16th ses­sion of the Na­tional coun­cil be­gins

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The 16ths Ses­sion of the Na­tional Coun­cil of Bhutan be­gan last Thurs­day. In the open­ing cer­e­mony, the mem­bers and sec­re­tariat staff of­fered Zhabten to His Majesty the 4th Druk Gyalpo on the oc­ca­sion of His 60th Birth An­niver­sary. Four Na­tional Coun­cil mem­bers, rep­re­sent­ing four re­gions of our coun­try ex­pressed grat­i­tude to His Majesty the 4th Druk Gyalpo for the un­con­di­tional sac­ri­fices he has made to the coun­try and peo­ple dur­ing the 34 years of his reign.

The Na­tional Coun­cil iden­ti­fied a set of eight im­por­tant Laws, among many oth­ers, passed dur­ing His Majesty the 4th Druk Gyalpo’s reign and that has direct rel­e­vance to ru­ral com­mu­ni­ties, and was handed over to rep­re­sen­ta­tives of the 20 dzongkhags. The mem­bers will give each gewog and thromde a set of th­ese law books dur­ing their con­stituency vis­its. The mem­bers and staff also do­nated blood for the Jigme Dorji Wangchuck Na­tional Re­fer­ral Hos­pi­tal. The staff of the Na­tional As­sem­bly Sec­re­tariat par­tic­i­pated in the pro­gram as well.

In his open­ing ad­dress, the Chair­per­son of the Na­tional Coun­cil Dasho ( Dr ) Sonam Kinga re­ported the work­ing sta­tus of var­i­ous com­mit­tees af­ter the con­clu­sion of the 15th Ses­sion. He stated that the com­mit­tees, in to­tal, have con­ducted 83 meet­ings in­clud­ing ple­nary ses­sions, in the last three months. Through those meet­ings, Com­mit­tees took up im­por­tant re­search and re­view as­sign­ments.

Later, the House re­viewed the re­sponses of the gov­ern­ment, An­ti­Cor­rup­tion Com­mis­sion, Elec­tion Com­mis­sion and Royal Au­dit Author­ity on the res­o­lu­tions it had passed dur­ing the 15th ses­sion. Is­sues on Gov­ern­ment’s Spe­cial Au­dit Re­port on Liq­ue­fied Petroleum Gas (LPG) and Su­pe­rior Kerosene Oil (SKO), trans­fer of Dram­etse Gup’s cen­sus to Ngat­shang Gewog, and im­ple­men­ta­tion sta­tus of the Na­tional Coun­cil rec­om­men­da­tion on Sup­ple­men­tary Bud­get & Ap­pro­pri­a­tion Bill 2014-15 sub­mit­ted to the Na­tional As­sem­bly dur­ing the 15th Ses­sion were re­viewed.

The Na­tional Coun­cil de­lib­er­ated on the Euro­pean In­vest­ment Bank (EIB) Frame­work Agree­ment and the United Na­tions Con­ven­tion against Cor­rup­tion (UNCAC) and, rat­i­fied the SAARC Frame­work Agree­ment for En­ergy Co­op­er­a­tion (Elec­tric­ity) on Fri­day.

In­tro­duc­ing the Euro­pean In­vest­ment Bank (EIB) Frame­work Agree­ment (FWA), the Min­is­ter for Fi­nance briefed on the prin­ci­ple and ob­jec­tives of the agree­ment. Four mem­bers sought clar­i­fi­ca­tions on the agree­ment so that the doc­u­ment was in con­so­nance with the guide­line of Ex­ter­nal Com­mer­cial Bor­row­ing, sovereignty guar­an­tee, na­tional debt bur­den, in­ter­est rate fluc­tu­a­tion, risk in re­pay­ing the loans taken from banks and le­gal frame­work.

As di­rected by the House, the Eco­nomic Af­fairs Com­mit­tee re­viewed the Frame­work Agree­ment signed be­tween Euro­pean In­vest­ment Bank and Bhutan (signed by the Min­istry of Fi­nance on 4 De­cem­ber 2014). The Chair­man of the Eco­nomic Af­fairs Com­mit­tee re­ported that the agree­ment had risks of over­rid­ing nu­mer­ous other na­tional laws and reg­u­la­tions per­tain­ing to eco­nomic and fi­nan­cial sec­tor of Bhutan. There­fore, it was sub­mit­ted that the Com­mit­tee has reser­va­tions in rat­i­fy­ing the agree­ment.

The House, through vot­ing ex­er­cise, re­solved not to move mo­tion to rat­ify the Euro­pean In­vest­ment Bank (EIB) Frame­work Agree­ment. The ra­tio­nale be­hind the Com­mit­tee ob­ject­ing the rat­i­fi­ca­tion will be sub­mit­ted to the Na­tional As­sem­bly which rat­i­fied the Agree­ment in its 5th Ses­sion of the Sec­ond Par­lia­ment.

The Min­is­ter for Eco­nomic Af­fairs in­tro­duced SAARC Frame­work Agree­ment for En­ergy Co­op­er­a­tion (Elec­tric­ity). He briefed on the ra­tio­nale, prin­ci­ple, ob­jec­tives and the ben­e­fit of the agree­ment. Fur­ther he said that the agree­ment will pro­vide in­te­gra­tion of Bhutan’s trans­mis­sion sys­tem with In­dian grid for ex­port of sur­plus power and fur­ther strengthen the ex­ist­ing trade re­la­tions with the SAARC coun­tries.

Since the SAARC Frame­work Agree­ment for En­ergy Co­op­er­a­tion (Elec­tric­ity) was di­rected to the Leg­isla­tive Com­mit­tee for re­view in the last ses­sion, the Chair­per­son of the Com­mit­tee re­ported that Bhutan will ben­e­fit from the agree­ment. While there are amend­ments to be made, the Com­mit­tee was for rat­i­fy­ing the con­ven­tion. Hence, the House unan­i­mously rat­i­fied the SAARC Frame­work Agree­ment for En­ergy Co­op­er­a­tion (Elec­tric­ity).

The Min­is­ter for Home & Cul­ture Af­fairs also in­tro­duced the United Na­tions Con­ven­tion against Cor­rup­tion (UNCAC). With the Con­ven­tion rat­i­fied, he said that the al­ready ex­ist­ing sys­tem of bat­tle against cor­rup­tion will be aug­mented and our gov­er­nance sys­tem en­hanced.

The House will con­tinue de­lib­er­a­tion on the United Na­tions Con­ven­tion against Cor­rup­tion (UNCAC) on 12thNovem­ber 2015, fol­lowed by de­lib­er­a­tion on the Jabmi Act (Amend­ment) Bill of Bhutan 2015.

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