Also shares concerns on planning and coordination issues
The Prime Minister in an interaction with the private media on 8th January made it clear that his government is committed to long term goals and moves during its tenure, even if it leads to the loss of office in 2023.
This was in the context of the PM talking about various moves by the government and also pressures being applied by various associations and groups on the government, primarily from the private sector.
While explaining the rationale of the government’s moves on the cut off point and also why it was taking in all scholarship students by 2022, the PM said that he is aware that private schools unhappy with the decision are waiting for the 2023 elections.
The Prime Minister also highlighted a defect in major planning and how it was impacting his government.
He said the Tourism Policy was going well with ‘High Value and Low Volume but it was switched to ‘High Value and Low Impact’ showing a clear transition (2009). He said with this transition then tourists were being counted in even more detail and as a result this word called ‘Regional Tourism’ came.
The PM said if nothing is done here then the problem will only multiply.
“Again we will be kicked out, I know. Even though I am not really a politician I know how to behave like a politician. I feel I can easily win 2023; that is the easier part, but losing 2023 with honor is something that I am excited to look forward to,” said Lyonchhen.
“So the guidelines have to be changed and if it is changed then there will at least be 10,000 to 15,000 people after me, but those who are benefitting will keep quite but those who are affected will come out and fight,” said the PM.
He said dredging is not going well and the government has been asked to buy the trucks. He said private schools are not doing well due to no scholarships and the government has been asked to buy the schools.
“We are very serious with the regional tourism guidelines. There is a letter on WhatsApp of which I got a copy going around among the Hotel Association members to be signed by all the staff. Once signed they will come to me and I know they will ask me to buy the hotels. Then the government will have to buy trucks, schools and hotels,” said the PM.
The PM in the context of a slowing economy said, “In a small system if you really think beyond small limits there is a lot to worry about. There is nothing called the Bhutanese economy to hang on to. If you look at it the major capital investment is hydropower but without it capital investment shrinks. In the shrunken capital it is building construction and economically speaking 70 to 80 percent of this has gone down to India for raw materials, manpower, technology, fossil fuel and others. So we are on a shaky and small economy,” said the PM.
The PM while talking about defects in long term planning making an impact now also brought up the issue of fertility rates.
He said in the Vision 2020 document fertility rate was forecast to be made at 1.3 when Bhutan had 3.5 which was seen as population explosion.
Lyonchhen said, “Below 2 is a disaster. One father and mother need two kids to replace them. But because of these mortalities like infant mortality, under five and child mortality it should be little more than two which is 2.1 which is the international rate.”
He said in the Vision 2020 document the fertility rate target could not have been below 2 but it was forecast as 1.3.
In 1999, the then Council of Ministers came up with the vision document which set broad targets in a range of social and economic areas.
Lyonchhen also shared his concerns on the issue of coordination within the government.
“In a small system another thing that worries me a lot is the legal system design. We have three major institutions that will run the show that is central government, local government and the civil service. Legally it is designed that these three institutions need not talk or should not talk to each other. Then how can work be done,” asked the PM.
“I actually have no authority over local governments other than requesting and persuading. The LG Act says the Dzongkhag Tshogde is the highest decision making body,” added the PM.
He said the Decentralization Policy is in the GNHC and the government is looking at it and revising it.
The Local Government Act was supposed to be discussed in this Parliament session but it has been deferred.
The PM said “So when we think of that, are we really on the right track or are we on the path of creating 205 non-communicating blocks. Are we going forward or backwards? If it is backwards then earlier there was the Dzongpon and regional bosses until the Deb system came. From there the way forward is that instead of Dzongpons we will have 205 Gewog Gothibs.”