Public business

Members of the National Assembly met last week to consider points submitted by the local governments and MNAs for inclusion in the Parliament’s 5th session.

The so-called “pre-agenda” meeting is an important conduit for issues of national importance to receive the National Assembly’s attention. We must take the issues seriously as they are an important part of our responsibilities. Article 10.2 of the Constitution requires that:

Parliament shall ensure that the Government safeguards the interests of the nation and fulfils the aspirations of the people through public review of policies and issues, Bills and other legislations, and scrutiny of State functions.

During the meeting, the opposition party proposed four issues to be included in the forthcoming session. They are:

  • Review of the recently approved Economic Development Policy;
  • Review of the government’s proposed reform measures for the construction sector;
  • Review of McKinsey, especially to consider how and why they were recruited, and the work that they are doing.
  • Review of the Punatsangchhu hydropower project and especially to consider why work that can be done by nationals are being awarded to foreign contractors.

The meeting decided against including these points in the agenda, arguing that the MPs would require a lot more time to study the issues carefully.

Since the opposition party feels that these issues are both important and urgent, we have decided not to wait for future sessions. Instead, the opposition party will file motions to discuss these issues during the Parliament’s fifth session itself.

The opposition party also appealed to the Honourable Speaker to permit live TV broadcast of the entire proceedings. The speaker reiterated that live TV broadcast would be allowed for all important sittings, but not for the entire session.

Public policies

Several multinational companies, like Tata, Airtel, Lafarge, and Infinity, have shown interest in investing in Bhutan. And others, like Mountain Hazelnut Venture, have already started doing business in our country. So it’s time the government finalized its foreign direct investment policy.

But before finalizing the policy, the government should hold thorough consultations with all stakeholders, particularly the private sector, to ensure that they understand the policy and, more importantly, that they commit to supporting it.

And once the FDI policy is finalized, it should be made public.

Incidentally, the cabinet approved the Economic Development Policy last year. But it is still not available to the public. Instead, just last month the prime minster informed a potential investor that:

Bhutan was finalizing the Economic Development Policy which would spell out the kind of environment in which they can operate.

Transparency is important. And it is especially important where there’s money to be made.