Bhutan has had two general elections and is scheduled to go into a third one. However, even before this election starts, the government and the opposition are faced with the quandary of what to do with the annual budget for 2018-19 financial year.
This is because on one hand the Constitution makes it clear that there has to be two sessions and a budget is needed to run the government.
On the other hand, the Opposition argues that the budget of the 2018-19 is the first year of the 12 Five Year Plan and so it should be left to the new government after the elections.
For now, the government’s main concern is to complete spillover activities and the Opposition on its part does not want the government to get any political advantage of passing the first budget of the 12th five-year plan.
The solution here seems to be pretty simple if both aides can agree to a basic budget to run the government and complete spillover activities. Then the new government can pass an additional budget capturing the 12th FYP programs immediately after coming in power. The only downside is that it will delay implementation of the 12 FYP activities.
However, it is in the coming general elections that the situation will progressively keep getting trickier, as election dates automatically move ahead by around three months every five years.
So in five years from now in June 2023 it will be once again upon the then incumbent government to decide upon passing the budget for 2023-24 and in doing so the first year of the 13th FYP.
The other option is to wait it out for six months until January 2024 when a new government will come in place.
Then in the 2029 elections the incumbent government may have to wait a full nine months for the new government to come in and so on.
Therefore, when the two parties sit to discuss the issue in the NA they should also factor in that any decision they take has the potential to have an impact all the way in the future.
A long term solution could be that the five year plans are kept flexible. So, in the future, even if a government comes into power in the middle of a five year plan they can make important changes and also decide the next plan.
By necessity, budgets require hard choices.