OL express reservations over procedures

MB Subba

The European Investment Bank (EIB) framework agreement will be discussed as an urgent Bill in the National Council (NC).

The need to declare and deliberate the framework agreement as urgent Bill, Speaker Wangchuk Namgyel said yesterday, was also agreed on by the NC. “The NC Chairperson and I held a discussion, and now the agreement has become an urgent Bill on the consensus of both Houses,” he said.

An urgent Bill has to be passed in the same session, as per the legislative rules of procedure (LRoP).

However, the opposition leader (OL) was quick to point out that the rules of procedures were not followed properly in declaring the framework agreement as urgent Bill.

OL Dorji Wangdi said that the Opposition Party had held a couple of meetings to discuss whether the EIB agreement qualified as urgent Bill and whether the rules of procedure was being followed. He said that the finance minister should have introduced it in the House as an urgent Bill in the beginning itself.

The EIB agreement was introduced as a normal Bill last week. However, during the course of the deliberation, the government expressed its intention to the Speaker to pass it as urgent Bill in view of the country’s financial needs arising from the Covid-19 situation.

As per the LRoP, either the government, a member or committee shall propose a Bill to be declared as urgent to the Speaker with justifications. An “Urgent Bill” may be declared when the government is required to respond instantly to the effects and impacts of unforeseen natural or manmade calamities, LRoP states.

The 13-member economic and finance committee of the National Assembly last week held a meeting to discuss whether the EIB agreement qualified as an urgent Bill.

According to the OL, who also attended the committee meeting as one of its members, said that the committee agreed that the procedure was not followed.

Dorji Wangdi said that the Bill has to be mentioned as urgent in the House’s agenda.

The OL argued that the manner in which the agreement was pushed as an urgent Bill was detrimental to the House’s own rules and could set a wrong precedent.

However, the Speaker said that he did not feel that there was a major violation of the rules. He said that the finance minister had communicated to the former that the government wanted to pass it as an urgent Bill.

Ratification of the agreement will pave the way for borrowings from the EIB. The EIB is a publicly-owned international financial institution whose shareholders are the EU member states.

Finance Minister Namgay Tshering during earlier discussions said that the country could benefit from EIB before it graduates from the Least Developed Countries (LDC) group.

He said the finance ministry had carried out a study to assess if ratification of EIB agreement would be in the country’s interest and that the study showed that there were more merits than demerits.