Dechen Dolkar 

The government has indicated that two substantial money Bills will be submitted during the ninth session of the third Parliament, which have been keenly anticipated.

Yesterday, the National Assembly (NA) convened its preliminary meeting to lay out the programme for the upcoming session, which is provisionally set to begin on June 8.

The forthcoming session will feature considerable debate on a variety of issues, including the Tax (Amendment) Bill of Bhutan 2023 and the Pay Revision Bill of Bhutan 2023.

Members of parliament will also debate the agreement on the movement of traffic-in-transit between Bhutan and Bangladesh, the BIMSTEC Charter, the declaration of a new biological corridor connecting Bumdeling Wildlife Sanctuary with Sakteng Wildlife Sanctuary, the National Digital Identity Bill of Bhutan 2023 (to be introduced as an Urgent Bill, subject to National Council deliberation), and the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

Furthermore, the National Budget report, as well as the Budget Appropriation Bill for the fiscal year 2023-2024, and the Supplementary Budget Appropriation Bill for the fiscal year 2022-23, will be scrutinised by the Parliament.

Opposition Leader (OL) Dorji Wangdi has requested the government to alter the Tourism Levy Act 2022 at the upcoming summer session. He underlined that the tourism industry is facing a number of issues, and the government’s proposal to give concessional rates on Sustainable Development Fees (SDF) for visitors and official guests requires parliamentary approval.

Dorji Wangdi emphasised the significance of legislative revision of the concessional SDF rate.

The competent authority has the power to award exemptions or concessional levy rates on applicable SDFs, subject to defined circumstances, according to Chapter 2, Section 9 of the Tourism Levy Act 2022. 

Dorji Wangdi expressed reservations about this clause, claiming that it could be abused or manipulated in the future and hence should be changed.

Furthermore, the Joint Sitting of Parliament will address the Review Report of the Public Accounts Committee, disputed sections in the Forest and Nature Conservation Bill of Bhutan 2021, and disputed elements in the Civil Liability Bill of Bhutan 2022.

Members of Parliament will also be updated on the status of previous session resolutions, such as the Anti-Corruption Commission’s Annual Report, the Royal Audit Authority’s Annual Audit Report, and the motion to allocate sufficient budgets to Local Governments for the management of gewog center roads.

Two petitions from the local governments of Haa were received during the preliminary meeting. The first petition asks for authority to turn footpaths into power tiller trails, while the second asks for the retention of power tillers within chiwogs and the restriction of power tiller hiring fees. Both petitions were sent to the Cabinet for assessment and subsequent reporting to the members.

The ninth session of the third Parliament promises to be a critical moment in the legislative process, with tax measures, pay changes, and a variety of other key issues to be debated. The government’s dedication to resolving major issues, as well as parliament members’ active participation, will determine the outcomes of this session and have a long-term impact on the country’s future.