Ministry of Economic Affairs will have its new minister in Lyonpo Loknath Sharma, 47, and his top priority is to learn about the ministry without any prejudice. “I’m taking over the ministry with a blank page, and I’m not looking to completely reform or revolutionizethe ministry. The ministry has been manned by very seniorofficials who are specialized in their own fields and I have complete faith in all of them,” said Lyonpo Loknath Sharma.
His main aim, as the economic minister of Bhutan,is to head for an inclusive, sustainable and equitable economy in the next five years.“Henceforth, I’ll also work towardsimproving coordination, cooperation and consolidation in the ministry and among the relevant stakeholders.”
He also wants to change the way bureaucracy and the political government are seen at the moment. “Both should function for the same cause of this nation to fulfill the aspirations of His Majesty The King. So, I would like to make bureaucracy and the political government synonymous and work together to build a strong team,” added the economic minister.
In regard to the probable changes in the policies, the minister said that the government will develop new policies whenever deemed necessary and obsolete polices would be superseded with the revised policies. He said that the government will focus more on making the economy self-reliant through their goal to achieve inclusive and sustainable economy. The ministry also plans to create equal opportunities for interested individuals and encourage entrepreneurship programs.
Keeping in consideration that Bhutan is due to graduate from the Least Developed Country (LDC) category in 2023, the economic minister said thatthe government will work towards increasing and improvingincome generation of the rural households to ensure a stronger and better economy.
Since hydro projects has been recognized as the backbone of the Bhutanese economy and plays an important role in the socio-economic development, the government plans to at-least complete the ongoing Punatshangchhu I and II within the 12thFYP framework or latest by the end of the plan, and initiate those hydro projects that are still in the pipeline.
Although India has set up a special committee to address Bhutan’s CBTE concern, the CBTE guidelines, however, has the Kholongchhu project works on hold for quite some time now andso as the new economic minister, the government plans take up the issue and move the discussions forward. “This is one of the key issues as the economic minister of the country that I must look into and pursue further. We want to work towards a mutually beneficial agreement so that both the parties are benefited. We cannot take any negligent decision when it concerns hydropower as much of our economy depends on this sector.”
In order to diversify the economy to limit dependency solely on the hydro projects, the economic minister said the government will explore other means to increase contribution from the manufacturing sector and invest vigorously to improve the rural economy by encouraging agro-based industry.
With only two days into assuming the office, the minister said that he’ll work as a team with the ministry and definitely work towards innovative economic development plans. “I’m grateful for the trust bestowed to me to lead one of the biggest ministries, and I’ll work very hard to achieve the best.”
The minister also said that he is approachable, humble and open to any criticism from the bureaucracy and the public. “I shall not protect the ministry alone, but I shall protect the opinions and ideas of people.”