Assembly: The National Assembly (NA) will pass the Red Cross Society Bill 2016 today after the House deliberated the third reading of the Bill yesterday.

The chairperson of the legislative committee, Ritu Raj Chhetri, submitted the National Council’s (NC) recommendations on the Bill yesterday.

He said that the NC had introduced the Bill as a private bill and adopted in its summer session this year. The NA then directed the committee to work on the Bill. “The committee then consulted MPs, relevant agencies and stakeholders and received their feedback and support,” the chairperson said.

Ritu Raj Chhetri said that adopting the bill is timely, as experts have already indicated that Bhutan falls in an earthquake-prone zone and also because Bhutan is vulnerable to glacial lake outburst floods. “In such times, if we cannot handle the situation, the International Red Cross Society will support us.”

He also said Bhutan has been a signatory to the Geneva Conventions since 1991 and Bhutan is deliberating the Bill almost two decades later.

Panbang MP Dorji Wangdi pointed out that since the Bill was put forward as a private member’s bill, the House should know the identity of the member.

MP Ritu Raj Chhetri said the NC’s eminent member Tashi Wangmo, who is the chairperson of the good governance committee, put forward the Bill.

The House deliberated on the tax exemption for the Red Cross Society, as the Bill stated that the assets of the Society, including its financial resources and real estate as well as the revenue from its income generating activities shall be exempted from taxes and duties in accordance with revenue and customs department regulations.

The NC has recommended that the tax exemptions be made in accordance to the regulations of the finance ministry.

The finance minister Namgay Dorji, however, said the Constitution mandates Parliament to make tax exemptions. “If the finance ministry exempts tax, it would be in conflict with the Constitution.”

Panbang MP Dorji Wangdi said that the clause on tax exemption should be as per existing rules. He reasoned out that Parliament frames the tax exemption rules.

Members of the House also deliberated on providing financial support to the Red Cross Society secretariat.

Paro’s Lamgong Wangchang MP Khandu Wangchuk submitted to the House that the state should provide financial assistance to the secretariat for better cooperation. The House endorsed the proposal.

Tashi Dema