Was the recent decision of the Government that increased taxes on vehicles legally correct?

With the implementation of Goods & Service Tax (GST) in India, imports of goods have generally become cheaper in Bhutan. Consumption is expected to grow which could cause considerable strain on our rupee reserve, especially when considering import of vehicles. Governments use fiscal policy tools to manage the economy and taxes are an important and legitimate tool. Oxford dictionary defines tax as ‘A compulsory contribution to state revenue, levied by the government on workers’ income and business profits, or added to the cost of some goods, services, and transactions. It is not possible to directly link the recent executive decision by the Government in changing tax evaluation as a response growing worries of over consumption without an official statement from the Government, it however, appears to be a control measure nonetheless and one that involves tax alteration. The timing, intent and impact corroborate the suggestion that it is tax alteration. I do not question the merit of the decision. The concern surrounds the non-compliance to legislative process in altering taxes.
This is because during the 1st constitutional case between the Government and the Opposition regarding taxes, the Government had increased taxes and applied it to vehicles without bringing it to the Parliament. The decision was challenged and eventually taken to court. The Supreme Court’s judgment in essence stated that any alteration to taxes must be done through the Parliament. An excerpt from judgment 6.6 of the Supreme Court is presented below:
Under no circumstances the authority to impose or alter taxes may be delegated to the Executive. The alleged authority to impose or alter indirect taxes has no legal basis under the Constitution. Therefore, the imposition or alteration of taxes must comply with the legislative process for making laws at all times as provided under Sections 234 -238 of the National Assembly Act 2008.
Reading from this, the executive decision by the Government in changing tax evaluation from the point of entry to the point of sale, has resulted in an increase in tax. This is the first time since 2008 that such a change in evaluation has happened and vehicles have been the focus of the decision. Similar change in tax evaluation happened only before 2008; beer was one such product. Even as we try and comprehend what has happened, the recently announced policy decision has received another tinkering and green taxes have once again been reverted back to point of entry evaluation. The optical may show suggest something else but applicable taxes have increased and hence, altered.
Recognizing that managing the economy is one of the many responsibilities of the Government, upholding the rule of law is an equally compelling duty. These serious concerns of violating the principle of non-delegation of legislation enshrined in the Constitution and circumventing legislative process in altering taxes against a clearly articulated judgment of the Supreme Court is a cause for worry. It requires deeper reflection and appropriate action on the part of both the Government and the Parliament.
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Question on telecom service providers and connectivity issues

Question raised to the Hon’ble Minister for Information and Communications

Telecommunication connectivity and service standards

Raised by Gasa Theumi Sangay Khandu

Source: National Council

The number of call drops and failure to access internet on both data cards and mobile phone have been visible and increasing for some time now. Even as we make references to G2C services available online and continue to bring more online services like online banking and mobile banking, significant number of users have been expressing frustration at the quality of service. This is worst in Thimphu. Bhutan Telecom Corporation continues to refer, as in the past, to on-going works to unclog the network. However, it has not had any positive impact. With decreasing reliability of service, many online services that the Royal Government advocates may not be accessible. The problems have, ironically, become more acute after the increase in taxes on mobile phone and internet services.

The National Council would like to know if the Royal Government has put in place any service regulatory standards that are comparable to ones applicable to such businesses in other parts of the world. What has it done to address this problem? Continue reading

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Question on support to local content development

Questioned raised to the Hon’ble Minister Home and Cultural Affairs

Local content generation and culture

Raised by Gasa Thuemi Sangay Khandu

After a hugely popular Ap Bokto animation was publicly released, children as far and remote as Laya and Lunana, hum, sing and mimic the characters. The love for a Bhutanese cartoon character is evident in how almost any parent knows Ap Bokto. There is no dearth of Bhutanese stories. Bhutanese have decent technological ability and enough creativity to make good, local and meaningful films for children. There is a critical need to encourage and support such and other categories of film makers for young Bhutanese.
In promoting our national language, we have expressed difficulty in terms of reading and writing by blaming school system, teachers, curriculum and the experts. In most cases, this is possibly happening because of the inadequacy of our own content generation in multimedia. Dominance by foreign content and its effects on society has been discussed several times. Culture is the fabric of our national identity, and language is the loudest and most active part of our culture.

Therefore, the National Council would like to know the policies, plans and programs of the Royal Government in supporting greater local content generation especially for young Bhutanese. Continue reading

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Written question on Govt decision on the post of Geydrungs

Written question raised to the Hon’ble Minister for Home and Cultural Affairs

Government position concerning the post of Geydrungs

Raised by Gasa Theumi Sangay Khandu

Source: National Council

The local government office has been using the services of geydrungs for a long time. It started with their writing skills that were critical to local government functionaries at a time when many gups could not read or write. However, as more and more gups were able to read and write (as required by law), the role of geydrungs have now evolved from simply writing for the gup to writing for the public. Our experiences at the villages have shown us that the convenience of having geydrungs at the office allows members of the public to use them for a wide array of services ranging from writing letters, agreements, tax collection, office record keeping.While Parliament has discussed and also tabled both the pay hike proposal and the Local Government Amendment Act (primary revolved around thromde), it left out issues concerning geydrungs. It was then thought that their issue was best taken up during pay revision deliberations (when discussions for local governments arise) and later under the civil service category when the Local Government Amendment Bill was discussed. While members shared concerns on the matter, there was no conclusive debate when discussions took place both times. Continue reading

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Question seeking progress report on Government e-library project

Question rasied to the Hon’ble Education Minister
Status report on E-library project
Raised by Gasa Thuemi Sangay Khandu
Source: National Council

The Hon’ble Prime Minister of India, H.E. Sri Narendra Modi spoke of access to large database of e-library for education institutions in Bhutan during his visit to Bhutan in mid-2014. This was later reiterated by our own Prime Minister at several occasions. However, there has been no visible development concerning e-library.

Therefore, the National Council would like to ask the Royal Government concerning developments, progress, reach and connectivity of e-library. Continue reading

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Remembering the first aerial election campaign in Bhutan

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Taksi-maka, Laya [Photo by Khandu, BO]

Exactly 3 years today, on April 23, 2013, votes were cast for the 2nd national elections, the National Council elections to be more precise.
As I reminisce today, in particular looking at this picture, I am reminded of just how positive an experience it can be, even, if it is an election.

Bhutan Broadcasting Service ran a news story around the campaign as it was the FIRST time that candidates were using a helicopter during an election campaign in Bhutan. Interestingly, even though it focussed on collaboration and positivity, for some reason, the news had to blurr our faces. Thinking back now, it appears rather weird. All three candidates, after agreement were travelling together on the same helicopter, so by having allowed the story to run without any sensoring would have had no issues. Anyway, the reason I am writing is not to complain about the past but really, to share share a bit about just how the 1st helicopter election campaign happened. Continue reading

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Naming of the Gyalsay – a profound moment.

 

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Miwang Gyalsey Jigme Namgyel Wangchuck      Photo: HM’s fb page

As His Majesty the King pronounced the Gyalsay’s name to the country for the first time today, standing still, amongst the thousands gathered in the courtyard of Pungthangdewachenpaiphodrang, riveted to every syllable and absorbing every frame of our beloved Gyalsay’s presence, hands folded together, holding white khadhar in celebration, we became part of history. A history we are proud to share, and a history we will continue to share and narrate about with great pride.

Witnessing this profound event unfold; a King and Father, naming his Son and Heir, was most special but a very emotional one too, for me. This is a first. As His Majesty shared his expectations of our young Gyalsay in explaining the significance of the name Jigme Namgyel Wangchuck, I could sense the crushing weight of a Monarch’s solemn and sacred duty and responsibility more than ever. The unimaginable cosmos of burdens stacking up, even as our Gyalsay is only a little over 70 days old, laden with infinite expectations was simply overwhelming. Such is the insurmountable burden, as many of us would view it, of being born a Prince, being born an Heir to the Golden Throne and being born a Dragon King. So true when His Majesty said ‘he is your son’, for he carries all of our burden.

I join my countrymen, with an ever deepening sense of gratitude, to our Dragon Kings, and take this moment in reaffirming loyalty and rededicating to the Tsa-Wa-Sum. Pelden Drukpa Geylo!

[Written on April 16, 2016]

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