A meeting of National Assembly members held last week decided to delay the winter session until the end of dhana, the inauspicious month in the Bhutanese calendar.

Speaker Wangchuk Namgyel said the upcoming winter session of Parliament, which is the first for the National Assembly, would commence on January 2. The inauspicious period, he said, lasts for two months and have to be observed.

The dhana, which commenced on November 8, will end on January 5.

The six-month interim budget passed by the 11th parliament session to ensure economic stability and maintain continuity will expire on December 31. This raises the urgency to call a parliament session as soon as the inauspicious month ends.

The 12th Five-Year Plan is also awaiting Parliament’s endorsement.

The Parliament had passed the interim budget assuming that the session was expected to be held in November as soon as the new government assumes office.

Finance minister Namgay Tshering said, “The budget is already late. But it had to be delayed due to dhana.” The session, he said, will endorse both the budget and the 12th Plan.

The government needs to align and incorporate its pledges in the plan document for Parliament endorsement.

In a special situation, fiscal year 2018-19 coincided with the completion of the previous government’s tenure.

The Opposition also consented to the government’s proposal.    

Opposition spokesperson Dorji Wangdi said, “We have given full prerogative to the ruling party to decide.” Asked if the delay would have any implications on the budget, he said, “We trusted them to decide upon it vetting all the implications.”

The National Assembly’s five-year tenure began on October 31, when the members wore the blue kabneyand patag. The Cabinet took office on November 7.

Since taking office, the Cabinet ministers were oriented on various departments in their respective ministries. Parliamentarians, including ministers, have attended a five-day induction programme organised to inform the parliamentarians about the roles and functions of Parliament as one of the three branches of the Government.

The parliamentarians are also being equipped with the basic knowledge of parliamentary practices and procedures to facilitate their effective participation in the legislative process.

Only 13 Members of Parliament out of 47 have previously served as parliamentarians. Among the Cabinet members, Communications Minister Karma D Wangdi is the only member who served as a parliamentarian previously.

There are seven women in the House, out of which two are in their second term.

MB Subba