An Audit on the first five years

Chapters in the book include an independent enquiry of the pledges claimed to have been fulfilled by the DPT administration, transformation of the media, details of the first constitutional case, the ‘bittersweet’ relation between the two houses of Parliament, CDG and the economy, among other analysis of institutions, events and policies over the last five years

Gyambo Sithey’s second book, titled “Democracy inBhutan- the First Five Years,” an analysis and documentation of institutions, events and policies between 2008-2013 also serves as an audit report of the first five years of democratic Bhutan.

The 11 chapters of the book highlight how the significant institutions functioned and also point out the defining trends or issues of the past five years.

“In doing so, the book attempts to encourage an atmosphere of healthy debate, while practicing traditional values that has kept Bhutan together as a nation. The intention of the book is not to condemn any individual or institution but to draw lessons for the future,” the author has noted.

Despite attempts by the previous government to stop the book from being released citing negative contents of the party, the book was finally launched in the capital earlier this week.

Research, publication and production of the book have been supported by Danish Institute for Parties and Democracy (DIPD).

Talking to The Bhutanese, Gyambo said, “My whole intention is to present facts with figures, and not opinions. So, I have tried not to use any opinions in my book. I tried to present the truth supported by statistics and evidences. I am not saying this is a fair or balanced book because ‘fair’ or ‘balanced’ also means you are taking a stand or a position and that you are neither being true nor false which is not good in a research. In research, you just present the fact.”

He cited examples of chapter contents in his book. “For instance, 78% of the rural people are happy with the past government because all they needed was water, road and electricity, which many have received. They are least bothered about Pedestrian Day or Rupee shortfall. I have said that in my book,” the author said.

In the very first chapter Gyambo stressed on the factors that determined the first five years of democracy in the country which he said is “very much different from the trajectory of other democracies.” He added, “Bhutan defies standard models of democratization. It was not achieved through bloodshed unlike in many other countries. It came as a gift from the monarchy which had ruled the country for a century… Since Bhutan was never colonized, it had the opportunity to develop its own social, cultural and political institutions without experiencing severe disruptions. This is an important consideration in understanding political developments in Bhutan such as the process of democratization.”

One chapter in the book is an independent enquiry of the pledges fulfilled by the first elected government, Druk Phuensum Tshogpa (DPT). The DPT government, in various forums claimed that out of its broad 153 pledges, it has fully or partially fulfilled 150, and only three remain unfulfilled. A document on its fulfilled pledges was also published as part of the fifth annual report of the former Prime Minister Jigmi Y Thinley.

While DPT gave itself a satisfactory rating from its own evaluation, Gyambo’s book attempts to audit and critically question the very report.

Talking about the party manifesto of DPT the book mentions DPT’s 62 broad pledges based on the four pillars of GNH. However, when the Prime Minister presented the State of the Nation report on March 4, 2013, there were 153 pledges of which 135 (8 8%) have been fully fulfilled and 15 (10%) partially, and only 3 (2%) were not fulfilled.

“It is not clear how these 153 pledges were arrived at,” says Gyambo, and he also noted that there were no answers from the candidates and party members when contacted by the author.

While DPT set an ideal precedent of presenting a final report on its pledges, the book revealed certain loopholes. This means there is a need for an independent group to evaluate the performances of any government in the future and that every government must accord top priority to deliver as promised.

According to the book, the 45 winning candidates of DPT had complied constituency specific promises coming to more than 185 pages with each candidate having a four page manifesto detailing their promises to respective constituencies. The book found that salient features of most of these promises was that they were all part of the 10th Five-Year Plan (FYP 2008-2013), which was already drafted before the electoral process began. “All that the candidates had to do was present it to people like a new initiative brought for them,” states the book.

The book also points to the 10 broad promises made outside the 10th FYP document by DPT candidates which remains unfulfilled such as transport subsidies for transport of CGI sheets by 15 MPs, a medical college in Thimphu, a bridge over the Mao Khola river in Sarpang, youth recreational centres with theater, library and IT facilities were promised in Mongar, Khuru, Bumthang, Sarpang and Tshokhorling.

One unfulfilled promise was construction of Gups’ residence and guest house in every gewog constituencies of Khar, Mongar, Drujeygang Tzesa, Gelephu, Thrimshing Kangpara, Khamdang Kanglung Uzorong, and Drakteng Langthel. Other unfulfilled promises where the financial incentives to switch from Maruti vans to other taxi models promised by Ganzur-minjay, Limu Toewang, Kabji Talo, and Phuntsholing, Menchha hybrid bull for each family in highland communities of Merak and Sakteng gewogs, financial services and oil distribution centers in Dagapela and Lhamoizingkha and teachers college & tourism school in Bongman of Radhi Sakteng constituency.

Detailed analysis of the constituency specific promises in the book indicates that 14 new farm roads of the 68 promised were still not delivered and of the proposed 53 schools to be upgraded only 21 were upgraded, and of the proposed 13 new schools only three were constructed.

The book says that DPT MPs had claimed that these promises were not made randomly, but were based on identification of “popular needs” which the people had expressed during ‘familiarization tours’ of the two political parties which they undertook before the actual campaign.

“Taking queue from the first five years of DPT government, political parties should be cautious of what they are promising…Some are of the opinion that, while pledges are necessary to be fulfilled, it would have been sensible if there was brainstorming and rationalizing of the pledges. The last five years have proved to be too costly, and the recovery will have to wait till the hydropower projects start earning returns,” concluded the book.

Another chapter in the book highlights and provides a critical analysis of the first Opposition’s five years. “With only two members, it has not been easy for the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) to play the role of opposition in the first elected Parliament of Bhutan. But in stocktaking, they have fulfilled their constitutional role well setting a standard for future opposition parties,” the book stated.

The book, however, motioned how the PDP as a party weakened after the 2008 elections. “The party headquarters which once employed 18 staff had none after the elections. A debt of Nu 20mn from the election campaign loomed over. Despite this, the party opposed a move by the then government to fund the existing parties to the tune of Nu 90mn in first three years.”

The book states that despite being only two against 45, the Opposition pushed democratic discussion to a higher level of political maturity with each issue it took up and the way in which the opposition strived to interpret the government’s interpretation on issues like the Tobacco Control Act and the Pedestrian Day enabled the citizenry to question the arbitrary behavior of a majority government.

“If we see the function of the Opposition in the past five years, the two members have fiercely guarded the Constitution, not allowing the government the liberty to interpret it freely,” the book states. It also goes on to say that the lack of education on the importance of opposition party was one reason pointed out for the unbalanced election result of 2008.

The book also stated PDP’s and the party president’s smart use of social media and how the former Opposition Leader Tshering Tobgay pointed out wrong doings of the then government among other national issues through his blog since November 2008.

However, the book also points out criticisms against PDP such as party members saying they were hardly consulted while the opposition played its role in Parliament. “Over the years, 35 candidates have left the party and the remaining twelve only assembled for the first time during the April 12, 2013 convention. While the Opposition Leader himself was popular in social media and for raising issues, it felt short of building PDP as a party and as an institution,” the book says.

The book highlights almost all arguments of the opposition against the government over the last five years. It includes among others, moves by the DPT government to consult McKinsey by paying USD 9.1mn to advice on accelerating development.

The book also reminded readers of the first constitutional case which sparked off when the government decided to introduce new taxes without tabling it in Parliament. “While agreeing with the government on the importance of taxes, the Opposition said the procedure was long. What followed later was a battle fought in courts with Damcho Dorji, a lawyer by profession, representing the Opposition. The events that ended in the Opposition winning the constitutional case against the government generated much public interest,” the book states.

Other chapters of the book provide a detailed picture of the controversial constituency development grant (CDG) fund, the first constitutional case, relations between the National Assembly (NA) and National Council (NC), executive orders by the government including the Pedestrian Day, the country’s grave economic situations and people’s perception about the DPT government.

Gyambo Sithey of the Centre for Research Initiatives (CRI) in Changangkha, Thimphu is also the co-author of the much acclaimed “Drukyul Decides: In the Minds of Bhutan’s First Voters” published in 2008. A total of 5,000 copies of the book which has been printed are all sold out and are being used by various intuitions including the media as a source of reference.

He is currently working on the book’s sequel “Drukyul Decides II” slated to be released by the end of the year.

The book, “Democracy in Bhutan- the First Five Years” was released on October 3, 2013, launched by Lyonchhen Tshering Tobgay in the presence of the author, DIPD board Chairman Henrik Bach Mortensen and Dr Bjorn Forde, DIPD.

The book has been priced at Nu 811 with 1000 copies printed so far.

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