File picture of the Opposition Party Press Conference in July 2019

Opposition Party gives fail marks for the Government’s one-year report card

Points to failures in 120-day pledges, economy, employment, 12th plan, health, education, rule of law, transparency and rising social problems

The Opposition Party, in an official press release today challenged several aspects of the government’s one-year report card and instead pointed to several areas where it said the government has not done well in the last one year.

It said that as mandated by the Constitution, which is anchored in the will of the people, the Opposition Party has the duty to provide checks and balances through constructive feedback and criticisms.

“We present our honest evaluation of the Government’s performance. This, we hope will help it to look for merits in alternative views to benefit the people and the nation,” said the party.

120-day pledges

DPT said that as per its evaluation the Government’s achievement in the 120-day pledges was a paltry 8 percent.

It said only one pledge of the salary revision, was fully fulfilled.

Other four pledges that were partially fulfilled include the removal of Class X cut-off point and Class VI examinations, resolving taxi issues, establishment of tourism development board and private sector development committee.

Economy

On economy, the Opposition said the government lacked clarity of vision and direction.

“In the last one year, the Government has not initiated any new investment in the form of major projects and programs. The national debt and trade deficit have been on the rise, posing grave implications for the overall health of the economy both in the short and long run. In the past year, the country’s external debt increased to a whopping USD 2.7 (About Nu 192 billion) from USD 2.5 billion (Nu 177.5 billion). The trade deficit is projected to register at Nu 37 billion in 2019 from Nu 30 billion in 2017-18 fiscal year. And the current account deficit went up by Nu 10 billion in the same period,” said the party.

It said that against the backdrop of the hydropower sector being the major source of the national revenue, the stream of domestic revenue looks more uncertain as no new hydropower projects have been started.

“The government has been on the spending spree without any visible and sustainable longterm investments. All these economic sloths will cost the nation dearly by making the economy less resilient and more vulnerable,” the party added.

Employment

The Opposition said that the government has not been able to craft strategic interventions to address the growing unemployment problems.

“The most worrying truth is the unemployment among the educated youth. At least 13 percent of our employable youth are languishing without a job, out of which 64 percent of them are reportedly university graduates,” said the party.

It said the Government has not been able to initiate any targeted programs. “For instance, the creation of non-farm job opportunities in rural areas remain wanting,” said the party.

The opposition said it is seriously concerned about the exodus of increasing number of young educated and talented people because of the home job market turning a cold shoulder to them. The party said if the issue is not addressed on time, it portends some grim ramifications as it has already become a situation of ‘economically-forced migration’.

It said the government’s pledge to create 5,000 jobs a year to achieve full employment through private sector development has seen no visible progress and that reliable figures on employment created has been made public so far.

“And the people have no clue to what is happening with the pledge to increase the Daily Minimum Wage Rate to Nu. 450,” said the Opposition.

It said it is disheartening that the government has not been able to start any concrete initiatives to harness the potential of the private sector.

“We must place the private sector at the center of our economic development. The government needs to ensure the private sector is the real ‘engine of growth’, not just the rhetoric,” said the party.

The opposition said that the overseas employment programs made press headlines and it pointed out that the pledge to ‘review overseas employment program to improve it’ remains a promise.

“The government’s inaction and the failure to resolve the problems surrounding the Learn and Earn Program in Japan caused distress and suffering to the students and parents involved,” said the party.

It said that other employment-related pledges such as ‘creating an employment and livelihood corporation, Sonam Gongphel project–make agriculture attractive for employment, and expand apprenticeship program and guaranteed employment’ are ‘hibernating in the DNT Manifesto as peacefully as they appeared attractive in the 2018 election’.

12th Five Year Plan

The opposition said that is a grave concern that the government has been fiddling with the 12thPlan, but not to make it better. Giving examples it said the number of flagship programs has been reduced from 15 to 9, it away with the Highland Flagship Program and that recently, the overall Tourism Flagship Program has been dumped for the reasons not so convincing.

“It is the duty of an incumbent government to improve a draft Plan and implement it. But in the case of the present Government, we doubt the Plan has been made any better by fiddling with it and removing important plan activities that have direct bearings on the lives of the people. In some cases, the Government fiddled with the Plan both in the process of planning and content and did not adhere to the objections of Parliament including the National Council and the Opposition Party. Since it is just the end of its first year in office, we feel the Government must revisit the done away programs,” said the party.

Rule of law and transparency

The opposition said Bhutan is a parliamentary democracy, where Parliament reigns supreme.

“Unlike in a presidential democracy, the executive in a parliamentary democracy has the mandate to adhere to and implement the decisions Parliament makes. The fabric of these democratic fundamentals and principles could not withstand the bulldozing of the Government when it removed the Parliamentendorsed Tourism Flagship Program for Zhemgang Dzongkhag,” said the party.

It said this brazen action of the government violated the Constitution, undermined the Parliament, flouted the immunity of MPs in the Parliament, went against the Public Finance Act and discriminated the constituencies that opposition and ruling MPs represent.

“Now the whole of Tourism Flagship Program is reportedly scrapped. This means sabotaging the decision of the Parliament,” said the party,

It said the decision to give financial handouts to Class X students who did not qualify to study in government schools came about at a dubious timing, even when the National Education Conference decided not to do so.

It said that for the sake of transparency, the Education Ministry must make the shareholders of Rigzom Academy, a private school in Paro, public.

“Similarly, we need the Government to make public the names of proprietors of firms that have been licensed to deal in electric cars, and the name of the firm and its proprietor who has been awarded the contract to execute the Flagship Program Digital Drukyul,” said the Opposition.

Rising social problems

The opposition said that in the past year, social problems, especially suicides, drug-related crimes, and rapes saw no sign of falling. It said the gruesome rape and murder cases in Paro and Dagana are as horrendous a crime as one could imagine. It said the government is yet to put concreate remedies in place for such social ills.

Health

The opposition said the nation’s memory has not faded that DNT fought the 2018 election on the plank of transforming, if not revolutionizing, the country’s healthcare system.

“Even as we were recollecting the party’s grand health promises, we lost a baby in Dagana because of the lack of fuel in an ambulance. And the national memory of losing 11 babies at the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit in Thimphu hospital will not wane any time soon,” said the party.

It said the uninterrupted availability of critical medical equipment such as MRI, CT Scan, and Endoscopy in even referral hospitals at Thimphu, Gelephu, and Mongar remains a challenge.

It said the lack of strategies and policies to de-crowd Thimphu referral hospital has compromised the delivery of health services. The party said that even a Super Specialty Hospital might not be able to decongest patients in Thimphu hospital without sound an all-embracing national healthcare strategic management policy.

“While we appreciate and support the Government’s recognition to improve the healthcare system, it has not shown any concrete result thus far. Its health sector vision remains quite a sugar-coating political venture,” said the party.

Education

The opposition said it has taken a principled policy stand that education is the national lifeline and foundation and anything, but education, cannot afford to go wrong.

“The government’s decision to dole out handouts to Class X students has plunged our education sector into the whirlpool of mess. It will have wider implications for educational standard, job market, national coffers, vocational education, among others. It already has adversely affected the private sector growth in education,” said the party.

It said the continuation of such schemes is the beginning of floodgates of a political party’s work to bankrupt the country.

“Once again, the Opposition Party reminds the Government to review this particular pledge and come up with appropriate social and economic criteria to dish out such support” added the party.

It said despite a much-flaunted high salary package for teaching profession, teachers leaving the job is unstoppable. It called on the government to study and understand the non-monetary aspects of the profession and frame policies that will attract and retain teachers.

“For instance, it must immediately look into issues of trainings, recruitment, deployment, and work environment,” said the party.

Initiatives are not achievements

“On the whole, we are yet to see bold initiatives, forget the achievements. We believe that ‘initiatives cannot be equated to achievements’ in any broader sense of the phrase,” said the party.

It said the government wants to believe the ‘salary raise’ for the civil servants as an achievement.

“While we support it, we must place on record that it defied the essence of the government’s slogan of ‘Narrowing the Gap’. The pay raise widened the gap between categories of civil servants and between government and private sector employees,” said the party.

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