Govt scraps plan to scrap the 13th Plan

In an interview to The Bhutanese in January 2020 the Prime Minister Dasho (Dr) Lotay Tshering had first announced the idea of doing away with the traditional 5-year plan system. He said that he is not in favour of leaving a draft 5-year plan for the next government as the people would not be interested in the pledges of political parties.

The PM had said it should be a year or two yearly rolling period and then the government of the day must be there to immediately see if a program is not right, to scrap it and bring in a new activity.

However, in the same interview the PM also clarified that if the majority says they like the 13th Plan as it is then he has no problems.

The government came in for heavy criticism from both DPT and PDP for not preparing to draft a 13th Plan.

Then on the 8th of October 2021, the Prime Minister met the Gross National Happiness Commission (GNHC) Secretariat and asked them to do a review of the five year planning cycle on whether it should continue as it is or if there are any alternatives and improvements that can be made.

The GNHC worked on it for a while and presented various options to the government, but it has strongly recommended the current five-year plan system as the best way forward, but with some changes.

The cabinet has asked for some changes, but for all purposes Bhutan will not yet be giving up the five year planning process yet.

A GNHC official said there could be some new features and reforms which would make the 13th plan transformative, dynamic, flexible and with forward looking elements in addition to the traditional elements.

The GNHC has already come up with a draft concept note of four to five pages which will be the guiding document for the 13th plan. 

One of the new things in the 13th plan will be long term projects that will transcend governments and plan periods and have a national impact. The plan also takes into account the demands placed on the economy with an aspiration towards high growth.

One change in the plan will be connecting the plan to the Annual Performance Agreement to derive designs and targets.

The Prime Minister said the GNHC made a presentation and the cabinet gave them some recommendations and suggestions.

One was to design the fiscal space (resources) first and then design the activities and see how much is required for the major activities. He said the major funds required are never enough and it is important to know how much to spend in the next five years.

Lyonchhen said that in the current planning process it is a bottom up one and as a result it lacks both the direction from the top and the agency capacity at the bottom. He said in the current planning process there is efficiency missing.

“The local governments are still with road, water, bridges, school, dining hall, Dratshang toilet etc and are not into the mainstream economy of the country and then there is no capacity. This shopping list is usually made by brand new graduates (civil servants) sent to the Dzongkhags,” said Lyonchhen.

“For example, officers from MoH sent as GMDOs and CMOs will only put things in the plan like beds broken, toilet flush not working etc and the health plan is filled with such bottom up activities. There are no initiatives on primary health care, secondary health care in villages and then tertiary health care,” he added.

The PM said that a top down approach is actually better as there is clarity.

Lyonchhen said the nation must always have an overall planning grid which must be for a few decades with few projects that go across decades so that major activities can ride on it.

The PM said that the concept note will have the overall formula that is required.

He said the central agencies should set the government’s vision and then the implementation must be at the local level and with local design if they can implement it.

Lyonchhen said another drawback is that while the government and the plan will finish next year, it will only be the mid tenure period of the local government.

The PM said that the draft 12th plan was designed mainly by the local governments coordinated by GNHC and even if it is disbanded then then the same people would have drafted the same thing. The PM seems to indicate here that he has no issues with having a draft 13th plan.

Lyonchhen said that one of the main components of the 13th plan must be on the economy and the 21st century skills should the lead the way in the front. He said there have been education reforms in the past but there was never enough money for it and since it will cost more there is more need for investing money in it. Lyonchhen said the question is now on wheter to go for some strategic borrowing or re-prioritizing activities. He said education is very important and so the budget must be three, four or five times more.

On the issue of preventing a GDP growth dip in between the tenure of this government and the next the PM said that this is where a planning grid is important. The PM said that currently the law (Public Finance Act) and norms prevent the government form allocating capital budget activities beyond its term at the end of October 2023.

He said this dip can be prevented if the government is allowed to design the budget till July 2024 as the government will finish its term by the end of October 2023 and the new government will come in only by the end of January and it will take them some time to start activities during which there will be a major dip.

Lyonchhen said this can be made possible if the Opposition Leader agrees and so he plans to talk to to him on the issue.

Check Also

Mobiles worth hundreds of millions being imported and possibly deflected to India

A review by the Economic and Finance Committee (EFC) of the National Assembly has found …

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *