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Question Hour Highlights

Posted on :17 November 2017

Question on  Kholongchhu Hydroelectric Project

The Opposition Leader asked the Prime Minister that, although the government had earlier informed the Parliament the Kholongchhu Hydroelectric Project had been started, it was recently revealed that even the concession agreement has not been finalized yet and as such no major construction works have been awarded so far. This indicated that the government has not been able to start even a single mega hydropower project during its term.

 

In response, the Prime Minister said that Hydropower is the backbone of the country and that it is people's project. He informed that the 600MW Kholongchu project is the first among the four Joint Venture (JV) projects that the RGOB had agreed to undertake under the JV mode with the GOI under a common Inter-Governmental Framework Agreement. The Inter-Governmental Agreement (IGA)for JV projects was signed in April 2014 and finalized in June 2015. He updated the house on various pre construction works completed and those in progress with respect to the implementation of the projects started since September 2015. The Prime Minister further informed that a total expenditure of Nu. 1550 million have been incurred till date.

 

With regard to the Concession Agreement (CA), it is at an advanced stage of finalization. The negotiations were delayed because its was against our hydropower development policy. Meanwhile, the RGOB is reviewing through a High Level Committee to come out with a clear way forward as to the implementation of other projects under the 10,000 MW development plan.

The Prime Minister also informed the house on the implementation status of the Punatsangchhu-I project (83.21% completed), the Punatsangchhu-II project (72.36% completed) and the Mangdechhu project (89.3% completed). He also informed that a team of experts from Bhutan, India and Norway studied the problems faced in the Punatsangchu I and II.  

 

Question on Increasing National Debt

The Member from Panbang Constituency expressed his concern regarding the increase in National Debt by Nu. 83 billion from Nu.101 billion in 2013 to Nu.184 billion during this government tenure. He asked the Prime Minister to clarify for the increase in the national debt despite not having initiated a single major national project.

 

The Prime Minister expressed his appreciation to the opposition for raising their concerns on the increasing national debt. He informed the House that considering the need to control national debt, the Public Debt Policy was adopted in 2016 to ensure that public debt is being repaid on time with minimum risk and cost. He said that the increase in the national debt stock was mostly on account of Hydro projects which currently stood at Nu. 89 billion. Non-hydro debt is only Nu. 44 billion. The increase is also on account of currency swap of US$ 100 million (Nu. 6.406 billion) availed by RMA for a period of six months. By the end of the 11FYP, the non-hydro debt stock is projected to decrease at least by 23% with the settlement of the currency swap by February 2018 and liquidation of the line credit of Nu 4 billion by March 2018 by RMA besides other repayments.  

 

He said that apart from Hydropower projects, expansion of East-West Highway, introduction of helicopter services,  construction of Gewog center roads  etc were all part of  national projects.

 

Unemployment Problem

The Member from Kengkhar-Werringla asked the Prime Minister on fulfillment of the 2013 campaign pledge to provide unemployment benefits to the unemployed youth  besides promising 100% employment.

 

In response, the Prime Minister informed the House that various employment programs were initiated for which an expenses of Nu.1.156 billion was incurred. This has benefitted 20,576 jobseekers. Nu.307 million was spent for sending 500 students to work and study at the same time. In the past four years, 38,804 were registered as job seekers with the Ministry of Labour  and Human Resources, out of which 36,293 were employed in various sectors leaving behind only 2,511 of them unemployed. He also informed that 879 jobs were available in government agencies and additional 700 employment opportunities are being created between 2017-2018.

 

He urged all job seekers to register with the Ministry of Labour  and Human Resources so that the government can facilitate them to get jobs.

 

Government pledge to send old people for pilgrimage

The Member from Bumdeling-Jamkhar asked the Prime Minister to update the house with regard to the pledge made to send old people above the age of 65 years on pilgrimage. He asked as to how many people had been sent thus far on pilgrimage.

 

In response, the Prime Minister informed that Party Members and Party Office had sent 290 people thus far on pilgrimage. The prime minister himself had sponsored 25 people. He also submitted that it was important to carefully consider if it was viable to send old people on pilgrimage financed by RGoB when it was the moral responsibility of all citizens towards their parents to take this responsibility. The prime minister also informed the house that there were a total of 9,189 pilgrimage sites within the country and it was imperative to visit these holy sites.  He also shared that a holy place in Sangbaykha Geowg would be made accessible by road and encouraged all to visit the site in future.

 

Agreement between the Royal Government of Bhutan and the Government of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh for the Avoidance of Double Taxation and the Prevention of Fiscal Evasion with Respect to Taxes on Income.

The Finance Minister, moved the motion to introduced the Agreement between the Royal Government of Bhutan and the Government of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh for the Avoidance of Double Taxation and the Prevention of Fiscal Evasion with Respect to Taxes on Income for first reading and adoption for discussion.  The motion was supported by the Minister for  Ministry of Economic Affairs and the House decided to discuss the Agreement.

 

The Finance Minister, then  submitted that the Agreement would:

  1. Benefit the Bhutanese Airlines businesses as they would no longer be liable to pay tax on the cargo and passenger boarding from Dhaka, Bangladesh.
  2. Double taxation on income of individuals (non diplomat Bhutanese stationed in Bangladesh working for companies would be eliminated, benefitting those individuals.
  3. Curb cross border tax evasion with the provision to exchange information and assistance in collecting taxes.
  4. Encourage potential investors which is beneficial for business in Bhutan.

The Finance Minister also informed that the DTAA is as part of the infrastructure of the global economy based on the internationally agreed models (OECD and UN).

 

The House, after deliberating on the Agreement, Article by Article and page by page, pointed out that there were inconsistencies in the translation especially in the Dzongkha version. The House directed to correct Dzongkha text for the word “Agreement” in accordance with the word enshrined in the Constitution and also to correct spellings.

 

The Agreement would be put to voting in the next sitting of the House.  

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