After an intensive discussion among members from the ruling party and the opposition, the plenary held at the National Assembly conference hall yesterday decided to table an interim budget for the fiscal year 2018-19 in the 11th upcoming parliament session.
Speaker Jigme Zangpo, who chaired the meeting, told Kuensel that the interim budget would comprise recurrent expenditure, debt service and spillover activities.
The meeting also agreed to table the expenditure for critical services such as disaster management and patient referrals. A member each from the government and the opposition will study the critical nature of the proposed services.
“No new construction projects will be approved although the government could bulldoze,” Speaker Jigme Zangpo said. He added that the budget for ongoing projects such as construction of Wangdue, Drugyel and Pemagatshel Dzongs would be approved.
However, the Speaker said that the government would not table the 12th Plan. He said that introduction of the 12th Plan at this juncture would lead to politicisation of issues and that he cannot allow such a thing to happen.
The session, which will begin on June 15, will be shorter than normal sessions and will last about two weeks.
The outgoing government presents an interim budget for the new Plan’s first fiscal year. Although the life of the interim budget 2018-19 will be for a year, its contents can be amended when the new government comes to office three months after of its implementation.
The new government, which will be formed latest by November, will present a formal budget in the beginning of its term.
The opposition, which had earlier expressed reservations about the possibility of the government introducing a populist budget, has agreed to table the interim budget on the condition that no new programmes would be tabled.
The opposition’s spokesperson Dorji Wangdi said, “We are encountering such a situation for the first time as the government is leaving office at the beginning of the 12th Plan. We are taking decisions with a high level of awareness so that we set the right precedence.”
The 11th session, he said, would be a precedence setting budget session and that right decisions have to be taken. “We have been principled, objective and professional in our arguments since we are the pioneer of democracy,” Dorji Wangdi said.
He said the government completes its term on August 2 and the opposition would not accept new elements in the interim budget. “The government cannot trespass authority beyond its five-year term since every government’s term is for five years,” he said.
He however, said that spillover works and critical services should be approved on a case-by-case basis. “Activities such as blacktopping of farm roads under the head of spillover activities and approval of programmes such as professional development programmes should not be approved,” he said.
Dorji Wangdi also said that the Constitution allows the government to activate the current budget to be continued until the new government tables the annual budget so that the functioning of government machinery is not affected. The preliminary meeting was attended by 35 members from both the parties.
The 11th session will deliberate the Fiscal Performance for FY 2016-17 and the revised budget for FY 2017-18 and the follow-up report on the implementation of the 9th and 10th sessions’ resolutions.
A joint sitting will re-deliberate the Audit Bill 2017. The Prime Minister will also present an annual report on the State of the Nation to the joint sitting of the Parliament as required under Article 10, Section 10 of the Constitution.