Phub Dem

The National Council’s recommendations to do away with the vehicle import quota include quotas of parliamentarians.

The Chairperson of Economic Affairs Committee, Ugyen Tshering clarified this yesterday. He said that public servants included NC’s MPs, Lhengye Zhungtshog (cabinet ministers) and elected representatives.

Following the recommendations, netizens questioned if Members of Parliaments (MPs) were ready to give up their vehicle import quota in response to their recommendation in the policy related to vehicle import.

Ugyen Tshering said that the recommendation was not the stand of the House, but proposals from the agencies whom the Committee consulted with. “Government officials during the conduct of the policy review proposed to do away with vehicle quota to reduce import.”

According to the Chairperson, the House would deliberate on the recommendation first and then table the report for final adoption. 

The adopted recommendation then would be the stand of the House. “We are not depriving civil servants of their privileges. But it is what the committee found out during the consultation.”

Majority of the Council members were against the recommendation.

Trongsa’s MP Tashi Samdrup said that the quota was an incentive for public officials to work harder and a privilege they get after serving the country for many years. He said that doing away with the quota would be a temporary solution and would not solve the problem of congestion and rising vehicle import in the long run.

He proposed to extend the quota entitlement duration by three more years to reduce the import. Public officials entitled to the quota get their share once in seven years

Although Mongar’s MP Sonam Pelzom agreed with the other members to award the quota to public officials, she said that it was acceptable to do away with the import quota for MPs like herself.

Gasa’s MP Dorji Khandu said that if the quota system had to be discontinued, public officials of higher rank such as secretaries, parliamentarians, and cabinet members should lead by example.

“If we propose to discontinue the quota, let us set the best example first. And gradually discontinue the quota for other officials, otherwise, it won’t be fair for other public servants.”

However, Bumthang’s MP Nima said that the parliamentarians had already used its quota for the tenure. He said that it would not be fair to decide on behalf of the upcoming representatives.

“If we can review the Parliament Entitlement (Amendment) Act 2014, we can discuss the privileges of public officials when we have a clear rule for ourselves.”

Meanwhile, the House deliberated on the recommendation to design targeted intervention – introducing congestion charges for heavy traffic areas, which some MPs felt won’t be possible considering the huge investment required for the development of the infrastructure.

Most MPs were in support to improve public transport. The review report of policies related to vehicle imports states that improvement in the public transport system was an effective solution to reduce the demand for private vehicles.

The Committee recommended continuing support to expand public transport including bus rapid transit system to improve efficiency and reliability.

Besides providing subsidies to improve public transport, the member further proposed to reduce buyer’s equity and to provide public transport to other rural dzongkhags as well.