Uncertainty and rumors abound over Finance Minister Khatiwada’s fate

Task force formed to resolve disputes within ruling party suggest reshuffling Cabinet.
Yuba Raj Khatiwada

KATHMANDU: The six-member task force that was formed to resolve the dispute within the ruling Nepal Communist Party (NCP) has submitted its report to the party co-chairs. After week-long discussions related to multiple disputes that have cropped up within the party, the task force submitted its report on Saturday.

The task force has suggested multidimensional ways to settle the disputes like holding the general assembly of the party as early as possible and changing the ministers in the federal government. It has also recommended the party leaders to change the chief ministers at the provincial level, among other suggestions.

The performance of the ministers at the federal level has been questioned time and again not only by the opposition leaders but also from within the party since long. As the result, rumors regarding changing the finance minister are at surface in the NCP.

Incumbent Finance Minister Yuba Raj Khatiwada had taken an oath for the said position for his second tenure on March 4, 2020. However, he is yet to be either elected or nominated as a member of the parliament.

As per a constitutional provision, the finance minister has to be sworn in as a member of the parliament before September 3. Failing to do so within the stipulated time will automatically disqualify him to stay on as a minister.

In an interesting note, sources within the party have revealed that other leaders in the party have been putting pressure on the top brass to relieve Khatiwada from the post of finance minister as he has not been able to drive the economy as expected.

Though Khatiwada is one of the few finance ministers that the country has had who has a proper understanding of the economy and business practices, he has often come under fire for his hostile relationship with the private sector. The private sector has often complained that instead of listening to their grievances and addressing them, Khatiwada usually starts preaching about economic issues which are often ‘impractical’.

Due to the pressure that has been piling upon Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli from within the party and the private sector representatives, there are talks that the prime minister may remove Khatiwada while reshuffling the Cabinet in the near future.

However, Katiwada is PM Oli’s most loyal and trustworthy candidate in the present council of ministers. Moreover, the trend is such that the person heading the finance ministry is usually a trusted and loyal acquaintance of the prime minister.

A member of the ruling party mentioned that Khatiwada is unlikely to be removed from the Cabinet as PM Oli and some party leaders have acknowledged that though the country’s economic growth has been hit by the coronavirus pandemic, Khatiwada has done his best to ensure that the economy does not deteriorate much despite the crisis.

It is also to be noted that on the first day of his second innings, Finance Minister Khatiwada had described himself as a soldier on the battle field. “I will continue to fight unless my commander calls me back,” he had stated, which basically means that he will continue to be finance minister unless PM Oli decides otherwise.

The decision made by Prime Minister Oli to appoint Khatiwada as the finance minister took many senior leaders of the party and the general public by surprise as Khatiwada is not an active politician and was not even a lawmaker. Khatiwada has served at the central bank for approximately 30 years and was also appointed its governor. He has also served as the vice chairman of the National Planning Commission on two occasions.

When the Oli-led government was just formed senior leaders of the ruling party including Ishwar Pokhrel, who is currently serving as the deputy prime minister and defense minister, was also interested for the post of finance minister. However, PM Oli decided to appoint Khatiwada over other interested candidates.

Any strong candidate for the post?
Amid the uncertainty over whether Yuba Raj Khatiwada will continue to serve as the finance minister, many party leaders and the public are looking at two candidates who could probably fill in the slot if Khatiwada is asked to quit.

The two contenders who have a strong chance of being appointed as finance minister are Bishnu Paudel and Surendra Pandey.

Both Pauudel and Pandey have earlier served as finance ministers. Paudel, who is considered close to PM Oli, served as finance minister during the first tenure of the Oli-led government in 2015-2016.

Meanwhile, Pandey who is considered loyal to another senior party leader, Madhav Kumar Nepal, served as finance minister during the Nepal-led government.

With the economy sliding downhill due to the coronavirus pandemic, PM Oli may want a strong candidate who can coordinate with donor agencies for financial resources as the finance minister. In such a situation the prime minister has no option other than Khatiwada, however, if Paudel shows interest then he could lay a strong claim to the post.

Fiscal Nepal |
Monday August 24, 2020, 09:25:04 AM |

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *