Development partners assure support to Bhutan

The ability to get the plans and policies clear to the country’s development partners and get their assurance of support was the biggest achievement of the 14th Round Table Meeting (RTM), according to Prime Minister Dr. Lotay Tshering.

During the Friday Meet yesterday, Lyonchhen explained that the RTM is not intended to get extra dollars immediately.

“The main outcome of the event is to know each other. The donor partners should know two things – they should know that we are grateful for their assistance until now and they should know our plans and policies so they will be comfortable in helping us,” Lyonchhen said.

“We made our opinions loud and clear and they are happy with our plans and policies. And that they are going back to continue working with us is the biggest achievement,” Lyonchhen added.

With all donor agencies willing to sit down and hear us and in which areas they can help us, Lyonchhen said, it has really opened the door for further discussion.

 “Now the ball is in our court and we have to get our thoughts in black and white and go and talk to them,” Lyonchhen said.

Although the government politically has five years to do that, Lyonchhen added that all the events that will come up will be not restricted to five years and that they will go on beyond five years.

Meanwhile, the 14th RTM, themed enhancing happiness and sustainable development through partnerships, was organized by the government in collaboration with the UN system from March 12-14.

Held twice over the course of the Five-Year Plan (FYP), the RTMs are an important forum to develop and discuss policies. It provides an opportunity for Bhutan and its development partners to discuss development priorities and how best to achieve the government’s goals. 

And the 12th FYP has been dubbed as the last mile plan that will help the country graduate from the Least Developed Country (LDC) ranks.

During the Friday Meet yesterday, the foreign minister and also the co-chair of the 14th RTM, Lyonpo Dr. Tandi Dorji said throughout the discussion the focus was on enhancing private sector involvement as well as Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) and Cottage and Small Industries (CSI).

 Lyonpo said it has been very difficult to attract billionaires to invest in the country because of the small market, inaccessible and remoteness nature of the country.

“Now through the CSI we are hoping to attract investors with one million dollar. This will go into the CSI with niche products that the government will assist in finding markets,” he said.

“As we graduate from LDC, it is no more about putting out our hands and asking for aid, but to ask for new partnerships and that partners are asking what Bhutan can offer to them,” Lyonpo added.

According to the Lyonpo, Bhutan has many things to offer – they way we manage our environment, our development paradigm of going beyond economic development and the way our democracy has nurtured the peacefulness of Bhutan.

In another press conference on Thursday after the conclusion of the RTM, Lyonpo Dr. Tandi Dorji said the government is optimistic of achieving all the targets set in the 12th Plan and beyond.

He added that they were encouraged by the statement of support expressed by the development partners.

“The continued support and friendship of our partners is highly valued and we look forward to continuing and building an excellent shared relation,” Lyonpo Dr. Tandi Dorji said.

According to the Lyonpo, the key message of the discussion was on the relevance of Gross National Happiness as a development paradigm not only for Bhutan but also for whole world. The observation emerged was the need of the community especially in the rural areas and the role of CSOs and programs and project that they implement must be included with the government’s overall plan. The inclusion of CSOs and the need to further partner with the CSOs without duplication was appreciated.

Meanwhile, United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Administrator and UN Under-Secretary General Achim Steiner, who was in Bhutan to co-chair the RTM, acknowledged the long-standing partnership between Bhutan and the United Nations (UN).

It was also reiterated that the UN system in Bhutan remains committed to supporting the government to not only meet its GNH aspirations and achieve the SDGs, but also in ensuring a smooth transition to a middle-income country.

Bhutan’s graduation, Mr. Steiner said, should not be an opportunity for the development partners to withdraw their support.

“It should instead be an opportunity to evolve our partnership with Bhutan, and change terms, level and quality of our engagement to take the partnership forward,” he added.

Meanwhile, the total outlay of the 12th Plan is Nu 310bn, and of the total nearly 70% will be financed from domestic revenues and 20% will be financed through external borrowings and grants. A fiscal deficit of close to 10% has been projected. The government plans to look into innovative way of financing the deficit through external resource mobilization and enhancing internal revenue base through tax reforms.

Meanwhile, more than 50 developments partners, both bilateral and multilateral, who have attended the 14th RTM and of whom 32 were development partners had taken the floor to make statement of various supports to the government and the 12th Plan.

The 14th RTM was also the one that saw inclusive participation from CSOs, representatives of all the political parties, members of National Council and the private sector.

Dechen Dolkar from Thimphu