As has been its tradition, the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) kicked off its campaign from Punakha after the president and candidates offered their prayers at the Machen in Punakha dzong yesterday.

The Party also launched its manifesto in Punakha infront of about 200 supporters who had gathered to observe the campaign.

Party President, Tshering Tobgay expressed his gratitude to the people for choosing PDP in the last two elections. The two-member opposition in 2008, he said worked hard to fulfill its mandate.

Having formed the government in 2013, the president said PDP strived to promote unity and peace, strengthen the foundation of the economy and external relations.

“But you, the people are the best judge. If you think that PDP has delivered what it promised, support us. If you think that we have failed, don’t support us,” the party president, Tshering Tobgay said.

The achievements, he added goes beyond its 2013 manifesto. For instance, the central schools and east west highway, he said were never in the manifesto but crucial from socio-economic development aspect.

Having shown an exemplary role in serving His Majesty The King, built a strong economic foundation and deepened the relations both within and outside, he said now is the time to maintain continuity and magnify the efforts for a self-reliant Bhutan. “To maintain this continuity, it depends on the people to choose someone who can shoulder this responsibility,” he said.

Change, he said is must when the government of the day has failed. Else, if the government of the day did a commendable job, he said it deserves another chance. “Otherwise change for the sake of giving anyone a chance could prove risky.”

The president also visited Dzomi gewog in Limukha-Toedwang constituency.

In Bajothang, Wangduephodrang, the president said he did not come to talk about the government’s achievements because it was only an outcome of shouldering the responsibility given by the people. “You don’t owe us for bringing development. It is our responsibility and we only did our job,” he said. “If you think that we can do even better, then support us.”

The president also said that some people commend the PDP for accumulating a record high budget in the 11th Plan and executing it well. “But this is just the beginning,” he said.

Highlights of the manifesto

While the 126-paged manifesto contains numerous pledges spread across different sectors, it has flagship projects like national homeownership programme, water for every household 24×7, national highland development program, startup Bhutan, Digital Drukyul, Organic Bhutan, rural enterprise and poverty alleviation programme.

PDP has earmarked Nu 20B for salary revision of the civil servants. The president announced that the individual work plan (IWP) would be reviewed and revised. “We will see the need of it also,” he added.

Should the party come to power, the Civil Service Act would be put for revision to allow civil servants in the lower grades to retire at 60 years of age, just as those in the executive levels.

To enable civil servants to own decent homes, the PDP pledged to promote homeownership. The travel and daily sustenance allowance for the lower grade civil servants would be made equal across all board.

Quota for civil servants would be increased from existing Nu 800,000 to Nu 1.5M. This pledge is in addition to make quota available once in their career to lower grade civil servants who have served long enough.

Land user right would be given to retired civil servants and youth going back to their villages.

The PDP also pledged to increase the gewog development grant from Nu 2M to Nu 5M. In the 12th Plan, the president said that every gewog would be allotted Nu 20M to come up with project and people would be made to identify the project.

Expansion of farm shop, Rural Enterprise Development Corporation and more distribution of power tillers are also pledged. PDP also pledged to provide subsidy to farmers to buy their own power tillers and promised a helipad in every gewogs.

To maintain the farm roads and GC roads, it pledged a backhoe in every gewog. A special credit scheme for women and youth is also pledged.

In health, he said every BHU would be equipped with necessary equipment, a doctor and two health assistants. Every BHU will also get a vehicle to cater to emergency services.

In the dzongkhags, he said in addition to three doctors, two specialists (a gynecologist and a medical specialist) would be provided.

This, he said is possible because the MBBS course would begin at KGUMBS. The party also plans to install MRI machine in all the referral hospitals and establish two more referral hospitals.

Should PDP come to power again and turn their pledges into action, the JDWNRH hospital would be made into a “super specialist” hospital with tertiary services in ENT, ophthalmology, mother and childcare, organ transplant and oncology, the PDP pledged.

The Party president has covered Punakha and Wangduephodrang yesterday and reached Tsirang last evening. He will be in Dagana before he returns to the capital for the presidential debate.

Tshering Dorji | Punakha