PM urges major emitting countries to set more ambitious targets ahead of COP26

About Nu 12bn spent fighting the Covid-19 pandemic

Government never used the pandemic as the context for policy decisions and actions: PMO

The Prime Ministers Office (PMO), in a recent press release has said that allegations by some people that the government is always citing the Covid-19 pandemic as the context for policy decisions and actions is not true.

The PMO has also informed that from the 98% of the initial Nu 310.9bn budget allocated in the 12th Five Year Plan (FYP), about Nu 12bn was spent to meet various expenses related to implementation of Covid measures.

The press release through the PMO’s social media platform also says that Bhutan’s success in fighting the pandemic, with His Majesty’s insight stand as a towering achievement, where the country saved lives, unlike other countries.

Apart from the pandemic, majority of the 12th FYP spending went towards constructing Granular Sub-Base roads across the country, numerous water projects, starting MBBS College and cluster hospitals, initiating national digital identity and digitization of schools, amongst others, that were far beyond the initial plan.

The press release says that the Covid-19 pandemic was a global phenomenon affecting every country in extreme ways, taking unprecedented toll on lives and livelihood. “It is not a figment of imagination conjured up to explain or justify any government action or inaction. For Bhutan, the danger took on heightened significance in view of our location between China and India,” it reads.

In addition, the PMO has said that the origin of the virus in China and closure of the border for two and half years to prevent cross-border transmission from India took on special meanings. It has maintained that for Bhutan and Bhutanese, the very survival as a country and people were at stake and that 700,000 of the people could have been easily wiped off if it were not for His Majesty’s extraordinary leadership, courage and wisdom.

“We understand the gravity of threat to our survival when we look at death tolls in other countries. A per record, over 1.15mn Americans lost their lives. That’s far more than the population of Bhutan. Brazil lost about 700,000 lives which is exactly the size of our population. Our close friend and neighbor, India, lost over 531,000. Russians lost nearly 400,000 of their people while Mexico lost 333, 000,” the PMO has stated.

On the loss of Bhutanese lives, the PMO has mentioned that Bhutan’s loss of 21 lives is one of the lowest in the world if it is taken in percentage of death based on the size of population. “Most of them had co-morbidity (two or more medical conditions) issues which were aggravated by Covid. However, the loss of each of these precious lives has been extremely painful to everyone, particularly to the families and especially to His Majesty.”

Further, the PMO has underlined that it is not that the virus spared Bhutan because of the small population and chose to inflict damage elsewhere but that risks of Bhutanese dying by the thousands was there.

“His Majesty’s insight of Covid dynamics both scientific and strategic and timely intervention, whole-hearted support of the people and the vital vaccine aid mobilized by the government from international community particularly India, helped the country to achieve an unthinkable outcome in consideration of our limited resources, health infrastructure, mountainous terrain and dispersed nature of village settlements,” the press release says.

According to the PMO, the pandemic challenged and tested the limits to save the lives of the people and ensure their safety during such critical moments are the most important responsibility of any government.

In addition, the PMO has said that this would stand as a towering achievement where the country saved lives and that it has been able to do so due to the fast and sustained vaccination of nearly 99% of the people in record time, a feat whose achievement drew international attention and admiration.

Reiterating that the pandemic was never an excuse though the pandemic came one and half years after the government was formed and disrupted the 12th FYP, the PMO has said that since the closure and opening of Bhutan’s international border, it cost the government two and half years, which is exactly half of their  tenure fighting the Covid. Thereafter, the government was left with only one year and one month before the completion of our tenure to implement the remaining projects.

“What this shows is better efficiency in using the allocated budget,” the PMO has said, adding that this also shows the extent to which development works of the 12th FYP are being implemented in different communities across gewogs and dzongkhags and that the Plan is still on.

In the 12th FYP, Nu 193.8bn was allocated for current expenditure and Nu 117bn for capital expenditure. “The total allocation is in itself significantly higher than the allocation of Nu 152.2bn for the 10th Plan and Nu 215.4bn for the 11th FYP, numerous additional programs were carried that took the budget to over Nu 317bn as of today,” the PMO’s press release says. 

Meanwhile, the expenditure of Nu 141.8bn for capital works has increased by Nu 24.8bn than the allocated budget of Nu 117bn. Moreover, from the current expenditure allocation, Nu 163.6bn or over 84% has been already spent by the government.

Sherab Dorji from Thimphu