Yangchen C Rinzin 

With increasing expenditure and several economic activities on hold, government spending increased by manifold.

The government has spent about Nu 3.6 billion (B) while responding to the Covid-19 pandemic from March till December 2020, according to finance minister Namgay Tshering.

The expenses account mainly for the purchase of Covid-19 kits, personal protective equipment, facility quarantine, and stocking of essential items.

The minister said that every expense for Covid-19 response was met from the fund mobilised through internal and external arrangements.

The government had reprioritised and redesigned plans to meet the increasing expenses. It identified expediting cases that impact the economy to revive the economy as a contribution from the judiciary.

Prime Minister Dr Lotay Tshering, in an earlier interview with Kuensel, said that he requested the Supreme Court officials and Chief Justice to expedite cases including non-performing loans (NPL).

He said expediting the cases that freezes loan, construction activities, trucks and machinery impact economy.

NPL has ballooned to almost Nu 27.5B by the end of the first quarter from Nu 15.161 in December 2019 and loan deferment period will be over in June 2021.

According to the public accounts committee report, there are cases of about Nu 748.105 million still under unresolved irregularities (excluding hydropower projects) of agencies.

Of the 748.105M, almost Nu 395.567M irregularities (2010-2018) are under litigation process as of September 2020. This means some cases are forwarded to Office of the Attorney General for prosecution and some cases are yet to be taken to the court.

The report also mentioned that about Nu 500.589M irregularities (2010-2017), 40 cases amounting to Nu 395.567M are pending before the court, meaning the cases is still with the court.

An official from the Supreme Court said that judiciary was supposed to sit together to discuss, thrust out ideas and issues on how to expedite such cases during the national judiciary conference.

“The conference could not take place because of the pandemic,” an official said. “Judges in the southern dzongkhags had to follow seven-day quarantine protocol and that also delayed the time to conduct the conference.”

The official said that many judges were also transferred and they are in process of handing-taking.

“It’s easy to resolve the commercial cases but it would be difficult to enforce the judgment because there are lapses from both parties,” the official said. “We’ll have to go case by case and it’s not easy to expedite.”

The official cited examples of some people are not in a position to pay back the loan and with the economy shrinking right now, many might land up behind the bar in the process of resolving the case. “If we enforce the judgment now, they will not have money to repay. Even if the case is resolved then only rich can buy the seized mortgage right now.”

He said that although some people suggested judiciary to increase commercial bench, that will not solve the problem or expedite the cases. “Court will have to look into the root cause of such irregularities.”