OL questions DNT’s election pledges

OL questions DNT’s election pledges

While the Prime Minister, Dr. Lotay Tshering submitted most of the government’s achievements and challenges faced, especially in the State of the Nation Address, during the 8th session of the Third Parliament on November 8, 2022, Opposition Leader (OL), Dorji Wangdi said that the Druk Nyamrup Tshogpa (DNT) government has for whatever reasons, COVID-19 or otherwise, failed to deliver their major election pledges.

OL, Dorji Wangdi shared that DNT’s major pledges include establishing a high-end multi-disciplinary hospital in Thimphu and upgrading regional, Dzongkhags, and other local hospitals and BHUs. Generating an additional 5200MW of hydropower through Sunkosh, Kuri-Gongri, and other projects has not been delivered.

In addition, he also shared that the creation of 5000 jobs per year for youth, continuing to construct the southern east-west highway, and promoting home ownership is also not delivered.

“Did they deliver them? It is for all of us to make judgments. We feel hardly anything has been done,” he said, adding that DNT failed to deliver election pledges.

OL expressed that the government’s other popular pledges were the provision of free wifi and Sungjoen App, blacktopping or concreting of all roads to Lhakhangs and institutions, increasing the minimum wage rate Nu 450, upgrading district and gewog hospitals to higher levels, recouping Nu 10bn tax, one job for every household, introducing crop and livestock insurance, endowment funds for community Lhakhangs or construction of Mao Khola Bridge. “Were any of these delivered,” he questioned.

“Let aside all these, from our objective assessment, at the best, even after four years, the fulfillment rate of 25 pledges in the first 120 days of their office is just around 20%,” OL said.

He added that it has to be noted that pledges form an integral part of election campaigns and securing voter support, thus making it very important for the public to very carefully understand and interpret them.

“Pledges must not carry vested political interests in the form of popular voter-based pledges and should rather be aimed at achieving greater national goals and objectives,” he said.

According to the OL, DNT has ruined private schools, the tourism sector, the hospitality industry, and the private sector in general. “Youth unemployment at 22.60% in 2020 is a record in Bhutanese economic history,” he said.

“But the biggest worry of all is the huge loss of people going abroad, which has serious consequences for the nation.  These sum up everything,” he said, adding that now, the only immediate way out is getting the 13th Plan right.

Meanwhile, a political observer said that while the OL’s remarks are right in some ways, the PM has answered most of the issues raised. In the PM’s  State of Nation report, which was delivered on November 8, 2022, it was informed that the Multi-Disciplinary Super Specialty Hospital (MDSSH) project’s consultations with counterparts from the Government of India (GOI), including final design, drawings, and cost estimates have been completed and the project is awaiting the first disbursement of funds assistance. The 500-bed specialty hospital supported by the Government of India (GoI) is estimated to cost Nu 5.6bn.

“The Tourism Levy Act 2022 was also passed in the same session, which increased the sustainable development fee (SDF) from USD 65 per day per person to USD 200. Introduced as a money bill, the National Assembly passed the Act,” he said, adding that tourism stakeholders are hit due to this.

Concerning Bhutan’s private sector, he said that apart from the services industry, the other hit is the construction sector. “Issues of non-performing loans (NPL), cooling period and others are cited as the main causes, which the government said is the mandate of the Royal Monetary Authority (RMA),” he said. 

Additionally, the issue of Bhutanese going abroad was raised during the 7th Session of the Third Parliament of Bhutan, by DNT’s MP of Mongar constituency, Karma Lhamo. In reply, the PM had said that Bhutanese leaving for foreign countries is a concern, due to which various Desuup skilling programs have been initiated, and that the focus is on the national goals and aspirations and skills for the 21st Century.

The PM had said that the government’s responsibility is to make the country’s economy strong, so that Bhutanese will not prefer to leave the country. The PM also added that in another 5 to 10 years, Bhutanese people will not want to go abroad for economic reasons.

While one of the pledges of the government within the first 120 days was to set up the Sungjoen App and ensure free WiFi for all the people, Lyonpo Karma Donnen Wangdi, minister of the then ministry of information and communication (MoIC) had explained that due to COVID-19, the Ministry has been working on developing other important systems and couldn’t work on this pledge. He had stressed prioritization.

Meanwhile, the OL reiterated that DPT’s preparations for 2023 are in full swing and that they are ready with 90% of the candidates. He said that some rumors have been floating around, “One, if we are participating in 2023. Two, if DPT and certain parties are one and the same. Let me give a definite clarification. Neither is true or of any doubt. It is politics, we have been accustomed to such rumors,” he said.

He added that the party has started preparing for 2023, “Like other parties, our prime objective is also to be the government, and in this regard, we are more optimistic than ever before,”

According to him, the nation is poised for an unprecedented transformation but is also faced with numerous challenges, largely economic ones. “The challenges are daunting. But given our experience, we are excited and confident that we can measure up to the tasks,” he said.

“The first and most important task ahead is putting the economy back into order and then swiftly launching ourselves on the trajectory of a developed nation, as envisioned by His Majesty the King,” he said, adding, “We feel we are the right party, in the sense of being the most suitable political party to tackle the current economic challenges and put the nation back on the track of economic growth and prosperity.”

He added that DPT had formed a committee three years back to draft a manifesto and that the manifesto is the most secret and sacred document in party politics and democracy.

“We are delighted that 90% of our serving MPs will be re-contesting and overall, we are ready with 90% of the total candidates. In fact, we are much ahead in our preparations compared to the past,” he added.

Kinley Yonten from Thimphu

Additional reporting by Nidup Lhamo