The Bhutanese talks to the Prime Minister elect Dasho Tshering Tobgay
Your reaction to the win?
TT: We are really grateful for the trust and confidence the people of Bhutan has given us. This is a big mandate and we now have to get to the serious business of not just delivering promises, but also of realizing the hope and aspiration of the country and most importantly serving the Royal Vision for the country as whole and Gelephu in particular.
The economy is not doing well and so what are some immediate measures to deal with it?
TT: There is no doubt the economy is the bed rock of Bhutan’s development and we must correct our course immediately using the current challenges as opportunities to propel us forward. Much of the pledges on day one in the office has to do with the economy including establishing the framework for the Economic Stimulus Plan (ESP) and working on bringing in tourists. Several of the day one pledges are to do with tourism.
How will you align the 13th Draft Plan and the PDP Manifesto?
TT: We had access to the broad framework of the plan and we were mindful while preparing our manifesto. Now we need to look at plan in detail. I wouldn’t see any huge or significant changes in the plan as they are prepared by Civil Servant experts. Many pledges are already in the plan.
Talking of the Nu 512 bn draft plan how will the government raise the money?
TT: That becomes the government’s immediate priority and my personal responsibility.
Where will your government get the Nu 15 bn ESP from?
TT: The 15 billion will have to worked on separately. The preferred source is grant through GoI like in the 11th plan.
How will you support the Gelephu Mindfulness City project?
TT: It’s too early to comment but I see myself as a servant of His Majesty The King ready to serve in any capacity as commanded and this is a project of historic proportion and defining project for Bhutan, legacy for our future and gift to the world.
The results have thrown up a regional divide and there are worries in the East on how a PDP government will treat them given the results?
TT: We are one people in one country under one King and so the government as such including the ministers and PM represent all the people and not any part of the country. You must remember most Bhutanese have ancestry that comes from different parts of the country. My father is from the west but my mother is from Zhemgang that has traditionally been considered as a part of the east. So, I always considered myself a Bhutanese first and foremost and even more so while serving in the government.
There is no reason to be worried and I don’t think they are worried. If they are then it is one or two people trying to stir up problems. They know that we have always been national in our outlook and our approach governance and when we served in government and when we prepared our manifesto and when we campaigned.
For assurances look at 11th Five Year Plan and the final expenditure. You will see that at the very least all parts of the country are treated equally and it more likely that the east was favoured.
I don’t think anybody needs assurances because of our track record. If there is a perception PDP is biased then it is a misconception spread by miscreants. An example is the rumour that Denchi Dzong was stopped when in fact it was accelerated in our time. Another example is that Pemagatshel was neglected when in fact most of the Gewog center roads were blacktopped and total chainage mostly took place in Pemagatshel. One of the first central schools were established in Pemagatshel. There were things like I have never visited Pemagatshel when I have been to every Gewog in Pemagatshel and went five times during my tenure. These are miscreants who are just motivated by political mischief.
What about PDP’s future political plans in the East?
TT: PDP has enjoyed more than 40 percent of the votes. While we may not have received a proportionate number of seats there are a good number of people who voted for us and as Party President I will always remember that and am grateful for that outpouring of support.
We got more votes in the general round than in the primary round and in the general round we got more than 40 percent.
Just because we did not mean as many seats as we would have liked in the east it does not mean that people do not support us.
The South are seen as the Kingmakers of Bhutanese politics now. Your comments?
TT: Kingmakers basically represent transaction agreement of we will vote for you and our support is going to determine the outcome in your future and sometimes they say that in which context you have to favour us with special favours. None of this happened and so it was not transactional as far as I am concerned. People in the south have always reposed trust and confidence in PDP because of our track record from 2013-2018 and because of the current situation. They did not support PDP with the intention of swaying the elections. And as a matter of fact, there were a sizeable portion of the people in the east and they felt the same way. We did well in the east in the primary round and the general round but just that it is first past the post. We have to live with the system called first past the post.
Since this is your last term as the PM what about succession plans ?
TT: Given the outcome of the elections we will need to regroup and collectively decide how to move forward.
Any word on ministerial nominations and how balance can be maintained?
TT: There is a lot of work to do before we submit our nominations.