Prime Minister Dasho (Dr) Lotay Tshering

PM asks GNHC to review the five-year planning system

On the 8th of October, the Prime Minister Dasho (Dr) Lotay Tshering 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.

A GNHC official assured that there will be a 13th plan, but the shape and form it is to take and what its content will be is yet to be decided.

One major issue that GNHC will have to look at is that after every five years or the plan period there is a big dip in the GDP during the transition period and so one effort will also be to avoid this dip.

GNHC has the option of looking at making a plan for few years in a multi-year rolling system like two to three years instead of five years or even an annual planning system. In an annual plan system there could be an overall strategic document that gives overall direction but plans are made every year instead of it being in one go for five years.

The GNHC official said that one of the issues being looked at is that the Local Government elections are coming soon which will be in the middle of the plan, and so will their pledges be for this plan or the next plan, and how this can be addressed in the future.

Another important question is that should the planning be based on the donor cycle of when they give aid or if it should be on a different cycle.

Within the GNHC, the Perspective Planning Division and the Research Division will be coming up with recommendations for the Commission. 

The GNHC will come up with the options followed by the guidelines and then the actual formulation can take place. There is also expected to be wider consultations on if the planning will be on the same mode or if there will be different alternatives.

The GNHC team will be mainly studying from the 10th plan onwards and also take a look at plans before. A GNHC official said that the issue of avoiding the GDP growth from sliding towards the end of a plan period will not be that difficult.

Apart from the GNHC, research on this is being done by the CBS as well.

Meanwhile, an official from the Prime Minister’s Office said that on several occasions including in the first state of the nation report the government always asked whether the five year planning mechanism is in line with the developmental journey.

The official said there are several aspects. One is that for a new government after 5 years as the incoming government it should have ownership of the plan or it will become like an implementing body.

Another is that in the 21st Century economy one has to be informed on and hour by hour and day by day basis, be ready for innovations and be ready to modify the plans.

The official said that the Opposition Party and the PDP made it sound like the 13th plan isn’t happening which is not the case. The official said in the PM’s meeting with GNHC they were asked to look at either keeping the plan or improving it with dynamic tools.

The official clarified that the government is not doing away with 13th plan, but they want to see how it can be improved for which GNHC will conduct studies and once it is ready it will be submitted to the government. The PMO official said that while the ground work for the 13th plan has always been going on the government wants to wait until the LG elections are over so that the incoming Gups can have ownership of the plan.

The Prime Minister during the review of the mid term document had said, “It is time to re-think the five years’ mechanism and the review that takes place in two and a half years. It should be more dynamic and instantaneous. This pandemic has reminded us so. People talk about innovation all the time. This pandemic has created the need and urgency to innovate.”

In an interview to The Bhutanese in January 2020 the Prime Minister 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.

He had said that one reason he is against leaving behind a draft five-year plan is because it originates from the local governments and agencies and if the new government comes in and changes things then it can lead to a break between the local governments and the new government.

Lyonchhen had said that under the new system the new government should ask the local government its priorities instead of it being fixed with the former government.

Lyonchhen had said that without a draft 13th plan the campaign tone itself will be different and the campaign trail will have short term and long term pledges.

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 has come in for attack from both the Opposition and the PDP for its proposal to do away with the five-year planning process.

The GNHC official said that Bhutan still has some time for the 13th plan. He said that normally if they follow the old process then by next year January they should have the concept paper and after wide consultations there would be draft 1 followed by a draft 2.

The process would seek comments and feedback from local governments, CSOs, private sector, agencies etc and then the final draft is put to the GNHC Commission consisting of 15 members with the Prime Minister as the Chair, Finance Minister as the Vice Chair, Cabinet Secretary, 10 government secretaries, GNHC secretary and the NEC Secretary.

From there the plan is then put up to the cabinet for endorsement.

Then once the next government comes in it will have six months to review and make changes to the draft plan. It can insert its own priorities and make other changes before accepting the final plan.

An official said that the feeling now is that an incumbent government makes the plan, but the new government has ample opportunities to review, recommend and also insert priorities.

In terms of donor financing the Round Table Meeting to mobilize resources will be done by the new government after finalizing the plan and an update report on the progress made will be given in the middle of the plan.

However, in the case of some donors their commitments could cut across plan periods and so there adjustments have to be made.

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