A fortnight after assuming office, the Finance Minister, Lekey Dorji said that his team in the Ministry of Finance (MoF) will not be myopic, meaning that they will put national interests on top of their agenda and will not be prejudiced and bigoted.
“As the Finance Minister, I will work hard and pursue consistent and predictable economic and fiscal policies to ensure growth and financial stability,” Lyonpo Lekey said.
“As we aspire to become a developed nation, the Ministry’s focus will be to collaborate with all Ministries and our development partners to strengthen the fundamental and structural issues of our economy. We want to seek the cooperation of all to achieve our common goal. My team in the Finance Ministry will not be myopic and I will always put our national interests above all else,” he added.
Highlighting the current state of affairs regarding the country’s economic scenario, Lyonpo said that his foremost priority is to strengthen the fundamentals of the Bhutanese economy as the country is still recovering from the aftermath of the pandemic.
“We should be prepared to take some hard decisions in the short run to ensure that we do not compromise our long term national goals,” he exclaimed.
On the fiscal front, Lyonpo went on to say that the internal resource mobilization needs to be enhanced while ensuring prudent public investments. “I will personally monitor sources of funds and sinks for them”.
While fiscal discipline would be religiously followed, sustainable fiscal and financing policies would be adopted to ensure sustainability in keeping with article 14(5) of the Constitution.
According to the minister, public financial management needs to be strengthened to deliver financial services efficiently and effectively. “We will work closely with our Central Bank to ensure that our monetary and fiscal policies work in tandem to realize our national goals. We have already started a modest beginning to improve our liquidity and will work for easy access to credit to all productive sectors of our economy”.
The finance minister reiterated that an Economic Development Board chaired by the Prime Minister (PM) is being formed and an Economic Stimulus Plan (ESP) committee has already started working on frameworks.
“Our private sector will be taken on board as they have a huge role in our economy. We will look at our SOEs strategically,” he added.
Meanwhile, a herculean task lies ahead for the finance ministry.
The country’s economy is in doldrums with an inflation rate of 4.99%, and a depreciating value of the Ngultrum coupled with a deficit balance of payments. The public debt stock also stood at Nu 279.93 billion (B) as of December 2023.
International and regional organizations have also hinted towards a bleak economic condition of Bhutan in 2024. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) also expressed their concerns about the overall macroeconomic situation of Bhutan.
While the external debt rose sharply over the years, the country’s internal debt also remains worrisome. This is further aggravated by the growing cases of financial corruption in the economic sector.
Not only the national exchequer, but the country’s private sector is also suffering concurrently. The Bhutan Chamber of Commerce and Industry (BCCI) found out in a study that the business sector lost an estimated Nu125.81B from the economic downturn caused by COVID-19.
Tashi Namgyal from Thimphu