The Bhutan Education City Bill was passed by the National Assembly on June 28 with all members except two voting for the bill by show of hands. The two opposition MPs were the only two members who didn’t raise their hands.
The house unanimously acknowledged and incorporated all the changes made by the National Council to the bill.
The bill was passed by NC last week.
NA’s legislative committee chairman Ugyen Wangdi said, though his committee couldn’t review the bill after it was passed by NC, “there isn’t anything to disagree upon as advised by Druk Holdings and Investment (DHI) and the government agency drafting the bill”.
He requested the house to come to a consensus and endorse the bill as major ground works for the project will start very soon. He said activities will be stalled by another six months if the bill goes for joint discussions in the 10th parliamentary sessions.
The works and human settlement minister, Lyonpo Yeshey Zimba who appreciated changes made by the NC said there was no major changes made on context of the bill and would be thankful if the house endorses the bill.
The NC had amended section 42 (1) &(2) of the bill which allowed government to lease land to the developer for a maximum of 90 years and the developer to sublease any part of the land. The NC resorted to amend the section stating that land lease will be executed as per the Land Act 2007.
This, the NC found was in direct contradiction to the land Act 2007 which states that government land will be leased on 30 years term but is renewable. Subleasing was also identified as not allowed under normal government procedures.
Lyonpo Yeshey Zimba said the changes made will not cause any harm as the land lease is renewable after 30 years. He said it is important to pass the bill at the earliest as the developer has been finalized and work plan for the project has been drawn.
Section 5 of the draft bill which allows it to override any other law has been deleted after the NC concluded that no project specific Acts shall supersede existing national laws.
A sub-clause has also been added to the bill to allow Gups of relevant Gewogs as members of the education city board.
Gasa MP Damcho Dorji who opposed the bill held his stand on the bill as justified during the eighth parliamentary session in January. Earlier, he cited the IT Park as an example to prove his point of just where the education city was headed to becoming a flop. “I fear the same fate awaits the education city”, he said then.
“It’s not only about the land lease that we were not in favor of the bill owing to which my stand still hold good”, he added.
Opposition Leader, Tshering Tobgay who reiterated his earlier stand said education city is a project and is executed as an economic project. “We need to think hard while passing such laws specifically for a project. I fail to understand the reason,” he said.
He also referred to the other major projects in the country for which legislation was never introduced.
He said, moreover works for the project has begun before the law has been passed. “I don’t understand it all,” he concluded.
The two houses in total have made 37 various amendments to the draft bill. Almost all the amendments made by NA in the eighth parliamentary session were accepted by NC. About 18 amendments were made by NC before passing the bill last week.