In a session that saw much contradiction among the members, the National Assembly endorsed one of the five recommendations of the National Council on the budget for the financial year 2018-19 yesterday.
Members and the Speaker thanked the Council for worthy recommendations and pointing out errors in the bill. However, when they voted all three recommendations for amendment of the bill fell through.
The last line in the introduction of the bill states: “Upon the passing of the new Budget Appropriation Bill for FY 2018-19 by the House, it shall supersede the Budget Appropriation Act for FY 2018-19 passed by the 11th session of the second Parliament.”
The NC recommended deleting the “supersede” part. Finance minister Namgay Tshering said that the ‘supersede’ could be replaced with ‘consolidate.’
The chairperson of the NA’s finance committee Kinley Wangchuk said the recommendations of the Council did not point to any grave error on the part of the National Assembly. “It’s a matter of perspective and not much about serious lapse on our part,” he said.
The budget bill covers only capital expenditure for the next six months. The previous Parliament had passed the recurrent budget for the fiscal and capital budget for six months until December 2018.
Superseding would mean the current bill, which does not cover the recurrent budget, supersedes the recurrent budget passed by the previous Act.
Prime Minister Dr Lotay Tshering, who was attending the closing of the National Council session, attended the NA session when the deliberations had reached midway into the recommendations.
Lyonchhen sought permission from the Speaker to speak at length on the need to consider and accommodate the recommendation to replace the word supersede in the introduction of the bill.
The members said they had already voted and the question now was if amending it would undo the adoption. Panbang MP Dorji Wangdi said that it would create an unhealthy precedent.
Of the five, this was the only recommendation he supported and urged the National Assembly to amend the bill the House has already endorsed.
Lyonchhen cautioned the House that as the members agreed the Council’s recommendation was right, it should be accepted and the proposed change made.
“Today the government and Opposition work as a team but if in future a powerful party comes to power and pushes a budget bill detrimental to the country, the National Council’s recommendations would not matter,” he said, adding that such a practice would not be healthy.
However, the proposed amendment was not endorsed through a show of hands.
Speaker Wangchuk Namgyal repeatedly encouraged members to share their views on the recommendations to reach a meaningful and reasoned conclusion. It appeared that in the process he had created some confusion among the members.
The members adopted the recommendation to provide details of budget with the bill.
The Council’s recommendation was to provide the remaining capital budget to the local governments in the next financial year as grant to complete the works.
The NA secretary general read out the resolutions of the First Session of the third Parliament to the House for rectification and ratification by the members. The House ratified the resolutions after incorporating the changes from members.