As long as public space is provided, the issue of Sarpang replacing Zhemgang as a beneficiary of the tourism flagship programme will not go away.
More than the issue of one dzongkhag benefiting or the other losing, there are other interests underneath the current debate. If not handled with care, it could turn ugly.
Keeping legality aside, as the budgetary process awaits legal interpretation; the issue needs to be looked from a broader perspective. Politicizing an already poor dzongkhag will not help its people or their representatives. It is also not in the interest of the government to sideline a dzongkhag and favour another.
Zhemgang is one of the poorest dzongkhag in the country. It needs development and should be on the priority list of the government, past, present and future. For that matter, since 2008, Zhemgang should have received the highest attention.
It has now. Unfortunately not the way people wanted. The dzongkhag or its people will not benefit by politicians fighting over a decision. Nor will they by firing up people or their representatives. It can only derail the development process.
The government is adamant on its decision to not include the dzongkhag in the flagship programme. They are convinced that Zhemgang would benefit and develop even without the flag. And they are challenging doubters to blame them if Zhemgang is left out.
Zhemgang is allocated the highest budget, Nu 1.003 billion, excluding the gewog budget among the dzongkhags. There is a huge potential in tourism. It is a hotspot for nature lovers, especially birdwatcher. Then there are scope in horticulture and agriculture given its geographical location. Even without special programme, these potentials need to be tapped.
Besides, it is not guaranteed that dzongkhags under the tourism flagship programme will develop better or faster than others. What have we done so far since the decision of bringing dzongkhags under the programme was made?
There are circumstantial evidences that the dzongkhag is neglected because some projects like the Chamkharchhu and the talks of a college were dropped. There could be genuine reasons for dropping them, but firing up people or instigating them will not help develop the dzongkhag.
Zhemgang will develop in the next four years, especially in the tourism sector. There is pressure on the government. The chairperson of the Tourism Council Board, the foreign minster, has taken the accountability if Zhemgang is left out.
At the moment, what we could do is let the government do its job. If it is illegal, Zhemgang will replace Sarpang. It will receive the benefits of being under the programme, if not, they have better budget allocated. It is only fair to give the government time and support to implement their plans.
What we need to do is roll out the plans and not get embroiled in a war of words. The government has invited the opposition for dialogue. It is a good invitation to convince each other. We have already lost one year of the 12th Plan. We cannot delay our plans and programmes for issues that can be resolved and are in our control.