Budget shows no major change in Govt. policy 

MB Subba

Despite the unprecedented impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on every sector, a closer look at the budget allocation to various sectors for fiscal year (FY) 2020-21 shows that there is no significant shift in government policies or priorities.

The government has said that reprioritisation and frontloading of 12th Plan activities is one of the strategies to offset the impact of the pandemic and stimulate the economy. But not much has changed in the percentage of the budget allocation for important sectors.

Agriculture, which has received a high priority in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic has been allocated Nu 7.17 billion (B). The share of the budget for agriculture is 10 percent of the total appropriation, which is unchanged from FY 2019-20

In absolute terms, the allocation for agriculture increased by 13 percent against a 14 percent increase in the total budget allocation of Nu 73.989B. Health received a total of little more than Nu 6.437B, which is a 12 percent increase.

The government has allocated Nu 12.016B for the education sector. This is an increase of 14 percent, which is equivalent to the percentage increase in the total budget.

As in the fiscal year 2019-20, health and education in the new budget received 9 percent and 16 percent of the total budget respectively.

The government has emphasised the need to develop the mining and manufacturing sector for generation of revenue and employment. But the budget allocation has decreased to Nu 1.653B (FY 2020-21) from 1.776B (FY 2019-20).

The share of allocation has been reduced to 2 percent of the total allocation from 3 percent. The allocation for communications has also decreased from Nu 1.869B to Nu 1.46B.

The finance minister said that the budget allocation could change depending on how the Covid-19 situation would evolve. “The budget will be reviewed after six months,” he said.

 

Utilisation of Budget 

Of the total budget for the health sector, Nu 3,549.94 million (M) is provisioned under the Ministry of Health (MoH) and includes Nu 1,376M for procurement of drugs and non-drugs and medical equipment under MoH and JDWNRH to ensure adequate medical supplies to all the hospitals and BHUs in the country.

Other major capital activities include the construction of 150 bedded Gyaltsuen-Jetsun Pema Mother and Child Hospital, 40-bedded hospitals in Dewathang, 20-bedded hospital at Dechencholing, Nganglam, Tashichholing, and construction of additional hospital wing at JDWNRH.

Further, Nu 689.4M is provisioned for implementation of health flagship programmes such as Gastric Cancer, Cervical Cancer and Breast Cancer programs.

In the health sector, some of the major activities during the fiscal year include construction of Chhundu Central School, infrastructure development in 58 central schools, 20 boarding primary schools, the Royal University of Bhutan and ex-country undergraduate scholarship programme.

The allocation also includes provision for school feeding programmes covering about additional 22,000 students in 85 schools and 70 extended classrooms.

There will be approximately 5,176 students availing the scholarship programme in class XI and XII.

In order to facilitate on-line learning through digital platforms, the government has allocated for education flagship programme Nu 667.5M for setting up computer labs, capacity development of teachers and ICT lab assistants.

In the agriculture sector, land development and construction of cold stores, installation of input supply infrastructure facilities, RNR enterprise development programme and promotion of climate-smart agriculture in the six eastern dzongkhags are the major activities.

The agriculture budget includes Nu 341.798M, which has been allocated under the organic flagship programme for organic manure production and up-scaling production of selected crops and marketing purposes.

To revive the tourism sector, Nu 345.67M has been allocated to implement various activities such as training in tourism and hospitality, face-lifting and beautification of tourist sites, waste management and re-skilling for deployment in the construction sector.

The government has allocated more than Nu 915M to the labour ministry for activities such as youth engagement and livelihood programme (YELP) and critical skills training.

For the FY, the road sector allocation is more than Nu 4,225M, which is about 6 percent of the total budget appropriation. The money will be used for road improvements, new constructions, resurfacing works and to construct bridges.

In addition, Nu 795.868M is provided for blacktopping of GC roads and Nu 210.5M for monsoon restoration works. Under the Economic Contingency Plan (ECP), the government plans to initiate the improvement of about 1,447km, one farm road in each gewog to improve access to market, reduce transportation cost and enhance rural income.

A budget of more than Nu 2,632M is allocated for the development of the urban sector. Some of the activities include the construction of water supply and sewerage system at Dewathang and Babesa, and construction of integrated check posts at Rinchending and Bumpagang in Chukha.

The government has allocated more than Nu 1,460M for the communication sector. It includes Nu 1,171.6M for Digital Drukyul Flagship Programme.

Towards the achievement of reliable and energy security through diversified modes, the energy sector has been allocated Nu 372M.

Some of the major activities include preparation of DPR for Kuri-Gongri hydropower project, on-grid electrification of rural off-grid households, promotion of renewable energy and energy-efficient technologies in building sectors and carrying out pre-feasibility studies of Burichhu and Udzorong hydropower projects.

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