13 January 2019: Nepalese lawmaker Minendra Rijal has accused the government of turning the presidential office into another “royal palace” by offering to spend tens of millions of dollars on luxury vehicles and a helicopter.
Speaking in the parliament on Sunday, Dr Rijal damned Nepalese government’s decision to buy luxury cars for President Bidya Devi Bhandari by spending 180 million Nepalese rupees (approximately $2 million) and a helicopter that would cost the impoverished nation a whopping 1.5 billion rupees (approximately $18 million) – undoubtedly rich for a country where the vast majority earn less than one hundred dollars a month.
A flurry of media reports in recent months about the rising costs of the Office of the President of Nepal have contributed to the disillusionment of the Nepalese public who expected things to be less opulent following the declaration of republic. They hoped the pomp and luxury of the erstwhile monarchy was gone but the recent news reports have prompted the country’s Facebook users to liken the president to a queen.
Speaking in the parliament on Sunday, opposition parliamentarian Dr Rijal reminded the government that “luxurious service and facilities” will not strengthen the new republic.
He reminded the government that the Nepalese people want to give facilities to the president in commensurate with their economic status and capacity – “not to build another palace”. The Nepali Congress leader was referring to the Narayanhiti Palace which ex-king Gyanendra Shah left on 11 June 2008 after Nepal officially became a federal republic.
The complaints of the Nepalese public and politicians come at a curious time when, not far from Nepal, Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan is currently driving an austerity campaign by selling luxury cars and helicopters owned by the government.