Opposition questions govt on debt, local govt and BBS.

The Opposition party, on November18 in the National Assembly (NA), questioned the government on whether the government has prepared a road map for curbing the national debt, the absence of an annual conference of Gups, and on there not being an open selection for the appointment of the new Managing Director of the Bhutan Broadcasting Service Corporation (BBSC).

The MP of Bartsham-Shongphu,Wangdi Norbu, asked the Prime Minister on whether or not the government had prepared a plan or a road map for the solving the national debt and the Indian Rupee (INR) reserve. He suggested that the details of such decisions should be made public and shared in the Parliament.

In response to the loan situation, the PM said that on 30 June 2008, the total loan amount was Nu 33.07 bn. PM said there has been a threefold increase of the loan amount within five years, bringing the total loan amount to Nu 101.825 bn on 30 June 2013.

Lyonchhen Tshering Tobgay said that total loan amount increased by Nu 6.550 bn to Nu 108.375 bn within one year, from June 2013 to 30 June 2014. The total non-hydropower loan has decreased by Nu 5.677 bn to Nu 51.781bn during that one year period.

PM informed the house that the total non-hydropower loan, as on 30 June 2008, was Nu 15.751bn. The total non-hydropower loan, as on 30 June 2013, was Nu 57.458 bn, nearly a fourfold increase in five years.

PM said that the government has cleared a short-term rupee of about Nu 18.9 bn in 2013 and 2014. He said clearing the loan as resulted in the saving of Nu 1.79 in interest payment alone. He further informed that the present government had not sought any new loans, and would resort to borrowing, only if it was necessary for the economy of the country.

PM said that total foreign currency reserves increased by USD 158mn to USD 879 mn during 30 June 2013 to 30 September 2014. The INR reserve had increased by Rs 8.362 bn to Rs 14,287mn, with most of the INR kept for investment in hydropower projects.

Further, Lyonchhen Tshering Tobgay informed the NA that the government continues to be very concerned about the dangers of unsustainable debt, especially when the national debt has increased for non-hydropower investments. Therefore, a multi-sectoral task force has been established to draft a sustainable debt policy. PM said a draft policy is ready, which is currently being studied by relevant agencies.

The Dremtse- Ngatshang MP, Ugyen Wangdi, said that in past, the Ministry of Home and Cultural Affairs (MoHCA) used to convene an annual conference of Gups. He explained that there is no annual conference for the current year, and asked the MoHCA to kindly explain on its status.

The Minister of MoHCA, Damchoe Dorji, said that till date about seven annual conferences were conducted, along with the gewog-level and dzongkhag-level conferences.

Lyonpo Damchoe Dorji said that in the 2010 budget notification, it was mentioned that annual conferences should be conducted once in two years, as a cost cutting measure. He said that in March 2010, the conference was conducted, and in 2011 it was not conducted as it was an election year for Gups and Thrompons.

He informed the NA that last annual conference of the gups was held in 2013 and the next annual conference will be held in early 2015

The Boomdeling-Jamkhar MP, Duptho, said role of media, in emerging democracy, is very important, so as to maintain the neutrality and non-partisan nature of media organizations. He stated that it is of paramount importance to respect the neutrality of media organizations and for all its affairs to be conducted in the most open, fair and transparent manner.

MP Duptho questioned the Ministry of Information and Communications (MoIC) minister on the selection of the new MD of BBSC. He stated that BBSC appoints its MD through an open selection interview conducted by the BBSC Board. He said that all former MDs were drawn from the pool of senior public servants.

He said the Opposition is deeply concerned on the matter as there is a lack of proper explanation on the criterion and procedures followed in the selection of the new MD.

The Minister of MoIC, D.N Dhungyel, said the procedure for appointing the MD was legally right as per the Section 85 of the Companies Act of Bhutan 2000 and guidelines to make appointments in government corporations.

According to the Section 85 of the Companies Act 2000, it states “Every Company shall appoint a Chief Executive Officer for a term not exceeding five years at a time with the approval of the company in general meeting. Provided that a person appointed as Chief Executive Officer of a public company shall not be the Chief Executive Officer of another company.”

A general meeting is understood to be a meeting of shareholders where votes on issues like appointment of MD or other financial issue are taken.

He said that BBSC is government organization and government has a power to appoint the CEO. He said that appointment of the present MD of BBSC was done by the Cabinet, after the BBSC Board of Directors submitted the name list of five nominees.

He said that the MD was selected based on his experience, qualifications, and capabilities.

The Opposition said there are no clear directives or basis on how the five names on the list were nominated and submitted to government. The Opposition leader Pema Gyamtsho said that though the current BBSC MD was a capable and experienced person they were not questioning his capability but the process of his selection.

The former DPT cabinet had also chosen a name out of a list of names submitted by the former BBSC board.

The Minister, Ministry of Education, Mingbo Dukpa, who also served as a former BBSC MD, said BBSC does not have a commercial mandate as it is meant to educate the people. He said, “It is state broadcaster and government will always have to appoint and also have to fund and not dictate the broadcaster to do what they want.”

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