The joint sitting of Parliament yesterday endorsed the Customs Bill, 2017 but did not deliberate on the Bangladesh, Bhutan, India and Nepal (BBIN) motor vehicle agreement.

As the joint sitting began, the National Assembly Secretary General Sangay Duba read out the Royal Kasho, which stated that both the disputed bills should be deliberated and put to vote.

The joint committee that was formed to resolve the differences did not present their report to the house since the committee still remains in a deadlock over the 15 disputed clauses. Only after the committee reaches a consensus, would it present a report along with recommendations to a joint sitting.

A member of the committee told Kuensel that they have agreed to deliberate the BBIN agreement on June 15. “However, the prime minister is scheduled to present the State of the Nation the same day. We might have to find another suitable date,” he said.

He said Council members and the Opposition remain unconvinced with the government’s justifications even as discussions on the 15-point objections from the National Council are ongoing separately. The joint committee met yesterday, but only one out of the 15 points was discussed, he said.

Signed on June 15, 2015 at the BBIN transport minister’s meeting in Thimphu, the agreement aims to promote safe, economical efficient and environmentally sound road transport in the sub-region.


Customs Bill

The joint sitting passed the Customs Bill 2017 with a vote of all ‘Yes’ from the 69 MPs present. The joint siting endorsed all five recommendations on the disputed clauses that Lamgong-Wangchang MP Khandu Wangchuk had proposed.

The joint committee that was formed to discuss the five disputed clauses had removed a new section, which stated that the customs personnel working in the field should be entitled to a salary based lump-sum allowance and other benefits.

NC member from Tsirang, Kamal Bdr Gurung, asked for the joint committee’s justification on the removal of the section.

Khandu Wangchuk said that allowances and benefits depend on the recommendations of the pay commission and that a separate provision relating to perks was not required in the bill. “The government will consider allowances and benefits wherever required,” he said.

The joint sitting voted for the joint committee’s recommendation to remove the section.

The bill aims to modernise the country’s customs administration system. The bill is expected to facilitate faster release of goods and provide a conducive environment for foreign direct investment and economic competitiveness.

The bill empowers the government to impose restrictions or prohibit import and export of goods to safeguard national interest. Such restrictions would be in accordance with relevant laws, international conventions, covenants, treaties, protocols and agreements.

Following a royal assent, the Customs portion will be separated from the Sales Tax, Customs and Excise Act 2000.

MB Subba