A Nu 234 billion 11th plan

The plan apart from being Bhutan’s first green plan aims to set MDG targets equivalent to more developed countries

Bhutan’s 11th five year plan as per the latest information is approximately Nu 234 billion according to the Gross National Happiness Commission (GNHC) Secretary Karma Tshiteem.

“We are at the early stages of consultation and we have done an assessment of our resources and our priority needs which are still evolving and we have found that our 11th plan size would be around Nu 234bn approx,” said the secretary.

He said this figure was also based on the discussion with Bhutan’s developmental partners most of whom wanted to continue supporting Bhutan until 2020, the year by which Bhutan’s aims to become self sufficient.

“The only developmental partner who is reducing its level of support and transitioning more into commercial cooperation is Denmark,” said the secretary.

However, as the biggest donor and developmental partner, India’s contribution will be important in achieving the 11th plan target.

“The largest and most important developmental partner is the Government of India and they have said at various levels that GoI will continue the same levels of developmental assistance to Bhutan as it has done in the past,” said Karma Tshiteem.

A GNHC official said that Bhutan expected the GoI to give more amount of assistance than in the 10th plan.

“Based on all this, a plan size of Nu 234 bn is feasible,” emphasized the secretary.

The Secretary said that the first draft of the plan was in the advanced stages and would be presented to the cabinet in mid January 2013.

“The finalization of the plan will only happen after the newly elected government takes ownership of it,” said the secretary. He said that tentatively GNHC has anticipated that the new parliament will come in by July after which the 11th plan can be adopted and implemented.

The 11th plan

The process of formulating the 11th plan had started from the first quarter of 2012 which included consultation between households and gewogs that feed into central agencies and also between ministries and constitutional bodies.

“This time the process of preparing our plans is slightly different from the past as it will be based on the ‘Result Based Management Approach’ where we will be setting up priorities in terms of the results to be achieved in terms of outcome and impact,” said the Secretary. For e.g. a farm road project will not just be a farm road project but will be built as part of achieving a larger result of poverty reduction.

The broad visions and overall objective of the plan will be self reliance, inclusive growth, green and socio economic development.

 

Self Reliance

“Though our self reliance target is for 2020 a lot of the years from 2013 to 2018 will fall in the 11th plan and so most of the activities for achieving self reliance have to be in the 11th plan,” said Karma Tshiteem. He said the focus would on investing in key sectors which would meet the triple conditions of employment for Bhutanese, revenue for the government and profit for entrepreneurs. He said there would be strong focus on economic sectors including agriculture. There would be efforts to better tap the opportunities of the 10,000 MW. As part of this a multi-sectoral team is studying the Punatsangchu I and II projects to see how local communities and local governments can be better prepared for particular economic opportunities and also effects.

“We will use the same strategy we did for Tourism where we will focus on three or four sectors and from end to end study all the weaknesses and address them. In Tourism the issue of visa cards, hotel standards and etc were addressed in one go,” said the secretary.

The government will focus in helping the private sector in key areas like Agro processing, manufacturing,   Special Economic Zones and industrial estates based mainly on the Economic Development Plan and also encourage ongoing projects like the Education City.

 

Socio-Economic Development

In terms of socio-economic development the core development strategy will be in achieving MDG, reducing poverty and improving health and education.

The MDG goals end by 2014 while the plan continues till 2018. The secretary said that going beyond MDG Bhutan is looking at MDG plus targets which will be comparable to more developed countries.

“The Bhutan Living Standard Survey is going on and we hope the results come out soon as we feel that we have achieved the 10th plan target of reducing poverty from 23 percent to 15 percent,” said the secretary.

He, however, said that they were not happy with the current definition of poverty being in terms of those living below Nu 1,096 a month as even if they eradicated poverty it is not meaningful for those living close to the line.

In the 11th plan poverty will be redefined in a more multi-dimensional manner that means more enhanced minimum living standards consisting of both food and noon food.

“This will mean that under the new definition poverty levels will go up but its elimination will be more meaningful,” said the secretary.  He said that the plan will seek to see a meaningful improvement of Bhutanese standards of living so that people have a minimum set of capabilities in health and education.

 

Inclusive growth

The 11th plan will also focus on equitable spread of developmental activities especially in the south and east of the country. The plan will bring in government investments like institutions or projects in these areas.

The plan will also identify two growth centers in the country one of which will be in the east. While recommending these growth centers these places would be strategically located but whose economic prospects are not as great. Additional investments will be made in such areas to stimulate economic activity in such areas. Investment will be made in areas like Trashigang, Mongar and Nanglam.

A major part of the physical investment will be in the roads in terms of the east-west highways in the south, complete ongoing ones like Gyelpozhing-Nanglam and upgrade the national highways grid.

Investments will also be made to improve airports and air connectivity to spread tourism and continuing investment would be made in ICT.

“In the 10th plan many services were made online but in the 11th plan we plan to bring those services on the mobile to enable easier access to services and minimize red tape,” said Karma Tshiteem.

 

A green plan

In what could be a unique development the 11th plan will be Bhutan’s first green plan.

“While doing all this we have to ensure our environmental standards are not compromised and in fact it will be strengthened,” said the secretary.

He said they would also try and work towards a carbon neutral plan in line with Bhutan’s pledge. In Tourism Bhutan is exploring a carbon neutral tourism which will add to Brand Bhutan and allow Bhutanese products to be more competitive. He said that in Agriculture there is a possibility of going organic.

Bhutan will also be ensuring that it maintain its minimum 60 percent forest cover.

 

Culture and Good Governance

The 11th plan on the lines of GNH will also aim to further strengthen Bhutanese cultural identity by investing in repairing old Dzongs and also building new ones. Soft investment will also be made in other areas like promoting Dzongkha etc.

“Focus will also be kept on Good Governance and rule of law as the 11th plan will support constitutional bodies so that corruption is kept at a minimal,” said the secretary.

He said that decentralization reforms would continue and formula based annual grants would be continued to be given to local governments.

He said an important aspect of the plan would also be consolidation to build on maintain and improve the achievements of the 10th plan.

The secretary said that he expected very little changes to the plan by the new government as the plans were based on the people’s needs which would be complimentary to the manifestos of political parties who also went by the people’s needs.

The secretary admitted that the current government was involved in drafting the plan as the draft would have to be presented to the cabinet, the Chairman of the GNHC was the Prime Minister and the GNHC had to constantly discuss with the finance ministry on the domestic revenues available.

 

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