Council: The National Council yesterday wrapped up its deliberation on the annual budget and submitted it to the National Assembly with some recommendations.

The annual budget report was introduced in the NC on June 14 by finance minister Namgay Dorji.

The recommendations were made in the areas of tourism development, roads and hydropower development, among other sectors. Members said that the tourism industry should benefit the people directly although some benefits return to the gewogs in the form of annual budgets.

Member from Gasa, Sangay Khandu, said direct monetary benefits from tourism would help the local governments develop their gewogs. He also raised the need to enhance cleanliness of tourist spots and to preserve culture in the country.

Some members said the tourism budget should be increased. However, the house did not endorse the need to raise the tourism development budget.

The government has allocated Nu 113.39 million (M) for development of tourism infrastructures and public service delivery to promote Bhutan as an exclusive and year-round tourist destination.

In order to promote Bhutan as an exclusive travel destination in international markets, the country will organise road shows, participation in travel fairs and development of online promotional programmes.

Members also expressed their concerns on poor quality of rural roads, recommending that the quality should be improved. They said development projects should be executed on time to avoid cost escalation.

Citing an example, member from Samtse, Sangay Khandu, said the delay in the construction of Amochhu bridge would lead to cost escalation. “It will go in Bhutan’s history as the bridge that took the longest time to complete,” he said.

Member from Dagana, Sonam Dorji, said that at a time when the government is facing budget constraints, delays in implementation were responsible for cost escalation. “While there is a budget shortage the government has the money to waste (in cost escalation),” he said.

The recommendations were submitted to the National Assembly yesterday. However, the recommendations will not be binding, as the budget is a money bill.

According to the budget report, the total resources estimated for the financial year 2016-17 is over Nu 41.605 billion (B) while the total expenditure is Nu 51.884B. About 49 percent of the total expenditure are recurrent in nature.

The budget report projects the domestic revenue at Nu 27.247B and external grants at Nu 14.33B.

Following recommendations from the house, the budget now has a separate chapter on the current status of the hydropower sector and its development activities. The separate chapter was created recognising that hydropower is the largest sector and the main driver of the economy.

In the current budget report, the details of annual capital budget allocation for each dzongkhag and gewog are expected to create transparency in the budgeting system. The NC has acknowledged the incorporation of some of the recommendations in the national budget for improving the budgeting system.

MB Subba