The 11th session of the Parliament saw a compromise between the government and the opposition with a provisional and limited budget being passed until a new government comes in, probably by late October or early November 2018.
The compromise was required since the government had the Constitutional responsibility to pass a budget which at the same time would go into the 12th plan which formally starts by July 2018. Not passing a budget would mean violating the Constitution and also freezing all developmental works.
However, this problem is set to get continuously worse as election dates move away from the plan date by around 3 to 4 months each five years. The Bhutanese asked about this issue to the Opposition Leader during the Opposition Party’s final press conference on 31st July.
Here, the Opposition leader Pema Gyamtsho said that the Opposition had suggested to the Prime Minister the solution of dissolving the government around 90 days before its term which would be around 1st May instead of 1st August.
OL said that the Opposition had suggested to the PM the he could make use of the Constitutional provision to dissolve the NA early by requesting His Majesty The King.
The OL said that this would mean that the election would be done by July within 90 days and there would be a new government in place to start the 12th plan. The OL said that every government could opt to resign three months early to ensure that a new government passes the budget of a new plan.
He said that until this issue is not resolved future Parliaments will continue to run into problems and so the next Parliament and government should address the issue. The OL said that it is not just the issue of election dates and and plans or budgets but parties outside the Parliament who also have a stake will feel it is not fair as it will be the ruling party and opposition passing the budget and plans.
MP Ugyen Wangdi said that it is a big problem and every five years the dates will be moved forward by three months or so. He too said that the Opposition had suggested dissolving the government early and added that the solution for now would be for every government to step down three months before its term.
DPT Vice President Dorji Wangdi said that this would be a perpetual problem and the only way is to make sure there are smooth parameters and to find ways to work within it. He said that if it continues then there would be problems in statistical reporting with the data not respecting the time series.
The government’s position as clarified by the Prime Minister has been that it has the mandate of the people for five years and so it will not resign or dissolve early for any political gain.
The PM had pointed out that dissolving early would have especially given a political advantage to the ruling as well as opposition parties over the new parties which would not even have started their familiarization tours or have their candidates in place.
The precedent on this issue is not new as many planned economies around the world have one government implementing half a plan and creating a new one and implementing half of it.
The only difference is that much more importance and flexibility is given to the annual budget allowing a new government to reprioritize or refocus its agenda.
Bhutan, ultimately, will have no option but to find its own unique solution in the longer term based in part on international best practices.