Education and Agriculture sector prioritized

Finance minister Wangdi Norbu presented the National budget earlier this week

In the face of Indian Rupee (INR) shortfall and excessive consumer goods imports, the finance ministry has allocated a fair percentage of the total budget towards the agriculture sector. The maximum budget, as always was allocated for the education sector.

The report presented by finance minister Wangdi Norbu to the National Assembly earlier this week reflected similar allocation of budget compared to the previous financial year (FY).

However, despite maximum allocation of budget, the education sector’s pie reduced by Nu 184.133mn comparing to the last FY and the agriculture budget dropped by Nu 811mn.

More than Nu 4.5bn is the total budget allocated to agriculture or renewable natural resources (RNR) sector, which is about 12% of the total outlay.

The report states that Renewable Natural Resources (RNR) in an agrarian country like Bhutan plays a vital role in achieving self sufficiency in the economy. RNR activities which are focused in rural areas have direct implications on poverty reduction through rural livelihood enhancement.

The budget saw the government infusing investment in agriculture and RNR infrastructure including irrigation channels, veterinary hospitals, testing laboratories, collection sheds, green houses and RNR centers among others.

The agriculture secretary Dasho Sherub Gyeltshen said, “our main focus will be on the agriculture which means vegetables”. He said the ministry will create an enabling environment for farmers to produce maximum agricultural products by investing more on it.

The secretary said in the previous year, though the ministry received more than the current year’s budget amount, primary focus was not on enhancing farm products.

The ministry aims to substitute maximum farm product imports from India with local produce.

A sum of Nu 656.245mn will be utilized to complete constructions of 184 farm roads and improve 77 of them over the FY. This is aimed to benefit rural people through market access, increased economic activities, increased income and better living condition and thus alleviate poverty. Another sum of Nu 611mn was allocated for constructions and improvement of Gewog centre roads. This will take the total Gewog centre connectivity to 193 or 94%.

Nu 68mn was allocated for the on-going constructions of 29 RNR centers and more than Nu 214mn for rehabilitation and construction of irrigation channels.

About Nu 6.8bn, the highest compared to others was allocated for the education sector which constitutes 18% of the total outlay.

Underlining ministry of education’s (MoE) policy of providing buses to maximum boarding schools, a budget of Nu 30mn was allocated for procurement of school buses for 28 schools in the country.

Aimed at enhancing wholesome education for students, Nu 22mn has been budgeted to all schools under the school enrichment programme. On the other hand, a significant amount of more than Nu 26mn has been allocated for training of teachers.

A budget of Nu 308mn is also earmarked for scholarships and undergraduate courses offered to students studying abroad. The increase in monthly stipend for boarding school students from Nu 700 to Nu 1,000 has also been approved by the government recently.

Capital expenditure such as budget for financing major on-going projects like construction and expansion of some schools make up to Nu 348mn.

While more than Nu 19mn was kept aside for Dzongkha development commission (DDC) in order to promote the national language, Nu 74mn has been allocated for non-informal education keeping in mind the adult literacy rate target of 70%.

The total outlay for FY 2012-13 is estimated at Nu 34.5bn down from the previous year’s Nu 37.9bn.  However government’s current expenditure shot up to Nu 18.3bn, an increase by Nu 1bn from the previous financial year. The remaining Nu 16.3bn will meet capital expenditures.

Energy, mining and manufacturing sectors were allocated the least budget as was in the previous FY.

The coming fiscal year’s budget is also the final budget for the 10th plan and closing year of the current elected government.

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