Going by the deliberations at the 13th Round Table Meeting that ended yesterday, formulating and implementing the 12th Plan should be a piece of cake.

Donors including long time development partners like India and Japan committed to support Bhutan in making a smooth transition to a lower middle income country.

Donor countries and agencies praised Bhutan for the progress achieved so far and expressed the need to continue their support in the 12th Plan and completing the last mile in graduating from the least development country (LDC) category.

UN assistant secretary general and UNDP regional director for the Asia and the Pacific, Haoliang Xu said that the government is serious about development and that the linkage between the SDGs and GNH is encouraging.

“There are a few more hard years to go. This is not the time to withdraw donor support, and Bhutan deserves the support,” he said.

He cautioned Bhutan to avoid duplication of efforts and ensure coordination among the agencies as resources are scarce.

He said that the technical and financial support is critical in realising the last mile.

Despite much progress with the development plans, including huge investments in the social sectors, donor countries and agencies acknowledged more needs to be done.

Representing more than 20 UN agencies, the resident coordinator in Bhutan Gerald Daly said the UN will support Bhutan in exploring and accessing alternate sources of financing and in so doing,  will support the building of an evidence-based investment case to attract investors to partake in Bhutan’s unique conservation journey, with special emphasis on the achievement of, Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 1 on poverty eradication, SDG 13 on Climate Action, SDG 15 on Life on Land, and their essential linkages to the other SDGs.

Australia, Japan, the European Union, World Bank and other donors also committed to support the country in realising the 12th Plan.

Austria committed to strengthen the Royal Audit Authority and the Royal Civil Service Commission, renewal energy and the judiciary.

The UNDP resident coordinator quoted a Bhutanese adage: “Kha dang lap thuen go” meaning that the donors should deliver on their commitments.

The resident coordinator did not specifically mention the work of any individual UN agency or entity in his statement. The reason was that like the government, the UN agencies are currently developing the UN strategic framework known as UNDAF-One Programme (2019-23) with UN counterparts within the government, civil society and the private sector.

“We will adopt an inclusive planning process – a whole of society approach – guided by the government’s model. We will be guided by the 12th Plan with special consideration for co-ordination, collaboration and consolidation,” he said.

The UNDAF-One programme is where the UN agencies and entities will come together with specific and detailed contributions which are focused on delivering results. This accountability framework will help ensure that what is said and done is in harmony.

The EU committed Euro 42 million (M) in the 12th Plan, from 40M in the 11th Plan, focusing on Civil Society Organisations and rural development.

Thailand’s foreign vice minister said that Thailand will continue support in strengthening the health sector with expertise and promoting entrepreneurship besides the one gewog one product project. The International Finance Corporation’s representative said that it will support financial inclusion and private sector diversification for job creation.  The IFC will provide sovereignty free investments of USD 35M in private companies over the next five years. Among others, it committed to supporting ICT-enabled trade practices. CSOs, entrepreneurship and helping fill gaps in data are some areas of support from Helvetes.

The Global Fund will spend about USD 3.6M as aid in the next three years, and help in disease control mainly in eliminating malaria, tuberculosis, and HIV/AIDS.

India’s representative said that hydropower is the true example of mutually beneficial projects and that the small development projects have direct impact on the lives of communities. The Indian government commended the government’s effectiveness in implementing the projects and ensured continued support.

Thanking the donors for their support, foreign minister Damcho Dorji said that the transition from an LDC must be sustainable and irreversible. “If we can’t graduate it’ll be a disservice to the donors and if our graduation is not sustainable then it is disservice to our future generations,” he said.

Lyonchoen addressing the closing session of the RTM said that when the development partners feel it’s time to go, it’s time to celebrate, not because they are leaving but because in phasing out it reflects that certain jobs have been done and done well.

“On the other hand we have development partners who want to continue and who want expand. I mention the Government of India, the EU—we welcome them with humility. This is important as an innovative practice.

“We are at the crossroad. We can continue to be an aid dependent country or we can graduate. We can also be forced or compelled to graduate or we can graduate with dignity and stability. The choice is very clear,” he said.

Tshering Palden