Govt. to have new vision for economic self-reliance

Govt. to have new vision for economic self-reliance

The Gross National Happiness Commission would spearhead works for the new vision and consult with various concerned agencies including political parties, according to the foreign affairs minister

Bhutan would fail in meeting economic self-reliance by 2020 because the development plans carried earlier were not based on the Bhutan 2020 Vision.

This was divulged by foreign affairs minister Dr Tandi Dorji during the second session of the Third Parliament yesterday when quizzed by Member of Parliament (MP) Dorji Wangdi from Panbang constituency in Zhemgang on the status and achievement of country’s economic self-reliance.

“The country would face Nu 70bn short after receiving Nu 45bn financial assistance from India in 12th Five Year Plan,” MP Dorji Wangdi said, highlighting the budget deficit in 12th FYP.

Additionally, the MP added that although the domestic revenue would cover the country’s current expenditure, it contributes only 30% for the capital expenditure in 12th FYP.

MP Dorji Wangdi said the government is currently short of Nu 93bn of the total budget outlay of Nu 310bn in the 12th FYP and that it would require an additional Nu 38bn more to fulfill the government pledges (Nu 20bn) and pay revision (Nu 18bn).

“By the end of 2018-2019 fiscal year, the national debt will reach Nu 215bn, 118% of country’s gross domestic product,” said MP Dorji Wangdi, adding that there would be difficulty in getting financial assistance when Bhutan graduates from the Least Developed Country category by 2023.

Responding to the MP, Lyonpo Dr Tandi Dorji said Bhutan Vision 2020 was prepared in 1999 and did not include the change in the government towards constitutional democracy.

“With elected government, the 9th FYP and the 10th FYP development plans were prepared according to party manifesto that diverted from the Bhutan 2020 Vision,” he said, adding that the government plans to prepare a uniform new vision that political parties should include while preparing their manifestos.

According to the minister, the Gross National Happiness Commission would spearhead works for the new vision and consult with various concerned agencies including political parties.

Responding to the minister’s response, MP Dorji Wangdi said the first elected government started five hydropower projects – Punatshangchhu I and II, Mangdechhu, Nikachhu and Dagachhu and aimed to have 10,000 MW by 2020. 

“With the completion of these five projects, Bhutan’s vision of economic self-reliance would have been achieved,” he added. “Though it was an elected government, the work was carried out continuously to fulfill the vision 2020.”

Further, MP Dorji Wangdi said the second elected government did not start the Sunkosh hydropower project as was said and while the present government has plans for Kholongchhu hydropower project, it has not yet started.

Lyonpo Dr Tandi Dorji responded that Bhutan 2020 Vision does not mention on the generation of 10,000 MW, but on the country’s potential to harness 3,000 to 5,000 MW of electricity.

The Lyonpo said the government focused on hydropower development from 2008 and most of the debts could be because of that.

He added that the government is aware of the budget deficit and have four more years to work on it. 

To cover up the deficit, the government plans to change taxation policy that would contribute Nu 10bn to the national exchequer, initiation of construction and manufacturing industry and agriculture development.

“If worked out properly, it would bring income for the country and debt issues would be resolved,” Lyonpo Dr Tandi Dorji said.

Thukten Zangpo from Thimphu