One of the big surprises of the winter session of Parliament was an amendment in the National Assembly Bill that requires the National Assembly to form a ‘Budget Committee’ of MPs who would study the Budget Bill in detail and provide their feedback before it can be passed.
This was a major change, as so far, the Finance Minister would present the Bill and the National Assembly would ordinarily pass it.
The Prime Minister, Lyonchhen Tshering Tobgay said that the government and its ministers were not aware that such a provision had been included in the Bill by the joint committee of NA and National Council MPs that went through the Bill before the joint sitting.
He explained that the ministers were not aware as the joint committee’s recommendations are not circulated.
Lyonchhen said that the NA while discussing the Bill had initially removed the Budget Committee recommendation but it had later been put back by the NC.
There is some concern on this new clause as budget making is a long exercise that takes months, according to the PM. Giving the example of local governments he said it takes up to six months for the budget of Dzongkhags and Gewogs to be finalized based on their own proposals and the communication done.
He said that it would be troublesome to go ahead and change such a lengthy and detailed process in the Parliament.
Lyonchhen said that he was confident that the NA MPs would think in the greater interest of the country and Tsa-Wa-Sum and not let any developmental activities be harmed or delayed. He said that he did not see it as a major problem right now.
The Agriculture Minister Lyonpo Yeshey Dorji said that there would be no major problems as the budget consisted of money already allocated for various heads from a limited resources pool.
He said, “Some may want more money for one gewog or Dzongkhags but this will not be possible as allocations are done based on formulas and moreover the allocation will have to come from another Gewog’s budget, which they will not agree to.”