compromised and will play an instrumental role in precluding the local level corruption.

However, this is a very parochial and jaundiced approach to view the subject as it comes with the vested interest of the MPs and politician’s pork and barrel style of winning the upcoming election.

Before expounding the major drawbacks of the program, let’s first gauge the efficacy it has brought to the development works.

Due to persistent pressure and political coercion from the influential MPs to the Government, the discussion about the fund’s effectiveness has not received much warranted public discourse platform, let alone being discussed in the House.

The practice shows that MPs of Nepal have mostly exhausted the money on building temples, rest houses, funding youth clubs, and organizations to soothe their constituents and ingratiate themselves in the favor of political cadres.

It is a common outcry of people that the MP’s fund has not been able to cater to the much needed underprivileged and unprivileged sections of the society.

However, it would be an injustice to categorize all the MPs under the same bracket. But the general practice of abusing the fund with the malevolence of widening the vote bank should never be oversighted.

It is also a fact that the MP’s utilizes the fund right before the election so that the constituents will have fresh memories of the development.

In the Philippines, journalists have reported that politicians tend to hold back or save their PDAF (Philippines Development Area Fund ) funds until just before an election: “A few months before the 2004 elections, a publicist of several members of the House estimated that more than half of all congressmen had not touched their pork for projects, saving it instead for reelection purposes” (Chua and Cruz 2004).

Setbacks and Risks Induced by the MP Development Fund

Diversion of concentration from the law-making: The MP fund has directly promoted clientelism whereby MPs take votes for giving special favors through financial means.

We can see how MPs have prioritized development through funds as one of their most important responsibilities overseeing their accountability in law-making.

The most inimical impact of this diversion is that the ability of the MP or their performance measurement is gauged by their ability to spend the money in their constituencies.

Now this will directly disincentivize the MPs to transport the real problems i.e. unrelated to MP’s fund of the constituent to the Parliament for discussion.

Obstruction in the separation of Power: Separation of power is an integral part of the governance in democratic states. The power is vested into three different organs i.e. Executive, Legislature, and Judiciary abiding by the principle that the organ should be independent of each other and the organ will not perform functions that are related to the other.

We are aware of the fact that the legislature is a lawmaking body and a section that holds the executive body accountable for budget implementation and other governance rituals.

The legislature is where rules are determined but they don’t have to play the game which is a major separation of executive and legislature.

The budget should be discussed, evaluated, recommended on the structure by the legislative body but should not have any direct involvement in the implementation process.

The existence of this program defies the core principle of the separation of power as the legislature has seized the powers of the executive by indulging themselves in the implementation of development works.

Other Hindrances: In countries like Nepal, India and Pakistan, funds are equally distributed to all the constituencies. This means richer constituents will also receive the same amount as the amount received by poorer constituents and this has regressive effects. The poor constituents may require more attention and more funds to lead the country towards equitable and proportionate development by bridging the inequality chasm.

It is a common outcry of people that the MP’s fund has not been able to cater to the much needed underprivileged and unprivileged sections of the society.

The current practices of the implementation of funds have blatantly undermined the national priority projects as the program ineptly focuses on the projects of lesser urgency and significance.

This is because of MP’s vested interest towards garnering voters’ attention and enamoring its own base rather than converting the fund to some concrete output. Communal based projects have also unfairly gained traction excluding communities with lesser significance in their vote bank.

Given the gravity of the Covid-19 situation, the fund can be directed to initiate stimulus and economic relief packages to revive and sustain the repercussions of the inevitable economic crisis.

Now when we have many three tiers of government in place, MP’s fund also interferes with the involvement of federal and local institution’s development progress and creates a lot of ambiguity.

Sustainability and Meeting Grounds

The incumbent finance minister, Dr. Yubraj Khatiwada, has this historic opportunity and wonderfully relevant excuse to put an end to the continuity of the brazen misutilization of the limited resources of the Government of Nepal.

By abolishing this program, the central government can allocate the funds to the local level government. Since, now, the local level governments can themselves select the projects, the central government can actively support to draft their priorities and facilitate them to assess their competitive advantage and identify underdeveloped sectors to best utilize the fund.

Given the gravity of the Covid-19 situation, the fund can be directed to initiate stimulus and economic relief packages to revive and sustain the repercussions of the inevitable economic crisis.

The mounting pressure from the own ruling party to support the continuity of the MP’s Fund may dissuade Dr. Khatiwada to take this action but his one revolutionary decision can turn out to be an important ointment to the Nepalese Economy.

Nepalese citizens will be forever indebted to his audacious decision and will leave an indelible impression if he succeeds to abrogate the program.

The political nexus should be broken and the idea of appeasing the cadres should be rejected to discontinue this principally and practically imprudent concept for the well-being and betterment of the nation. Do we want our MPs to be our lawmakers or contractors?

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