The highlight of the Druk Nyamrup Tshogpa (DNT) manifesto is the Miser Thoblam Chathrim or the Citizens’ Dividend Act. Through the Act, the party will give economic, social, and political powers to the people. Once the law is enacted, it will be a path toward a fair and just distribution of the nation’s natural wealth for the benefit of all people, for all times to come.
“We believe no Bhutanese should be left behind,” states the DNT manifesto.
To bridge the gap between the haves and have-nots, the party will review the taxable income (PIT) ceiling to give relief to the lower income group (exemption of PIT for those earning less than Nu 200, 000 per annum).
To do this, a thorough review will be commissioned to study the daily substance and travel allowance, vehicle mileage and porter-pony rates for civil servants. The party manifesto also pledges to support economic empowerment of women through expanded access to education, income-generating schemes, and explore provision for availing regulated domestic helpers.
The party also specifically stated provisions to support establishment of small-scale business cooperatives for women, especially the wives of armed forces.
Overall, the DNT pledged to safeguard the national security, sovereignty, and independence of the country in the context of Bhutan’s geo-political position as a small landlocked nation. The Indo-Bhutan tie is also accorded high importance by the party.
DNT will facilitate easier and convenient system for people to exercise their voting rights, explore the prospects of civil servants participating in the electoral process without being politically associated.
It pledges to guarantee the independence of all democratic institutions, and further strengthen it to effectively carry out their responsibilities while it promises to initiate the Right to Information (RTI) Bill to facilitate access to information for transparency and accountability at all levels.
In line with its spirit of oneness (Nyamrup) and the promise to leave no one behind, DNT has provisioned to provide social security to elderly people through nominal pensions, discount schemes on public transport, easier access to health screening, and catering to their spiritual lives.
“We will support initiatives through civil society, private sector or government, aiming to provide housing and care to elderly people around local, community or other appropriate locations,” stated the manifesto.
To support armed forces personnel, the party would ensure they can get the facilities to rehabilitate themselves in rural areas upon retirement, and introduce an effective social protection mechanism for all those who work in private sector.
Under it, the party promises to tackle the huge budget deficit, support business enterprises that are export oriented for generating foreign exchange and revitalizing the domestic market enterprises.
And the means that have been promised to serve as an end here is, to appoint a professional team as economic task-force to advise the cabinet on the economy, and establish research and development wing for political and economical advisory, groom a team of highly educated and dedicated professionals.
The market players and agents have not been left out as the Nyamrup manifesto supports entrepreneurs who adopt innovative mechanization in the construction industry. The use of local labour and materials, and prefabricated materials (subject to environmental and health concerns) is also highlighted.
Addressing the rural producers, the farmers, there is provision to establish a producer to consumer market link with local institutions (military and educational institutions, and projects) for local produce.
Private Sector Development
The DNT pledges to ease the process of doing business and establishment of ‘business facilitation centres’ is how it will go about with it.
Divesting and privatizing state-owned companies is also on the DNT agenda as it is viewed with potentials to perform better as private entities. It also promises to strengthen the Bhutan Chamber of Commerce and Industries (BCCI) to represent the private sector more effectively.
Reviewing and enhancing domestic wage rates and relax restriction on daily labourers from across the border also figures into the list.
DNT will explore strategies to decongest overcrowded thromdes and promote regional growth centres by appropriately relocating selective establishments and supporting new establishments/institutions in other parts of the country, along with creation of economic and job opportunities.
Adopt Responsible Fiscal and Monetary Measures
The party will review the current taxation system and explore the possibilities of progressive taxation. Complementary to it, national lending and borrowing will be based on prudent economic analysis.
The manifesto pledges to review the state of present credit control, and ensure adequate levels of credit in the market. It will also ensure that public debt does not grow to unmanageable levels and ensure a positive balance of payments, and enhance the management of Bhutan’s foreign reserves.
DNT will review the education system to consolidate rural schools at appropriate levels for efficient utilization of resources and to include the student in monastic schools /shedras in education policy for extending regular financial resources for infrastructure, capacity building, education materials, and teaching aids.
It will develop selected schools/educational institutions as education villages/towns by enhancing infrastructure, facilities, and resources with the community participating for their sustenance. Additionally, it will establish four new national colleges in different regions on public private partnership model using the existing infrastructure.
Internet connectivity has also been promised for all the schools with phone networks and it will explore feasibility to provide laptops to gain access to information for teaching and communication. IT libraries will be established.
The party promises to build on strategies to address the issue of youth unemployment and to ensure future job requirements and institute programs that equip young people with skills to take up jobs in demand.
It will expand and strengthen regional-based vocational training institutes through reviewing and revising curricula, improving pedagogy, recruiting master trainers to train, instituting supervised internships, and encouraging apprenticeship programs.
Further, DNT will Institute effective mechanism to ease procedures and ensure equitable, fair and transparent training and employment opportunities, such as facilities for conducting RCSC orientation and examination in regional centres.
Other measures pledged are to assess the utility of graduate orientation program and further support the ongoing Desuup program and national Scouting program.
In the area of sports, autonomous national sport council with federations and respective committees will be established to promote and encourage sports as a professional career.
To develop better infrastructures DNT will set out to strengthen agencies to focus on high quality and explore potential for construction of ropeways and underground tunnels while sustaining the existing infrastructure, particularly rural roads, drinking water supply schemes, rural electrification, irrigation channels, and telecommunications including TV and radio connectivity.
While it will continue and strengthen the delivery of free health services, it will provide greater autonomy to JDWNRH. At the same time, new introductions include post graduate courses for doctors and nurses at JDNWRH in select departments, supporting the establishment of high quality specialized private health services in select areas, support systematic and regular mobile specialised medical groups to targeted areas and vulnerable people, particularly for eye checkups, dental checkups, diabetic treatment, and maternal health.
Transport and Communications
DNT promises to complete the southern east-west highway to ease travel along the southern border while reviewing the policy that mandates the local communities to maintain farm roads.
Also, it will review road access to sacred religious monasteries for preserving aesthetic aspects of our cultural sites, and explore possibilities to start railway services from the Indian border to the internal foothill of Phuntsholing, Samdrup Jongkhar, and Sarpang.
Sonam Pelvar / Thimphu