The Druk Phuensum Tshogpa (DPT) in a press release said it came to learn during the recent reprioritization of the 12th Plan activities, some critical national programs have been dropped, and the Government has diverted disproportionate amount of budget to the Prime Minister’s and Bye-Election Constituencies.
The party said further, in the Annual Audit Report of 2020-2021, it has been reported that a substantial amount of General Reserve funds have been transferred to normal local development activities, particularly Finance Minister’s Constituency.
“We take the cognizance of the fact that the government had to reprioritize some planned and budgeted activities given the difficult situation the Covid-19 pandemic brought about. We also recognize the executive power vested in the government to reprioritize the plan activities to keep the plan dynamic and responsive to the needs of the situation. However, the above have been found to be a matter of serious concern,” said the party.
DPT said they breach the Constitution, Public Finance Act and Resource Allocation Formula (RAF), which among others require ensuring equitable and balanced development through fair distribution of limited public resources.
“Moreover, the reprioritized activities and budgets have not been reported to Parliament. Such exercise of powers by the Government sets a wrong and a deeply worrying precedent,” said the party.
It said the power to reprioritize or make technical adjustments is not a license to discriminate other constituencies and favour some.
DPT said though the government has the leverage to align its priorities with the overall plan endorsed by Parliament, it is wrong to exercise that leverage at the expense of long-established national practice of ensuring fairness in planning processes and outcomes.
“In some important areas of reprioritization of plan activities and adding new ones as the government priorities, there is a crystal-clear unashamed pandering to the temptation of meeting the bye-election promises and discrimination among the constituencies.”
It said on the scale of priority, the bye-election constituencies have been given more importance over other constituencies. Even the constituencies represented by the ruling party Members of Parliament have been given step-motherly treatment compared to bye-election ones claimed DPT.
The party said it is difficult to not be understood as ‘policy corruption’ and asked what kind of precedence the government is creating in the governance architecture of the country.
The party questioned the government’s discrimination among constituencies and regions.
“Bhutan is into the thirteenth year since the inception of parliamentary governments. The records show that no previous governments distorted the fundamental principles of equity in development in the name of reprioritization and new priorities in the measure the present government is up to,” said DPT.
It said this will set a precedent that will not only polarize politics, but also defeat the decades-old national planning goal to pursue equitable and regionally balanced development approach.
DPT said the immediate results of distortions include compromising the national priority projects to accommodate bye-election pledges and discriminatory objectives.
The Opposition Party urged the government to reassess the reprioritized and de-prioritized plan activities to ensure the implementation of the current plan meets is ultimate objective: equitable and balanced development.