Plans are based on dreams, on aspirations and vision, as in mental image of figuring out where we are and, by the same token, how far and fast we need to run to get somewhere, which in the language of development may be called “progress”. Without dreams, or plans, there is every chance that we could end up losing the excitement of the many possibilities. We’ve had it then.
Ever since Bhutan started to open up and decided to embark on the journey of “modernisation”, the country’s development has been guided by the five-year development planning system. It served us well. For a country that started “development” quite late in the last century and had to race full throttle to catch up with the rest of the world, a five-year planning system made sense; we could include both our short- and long-term vision.
But time has changed and with it our needs and priorities. Going by the history of our development, however, changes have occurred only in proportions, not in priorities themselves. Health, education and connectivity remain as important as they were in the first stages of the country’s development journey some 60 years ago. And they will continue to be in the years and ages to come with increasing levels of sophistication in the society.
It is in this perspective that we should see and understand as to whether we should keep or do away with the five-year planning system. But more important, we should have a plan – whether it is a three-year, 10-year, or 15-year development plan. It would have been a different story if we had resources enough to fund and execute our own development projects and activities. Even then, we would need worthwhile plans to work and spend on.
Sadly, however, a major chunk of development support comes from donor countries. That means without a clearly stated plan with sound objectives, funds will be hard to come by.
The current debate about keeping or doing away with the five-year planning system so is missing the point. The focus of the discourse has to be why there isn’t anything concrete yet about the 13th Plan. The government has just about two years to bow out and we still don’t have a clear sense of what five years after 2023 is going to look like.
The Gross National Happiness Commission’s mandate is to present and help the country achieve its development goals. At a time when the country should have at least a draft development plan ready as to what is coming after the present government’s term, squandering away time and resources in thinking whether to keep or do away with five-year planning is an effort painfully in vain.
By failing to prepare, we may be preparing to fail. As in Koyenikanian wisdom: “Opportunity does not waste time with those who are unprepared.”