In a season of long manifestos, the lengthiest belongs to the Druk Phuensum Tshogpa (DPT). The DPT manifesto has outlined its priorities for the next five years in 123 pages.
The manifesto drawn in DPT style is broadly divided under the four pillars of GNH, which are Equitable and Sustainable Socio Economic Development, Environmental Conservation, Preservation and Promotion of Culture, and Good Governance and Democracy. In addition to listing out the issues, the manifesto also explains the steps to be taken to achieve the necessary targets. At the same time, there are some points on the economy which are similar to the ones listed on their manifesto in 2008, but were not achieved, such as the private sector development and etc.
Given that the economy is the main focus of the 2013 elections, the bulk of the DPT manifesto is focused on the first pillar of Equitable and Sustainable Socio Economic Development, which by itself, takes up nearly half of the manifesto content.
The economic aspect of the manifesto touches on the big ticket items like, poverty reduction, rural development, private sector development, youth employment, foreign investments, tourism, and hydropower, among others.
The manifesto goal is to eradicate poverty and achieve self reliance.
The DPT has set the date of 2020, to make Bhutan a self reliant nation that is no longer dependant on foreign aid.
Towards this end, DPT promises to pursue a regionally balanced development program at 8% growth, and aims to make this growth inclusive by reducing poverty from 12% to 5%.
The manifesto also says that the next five years will be a high growth period for the trade and industrial sectors including agro-industries and all remaining hydro-power projects will be brought under implementation. There is also the promise to double the tourism figures from the current figures.
It also states that with the push for increased cereal and vegetable production, and gradual conversion to organic farming, Bhutan shall begin yielding results toward achieving complete food security, and a vegetable surplus for export while substantially raising farm income.
DPT will also ensure a substantial growth in ICT, education, and health services in response to rising external demand for high quality and world class services.
DPT also aims to meet 25% of its capital costs. It says that by the latter half of the 11th FYP, the problem of Rupee shortage will be overcome with a mix of strategies that will include fiscal measures, import substitution, increase in exports, and coming on stream of new hydro-power projects, in addition to the results of the measures cited above.
The DPT says that the private sector growth in the last five years was lower than they had hoped for, with the government preoccupied with its enormous programme and the challenges of setting up a new system, while the private sector was unable to expand sufficiently on its own.
The measures to make the private sector grow are open and collaborative relationship with the private sector through regular and mandatory consultations, all policies affecting the private sector will be formulated in consultation with the private sector, special incentives for regionally balanced growth, creation of an investor-friendly environment to capitalize on the opportunities provided by globalization, major effort to boost manufacturing through government support and incentives, and Public-Private Partnership for infrastructure development.
Additional measures outlined are structural reforms to be undertaken where necessary in some of the key economic sectors through deregulation, value addition of exports, a relook at fiscal and macro-economic policies.
DPT also promises to reduce red tape and revise bottlenecks in Regulations and Acts.
It also says it will review and revise existing policies to deal with issues like Rupee shortage, youth unemployment, national debt, rural – urban migration, etc.
The DPT also aims at diversifying the economic base to make Bhutan, a regional player, in sectors like education, health and wellness, hospitality, ICT, hydropower construction and agro produce.
The DPT also plans to boost foreign investment. To this end an FDI Act will be enacted to provide policy stability and investor confidence.
It also talks of developing major industrial estates that could not be carried out in the 10th FYP, and also promises of infrastructure development for cottage and small industries in all dzongkhags.
On mining issues, DPT has announced a conservative policy, whereby, it would be tightly controlled with stricter environmental and other regulatory controls with the main aim of higher value addition.
DPT promises to improve manufacturing and go for import substitution, support for value added exports, development of nice products, brand Bhutan promotion, etc.
The manifesto says that an economic and financial advisory body from both the government and private sector will be appointed to provide timely advice to the Prime Minister on emerging and major issues. This body will be supported by two to three full-time economic/financial advisors in the PMO, which will also monitor constantly the economic trends and issues in collaboration with the macro-economic framework coordination committee.
In the financial sector, DPT has promised external financing to avoid crowding out the private sector from domestic financial resources, and in order to improve domestic liquidity in the banking system, savings will be encouraged through an increase in the exemption limit for levy of income tax on interest income and an increase in the allowable expenses limit for life insurance products among others.
The floor level for exemption of tax on income shall be raised from Nu 100,000 to Nu 175,000 – 200,000 to increase the disposable income level of salaried people in the country, but this will mean higher taxes for the higher income bracket. Tax exemption will be provided on incomes of small businesses registered in rural areas.
In rural areas, DPT promises to consolidate and improve the quality of all the services created or established under the Common Minimum Programme, rural credit access and delivery will be made more efficient and friendly, collection, packaging, and storage facilities and marketing access for farm produce will be established in strategic locations. Periodic baseline socio-economic assessment survey and resultant proactive action plans are being promised as well.
A major strategy of DPT to bring wealth creation and job opportunities to the rural sector will be by promoting cottage and small enterprises in the villages while allowing these to also grow in the urban areas. DPT also pledges to encourage and incentivize large manufacturers to create ancillary production units in the rural areas.
In tourism sector, DPT aims to bring the number of tourists per year to 200,000 by making Bhutan more tourist friendly, and tourism products will be diversified and Bhutan.
In the power development segment, apart from the big projects, the DPT aims to go for alternate fuel sources like solar, wind, and biogas.
DPT also promises to improve connectivity in the country, from national roads to farm roads. The manifesto states that a feasibility study of the potential for an electric rail link between Phuentsholing and Thimphu will be undertaken in the first year of the term if permitted by resources.
The manifesto also talks of improving healthcare services, safer drinking water, ensuring steady supply of drugs, and also making Bhutan into a regional hub for high end medical service.
The manifesto also looks at improving the education system through a variety of programs which include motivating teachers through HRD programs, improving curriculum, and being a regional hub for education, among others.
The manifesto states 140,000 youth will enter the job market over the next five years. The DPT has planned a series of programs from having a deputy minister dedicated handling the unemployment issue in depth, upgrading the skills of youth and opening up more opportunities for them, and support for the rural youth too. The deputy minister will work in close collaboration with the educational institutes, corporations, and private sector.
A Cabinet Committee will advise and monitor the progress of interventions being taken by the ministry.
The present training centers like Vocational Training Institutes (VTI) will be established as centres of excellence.
DPT manifesto also looks into getting the youth employed outside Bhutan, in sectors like, construction, rural electrification, hospitality, security, etc.