16th session of the National council begins
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.