Draft 13th Plan projected at Nu 512 bn to have record 250 bn capital expenditure

The draft 13th plan will not only be the largest five-year-plan till date projected at Nu 512 bn but it will also have the largest component of the capital budget at Nu 250 bn.

Capital budget is usually for construction and infrastructure works like roads, water, hospitals etc.

The initial 12th plan size was Nu 310 bn of which the capital works was only Nu 116 bn.

Of the Nu 512 bn projected for the 13th plan the internal revenue is projected at Nu 318 bn which is through hydropower, taxes etc.

40 bn is planned to be secured as a combination of grants (20 to 30 bn) from EU, Japan, UN etc. and concessional borrowing from multilateral financing institutions like World Bank, ADB etc.

Then the new government that comes in will have to ask India for Nu 100 bn as grant assistance compared to Nu 45 bn in the 12th plan. This brings the total to 458 bn leaving a fiscal deficit of Nu 53 bn.

The proposed Nu 250 bn capital expenditure is also different from other plans not only in size but also quality. This is because unlike in other plan period things like office equipment, office construction, Human Resources etc. will not be allowed to be part of the capital plan.

Of the Nu 512 bn plan Nu 262 bn is proposed for current expenditure.

The draft 13th plan was left to the bureaucrats to be drafted and the former cabinet gave its approval for the final size of Nu 512 bn. 

The incoming government after 9th January 2024 will have to take the final call on the plan from its size to the programs within it.

However, as of now there are a list of various programs and plans proposed in the draft plan.

One component for the 13th plan is some of the preparatory works for the Gelephu Mindfulness City like the airport extension and construction of the road from Gelephu to Tareythang including a Bridge over Mao Khola as well as internal roads in Gelephu which should not have any potholes, dry port and Railway connection.

The aim in the 13th plan capital expenditure is to focus on productive investments like digital transformation, education, health, economic transformation, urbanization and connectivity.

In terms of connectivity the focus is on the three types of connectivity which is road and bridges, air connectivity and then fibre optic connectivity. The 13th plan proposes for one road to the Gewog office to be kept in good condition and annual grant will be given to local governments if they want to improve their farm roads.

A major amount of funds will be spent on solving the water supply issue within this plan.

Funds will be spent on urban plans also like the Thimphu and Paro National Capital Region plan where money will be spent in sewage pipelines upgrade, waste management, footpaths and connecting the various parks.

A major change in the plan is that the focus will no longer be on human settlement based planning but planning based human settlement.

This means that the focus will not be on building infrastructure everywhere but concentrating it in areas where people are likely to migrate and congregate on large numbers. This is due to the inevitable trend of rural urban migration.

So, the 13th plan will focus on building up urban areas. Apart from Paro and Thimphu the Sarpang Dzongkhag and Gelephu will be a linked urban center, then Phuentsholing and Samtse will be taken as one unit, Trongsa and Bumthang as one, Samdrupjongkhar and Nganglam as one and Mongar and Trashigang as one.

This means that infrastructure like schools, hospitals and others can be built in these places. Even the roads connecting these places will be as straight and wide as possible.

The peripheral areas infrastructure will be maintained too but infrastructure will not expand too much there.

The road infrastructure, hospitals, schools and water in these places will be standardized.

A huge amount of funds is also being set aside for skilling like digital skilling and others. One area will be looked at demand and supply skills for Gelephu. For example, the initial designs of Gelephu envision a lot of wooden structures and so some skilling can be aimed at that. There will also be skilling in biotech and the RUB and TVET curriculum will be reviewed and undergo changes.

A big focus of the 13th plan is on education and here massive investments will be made.

In education, the three components are school infrastructure, teacher development and curriculum.

The aim will be to bring down the average of 1 computer for every 10 children to 1 computer for every five children, hire more ICT teachers and have more ICT books. Schools are to be consolidated as there are currently 558 schools serving around 140,000 students which is too spread out. The aim is bringing it down to 319 schools and vastly improve their quality.

Infrastructure is to be built with standardization of school campuses as model schools and schools will even be combined. The plan is to increase the student stipend to Nu 2,020 per month so that students get meat 3 to 4 times a week, 3 to 4 eggs a week and half a cup of milk in the mornings.

For teachers, there is to be a teacher’s career path, ICT education will be given to all teachers, there will be trainings or professional training. The 13th plan will aim to implement that Bhutan Professional Standards for Teachers (BPST).

The BPST defines teacher quality in Bhutan. It outlines the standards and expectations of teachers across four career stages viz. Beginning, Proficient, Accomplished and Distinguished. This reform is geared towards professionalising the teaching profession and to give due recognition to teachers. Further, this reform is built on a system which is standardized and linked to teacher recruitment, remuneration, career development, promotion, and rewards and recognitions.

The BPST aspires to lay the foundation of a system that nurtures and retains teachers who are motivated to deliver quality teaching.

In health care the focus will be building a cancer hospital. In the 13th plan the aim is to consolidate medical services and provide quality improvement and infrastructure improvement.

Another major focus of the 13th plan will be in starting hydro projects and doing solar projects including rooftop solar projects where people can use the power and sell the surplus power to the grid.

While the 13th plan outlay is at Nu 512 bn the actual plan size by the end of the plan period is expected to balloon up.

The 12th plan was listed at Nu 310 bn but by the end of the plan it reached around Nu 340 mainly on account of the fact that the plan came to an end by October 2023 and the bridging budget till July 2024 when the 13th plan starts is also incorporated into the 12th plan. The increased 12th plan is also due to money received during COVID-19.

In order to ensure that the 13th plan is in line with the aspirations of political parties all five parties were consulted in drafting the plan and their manifestos were studied for some good ideas.

The parties in turn took ideas for their manifestos from the draft plan.

Now with two parties in the final round their manifestos are already being studied by the relevant officials and agencies.

Once the winning party comes out on 9th January, from the next day work will be done by officials to compare the 13th plan and the manifesto and list out the similar points and differing points by 18th January as the last day to appeal is 24th January.

Presentations will be made to the new government and their advice will be sought on the final shape of the 13th plan.

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