Nim Dorji | Bumthang
If the Leader of the Opposition, Dorji Wangdi, is know for doing his homework during parliament sessions, his knack for digging out figures could come handy for the party’ candidate Tenzin Norbu.
Campaigning as the party president in Bumthang for the Chhoekhor-Tang constituency on November 10, the opposition leader is questioning the Druk Nyamrup Tshogpa candidate’s pledges. The basis is on the availability of budget.
Flipping pages after pages of a brown notebook, Dorji Wangdi, at all the meetings said that there is no money to blacktop farm roads, hinting at the promise of blacktopping three roads in Chhoekhor gewog. “Blacktopping of roads is the top priority of people in the villages throughout the country. It will be good if the promise could be fulfilled,” he said at a gathering of about 200 people at 4pm yesterday.
“But I feel the pledge to blacktop farm roads are unreasonable, as there is no budget with the government.”
Stressing on his claims, the president said that there are a few dzongkhag roads and 23 gewog centre roads, which is not blacktopped. “With no budget, the GNHC said that the blacktopping of GC roads should be postponed to 13th Plan due to shortage of budget,” he said.
Citing an example, Dorji Wangdi said that the Gasa dzongkhag road was constructed years ago and still not blacktopped. “If it is possible to blacktop a road if the representative from the constituency in the government, the road to Gasa would have been blacktopped. They had representatives in the government in all three elections.”
The president said that the total budget needed for 12th Plan was Nu 310B and the government has only around Nu 281B, there is budget deficit of Nu 30B.
Dorji Wangdi also pointed out how the pandemic has affected domestic revenue from sources such as tourism and taxes. Domestic revenue, he said, has shrunk by 14 percent. “The government has already started to defer and cut some of the allowances of civil servants. We are told that, from next year, the salary of the civil servants may have to be decreased. It’s not reasonable to blacktop the farm roads,” he said.
The government has not officially said or announced that they would cut salaries of civil servants as austerity measures.
The DPT, Dorji Wangdi said, did not promise much knowing the realities. “We will ensure to fulfil all the plan activities with budget allocated in the 12th Plan on time,” he said.
“Knowing the difficulties, we will not pledge that is not in the Plan and which is beyond the budget.”
The party’s pledges include making Bumthang a tourism centre in the country, adding base-course to farm roads, enhancing cordyceps market, helping farmers’ cooperative, farm mechanisation and improving irrigation channels among others.
The president said that all the activities are included in the plan, but if there is no one to push and support, the plan may remain only on the paper. “We will ensure that all the plans are fulfilled in the stipulated time,” he said.
Over the two days, the president also stressed how the ruling government did not have the sole authority over budget allocation. “The government does not have the budget authority, it is in the hands of the Parliament,” he claimed. “The government’s responsibility is to plan and explore fund, budget distribution is done by the Parliament.”
The president also questioned the promise of appointing four specialists at the Wangdicholing hospital. He said that there are shortages of specialists in the country and the promise to appoint four to one dzongkhag hospital is unreasonable.
There are only five gynaecologists at the national referral hospital, one in Mongar, two in Gelephu regional hospitals, two in Trashigang and Samtse, he said. “There are only eight anaesthetics, three paediatricians, one orthopaedist, one hepatologist, one medical specialist and five dentists.”
On DNT’s promise of constructing a mobile tower, the president said that it can be easily done by respective gewogs. “The villagers have to write to gewog and the gewog will write to Bhutan InfoComm and Media Authority (BICMA). BICMA will then float tender to Bhutan Telecom and Tashicell and the lowest bidder will construct accordingly,” he said.
Meanwhile, a resident of Tandingang said that they are now confused. One president said that the road will be blacktopped and the pledges will be fulfilled, the other president said that there is no fund. We don’t know whom to believe.
“Both the candidates gave convincing talks, but we are yet to decide whom to vote,” he added.
DPT’s candidate Tenzin Norbu reiterated what his president said. “DNT’s pledges are not logical as there is already a budget deficit in the 12th Plan.”
He said that the government cannot even provide the hospital with enough staff and technicians. “How will they bring four health specialists?”