“The clarifications on the Opposition Party’s comments on the State of the Nation Report have been compelled by the need to dispel the doubts and clear misunderstandings created by the comments in print as well as on national television. The need also arose from our respect for the civil servants who compiled the report and whose integrity has been questioned.”
Comments: ‘high growth rate is hydro power-driven’
Response: GDP is a measure of all (gross) goods and services produced or traded within an economy in a given period. There is only one standard way of calculating GDP. A more reasonable proposition would be to suggest that the government should stop mentioning GDP growth rates in the future.
Comments: on “the Rupee Crisis”
Response: The faster the growth of our economy, higher the rupee shortfall will be. A smaller 10th Plan, slower hydro power development program and heavier taxes would mean prolonging poverty, discouraging private sector growth and continuing dependence on the uncertainty of aid as opposed to becoming self reliant by 2020 which is what we will achieve. Presently, rupees are made available for import of all essential. Taking any more stringent measures will hurt our economy as it would mean halting more imports, raising taxes, increasing interest rates and putting more restriction on lending by the banks.
In the meanwhile, import substitution efforts are underway and the end of this month, foreign exchange reserves will exceed $900mn, which, by the way, is earned to be spent.
Comments: on lack of consultations on Tobacco Act and Pedestrian day.
Response: Good and responsible governance is not only about doing what is popular, it is about doing what is good for the people and country even at great political costs to itself.
Participatory decision making is foremost in the mind of the government. The Opposition is given more time and space in the parliament not because the government MPs have less to say. And, no other government and leaders give as much time and access to the media.
The Tobacco Act was passed by both houses of Parliament after exhaustive research and consultations with all stakeholders but the responsiveness of government moved Parliament to amend the law. Likewise, the weekly Pedestrian day was changed to a monthly event.
Comments: Opposition’s comments on media freedom and survival
Response: The entire cabinet led by the Prime Minister has made themselves available at any time of the day, even on mobile phones, to speak to the members of the media. The monthly Meet The Press is a platform for open and frank discussions. Is the opposition saying that the government has no right even to suggest that the media should be honest?
Although some newspapers do not have nationwide reach, the government has still given them advertisements. The advertisement and media policy was not implemented as it would have been the death of most media houses. The government also intervened when the ECB notified it would give advertisements only to three media outlets. But government advertisement money alone is not enough to sustain 12 newspapers, two television channels and six radio stations in our small country.
On the Right to Information Act, the government agrees it must be in place but its implications and requirements are vast and preparations need to be made so that it enhances democracy and does not cause chaos.
Comments: on costs incurred during travel
Response: The government made responsible expenses that were absolutely necessary and almost all GNH related travels are paid for by the hosts. The OL might practice what he teaches by revealing his own travel expenditures including his participation at the UN GA. At least a report on each travel and its benefits to the country are an official requirement.
Comments: on the farm roads
Response: Is the Opposition Party implying that we do not build roads at all because it leads to expenses, repair and maintenance costs, while being oblivious to the new found joy and well being of the farmers. We would also be very happy to receive designs and costs estimates for all-season roads without going through the phases that he suggests.
Comments: Opposition saying that the definition of a “tourist” has changed beyond recognition and failure to distribute the tourism pie.
Response: Just as he would like to redefine GDP, it seems the Opposition Leader would also like to have his own definition for tourists which would exclude non dollar paying visitors. Attracting high-end Indian and Bangladesh tourists in large numbers who did not visit Bhutan in the past, is a major goal because they happen to be high spenders while promoting good neighborly relations. On the one hand, the Opposition Party is accusing the government of not doing enough to overcome Rupee shortage while not welcoming practical solutions. He is ignorant of the large number of tourists that now come during what was termed as lean season. He is also unaware of the government having opened the east and the south to tourism and the 3 airports to support this initiative.
The opposition party maintains that tourism benefits only a select few groups such as the hospitality sector, tour operators and arts and craft sector. The Opposition Party seems to discount the benefits derived by a host of other players and service providers that include, among others, drivers, guides, vehicle owners, pony drivers, farming communities, weavers, painters, tailors, wood carvers, silversmiths, and basket weavers and so on. Who are these people? Are they not Bhutanese? Does he not know that tourism is the one sure way to promote cultural industry that benefits rural and crafts folk?
In 2012, the total revenue generation from tourism has soared to US $ 227 million, almost four times the earnings in 2007/8. This alone tells the true story.
Comments: Opposition’s comment’s that McKinsey was left out
Response: The opposition party seems to have done some selective reading of the report. McKinsey has not been left out given the fact that an entire section in the State of the Nation report is on Accelerating Bhutan’s Socio-Economic Development initiative (where McKinsey and Co. was involved) and how it has benefited the country.