Govt. blames financial constraints for being unable to implement maternity allowance

The Prime Minister says that the government must prioritize recurring activities as the domestic revenue is already falling short

To roll out the maternity allowance for 1,000 golden days of a child, the health ministry needs an extra domestic revenue as there are more mandatory recurrent activities, said Prime Minister Dr Lotay Tshering during the Meet-The-Press session on Friday.

Meanwhile, Health Minister Dasho Dechen Wangmo had said that the implementation of maternity allowance will be rolled out within a year during the question hour session in the National Assembly on December 8, 2020.

Lyonchhen said that the health ministry and the Lyonpo herself have been passionately pushing for this policy, but due to the Covid-19 pandemic and economic conditions the government has priorities over recurring activities to be met through the domestic revenue.

“We are not able to implement the policy right now because the domestic revenue is already short,” Lyonchhen said.

According to the health ministry, the maternity policy, also known as the 1,000 Days Plus policy, was implemented in August 2019, but with insufficient government budget the program had to be delayed and was pushed for March 2020.

Health Minister Dasho Dechen Wangmo said that due to the pandemic, the government is going through financial constraints and is not able to practically implement the policy.

“This project is like a baby project for me, being a woman myself. I know how important and special this project is and I am working very hard to implement it soon,” Lyonpo said.

Lyonpo said under the policy, all eligible mothers were to receive Nu 39,000 each from the day of conception until a child reaches the age of two years to mark their 1,000 Golden Days. 

The policy was first implemented with an objective to accelerate the achievement of mother and child health outcomes by increasing the uptake of Mother and Child Health (MCH) services through a holistic and comprehensive ways.

The program or the intervention is to benefit all the women and their children, for all times to come, not only for one time when the current government is in power.

“To access the resources, one has to meet certain conditions such as the MCH tracker or the tracking system where the moment a woman gets pregnant she gets tracked through the MCH system,” Lyonpo said, adding that the completion of eight Ante-Natal Care (ANC) visits were mandatory so that both the mother and the child get a comprehensive service.

However, to roll out this policy, the Prime Minister said, the government needs extra domestic budget.

Lyonchhen said that the external funding cannot be used and that it must be covered through the domestic revenue.

“The government is already facing financial constraints on the already ongoing mandatory recurring activities as the domestic revenue is already falling short,” Lyonchhen said.

According to the Lyonchhen, when they calculate in five years, there are 11,000 births per year and roughly Nu 1,800mn is enough to implement the policy. Currently in these two years, Nu 200mn to Nu 250mn is enough for now.

“We need domestic revenue to keep this policy on going even after the tenure of this government because external funding cannot be used to implement the policy for a long run,” Lyonchhen said. 

Kuenzang Choden from Thimphu