… CS shares it’s time to tweak the planning system 

Yangchen C Rinzin 

While the drafting of the 13th Plan will begin in January 2022, the Gross National Happiness Commission (GNHC) Secretariat has started revisiting the planning system of the five-year plans.

Revisiting the planning system, according to the GNHC, does not necessarily mean there will be no draft Plan or that they are doing away with the planning system.

GNHC officiating secretary, Rinchen Wangdi, said that there will be a draft 13th Plan, because to bring developments, there is a need for a plan to base it on. “We’ll be drafting the Plan as per the planning process, as it has been happening over the years,” he said. “It’s GNHC’s mandate to plan so, we’ll draft the Plan.”

However, he said, GNHC is revisiting the planning system to review to see should the current five-year plan continue or how best can they change or adopt a new planning system, including designing a strategic plan.

“Although we’ve just started revisiting the planning system, we’re yet to decide on whether we really need the five-year plan system or what the  shape and form the 13th Plan would  be,” Rinchen Wangdi said. “What government wants is to review the planning system, review in terms of operation.”

The first meeting to revisit the planning system took place on October 8 with the Prime Minister, who is also a chairperson of GNHC.

Rinchen Wangdi said that while Lyonchhen has shared on the need to review the planning system, formal communication and first briefing session on the revision have just begun.

  Apart from referring to various research or world’s best practices, GNHC is also exploring whether to have a three-year plan or short term plans like an annual plan, vision document or a strategic document.

“If at all there are changes, the review must ensure to look for the best plan towards innovative and effective planning system to match the 21st century needs,” Rinchen Wangdi said. “Maybe, this time, going forward we could review to see how best can we plan based on the 21st Century Economic Roadmap that would guide the plan like a vision document.”

Beginning in 1961, the Bhutanese economy was based on the concept of planning, carried through the five-year plans developed by the then Planning Commission.

GNHC is also working on the concept note for the 13th Plan. The commission will then develop the guideline and start the formulation of the Plan following consultations with various agencies including the local government.

“We’ve to ensure there is a continuity in planning. It is important because we need to mobilise resources and also for the donors who donate funds depending on our plans and targets,” a GNHC official said.

Earlier there were concerns that there would be a vacuum between the two Plan periods, after a government ends its term and the beginning of the successor’s term, hampering implementation even if the Plan periods were aligned with the government’s tenure.

The GNHC official said that once the draft plan is ready, it is left for the next government to endorse the Plan. The government of the day has the prerogative to change and align some of the activities with their pledges.

“The government is given room to change. The draft Plan is also shared with contesting political parties to give them an idea about the plans and accordingly they could pledge,” the official said. The GNHC also refers to the parties’ pledges.

Although the Opposition Party emphasised, in a press release, the need for a draft Plan by this time, theGNHC officials claimed that it was not late and that they were on track. The official said that the 13th Plan will be ready before the government’s tenure ends.


What other says?

Many said it was time the GNHC should change the planning system after consulting various stakeholders to gather their feedback and ideas.

Many civil servants agreed that whether it is a short or long term plan, a plan document is necessary.

“It’s up to the government if they want to change that is if they have a better idea. If it’s better than the current practice, we must go ahead with the change,” a civil servant said.

Another civil servant said that like civil service and education reforms, it was time to revisit the Bhutanese planning system.

Some said that there has to be an economic roadmap based on which, the GNHC should develop medium or short term plans preferably a three-year plan.

A few suggested that the GNHC could be a division under the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) until an Economic Development Board under PMO is established.

An official from the local government said if the current planning is to stay then the right time to start drafting the plan would be after the local government election so that they would also have an idea of what are the plans at the local level.