The incumbent DPT government has, so far claimed, in various forums that out of its broad 153 pledges it has fully or partially fulfilled 150, and only three remain unfulfilled.
However, after the primary round of elections, the DPT lost 12 seats to PDP, two seats to DNT, and also had tightly contested races in 13 more constituencies mainly on the grounds that voters felt that the incumbent MPs and the government had not fulfilled promises made in 2008.
In what is an apparent contradiction of DPT claims of fulfilled promises, the post results analysis in constituencies where DPT lost, has voters saying that they did not vote for DPT due to unfulfilled promises.
According to voters, the DPT MP’s themselves had made very specific constituency level promises in their individual manifestos distributed in 2008, in addition to on the spot verbal promises that voters have clearly not forgotten.
For example, in Wangdue Phodrang, one of the main reasons voters from Nyisho-Sephu constituency voted out the incumbent DPT MP Gyem Dorji was because he failed to deliver on irrigation and drinking water promises. Similarly, the voters in Athang-Thedtso constituency voted out DPT’s incumbent MP Passang Thrinlee as he had failed to provide a promised farm road among other reasons.
Voters in Samtse’s two constituencies who voted out two incumbent MP’s also said that they were ignored by their MPs.
An upcoming book on the 2013 Elections titled ‘Bhutan’s First Five Years of Democracy’ by the Center of Research Initiatives in Thimphu delves a whole chapter into this issue called, ‘The Promises of Druk Phuensum Tshogpa’.
A key person behind this book is Druk Nyamprup Tshogpa candidate Gyambo Sithey who was also behind the acclaimed ‘Drukyul Decides’ book that gave a comprehensive account of the 2008 elections.
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 the constituency.
The book interesting says that the salient feature 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 “Bhutan’s First Five Years of Democracy.”
The book also mentions the 10 broad promises made outside the 10th FYP document by DPT candidates which remains unfulfilled.
These unfulfilled promises are 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.
An 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.
According to the book, detail analysis of the constituency specific promises 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 3 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.
Talking about the party manifesto of DPT the book says that DPT has come up with 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 (RGOB 2013) of which 135 (88%) 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 the book.
The chapter then lists out DPT’s various achievements of DPT from 2008-2013 as reported by the Prime Minister in the State of the Nation Report.
The book, however, says that the commendable progress came with a huge cost for a small nation. It says, “At the end of the five years we have Nu. 78 billion debt (ODF), double digit inflation (13.9%), INR shortage that has lead to liquidity crunch and there is an indefinite ban on loans, import of vehicles, etc.”
The book also says that at the end of five years of GNH infused developmental activities and aggressive marketing of the philosophy to the west, the triumph card of the elected government has been on the 8.8% GDP growth rate in contrast to the slogan “GNH is more important than GDP”.
It says that while an average GDP growth rate of 8.8% has been achieved, much of it is due to investment in huge hydro power projects.
The book points out that growth rate in agriculture sector which employs 60% of the Bhutanese (MoLHR 2012) is 1% per annum compared to the targeted growth rate of 4% and this is where the book says the government has failed.
It says that annually Bhutan still imports an estimate of 48% of the total rice requirement and in 2011 Nu. 851,923,635 worth of rice has been imported putting rice in top ten imports and vegetable worth Nu.1,840,267,940 has been imported at the back drop of 69% being engaged in agriculture activity.
It says in health, despite 94% access to safe drinking water the water borne diseases like diarrheal diseases and skin infection are still the top ten causes of morbidity and continues to burden 10% of the total population and 30% of the children under five years of age.
In education, the book says that numerical targets were achieved but nothing much could be said of the quality of education and a large section of planers were of the opinion that 10FYP should have seen consolidation than expansion. It says the youth (15-25) unemployment rate is 7.3% and the urban unemployment is as high as 13.5%.
The book says that Bhutanese leaders under the guidance of the Monarchs have always opted for cautious economic development till the 9th FYP. It says that with democracy and pledges, the DPT government did everything possible under its McKinsey-aided “Accelerating Bhutan’s Socio-Economic Development” program to boost growth.
The books asks if these five years of unprecedented endeavor to fulfill the pledges evokes whether the elected government should have considered the promises before pursuing it from sustainability, resources availability, and the overall spillover effect.
“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,” concludes the book.