An insight into the Seventh Session of the Third Parliament

Five new Bills and three disputed Bills amongst others to be deliberated in the forthcoming session.
The Seventh Session of the Third Parliament, scheduled to begin of June 2, 2022 will be deliberating on five new bills and one international instrument. It includes five money Bills - the National Budget Report along with Budget Appropriation Bill for the Financial Year 2022- 2023 ; Supplementary Budget Appropriation Bill for the Financial Year 2021-2022; Fiscal Incentives (Amendment) Bill of Bhutan 2022 ; Goods and Services Tax (Amendment) Bill of Bhutan 2022;  Concession of Property Tax Bill of Bhutan 2022. 
According to Article 13(2) of the Constitution, Money Bills and financial Bills shall originate only in the National Assembly whereas any other legislative Bill may originate in either House. 
The Fiscal Incentives Act of Bhutan 2021, was enacted on November 29, 2021 repealing the Fiscal Incentives Act of Bhutan 2017. The Preamble to the Act says: “This is an Act to give effect to the fiscal incentives (tax exemptions, concessions and allowances) to stimulate economic growth, foster private sector development and generate employment.”
In February 12, 2020, the National Assembly passed the Goods and Services Tax (GST) Bill 2020, despite legal questions surrounding the House’s decision to defer its implementation. The Prime Minister Dr. Lotay Tshering initially said that the government would implement the GST by July 1, 2022. He said that the two-year incubation period was required in view of the need to develop GST billing software and carry out sensitization programmes.
However, replying to questions asked by Bhutan’s daily paper during the Meet the Press on May 6, 2022, about the Goods and Services Tax (GST), the PM said it will not be implemented by July 1, 2022 as was originally planned. The PM said the software section or component, the Bhutan Integrated Taxation System (BITS) is not ready. 
The media was informed by the PM that such delays have been experienced by many countries around the world as they ventured forward to shift the taxation system, from the conventional ones to GST. 
While the media has reported that everything would now have to be started from scratch, the PM said that discussions on this are ongoing with Druk Holdings Investment (DHI). He added that scrapping it “does not mean everything totally going down the drain,” and that building blocks are already set, and components need to be readjusted. The PM said that whatever has been spent till now is not something that would go down the drain. 
While an Armenian Company had been involved till now, the PM said DHI would decide if the project will be continued with the same company or not. Further, he added that the Cabinet has to decide if the finance ministry wants to get the rudimentary product or to take it for discussion in the Parliament during the forthcoming summer session. The Press was also informed that after discussions with DHI and DHI wanting to build the system within the country, to enable and assist in building national capacity, the decision was made. 
Concerning Property Tax, the Finance Ministry had told the media in May, 2021 that the ministry of finance is working on introducing Property Tax Act which will include a value-based taxation policy. He has said that the new Property Tax Act will resolve ambiguities and biases that come from the Revised Taxation Policy 1992. While value of property has increased drastically, Property Tax is still being paid as per the Revised Taxation Policy of 1992. 
Apart from other issues the Finance Minister has said that as per definition, “a three-kilometre radius away from Throm is considered rural.” “So with the rapid expansion and urbanisation of many Throms, most of the areas which currently falls under Dzongkhag Throm are being categorised as a rural area in terms of tax collection. So with this, there are certain ambiguities and biases. ” 
As per the Revised Taxation Policy, commercial land is taxed Nu 0.50 per square feet and residential land Nu 0.25 per square feet. Building owners pay only Nu 100 per year for a unit in Thimphu. People have been calling for a revision of the rates. 
 Sources told this paper that the Finance Ministry worked tirelessly on this and he wanted to table it in the last session of the National Assembly. However, it did not get the nod from the Cabinet. 
The other Bill to be deliberated in the forthcoming session is the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime (UNTOC) Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children (TIP Protocol). 
The Session will also deliberate on: Third Reading of the Forest and Nature Conservation Bill of Bhutan 2021. An important aspect of this Bill is the change in the definition of Forest Produce. While the Forest and Nature Conservation Act of 1995 included boulders, stone, sand, gravel, rocks, peat, surface soil as “Forest Produce,” the current Bill does not mention anything about it. In such a scenario, there is an absence of an authorizing agency and it remains to be seen if it will still be retained by the Department of Park and Forest or the Department of Geology and Mines. 
The Joint Sitting of the two Houses will deliberate on the: Report of the Public Accounts Committee’s Review Report on the Royal Audit Authority’s Annual Audit Report 2020-21; and Performance Audit Report. 
Three disputed Bills, the Anti-Corruption (Amendment) Bill of Bhutan 2021: Civil Society Organizations (Amendment) Bill of Bhutan 2021; and United Nations Convention Against Corruption (UNCAC) (Amendment) will be discussed, too. 
The House will also Re-deliberate on the:  Biodiversity Bill of Bhutan 2021 and The Royal Bhutan Police (Amendment) Bill of Bhutan 2021. In addition to the above Bills, follow-up on the resolutions of the Sixth Session and motions will also be deliberated. As per procedure, the Question Hour session will be held every Tuesday and Friday.