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12th Plan – for information or deliberation?

The National Assembly and the National Council have said that both the houses would review and deliberate the 12th Plan.

According to the National Assembly members, the Plan does not meet their expectations and has nothing ambitious, exciting, or revolutionary.

The National Council has said that it would form a committee to review the Plan, deliberate, and provide recommendations.

The intent to improve the Plan, works on which began two years ago, is not questioned. It is a important Plan and merits discourse as it is the last Plan that Bhutan would be implementing as a least developed country and the first to delineate equal resources between the central and local governments.

What is, however, questionable is the powers of the legislature to deliberate the Plan, which is only presented to the parliament for information. The comments from our parliamentarians on the Plan show confusion on the role of the legislature and the executive when it concerns the 12th Plan. Their dismissal approach to the draft plan, its framework, and asking the gross national happiness commission why it was again presenting the plan to them when it was the assembly secretariat that requested for it, leaves a lot to be desired from our honourable parliament members. That these comments were made after they attended four rounds of presentation on the draft is as telling.

As the third Parliament convenes the first sitting today, some clarity on the roles of the legislature and the separation of powers is necessary.

The 12th Plan is not a law or bill and, to date, the house has not voted on it. By this characterisation, the legislature has no authority to deliberate on it. This power rests with the executive, the Cabinet, which the Constitution has empowered to execute national public policies and plans. However, the national assembly’s agenda has listed the Plan for deliberation.

The National Assembly’s powers and influence on the Plan are through discussions on the budget, which will also be presented and discussed in this session. Concerns from the members on wanting to be more involved in the implementation of the plan at the local government level would require the house to move a motion to amend the laws and acts, not complaining to the GNHC.

The National Council, an apolitical body with a check and balance responsibility, has also said that it would form a committee to deliberate the plan and suggest recommendations. The house does not have authority on the budget, money bills,nor does it have the pressure like the national assembly members to keep political promises.

The month-long Parliament session begins today and we can ill afford to be confused between laws and plans or those that are presented for information and for deliberation.

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