Failure of the 11th session of the National Assembly to pass a capital budget for the new fiscal year could hamper the progress of the ongoing developmental works, said a member of the Cabinet.

The current fiscal year will expire on June 30. Ideally, a budget for the fiscal year 2018-19 should be presented in Parliament five days before July 1.

Parliament could pass the capital budget for the ongoing activities if the government and the Opposition reach a consensus, he said. “A Parliament session is not required to pass the current budget. The problem is with the spillovers of the current fiscal year.”

In absence of a consensus, he said the 11th session could be just a ceremonial one to meet the Constitutional requirement of two sessions a year. He also said it was important to have the 12th Plan ready for a meaningful discussion on the new budget. “The government is working on the 12th Plan.”

Whether or not the National Assembly will deliberate any kind of budget for the new fiscal year, he said, would be discussed and finalised during the plenary meeting for the 11th session. Members from both the government and the Opposition attend a plenary meeting.

The new government would be formed between November and December this year. There will be a gap of five to six months after the expiry of the 2017-18 budget if the 11th session does not pass capital budget.

Opposition MP Ugyen Wangdi said that current budget was necessary to run the government.

“If the government tables a capital budget, we will not accept,” he said.  However, he added that appropriations for the ongoing projects could be passed if Parliament reaches a consensus.

Article 14(9) of the Constitution states that where the budget has not been approved by the National Assembly before the beginning of the fiscal year, the preceding budget on current expenses shall be applied until the new one is sanctioned. Revenues shall be collected and disbursements made in accordance with the law in force at the end of the preceding year.

Such appropriations that the government can release without Parliament’s approval are recurrent expenditures necessary to maintain the continuity of the government, expenditures for ongoing donor financed projects that have all the required government approvals and the requirements for the repayment of loans.

Speaker Jigme Zangpo in a recent interview with Kuensel said the present government would not be able to pass the capital budget for 2018-19 as it has to be aligned with the manifesto of the new government that would be sworn in soon after the session. But he added a recurrent for one year could be passed.

“I think that the progress of the ongoing developmental activities could be hampered if the present government doesn’t pass the capital budget,” he said.

He added that it was up to the government to forge consensus and pass the capital budget for the ongoing projects to save them from being affected. “Problems such as cost escalation would arise if the budget for the ongoing projects are not passed.”

MB Subba