Tax waiver demands may not be met immediately

MB Subba

The government has already started to provide relief packages to sectors affected by the Covid-19 pandemic even before the economic stimulus plan is announced.

Prime Minister Dr Lotay Tshering informed the media yesterday that the government was bearing some portion of salaries of affected companies. In return, the companies have been asked not to lay off their employees.

About 12,000 have been affected due to loss of jobs, according to him. The government, he said, would take care of not only those that have lost jobs but also their dependents.

“It is the government’s responsibility to look after the livelihoods of people,” he said.

According to the prime minister, the economic relief package is targeted at affected employees and business enterprises that have incurred huge losses.

As a monetary measure, Section 66 of the Public Finance Act authorises the finance minister to use public funds to defray expenditure of such exceptional nature.

A full report of such expenditure and its impact on the budget policy and fiscal framework statement will be made to Parliament for ratification through the Supplementary Budget Appropriation Bill.

However, a major relief measure in the wish lists  of affected enterprises are tax waivers, which needs the prior approval of Parliament.

However, the prime minister said that there were no plans to call a parliament session to discuss the fiscal and monetary relief measures.

Dr Lotay Tshering said that the fiscal and monetary measures that the government was coming up need not be presented in the parliament. “If there are any measures that should be presented to the parliament, it will be done so later,” he said.

An extraordinary session of Parliament can be called if the exigencies of the situation so demand under the Constitution.

The prime minister said the Speaker, the National Council Chairperson and the opposition leader had offered their support to the government if an extraordinary session should be called.

Speaker Wangchuk Namgyel said that an extraordinary session might not be required at this time. “If there is a need, the government will submit a Bill in the Parliament,” he said.

The opposition party’s spokesperson MP Dorji Wangdi said that tax measures would definitely need parliament’s approval. But he added that the government could defer the payment.

The prime minister hinted that the fiscal and monetary measures would be at the policy level, which is within the ambit of executive power. “If legislative decisions are required we are ready to assemble any time,” he said.

He said the parliament session is not yet closed and that members would assemble any time if required.

The closing ceremony, which was supposed to be held on March 6, was deferred after the country confirmed its first Covid-19 in the morning of the same day.

Dr Lotay Tshering said that work on the economic relief package was almost completed. He said that announcement of the plan got delayed as there was a need for some amendments in the original plan.

However, he added that the economic relief package would be different from normal economic stimulus plans. The economic relief plan would be dynamic depending on how the situation will evolve, according to him.

The government, the prime minister said, was working with the joint parliamentary committee on Covid-19. The prime minister said the government was doing more than the committee’s  recommendations.