Populist Government’s Bumper Offer to Media Houses

Populist Prime Minister Dr Baburam Bhattarai has now tried to lured media fraternity by offering, what media report suggests, ‘unnatural facilities’.

By Siromani Dhungana
UWB

If you can’t beat them, join them. Or, bribe them. If it turns out to be true, the Baburam Bhattarai-led government’s attempt to appease the media sector only exposes the real character of an ultra-leftist government. It will be a kind of bribe but with completing legal formalities.

Following sharp criticism for what it has been doing, the government has tried to appease media outlets by providing lucrative facilities. The government which, according to its own word, is committed to welfare of people has shifted its priority and started to appease different sectors which ruling UCPN (Maoist) used to brand as “agents of feudalism and expansionist forces.”

A 10-point incentive package has been forwarded to the Social Committee of the Cabinet and is likely to be okayed by the Cabinet this week, Prakash Acharya quotes an unnamed sources at the Office of Prime Minister as saying in The Himalayan Times.

Federation of Nepali Journalists, which has already been lured by the government and received millions from it to construct mall-like building, will receive a total of Rs 40.10 lakhs to construct an office building. And, what seems to be a ‘decentralized’ move of the government, it will also provide Rs 500,000 each to FNJ’s district chapters to construct their buildings.

Accordingly, the document titled “Proposal to Improve Communication Sector” was tabled by Minister for Information and Communications at a Cabinet meeting on Friday. 

The government has planned to treat media sector as an industry and interestingly has proposed to reduce existing 25 per cent income tax to 20 per cent. In yet another plan, the government is trying to reduce the customs duty on news print from five per cent to 2.5 per cent, according to the report. 

Reportedly, media houses, which are supposed to keep hawk-eye vigil on wrongdoings of other sectors that had been evading tax will not have to pay the tax of previous years if they submitted their income-expenditure account of fiscal year 2012-13 to the government by April 13. Moreover, they will not be slapped with any fine for the current fiscal year if they could file their returns by April 13.

The government will also provide loans to media houses to procure equipment at a subsidized rate of nine per cent per annum from national banks. 

Media houses will get a 25 per cent customs duty exemption while importing vehicles and the Ministry of Information and Communications will form a secretary-level committee to determine the criteria for the same. They are also likely to be exempted from duty on importing inverters and generators.

To implement the proportional advertisement distribution system, which has been one of the major demands of media operators, a committee headed by the information and communications secretary and comprising representatives of media sector will be formed to give its recommendations.

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