The National Council’s spokesperson Jigme Wangchuk has said that the 12th Five-Year Plan would be the main focus area of the 22nd session that will be held from January 2 to 23.

The House will assign the 12th Plan report to a committee for review and to come up with recommendations.

Speaking at the pre-session in Thimphu yesterday, Jigme Wangchuk, who is the Deputy Chairperson of the House, said: “The National Council does not have the final say on the 12th Plan, but we will review, deliberate, and provide recommendations.”

Some of the National Assembly members have already expressed their reservations on the 12th Plan, saying that it did not meet their expectation. They have said that the 12th Plan needs to be improved.

A Gross National Happiness Commission (GNHC) official, however, has said that the 12th Plan would be presented in Parliament only for information, not for incorporation of changes.

He said that the budgetary provision of 50-50 between local governments and the central government was in line with the decentralisation policy. The government, he added, should now strengthen the human resource capacity at the local government level.

“Initially, there would be some difficulties for local governments to handle the budget. But allocating more budgets is desirable in terms of strengthening local governments,” he said.

Jigme Wangchuk said that there were no engineers and accountants at the gewog level today.

The GNHC on December 25 presented the 12th Plan to the House and members were briefed about the Plan’s strategic framework, key result areas and targets of central agencies, resource allocation formula, and capital grants for local governments.

Themed “Just, Harmonious and Sustainable Society through Enhanced Decentralization”, the 12th Plan, which be executed from November 1 2018 to October 31, 2023, has a total fiscal outlay of Nu 310 billion.

And asked if the lack of issues from the local governments in the session indicated a poor link between local governments and the National Council, Jigme Wangchuk said: “We have a good link with local governments. The lack of issues from local governments does not mean we have a poor link with them.”

Jigme Wangchuk said that issues that are affecting one or two gewogs could not be deliberated in the House because it deliberated matters of national importance. Most of the issues that come from the local level pertain to development activities, he said.

This will be the first session after the new government was sworn in November 7. The session will begin with follow-up reports on the resolutions of the 21st Session.

“As mandated to ensure that the government safeguards the interest of the nation and fulfill the aspiration of the people, the National Council has reviewed many international conventions, legislative, policies and constituency issues in the past session,” states a press release from the House.

The session will deliberate on the annual budget 2018-19 and separate preliminary reports on Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET), and the harmful use of alcohol.

The Good Governance Committee recently met with Bhutan Narcotics Control Authority (BNCA) officials as part of consultative meetings to review the issue related to harmful use of alcohol in the country.

The House has social concerns over the increasing number of alcohol and drug abusers in the country and feels that there is need for better coordination among various stakeholders.

Various committees were assigned issues of national importance for review and, in the process, conducted consultations with relevant stakeholders and carried out field visits. The House also convened several plenaries to report on the progress of the review.

The Royal Audit Authority on December 7 presented the AAR 2017, which highlighted unresolved irregularities amounting to Nu 407 million (M) as on March 31, 2018 to members of the National Assembly.

The report states that compared to the irregularities of Nu 588.78M reported in the AAR 2016, the irregularities decreased by 30.86 percent last year.

Joint sittings of Parliament will deliberate the annual audit report 2017 and the Public Accounts Committee’s review report of the audit report 2010-16 and the 12th Plan and the annual budget 2018-19.

The House has asked Social and Cultural Affairs Committee to review the “learn and earn” programme through which over 700 youth have been sent to Japan. However, the agenda for the upcoming session has not included the issue.

MB Subba