Thinley Namgay

Records show that as of April this year, there were around 6,000 goongtong (empty houses) cases in the country, out of which 75 percent were in the eastern dzongkhags.

Compared to the home ministry’s survey in 2019, the number of goongtong increased by around 900. In 2019, there were 5,129 gootong cases. 

National Council’s (NC) Eminent Member Phuntsho Rapten cited the data during the press conference on the upcoming 33rd session of NC yesterday. 

He said satong (fallow land) and goongtong are one among the agendas that will be deliberated.  

Citing the agriculture ministry’s RNR report 2019, Phuntsho Rapten said that arable land in Bhutan is only about 7 percent of the total land area. “Out of 7 percent, land under cultivation is 2.9 percent, which accounts for around 278,000 acres.”

The 2019 data says that Bhutan has more than 66,000 acres of fallow land, resulting in increased food imports.

The 33rd Session will commence on June 12. 

The  session will deliberate on review reports on satong and goongtong, rural credit accessibility, compensation-related policies for human-wildlife conflict and crop damage due to natural calamities, and the Alternative Dispute Resolution Act of Bhutan, 2013.

Review reports on education-related legislation and the state of persons with disabilities (PwDs) will also be deliberated.

The finance minister will report on the 13th Plan at the NC and it will be followed by deliberation and endorsement. 

One of the agendas is also the introduction and deliberation on the annual budget appropriation Bill for 2024-2025 and the supplementary budget appropriation Bill for 2023-2024.

At the joint-sitting, there will be deliberation on the Public Accounts Committee’s review report on the Annual Audit Report 2022-2023, and deliberation on the Public Accounts Committee’s review report on the Annual  Audit Reports 2010-2022.

The prime minister will present the annual State of the Nation report at the joint sitting, covering topics such as legislative plans, annual plans, and priorities of the government.

The 2022-2023 Annual Audit Report showed irregularities of Nu 2.8 billion. Phuntsho Rapten said that as of March 2024, around Nu 963 million was recovered.  

The chairperson of the Social and Cultural Affairs Committee, Kesang Chuki Dorjee, said that the prevalence rate of PwDs was high—2.1 percent or more than 15,500 out of the total population as per the housing census of Bhutan 2017.  

She said Bhutan ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and the country was legally bound to the rights of PwDs. “PwDs are 25 percent in urban areas and 75 percent in rural areas.”  

She noted that PwDs in rural areas faced challenges accessing health, education, and essential services.

The deputy chairperson, Dago TsheringLa, chaired the meeting. The session’s concluding  date is  yet to be finalised.