Speaker Jigme Zangpo will call for an 11th session of the National Assembly (NA) if the prime minister does not dissolve the house prematurely.

The new financial year begins from July 1, which means that the summer session or budget session must begin before that.

The Speaker said that the watershed session would probably begin in June depending on an auspicious day.

“As tradition has to be followed, we have to go by the zakar,” he said, adding that the session would be short.

The 11th session, which will coincide with the completion of the ongoing fiscal year, will fall before the end of the government’s tenure on August 1, 2018.

However, the Speaker said the present government would not be able to pass the capital budget for 2018-19, as it has to be aligned with the manifesto of the new government that would be sworn in soon after the session.

“The annual budget, particularly the recurrent for one year has to be passed before July,” he said.

The Speaker also expressed concerns that the inability of the 11th session to pass the capital budget could hamper the progress of the ongoing activities such as construction of roads and bridges.

“The present government can pass the current budget and keep aside the capital budget for the next government to allocate. But I also think that the progress of the ongoing developmental activities could be hampered if the present government doesn’t pass the capital budget,” he said.

He added that it was up to the government to forge consensus and pass the capital budget for the ongoing projects to save them from being affected. “Problems such as cost escalation would arise if the budget for the ongoing projects are not passed.”

The new government, the Speaker said, would be formed between November and December 2018. “If we do not pass the budget in the 11th session, then there will be a gap of five to six months (after the expiry of the 2017-18 budget).”

However, the Speaker said the present government couldn’t touch the 12th Plan as the new government would have their own pledges. The 12th Plan will commence with the beginning of the new government.

NA must be reconstituted within three months from the date of dissolution or the expiry of its term.

Opposition Leader Dr Pema Gyamtso (PhD) said that the Opposition would not have any issue with an 11th session as long as the 12th Plan doesn’t feature in the agenda.

He said that current expenses could be released even without a parliament session. On whether the ongoing projects would be affected if the budget were not passed, he said, “That is not an issue.”

Justifying the need for the 11th session, the Speaker said the State of the Nation report had to be presented as it was not presented during the summer session.

He said a joint sitting of the Parliament was required to deliberate on the audit report.

“It would be an opportunity for the Speaker and NA to welcome new members of the National Council (NC),” he said. A new NC will be constituted by May 10, 2018.

Citing Article 12(5) of the Constitution, the Speaker said that NA is required to assemble twice a year. He also cited Article 10(10) of the Constitution, which requires the prime minister to present an annual report in a joint sitting of Parliament.

Premature dissolution of NA may take place on the recommendation of the prime minister to the Druk Gyalpo or in the event of a motion of no confidence vote against the government.

The Speaker said the prime minister shall present a State of the Nation report to the joint sitting as it was not presented during the winter session. However, he said that it would depend on the government to bring new legislative bills.

MB Subba