MB Subba 

The 13th five-year plan is expected to be ambitious in terms of investments given the focus on economic recovery and aspiration to make Bhutan a high-income country within the next 10 years.

The government will have to mobilise from Nu 750 billion (B) to Nu 1,250B in the 13th Plan, according to estimates by the Gross National Happiness Commission (GNHC).

The estimate is based on the targets of the draft 21st-century economic roadmap, which states that the country will achieve an average gross domestic product (GDP) growth rate of 10 percent in the next 10 years.

The objective is to make Bhutan a high-income country with a per capita of USD 12,696.

According to the 13th Plan draft concept note, the theme of the 13th Plan will be “a dynamic, prosperous, inclusive and sustainable economy in pursuit of Gross National Happiness (GNH).”

The lowest estimated investment requirement of the 13th Plan is more than double the 12th Plan budget, which is about Nu 310B.

According to the draft concept paper, the government will emphasise exploring new and innovative sources of financing from domestic, private and foreign capital such as public-private partnerships, foreign direct investment (FDI) and climate finance among others.

A GNHC official said that the process of drafting the 13th Plan would take about a year. He said guidelines would be prepared for drafting the Plan.

According to the 13th Plan concept note, the Plan will also serve as a strategy for Bhutan’s “smooth graduation” from the least developed country (LDC) category.

The government in the 13th Plan is expected to stress the need to put in place a robust economic strategy to overcome the challenges the country will face after its graduation from the LDC category, which will result in the withdrawal of some support measures in terms of foreign aid and trade exemptions.

The 13th Plan will be finalised and approved by the incoming government.

Three-year rolling plans and budget (TYRPB) would be one of the new features of the 13th Plan. TYRPB will include plans and budgets for the current financial year and projections for the next two years.

The government will establish an Economic Development Board with a core mandate to debottleneck investment constraints, address policy conflicts pertaining to business, coordinate stakeholders, and monitor the delivery and performance of key players to promote investments and business

To avoid a steep decline in GDP during the transition period, the incumbent government before the end of its tenure will prepare a proper plan and pass the capital budget for the next fiscal year.

The 13th Plan will be broadly made up of long-term projects spanning over four to five year years or more and short-term programmes.

The short-term programmes will allow the government to develop and implement “innovative and creative” plans that are in line with their priorities and the national key result areas (NKRAs). This means that the government can accommodate immediate priorities without losing focus on the long-term goals.

Examples of long-term projects are airports, railways, highways, tunnels, and infrastructure, special economic zones, smart cities, educational and vocational institutions, hydropower and alternative renewable energy.

For the new Plan, local governments (LGs) will be encouraged to identify some area-specific economic potentials to promote creativity and investments at the local level.

The concept note states that a significant share of the 13th Plan investments should come from the private sector. A concerted effort, accordingly, has to be made to reduce red tape for making investments frictionless, it adds.

As the country is witnessing an outflow of young Bhutanese, the Plan is expected to create economic opportunities and reap the demographic dividend.

The 13th Plan is expected to be drawn based on the need to create more than 80,000 jobs in the next 10 years.

In an earlier interview, Finance Minister Namgay Tshering had said that the 13th plan would ensure greater flexibility and do away with the shortcomings in the current planning and budgeting system.

The new Plan, he said, would provide space for the allocation of performance-based grants to agencies, including local governments.

The framework of the Plan is expected to provide flexibility and enable systemic transformation.