The summer session of Parliament concluded on July 5

MB Subba 

The quality of debates has not improved although the terms of the government and MPs are coming to an end, according to close followers of Parliament sessions.

For instance, one of the main issues debated during the session was the increasing price of goods and services, on which Kengkhar Weringla MP Rinzin Jamtsho had moved a motion to form a special committee.

However, as the discussion on the motion got heated, some of the Cabinet members and MPs became reactive in their statements.

Finance Minister Namgay Tshering during the discussion said that while there was already a committee on fuel prices, the member who moved the motion could form his own and submit recommendations to the government.

MP Rinzin Jamtsho said that the finance minister had entrusted him with the task that was supposed to be carried out by the government. “I’m happy that the finance minister said that I should be the chairperson of the special committee,” he said in a satirical statement.

It has been observed over the years that members tend to follow party lines, which affects the quality of debates when it comes to discussions on policy related issues.

While opposition members supported the motion, Cabinet members opposed it. The motion, consequently, was rejected through a vote.

A close follower of Parliament debates said that the “casual remarks” of MPs and ministers had also affected the quality of debates. He said that members would lose their focus on the issue when they make amusing statements in Parliament.

Another highlight of a Parliament session is the Question Hour. However, most of the questions were asked by the Opposition Party MPs.

While it was learnt that the government wanted to give most of the opportunity to ask questions to opposition members, others say that there will be lack of proportional representation in debates if such a practice is established. The government’s idea, it was claimed, was to promote checks and balances.

An MP said that he was not satisfied with the answers from the relevant ministries. He said that the quality of debates needed to be improved.

The government cited the pandemic for the state of the economy and inflation.

Prime Minister Dr Lotay Tshering said that the country was going through economic issues due to the pandemic.

He said that inflation rates were much higher in some countries and that the government deserves credit for maintaining the inflation rate below 7 percent in Bhutan.

One of the past trends continued during the session–while some MPs rarely take the floor, it was the same MPs who contributed to most of the debates.

This, an observer said, indicated the MPs had failed to improve their participation in Parliament even as their term is coming to an end. “It is very important to have views from all the constituencies and dzongkhags for Parliament to come up with good resolutions,” he said.

The chance to participate in the debates was generally given on a first come first serve basis, according to MPs.

It was observed that committees’ homework on Bills had improved. In the past sessions, a significant amount of time was spent pointing out clerical errors and mismatches between Dzongkha and English texts.

The summer session of Parliament concluded on July 5.

Among other Bills, Parliament deliberated on the Goods and Services Tax (Amendment) Bill, and the Tourism Levy Bill. They have been adopted as Money Bills and will be submitted to His Majesty the Druk Gyalpo for Royal Assent.

At the closing ceremony of the summer session, the Speaker expressed his gratitude to His Majesty The King for His Majesty’s Royal initiative to resolve people’s land issues, enabling the people to lead a peaceful and independent life.

The Speaker also expressed gratitude to His Majesty for tirelessly touring the south and west even during the rainy season and granting audience to the de-suup trainees and the de-suups engaged with multiple De-Suung initiatives.