State of the Nation report focuses on forging the path ahead

State of the Nation report focuses on forging the path ahead

No matter what the government does hereon, the government will ride the ongoing national transformation wave, upholding the Royal vision every step of the way

“For us to progress as a nation, we must be honest about our present and have a plan for our future. We now glance at the way ahead,” Prime Minister (PM) Dr. Lotay Tshering said as he delivered the State of the Nation Address during the Third Parliament’s Eight session on December 8, 2022.

The PM added that the march towards the destination has already begun.

The PM said no matter what the government does hereon, the government will ride the ongoing national transformation wave, upholding the Royal vision every step of the way.

“Until now, we were complacently carrying the load that was within our bounds and capabilities. But this will not work anymore,” he said, adding, “We must now enhance our strength and push our limits to match the loads we are required to carry. This is the essence of the transformation we seek.”

PM shared that the burden of the COVID-19 pandemic weighed heavily on Bhutan’s economy. “But now, we have no time to dwell in the past. As His Majesty reminds us, we have to spare no effort to become a high-income nation in the shortest possible time,” he said.

“Just circulating our own local currency will not take us forward. We might be able to sustain the family or meet the day-to-day needs but these conventional means are no more relevant. Our focus is on short, medium, and long terms investments and goals,” he said.

PM added that for immediate earnings, the functioning revenue-generating sectors must receive renewed focus. “Hydropower has always been the primary source and we need to strengthen that. This is already happening through the medium-sized hydropower projects being designed, implemented, and constructed by experts within the country.”

Similarly, PM highlighted on tourism, and said that with renewed focus, it is picking pace.

“We have come to terms, especially after the pandemic, that viewing it entirely as an economic sector is not correct,” he said, adding that the noble vision of “High-Value Low Volume must be understood as cherishing our natural heritage and values for generations, while also offering the best of our stories and experiences to the world.”

“This is why we are all out to make ourselves heard the world over until it reaches the ears of those who would like to be a part of our journey,” he noted.

Meanwhile, the already functioning private ventures and industries must be supported, PM mentioned, and said the government has introduced various fiscal incentives and interventions to encourage people to earn more.

As opposed to the earlier formats, the fiscal incentives this time comes with the vision to generate interest in and promote local industry, alongside rationalizing import and increasing export, to curtail the current crises.

According to the PM, the transformation spirit is to overhaul the ease of doing business. It is to build trust and efficiency in the system. “These words have been uttered many times, but we have embarked on the path to make it happen this time.”

“For the medium term, of the many initiatives that we are looking at, skilling, re-skilling and up-skilling youth of today is paramount,” he said, adding that His Majesty, through the Desuung Skilling Project, “has shown us the way and we will adhere to the needs and standards as we move on.”

While presenting the State of the Nation report, PM said that in the long term the future of the country, “our children”, need to be prepared for the world and its ever-evolving challenges.

“This can only happen if the education system is transformed. While all areas of studies are important, we know that science and technology determine the advancement in this century,” he said, adding that some of the STEM programs have been rolled out, and “our plan is to amplify the efforts.”

PM also highlighted that the health of individuals and of the country will always remain a priority. It is the spine that will hold the country, today and in the future. Health reforms and the National Health Policy are critical tools to redefine the governance and services of the nation.

“One of the main vehicles that take us forward, in keeping with the intent and the spirit of the national transformation efforts, is the 13th Plan. The notable feature here is that it does not limit the Plan to a five-year cycle but spans over a decade,” he said.

He also shared that while that will help any government to implement what is required during the tenure, it will also anchor the country with long-term goals.

According to the report, a series of consultations have kick-started and it will cover all agencies, sectors, and even political parties in the coming months.

Meanwhile, the government, in the remaining period, will ensure that the reforms take root and are completed within the deadlines. “It is our concern that during the election period when the interim government takes charge, the economy could slow down until the next government settles in,” the PM said. 

“To prevent this, a few major capital works spanning over that period will be identified and rolled out so that the month-on-budget expenditure remains the same,” he said, adding that while sparing any elaboration on the activities in the report, for now, the government will carefully study the situation and accordingly propose in the upcoming budget year.

In starting the way forward, PM said that it is imperative that as much as “we talk about what more we should do, the global context forces us to think about what we should not do.” The global growth forecast for 2023 is grim, about 2.7% according to the International Monetary Fund.

“If we resort to the conventional style of investing more or offering more incentives this time around, implications on inflation and foreign reserve reek crises.”

“Even if we don’t improve, people should know that our monetary and fiscal policies should be sensitive enough to help us stay the course until we tide over the next one or two years. This does not mean we will not do more. We will do all that is required,” PM said.

Kinley Yonten from Thimphu