Economic roadmap to emphasize on data, technology and human capital

The National Task Force (NTF) of the 21st Century Economic Roadmap which consists of about five professional groups of civil servants, private sector, financial institutions, resident development partners and executive members comprising senior public servants and private individuals will chart an economic compass that will place a strong emphasis on cross-cutting sectors like data and technology, and human capital including education and skills.

The group was mainly formed to seek diverse views and perspectives on the direction of the economic roadmap.

It has already reviewed all sectors with high growth potential such as tourism, energy, mining, manufacturing, industries, constructions, finance and agriculture.

The NTF is aiming to come up with the final economic roadmap report by December 2020.

The Chairperson of the taskforce, Kinga Tshering said that the government wanted the NTF, with members from the private sector, to provide an outside perspective and view the economic development from the private sector lens. However, he said that the government will still play the major role in its implementation by creating the right environment and the ecosystem.

Towards this, coinciding with His Majesty The King’s 40th Birth Anniversary in February this year, the Prime Minister launched the exercise of formulating Bhutan’s 21st Century Economic Roadmap.  It is expected to broadly guide the country’s economic development over the next 10 years. The roadmap will be the common national long-term strategy document for Bhutan that would set a clear and commonly accepted economic direction for the country and guide short and medium-term plans, programs and policies.

Kinga Tshering said that the roadmap is just a path that could take the country to the goals that the society and the government want to set.

“If we focus on creating the right ecosystem and the enabling environment for business to thrive, taking all sectors on board, the results will manifest, whether it is the growth in GDP rate, employment generation or the human development index,” he said.

The government constituted an unprecedented 16-member High Level Committee (HLC) for the development of the 21st Century Economic Roadmap on January 24, 2020. ,According to the secretariat of 21st Century Economy Roadmap, the first phase of the exercise ideation phase covering the period from February to April 2020, the NTF and other five expert groups initiated the brainstorming sessions independently within their groups, and came up with possible goals and proposals for the roadmap.

The NTF and the groups submitted their ideation phase reports to the government in May 2020 and presented their proposed goals, challenges, opportunities and priority sectors and projects to the HLC on May 25, 2020 and to the Cabinet on July 29, 2020.

According to the secretariat, having completed the ideation phase, the NTF carried out a deep dive phase between June and August 2020. Despite challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic with most agencies in emergency mode, the taskforce has been able to complete most of the deep dive phase activities such as bilateral consultations with representatives from about 50 agencies and numerous literature reviews, and economic analysis of sectors.

Based on these exercises, the NTF has come up with a preliminary draft report with proposed goals, guiding principles, and list of all possible sectors and economic pathway projects towards the end of September 2020. This is the high level, 30,000 ft. overview of the roadmap which the taskforce will be submitting to the HLC for endorsement and further directives.

“We believe that economic growth and certain level of wealth creation for our country will further strengthen our security and sovereignty rather than compromise it. There is more risk of compromising if we are dependent on others,” Kinga Tshering said.

As a part of the roadmap development exercise process, the NTF is in the process of narrowing down the sectors and accordingly decide on the key sectors to be focused and economic pathway projects for the roadmap before submitting the report to the HLC.

The recurring themes emerging from the review of all past Royal Addresses  (2006 -19), bilateral consultations, HLC meetings, deliberations within the NTF, recommendations from expert groups, online surveys, and feedback received through social media were “dynamic economy”, “prosperous society”, “sustainability” and “inclusiveness.”

Kinga Tshering said that a dynamic economy is the one that is resilient in keeping with changing times and the uncertain future. “Moreover, the current pandemic has exposed the vulnerability of certain economic sectors while some others are coping better. So plans need to be flexible, dynamic and forward looking.”

Dechen Dolker from Thimphu