… Three international instruments were referred to the House of Review

Rinzin Wangchuk

The 9th session of the third Parliament has passed four milestone Bills that will remain as one of the most significant resolutions for both the National Assembly (NA) and National Council (NC) in the history of Bhutan.

The civil and public servants have applauded the government and Parliament for adopting the Pay Revision Bill 2023 with a substantial salary hike ranging from 55 to 74 percent. They will receive their revised salaries this month. “This is the highest percentage of salary increase so far since the introduction of parliamentary democracy in 2008,” a civil servant said.

The pay revision will have a financial implication of Nu 6B to the government exchequer per annum. The Druk Holding and Investments (DHI) will inject Nu 4B each for two financial years as a one-time top-off.

During the closing ceremony of the Parliament on July 8, NA Speaker Wangchuk Namgyel said that the Parliament passed the Pay Revision Bill after duly deliberating upon it, taking into consideration the interest of the civil and public servants.

In a noble endeavour to elevate the living standards of civil servants and inspire renewed dedication and efficiency in public service delivery, according to the speaker, His Majesty graciously provided advice and expressed support for a significant pay raise. “The Parliament wholeheartedly expresses its deepest gratitude for this remarkable initiative,” he said.

Marking a significant step towards digital transformation in the country, the Joint Sitting (JS) of the Parliament adopted the historic National Digital Identity (NDI) Bill of Bhutan 2023 after it was recognized as an urgent Bill.

Once the Bill becomes an Act, it will create equal opportunities for all persons through inclusive services that are accessible without discrimination and achieve the national goals of the well-being of the people, progress, and prosperity for the nation through technology. With the Act, individuals will have control over their personal information stored in digital wallets using self-sovereign identity technology.

The JS also passed the highly-disputed Civil Liability or Tort Bill 2022, aiming to establish an efficient public service system and foster a safe and just society through enhanced accountability, good governance, and the rule of law. This act is also expected to prevent instances of negligent deaths and injuries while ensuring fair compensation for losses and damages incurred by individuals and public property due to civil wrongdoings.

The other milestone Bill that the JS unanimously adopted is the revised Forest and Nature Conservation Bill 2021, marking a significant milestone in Bhutan’s efforts to safeguard its natural heritage while ensuring responsible development and the preservation of sacred sites. The revised legislation reflects a collective commitment to strike a balance between conservation and the needs of the people.

The speaker said that all four Bills are now ready for submission to the Druk Gyalpo for Royal Assent.

The Parliament not only passed the supplementary budget of Nu 2,317 million in the Supplementary Budget Appropriation Bill for FY 2022-2023 but also a budget of Nu 85,522.536 million in the Budget Appropriation Bill for FY 2023-2024, for the successful completion of planned activities. Both Bills have been granted Royal Assent by His Majesty The King.

During the month-long session from June 8 to July 8, several bills including three international instruments were deliberated and ratified.

The NA adopted the Biological Corridor Nine Bill of Bhutan 2023, the Agreement on the Movement of Traffic-in-Transit between the People’s Republic of Bangladesh and the Royal Government of Bhutan and Protocol thereto, the Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC) Charter, and the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities have been deliberated and forwarded to the NC.

The Public Accounts Committee (PAC) reviewed and reported the Annual Audit Report 2021-22 and followed up on the RAA’s Review Reports of AAR 2010-21 to the JS of the Parliament.

Speaker Wangchuk Namgyel said that 56 questions were raised during the question-and-answer sessions in NA, covering a wide range of issues related to the economy, society, policy, and developmental issues. A motion was moved on “The construction of a one-storied building will not require structural drawings, and for two-storied and above buildings, the government shall provide model drawings to the people free of cost.” It was unanimously adopted by the House.

His Majesty graces closing ceremony

His Majesty The King graced the closing ceremony of the Ninth Session of the Third Parliament on July 8. Her Majesty The Queen, members of the Royal family, former ministers, dashos, senior government officials, foreign dignitaries, and students from Institutes also attended the ceremony.

The Speaker, on behalf of the Parliament, expressed gratitude to His Majesty for the tireless efforts dedicated to the welfare of the people and the country.

The populace is exultant in response to the delightful announcement made by Their Majesties, concerning the imminent arrival of the third Royal child, expected to grace our presence in the early days of autumn. “The Parliament, with utmost reverence, is inclined to express our sincere gratitude and profound jubilation to His Majesty and Her Majesty for this momentous occasion,” the speaker said.

The Speaker also extended gratitude and appreciation to His Holiness the Je Khenpo for presiding over the kurim to avert natural disasters and for conducting the sacred Goenpo Tshepamey rituals with Tshekhu-Yangkhu prayers for the economic prosperity of the country.

The closing ceremony concluded with the offering of Tashi Moenlam and Zhabten, invoking the blessings of longevity and well-being upon His Majesty The Druk Gyalpo by the members of the Parliament led by Zhung Dratshang.