Even before the new cabinet has officially been sworn in, citizens from various sections have started the countdown to the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) government’s 100 days in office. From major legislative reforms to policy alteration, people are anxiously awaiting for the ‘change’ that has been promised. The party has listed out certain pressing issues that need immediate attention and solution within their first three months in office.
PDP’s first task is to introduce the ‘Meet-the-People’ session where all the cabinet ministers including the Prime Minister will dedicate their time, at least one day over the weekends, to meet people without an appointment.
The PDP administration will also call upon the Pay Commission to revise the pay and allowances of the civil service and local government leaders. 20% house rent allowance for civil servants, revision of entitlements for local leaders, and the national minimum wage rate will be accorded top priority.
The new government will also initiate rural posting allowance for civil servants, particularly teachers as an encouragement and incentive for the services they render towards nation building. To promote meritocracy in the civil service, the PDP government vowed to initiate scholarships in prestigious universities around the world, which will be given to civil servants based on accomplishment, performance, and potential.
“It seems civil servants will enjoy a bonus if this really happens,” said one of the civil servant working in Ministry of Economic Affairs. However, many expressed doubts if the pledges can materialize at all.
Besides revision of the Tenancy Act to make it more practical and implementable, the party plans to initiate an annual grant of Nu 2mn for all gewog. The gewogs will have the full discretion to use the grant for developmental projects or any other related expenses.
PDP also pledged to start the ground work of building homes for the elderly within the vicinity of monasteries across the country, and will launch an allowance for senior citizens above 70 years of age.
The government will also set up a Social Media Wing that will use social media platforms like Google Hangouts, Facebook and Twitter to keep themselves connected to people in Bhutan and across the globe. The government will table the long overdue Right to Information (RTI) Bill. RTI was strongly promised by the earlier government several times, but they failed to deliver.
PDP also plans do away with the Pedestrian Day rule, and will extend maternity leave for working mothers. “In addition to the existing leave of three months, we will introduce an additional nine months of flexi- time for mothers where the workload for them would be halved,” states their manifesto.
For encouraging and helping students in their day-to-day expenses, PDP’s government will introduce government subsidized loan schemes to pursue higher studies and student discount for public transport including air travel. For boarding students, the PDP government will review nutrition level of food for the betterment of the student’s health and education.
For the private sector, PDP will do away with taxes for small and rural business.
There is also possibilities of introducing a cap on taxies in country and introduce business licenses to run taxi services, which will be a prerequisite to get into the business.
Within the first 90 days, the PDP government said it shall inject Nu 3bn into the local banks to restart lending. The money shall be given as loans to productive sectors for youth employment, SMEs, entrepreneurship, and start-up business, agro- business, import substitution, construction, housing, green business development and women empowerment. A commission will be established to look at issues of non-performing loans which is affecting a large number of small businesses and private individuals.
In the prevailing economic situation, a lot of small businesses and individuals, including those who bought trucks and earthmoving equipment with loans from financial institutions, are having difficulty in repaying their loans. The loan commission will help such individuals and businesses to renegotiate and restructure their loans with financial institutions.
The PDP government will study the likely impact of the Bhutan Chamber of Commerce and Industries’ Excise Duty recommendations and will consider renegotiating the trade agreement with the Government of India (GOI) and will come up with a comprehensive private sector development consultation with the private sector to encourage growth.
The government will also initiate a nationwide poverty census within the first 100 days of governance to identify the poor people living under the poverty line in the country, and then initiate a special poverty alleviation program to help all the identified poor.
Wasteful spending in government budget like unnecessary international travel, white elephant projects will be identified and removed. The government will also make foreign travel expenditure, of the Prime Minister and all the ministers, public for transparency which during the previous government’s term was kept strictly confidential.
In the first month, the government will table Economic Stimulus Plan during the first session of Parliament. The Economic Stimulus Plan will be implemented by the Prime Minister’s Economic Advisory Council.
PDP government’s first priority in foreign relation is to rebuild and strengthen democracy. In long term interest of strengthening democracy, the PDP government will request the GOI to finance a significant amount of the Economic Stimulus Plan, and will also avail long term soft loans from SEDF, IMF, ADB, and the World Bank. They will discuss with GoI on restarting the lottery business and the government will consider online lottery business, which has potentials to earn huge revenue in Indian Rupees (INR). With regards to INR shortage, PDP government will establish a taskforce, comprising eminent economists and professionals, from both within and outside Bhutan, to develop a long term strategy and action plan to deal with INR shortage.