MB Subba

The National Council (NC) has asked the government to operationalise the endowment fund for crop and livestock conservation as soon as possible so that the affected people can be compensated.

It was one of NC’s seven recommendations in the annual budget 2020-21 as the House wrapped up the special session yesterday.

The House also recommended the government to establish a cold chain to link farms to the market outlet including the provision of transportation of produce by refrigerated vans.

The Ministry of Agriculture and Forests has been allocated Nu 7,170 million (M), which is about 10 percent of the total budget appropriation.

Major activities for the fiscal year included in the agriculture sector include land development and construction of cold storages and installation of input supply infrastructure facilities.

The House of review recommended the government to come up with realistic expenditure measures to reduce wastage and redundancy in public spending.

Member of the economic affairs committee Ugyen Tshering said that the reduction in wasteful expenses would optimise the overall efficiency in utilisation of limited public resources.

The budget provisions that all the budgetary agencies ensure optimal utilisation of the allocated budget given the limited resources. The government estimates a 14 percent fall in the revenue in the new fiscal year. 

The government has urged budgeting agencies to take the situation as an opportunity to demonstrate fiscal prudence, frugality and promote financial thrift.

The House also recommended the government to continue to allocate new mines and those mines whose lease periods have expired to the State Mining Corporation Ltd. (SMCL) until the amendment of the Mines and Minerals Management (Amendment) Bill is complete.

Members commended the government’s recent decision to allocate a dolomite mine in Samtse to the SMCL.

Ugyen Tshering said that this was in keeping with the  Constitution and also places the interests of the nation and people at the forefront. He said that the mines were benefiting a handful of people.

The NC recommended the government to immediately commission an independent third party to study the current problems and issues in the Punatsangchu-I hydroelectric project and find feasible solutions.

The estimated cost of the project has been revised at Nu 93,755M. However, the construction of the dam is made contingent on the completion of the right bank stabilisation measures, which is still under discussion with the government of India.

Alternatively, the government of India is also exploring a barrage option should the stabilisation measure be found impractical, the finance minister said earlier in the National Assembly.

Members also deliberated on financial burden and delay of Punatsangchu hydropower projects, compensation for crop damage and loss of livestock, the importance of cold storage facilities, among others.

During the debate, some members raised concerns over the government’s budget policies of deferring leave travel concession (LTC) and withholding transfer benefits for civil servants and made suggestions of exploring alternative measures.

The concluding ceremony of the NC session will be held today.