During interaction with the general public on Facebook (social media), Prime Minister (PM), Dr. Lotay Tshering, was questioned on several policy matters that began from Bhutanese going abroad to private sector development, sustainable development fee (SDF), rural urban migration, farm roads and others.
When asked about the government’s measures to address the issue of many Bhutanese leaving Bhutan for work abroad, the PM said that there are no immediate measures. Instead, the PM said that people were leaving the country seeing opportunities abroad, which is higher income that people can earn in countries like Australia. The PM mentioned that Bhutan’s daily wage is one of the least in the world, while that of Australia is one of the highest. In such a scenario, it was difficult for the government to do anything.
“If we want to stop them, we can do it. All that is required for us is to stop issuing passports or inform the Australian government not to take in any Bhutanese,” the PM said. Saying that the government would not do that, he underlined that the government has facilitated the movement of people through very different means and informed that there are now several education consultancy firms who assist those interested to go abroad.
The PM further added that the government had also facilitated the movement of people by letting agencies open up institutions where IELTS can be conducted. In order to further enable people undertake medical examinations, the government opened platforms for medical examinations at Mongaar and Gelephu hospitals. The PM also added that every assistance was provided to ensure that those aspiring to go abroad also availed loans.
On the private sector, the PM said that the government has been supporting the private sector and is continuing the work on reviving the private sector as private sector is important for the country’s economic growth.
Currently, the government has been looking through obstacles and challenges such as restrictive policies, poor infrastructure, trade restrictions, tariff and non-tariff barriers to exports, difficulties in obtaining medium- and long-term finance on affordable terms, and a large informal sector, amongst others.
The PM said it is also very important for the government and the private sectors to come together to overcome the challenges and revive the private sector. The PM reiterated that knowing the importance of private sector in the country, the government has been working on plans and strategies’ He informed that different consultations are held with the private sector members.
PM shared that the rules and regulations are also looked at, to make it easier for people to work. “About 11 rules and regulations were also revised and replaced with one rule which will be more convenient for the people and we hope it will be easier and there will be faster service delivery,” said the PM.
In addition, PM said that one window services will soon be launched to the public which is expected to make the service delivery faster and authentic to the people who avails the services.
Amongst others, PM also shared that the government have been consulting with the Royal Monetary Authority (RMA) and the financial institutions for credit access to the people and highlighted that the people who take the loans will also be have to be wise enough to use the loan properly, instead of misusing it.
In relation to the SDF, the PM said he is aware of the issues confronted by the different stakeholders and that the merits of the SDF will unfold after a few years. The PM said it would be best for everyone to let time determine the merits of the SDF policy and also informed that he had personally met tourists and tour groups who had acknowledged that the policy is good.
Answering questions related to rural-urban migration, the PM said it is not possible to come out with any policy intervention that would ensure that there is no rural-urban migration. Instead, the PM underscored that until now, Bhutanese planning was human settlement based planning. The 13th plan would for the first time, embark on planning based human settlement, which the PM said could be an answer to the issue.
On a question about farm roads, the PM said Bhutan has about 12,000 kilometers of farm roads, out of which about 9,000kms requires base course. Ensuring that all the farm roads had base course would entail a huge expenditure at the cost of other services that are not sustainable.
The PM interacted with the people in a live session on the evening of August 4, 2023.
Sherab Dorji from Thimphu