The countdown for the budget for the fiscal year 2001/02 (2058/59) has begun. One thing is almost certain: finance minister Ram Sharan Mahat will have few surprises concerning regular expenses. That's because the spending on budget lines like salaries, allowances, and pensions to government employees have overshot the budget. There has also been an increase in the debt-servicing bill, mainly because of the depreciation of the Nepali rupee. The government has allocated Rs 17.31 billion for payments to about 300,000 people on the public payroll, including teachers, the armed forces and the police. This amount is expected to grow to about Rs 21 billion. The government raised salaries last year, which also led to corresponding increases in allowances and pensions. Still another reason was that the number of people on the payroll was underestimated. According to a finance ministry official, last year's budget assumed there were 110,000 teachers. This number later turned out to be 145,000. The budget is also expected to shoot up due to a larger internal security bill which the Internal Defence and Security Programme (ISDP) will contribute to. Government figures say ISDP spending in seven districts will be Rs 254 million.
The total regular expenditure in last year's budget was Rs 54.31 billion. The government's ability to pay for increased security expenses will depend on its ability to collect revenue, one of the reasons troops now guard the border customs.