Yangchen C Rinzin
The European Union (EU) have committed its support and fund of 31 million Euro for the next 2021 to 2024 for Bhutan, according to the Gross National Happiness Commission’s (GNHC) secretary, Thinley Namgyel.
The support committed is irrespective of Bhutan’s graduation from Least Developed Countries (LDC) status in 2023.
The secretary said that Bhutan has five years’ cooperation with the EU, which officially would have concluded in 2020, but some of the activities are still ongoing and the EU has announced to continue support Bhutan from 2021 till 2027.
“We’ve already started working in terms of next phase of support. There will be a mid-term review of EU programmes in 2024 and then EU will make a commitment for next three years,” the secretary added.
The commitment was formally announced during the 15th Round Table Meeting between the government and development partners held yesterday in Thimphu.
The meeting was held in a hybrid format to review the progress and implementation of the 12th Five Year Plan.
The secretary added that Bhutan Trust Fund for Environmental Conservation has also committed a fund of USD 1.5 million to overcome the deficit that the government has faced in this fiscal year.
“The Asian Development Bank has also committed its support. These were some of the major and concrete commitments announced at the meeting,” he said.
Apart from appreciation from the development partners and exploring new areas to partner with, Chidrel Lyonpo Dr Tandi Dorji said that many partners have asked Bhutan to focus on the recovery of the economy due to the Covid-19 pandemic. “As we graduate from the LDC, it’s important to also focus on how we graduate in sustainable manners post-graduation.”
Chidrel Lyonpo said that the 12th Plan would be the last five-year plan as an LDC, which is why it is important to track the progress of the plan amidst the challenges posed by the pandemic. “We’re happy to inform that the financial progress of 12th plan mid-term review stands at 45 percent despite challenges. This was also partly possible because of the support and assistance of development partners.”
Thinley Namgyel said that due to reprioritisation of plans owing to the pandemic, expenditure of resources for vaccination, flu clinic and quarantine were some of the activities that kept the activities on track. “The major activity reprioritised was the improvement of farm road close to three billion. Some of the activities also helped offset other unachievable activities.”
Ngultsi Lyonpo Namgay Tshering said that despite economic challenges posed by the pandemic, Bhutan’s commitment to graduate in 2023 remained unaltered.
Lyonpo said that it was a matter of pride and joy in Bhutan’s development journey that it will be graduating from LDC status in 2023.
“Bhutan was found eligible for graduation in both the triennial reviews of 2015 and 2018 respectively. Thus, Bhutan was pronounced in 2019 to graduate coinciding with the formal completion of the 12th Plan,” Lyonpo added.
Lyonpo said that some of the developmental priority areas that government would reinforce and strengthen were in the areas of renewable energy, water security, digitisation, health and education, food self-sufficiency, employment generation, and artificial intelligence.
“As we graduate, the development partners would also phase out and grants too, while on the other hand the country’s needs and aspirations will keep growing,” he said. “We would have to explore different modes of financing such as climate finance, highly concessional loans, public partnerships, and issuance of green bonds.”
Lyonpo said that the 12th Plan implementation was on track despite the unprecedented challenges posed by the pandemic. “The financial achievement of the Plan made so far stands at 46 percent.”
While the country prepares to graduate and GNHC, including finance ministry, continues to work on the planning strategies, the five-year plan’s process is being reviewed, according to Chidrel Lyonpo.
Lyonpo said that it is being reviewed to see if there is a need for five-year plan or a shorter plan and discussions are underway with comments from expertise. “We’re also looking into if we should move away from the traditional five-year plan and realign the plans according to the government’s tenure in office.”
The review will also include whether to prioritise main works as Bhutan graduates from LDC and how much should be spent on different sectors or infrastructures.
Edited Jigme Wangchuk