Chhimi Dema 

Members of the civil society organisations (CSO) shared concerns about the Civil Society Act 2007, which will be discussed by the National Assembly in the upcoming session, during the CSO government meet held yesterday in Thimphu.

The National Council adopted the CSO (Amendment) Bill 2021 in June.

The CSO government meet is organised to provide a platform for civil society action-takers, lawmakers, and the government to establish a better understanding of civil society’s work, challenges, and opportunities.

CSO members raised issues about the current Act allowing tax exceptions on a case-by-case basis.

The Civil Society Organizations Act of Bhutan 2007 states that public benefit organisations may be granted exemptions from payment of customs duties or other taxes besides income tax, on a case-by-case basis, in accordance with regulations and procedures issued jointly by the Authority and the Department of Revenue and Customs.

Bhutan Toilet Organisation’s founder and executive director, Passang Tshering, said although there is a tax exemption for CSO, there is no clarity.

He said the Act should specify the exemptions.

Members also raised concerns about the yearly renewal of the CSO registration certificate.  

Bhutan Kidney Foundation founder Tashi Namgay said an annual renewal of the registration certificate is inconvenient.

“When registering as a CSO, we submit a three-year work plan. It would be convenient if the certificate renewal could be after three years,” he said.

A member of the core coordination committee (CCC) of the CSO Authority, Needrup Zangpo, who is also the executive director of the Bhutan Media Foundation, said that CCC members were engaged in consultation meetings with the legislative committee of the National Council and Assembly.

“We have offered our views and feedback on the amendment. We are looking forward to a CSO Act that is more facilitative and less regulatory and which is conducive to the growth of a young CSO fraternity,” he said.

The second meet was organised by Bhutan Centre for Media Democracy and the CSO Authority. The first meet was in 2019.

There are 54 functional CSOs in the country today.