Opposition grills Govt. over pledges

| Tashi Wangmo, Thimphu


During the question hour session last Friday, the Opposition Members of Parliament (MPs) hurled a series of question to the government over recent economic development in the country.

The Bartsam-Shongphu MP, Wangdi Norbu, asked the minister of economic affairs if the benefits reduction of fuel prices is being passed onto the end consumers.  Lyonpo Lekey Dorji , said that reduction of the fuel prices are due to excise duty exemption given of the government of India and the benefits are being passed onto the consumers.

Ugyen Wangdi, Drametsi-Ngatshang MP, then asked the minister to update the country on the government’s plan to formulate a comprehensive private sector development plan.

“To formulate this plan was one of the pledges of the government during the last elections. However, even after four years into ruling, the people are not aware of such a plan to develop private sector,” said the Opposition MP.

Lyonpo Lekey Dorji, in response, said that it is untrue that the government is not doing anything to develop private sector in the country.

“We have initiated and implemented various plans and programs to revive and build our private sector. For any economy, private sector is the back-bone and we understand it very well,” he said.

The minister mentioned that under the Economic Stimulus Plan (ESP) the government allocated Nu.5 billion, of which Nu.4 billion was injected into the financial institutions to resolve the rupee problem while the remaining Nu.1 billion was invested to set up Business Opportunities and Information Center (BoIC).

“Because of all these, Bhutan’s ranking in ease of doing business, as per World Bank, from 145 in 2013 to 75 in 2017,” said the minister.

He further mentioned that the government had initiated fiscal incentives, reviewed policies pertaining to mining, hydropower, domestic electricity tariff, and public private partnership and licensing policies.

“We also have extended basic infrastructure, road networks, and lessened loan interest rates and introduced Government to Citizen (G2C) and Government to Business (G2B) services for the benefit of private sector. Further, the development of mini-dry port in Phuentsholing is on-going,” said the minister.

Answering to Nyisho-Sephu MP, Kuenga, on why payments of six subcontractors working for Punatsangchu Project got delayed, the minister said that as per his knowledge all payments had been made on time as per agreements drawn between the contractors. “However, disbursements of payments for extra and deviated works are made only after the final assessment of the works carried out by the chief engineers. Maybe the issue here is about the payments for extended works,” he said.

He also urged the MP to submit the dates of pending bills so that he can personally request and process the bills for the convenient of the contractors.

Similarly, Trashigang Wamrong MP, Karma Tenzin raised the issue on fuel adulteration at fuel stations across the country and also questioned the actions taken by the government.

“We did not receive a single complain nor did any of the regional trade offices. But if this is true, than it is a serious offence and punishable as per the Penal Code of Bhutan and the Consumer Protection Act,” said the minister responding to the question.

MP Dechen Zangmo of Nanong-Shumar Constituency questioned the minister on the status of the government’s pledge to set up a fuel station in each gewog.

To this, Lyonpo said that currently there are 54 fuel stations in the country and 65 are expected to be completed by the end of this December.

“The plans and programs have been formulated and budgeted to provide fuel stations in all the gewogs with road connection,” he added.

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