A broad and singular theme that runs through the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) Manifesto launched officially on 22nd August is providing more power, facilities and resources to the people directly at various levels from the villages to the urban areas and from the old to the youth.
A few of these are 24/7 water to all households, home ownership, enhanced resources for the local governments, central school in every gewog, unemployment stipend, social security for the old and vulnerable and more that all aim to connect directly with the people and their lives.
The above should not be surprising that several targeted measures of the PDP from 2013-18 like Personal income tax cuts, 100 units’ free electricity in rural areas, reduced loan interest rates for all, business tax waiver on rural businesses, etc. all stand to bring PDP rich political dividends as resources have actually reached the people directly.
The PDP Manifesto says, “This Manifesto is an expression of our collective dream for a better, stronger and more prosperous Bhutan. Inspired by His Majesty’s vision and our ideology of Wangtse Chhirpel, people are at the center of the Manifesto. No Bhutanese will be left behind.”
It says that the manifesto is their unwavering commitment to ensure and sustain peace, unity, stability, and harmony in the country which is also the main slogan of PDP and the underlying foundation of the party’s manifesto.
The biggest component of the manifesto is the economy focusing on the five jewels of hydropower, mining, agriculture, tourism and cottage and small industries along with other areas like private sector development, industrial estates, local economy, export promotion, construction, access to finance and roads which are covered on the economic aspects of the manifesto on pg 1.
Employment and Start Up Bhutan
On employment PDP will be coming up with up with 11 special flagship programs that will spur economic growth and create at least 10,000 jobs in the next five years.
The manifesto says it shall support every youth to secure employment through a dedicated office. PDP says it will strive to secure employment to every youth through job placements abroad, creating jobs within the country, paid internship programs dedicated startup businesses for the youth, intensifying vocational training programs for the youth.
PDP says it shall provide unemployment and sustenance allowance for youth who have been actively seeking employment for over one year and support them through appropriate measures to get employed.
PDP will conduct a comprehensive review of the Overseas Employment Program and explore international labor markets and collaborate with credible employment agencies to secure well-paying and meaningful jobs for our youth.
PDP will implement Direct Employment Program to ensure jobseekers are readily absorbed in the labor market.
One of the 11 Flagship programs is ‘Startup Bhutan’ dedicated to promoting and helping entrepreneurs with a startup Office that would serve as a single point of contact for the entire Startup ecosystem and one-stop-shop for the startups.
The service will nurture creativity and support startups in accessing finance, loans, obtaining clearances, license, intellectual property rights etc. It shall facilitate international networking, networking events with investors and experience sharing, etc.
24/7 drinking water for all houses
The manifesto says that climate change, rapid urbanization and unprecedented development had an impact on water availability and demand.
“The goal of the flagship program is straightforward – to ensure that each and every house in Bhutan has access to safe drinking water, 24×7. This would mean connecting all our houses – from those on the lofty mountains to those in the lush valleys below, and from those in the remote corners of our country to those in our bustling cities – with continuous safe drinking water 24×7,” says the manifesto.
PDP says it will establish the National Water Commission Secretariat directly reporting to the Prime Minister’s Office. The National Water Commission (NWC) will be an agency for water in Bhutan akin to what the National Land Commission (NLC) is for all land issues.
Home ownership and highland development
Another flagship program is establishing a national agency to spearhead the National Homeownership Program and formulate a National Homeownership Policy.
The National Agency shall work closely with the National Pension and Provident Fund (NPPF) and/or financial institutions to offer the homeownership package to the civil service and the corporate sector.
For the private sector, the national agency shall come up with different homeownership packages in collaboration with financial institutions.
“We shall initiate homeownership through construction of affordable housing, cheap and accessible loan schemes and land lease schemes. We shall provide financial subsidies and loan schemes for people in the rural areas without homes. We shall ensure all Bhutanese living across the border (Jaigaon) shall be provided affordable housing within Bhutan,” says the manifesto.
The initial focus of the home ownership program will be in urban areas where there is more demand for housing, especially for mid and low income people.
One flagship program is the national highland development program that will have specific targeted policies for the housing, income and health for people living in the highlands.
Central Schools in every Gewog, No class on Saturdays and Teacher welfare
PDP says it shall establish a central school in every gewog. Currently there are 63 central schools. It says it shall not close down any school. Instead, PDP shall provide central school facilities to all primary schools.
PDP will establish a Special Education Needs school in every dzongkhag to provide equal access to education for children with learning difficulties and special needs. It will provide day meals in all schools in the country.
PDP, if elected, will ensure that schools remain closed on Saturdays allowing them to pursue enrichment programs.
PDP will install air conditioning facilities in schools in southern Bhutan and those located in warmer climatic zones. And it will install heating system in classrooms for schools located in higher altitudes.
The manifesto says PDP will continue providing loan scheme for tertiary education with special focus on students from economically disadvantaged families. Stipends for tertiary education will be raised.
All schools with high-speed Internet connectivity.
Early Childcare and Development (ECCD) Center will be established in every chiwog. There are 1,044 chiwogs in the country.
Teacher workload will be reduced through one teacher one-subject policy, 18 hours contact teaching in a week and providing administration support and staff to schools.
Affordable government housing for teachers within the school premises will be provided.
The salary and allowances for teachers will be raised.
A laptop will be provided for every teacher.
Teachers will get a minimum of 80 hours of professional development including teachers of private schools. PDP says it shall enhance opportunities for master’s degree for all teachers.
Super Specialty JDWNRH, Cancer Hospital and Ambulance in every Gewog
“We shall continue to provide free health care services, both in modern and traditional medicine, to all Bhutanese,” says the manifesto.
JDWNRH will become a ‘Super Specialist’ hospital. In particular, JDWNRH will offer tertiary services in ENT, Ophthalmology, mother and child services, organ transplant, and Oncology.
To facilitate JDWNRH to become a super specialist hospital, a new referral hospital will be built Thimphu.
Kidney transplant facilities will be given at the JDWNRH.
A Mother and Child hospital and a Cancer hospital will be built in Thimphu.
A National Traditional Medicine (Sowai Rigpa) hospital will be built in Thimphu to enable people to avail traditional medicine services and treatment.
Digital Health system and e-patient record management system will be introduced.
Two additional regional referral hospitals in the country will be established. Regional referral hospitals will be empowered to refer patients abroad.
MRI facilities will be introduced in all the regional referral hospitals.
PDP shall institute a welfare office in every regional and referral hospitals to provide assistance to the poor patients and the families of the dead.
Every district hospital shall have at least one Gynecologist and a medical specialist assisted by three doctors and adequate nurses and technicians.
Every district hospital shall have a mobile clinical unit that will periodically reach healthcare services to remote communities and offer home based healthcare services to immobile/bedridden patients.
PDP will ensure that every BHU has one doctor, two nurses and suitable number of technicians
Every BHU shall have a minimum healthcare facility and treatment services such as Operation facilities for minor operations, X-ray, ultra-sound, and blood testing facilities.
PDP will provide one ambulance to every gewog to enable timely evacuation and referral of patients.
PDP will strengthen human resource to meet the demand of 21st century healthcare services. The medical allowances for health professionals and staff will be reviewed.
Same retirement age, increased and equal TA/DA, vehicle quota for junior CS and higher pay hike for lower levels
Since it is the mandate of the Parliament to review and amend legislations, PDP says it shall review and amend the RCSC Act to improve performance system, working and service conditions of civil servants and to make the retirement age same for all categories of civil servants.
This means that even mid level and junior civil servants can retire at an older age like government secretaries.
Vehicle quota will be raised from Nu. 800,000 to Nu 1.5 mn.
A one-time vehicle quota of Nu. 1.5 mn will be given to civil servants who are not eligible for vehicle quota and who have put in long years of service.
The TA/DA and mileage will be substantially raised for civil servants in the lower category and it will be made equal across the board. LTC payment for all levels of civil servants will be reviewed.
PDP will introduce retirement benefits and pension and PF schemes for ESP/ GSP level civil servants.
PDP shall raise the salaries of civil servants and ensure that the pay revision benefits for the mid and lower level civil servants the most. PDP will also review and raise the salaries and benefits of the corporate sector.
Crèche services will be set up in government offices to cater to the needs of parents with toddlers and babies.
Affordable housing facilities will be developed for for civil servants posted in rural dzongkhags and gewogs.
PDP shall ensure that ESP/GSP level civil servants receive appropriate retirement and pension and provident fund benefits.
Empowering Local Govt and rural and urban development
PDP overall will ensure that a much larger share of the capital budget is given to the local governments.
PDP will increase the Gewog Development Grant (GDG) to Nu. 5 million from Nu. 2 million.
PDP shall initiate One-Gewog-One-Product (OGOP) agricultural and marketing program in all 205 gewogs.
It shall fund a Nu. 20 million project in each gewog to be identified by the people.
PDP shall provide sufficient human resource such as engineers, accountants and land record officers to gewog administrations to effectively and efficiently implement plans and activities.
A helipad will be constructed in every gewog to facilitate emergency medical evacuation and for swift response during disaster emergencies.
A communal warehouse will be built in every gewog to facilitate storage of agricultural produce and trade.
An integrated meeting hall in every chiwog will provide space for public gathering and community events and activities.
A waste management unit will be established in every gewog.
An additional power tiller will be given to every chiwog to ensure a minimum of two power tillers in every chiwog. Repair centers for power tillers and farm machineries will be established in every gewog.
In order to take financial and banking services to the rural doorstep, every gewog shall have a gewog bank.
All chiwogs will be connected with farm roads by the end of 2023. PDP shall also introduce public transport services in all gewogs.
PDP says that it will ensure that the entire country goes fully organic. Each dzongkhag shall identify priority organic produce or products and the dzongkhags will pursue commercial farming of the identified products/produce.
PDP says it shall upscale Brand Bhutan Initiative, which prioritizes the organic sector. PDP will ensure that Thromde services are delivered within 48 working hours from the day of application.
PDP shall prioritize to reduce crimes and make Thromdes safer through enhanced investments in crime prevention and advocacy programs.
PDP shall invest in building more parks and open spaces in every Thromde to provide a breathing space and for people to engage in physical activities, community get-togethers and for children’s entertainment.
It shall work to address traffic congestion in Thimphu and Phuentsholing throms by constructing additional roads, flyovers and pedestrian bridges.
PDP shall ensure that roads within Thromde areas are of high quality and maintained properly throughout the year. Investments will be made in the construction and expansion of storm drainage system within Thromde areas.
Amenities such as footpath, street lighting, sewer networks etc. to make the cities livable and resident friendly will be expanded.
PDP will ensure that each dzongkhag comes up with its own economic plan to enhance the dzongkhags productivity cutting across all sectors.
It shall build a cinema hall in every dzongkhag, which would also function as a multi-purpose town hall, to be used for screening of movies and hosting events.
It shall ensure that at least one football ground in every dzongkhag has an artificial turf.
Looking after the old, disabled and vulnerable
PDP shall initiate social security and pension schemes for senior citizens who are 65 years and above and those without care providers will be provided with sustenance allowance.
PDP shall initiate Senior Citizen Care Program to provide quality care to elderly citizens living in both rural and urban areas by collaborating with civil society organizations and volunteer groups. It shall introduce special discounts schemes in public transport and air travel for senior citizens and institute priority service counters for senior citizens in hospitals and other public services.
PDP shall introduce special social security schemes for people living with disabilities such as disability allowances, equal pay and employment opportunities, and non-discriminatory rules for employment.
It shall provide guaranteed jobs for students and graduate youth living with disabilities and youth with special needs.
It shall establish transitional care facilities to provide care to the homeless and the orphans who have no one to look after them.
PDP shall introduce social protection mechanisms to support single mothers without proper source of income and livelihood opportunities and invest in skills development and training for single mothers. PDP shall institutionalize strong safety nets for vulnerable women and girls without skills or sources of income.
PDP shall work towards strengthening the social security system and welfare schemes for private sector employees.
PDP shall institute special university scholarships for students from economically disadvantaged families
PDP says it will bring down poverty level below 5% in the next five years.
It shall introduce buy-back schemes in rural areas to encourage and enhance agricultural productivity and agriculture trade and business.
PDP shall upscale poverty reduction interventions in dzongkhags with high prevalence of poverty. It will develop specific livelihood interventions targeted at the poorest communities in the country
PDP shall enhance food availability and sufficiency for the poor by providing easy access to cheap farm machinery, quality seeds, and regular monitoring and guidance.
PDP shall promote SMEs and CSIs in rural areas with a focus on valued added agri-businesses.
It shall facilitate access to finance for businesses that promote local economy, jobs creation and value addition.
PDP shall prioritize the integration of local enterprises and communities in the tourism industry.
PDP shall enhance Priority Sector Lending (PSL) program for youth, farmers’ groups and community based organizations.
PDP shall establish a bank in every gewog to take financial and banking services to the rural doorstep. It shall expand the already existing subsidies and support schemes available to farmers in the agricultural sector.
PDP shall ensure that all Gewog Center roads are properly maintained and all major farm roads at least have a base course (if not blacktopped) to ensure the roads are pliable throughout the year. PDP shall expand and diversify loan schemes of REDCL to promote entrepreneurship
Improving public service
PDP shall empower Public Services & Grievances Redressal Division (erstwhile G2C Office) under the Cabinet Secretariat to take the lead role in streamlining public service processes. It shall reduce the turn around time for all G2C services
PDP will establish Dzongkhag Information and Service Center to facilitate provision of integrated public service delivery.
A major portion of public services shall be decentralized to the Local Governments mainly gewog administration to enhance easy access and fast delivery.
PDP shall encourage all public service providers to set minimum standards and targets like waiting time. The service providers have to improve on this minimum standard over time.
Community centers in the gewogs shall be equipped with necessary facilities to enable the gewog administration to deliver public services efficiently.
PDP shall continue to automate and use technology platforms to improve public service delivery. All ministries, departments and government agencies providing G2C services shall have an integrated service window/desk. P.
DP shall set customer service standards for all public service providers and inculcate a citizen oriented work culture.
PDP’s foreign policy shall prioritize strengthening the time-tested friendship with India. PDP shall foster good relations with the neighboring Indian states of West Bengal, Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Sikkim and Bihar to ensure the safety of Bhutanese travelling through these states and improve business relations and people-to-people interactions.
PDP shall continue to strengthen relations with all countries to ensure Bhutan’s presence in the international arena. However, PDP says its approach shall be cautious and it would take informed stands on issues that pertain to Bhutan, especially that concern the country’s security, sovereignty and independence.
PDP shall focus on strengthening security to ensure the safety of people living in and near the border towns.
PDP shall continue the ongoing border negotiations with China.
PDP will strengthen Bhutan’s relation through active participation in global, regional and multilateral organizations like the UN, SAARC, BIMSTEC, and the EU.
“We will strengthen our relations with traditional friends and partners like Japan, Switzerland, and with countries we have diplomatic ties with. We will work closely with our regional neighbors like Bangladesh, Nepal, and Sri Lanka,” said the manifesto.
PDP shall institute a Media Development Fund to facilitate access to financial assistance to ease the sustainability challenges faced by media houses.
PDP shall provide financial incentives and tax holidays for media houses for the next five years. PDP shall subsidize printing of newspapers. PDP shall continue to invest in the professional development of journalists and media professionals through short-term and long-term trainings and internships in international news organizations.