EDP: A milestone towards self-reliance?

Good news first. The revised economic development policy (EDP), allied by rules and regulations on fiscal incentives, is finally approved for implementation.

The apex policy for guiding the country’s economic development, EDP, is supposed to serve as a framework for government agencies to facilitate private sector development, formulate strategies and rules and procedures to make doing business easier.

The revision was necessary to accommodate the emerging dynamics and realities of the economy.  The new EDP has endured a wide range of consultations and 65 committee meetings. We appreciate that.

The new EDP also encompasses 36 ‘game changers,’ focuses on public service delivery, export promotion and preferential treatment to cottage and small industries and financial inclusion. We appreciate that too.

But there is also bad news. Some of the provisions set in the last policies that were functional for the last seven years were not even implemented. The message we get is that our economic roadmap set in 2010 is not realised even after seven long years and we are embarking on a new EDP. Now the new EDP comes with provision for 250 policies, of which 80 percent are for new ones. In addition, there are 11 Acts. According to the new EDP that should be reviewed and revised within a year after its adoption.

We have barely three Parliament sessions left before the government dissolves. Reviewing and revising 11 Acts will be difficult. Is there enough time to frame more than 200 polices? If the government is banking the success of EDP on the new fiscal incentives, then it is being complacent. First, the fiscal incentives are barely different from the earlier one and, second, fiscal incentive is just one of the many dimensions to stimulate economic growth.

We need to have a thorough assessment of who, how many and where the most benefits of the fiscal incentives can be accrued. This is not so difficult because there is an audit report. Whatsoever, we cannot repeat the mistakes.

Going forward, the Gross National Happiness Commission is given the responsibility to review the implementation, monitoring performances and ensuring accountability and collaboration among the agencies. This is a much-needed intervention and it should stay focused to achieve these mandates prescribed by the new EDP. This should in fact be one of the targets for the commission in its performance agreement.

The key to stimulate economic and private sector growth is a business conducive environment backed by business-friendly regulations and policies. This is not achievable without support from bureaucrats who are often seen as anti-business professionals.

We are progressing and are well on track to achieve a good ranking on the ease of doing business index. We appreciate the bureaucrats for considering some reforms. But we must do more.

If building a strong, dynamic and progressive economy is a prerequisite for achieving economic self-reliance, set aside the differences for we are one nation that strives for the vision of ‘one people’.

Let the new EDP be the final milestone in our journey to a self-reliant Bhutan.

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