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Tuesday, 16 July 2024

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Question Hour for Group C Ministries

Question Hour for Group C Ministries

During the Question Hour Session today, the Prime Minister and Ministers in Group C were asked a total of 11 with eight questions for oral responses and three questions for written responses. Four questions were asked to the Finance Minister and two each were asked to the Minister of Home Home Affairs (MoHA) and Prime Minister. Three written questions were submitted to the Prime Minister. 

The Prime Minister was questioned on the continuation of the Community Service Centers (CSC) with the rise of online services, considering the challenges faced by the illiterate and those lacking smartphones or 4G/5G access. Queries included government policies on the management and strategies to enhance service delivery. The Prime Minister was questioned about reducing data charges, compensating for the revenue loss, and ensuring stable high-speed internet across all Dzongkhags, Gewogs, and Chiwogs.

In response to these concerns, the Prime Minister assured that the government will continue utilizing CSC services under the charge of Gewog Administrations. Currently, there are 203 CSCs and will be supported by a dedicated office within the PMO that handles maintenance and provides technical support. Discussions are also underway with the MoICE to enhance service delivery to the public. As for Thromde, there are plans to introduce Integrated Service Centers where all services will be centralized, starting from the capital city with future expansions to every Dzongkhag.

In response to the question regarding the reduction of data charges and internet services, the Prime Minister emphasized on the crucial role of the internet in business expansion and educational growth for students. Highlighting the widespread use of mobile phones, the Prime Minister noted that Bhutan Telecom has 490,000 users and Tashicell has 270,000 users, totaling 760,000 mobile subscribers, which exceeded the country's population.

He agreed that the high cost of data charges was a concern, and compared with Airtel's service in India, there is huge disparity in costs. To address these issues, the Government plans to negotiate with the two telecom operators to potentially reduce data charges by up to 50%. Additionally, plans are underway to introduce a third telecom operator within the year to enhance competition and potentially lower costs further.

The Minister for Finance (MoF) was questioned about the source of government funds, plans for lower interest rates on housing and transport loans, and progress on these plans. Additionally, questions addressed the government's awareness of issues with the Property Tax Act of Bhutan 2022, particularly regarding land concessions, Chiwog-wise land classification, and farm road land treatment, along with plans to ensure fairness. There were also inquiries about temporary measures for businesses affected by the pandemic to access new loans and bank guarantees.

In response, the Finance Minister emphasized that the government as pledged will provide loans with low-interest of 4% on Housing to benefit the people who cannot afford it. Discussions regarding homeownership are ongoing, subsidies will be provided through banking institutions to facilitate access to loans, ensuring they are granted based on individuals' repayment capacity. 

The Minister for Home Affairs (MoHA) was questioned about recent violent crimes in Bhutan and potential changes to the Penal Code, including stricter sentences for heinous crimes, to enhance urban safety and deter violence. 

In response, the Minister of Home Affairs noted a significant rise in violent crime rates in recent years. He informed that the Government, with support from the Royal Bhutan Police, is addressing this issue through new initiatives. These include establishing rehabilitation centers to support youth involved in drugs without compromising their futures and engaging unemployed youth and school dropouts.