Government claims to have fulfilled majority of its 120-days pledges

However, a closer scrutiny shows that the government has fulfilled only two pledges in all certainty, with a majority of the pledges either in the process or under discussion

The Druk Nyamrup Tshogpa (DNT) government claimed that it has addressed almost all of its 120-days pledges during the Meet-the-Press yesterday.

The DNT government completed its 120 days in power on Thursday.

A closer scrutiny however revealed that of the 25 pledges that the ruling government promised to fulfill in 120 days, only two pledges were completely fulfilled – instituting the fourth Pay Commission and removal of class X cut off point.

During the press meet, Foreign Affairs Minister Dr. Tandi Dorji delved into the semantics of the pledges, explaining that most pledges used words like ‘initiate’ and ‘establish’ and the government has addressed all the pledges. “As per our count, the government has fulfilled all the pledges and they are under process.”

Prime Minister Dr. Lotay Tshering said that the government has established a high level committee and the Gross National Happiness Commission is in the process of selecting the team to draft Bhutan’s Vision 2045.

The government also claimed that it has achieved the pledge of establishing a dedicated water agency although no such body has been instituted. In principle, the dialogues have started and the government claimed that the flagship program has already been approved by the last Parliament.  

DNT’s 120-days pledges specifically states that it will “establish a dedicated water agency with a plan of action to ensure water – drinking and irrigation – for all by 2021”.

The government also claimed that Suung Joen App is at the final stage of completion and with a few meetings with the experts, tenders for app development will be rolled out. The Foreign Affairs Minister however said that the app is already developed and tested.

The Department of Information Technology and Telecom had earlier told Business Bhutan that the proposal and budget for app development had been submitted to the government for approval. The department had not started work on the app development. There were also conflicting reports that it would take five years for the Sung Joen app to be operational.

The government did fulfill its pledge of removing the 5% voucher tax. “The government will drop the pledge for now and come up with it after reviewing the taxation policy,” said the Prime Minister.

Further, the government’s pledge of providing 24/7 free access to all online data within the country by installing intranet technology has been mistaken for free internet and didn’t correct it, said Lyonchhen.

Lyonchhen added that the government is working on providing free intranet. “We are in line with considering Wi-Fi hotspots wherever it is required and intranet will be available.” 

Lyonchhen said that the discussions on waste management have been carried out and it will be a flagship program under Prime Minister’s Office and that tourism Development Board has been reconstituted, its member has been identified and a there is a flagship program on tourism.  

With regards to the pledge on reducing teacher’s workload, the government said it is within the purview of Royal Civil Service Commission and the government will sit with RCSC to address the issue.

Labour Minister Ugyen Dorji said that the ministry is in the process of reviewing national youth policy, and is working on identifying and designing a program to train youth for employment. “We have started work with the Asian Development Bank in identifying the skill needs for the economic sectors of the country for next 10 to 15 years,” said Lyonpo. 

While the Ministry of Home and Cultural Affairs is working on opening offices for Tshogpas at the chiwogs, not all the tshogpas will have office. “Tshogpas located far away will get office,” said the Prime Minister. 

In addition the home ministry is working on the inventories of all the community lhakhang and based on the report the government will provide budgetary support.

The government had also pledged that all cabinet ministries would use electric or hybrid cars for local travels, however, the Prime Minister said that the cabinet ministers will sell a few of their Prados and buy a few hybrid cars in return. Only interested cabinet minister will go for hybrid cars and it is not mandatory, said Lyonchhen.

The Prime Minister said the government fulfilled the pledge of meeting taxi tshogpas and thromde representatives. “The government agreed to intervene on issues such as parking spaces, professional driving license and ownership, age of vehicles and age of drivers. We will talk with Road Safety and Transport Authority to relook into the issue,” said Lyonchhen.

On establishment of revolving funds for Civil Society Organizations (CSOs), Lyonchhoen said that government found that the there already was a revolving funds for CSos, films and documentary promotion. Similarly, on Samrang Farm, the government found that there was no meat processing unit at Samrang and the government decided to dropp the pledge to convert Samrang project into a vegtatuon farming project.

Numerous pledges are either in the process or the ministries are working on it, saif the Prime Minister. And pledges such as the revision of working conditions and salaries of RBP personnel are included in the Terms of Reference of the Pay Commission, said Lyonchhen.

Lyonchhen also said the education and agriculture ministries are working on the school feeding program that will cater free nutritious lunch program in all schools. “Stipends will be raised and the amount will go to Ministry of Agriculture and the ministry will feed the students,” said Lyonchhen.

Agriculture Minister Yeshey Penjor said that the ministry has already floated the buyback rates of 2019. “”Setting up insurance schemes for farmers to protect their crops was found to be not efficient and not sustainable since there is no fund and farmers were not very keen since they are against paying the premium payment,” said the minister. “Initiation of Sonam Gongphel project where the government will buy farmers produces is under progress.”

In addition, the Prime Minister clarified that cardamom buyback scheme taking place at the moment is completely different from the pledges they are referring to. “ The buyback pledge is not yet in action and it will be operational only when Sonam Gongphel cooperative farming program rolls out.”

The government is reviewing the role of sonam tshongkhangs (farm shops).

Lyonchhen said the government is yet to establish a private sector development committee in partnership with BCCI. While various discussions have been carried out on the recruitment of domestic foreign workers, the government is still reviewing the immigration rules and it is not achieved.

The pledge of developing service standards and minimal turnaround time for all public services and instituting mechanisms for delivery of all public services in gewogs and thromdes through one-stop shops has not been fulfilled.

Phub Dem from Thimphu